Indexing my notebook

And a travel back in time

I started indexing my notebook today. The process is:

  1. I number each page in my notebook,
  2. I turn to the last page in the notebook and create a "table of contents" that basically fills pages in reverse.

Eventually the notes and the table of contents will meet each other and the book will be filled.

Normally I index notes as I go along, but this notebook had been different. So indexing it was a fun journey down over a year worth of notes. A lot of these notes were written during the phase where I refused to publish or share anything online on social media.

Thought it might be fun to write down what I've found. Some notes are light. Others technical. There are also several that are deep and a reflection of my mental status at the time.

I have an entire section where I was dealing with a tough time in life. Notes about hopes, stress, and guilt over failures. Right after that is another long note about escaping and seeking physical loneliness as a source of comfort from stress. I know what this time in my life was and it was not pretty.

There's a 6 page essay titled "You can be a programmer too". A complete breakdown of my thoughts on how anyone can choose to be a programmer if they wish. There's a lot of material in there that I'd refine but I agree with the core principles. The premise behind it is that programming is about solving problems. If you can describe the steps needed to solve a problem, you can program. Even if you don't do it as your career, you can probably program once you understand how to structure your thinking into steps.

Ha! I have an essay breaking down Dhananjaya Hettiarachchi's world Toastmaster competition winning speech "I see something in you". And comparisons of his previous attempt, "chasing butterflies". And how none of the story elements fully match. At the end of the day, "I see something in you" is an untruthful speech that satisfies all technical requirements to win a competition. No negative feelings towards that mind you. Just noting down what it is.

Then there's an entire section devoted to reflecting why we post things to Facebook at all, followed by days of analysis of the posts I saw on FB. Were they positive? Negative? Sharing things I categorised as showing off. And how much value it carried to anyone else who might read it. What I discovered was that outside of links that carried little commentary with it, most personal posts carried little "value" to anyone else outside of "helping people know what friends are up to". I've also added my personal feelings about this kind of sharing.

Ah my pet peeve about movies, protagonists, and false suspense. How could I possibly feel any worries for a main character who cannot, for the purpose of the story, ever be in actual danger. "Oh no! Our character has to jump over a gaping chasm. Will they do it? Will they plummet to their death?" Of course they'll do it! Urgh.

Notes on how I wanted to improve my writing by following a basic story structure of premise, a middle with emotion that rises, peaks, and tapers off. Interesting. I don't feel as strongly about this type of writing as I did back then, but I certainly feel my writing still needs to be better at introducing a compelling premise followed by a well structured middle and a satisfying conclusion. Basic structure.

Ah. Notes from the time where I was going to "do things!" in just 8 hours a day. Launch brands. Become famous. A month into that phase I recall having thoughts about the "why" behind it. And realising I had no motivation to ever become famous or "impactful". I just wanted to live a peaceful intriniscally happy life and call it a day. Live. Breath. Die. Leave the world a better place than it was at a micro level. And that there was no fault in that.

Mmm. There's an interesting section about a study between Singapore and Sri Lanka and how we only ever cargo culted anything that made Singapore what it is today. It's actually a decent piece of research into the historical context of how Singapore achieved its "dragon" status of today. There's a ton of analysis of how every part of it weaves together such that copying an individual piece and hoping for a similar effect is about as useful as rubbing soap on your body and saying "I'm clean" before actually washing the soap off.

Another tough section in life. A lot of me felt broken at this time and at times I wanted to give up on all of it. Some of this stuff still makes me feel terribly unsettled.

And from the tough part, it's into a renewed sense of focus of things. Schedules. Optimism. And then silence for a long long time. Almost till March this year.

And the last note of any emotional importance. Several pages outlining what I wnt to do in life. Ideas and points and counter points thinking through how to combine my love of writing, teaching, and programming into one life long dream. Obviously since this is so recent, my feelings about it match 100%. But none of this came about recently. It's only a culmination of me coming back to wanting to do certain things over and over again over the years. It's mostly a refinement of what the ends are vs the means.

Well, that was a fascinating trip down memory lane. If you don't already, I highly recommend keeping a notebook track down reflections over time. A written book. Not a computer. There's something about the randomness of flicking through written notes that's hard to reproduce with the mechanical nature of a computer. Trust me. When you look back on those notes 2 years from now, you'll be thankful you kept them.

Posted on May 03 2018 by Adnan Issadeen