To the Boy Who Said Girls Can’t Talk About Math

My universe is filled with orange finger-waving politicians and money-obsessed executives. In it are shifting boundaries, shifty politicians, and indecisive laws. This world is a whirl of maybes:

“Are women truly equal yet? Well…”

“Do black lives truly matter? Let’s see…”

“Should we be lax on immigration? I don’t know…”

Math is not “maybe,” neither is it filled with hesitation or “perhaps.” Mathematics is a stationary palace, a haven from my cagey universe that sits high on a steep mountainside, on which only the best virtuosos have dared to venture. Math is a castle that glistens at me with grand oak doors and a fountain pouring polynomials in the front. Sunlight on its windows wink back at the heroes who stand at the bottom of its hill, beckoning those to solve equations that intimidate laymen. The land on which this palace resides is not as pristine as the palace; it is filled with holes: paradoxes, inconsistent systems, unproven theorems. However, after hopping across these holes, only when I find the irreplaceable “x” to my equation, do I open these palace doors with glee and victory.

Mathematics seeks to find only one answer. And often, some human beings spend their whole lives hunched over a table, hands aching from scribbling numbers and symbols, their eyes bloodshot from staring at only pen and paper — all to find this one answer. However, they do it to trek upon the mountainside with sweat beading on their eyebrow, to trek past the solutions that do not fit or the x’s that are imaginary and not real, to throw open the palace doors and to rejoice with those prodigies who came before him or her. As I stare at mathematical equations, I am not filled with daunting doom that haunts nonbelievers. Instead, my eyes widen, my lips fall into an imperceptible smirk as I step into the shoes of Leibniz and Hilbert, as I push my hands and feet higher and higher on that mountainside, as I derive and integrate to find y.

I will climb, with aching feet on hostile terrain and quivering hands grasping the sharp rocks, to throw open the doors with a flourish and find all the answers.

Some do not see that mathematics is within every being — within me, within them. It is the skeleton of every compound, every creation. For example, toss a pebble into a pond. The resulting steady waves slowly resonate throughout the pond then fade out of existence by following a rate of change equation that mathematicians and calculus fanatics discovered. Take a look at the person next to you. You and that person are attracted to each other, according to the equation of gravity. So, when you look at your dearest enemy, quell the flurry of vicious emotions that rise in your gut at the sight of them because after all, you are attracted to them just as they are attracted to you.

While the answer to life may not be 42, I, with countless other physicists, believe that the answer lies in the math of our universe. It lies in the integrals, radicals, exponents, derivatives of the substances that we are made up of. These expressions and operations constitute the grand palace that stays anchored on that mountainside, standing tall and brave, while the world around it shifts and wobbles with maybes and indecisiveness. Only the best have reached that palace, but I will, too. I will climb, with aching feet on hostile terrain and quivering hands grasping the sharp rocks, to throw open the doors with a flourish and find all the answers.

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