The Value of Modelling and Self-expression

Daniel Gospodinov discusses the importance of artistic self-expression for those involved in scientific or mathematical fields, and explains how modelling for Label allowed him to express himself in a different, more emotional way.

I remember my first Label rehearsal for many reasons, but there is one memory which is particularly relevant to what I’m writing now. We were sat in a circle and like any get-to-know-each-other meeting in university, we all said what our name is, how old we are, what our spirit animal was, and what we studied. And so, it turned out that most of us were studying art history, classics, international relations, or English. There were also, in fact, two biologists, a chemist and a physicist, but you can probably see why I, as an economist, was feeling like a minority. That doesn’t mean I felt out of place in any way, rather I felt like I was breaking a stereotype. And I loved it.

As a person who unashamedly enjoys a subject which revolves around profit maximization (or ensuring there’s a sufficient amount of welfare for everyone, depends on how you use it really), I am supposed to be a rigorously calculating rational person: heartless, cold, always in the pursuit of profit. I feel like the caricature of my degree is an upper-middle class privately educated chap who can hardly talk to you about anything other than investments; and when he doesn’t do that, he tries to pull girls with how much money he has or will eventually have. And while we, economists, are all obviously very different people with very different interests, I feel like we’re all prone to slip into this caricature or at least some aspect of it from time to time.

Maybe because that’s what employers expect from us. Maybe because that’s what society expects from us. In this situation, something like Label offers you a nice change. It reminds you that after all, you’re a human, not an economic calculator. It allows you to explore these aspects of your personality which are beyond rationality, beyond the polished image you want on your LinkedIn profile to impress the graduate employers, beyond the shiny future you picture for yourself. It offers you a completely new platform for self-expression, a place where you can build a completely new persona and rock it.

I guess the main point of my article is that it is particularly valuable for us, students with mathsy degrees, to seek artistic forms of self-expression like modelling. When your degree and your career aspirations are based on cold rationality, empiricism, calculation, and hypothesis testing, it's very useful to explore that non-numerical, non-quantifiable, non-polished part of yourself, the one where your emotions live. For me, personally, Label was an enormous journey of self-discovery, a realization of what I am capable of beyond academics and beyond what I had previously expected from myself. Label was a challenge to come out of my comfort zone, and once you get out of comfort zone, it gets addicting.

What I’ll be doing with my life after this? Time will show. I’ll, however, most likely end up buried in statistics and computer modelling, trying day and night to maximize something for someone, because, well, that’s what I do best. But even then, I will know that I slayed it on the runway that Friday night. And that I can do it again. And guess what, that’s a pretty damn amazing feeling.