The power of learning

When I finished my Ph.D., something changed in me and it took me all this time until this last weekend to realize it. I was tired of learning, I was tired of expanding my knowledge into new and exciting areas. I felt like it was time for me to apply what I've learned into something productive.

No, it's not that I didn't learn in the process, it's not that every day I haven't really learned anything new, it is just that I had lost the desire to learn. I had lost the wish to stay up until late at night reading papers, reading books, studying a new score, talking to new people. I put myself inside a hole and decided that I was going to build a way out using my own limbs.

What changed this was something very simple: I was home alone in the weekend and looked at an IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering and decided to go through it. Suddenly I found an article that seemed kind of interesting, "Fast and Memory Efficient Mining of Frequent Closed Itemsets" by C. Lucchese, S. Orlando and R. Perego. It's not an extremely well-written article, but it contains some interesting aspects that I was always searching for during my research: namely memory efficient algorithms for data mining.

Suddenly, when I realized, I was reading the whole issue, and looking for past issues, searching the internet, digging and learning. Not only that, I looked at my clarinet and when I realized I was playing! Terribly, but nevertheless I took my clarinet out of the box and played around with it for about 30-40 minutes until my embouchure couldn't me maintained any more. My neighbors must hate me now, but I was happy.

I realized that I suddenly was getting interested in reading the news, analyzing how business was doing, and this wasn't really making me grow in any way. Business is plain boring. Companies go up and down, bigger companies buy smaller companies, and nothing really new happens. Non-business news is the same thing. Wars, people claiming that other people are wrong, accidents, deaths, stupid people going to jail for silly things... Also nothing really exciting.

So I guess I'm a researcher and that's what I'll always be. Surely I'm not a very good one for many reasons, but it's what keeps me excited.

Some people right now might be thinking: but what about your job? Are you leaving your job and going back to academics? Actually this idea didn't even cross my mind (well, it did, or else I wouldn't have written it here, but not in this way). I'm very happy with my job. It keeps me entertained and focused on the difficulties that exist in the world. It gives me the challenges, but I'm the one that should look for the solutions.

But now I should try and get some sleep and stop getting people worried.