As an engineer, my life is filled with numbers. How fast is this moving? How much force does it have on it? What’s the amount of the electric field around it? Calculate, calculate, calculate… punch buttons, hit “Enter,” get an answer.

But numbers… what value do they have in life?

Numbers really don’t tell you anything in the grand scheme of things.

Like sure, I’m nineteen years, eight months, and three days old. I have been in school for almost three-quarters of my life, minus summer vacations and weekends (so really, it comes out to about thirty-eight percent of my time). My boyfriend and I have been dating for four hundred and fifty-two days, but we had been friends for three months and half a week (roughly) before that. I have four siblings – two sisters and two brothers. I moved into my current apartment seven months and twenty-five days ago.

But what does any of this tell you about me as a person?

It doesn’t tell you anything.

We quantify so much of our lives using these digits, but they don’t say anything about who we are. That’s really why I’m here now – to share who I am and how I live, and to discover things for myself. Because quite honestly, life isn’t about plugging numbers into a machine and seeing the result. Our day-to-day lives are not the results of a formula – no, they’re much messier than that. If it were that easy, then everyone really could figure out the “key” to happiness and success, and no one would be different. What kind of life would that be?

As much as I believe this is true – that numbers aren’t everything – it’s sometimes difficult to remember it. Since so much is based on numbers, it’s hard to believe that I’m not a statistic and that it’s okay to be different and stray from the “norm” sometimes. While it’s common knowledge that everyone grows and learns at their own pace, it’s not so easy to really feel that it’s right to.

Let’s take my age for example. Nineteen years – that’s old enough to drive a car and buy a lottery ticket, but I still have to wait a year and a couple months until I can drink legally. But just because I fit the quota with my age does not mean that I should still be allowed to do some of these things. The number’s the answer, but the question really should be, “Am I mature enough to do this?”

And then there is the amount of time you should wait for something: “Give it a week, it’ll blow over.” “Wait a month, see if your feelings change.” Sometimes I start to challenge myself using these numbers. For instance, I had an argument with a friend last summer, and I want to wait for a whole year to pass before trying to talk things out, because somehow I think that things will magically be all better by then. But I really don’t think this is the right approach at all. Instead, I should talk to her when I am ready to. It’s just really hard to do this when my brain keeps telling me, “Wait a few more months – then you can say it’s been a year, and everything will be okay.”

I think one of the biggest things I’m afraid of is having numerical values (and what society thinks about them) sway my thoughts when making huge, critical decisions. The one that worries me the most is marriage and the ages that come with it. As of right now, I feel that I’m way too young to be married, not only because of my age, but because I’m not mature enough for it. But then I do start thinking about numbers and suddenly, different scenarios run through my head. For instance, getting married right out of college. If everything works out between my boyfriend and me and we decide to get married, why wait? (or so my mind says sometimes) By then we’ll have dated for four or five years, and I’ll be twenty-two, maybe twenty-three years old… is that the “right” age to get married? Or is it still “too young” in society’s eyes? And if I wait, how long should I wait for? Wait until I’m twenty-five, twenty-six, maybe? Because then my mind’s sure to know what it wants. But what if it doesn’t? What if I still don’t know, or am “supposed” to wait until I’m twenty-eight or twenty-nine? The numbers start boggling my mind, overwhelming me…

The only thing I need to remember – for this and for anything – is this:

Despite what the numbers tell me, don’t do something until it’s right.

Numbers are important. They really are. They already give me something to do. Someday they’ll give me a job and help me pay for things, like a car, a house, my children’s education, and family vacations.

But as important as they are, I don’t need numbers to define my life.