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Hopes, Dreams, and the lack thereof - Youlian's Random Ramblings [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Hopes, Dreams, and the lack thereof [Sep. 2nd, 2010|11:50 pm]
I was originally going to make this into a fairly long, drawn-out post with some musings and a cutesy anecdote at the end about a dream I had recently, but that never happened and it seems too daunting to do right now, so I'm just going to get this off of my chest.

So I recently watched the (apparently) well-known "last lecture" on "Really Achieving your Childhood Dreams"  (available here:  http://www.cmu.edu/randyslecture/), and like so many things recently (grrrr...), it got me somewhat depressed (I _am_ using that term fairly lightly.  No psychiatrist referrals please.).  It feels like it has been forever since I have really had a dream.  

Certainly, this summer didn't help.  I had a taste of the one important thing that I was working towards (computer science grad school), and found that I didn't enjoy it one bit.  While I still plan to go forward in compsci, I'm no longer as gung-ho about it, and I would hesitate to say that a future as a solid computer scientist/engineer/whatever is my "dream" anymore, or that it ever counted as a real dream.  CS is... well... just another job, and I can't think of any good reason that the dream of "I want to be a solid computer scientist" is any different from the dream of "I want to be a good car mechanic."  It's pretty easy to achieve, there's really no follow-up to it, and it doesn't have many interesting tangents to pursue once you're in the industry code monkeying.  Maybe I'm just being needlessly harsh on the field, but "I want to be a great mathematician," "I want to help discover the origin of the universe," or "I want to chase birds all over the world" all sound like much more legitimate "dreams" than anything related to practical compsci, and that's before we even look at the seriously heavy-hitting dreams like  "I want to create a nationwide organization dedicated to making learning fun for high schoolers."

What's more, I don't even have lesser dreams.   I'm not looking to travel.  I'm not dying to make my parents (or graduate schools, or anyone else) proud/impressed with what I'm doing.   I'm not out in the trenches helping people in need.  I've got a few goals, sure, but they are all things that just take time and/or things that I know I am going to achieve.  They are safe, and they aren't particularly interesting to anyone (not even me).  Now that I think about it, probably the closest thing that I have to a "dream" is the "dream" of being a good person (I have a definition that I'm not going to go into right now), which is nice and makes me happy at times, but that's more of a "way of life," I think.  Maybe I need to add something to this "way of life" to make things interesting again?  Hmmm... futzing with my definition of "good person" might actually come in handy... but that's a debate I'll finish having with myself later.

I guess the bottom line is... I don't feel like I do anything that matters.  The things that I am working towards seem insignificant and the things that I'm not working towards seem too daunting to attempt (and, let's be honest, I don't particularly care about most of them in the first place).  What the hell am I doing with myself?

Shit.  I think it's time for me to sell all of my belongings for plane tickets to Korea and try my hand at professional StarCraft.  I'd detest the lifestyle, the leagues are dying out, and I've never played at better than a C- level, but hey, it's a dream ain't it!

Edit:  Midlife crisis, perhaps?  Pity. I had always assumed I'd make it past 42.

From: ch3cooh
2010-09-04 03:08 am (UTC)

Midlife crisis? No - the constant crisis of an examined life.

In the past, I've found that a 'cure' for these situations is to stop doing everything 'normal' for a bit and do /nothing/ but read books, watch episodes of foo, walk places, sleep, eat, bathroom (one time wen I did this, I made 200 ridiculous paper snowflakes) - and if I do this for long enough, I get curious again, something catches my eye and I want do it - a project of some kind. It helps that I'm surrounded by awesome projects: like friends who want to randomly explain math and physics in the ESP office, and students who want things that I could teach them better explained.

I think the long term goal is that you find that one of these projects comes more than averagely easily to you - you're good at it - and it needs doing. Then doing it for the rest of your life seems like an awesome possibility. But you don't do exactly that for the rest of your life, something changes or goes wrong. And then you, in time, accept that life wouldn't be interesting if 'that one perfect thing' were ever really the end of the story - you try something, it works or it doesn't, repeat... -- you just have to try things like this and take the good parts (see plethora of quotes about life...) And... that's kind of all there is? (I'm not religious, insert religion here if you want a climax to the story, insert romance if you want more plot twists)

Also, know/learn what you need. If you need a job that gives you constant positive feedback, try to find that. If you need to see a tangible product... if you need to make it perfect... if you need to be competitive... etc.

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[User Picture]From: eyefragment
2010-09-05 05:59 pm (UTC)

Re: Midlife crisis? No - the constant crisis of an examined life.

I don't think this is quite it. I'm definitely familiar with the "drop everything normal" strategy, but that's one that I adopt for managing burnout, and I'm not feeling burned out right now. Similarly, I've got projects that I think are fun and come more than averagely easily to me (see: anything that has to do with programming or math), but I gave up on the latter, and I don't see a good way to turn the former into a "dream," per-se. Definitely 'ppreciate your passing along thoughts/advice though.
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[User Picture]From: oxeador
2010-09-05 12:31 am (UTC)
I want to say something, but probably not here in public, so instead I will just poke you. *Pokes*
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[User Picture]From: pteromys
2010-09-06 06:33 am (UTC)
I'm... okay with insignificance. In a world this big and this well connected, it's hard to avoid feeling insignificant.

The people who do achieve some measure of significance don't always know how they end up doing so. (Joan Birman is one such example among mathematicians.) Maybe it'll pay to keep an eye out for a dream that fits. (And of course if you stumble upon one, you don't have to abandon your dream of being a good person; I like that one too!)
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[User Picture]From: sniffnoy
2010-09-07 08:31 pm (UTC)
Obviously, you have to go into supervillainy. Carve your name on the moon, perhaps?
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