Growing up in an average Indian family, opportunities for self-directed learning were limited. Formal education and career paths were typically imposed rather than discovered organically according to one's interests and passions. It was usually a question of choosing between pre-defined options A or B, with little latitude for exploration.
However, my innate curiosity could not be constrained by such rigid structures. Learning is a lifelong endeavor that enriches both our minds and our lives.
When we have the freedom to study subjects that ignite our deepest passions and curiosities, the learning process becomes far more engaging and impactful. Discovering my genuine interests allowed me to cultivate a lifelong love of learning.
I was always fascinated by how technology works, from the intricate circuits of early game consoles to the complex lines of code that power the digital world. As a student, my major was electronics and communication. But I yearned for more hands-on experimentation. The rigid structure of a traditional degree program did not provide ample opportunities to truly explore topics creatively, as my curiosity demanded.
Rather than continuing a prescribed academic path, I ignored the college to dive headfirst into self-directed study and experimentation.
This allowed me to investigate subjects like digital audio workstations, programming languages, and writing in a manner driven entirely by my natural curiosity.
Free from rigid deadlines or assignments, I could follow random insights and ideas down winding rabbit holes, making unexpected connections between diverse fields of technology. The freedom of self-education opened my mind in new ways that a class curriculum could never achieve.
Rather than viewing it as a chore or obligation, studying became a joyful experience of exploration, discovery, and problem-solving.
I consumed tutorials, took online courses, experimented with code, and immersed myself in technical discourse communities (Facebook groups) - all by following the guidance of my innate interests rather than any pre-determined goal or timetable.
My organic, self-directed studies led me to new career opportunities within digital media, content marketing, and technology roles that aligned perfectly with my skills and passions.
By listening to my interests, I set myself up for fulfilling work alongside innovative start-ups tackling exciting problems. The depth of understanding I gained through passion-driven study also translated into valuable insights that benefited my work.
Of course, passions can also evolve.
What ignited my curiosity as a young student may not be the same as what sparks me today.
Even now, in my time, I relish experimenting with new programming languages, creative technology tools, and artistic multimedia endeavors precisely because they energize me at a given moment.
Some of my current intellectual preoccupations illustrate this evolution well. While early gaming consoles sparked my initial technological curiosities, my love of retro and chiptune tracking has expanded into music production using digital audio workstations such as FL Studio.
Drawing inspiration from nostalgic 8-bit soundscapes, I indulge my creative passion through experimental electronic compositions and synthwave remixes.
I also cultivated interests in fields less related to technology, such as existentialist literature, indie horror films, and obscure monster subcultures - all topics that ignite my imagination on an individual level.
I ponder philosophical ideas around uncertainty, absurdism, and our place in a vast, unknowable universe. Rather than seeking definitive answers, I relish exploring perplexing questions without easy resolution.
This penchant for thoughtful examination beyond immediate technical skills ties into my preference for thought-provoking non-fiction addressing society's deepest problems.
In the digital city of Chengdu, China, where I am currently based, immersing myself in new environments as a xenophile also fuels my inner intellectual itinerancy.
Exposure to foreign cultures naturally prompts investigations into history, traditions, and belief systems entirely unfamiliar to my upbringing. Even in a bustling metropolitan region, I strive to ground myself through slow, mindful observation of nature - people, community, and seasonal changes with an attentive eye.
While most families in India, including mine, emphasized practical academic and career paths over indulging curiosities, I am grateful to have eventually found the autonomy to learn through passion-driven exploration. This organic learning process has opened my mind in deeply fulfilling ways, shaped my work in technology and creative fields, and enriched my life through thoughtful engagement with diverse ideas. It has given me perspectives that more rigid, traditional upbringings could not.
Credit: cover photo by Brett Jordan.