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Wedding bells were ringing in the background, and my fingers were deftly picking their way through the Rubik’s Cube concealed under my blazer. The last wedding I had attended was in fourth grade — a bubble boy in a lavender suit. Today, my only role was to behold my two favorite teachers as they got married.
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Except, I couldn’t quite focus on their wedding. Clack Clack Clack went the cube as I spun through an algorithm that my Algebra teacher (the bride) had taught me. My mother bristled beside me, but I cared not for her disapproval. My Algebra teacher and her fiancé, my Physics teacher, had given me my first Rubik’s Cube, and I was hell-bent on solving it.
They would often be the sponsors of my obsessions throughout my high school career. Before the Rubik’s Cube, I had taken up YuGiOh cards. After school I would hike to their classrooms and play against upperclassmen duelists. At first I couldn’t beat any of them, and my Physics teacher (whose seemingly vitriolic banter was aimed at trying to encourage my growth) reminded me of those defeats daily. It wasn’t long before I was good enough with YuGiOh cards that I could defeat almost every other duelist in the school, except for one senior who brutally eviscerated me with her skills. Till this day I have never managed to beat her.
Eventually, my Physics teacher suggested that I try my hand at something else. He ducked into the storage room adjacent to his classroom and returned with a box full of dusty Rubik’s cubes. He looked straight into my eyes and said “I bet you won’t be able finish one of these,” before thrusting the box into my hands. He knew that I relish the idea of a challenge and excel in instances when someone tells me I cannot accomplish a goal. “Bad bet,” was my response.
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So ensued months of interminable hours spent probing the cube, trying to coerce it into its solved position. I fumbled with it during meals, after studying, and while walking home from school. I surrendered myself to trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube, but it seemed like no matter how many times I came close to solving it, I could never get the colors to fall into neat, orderly rows.
The morning of the wedding, I woke up determined to complete the cube before the ceremony ended. I snatched the cube off of my dresser and began to work, but no matter how furiously I tried to cajole the cube into solving itself, it continued to twist into infuriatingly random assortments of colors.
As the ceremony started, my attempts became more frantic. Eventually, I diverted my eyes completely and focused on the cube. I probably would have grappled with it right through the end of the wedding, had it not been for an interruption by my senior rival. She sat down next to me, plucked the cube from my fingers, twisted one row into place and then solved the Cube within 30 seconds of elegant finger work. She gave me an amused smirk and slapped a note into my hand. When I glanced at it, I saw that it was from my Physics teacher, telling me that he had deliberately sabotaged the cubes so that they would be unsolvable, regardless of if I used the correct algorithms. He had purposefully given me an unreachable goal, simply to see if I would give up.
“Sometimes the odds are stacked against you. But with that amount of perseverance you might just find a way to win even when it seems impossible,” said my Physics teacher after pulling me aside the next day. Life is full of potentially insurmountable challenges. My experience with the “seemingly unsolvable” Rubik’s Cube galvanized my drive to tackle the impossibilities in life and transform them into opportunities, to face the barriers that only hard work can overcome.
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