31 October 2019

So You Think You're a Data Scientist

by Ru Kein

It was the summer of 2019. I owned my own marketing and video production company, had my own apartment in Hollywood, friends that cared about me, and a girlfriend I loved. So why was I so miserable? Why was I waking up every day filled with dread, and staying awake at night, restless and consumed by anxiety? I hated the way I was living, but I was even more afraid of dying. “Yet Another Existential Crisis” - I thought I knew who I was now, I thought I loved myself. Was all of it a lie?

Hope vs. Faith

Any of us can look back at different points of our life and identify the breaking points. Moments of incredible fear, followed by moments of tremendous courage. To me, this is the difference between “Hope” and “Faith”. Hope is static. It gets you through pain, but nothing changes if you don’t act. Faith is courageous action, carried by a belief in something greater than you. I had been hoping for so many things, but I didn’t even believe in myself.

Wild Imagination

Peter Pan has always been one of my favorite childhood stories. I identify with not wanting to grow up because there’s nothing worse than being a grown-up with responsibilities and chores and low-level depression instigated by going to work every day for a job you hate. Like Peter, my wild imagination is one of my greatest assets. It helps me laugh at the absurdity and irony of life, because it’s easy to take ourselves too seriously and get bent out of shape about things that don’t really matter. Imagination is what gives us art, it’s why we have spaceships and a mission to Mars. We need to have our wild ideas that everyone thinks are impossible, and we need to have faith in what is infinite and unknown to our limited minds as mortal human beings. But Peter’s greatest asset is not that he believes in fairies and lives in a fantasy world of playtime — it’s that he has tremendous courage. He is not afraid of death — he welcomes it.

This is the reason he can fly.

I thought to myself: why am I afraid of death? If I were to die young — if I were to die tomorrow, what would I feel then? And the answer came to me immediately — I would regret everything, I would feel like I had wasted so much time worrying about meeting other people’s expectations of me, and my life would feel meaningless. I’ve known since I was a child what I love doing. My life flashed before my eyes, and I saw the seven-year-old version of Ru trying to solder the last piece of a little 3-wheeled robot I had ordered from a catalog. I saw myself keeping a field notebook of the various species of mice, their habitats and diet. And another notebook for dinosaurs. I was obsessed with dinosaurs.

Ru’s First DataFrame object (circa 1997)

I saw my eight-year old self giggling at the Mac Basic program I wrote on our family’s Special Edition II (which still works by the way) - giggling because the user types their name in the input, and all the program does is assign them a number then calls them a “goofball”.

Goofball Confused?

“Closet Geek”

I saw myself at age nine building a spaceship out of legos and submitting it to an official contest (I didn’t win, but I framed the honorary certificate they sent because it meant that much to me, and I was proud of my little rocket). I heard my fifth-grade science teacher asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up and the unhesitating reply from my ten-year-old lips: “ASTRONAUT”. I didn’t see myself struggling to fit in for twenty years, but I saw my 32nd birthday when I successfully built a super-fast PC for 4K video production from the ground up. That moment when you go to boot up and are silently praying you didn’t inadvertently short a circuit on the motherboard or put too much paste on the CPU when connecting the cooler. I saw myself re-configuring the home network for higher security and speed and realizing I might know more about computers than my brother or my dad - the designated family “nerds”.

New Frequencies

I saw myself playing lead guitar and vocals to an audience of 200 kids when I was in eight grade, and live acoustic performances for my entire high schoool on an almost monthly basis. I didn’t think for a second about my twenties, where music, computers, spaceships and love for life became lost in my attempt to just make money and become someone important everyone would like. I saw myself getting an A in physics because it was my favorite class, but barely getting by in math because I didn’t think it would be useful to my writing and music career. I saw myself coming home from a long day at work and spending hours the intro to aerospace engineering course I signed up for online, and smiling when I realized I’m actually quite fond of math if the equations have to do with calculating rocket trajectories.

Creation and Pandemonium

None of us know when our time on earth is going to run out. I now see life is a precious gift - that to live is the only point of life, and that if we were “created in God’s image”, then we should be creating, because that is how we bring Good into a world that would otherwise just be chaos. It’s been almost one year - the summer of Pandemic 2020. Last fall I quit my company, learned Python and multivariable calculus, and graduated from one of the top data science bootcamps in the world. What has alwasy driven me, since childhood, is not data – it’s patterns. I love code-breaking. I love solving mysteries, I love finding secret hidden meanings in words and numbers. That’s why I love music, computers, poetry and stories.

Artist - Scientist - Engineer

What I realized last summer was that if I spend my days doing those simple things that make me who I already am, then I will wake up every day knowing why I exist, and I don’t need some grand meaning of life’s ultimate purpose to guide my destiny. I’m writing this blog to remind myself of who I am and what I like to do. It gives me a purpose, it lets me share my passion with the world as I continue to explore myself as an Artist, as a Scientist, and as an Engineer. A place to create, to experiment, and to build. If I do those three things every day, then I can leave the world in absolute peace knowing I lived exactly the way I was meant to live.

tags: Your Browser Doesn't Support Canvas, Please Download Chrome or compatible browser.