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As a kid, I loved traffic jams, since they meant playing ‘The License Plate Game’ with my dad. The rules are simple: chose a license plate on a car and find a meaning or a pattern in those numbers and letters. For example, if a woman in her mid thirties has a license plate number that ends with, let’s say, 87, try to figure out what those numbers stand for. She looks too old to be born in ’87 and too young to have given birth in that year. It could be her anniversary, but she’s not wearing a ring. If you rule out most possibilities, proceed to convert the letters into numbers (A=1, B=2) and try to find a pattern in those seemingly random numbers. The game made it seem like traffic jams didn’t last long enough.
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My father has a near eidetic memory which never fails to amaze me. He remembers, even at the age of 65, the ticket number of the train ticket he used when he was seven. He would have gone far, as a mathematics professor or a financial analyst, had he not dropped out of high school due to financial difficulties.
In many ways, I am similar to my father. I’m in the same situation he was in 50 years ago: leaving education, despite natural talents, sets an example of what I should never do. After school, I tutor kids for a few hours which, helps my family pay the bills. Although it has gotten me into a habit of procrastinating in my own studies, I’m overcoming that with hard work and (for the hardest subjects) a little tutoring from my older sister.
I’ve inherited half of my dad’s retaining skills. My memory works well with conversations I’ve had, books I’ve read, and TV shows I’ve watched, but when it comes to memorizing a phone number, my mind only retains it for a small time period. Perhaps, that is why numbers intrigue me so much. The world of puzzles and numbers is the only thing that makes my mind feel alive. I can’t memorize my way out of it. When I solve a problem, I feel good. When I get stuck, I feel great. Getting stuck means that when I eventually solve it I’ll know I worked for it and didn’t just rely on a gene to get credit.
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When the time came to decide my career, my answer was obvious: cryptography for the NSA. It’s the one thing that will keep challenging and exercising my mind. I will be able to turn a childhood passion and the love for all things numeric into a meaningful profession. My world is made up of many things that matter to me but most of my world (and mind) is filled with awe for numbers.
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