Saturday, March 31, 2007

Objective-C and Letting Go

While suffering insomnia last night I realized something strange about my personality: I'm afraid to physically "consider and experiment." At some point in my life I lost the joy of playing in sandboxes. So now, whenever something needs to be done and I don't know how to do it, I'm afraid of fiddling with it until I figure out how to "fix it."

Oh, I'll RESEARCH it, or I'll lie in bed worrying about it and trying to find an answer, but when it comes to actually sitting down and physically interacting with it: no way.

I only realize this now because I'm starting to get over it. I first noticed a change when I moved into my new apartment: so many things needed fixing that -- somehow -- I found it in myself to actually stand around and figure out how to fix them. The gross bathtub, the screen doors, the furnace, the wonky lighting fixtures...and then my new cosmetic foundation, and now learning to program in Objective-C: in all of these cases I've just sat down and started messing around until I've figured it all out.

I realized this last night while taking advantage of my sleeplessness to continue learning Objective-C. I've tried to learn the language three times in the past, and every time I've simply stopped when I no longer understood what was going on.

But this time I'm doing something that I realize is unlike myself: I'm taking my existing knowledge and saying "what happens if I do THIS?" then just trying it out to see what happens. In the past just THINKING about this sort of experiment would have made me unreasonably (and somewhat subconsciously) anxious: I'd have insisted on following the book, and the only time would have "struck out" on my own was when I had some serious result in mind...and if the result failed, I would have given up on it all out of a sense of failure and embarassment.

So what's changed? I think the greater responsibilities in my new job, and my need to learn a new skill and set of applications as I go has something to do with it. Feeling proud of my apartment and wanting to "fix it" is another reason. In any case, this is a good thing because I've just gotten a new (and girlier) haircut that will require experimentation to get right. Just in time!

And why was I so afraid to "physically experiment" in the past? Beats me. Maybe I got an electrical shock from a Fischer Price toy while in the crib.


Eric Little said...

Or maybe that toy was made by Pavlov-Skinner...

Adam Thornton said...

Those things are ALL created by behaviourists! They're all about being rewarded for exploring, which I guess is a good lesson for babies.