I just got over a serious case of “geek depression.” It’s a state of mind/life which tends to come about when I’m posed with a tech problem for which I know there is answer, but can’t find it. Usually this happens when I hit a wall in my areas of understanding, and bounce off.
“Geek depression,” at least for me, includes an almost obsessive relationship with a given obstacle. I know it’s there, I know what I need to do to get around it, but I can’t make it happen. Until the problem is solved, it takes up more and more of my time and energy.
My typical progression in the malady is consistent. At first, I’m challenged and excited to see how the problem can be overcome. Next I get frustrated that the solutions which people have found elsewhere don’t work for me. Finally, I slink towards mental exhaustion as I attempt to overcome the obstacle again and again and again to no avail. That’s the low-point, where I just want to toss the offending device, project, system out the window so it won’t bother me any more.
Geek depression is no fun, but it does have some interesting side-effects. First, I inevitably learn a lot while I pour over a problem again and again and again. This leads to the creation of new skills, and a deeper understanding of the project which caused the offense. In the past, I emerged from bouts of geek depression understanding Samba, MySQL, PHP, Apache, Linux, and Video editing – just to name a few. After this current bout I found out much about running a VPN, and I’m beginning to get a (seriously) rudimentary grasp of iptables. I gained this knowledge as I hit the wall and bounced off – again, and again, and again, and again. The frustration of an unsolved problem seems to be the crucible through which I delve deep into a topic.
I begin to rebound once I hit the state of mental exhaustion. Invariably, I end up seeing an alternate path by which I can achieve my desired goal, and I begin to explore. By the time I discover this new path, though, I’ve learned. A lot of what I’ve learned is the language and syntax needed to accomplish my task, and this makes all the difference. These new paths tend to lead me to my desired outcome. Even if they do not I don’t usually slip back into geek depression. Instead, I allow myself to walk away and try new things.
Is geek depression my ideal way to be spurred to deep-learning? Not in the slightest – but sometimes its stress leads to something awesome.
Note: Yup. I’m aware “geek depression” is really just “depression.” Geek is just a modifier to describe the particular trigger for my affliction.