Gratefully accepting help

I’ve had some great teachers in my life who have helped me grow as a person and as a student.  This is the first time, however, that I’ve had a mentor outside of academia.

I don’t know quite what to do with myself, with all these resources!  Everyone around me is highly skilled and fantastically helpful, and so interested in seeing me succeed. It’s so gratifying, and so invigorating. It amplifies my geeking out, 10-fold.

A mentor, though, seems like such a special role- someone who not only doesn’t mind if I pester them with questions, but welcomes it! It doesn’t hurt that my mentor is really approachable and friendly, already.  I must remember to regularly thank (Hackbright co-founder) David Phillips for pairing us up; I think he did an excellent job.

Today, I met with my mentor for an afternoon, talking about  the best way to get a start on machine learning, what I want my final project to be, and how to bridge the gap between using javascript as an all-purpose language and accessing the cool features it brings to web pages.  I was so scattered, going in, with my thoughts pulled in a thousand different directions.  He was a thoughtful and helpful sounding board, and pointed me towards some helpful resources.

He also insisted (in the kindest possible way) on looking at the task list I’d created last week (there’s version 1 and version 2), since I’d mentioned how ugly my partner and I had made it look (for fun).  Even though I knew I’d done it purposely, and that I was just fooling around in the css, and it was also our first web app, I was already terribly embarrassed about it.  Also, terribly embarrassed about the fact that I didn’t have ANYTHING installed on my computer yet; sqlite3, flask, or git.  Really, Nicole?  For shame.

But my mentor was really nice about it, and totally willing to help when I couldn’t figure out why the flask install wasn’t working, and was appropriately amused by the photo of a cat rolling around in 20 dollar bills that we’d put on our task list main page.  Who knew there were SO MANY hilarious cat photos on the internet?

Periodically throughout the afternoon I felt odd, felt like I was imposing on my mentor’s time when he could be doing so many more productive things than explaining how running ipython was different from just running python from command line.  I will need to continue to work on being OK with other people investing time in me.  It feels like such a luxury, to have someone who does what I want to do, who wants to help like this! I want to simultaneously take the most advantage of this opportunity and also not waste his time at all.  I guess it’s up to me, then, to put our time to good use.

Coming out of the afternoon, I felt like I had a little more direction (a jquery tutorial and a book to read on collective intelligence and machine learning) and a few more things figured out.  I learned some things, and gorged myself on babybel cheeses. I know there’s still a lot of work ahead of me, a ton of stuff to learn, but with so many people rooting for me, I’ll surely get through it alright.

I think this is afternoon going to become a habit, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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