Slept on a squishy foam-air folding bed in the Farrington* last night after Thai food and a good long talk with Scott. Yifan and I are chaperoning an intersession group from IMSA (our high school) - some of the students from the OLPC chapter are here to work with local deployments. I am... stunned**. They're driven, they're self-motivated, they're soaking up knowledge and new skills like sponges, and they're doing things. "Smart and gets things done." Luke and Ian would get along with them, I think.
*The Farrington is where the ILXO folks stayed for the first part of the summer while we were in Boston (in the "apartment" portion). Now the IMSA group is staying in the "hostel" portion for the week; I much prefer the "hostel" half. (Please note that I didn't make these reservations / choose this lodging.)
**I'm not stunned that young people are capable of doing amazing things. I'm stunned that the adults around them are recognizing and encouraging it - not even "allowing" it, because they've realized that this isn't something they can allow or disallow. ("Wow. Grownups who don't dismiss us automatically. When did this happen?")
Sumana comes tomorrow, yay!
I want to be fluent enough in music to express myself in it when words don't come. Words come pretty easy, but sometimes they don't suffice, and I want to be more articulate - with the piano, with drawing, with dance - to capture those. And I know the reason why I talk and write about these things so much - what I call "whining that doesn't sound like whining," what my father complains is me being "all talk and no action" - is a prerequisite to action, for me. I have to get something incorporated into my thoughts and my being before I can swiftly act on it; sometimes there's something I have to become before I can effectively do things.
There are tons of books that talk about the importance of visualization for performance (sports, whatever). You have to have a clear, persistent image/vision of something in your minds eye to be able to get it to happen. I don't see myself as a musician, so I'm trying to fold that into part of who I am so that I can't help but to be one, to spend more hours at the piano and have it feel unforced - to get to the point where of course the natural thing to do would be to sit down and play. I know I have to continue forcing myself to practice (and I am practicing), and that it will be uncomfortable and awkward at first (it is), but I need to have a goal of moving past that into... not just stringing memorized words together, but actually having fluency. Like Mike said when he was teaching me how to punch: "Think about how easy it can be."
I've done this before. When I was 10, I started consciously trying to see myself as Not A Handicapped Kid. Not broken. It took a long time (maybe it started working a bit by the time I was 16, really solidified by age 20, it's pretty good now but something I'll have to watch for the rest of my life). When I was 15 and was exposed to open source for the first time, it was something foreign to me but something I wanted to be a part of, but it took 5 more years - 'till I was 20 - of mostly consciously seeding my subconscious so that I could flow into becoming an open-source hacker. And even then I had to ease into it from the non-development angle. And I've barely begun to actually learn how to be an open-source developer. I also didn't realize it until the very end, but my 4 years at Olin were about getting myself to see myself as an engineer. Folks like Eric Gallimore who came in thinking of themselves as engineers could take off - I needed to fight the "...but I'm not a real engineer, I'm totally a fake, I can't actually do this" feeling each step of the way. It's almost gone now. But the shift took a bit over 4 years.
Changing who you are - really changing who you are, shaping it so that you don't have to fake it, making yourself become the person that you want to be - it's difficult. It's difficult because you can't pour effort into it; if you fight for it, that makes it more difficult to happen. It has to be a percolation. It's a particularly difficult (but important) skill to develop when you're surrounded by a world that sees you "the other way" - when you're not in an environment that nurtures and supports you changing. (The reason I could switch comparatively fast into being an engineer - less than 5 years compared with at least 7 years, or upwards of a decade, for the rest - is that this is what the world of Olin is built for. Creating and supporting people who want to become engineers - not just "learn about," but truly "learn to be.")
It's been tough, and it's been worth doing. And now I want to be a musician and a martial artist. So... slow shifting. It's begun, months ago. Years ago, in some cases. But more consciously several months ago.
From a thank-you letter to a mentor, from a few years back, and advice I should heed once more now. (I think I am always going to think that I used to be smarter in some ways when I was younger - and in other ways, I get smarter as I get older.)
Thanks for talking to me last night. A couple hours afterwards I realized that the reason for my frustration was that I was hoping that you'd tell me what to do, and you were refusing to give me easy answers. Thanks for doing that, and sorry it took so long to sink into my thick skull...
I'll keep hacking, turn my attention from angsty theoretical indecision to trying out lots of tiny concrete things, have more horribly disorienting discussions with people whose worldviews are drastically different from my own, and see where things go from there. I'll keep you posted.
Back to work. A pile of stuff-to-do awaits...