In a few weeks time I’ll be turning 50, and this is occupying my thoughts considerably. I was commenting to my partner the other day that I seem to have lost track of my passion. Perhaps it’s just year-end ennui, but I’m finding myself weary after almost 10 years of providing computer training and support.
Although training almost always gives me quite a buzz, it’s still very challenging and even draining. By definition people want to learn about those things they don’t already know. Learning is the painful edge of the unknown and we approach it with fear, anxiety, uncertainty and embarrassment. A trainer needs to provide moral support, reassurance, careful explanations which take account of what the learner already knows, while being patient, friendly, encouraging and supportive.
Computer support is also demanding. When my client’s crucial Word document refuses to print; when their email disappears; when their movie won’t move it’s a crisis which needs urgent help. As a support person I feel an obligation to fix their problem, and fix it quickly. Sometimes it’s a challenge to troubleshoot, track down the problem, come up with a solution. At other times though it’s scary and nerve-wracking and weighs me down. I can only do so much in any one year and this summer break is crucial. I could never be a doctor…
I am though a compulsive learner. I can’t help myself but look for things to learn about — currently it’s photography, movie-making, fiction writing and various bits of computer software, along with web development stuff such as PHP, MySQL, accessibility and how to read and use visitor logs, the .htaccess file and so on.
So as I reach the end of my fiftieth year I’m thinking about the direction I want to take in my working life, and in life in general. I don’t see that anyone will pay me to be a learner, but am heartened to read these points from Kathy Sierra:
…thanks to the overwhelming new brain research, we now know that it’s virtually never too late to reinvent yourself. To start something totally new. To learn, even master, something completely different from what you’ve been doing for the past five, ten, forty years.
…people—regardless of age—can still achieve superior, even expert-level performance in things they haven’t done before.
…learning is as crucial to your brain as exercise is to your body. And outside of real brain damage, there’s very little reason you can’t learn something—regardless of how difficult—no matter when you start. You always have time to become even an expert at new things, if you choose to go that far and put in the time.
So as I ponder the meaning of my life I think that maybe all the learning I do will stand me in good stead. I’m hoping something will come clear soon. I spent a decade teaching the German and English languages to adolescents, another decade working in adult literacy and adult education, mixed in with some desktop publishing on the side, and another in computer training and support, along with web design. Time now to weave a new thread into the fabric.
[Via Creating Passionate Users.]