Sunday, August 29, 2010

I Become Programmer

Oh Holy Lord, I've gone and done it now. I went and took up yet another useless hobby. I really do wonder what I am up to at times, since I keep surprising myself.

I have continued to think and mull over both my previous entry about wanting a PhD, and also the books I have been consuming about intelligence/giftedness/genius, and I am excited about everything that I learned. Finding out about the concept of "giftedness" was helpful in better articulating the alien feeling that I have all the time when I talk to other people.

Look, I am just very intelligent. I know this. After reading about giftedness online, I even went and tried to take an online IQ test (yes, I know they aren't very accurate, but it was the only thing available.) I scored 128, which puts me in the "mildly gifted" category in terms of the Stanfod-Binet test, and with a few more points I might even touch on the "moderately gifted" category. While that may not be right, it pretty well fits in with my past history; I usually scored very well on standardized tests, but of course, always much better in language and reading comprehension than in mathematics. No surprise there, as that's where I spent most of my time and effort.

I know I am smarter than a lot of the people I spend time with, but I've never been a genius, just a little bit quicker than average. I'm not making any claims to moral superiority or trying to brag, just following this thread. This is both easy to talk about (I secretly feel pretty proud of my smart-ness and it's a relief to be able to sort of say it out loud) and difficult, because it feels like I'm bragging. But, I've already talked about how other people crave BMWs and I crave a PhD, so hopefully this makes sense in that sort of context. I'm trying to figure out what makes me different. (Crazy. When I say different, I hear "crazy" inside my brain.)

OK, so I'm smart, and that's not all that strange. There are a lot of people in this area who have to be at least as smart as me, and I know there are a lot of super-intelligent people out there who far outstrip me, as well.  For example, I work at a semiconductor company, and most of the staff have electrical engineering degrees. They're not exactly dummies. Neither are the executives who run the company, most of whom seem to be quite gifted at business. The problem there is that I have no interest in either engineering or business, other than what I need to know to do my job. I don't have anything to discuss with them most of the time, which restricts our conversation to idle chitchat of the "how was your weekend" sort.

Also, when it comes to my coworkers, I have the additional barrier of cultural differences, since many of my coworkers are from really different backgrounds. Some are immigrants, some are second generation immigrants, and some are just from different socioeconomic levels or various racial and ethnic backgrounds. (Trying to say that without being in any way offensive is no easy task!) But it means we have to do extra work to communicate, because we don't have the same cultural capital to draw from. We're also different ages; most of the company is much older than me and I don't get much change to interact with the few people in my age range.

What I find is that I absolutely do not share any personal information with coworkers except that which presents me as a quote-unquote normal person. I do allude to certain aspects of my intellectual wanderings, like mentioning that I like to read, or that I majored in English. But I certainly don't give any indication about the incredible variety of my interests, my dreams, goals, inspirations, or even my real thoughts. I have to do considerable editing, and I hate to say it, but a lot of "dumbing down," for the people I hang out with at work most of the time. I'm certainly not always comfortable explaining my ideas to people at work, especially ideas that set me apart or make me appear to be counter-culture. It's not accross the board, as sometimes I will get comfortable enough or brave enough to discuss my personal life, as when I would share with a coworker that I was still breastfeeding my toddler. I want to be authentic, but I feel very cautious and guarded, given that my livlihood is dependent on what these people think of me in general terms.

So that's work, and as far as the work itself, it can be difficult, but after a year of practice I can handle most of it without needing to activate any higher level thinking at all. I figured out how most of it worked a long time ago. There's not really any challenge, and certainly not any intellectual growth. I've thought of changing jobs or careers, and even came close a couple of times this year. But I suspect that the same thing will happen at the next place: I will learn the job, and then get bored and restless. I might have to just job hop forever.

I need to get to the point so I can go to bed, but I feel like I've wandered far away from the point and said some things that I don't really like, to boot. I'm just stuck. Let me try to focus again.

Tonight I took up computer programming. Here's my reasoning. One, I'm bored and looking for a challenge. Two, I am curious about the information in the books about genius I have been reading: could I possibly change my life story of "I'm not fluent in math"? Three, my dad and brother are computer programmers, so I can draw on their knowledge. Four, I want to prove to myself that I am as smart as my Dad, my brother, and my programmer friends. Five, if the experiment worked, I might be able to change careers and make more money. Six, I can learn to do it on my own.

The question in my mind is, will I LIKE programming as I get better at it? Can you take something you don't like and practice it and get good at it? How?

Finally, tonight I was over at my brother's house and we started discussing his going back to school to finish his degree. He's already a programmer, and is doing self-study in his own time. I started thinking, "Hey, maybe I could go to night school and get a second bachelor's degree in computer science along with my brother!" For some reason this slightly delusional idea seemed like it might work and be fun. Then I came home and looked up the requirements for UC Berkeley (where my brother would like to go), and it just seemed impossible. I've never made it past Algebra 2 (and I think I got a "C" in that class) and I can't even do simple arithmatic in my head; a CS degree from Berkeley requires Calculus as a PREREQUISITE.

So what- I'm delusional. Last year at this time I was convinced I would go to law school, and I lost interest in that idea when the going got hard. One further question is what on earth is all of this searching all about? After all, I already have two degrees (as I keep having to remind myself) and I have a job, and a family, for heaven's sake. Why can't I just relax and be average? I keep wanting to push my intelligence to the next level. I'm just not content sitting here in my life. I really want a challenge. I want to get good at something. The problem is, no sooner do I reach a base level of competency in something (painting, piano, singing, etc) than I get restless and move on to the next big new thing.

I just know if one theme keeps emerging in my therapy sessions, it's that I long for the company of really smart people, i'm talking about people who are smarter, or maybe the right terms are "better educated," than I am. I want to be learning something. I want to be pushed to the next level, and to be having fun.

I just refuse to sit back and be a passive consumer. I don't want to just read and play games in my spare time and never get good at anything. Watching TV is dangerously fun; it wastes my time (which is why I got rid of our cable connection!) Reading is deceptive because it's how I learn, but it's not getting me what I want. I love to read. It's just that reading is a one-way deal, and I want interactive. I want to give as well as get. It sounds sappy and idealistic. I mean, I sometimes just want to open a bakery... seriously. (This is why I feel delusional!) But what's more elemental than feeding people? So I keep having that idea but like the law school thing, I abandon it because it's incredibly impractical. So it becoming a programmer. It's really silly.

I feel like I'm saying "I want to throw all this over and start from scratch and become a hairdresser." Something equally ludicrous.

As for the programming thing, for the moment it is going to compete with my time for writing in this blog, which is another of my projects. I don't know exactly what's happening. I would call it a midlife crisis, but if so, I've been having my midlife crisis for about ten years now!

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