Thursday, February 24, 2011

New Math

<brag mode on>
I won the award for best math student in my class as a senior in high school. I received straight A grades for all of my math courses in college, from introductory calculus through advanced applied mathematical methods.
<brag mode off>

While the above statements are true, I failed at elementary school level addition. I thought that the answer to ½ + ½ was 1. However, it was only after failing the biggest test of my life that I realized that, in fact, ½ + ½ = 0.

As a newlywed with a young child, I also embarked on a new job. Given that I was so confident in my own abilities, I thought that I could keep all of the balls in my life airborn without really taxing myself. How hard could it be to take care of family obligations and work obligations at the same time? Everyone else seems to handle this without an issue, so I should be able to do it as well. Man was I wrong.

Over the years I fell victim to what I call the "chirping bird" syndrome. In this approach to dealing with life, I gave my worms to whatever was chirping the loudest. Given a finite period of time to satisfy my tenure requirements at a major university, with a full research load and a full teaching load upon my shoulders, and an ego of galactic proportions, nearly all of the time my work was to me the bird chirping the loudest. While I thought I was doing what was required for my family, I was failing them and didn't even realize it. The silence that I heard was not because they weren't hungry, it's that they found out that to get what they needed, they could not count on me. Tacitly I told them all that they needed to know about what was of most importance in my life.

Sadly, I learned the realities of the new math too late. No matter what you think you know, no matter how much education you have, how much money you make, or how confident you are in your own abilities, the sad fact is that ½ + ½ = 0. In case I am being too subtle here, let me state my point another way. While your job is important for many reasons, be sure that you put your spouse and children before your work. Don't leave them to feed on your leftovers or your crumbs.