Pessimist: One who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both.
– Oscar Wilde
Part of the beauty of the program of study on which I have embarked is its lack of requirements. Though there are some sorts of courses I need to take to graduate from my particular program, I’ve much latitude in deciding exactly what that looks like. This semester, I’ve chosen to fulfill four of the five requirements.
The idea was to open the spring up to cross-registering courses in the Kennedy School or Harvard’s Business School or School of Public Health.
As I registered at the top of the semester, the freedom of choice I told myself I’d experience in the second half of my time here drove a good deal of the selections I made.
With a certain degree of surprise, my statistics course continues to be the course in which I most feel myself and my understanding of my capabilities growing.
It is also the course in which I know I’m making the most mistakes. I simply don’t know a lot of what we’re learning about. As such, I tend to misuse the language of statistics. It’s like someone who’s fluent in Spanish visiting Paris and recognizing just enough of what’s being said to make the inability to communicate perfectly frustrating.
As I sat in the library tonight compiling a report that referenced t-tests and chi square tests, friends and fellow classrmates happened by. They noticed the sprawl of papers covering my study carrel and commented they were glad they weren’t in the course. One person even said you couldn’t force her to take the class.
It occurred to me then that this might be why I’m enjoying my statistics class so much. No one made me take it. It is a pre-requisite for the next level of stats in the Spring, but I’m not taking that class. None of the millions of possible next jobs after school requires me to have a knowledge of statistical analysis.
I’m enrolled in the class because it seemed like it would be interesting and I didn’t know anything about the subject matter. It is new.
Each time a homework assignment makes me want to disrupt the tranquility of the library with a yelp of, “For the love of all that is holy, someone just tell me the answer,” I remind myself – I chose this. No external, deus-ex-machina force worked to force me into this class. I chose to learn this, to work with material heretofore unknown to me.
Having that choice and agency have made all the difference. I am learning because I chose what to learn. I was curious and free to follow that curiosity.