I Should Be Doing Math Homework

…but I’m blogging instead. Awesome.

School started two weeks ago; it’s meant folders and pens and notebooks, and it’s also meant new textbooks.

There is something absolutely magical about opening up a textbook that I’ve never really handled before. It’s not that I’m ridiculously excited about all the new stuff I’m going to (hopefully) learn from it—no way. That is definitely one kind of exciting, but for me the most exciting part is flipping to the front cover, stamped with a grid labeled “Issued to” and “Year Used.” There’s usually a long column of names scribbled in underneath; the oldest textbook I ever had was from the early 1990s, and the list had nearly filled up the dilapidated front cover. The first part of getting a new textbook is always looking at this list.

Usually the first couple of names are familiar. They’re people I’m friends with, or at least people whose names I’ve heard before; people who have graduated, and people who have not. (Is it weird that a name you’re familiar with adds up to a person, but a name that you’re not just adds up to a pile of letters? I think it is.)

I’m not sure which one I like better—it’s fun to tell a friend that I have their old textbook, but there’s also something magical about getting the textbook of someone who’s already graduated. It’s like getting a little piece of his or her high school legacy, and it’s a reassurance that I will also leave the same tiny legacy when I graduate from a place that, right now, I can barely imagine leaving. The little things add up.

I like to pretend that I’ve done enough, been involved or nice or smart enough that I’ve left something bigger behind than a name written underneath a long list of other names, but honestly, in four years, nobody at my high school will remember me. Maybe a couple of teachers; maybe not even them. That is scary, because right now, my life kind of revolves around school.

We just took a quiz on One Hundred Years of Solitude in AP Lit, and in that book, writing is one of the things that anchors the characters to their past. The written word keeps them from forgetting who they are and where they have come from. The list of names inside the front cover of a textbook is hardly such an enduring legacy, but I like to pretend that it almost is. Maybe I don’t know who Rachel from 2003 is, but I know that she went to my school and used my government textbook. She graduated ten years ago; in ten years, is someone going to see that Naomi from 2013 used their textbook and wonder what she’s doing now?

Every time I write my name inside a textbook, it’s like leaving a little piece of myself behind for someone else to find. It’s kind of like a treasure hunt—everyone makes their own tiny impacts on the world, and someone else finds them. Writing my name inside a textbook is one of those tiny impacts. Even if my name is just a string of letters to the next person who gets my textbook, it’s still there. I was there. I existed and used textbooks and cared about school a lot. Next year, someone else will get Giancoli #213 and write their name inside the front cover, underneath mine, and the treasure hunt will grow a little bigger.

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One thought on “I Should Be Doing Math Homework

  1. This is awesome because I literally think the exact same thing when I’m writing my name in textbooks at the beginning of the year. I write my name all neat and draw a heart next to it because I can pretend that I’m that girl and no one in ten years is ever going to know otherwise. Also, totally agree about the whole name=person unless you don’t know them thing. That’s literally my favorite thing about people, is that there are so many things about them that you can know.

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