In her book Julie and Julia, Julie Powell makes a distinction between simple and easy. For example, making Potage Parmentier (French potato soup) from Julia Child’s recipe is simple—but not easy.
I think math is the same. After about eighteen years of doing algebra, I’d say it is now simple to me. But the process of learning algebra was not easy.
So why do we seem to crave reassurance that anything we might want to attempt is actually easy? Maybe we tell people “It’s easy!” to communicate that something is possible and that they are capable of doing it. Maybe it’s a way to take the sting out. Maybe in a culture of pigeon-holed specialization, we’re surrounded by too many tasks that just seem impossible to attempt without specializing in them ourselves.
But by saying this, it seems we’re sending a message to each other that we can only do things that are easy—not things that are difficult. And many things that are worth doing are, in fact, not so easy.
Maybe the real message we want to send isn’t, “this is easy,” but “this is possible and that you are capable of doing it.”