The Learning Wish List

Buckets of spices on the racks. We see chili powder, salt-free chili powder, dark-roasted chili powder, and cayenne pepper.

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The store had large bins that are about the size of my torso, filled to the brim with spices and herbs and coffee and tea. It was a huge departure from what I was used to buying, but I was excited. I've only ever bought tiny glass bottles of spices that you find in most grocery stores, the ones with pictures of what the plant used to look like before they ended up getting ground up into fine powder.

It was overwhelming—I didn't know what to do in the moment. Which ones should I get? How much should I get? What do I even want to cook at home? I couldn't decide, and I was very close to getting ¼ lbs. of everything.

The feeling was very familiar to me. When I started learning programming, I remember being inundated with so many different kinds of resources and learning paths. I found numerous books, online classes, interactive tutorials, and forums that taught all sorts of things with alluring and smart-sounding topics like Python, Objective-C, Haskell, and jQuery.

I started out learning one topic, my eyes constantly fixated on the screen, determined to learn as much as I could. But my hunger soon grew. Instead of focusing on one topic, I succumbed to FOMO. I wanted to learn everything.

As expected, I burnt out.

It reminded me of what my parents told me during the holidays while growing up. They said I was takaw mata which in English translated to “greedy eyes” because my appetite was way more than what I could handle. I put too much food on my plate, I'm uncomfortable, and I regret everything.

To this day, I still find myself feeling FOMO. It's almost unavoidable: When you're in the computer industry, you hear news about all sorts of new technology that you should be learning, lest you get left behind and ruin your career. But I've learned a lot about my limits. Whenever I feel the urge and excitement to start a project or to learn a certain thing, I put it in a list called a “wish farm.”

It's an idea that is useful for budgeting money, but it's worked well for my FOMO, too. It's just a list of things that I'd like to do in the future, but don't have the time to dedicate to it right now. It's handy for letting the excitement die down and see if I'm still interested in it in a few weeks or months. It's also great for prioritizing the things that I'd like to do in the future, whatever it may be. When I have the time available, I harvest them and start learning.

So at the store, I calmed down and just bought the things that I needed: cayenne, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, and paprika for the Tikka Masala dish that I wanted to make that week.

All other things can wait.