I have a fondness for mathematics. You see, I find comfort in the process of operating within a set of mathematical rules to find the solution to a problem. The laws never change and you can rely on them; however, there is often more than one way to the solution. And in that process lies the opportunity for creativity! It’s a marvelous subject of study.
Furthermore, solving mathematical problems trains your brain to become a problem solver in general. Life is full of problems so I say it’s way better to be a problem solver verses a complainer.
So, where did I develop this love of math? I’ve had many mentors in my life whom I believe were all placed there by God at just the right time. And that’s how the story of my love of math begins…with a mentor.
A Tribute to Mr. Lamp – My 8th Grade Math Teacher & Basketball Coach
Schooling in My Formative Years
I didn’t excel in school in my formative years. This was not because of a lack of intelligence. I believe it’s because I was preoccupied with the chronic stress of insecurities, lies I fell victim to and the endless searching for my worth in friendships and whatever else an elementary kid can find worth in. Don’t get me wrong parts fo my childhood were great, but when it came time to focus in school I was distracted. I just couldn’t understand the value of it.
Although, I didn’t want to get into trouble so I did enough to get B’s and satisfactory grades but the teachers often said I was not working to full potential. I had the potential to soar but stumbled instead.
I was excited to go to middle school because it meant a bigger world would open up to me as all of the elementary schools joined together in 7th grade. Seventh grade started and I was determined to reinvent myself. Now, I was allowed to wear makeup and I got contacts. I felt false confidence in the satisfaction with my outward appearance.
On my first day of 7th grade, I wore a funky outfit ⇒ that expressed my desire to be fun and unique. That part I still love about me. In gym class, I met a gal who became my best friend for many years, Tara. She liked my style and me her kind soul. Instantly we became friends.
Seventh grade overall sucked. I’m at fault for the next thing but it resulted in a hellish year. One Friday night a friend’s boyfriend flirted with me and we ended up making out. I was so insecure that I certainly didn’t know how to say no to any boy who paid attention to me. Codependency much? Ugh.
Understandably, my friend was hurt and angry and I felt awful. She threatened to kick my butt and got most of the 7th-grade class against me. I was ridiculed day in and day out. I felt horrible for what I did to my friend but my punishment was harsh. It was a rough year. Guess who remained my friend through it all? Tara – God bless her. She’s also the same friend who has intervened in my life three times when my drinking/drugging got out of hand.
8th Grade Mathematics
Eighth grade was a much better year for me. While there were some intense things to deal with – one of my classmates committing suicide – I somehow managed better. This is where I met one of the most influential mentors in my life. Mr. Lamp was my teacher in mathematics and one of my basketball coaches. He was the positive, tough, caring father figure I needed.
He encouraged me and his advice was basic. Here is the gist of the advice he taught me:
Show up, sit up front, do your homework, practice, ask questions and read a lot.
Not too complicated, right? Furthermore, we’d receive credit for bringing a book & reading the last 10 minutes of class. Not only did I learn to love math but also reading.
He pushed me both in math and basketball and I wanted to do well. So I followed his directions. I practiced and did my homework. Additionally, I sat up front, asked questions, found books I like to read and soared in class.
In high school, I still didn’t work to full potential except in my mathematics courses. I thoroughly enjoyed solving problems and so I always did my math homework. The rest, not so much.
If you know me and/or have been following along with my blog, you know the rest of the story. I found my comfort in drinking in High School, accepted Christ as my savior at the age of 17 but then after graduating, I tried to take my own life. Unfortunately, when I survived things spiraled down as I discovered drugs.
The next 18 years of my life were mixed with some good (marriage, travel, college), some bad (divorce, bankruptcy, drugs, drinking), and some in between.
When I was in my 30’s and things kind of settled down, I really thought long and hard about what I wanted to do with my life. The decision was rather obvious and I embarked on post-baccalaureate studies in mathematics. When I got accepted into graduate school for math education I was elated.
It was the first time in my life I felt like I had a purpose, skill, and something to give. Although, with an unreconciled past and insecurities, I had no real defense for what came next. A man came back into my life who I once worshipped. Red flag #1.
He wooed me and slowly reintroduced me to the lifestyle of “recreational” drug-using. Red flag #2. There is no such thing as recreational drug-using, BTW. It’s just something people tell themselves who justify illegal and dangerous activities.
I graduated with a 4.0, my Master’s degree, a ton of student loan debt and a certification to teach 7-12 mathematics. However, I walked away from it all so I could do what I wanted to do without the moral compass a teacher needs to possess.
There’s so much more I could write but come hear me share my testimony sometime and you’ll get the full picture.
Most importantly, I was broken and completely bankrupt spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially. I was finally at a place to humbly ask for help.
You can read about one of the visions I had during my bottom here.
Once I fell on my knees and surrendered to Christ, His Spirit could come in and build me back up. The sanctification of my mind has taken time. That surrender was 10 years ago this past August. And my sobriety date is February 1, 2010.
Through the last 9 years and 10 months of sobriety, so many things have changed. Things haven’t necessarily gotten easier since accepting Jesus Christ back into my life and getting sober. However, they’ve become worth it.
I can honestly say, as I disciple other women in recovery, my life has value & purpose. God has turned my ashes into beauty. The things that broke me are now my strength. I get to walk beside other ladies who are looking to overcome the same things I find freedom from today (addiction, debt, codependency).
Some Things Remain
I still love doing mathematics. My current career doesn’t have me doing calculus but sometimes I use algebra, statistics and some good ‘ole fashion 5th-grade math to solve problems. Additionally, the math behind personal finance isn’t complicated but I love to do it.
Who knows, maybe I’ll be doing calculus again someday?
Additionally, I still read a couple of books a month.
I sit in the front at church, any classes I take, seminars and workshops. Furthermore, I ask questions. If I ever have homework (like in bible study), I do it.
A big thing in my recovery has been making amends to a lot of people I have hurt. Furthermore, I’ve learned how to forgive those who have hurt me.
Additionally and lately, I’ve been reaching out to people who’ve mentored me.
So I want to say a BIG THANK YOU, Mr. Lamp. You were the coach and teacher I needed in a pivotal moment in my life. While things weren’t a bed of roses after 8th grade, you taught me some valuable lessons that have stuck.
Most importantly, you taught me that I could do hard things. Before 8th grade, I thought math was hard. However, in your class, I learned that as long as I knew the rules of engagement (laws of mathematics) I could be set free on my own to solve a multitude of problems both in math and life.
Thank you doesn’t seem like enough, but thank you, sir.