I am standing behind my high school when a snowball pelts my side with a thud and splatters across my jacket, covering me with a fine, icy dust. My bewildered eyes trace the snowball’s trajectory until they fall upon a pair of snickering hoodlums crouched behind a small mountain of snowballs. They must have been waiting all afternoon for an unsuspecting student to walk by, and perhaps for emphasis, one of the boys looks me in the eye and raises a grimy middle finger. Quickly, I mold a handful of snow into a sphere with cupped hands and cock my arm back.
I haven’t thrown anything in a while, but muscle memory guides me through the requisite motions. I played softball for eight years, and my athletic strength was always my throwing arm; in fifth grade, when my coach asked me to throw the ball from third to first, I hurled the ball with such force that the catch knocked him off-balance. Upon entering high school, it seemed natural that I would play on the school’s softball team.
I sat under the table, burying my head tightly in my folded arms, while the other children sat on the carpet, listening to the teacher’s story. The language barrier was like a tsunami, gurgling with strange and indistinguishable vocalizations. Elementary school wasn’t as fun as I expected at all.
Hearing a whisper, I raised my head up, only to notice a boy’s face merely inches away. I bolted up in surprise, my head colliding gracefully with the underside of the table. Yelping in pain, I noticed that the entire class was staring at me.
That was the story of how I met my first friend in Canada.
That boy, Jack, came to visit me during my lonely recesses. It was rather awkward at first—I could only stare at him as he rambled on in English. But it was comforting to have some company.
A light breeze caressing the cornfield makes it look like a gentle swaying sea of gold under the ginger sun of late summer. A child’s chime-like laughter echoes. As I rush through the cornfield, I hear the rustling of leaves and the murmur of life hidden among the stems that tower over me.
I remember the joy of the day when I solved one of my first difficult combinatorics problems at my parents’ house in the countryside. I felt so exhilarated that I ran outside and into the cornfield. As I was passing row after row of stems, I realized the cornfield was actually a giant matrix with thousands of combinations of possible pathways, just like the combinatorics problem I had just solved. I looked at the sky and I thought about the great mathematicians of the past that contributed so much to this field and about how I have added yet another dimension to my matrix. Suddenly, mathematics appeared to me as a 3D live map where staggering arrays of ideas connect each other by steady flows of sheer wisdom.
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