I am starting to get nervous about when my children start school. It’s ages away, but already the questions have begun and already I’ve started to lie. You see, most of the time I don’t know the answers. I’ve listened to other parents talk about their school-aged kids’ homework and I’ve shuddered internally. I’ve started to think I might have to go back to school so I’ll understand what they are talking about when they come to me asking for help.
My biggest fear is maths. I hated it at school and I still hate it. I used to tell my maths teacher that it was a useless subject, I was never going to be a nautical engineer and couldn’t I just use a calculator? I also used to put the chalk and chalkboard eraser up high so he couldn’t reach it. He was a very short man and would have to jump up to get it, sometimes he’d begrudgingly have to ask one of my fellow students for help. You could almost see the steam coming out of ears, but because he was so short it had evaporated by the time it had reached our head height (and we were sitting down). Everyone would giggle. I was an awful maths student. I never behaved like that in any of my other classes. If only I’d listened I would have learnt something, rather than be sitting here getting the sweats just thinking about my kids’ maths homework (and they are years away from school).
The crazy part about this fear of numbers is I am a business reporter. Well, I was before I left the newspaper game. My job was to report about transactions worth millions, sometimes billions, sometimes trillions, sometimes gazillions of dollars. I loved writing about the Aussie dollar, retail trade figures and interest rate movements. I enjoyed the thrill of a corporate collapse, plunging shares and a hostile takeover. Yet, every time I had to add up numbers or work out percentages I’d clam up. I’d go to a colleague for help, I’d google, send emails to friends, I’d do anything to find out the answers. At first I tried to hide my complete lack of maths ability, but after a few years I owned up to it. I laughed about it. Public humiliation was still a more viable option than actually confronting my paralysing fear of equations.
I wasn’t the only one in my department who struggled with basic maths. In the hay days of The Tiser business section, my colleagues and I would have regular team building meetings (long lunches). We’d excitedly discuss the days news, gossip about business identities and predict future breaking yarns. We’d talk numbers, share prices, profit margins. We were business nerds. We loved our world away from police and politicians. We had a ball. We’d eat and drink and laugh. And when the bill would arrive at our table, we’d stare at it, blankly. “Anyone know how much we all owe? Anyone have a calculator?”, we’d mutter amongst ourselves. It was simple maths, you’d assume we’d know how to split the bill between us. It was a running joke. Years later and a group of us still meet up for lunches and we still giggle at our inability to work out the bill.
Is there something you hate and, no matter how much you think you should, you refuse to learn?