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Blog Post from February 01, 2020

Saving My Curiosity

I missed a key realization looking back at 2019 - being driven by numbers had put a lid on my curiosity.

At the end of last year, I wrote about how focusing too much on numbers dragged me down for most of 2019. My main focus was on how it made me less happy and productive.

All that’s still true, but I’m realizing I left out something even worse it damaged: my curiosity.

This is worse since my curiosity is one of my favorite qualities. I may never be famous or a genius. But being curious about so many different topics always brings me joy (plus a decent career).

But quantifying so much of my life by numbers and limits put a lid on my curiosity. I was telling my mind, “you shouldn’t look into this, it’s not on your list.” I told myself exploring was wrong and unproductive. It would only take away from my long-term goals, happiness, and plans to visit other dimensions.

For reasons that became obvious the moment I thought about them, I was wrong on all counts.

I Owe All My Knowledge to Curiosity

That big list of topics I wanted to learn more about only came about because I was curious about what I should learn. It’s a bit weird and hypocritical in hindsight. I was relying on a trait to get me so far and then saying it could only hurt me for the rest. For all I knew, I could get curious about something and realize it was more worthwhile to learn. Not being curious would’ve left me clinging to outdated knowledge. When I finally moved on it could be too late.

Yesterday I read an article recapping big frontend developments for 2019. There were so many things I’d heard in passing but avoided reading about in detail: WebAssembly, React Hooks, the JAMStack, Svelte, TypeScript, GraphQL, and more. I realized even if I never wound up using them, knowing more about them could only help me down the line. It could be with networking meetings, tooling brainstorm sessions, even a future job using these tools. Yet I’d pushed myself into thinking it could hurt me, which is absurd.

It’s even more absurd when I remember my curiosity is the reason I know everything I do now. I was unfamiliar with many aspects of Ruby on Rails and Ember and was curious why we chose it for our apps. So I investigated topics as they came up in my work and any that looked interesting or unfamiliar. That curiosity is what made me a more reliable contributor to our codebases.

It’s hard to overstate how twisted any mindset of “I need to repress my curiosity to improve my learning” was. It got me where I am today and where I’ll be in the future. It may even help me escape to parallel dimensions where I can travel among the fifth-dimensional beings invisibly watching our different world lines unfold.

I admit I may not be that curious about that last one yet. But enough library books will get me anywhere, including dimension Alpha-Charlie-35934.

Curiosity Makes It Fun

This point is a lot simpler but as important: being curious is fun.

I love new information about any number of topics enthralling me. I’ve wasted many afternoons in new books and web deep dives. One freshman year of college I filled out several pages thinking out new ideas I’d read about functionalism, selfishness, and altruism in human nature. A good 30% of my bookshelf are different reference books. Half of those reference books are in comic or manga form.

It’s the fuel behind my love of web development. I love seeing the field as an endless, problem-solving playground of things to learn and play with. It inspires me to write and build, which I’d been lacking since pushing my curiosity away.

I’ve felt jealous and isolated by seeing so many smarter web developers. Instead, I should have felt excited they’re sharing useful news and info.

Being a curious nerd lets one get endless joy from a couple of books and a quiet room. It even helps me save money and become a better person. Even if I couldn’t put it on my resume (and sadly I cannot), I want to stay curious to be a better person.

Bringing My Curiosity Back

Like with letting go of the numbers, keeping my curiosity going means focusing on “flow” over measurable results.

Sure, there are risks I’ll get curious about something and it winds up not being useful. But that’s rarely the case, and even if it is, I’ll still enjoy it. I was curious about reading that long article recapping the front-end’s news for 2019. That little act of curiosity has already pushed my 2020 path in a better direction, for my career goals and multi-dimensional travel goals. Both benefit me and the world around me, albeit in different amounts and a different number of worlds.

My point is, my curiosity has always been with me. I need to be willing to look beyond my most immediate goals since it helps me find even better ones. Like with lettings the numbers go, it’s about constant, meaningful change.

So I’ll change up my reading schedule, my writing habits, and later my place in the space-time continuum. I will become a dimensional God with different versions of reality bent at my fingers, and it’ll be thanks to my curiosity.