Living by the Numbers

By Shellie Miller

Uncertain as to what brought on my recent realization of the importance that numerals have played in my life, I decided that writing would be my catharsis and hopefully hatch some revelation. A deep relationship with numbers does not require mathematical wizardry, and for most of us, begins as soon as we can communicate. Our arrival comes with a magic “date of birth,” and regardless of the annual age change, our lives become forever linked to that number. The query, “How old are you?” has the smallest toddlers raising two to four fingers and struggling with some of their first monosyllabic responses. It helps that English’s first six numbers require only terse uttering.

Throughout our childhood, digits stream through our consciousness and are processed as we develop into our adult selves. The grade we’re in, the number on our team jersey, how many kids can be invited for a sleepover, how many pets we have, the amount of family members we share the table with, times we’ve been on an airplane, and numbers of dolls or transformers in our collections continue to ebb and flow throughout our days. Evan Paulson, 11, says that the number he thinks about a lot is 13. “I’m ready to be a teenager,” he says. His sister, Mandy, 6 and Parkland resident, Carol Liversedge, share the same favorite number, 7. Mandy says she just likes it, but I surmise that her next birthday may have something to do with it. Carol’s reasoning reflects her faith when she says, “Seven is the number of completeness in the bible.”

Students going into and attending high school can’t seem to get a break from a familiar sequence of numbers represented by initials. GPA, SAT, FCAT and more are the precursors to months of applications, campus visits and the amount of dollars one can receive in scholarships. And when one goes out into the working world, numbers take on a veritable life of their own.

Wages, percentage rates, credit scores, stock prices, futures markets and an endless litany of numerals in various orders await us in our adulthood. Purchasing anything is a game of numbers to some, where for others it is a trial of stresses. Liabilities and assets counterbalance each other with the resulting numbers giving us either a sense of security or the need to seek an expert’s advice.

Having begun holding up two fingers and saying, “I’m this many,” I have come to realize that my identity is comprised of many numbers, but only a few of importance. 1 (God), 5 (kids), 31 (day my husband and I married), 133 (my horse show number) and a special pair of digits that stand out in many aspects of my life; divisible by a number that when multiplied by its square root results in the answer.

Except for 1, all of the numbers pale in importance compared to the number of true friends that we can rely on in a crisis, who will celebrate our joys and help hold us together in our brokenness. Whatever that number grows into, I intend to celebrate its expansion until my last breath.

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