For a large mount of time I used to be quite voracious in different areas of interests/hobbies. These were different things at different points of time in my life. Movies, music, books about technology and science fiction, building software systems were the main interests until now.
For books, the voraciousness lasted a bit longer for technology ones and to some extent for science fiction. I didn’t really get to a large number of non-tech books, but the general approach to go about it was very much similar i.e pickup, continue to the end and don’t worry about much else.
I am not sure when I developed a taste for movies. But I watched a lot of movies. There was a stretch of time, when I used to consume upto four/five per week minimum. TV series binge watch was also present to some extent, but movies were always the primary interest. At some point I decided to keep a track of what I watch on IMDB. As of now, I have almost 1550 titles to my watched/rated list (very few were added in the last few years though).
I sought out music from anything and anywhere. Source of discovery came from recommendation engines, suggestions from select friends whose taste I trusted, even billboard top charts for each year. This exposed me to music of different moods and flavours. My playlists were generally a mixed jumble of eras and genres.
Building software systems, that could handle things that I care about, has always interested me. It could be streaming services, local movie organization methods, writing systems that could juggle a lot of activities, software helping me organize my life in certain ways are a few areas. This also resulted in me growing interested in architecture and wanting to organize software itself for organizational goals.
As an undergrad, my voraciousness mainly applied to movies, books about technology, music and some literature.
During my masters, literature mostly dried up, and was replaced with building and managing different technology systems. I even managed to merge two of my interests to create a small movie streaming service for on-campus consumption by students.
During my first job, books of all sorts were pretty much removed. With some dis-interest in the actual job, it was actually replaced with a feeling of void.
My second(current) job offered great learning and experimenting opportunities w.r.t building systems. That helped in filling the void to some extent. As I grew into the job, movies dried up to some extent. Music discovery stopped and it went into a mode of listening the same known things again and again. Books about technology did pick up as a job requirement, but the voraciousness to go about it was missing.
As I progressed through my career, slowly but surely, the number of things I had to take care of increased. Upto a point, I was ok with the context switches and some associated parallelism. I think, things were ok until I was able to focus on a single thing for a while, and then switch the context to a new item. Even in this mode, the voraciousness was definitely lesser, but still present to some extent. Mainly because able to focus is one thing, and being able to do it in a voracious manner is another.
Somehow, I also grew a bit rapidly on the engineering ladder. This directly corresponds to a increase in the amount of responsibilities and additional number of things to look into. Few people specialize in depth of a topic, but my interests in building systems meant I looked at breadth a lot, plus glue work associated with it. Initially I could go into large depths too with some limited breadth, but that changed as I grew. The scale of the issue could be grasped by considering that at times I handled more than a dozen active projects along with a few in maintenance. When this started overwhelming me, I tried out a model where I was deep into a couple of projects and rest all were in a consultancy mode. As the criticality of things increased I had to put few of them under the deep involvement mode rather than consultancy.
The company definitely rewarded the work in different ways. Also, I did lots and lots of things that were super interesting to me. Given that I actually enjoyed things, I was able to gain back some of the voraciousness as things permitted.
I am starting to believe that even though I thrive when I handle a breadth of things, it is not sustainable for my mental health and general happiness. It is irrespective of the fact that, career wise, precisely this has helped me progress. I am not really sure of the solution to this at this point, even though I am aware of it and definitely struggling with it.
I have been told that this type of change is definitely expected as you grow in technology. Whether, I accept it and find a way to live with it or make a change for gaining back that voraciousness is upto me. I am inclined towards the later as it seems to be the only way I can imagine gaining back satisfaction and happiness, but I am not sure about lateral implications of it.
Another suggestion was to see if there are different hobbies that can interest me and don’t really need me to be voracious about it. Out of the multiple things I tried gardening is the only one that has stuck and genuinely interested me. It doesn’t really feel like the only thing that is going to be there, but it will definitely be one to continue for a while.
IF I find some list of newer things, along with a few old (I wouldn’t want to let music and movies to go away from me), keeping professional multi tasking to a minimum and finding a balance between professional and personal commitments and the interests could be the way ahead. In any case, it is really hard for me to imagine getting back on a thing that I can really be voracious about. Few friends have suggested that I don’t need to have voraciousness for happiness, but the thought of it makes me really uncomfortable.
It is definitely clear in my mind that I need to get rid of the dryness that exist in current procrastination, movie or music explorations. All this has affected my physical fitness too. Gaining that back to some extent has also been suggested as a thing that would help me freshen up a bit, but that too seems like a large arduous as of now.
All in all, the present looks like an uncomfortable time for me. Writing things down generally helps me build my own clarity and I hope to get the same out of this particular write up. Hopefully I achieve this clarity sooner rather than later.
Edit 1: Suggestion by James from HN
Good rest, taking care of your health (physical exercise, eating well, sleeping well), and lowering your stress levels. Find what you love right now and take small steps into recultivating doing something you love doing.