Hi, I’m Amn, or, as the school system knows me, 15410. I have been on this Earth for 17 years, 11 months and 6 days, and have spent 78% of that time complaining about how tired I am. I have 0 Instagram posts, yet have still managed 74 followers, and I only made a Facebook account 1 year and 10 months ago. Throughout my 5 years at Macleans, I have made 4 close friends, done 17 different co-curriculars, sat through 72 tests and spent 7 488 672 seconds procrastinating.
Be honest here, how many of you skipped over the numbers? Ignoring them, like the mindless statistic they are. They don’t tell you anything about my personality, or the thoughts, feelings and experiences that have accumulated over 17 years to make me, well, me. They add no value to my writing. They evoke no emotion, carry no humour, nor do they relate to others. They simply state facts – turning what is meant to be a witty introduction, into a dull report.
So, if we all agree on their redundancy here, why do we let numbers have such importance in our lives? Why do we let numbers control us?
We, as a society, are obsessed with them – in every way, shape or form. From our grades to our followers, from the number in our bank account to the number on the scale, from our number of friends to even our number of co-curriculars. They surround us, and we put them on a throne. The higher your grades are, the smarter you are; the more friends you have, the more likeable you are; the more money you have, the more successful you are. Screw ‘quality over quantity’ – quantity is everything, and if you really were of quality, you would have quantity too.
Okay okay, before the mathematicians among you come charging at me, let me make myself clear – numbers, by themselves, aren’t that bad. They help us quantify our achievements and our losses, to gauge ourselves on a scale and understand our situation better. They let us predict our future successes – like how mocks help us predict our final grade – and they allow us to see tangible changes.
But somewhere along the line we went wrong. We gave numbers too much power, and let them quantify our self worth too.
You see, their greatest strength is also their greatest weakness – they literally put us in perspective with everyone us. They make it so easy for us to compare ourselves with other people.
For example, take Person A – let’s call her Alice – and Person B – let’s call him Bob. Both Bob and Alice got their mock results back and let’s just say they were… less than pleased. So they both worked really hard, did a bunch of past papers, got some tutoring and lo and behold, both improved their final mark significantly.
Now if I ask you who ‘won’, the obvious answer would be they both did – they both worked for something and got it. How about if I told you Bob got a 10% higher final grade – who is the winner then? Or if I told you Alice had a 5% greater net improvement than Bob? Would your answer change?
We all have gone through this – been proud of our own achievements, only to be disappointed when we find out somebody else did better. Why is that? It doesn’t make our success any less successful. The truth is that there is always going to be somebody better than us.
As any mathematician can confirm, there is an infinite possibility of numbers – there isn’t any highest number that deems you as ‘the best’. You could be the richest person on earth and still want more money, you could get 100% on a test but still want to be better, you could deadlift 100 kgs but still want to be stronger. Numbers don’t satisfy us because there is always room for more – there is no end.
It’s silly when you think about it like that, isn’t it? To fixate on something we will never fully be satisfied with? And the thing is, while we are busy obsessing over the numbers, we lose sight of what can fulfil us – the person defined by those numbers.
Rather than wallowing in self-pity over a bad grade, recognise your effort and take it as reminder of what you still need to work on. Instead of punishing yourself for a weight that screams “unworthy”, focus on the personality that makes you so unique and special. Instead of being disheartened by the number of friends you have, appreciate their place in your life. The next time you get a statistic, whether about you or anybody else, remember it’s simply that – a statistic that can’t even begin to define the wonderful complexities of a human being. Look through the number, and straight to the person behind it.
So let me try that introduction again. I’m Amn, that’s pronounced Ah-min by the way – not Amm or Arm or Ann. I would describe myself a cynical optimist, while others would probably just say I complain a lot. I like to smile a lot, in part to put up my illusion of happiness and in part to ensure my 4 years worth of braces weren’t in pain – ahem sorry, in vain. I am a master procrastinator (finishing this article on its due date like a boss) and while I try to be ‘hip’ like the c00l kidz, I usually fail miserably. I am incredibly stubborn but I choose to describe myself as ‘strong-willed’ and ‘determined’, and although some may call me childish, I like to think I have an innocence about me.
I have long let numbers define my self worth and my happiness, but I have finally put my foot down, and I urge you all to do the same. Break free from these numerical shackles and embrace the person within.
Written by Amn Waqar. Edited by Annika Lee. Published on 03/06/2019. Header image courtesy Black Ice via Pexels