Learning like a beginner: the climb

When I moved to Palo Alto to join the 2017 JSK Fellowship cohort at Stanford University I didn’t quite expect that I would spend so much of my time being bad at things.

And yet there I was, in stats class, at a loss for words.

“Stacy, what does this imply?”

if only

On the board, an equation. In my brain, nothing approximating an answer.

I stammered. I hemmed. Eventually, I figured out the solution and the professor moved on the next question.

The world didn’t end, but mine had been ever so gently rocked — and not even for the first time that day.

Earlier that morning, I’d joined the women of Stanford’s cycling club for their weekly road ride. It was my second time riding with them, and I’d resolved not to repeat mistakes I made the week before (including, but not limited to: not eating breakfast before embarking on a 20 mile ride; going out on brand new bike that hadn’t yet been adjusted for my height and featuring a gear shift system I wasn’t at all used to since I’d never owned a road bike before; forgetting that California has hella hills, etc).

On the one hand: I didn’t make the same mistakes. On the other hand: this week’s route took us up yet another incline. Have I mentioned I am bad at climbing hills? I am bad at climbing hills.

But I didn’t give up on the climb, and I didn’t give up on multivariate regressions. Because even though I’ve spent most of my career and previous academic life being rewarded for being good at things, I’d remembered that there was only one thing I enjoyed more than mastery: learning.

Tyrion Lannister: good at knowing things // via hypable

And while I was entirely aware of how much I enjoyed knowing things, I’d forgotten that the path to knowledge involves uncomfortably climbing one hill after another, including a rather large one marked “Ego.”

Fortunately, where there’s rolling hills there’s the opportunity to go down them wicked fast — and man, do I love downhills. Especially the ones where I’m convinced for at least a moment that I’m going to go flying off the road. This feeling is most pleasurable when you do not, in fact, then go flying off the road.

The trick is to know when to brake and when to pedal. And this year, I have a lot of pedalling to do.