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Growing Out - Elf M. Sternberg
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Growing Out
I have a poster on my wall. It reads:
Pain doesn’t tell you when you ought to stop. Pain is the little voice in your head that tries to hold you back because it knows if you continue, you will change. Don’t let it stop you from being who you can be. Exhaustion tells you when you ought to stop. You only reach your limit when you can go no further.
I keep this quote because there are two familiar pain I feel when I'm learning something new. One pain is named regret: it's the pain I feel in my heart when a skill I value is withering away because I have been unable to work on it; the other pain is called growth: it's the pain I feel in my head when I'm forcing new ways of thinking into myself.

Recently, I sought to learn Haskell, a programming language so completely unlike the programming languages of the past that it's a bit like learning to code all over again. I have not even begun to master Haskell; there are modes of thinking called for that I have not had the time or energy to approach. But one critical, core idea in Haskell is this esoteric thing called side-effect-free programming: sometimes, your program has to talk to people, and people are messy and likely to generate side effects; other times, your program only needs to think about the data, and when it does that thinking should be free of "side effects". When I learned that, the pain of growth was great, but I didn't give up until I got it. I've been applying these principles in other programming languages to great effect.

A few times I've tried to master drawing. And every time, I've reached the stage where I feel the braincells starting to shift and merge. Where I feel pain; I know I'm on the verge of internalizing the three things that I have never fully internalized: anatomy, landscape, and perspective. (Composition seems to be just need practice; a leftover of my web design career.)

Whenever I stop writing, it takes weeks to get it back. But I feel the practice plowing over old fields, refreshing old ground. That's there. I built it in my passionate, teenage years and I will always have them.

But I will always be passionate about something. This week, with a new job asking for old skills, the challenge is finding new things to be passionate about, and sticking with them long enough to suffer from exhaustion, rather than merely suffering with the strange, eyestraining experience of growing pains.

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Comments
kistha From: kistha Date: July 19th, 2012 05:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Just remember not to apply that to physical things, sore is ok, actual pain is a warning.
valarltd From: valarltd Date: July 20th, 2012 08:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Seconded. Pain is a sign you have gone too far and are causing continued damage.
lynx212 From: lynx212 Date: July 19th, 2012 11:29 am (UTC) (Link)
This post is awesome in ways I don't have words for and is exactly why I follow your journal... You make me think and you tend to put your thoughts in the best of words. Have a kick ass day my friend!
shunra From: shunra Date: July 20th, 2012 05:20 am (UTC) (Link)

That is exactly what I came to say.

Thanks for putting that into words, both Lynx212, for the perfect response, & Elf, for the great stating of a great truth.

Hear-hear. And hurrah. And just so. And other cheers and approvals and admirations.
4 comments or Leave a comment