Reflection · Transition

Super Ambitious and Cautious

I love data both quantitative and qualitative; I love numbers, stories, and theories. Now, few people can say they love both but I attribute this to my parents:

My father has always been good with numbers/ analysis and my mom is the teacher in the family/ the creative parent. When I was young, I thought my dad was a ‘human calculator’ because I could ask him any math problem and he could calculate it in seconds. It was as though he knew the  math problem before I even asked it. And my mom, the crafty one, she could make a gift basket out of raffia, edible play dough (pre-Pinterest), and homemade cards that surpassed any $5 Hallmark card.

Academia is the perfect field for me because I am self-directed–I love learning, researching, and teaching. It was not by coincidence that the same dispositions of ambition and caution that helped guide me to academics are useful in the profession. Of course, I did not discover my love for academics right away, but when I did, I realized that it was the ideal career for me.

But ambition and caution can only take me so far.

A pitfall of being mathematically inclined is the desire to “calculate risks.” Some times you can do this to the point of inaction–you discover no action is one that you would like to take because the potential ‘risks’ (or to the qualitatively inclined–‘threats’) do not bring about desirable outcomes. In short, by doing something you could get hurt, go broke, etc. But one cannot be oblivious to the fact that we take risks every day. Flying is a risk and yet we shouldn’t let it stop us from visiting our loved ones.

As I embark on my journey towards a PhD, I can be overwhelmed with the costs. But when I look back on my education thus far, I do not regret the time or money that I spent (payments I continue to make) on those degrees, memories, or friendships. Even in the most challenging times, I was learning. And without those lessons, friends, degrees and memories I would not be the same person I am today. I would not be able to have the jobs I do–the jobs that I love. And as ambitious as this next step is, and as cautious as I have been thus far, I can’t help but get excited about the adventure ahead.

At some point when I discover that the potential outcomes of the calculated risks are not statistically significant (neither stands out more than the other), I  just need to “take a leap of faith.” Faith is the only thing that keeps me from choosing inaction.

Back to nature:

If you worry about all the wildlife that could potentially harm you outdoors, then you will not enjoy camping (or hiking). But when you learn that you can coexist with wildlife if you respect it (don’t bother it and most times it won’t bother you) then you can really take in the beauty of it all. That is what camping is all about–enjoying the moment, taking in the sights and sounds, and breaking away from the clutter we bring into our life that clouds what it really means to live. (Even if it means you have a plethora of bug bites and discovered that your campsite was home to a foraging armadillo.)

One of the great joys of life is that sometimes things turn out better than you could have ever imagined…these are moments when you truly feel alive.



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