It’s no secret that I hate numbers. All mathematical equations are useless to me. In middle school and high school, I would plague my teachers with the still-pertinent question of “why do we need to know this” (which they often left unanswered). Today I still avoid all subjects involving numbers at all costs (except for symbolic logic- which is ripping out my heart). I would much rather analyze a melodramatic poem, write a 30 page history paper (hello, senior seminar) or read the words of some long dead author.
Numbers are confusing,; they refuse to be molded to the answer I seek and often indicate an academic grade which only brings more stress to my life. Yet, in spite of my general distaste and disregard for those little creatures called numbers, these past few weeks, numbers are the only things that fill my mind. Numbers such as eight (the number of days left until my LSAT), 160 (the LSAT score I would like), 80 (my hopeful symbolic logic grade), 34 (the number of days left until Halloween) and 28 (the number of stairs I climb to reach my new apartment after the old one flooded) fly through my mind at 2:00 a.m. (another number), preventing me from sleep.
This bizarre anomaly is quite disconcerting to a girl like me. I would like to eliminate all of these fiendish mathematical things from ever setting foot inside my brain.
And yet, I cannot stop thinking about numbers. 13 “” the number of hours I’ll take next semester. Five “” the number of hours it will take to drive home for Thanksgiving. Seven “” the number of Harry Potter books (that number will ALWAYS be in my mind). And so, during this time of great numerical turmoil, I have come to realize that numbers are unavoidable. Life is made up of the numbers. We add the emotions and the drama in hopes that at the end, the numbers won’t matter as much. But they will.
On a much larger scale, numbers will always dictate our lives. 27 “” the age at which most of my friends would like to get married. Three “” the number of children everyone wants to have. Six “” the number of figures in an ideal salary. 3,000 “” the number that marks the need for an oil change. Every way I turn, there is some addition, subtraction or pure reiteration of a number. And this concerns me deeply. This concern stems from the fact that if the numbers are all the matter, then my liberal arts degree is for naught. If the numbers are all that matter, then my constantly decreasing bank account balance will take precedence over my lifelong dream to live in Ireland and become famous in France (but I guess Judith Siron already beat me to that). If numbers are all that matter, then those stories of true love or of victory over social injustice boil down to the number of genes that control our romantic feelings or to the number of troops available to fight a battle.
I think through this verbal numerical rant, I have perhaps given numbers more credence than they deserve. True, numbers control what schools we get into, what we can buy and our general life expectancy (78 for females). However, numbers do not control our souls and choices. We, ourselves, choose to make numbers important. I haven’t decided if this is a good or bad societal concept, but I do know that this means that numbers are slightly relative and subjective. This tiny fact gives a liberal arts girl like me a little faith in life itself.
Thus, I am unsure how to officially cope with my neurotic obsession over numbers. Perhaps these stressful numerical thoughts will phase out as the semester progresses and leave me only with thoughts of poetry, history and episodes of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” I leave myself and maybe you, dear reader, with one final number. One. This number is the number of choices, the number of actions, the number of people or the number of words it takes to change a life or the world forever. And that’s one number that I’m actually okay with.
Gabrielle Shayeb is a senior majoring in history.