Involuntary Autodidact

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

I’m an autodidact, but not by choice. I don’t do well in standard schooling, so I’m forced to dredge my own path. While that process might appear romantic to the unacquainted, I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. Being able to learn through the standard model provides clear pathways and goals. It might be expensive or tedious, but you know where you’re going and how to get there. You can measure your progress against clear milestones.

In contrast, autodidactic learning is chaotic and uncertain. You’re interested in something, but it’s not clear how to pursue it. You might know where you want to go, but it’s unclear how to get there. Aside from your destination, there’s no landmarks or milestones. So you cast lines of inquiry into the abyss. 

The naive might expect to find their answer on the first cast. The experienced know this is folly. The experienced hope for nothing more than something to guide their next cast, and the next. More often than not, your lines of inquiry find dry holes. Those dry holes don’t tell you where to cast your line next, you only know it’s not “here.” 

With sufficient perseverance you might find something, but you don’t know enough to assess your progress, so you cast your line again and again. When your cast finds something, it’s unlikely to tell you where you are in relation to everything else you need to find. So you keep casting lines into the abyss. 

Over the course of days, months or maybe years, you start to develop a sense of the landscape. You know roughly where to search, but you’re still alone in the wilderness.

~ The Critical Self

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