I have a problem. I only enjoy learning on a topical level. That is to say I only find things interesting when they have some immediate relevance to my everyday life. Once the subject matter begins to unravel beyond its most fundamental threads and then reveals a whole other interworking of cogs and connections, I’m out.
I first realized this while taking inorganic chemistry with Dr. Graham. When we got to molecular orbital theory (and molecular orbital diagrams in particular, not too dissimilar from the one pictured above, but more complex) I remember intently staring at the whiteboard full of dashes and lines and arrows and greek symbols and mental anguish and then suddenly yanking my brain back out from that “Suck Kut” of higher learning to come to the momentous epiphany that…
… I was sitting in an uncomfortable desk indoors. It was nice outside. I wanted to be outside. And an understanding of molecular orbitals wasn’t going to help me in the future unless I became a chemist.
(I didn’t want to become a chemist.)
That deep knowledge of electron interactions wasn’t going to expand my reality. It was going to create a new reality. An alternate reality. One, to me, that seemed so far disjointed from how I wanted to live my life. And that’s when I realized I didn’t really care to learn anything beyond what can have a direct impact on the way I think or act.
I have appreciation for the complexity of science and other subjects, but often see a lack of application. Maybe my professors never effectively parlayed the “real world” importance of their syllabi, or perhaps I am too close-minded.
On the surface this doesn’t seem like much of an issue. I have the values of a caveman. Whatever. However it’s also important to note that most well-paying professions are highly specialized. It’s the people who spend thousands of hours studying one niche subject that usually make the most money.
This leaves me a little worried about my future. What if I never find something that sparks my interest enough that I fall head-over-heels trying to learn as much about it as I can?
It’s a scary thought.