How Far I’ll Go… With Mathematics and Moana

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I was casually hanging out with my brother and his wife while they were on vacation. We started talking about Disney princesses of all subjects. I don’t have a lot invested in this type of talk. I’m more attracted to Marvel and Star Wars when it comes to Disney properties.

People love to make assumptions when it comes to the question of “What Disney princess would you be?” It seems so inconsequential but people (especially those close to us) want to see if they can guess rightly. Just another way of showcasing your identity. Harmless, right?

People always peg me wrong. They think that Belle is my favorite. I get it. She’s quiet, introverted, and into books. People are right. I am those things, but it doesn’t match well with my personality.

I love Moana!

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Moana and Expression of Identity

Moana is a movie that moved me quite literally. I was at the edge of my seat. Especially during the finale with Te Kā and the reveal. I won’t spoil it but I hope you’ve seen the film. If not, what are you waiting for?

The theme of Moana is clear, it’s about finding yourself and being true to the voice inside of you. I would say that my goal in life is to learn to love myself… all of myself. Even the things which make me weird, awkward, or downright mean. Mostly, I want to forgive myself for all those mistakes which I now view as life lessons. The things is, life moves quickly and it doesn’t wait for us to catch up. To live in the moment is to know uncertainty and find comfort in the self.

One of the reasons why I’m writing this blog is to grow more confident in my voice. Especially in the areas of mathematics and science.

I feel my story runs parallel to the journey of Moana. I faced many obstacles but perhaps the most infuriating was my families feelings towards mathematics. It was a taboo subject growing up and I couldn’t share my love with my parents or sibling. In the same way, Moana’s voyager spirit was met by the exasperation of her father. I too wanted to be the perfect daughter but ultimately I had to be myself.


Moana and Mathematics

There is one song from the soundtrack that I like to listen to on repeat. It’s called “I am Moana (Song of the Ancestors.)” It is near the end of the movie before the final battle.

Moana is feeling defeated and is losing faith in herself. The ghost of her grandma comforts her and reminds Moana of her inner strength. In that moment, she has an epiphany.

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She sings:

I’ve delivered us to where we are
I have journeyed farther
I am everything I’ve learned and more
Still it calls me
And the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me
It’s like the tide; always falling and rising
I will carry you here in my heart you’ll remind me
That come what may
I know the way
I am Moana!

What we Carry in our Heart.

It is only this year that I was able to tell myself that I was good at mathematics.

As a child, you internalize the signals of your family, authority figures, and your society. I never thought it was okay to like mathematics because of the way people treated the topic. I learned to quiet myself and not let my excitement show because it upset others.

The word smart was often used in a derogatory manner. It became a label. One that I didn’t want because it separated me from others. I was already a kid who couldn’t make a friend and this seemed like one more thing that prevented friendships from forming.

Lastly. my teachers let me know that I wasn’t talented. That I struggled more than the other kids. I often felt that I passed my math courses by the skin of my teeth. My AP Calculus teacher told me, “You are only passing because of your strengths in algebra.” I’m sure she didn’t mean it in a negative way, but that is how my brain interpreted it. That I couldn’t really grasp the deeper meaning of calculus.

A Change of Heart

What changed, I realized that most people don’t make it to linear algebra. Passing that class was more than grit, motivation, or passion. I actually learned something in a short period of time. I went from an F on my midterm to an A in five weeks.

The call to mathematics wasn’t outside me at all! It was coming from within. It is an indelible part of my subconscious.

Here is a little treat to end this. A UCLA mathematician worked on creating the water effects for Moana.

Has a book or a film helped you realize something about your identity?

“I’m rude, bad-tempered, and basically, I don’t like people. Maybe that makes me a jerk, but it sure beats what you are.” — Courtney Crumrin