Regression towards the Mean

If there is one thing I’ve learned in high school – is that math is an inevitable part of life. It doesn’t matter that you may never actively use it outside of that classroom, it doesn’t matter that you will forget the ways to calculate those nifty formulas as soon as the books close, it doesn’t matter that you will forever passionately hate the topic that cost you your career in medicine.

It’s always going to be there. Fucking math.

Because as annoying as it may be to actually get hands on with math – it pervades our every day lives to the very pores of our beings. Everything we do revolves around it, much like the earth around the moon. Or is made up of it. Its pull is as strong as gravity and in the end, everything comes down to the calculation of factors that make up our life to get to the grand total of what we will become during our time.

Fucking math.

But if math has taught me one thing that I, to this day, use in life…?
It’s that things will always find a way to regress towards the mean. As a person of extremes I’ve always found this something to struggle with. I want my days, all of them, to be filled with a maximum of joy, awesomeness and memorable moments. I want none of the crap, darkness and days filled to the brim with tears or anger or working your ass off to fix things that can’t ever be fixed. But no matter how hard I wish it – there will always be an inevitable regression towards the mean.

Looking at life, overall, you’re going to end up with a lot of days that fall in a great grey pile of ‘mush’. Unremarkable days. Days that you couldn’t recount even if you wanted to. And those days are necessary almost as much as those days of great joy – to be able to compensate for those days that…well…aren’t. They ‘help’ us. They balance out the average of the days that affect us to our core a little.

A regression to the mean.
It’s a simple concept. While there might be high points in your calculations (‘uitschieters’ in Dutch) or in your life – they won’t last. There’s no way that periods of extremes last very long, they will eventually simmer back down to that mean. And though a mean might shift ever so slightly over time, as a whole – we’ll always end back up in the middle.

Parts of me refuse that notion. Parts of me want to work endlessly to counteract it. Parts of me consciously decide on wanting to artificially raise my mean. It means that I pull out my good days as long as possible. That I jump on the chances to ride the wave and keep momentum going when things are going good. Not that it has done a lot of good. The mean is still the mean.

Luckily, it also means that there’s a certainty in things settling down when they get bad. No matter how much you have to grit your teeth, walk on your gums or tie yourself together with whatever ribbon you can find, it can’t go on forever. It’s why I’ve never had any ‘trouble’ with periods of slaving it at work. Yes – it might be tough and it will feel like you might overflow – but it’ll inevitably calm back down to the mean. It’s why I’ve learned to compartmentalize like a pro, but take (some) time to air out my emotions after impactful events. It’s why I allow in pain and anger and hurt for a while. But then regress back to the mean.

It is, to me, much like the ‘destiny’ they speak about in all those fantasy series. No matter how much you might want to change it. No matter how hard you fight. No matter your struggle and no matter the effort – things will always regress to the mean.

Which is why, these days…
I choose to work WITH that notion.

Although I do make an effort to steer my mean:
I maximize my bad periods by cramming as much unpleasantness in there as I can and make them as short as possible so my mean doesn’t shift in that direction. And I try to prolong the happy days as much as I can to pull it up.

But in the end all I do is sit out my time until things get back to the dreary drab that is most days, because no matter how we view it – our mean allows us to see our ‘uitschieters’ ever the clearer. And appreciate them all the more.

Because no matter what. Math is going to fucking be there.

5 thoughts on “Regression towards the Mean

  1. I agree. You cant help it anyway. The notion is simply because our lives are normal. Hence the normal distribution 🙂

    Btw, you seem to have deeper insights with math. This post gives it away. Good read. Enjoy life! 😀

    Like

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