I’m sure that someone, somewhere, coined the mantra “always be learning” because it’s really good advice. Humans are not static creatures; we change and hopefully grow when introduced to new information, and gawd knows there’s more information in the world than one person can consume in a single lifetime. Having varied interests, or even a few interests with multiple facets, is a great driver of learning. I firmly believe that there’s a threshold in our interests that we can reach, and moving beyond that threshold turns us from consumers to producers. It’s sometimes hard not to learn more than we need to know about an interest if we immerse ourselves deeply into it, and sometimes we get the urge to push beyond the surface understanding and really learn how to create.
I’ve always been interested in creating, which means that I’ve never shied away from learning. I went to college, sure, but do nothing with degree; my career has been in a field in which I learned everything on my own. Having the opportunity to “always be learning” is a great privilege, and also a great fear, as the need to keep up with change is as powerful a motivator as is learning for learning’s sake in a lot of cases. Wanting to “do better” at an existing skill has pushed me to keep expanding my knowledge, but so has “wanting to learn more” about the things I might have understood, but also about things that I knew nothing about, but felt drawn to.
This past year (or two, time is meaningless these days) I feel like I’ve done a lot of learning. I’ve returned to several subjects that I’ve touched before, like 3D modeling and 3D printing. I’ve taken up ancillary tasks like miniature painting. I’ve branched out in wild directions professionally, focusing on React and Node, enhancing my admittedly limited knowledge of CSS, and tackled topics like Redis and client-server technologies. I’ve even circled back to game development through Godot. Each of these topics has taken up weeks and months of time spent focused on reading, note-taking, testing, refining, and sometimes deploying. I’ve completed some projects but have left many more hanging as is my nature, switching interests pretty much overnight, sometimes for reasons as simple as having seen someone mention something new and potentially exciting in passing online.
I started to wonder if my scattershot approach to projects was about the interests themselves, or whether it was a pathological need to “always be learning”. I have understood for quite some time that when I play games with a long tail, I eventually fade away once I reach a certain distance from the last tutorial lesson; when there’s no more to learn, and only application is available, I lose interest. Sometimes I feel that this applied to me as a whole and not just in gaming. Even when learning technology or tasks, once something becomes a routine, I want to get back to learning again.
But now I feel like I’m tired of learning. I’ve read many articles, many wikis, many online documents and have taken many, many pages of notes, many screenshots, and have dissected many source code repositories and have created many stub projects. My learning has far outstripped my employment of the knowledge I’ve gained, and yet I continue to absorb examples and documentation with very, very little to show for it. The result is, oddly enough, paralysis. I don’t know what to do now. I have what I feel is a massive traffic-jam of knowledge (or at least familiarity) that I could deploy, but it’s all crammed into my consciousness and jumbled together; I’d need to pick a damn project and stick with it, but hopefully you’ve come to the understanding that this is not in my nature, no matter how badly I wished it were. I spent so long just “always learning” that I can’t seem to put the knowledge to use, only to consume more of it.
I mentioned yesterday that I was strangely interested in the 4.0 release of Godot, despite not having really spent a lot of time with 3.5. Internally I feel like a poseur for that, because even through I went really hardcore with the engine for a few weeks, what right did I have to be buoyed by the promise of a new version? I hadn’t even gotten competent with the old version. But I want to understand what’s new in 4.0 — more learning — despite having fallen off the Godot wagon in order to return to building a community site for my Star Citizen organization. This is a mammoth project, consisting of data stores, custom web servers, client-server technology, and front end design. It’s exciting! But also exhausting. I’ve spent many hours recently learning methods for organizing and representing the massive amount of data that a game the size and scope of Star Citizen promises to be: ships, components, weapons, ammo, personal arms and armors, consumables, clothing, locations, personalities, missions, and lore are just some of the things I’ve been laboring to model, never mind all of the org-specific aspects such as event scheduling, player-helping-player alerts, news posting, and the revision and integration of my ‘KOS Bot’ for Discord. When I go to bed at night, I’m still puzzling through all of these designs, problems, and approaches for an hour or more. Now I’m being tapped for a new project at work, which takes another detour. I can do the mechanical work, sure, but we’re talking about a business focus that I haven’t ever worked on before, so it’s back to the drawing board to learn more about what my company does in corners I never knew existed.
Which project to tackle? I mean, I have to tackle the one that pays my salary, of course, but after that? I need to stop learning and start focusing, and by that, I mean “learn more about one or only a few things” instead of madly dashing between documentation and example videos cutting across almost a dozen disparate concerns. But I don’t know if I have it in me to go that far. Popular advice might be to “take a break”, but that’s not how my mind works: if I’m obsessed with learning, I can’t decide to not be obsessed like it’s a light switch. I haven’t really played any games recently which is usually my go-to distraction. When I attempt to boot up a game, I’m thinking that I should be pushing forward with some kind of project.