“This is a story of boy meets girl. […] He knows almost immediately she is who he has been searching for. This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story”
Except in my case, the girl is calculus. 500 Days of Summer instinctively raises my hackles, at the end of the movie the lessons of the film are forgotten and the protagonist repeats his foolish mistakes. Being strapped down in an empty theater and forced to watch JGL’s repeated failure at creating meaningful relationships rouses the same feelings of painful embarrassment as contemplating my own great failure in math.
What does it mean to fail? You can fail in almost anything, love, school, bike riding, punctuality, achieving the perfect fluffyness in a lazy brunch omelet on a Sunday morning. All areas of my life pitted with great failures and stunning successes. I believe failure is a personal definition. For those of you who were in my year, at my school, we read the Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, a story of a failed family in the traditional sense, impoverished, vagrant — yet the sense of failure only emerges as the author admits to the embarrassment she felt in later years. Failure is something each person defines for themselves. The most important part of facing failure is standing up and admitting you failed. Other people don’t define me. My failures don’t define me. The only person who can define you is hard to find, it takes a keen eye and a mirror to pin them down.
After two traumatic years (5th and 8th grade) in terrible math classrooms I had fully resolved to pursue something unmathematical — economics, for instance. Did I ever fail to think that one through! During my senior year, with fingers and toes crossed to graduate with some semblance of timeliness, I signed up for calculus courses. I never quite managed to get an F, thanks to bureaucratic tricks and kindly teachers, but I got in way over my head and am roundly ashamed of myself.
I can admit I failed. I failed to achieve what I wanted. I embarrassed myself. Even if no one else cares, I am ashamed. But my goals haven’t changed, I still want to understand economics, game theory, Bayesian statistics and to do that I need math (even if it doesn’t need me). So I’m going to face my fears, go back and take the calculus sequence again, even though both I and my teachers know how terribly it turned out last time.
“So hi, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is there room for one more in this theater?”