Joy of Knowing and the Joy of Learning
Real talk. Keepin’ it hunnit. This is something that I’ve wanted to write about since coming to college because I know just how relevant it can be. Although it’s been something that I have struggled with for many years now, it’s something that I think is the most relevant now that I have been in college because it’s a completely different atmosphere with a completely different set of people as well. I think it’ll be a dense read and I wish I could lighten up the topic with some funny and stupid gifs and pictures, but I want to emphasize the gravity of this. Having dipped my toes into two vastly different areas of study, I’ve come to struggle and resolve with many times that it’s “just fine” to not know everything. Now, I realize that it sounds like a pretty simple statement, but when you’re studying and learning, you often get caught up on what you know and what you don’t know. It’s a pretty clear line of frustration like when you’re trying to cram and do some final review for an exam the next day, but nothing is sticking. It’s a feeling of helplessness that just pervades. However, it’s important to take a step back and breathe, and to really think about why you started to pursue an area of study in the first place, it’s first to learn and not just jumping straight to knowing. I understand that this is going to be relatively confusing, but it’s a confusing dilemma to feel in the first place. Wanting to pursue medicine and information technology, those two are the abyss of education, they’re the bottomless rancor pit, they’re the never ending fall into the pits of Moria. They’re both vast and broad fields, but I pursue it because I want to learn about it, I want to learn about the intricate nooks and crannies all the way down to the single cell and binary digit. Unfortunately, when we’re placed into an environment where memorization thrives, like college, it’s easy to forget that we are all there because we just want to learn and hope to apply that learned knowledge to our future careers.
Now, it’s not to say that other areas of study aren’t as broad or require as much brain power, but medicine in and of itself is just a beast. With many different specializations, all requiring many more years of high level study and experience along with combining various other forms of science? I could probably just copy and paste a list of all of the current specializations in medicine and that could be as long as one of my normal posts. No one is expected to master and know all of the caveats but when you’re in the middle of your educational journey, that thought can sometimes pass your mind. Although my educational journey is still in its infantile stages and I can’t speak to the extent of this dilemma, I’ve come across a handful of classes where I just get so caught up in trying to learn everything that I can, that I end up not seeing the original end goal of just learning the chemical pathways of the hormones and neurotransmitters on how an action potential initiates and propagates. Another example is where I am doing research, regardless of where I am doing research or whoever is doing the research, a common problem that you face is that a person will ALWAYS be in over their head at the start. Unless you’re a post-doctorate fellow that specializes in the research, there’s always going to be a learning curve where you need to read a crap ton of papers as well as read a crap ton of protocols for the common experiments that you’ll be running. For me, once I started learning about conducting Western blots on gels, I started to read more on different gel electrophoresis methods and what they could be used for and what macromolecule they could be used to detect. As a result, I started to read up on the other different kinds of polar directions, Western for Proteins, Eastern for Post Translation Modification Proteins, Southern for DNA and Northern for RNA. The more interested I got and the more I wanted to read and to know, the more frustrated I became at my own inability to learn and process information faster… “why couldn’t I just understand and master this topic after reading the Wikipedia page on it?” I would try and write pages on pages of notes, and just keep reading. I would download protocols for experiments, find pdfs about topics, read through research papers on journals about the research that we would be doing. When things didn’t click or whenever I would make a mistake on writing a word out or saying the proper terminology, I would beat myself up internally, “Why didn’t I remember? I know this word!” and various other forms of self-defeating rhetoric. It wasn’t until I read the article above, did it really knock me back down to reality. It took me awhile to remember, but at the start, I pursued these areas of interest because I wanted to learn. I wanted to learn how things affected one another, I wanted to learn why things occurred in the way that they do. I’m pursuing medicine because I wanted to learn and experience the joy of helping people to experience another happy moment in their life, and all in all, I just wanted to pursue the joy of learning. Somewhere along the away amidst everything, I fell into the wrong mindset. As my old high school band director would say, I fell into a routine of “Cram, Regurgitate, and Forget”. That mindset made me become toxic, it made me want to experience the joy of knowing without having to go through the necessary steps of learning. It made me want to get to the end goal and not to enjoy the journey it took to get there.
Even in my current major of Information Technology and Management, there are so many different specializations under the umbrella of “Information Technology”, but then to tack on the area of “Management” as well makes it an even more complicated of area of study. In my undergraduate program, aside from the general course of study, it also offers 11 different specializations to focus in on, each one different enough that it makes it difficult to know everything. From specializations to Cyber/System/Network Security and Forensics, to Database Management, to Networking and Data Center Operations, to IT Entrepreneurship and Management and much more, there’s definitely a wide variety of topics that can be covered for any kind of student. However, the difficulty lies in when a student is interested in a variety of topics, but only has so many credit hours to take courses. Already reading through my struggle in pursuing medicine, you can already kind of guess what happened with my passion for IT as well. Just from the areas that my school offered, I was interested in Systems Security, Data Center Operations and Management, Data Management and Analytics, Management Information Systems, System Administration, Systems Analysis, Web Design and Application Development and within each one, they all had an additional 4-5 courses to tack onto the general course of study curriculum. Obviously, if I wanted to graduate within 4 years, that simply would not be possible. But I tried. I took courses from all over the spectrum. I overloaded each semester’s schedule hoping to fit 1-2 more classes, alongside my general education requirements and pre-med prerequisites. I tried to juggle extra classes alongside volunteering, working, research, and extracurricular activities. Of those, I started to pick up and learn how to apply a variety of coding languages, libraries, and packages like C#, Angular, React, Node.JS, Meteor.JS, Java, Ruby on Rails, Python and more. However, I could never get farther than the introductory and beginner steps, I became frustrated that I wasn’t learning fast enough to know how things work and to know how I could actually apply it into a real situation. I was becoming impatient and frustrated. I knew that coding was already a weak point of mine, and instead of continually practicing and applying these skills in smaller projects to learn, I worked on developing real time web applications but I struggled. Although I eventually found a job at a start-up that really allowed me to develop these skills, it took me years of flip-flopping with coding to finally find my groove. I wanted to work with databases and perform data analytics on them, so I bought books, downloaded PDFs to try and learn everything that I could, but before I knew, I wanted to know everything that I could. I ended up struggling with topics that I would never have struggled before if I just took the time and patience to read and learn. I dived headfirst into a variety of topics, reading at first and working through exercises, but I didn’t want to practice and I didn’t want to take the time to learn how the tools worked… I only wanted to know how to automate my everyday tasks, I only wanted to know how to use my SQL skills in analyzing data sets so that I could garner new insights, I wanted to be able to hack into a server so I knew where to strengthen its defenses and so on. In retrospect, it was a terribly immature mindset, and one that I grew out of, but it took time. It takes time and patience to learn, as clear and simple as that might sound, we’ll all have moments where we all just want the “joy of knowing” and not relish in the “joy of learning”. Fortunately, I don’t fall into a cycle of “cram, regurgitate, and forget” as often anymore ever since I’ve been working as a technician for my department. I get to manage servers, software shares, deployment and update services and many more, that it’s allowed me to learn from many faculty and staff instead of just trying to struggle on my own and becoming frustrated.
I pursued these areas because I wanted to learn, I wanted to keep learning about new innovations and I wanted to learn how I could one day apply them to what I would be doing. I have big dreams and I hold high expectations for myself, but it’s important that I don’t become impatient with processes that must come with time. It’s a scary thought and I understand it well, I understand why I just wanted “to know” … it’s a frightening thought for me to “not know” because, and as arrogant as that may sound, growing up, I generally had a handle on what I was learning. As time passed, it was a brutal eye-opening experience that there are people that are simply just better than who I am, so I tried to catch up by learning and as gaps closed, they also widened, which led to a difficult sense of incompetence. Struggling to catch up and overtake people, it threw me off of my original goal to just learn and have fun. I felt that if I just slowed down and had fun learning, that people would write me off as “lazy” or taking the “easy” way … every time I heard or read something along the lines of “just taking my time and having fun” … I snorted a little bit and chuckled at the “ignorance” of these people… “how could they just coast on through the most important years of their lives before becoming an adult with responsibilities?”. I let competition cloud my mind, and I grew unhappy. For most of my life, I had always been a front-runner and ahead, but now that I came to college, I had to start over again and I struggled to come out ahead. Without a doubt, it is a crisis of personal confidence more than anything, and that is by no means a criticism.
Will I make the wrong decision from time to time? Yea.. probably.
Will I eventually get in over my head? Heck yes.
Will I have to hold down the power button, shut off and restart? I look forward to it.
All that matters is that when I start, I continue. I commit. Committing isn’t about perfection, as many might come to believe, committing means sticking through what may be a difficult journey. There will be times that we face glorious failure, but committing means that we have a steadfast resolve to keep on pressing.
We all want to do the right thing, we all want to make good choices, and we all want to be the strongest version of ourselves. But where do we start? And where do we go from there? Instead of taking the time to learn and to travel step by step, I wanted to design and build a teleporter to *whoosh* me through the difficult and trying times. I wanted to avoid the trials and tribulations. And although I’ve worked hard to learn, I still struggle with fighting my impatience “to know” everything, but I’ve become self-aware of this weakness of mine and I stay proactive in making sure that I am still finding enjoyment with every single process that I’m following to “knowing” what I want to know.