math camp always provides a lot of good experiences and moments, and having thoroughly enjoyed my time there this year, I’m definitely feeling a massive hole with the break in routine* after 8 weeks. (*although routine is technically the right word, it certainly doesn’t feel like it. camp was temporary from the start, and I’ll probably never have that ‘routine’ ever¬†again, but semantics.)

Usually playing games or finding something amusing/funny to do is my go-to distraction from real life, but after trying to play a game for 10-15 minutes I found my mind drifting to my separation from others, and I shut down the game without a second thought.

I unconsciously wandered over to the piano. Picking up old pieces from my piano bench and playing them lifted my spirits slowly, and I marveled at how the passing of time had been kind to my skills. I sightread pieces I remember struggling with ten, six, four years ago, smiling at my memories of my younger self loathing the slow practice. She was insensitive to any of the emotions I now would derive from a single, colored chord.

With this, I realized difficulty is a matter of perspective. It took years for me to get to the point where I could sightread pieces in minutes that would have taken me half a piano lesson when I was 13. Behind every polished performance is thousands of hours of practice and mistakes.

Behind every ‘trivial’ math problem is thousands of previously painfully solved ones.

Suddenly, I couldn’t hate myself for being “bad” at math. My hours had gone into so many other things that I valued over my math abilities. Was it really that wrong that I wasn’t at the level the people around me were at? Why did I even feel inferior when I had literally done the best that I had with whatever I did know?

Truly, I had let self-constructed perceptions of what I thought other people thought of me control my actions and create fear. (indeed, writing that convoluted statement out alone continues to make me realize how stupid it was of me.) Although “your strengths lie elsewhere” seems like a consolation-prize statement (and has been one I’ve rankled at for years), it has its grain of truth. I simply do not find myself improving at math unless I have the right mindset and spend hours on it. I can appreciate its structure and solutions, but just by looking at it, I might never be able to make that jump from one step to the next in a proof or a problem.

Music, on the other hand, is something I seem to be able to come up with ideas in a snap. I’ll hear a song and overlay another one on top of it, just for kicks. The only time I stop to think about a singing a harmony is when I decide whether to do it a third up or down. I make up new melodies with song lyrics that go with the chords of a song.

Most importantly, I’ve discovered that when I’m feeling emotional, I pick up the guitar or sit down at a piano–perhaps it helps me siphon off the excess pain, anger, and sadness.¬†Rather than cry, I’ve begun to play the songs that express what I’m feeling inside. For when words fail, the music will speak in my stead.