Full Speed Ahead

As of about a week ago, the most I could tell you about the graduate program I’m starting this fall is that term starts on the 23rd of August and it’s a great program. The program ranks with equivalents at UC Berkley, UC Davis, John’s Hopkins, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (A well known top computer science university) and above many other distinguished programs. As of this morning, I now have my gatech.edu email address, have connected up core security things and am diligently working my way through pages and pages of information to prepare for term. At this point most of that is just making sure my computing environment is all set up to hit the ground running when term starts.

All that ‘administrative’ bologna aside, I’ve now got a better sense of what to expect from the classes through preview materials and videos. I just spent the past 4 or so weeks intensively studying linear algebra and have pivoted over to probability and statistics. So far, it looks like (if nothing else) I’ve done a good job at identifying what’s likely to be critical for success and preparing well. Even then, it’s pretty clear that I’m unlikely to be at the level I’d like to be before school starts. Not so badly it’ll impact success as much as it’s going to result in more study time. When they say this program is ‘rigorous’ I feel like there’s a bit of down-playing going on.

Today was the new student orientation. I was impressed by the concise presentation (I wish every meeting could get thorough as much material as quickly). I thought it was highly effective in communicating a TON of information without making it feel overwhelming. I took a lot out of it, but there’s a lot to digest and internalize. More than that, what I really took away was the impressive range of students. There are people from all over the US and the world: Nigeria, South Africa, Finland, UAE, Russia and even more places. In hearing all of that, it made me ask myself(again): how the hell did I get to this table? I’m just a ‘trash bag’* from Wasilla. —I’ve been in places like this before, surrounded by truly remarkable people, who have remarkable things to say and remarkable stories to tell. It forcibly reminds me that I was a scrappy kid who grew up in a trailer park playing on those big wooden spindles for laying cable, getting in fights, and spending my time being a feral child. My stories aren’t remarkable. At best, I can tell a story that sounds interesting. Perhaps that’s part of my problem —I don’t feel as though I’ve got a great narrative. How can I measure myself against those great individuals who broke trail that I now have to help steward? Just by turning up and doing my best, even though I know I could do better, I’ve been given an avenue for success and recognition that feels vaguely unearned.

How can I live up to that?

I don’t know. I suppose I just have to. I’ve been afforded opportunities I feel don’t belong to me. The only thing I can do is to do everything in my power to make good on them. At this point the only thing I can do is say: full speed head.

*Trash bag – I’m taking this use of trash bag from “The Good Place” TV show. If you haven’t watched this, you need to.


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