How Public Transit and Math Changed Me


I was fairly timid as a kid. And maybe “fairly” and “timid” are putting it lightly. I can remember fleeing the room when we watched an ancient episode of Sherlock Holmes in fear of the suspense or feeling queasy when the large holiday parties rolled around. I vividly remember grabbing my mother’s leg in shyness when she dropped me off for preschool, one of my very first memories. And while some of my childhood seems marked by moments of fear I can also recall strength and growth and courage stirring up in me as a young girl. When I sang on that stage or galloped with that horse or swam for that time. When I tested for my blue belt, red belt, black belt. Trampling anxiety and timidity underneath me as I went along.

We’ve all been there, no? When we are imitated by English Lit because we are more “left brained”. When we have to start over with banks, stores, navigation, friends, climate. When you’re a stay-at-home mom and everyone “has” people to see, things to do, places to go but you. When public transit scares you. When math almost fails you.

The midterm score came up immediately and showed a 56%. Fourth year student, first year financial math. Ouch. I had studied so hard. I had nearly neglected my other courses just to conquer this math class. It was like a worst nightmare: math AND a deflating grade.

Nearly the entire class failed the midterm. The computer wasn’t programmed to give credit for showing your work (which it should have been). So we all retook and all did well. But I studied my hind tail off. Weeks before I was ready to quit the course and take Geography instead. Ohhh no. But with a lot of encouragement and a little gumption I said, “Math class, I am going to conquer you. And that’s that.”

And I did. I conquered and felt on top. of. the. world. By the end of that semester I was invincible because of that stupid class. But it was a huge life lesson for me and I remember it often.

Like when I took the public transit to work for the first time.

I have traveled on the Tube in London, the buses in Beijing, the trains in Italy, the taxes in Haiti. But taking the bus to work was a new thing for me.What if I get off at the wrong spot? When are you supposed to push that “My Stop Is Next” button? Where does my ticket go?

I quickly got over caring about looking lost or awkward or clueless and took that bus to and from work, grabbing the subway and a scone along the way. Wow. Where had I been? Someone can drive through traffic for me and I can relax! Another lesson: stop being self conscious and just go for it.

Because your public speaking fear could become a passion. Because people are wanting to help you with directions not judge you. Because our young people need to see more older people conquering fear, pride, self focus, competition. 

Thank you to all who inspire me to be such! And thank you to my Lord who grants give me strength in my weakness.

So go ride the bus or run that marathon or love your enemy.

Happy Weekend!



Filed under life

4 responses to “How Public Transit and Math Changed Me

  1. Mary Jane Plouffe

    Olivia, you have learned your lessons well and you still teach me! One hard thing conquered seems like a breeze afterwards. Then on to the next challenge and so life goes. Such a great adventure!

  2. Hi! Had to write my master’s thesis all alone (supervisor was never available or invented some excuse), and it was stressful, terrifying, depressing, lonely and such a life lesson! Came out at the other end knowing myself and my own resources a lot better. Good for you for knowing to listen to life teaching you a lesson, and helping you know yourself better! And thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Thanks for reading and then sharing a bit from your journey as well. It’s always so encouraging, isn’t it?

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