The Solution


Your fortune is not something to find, but to unfold. – Unknown

I am a mathematician. I love numbers and I love solving problems. When I read the problem, “If Tillie takes the train at 5 p.m. and arrives home at 6:15 p.m., how long does it take her to get home?”, a surge of excitement rushes through me. I snatch up my scratch paper, grab my pencil, and I dive into solving the problem – extract the relevant information, discard the unnecessary, set up my problem, and work it out step by step until I reach a solution.

[Please note that my sample problem fairs on the easy side of complexity. One would quickly know that the answer = 1 hour and 15 minutes. :)]

I love this stuff – collecting evidence, extracting information, and trying to prove whether something is true or not. I’m a nerd, I know. I believe I was born for this type of stuff. The bottom line is that I expect a solution and I expect results. I apply this type of thinking in every aspect of my life, unfortunately. Expect, Expect, Expect.

Sometimes we expect more of others because we would be willing to do that much for them.

As you can imagine, when the intended answer does not arrive, I get hurt. Another let down. Another disappointment. I almost always fall apart. My need for expectations and precision can be my downfall. I have suffered many unnecessary heart breaks because of expecting too much.

Frustration + disappointment = collapse.

I paint a picture of how it is supposed to be, because “how it’s supposed to be” keeps me far removed from how it is or how it was (chaotic, dysfunctional, no regard, and non-existence).  The picture I have painted is not abstract either (as expected). The lines are so clearly drawn and defined and the shades of the colors visibly convey my thoughts – perfection and no room for error.

I planned a trip to Gatlinburg, TN for months. My friends and I would leave at 2 p.m. on the dot and arrive promptly at 6 p.m. EST. I had plans for the evening – soak in the hot tub, consume some wine, and catch up on the details of life. I envisioned the night so perfectly. I could smell, taste, and hear all the details – the background noise of mother nature (crickets chirping and tree bugs humming), the roaring sounds of the jets from the hot tub, and the laughter spilling out between sips of wine.

However, what you have planned does not always unfold exactly how you wanted. Case in point. Instead of leaving at 2 p.m. sharp, you leave around 3:45 p.m. You encounter an accident on I 40 which brings traffic to a stand still. Thirty minutes later, you are on the road again, expecting to make up for lost time.

An 1 1/2 into the trip, your new car, Black Betty, decides she can’t accelerate above 60 mph. You panic and begin to wonder if she can maneuver through the rugged terrain of the great Smokey Mountains. You call the dealership, but they are closed. You toy with renting a car or driving back to Nashville to pick up your friend’s car. You don’t feel comfortable abandoning your car, so you decide it is more logical to return home and pick up your friend’s car.

You grab Starbucks and get back on the road at 7 p.m. – 5 hours after the intended departure. At 12:03 a.m. after twisting and turning up the grade of the steep mountain, you pull into your home away from home all set to sit on the porch to consume that highly anticipated glass of vino. Your plans come to a screeching halt when you are greeted by Tilley, the owner of the place. Her glowing eyes and her firm stance let you know you are not welcome outside. Maybe not ever.

tilleyYou resist the desire to tempt mother nature, actually your friend threatens to lock you outside if you open the door. Instead of relaxing on the back porch, you have your not so glamorous wine while standing on the front porch. *sigh*

Life has a way of showing you that not everything is going to unfold exactly as planned. The algorithm used to arrive at the answer, or the solution may end up carrying you the long way around or in a totally different direction altogether.

As life continues to distort my beautifully crafted picture, I realize the need for precision often suffocates the possibility of something exciting and never seen before happening. In our desperate need for the solution, we miss out on something great, something wonderful, and something unexpected.

This mathematician is learning the hard way that there is more to life when you let it all go – let it all unwind, unfold exactly as it should, errors and all.  Who knows, you might just find it was the solution you were expecting to find this whole time.

PS. I hope you learn from me in the laboratory and not the field. 🙂