100 pages

Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?

Homework was the catch to summer break. In middle school, it was all too common. We had two school-free months to do 100 pages of a math workbook. Back in middle school, I was quite confident in myself, so made a bet with a friend: if I finished the pages within one day, I’d win, and if I didn’t, he’d win. The prize? The loser had to give the winner one crisp American dollar bill. What I didn’t know was that I’d earn much more than a candy bar’s worth of paper. That night I slept with a cocky grin and dollar-sign eyes. The next morning came and my excitement, which was once a rushing creek, dried to a desert. I was 15 – how could I be excited about math work the first day of vacation? All I wanted was it to be over. Like getting into an icy swimming pool or ripping off a Band-Aid, it had to be done soon and fast, before my excitement turned into a barren wasteland. When I opened the workbook I gazed upon simple math: adding and subtracting. The grin returned. As I zoomed through the first 30 or so pages, I felt stupendous; a thunderous feeling, like I was the smartest man in the world! I could control the stars and moons, the celestial heavens themselves! Then came long division. What evil mind would create such a task? It was the only kind of math I couldn’t complete in my head; my Goliath. Two pages of that trumped the 30 pages before it. After three pages, I felt dizzy. Four pages? No, I couldn’t take it. I had to stop and pace around the room. There was no one around, and I promised myself, with all my heart and soul, that the TV would stay off just so I wouldn’t be distracted. After a break, I continued on with my journey; that dollar meant so much more now. Solving and thinking myself out of word problems, I felt great. I had no idea I could work so keen and so swift. Pages went flying. I had lost count; it was a whole other world. Soon, after scrawling on page 101, I realized it was over. Einstein was right: those three hours were the longest hours of my life. With 100 pages, I had earned that dollar. With those 100 pages, I had insight. With those 100 pages of endless math, I grew determination; I knew I wasn’t the average student and I realized I had to do something with my life. From that point on I spent my time figuring out what exactly that something had to be.

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