Proof you shouldn’t listen when people say your ideas don’t matter

In second grade, we were learning about “greater than” and “less than” signs in math class. (You know, the < and > signs you have to really think about before remembering which is which.)

We were all struggling a bit to remember the difference. (I mean come on, we were eight, and I still find it a little tricky.) One kid raised his hand and said, “Here’s how I remember them! I just picture the symbol as an alligator, and it’s always eating the bigger number!”

Our teacher (who was, for the record, an amazing, kind woman in most circumstances and one of the best teachers I ever had) told him, kindly but firmly, “No, you just need to memorize which one means ‘greater than’ and which one means ‘less than.’ The big kids don’t need shortcuts – they just have it memorized.”

This, my friends, much like the years-long lie that “Next year you’ll have to write EVERYTHING in cursive” (girl I am 27 years old and I’m STILL not writing in cursive), was simply not true.

You know how I know? Because not only did I NOT memorize the “greater than” and “less than” symbols by third grade, or fourth grade, or even twelfth grade, I STILL don’t have them memorized. In 2018.

In fact, as I was reading an article today that read, “Half of the total binge drinks were consumed by adults aged ≥35 years” (lol, that’s a story for another time), you know what I said to myself? “Okay Lindsey, so the alligator eats the bigger number… so that means adults OLDER than 35 years.”

TWO DAMN DECADES LATER.

I tell you this, not because this is the most lofty, noble example of when someone’s prediction turned out to be wrong (Because it’s not. I think we’ve all heard about the guy who said the Internet was just a fad), and not because I’m criticizing my teacher (teachers are, hands down, some of the most lovely people on the planet).

No, I tell you this because it’s such a simple, child-sized version of a principle I truly believe, which is: When people put down your ideas, don’t listen.

Whether it’s your teacher, your family, your boss or your president, that message still rings true. Don’t let anyone tell you that you or your ideas don’t matter.

If we can all agree that our opinions matter on such a small scale (doing whatever you can to survive math class), then I think we can agree to it at a much larger scale, i.e.:

  • Ditching that friend who doesn’t listen to your ideas
  • Quitting that job that punishes you for thinking outside the box
  • Dumping that person who doesn’t believe in your dreams (Even if they’re as small as learning to crochet, as mine sometimes are) (And for the record, Morgan really supports my crocheting goals.)
  • Or even telling YOURSELF to eff off when you hear that inner voice saying, “No, you can’t”

We can’t all quit our jobs or leave our partners, but I hope that next time you sense someone – even if that someone is yourself – discounting your ideas, you’ll think twice before internalizing their words.

And as for that kid in my second grade math class… God damn it, I hope he’s still using his alligator to remember math.