Ever since my parents got me a used Atari 520ST in 1987, computers have been an endless source of inspiration and excitement in my life.
At first I mostly used it to play games (Arkanoid, International Karate, Xenon, Rick Dangerous, Turrican II). Pretty soon this changed to broader exploration and discovery, with the sole purpose of figuring out what this thing was and how it really worked.
Getting anything at all to work was non-trivial. Creating something from scratch was even more challenging. Challenging and immensely rewarding. A rabbit hole was revealed. A new world emerged.
Fast forward a few years I started going to LAN parties only to discover that there were others just like me. I wasn’t alone in worshiping this box of electronics and wizardry.
The computer was my gateway drug to discover pure curiosity and intrinsic motivation. I could spend hours, days, weeks and months in search of answers.
When leaving for university I had the idea that I should become a physicist. It’s still unclear to this day from where or who I got this idea. This meant applying and getting accepted to the engineering physics program.
After having mostly made it through my first year, minus a few courses I still hadn’t completed, I realized everything wasn’t right. I was struggling with motivation. I enjoyed studying, but I wasn’t enjoying the direction of where the studies were taking me. I needed to rethink.
I decided to change direction and embrace my childhood passion. I switched from engineering physics to computer science. Was it really possible to make a living with the thing you’re most passionate about?
Sure enough, computer science studies started and my motivation came flooding back. I was enjoying everything about it. Despite some classes being really challenging, it was clear I had found what I was meant to do all along. Things came easy despite being hard.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize that this pure curiosity has gradually been diluted as a result of changed expectations and behaviors. The journey that once started entirely fuelled by curiosity and a relentless drive to learn is increasingly fuelled by an idealized view of future self. The future self as it ought to be.
Upon reflection I’ve come to appreciate that this deviation has come as a result of predominantly trusting my rational self over checking in with my emotional self occasionally. What’s the sensible and correct thing to do here?
Well maybe at least try and move to a more nuanced approach. How about listening to what the emotional self has to say every once in a while? Is this decision both sensible AND what we truly want? Or maybe simply what we want, period. Does it really have to be sensible all the time?
How genuinely are you following your curiosity?