Hi people! 🙂
What’s the hardest you’ve ever worked?
What comes to my mind is my final year of college/high school, before my final exams. As you may know, all things math are quite challenging for me, so that I even got the diagnosis of dyscalculia, albeit very late in my schooling as I was already 17, and it was a bit weird because technically for some reason blind people cannot be diagnosed with dyscalculia, really don’t get why, but I did have an assessment and the psychologist evaluating me decided I have it, perhaps because my then math teacher was her friend and this diagnosis would make things easier for both me and her. I’m not 100% sure whether my difficulties indeed could be classified as dyscalculia, assuming dyscalculia was normally diagnosed in blind people, because while I do struggle with a whole lot of mathematical concepts and operations to the point that even calculator isn’t helping much, if at all, since using it the right way feels like a challenge just as well, and I also often misread numbers, like when I’m reading aloud or rewriting some math operation I will recognise the numbers properly and have them right in my head but read or write down completely different ones, and I have a lot of trouble with remembering numbers, especially if there’s no meaning or stronger association with them for me, I don’t think I really do match ALL of the criteria, for example I do not have big problems with very basic operations, or have quite a good concept of time, I typically have no problem counting things either unless it’s something more abstract and complex like money or similar then I often need some help or at least much more time than most people I know to figure things out. Anyways, I don’t even feel particularly remorseful if it’s not exactly dyscalculia that I have because this label had been somewhat helpful in my last years of education, although still not substantially helpful and in the grand scheme of things didn’t really change much. Just that my teachers were more understanding than they were previously in the blind school, though they were also more clueless as for how to teach me, that I started having much better math grades and it was a little less frustrating, and that I could make a few more mistakes on the math final exam, which in the end didn’t mean anything as I didn’t pass it anyway.
What I’m about to say though is that one period when I was working very hard was studying for that math final. I had a math teacher at school, but while she was an amazing person and most helpful and accomodating, she was quite clueless about how to teach blind people math, so my Mum also found a tutor for me, who was a surdo- and typhlopedagogist, which simply meant she was specialised in teaching deaf and blind, or deaf-blind, people, and in her particular case her subject was maths. She was also a really great person and I really liked her as her, though just thinking of her these days makes me feel a bit sick ’cause we spent sooo much time together during these three years of my high school, and our time together was filled with so much pent-up frustration on both sides that with time it felt like there was no room for other, more pleasant feelings so that I automatically started to feel ragin’ inside upon just seeing her which I’m pretty sure was mutual. She had it worse, though, because after dealing with me every week for at least 1,5 hour, she had also Sofi, who isn’t blind or deaf but my Mum decided that my tutor was so valuable both as a teacher and as a person – which she undoubtedly was – that she’d like her to help Sofi out as well. Sofi perhaps doesn’t have dyscalculia or whatever it is that I do, but she does have a lot of trouble with concentration and just doesn’t like exerting her brain too much which she was very openly manifesting so working with her wasn’t too easy for our tutor either, because she often just wasn’t collaborating and preferred to chat with her about other things, or often didn’t do the homework that she gave her and then blamed her if she had a low mark on a test. Not that the tutor was unable to manage it, but it’s difficult to work in such challenging circumstances for so long at a time and so I don’t blame our tutor for not wanting to work any more with Sofi right after I had my finals.
We were meeting throughout the three years at least once a week for at least one hour and a half, during the last year it was longer and more often. And the last year of our collaboration was particularly draining. Of course on top of that I also had plenty of work she gave me to do on my own, which usually I happened to totally screw up so I wasn’t particularly motivated to do it but at least she wasn’t nasty if I did something, even everything, wrong, so I didn’t skip my homework like Sofi did or much less often, also Sofi wasn’t having her exams in a few months’ time so she could allow herself for that, but not so much me. Since the second year of high school I also did most of my schooling by myself at home, as the majority of my teachers weren’t as accomodating as the math teacher and based their lessons on slideshows which of course I couldn’t see, or totally ignored me/seemed to be utterly scared of me, so I figured I’d learn more doing the school work on my own, it’d be less stress for everyone and would be so much more productive. They agreed to this idea very happily, and I was happy too, as I like learning things on my own if only I am capable of it, but it all at once with math felt like quite a load of learning.
The whole final year was totally draining and I was feeling pretty badly mentally overwhelmed most of the time and had very high anxiety, not just about the finals and related stuff, and as a result my sleep cycle and quality that year was particularly all over the place, which didn’t help with my math focus. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to pass the math final, or at least couldn’t imagine passing it unless with some huge stroke of luck like the one I happened to have in secondary. I had even no real motivation for learning or even writing the finals because I had no realistic idea what I would like to do with myself afterwards, and it didn’t feel like I had a whole lot of realistic options that I felt would be something for me. I wanted to do Celtic studies online in Wales, but the uni’s “learning environment” turned out inaccessible and when I contacted them about it they never got back to me about it, or Scandinavian studies at the local university but my Swedish teacher strongly discouraged me from it saying that I wouldn’t get anything from it, my language level certainly wouldn’t go up from where it already was and other subjects in there were mostly just for the uni to get as much of the faculty financially as possible, and few of them were actually useful. Since the only reason I wanted to study Scandinavian studies was Swedish, when I learned that and then read some more about it I lost my interest in it. I suspected I was going to wait a year after finals with making the ultimate decision about what I wanted to do or study. But I thought that even if I’m not going to pursue any higher education afterwards, it still would be good to have the finals passed just in case I wanted to do something later and just for self-satisfaction. And I decided to take it as a challenge, just to see if I can surprise myself and pass the math. I thought if so, I’d be euphoric and it would just be another situation where my defensive pessimism worked wonders, but if not, nothing bad will happen, I have no immediate academic plans for the future anyway and I know what I can expect from myself. I decided that in such case, I would not rewrite it. At least not until I find some real reason that would require me/make me want to do it again. I also told my family about it and they agreed it’s a good idea not to be too worked up about it. A lot of them are intellectual people but they’re not crazy about education being the first priority in life so they understood where I was coming from. I may feel insecure about most things in myself, but all of my brains are not one of them so essentially I wouldn’t need a piece of paper to confirm my intellectual abilities or knowledge for myself, and since it seemed unlikely for everyone who knew me well anyway that I would be able to find any serious employment, unless in some really unusually fortunate circumstances or in a situation like the one I’m in now with my Dad, that is when someone knows my strengths and limitations well, it felt like even if I did pass the math, probably the only thing I would be able to do with the paper confirming it would be making use of it in the loo, would I ever happen to be deprived of that so unloved, yet so useful thing called toilet paper, as a result of unemployment. 😀
And so, despite math was not my extended subject, I spent a whole lot of time studying for it, and didn’t really feel like I was getting much more of a clue over time, only felt more hopeless and anxious about the thing and everything was getting more and more mixed up in my brain. Sometimes after the brain draining sessions I had strong self harm urges or just went to sleep for the next couple hours which of course meant that then I didn’t sleep at night or slept very little, so if I had another brain drain marathon the next day I was even more clueless, and often I could barely hold my shit inside and not flip out at my poor tutor, just as she seemed to have a very similar problem. 😀 My tutor had some health problems and would often catch infections or feel poorly, and some of these times she felt unable to come to us, which was a feast for Sofi if it was on a day she was also supposed to have her lesson, and a relief for me in some way, though that also meant I had more stuff to do on my own.
And so as most of you know if you have been following me for some time, or perhaps even from the beginnings of this blog which has started out the same year when I had my finals, I didn’t pass the math and so far haven’t tried to do it again, especially that my score was quite spectacularly low so I don’t know how I could get suddenly a high enough one when I couldn’t get there after three years. Also at the time of exams my circadian rhythm was upside down, and in the school where I was passing them (which wasn’t the school I attended but a special school for the blind closest to my home) I got super triggered by one jerky, stinking headmistress with too much testosterone, I wrote about that on my blog at the time though the post is currently password protected so I’m not linking. And so my motivation for repeating the experience is currently zilch.
My family, despite their initial support and despite they were aware of what my plans were, at least those people I felt needed to be aware, in the end were totally shell shocked when they learned about my results, both that I got such very high results from languages and so low from maths, and even more so when I told people again that, just as I said earlier, I am not going to rewrite the math unless I see the need. The only person who stood by me loyally, and uncritically, as always, was my grandad, who paradoxically is the most intellectually and academically-minded person in our family. And most of them have accepted my choice over time, though I have to admit I initially felt sort of guilty and not sure if I was doing the right thing, seeing their extremely shocked reactions.
So yeah, that whole year was definitely a time of hard, but at the same time pretty fruitless work, which made it feel all the harder, so I’m pretty sure I can say it was the time of hardest work for me. But I’m so glad the damn thing is over and that I don’t have to have anything to do with maths anymore or not to such an extend, anyway! It’s possible I had situations when I worked harder, especially mentally, but when you have more motivation or when it feels more meaningful it’s all the easier to do, even if objectively it may require more effort.
What was such a situation for you? Did your hard work pay off? 🙂