Growing up, I pretty quickly developed a massive distaste for "institutional learning." Given the fact that I was surrounded by people who believed in The Big Scary Guy In The Sky, I lived with a very "traditional" grandmother who kept trying to convince me that one fat guy in a red suit climbed down 4 billion chimneys in a single night and a six-foot fucking bunny rabbit shit out colored eggs in the yard once a year, and I could read and understand the textbooks for most school subjects in the first week of class... well, the FIRST thing I learned was that "directed learning" was for suckers. The only things you REALLY learned, I figured, were things that you learned for yourself, on your own time, at your own direction - other people could certainly be resources, but not really teachers.
In a lot of ways, that attitude has stood by me well - the things I know, I know really fucking well. In professional terms, I'm generally the guy that the professionals call in when they can't figure out wtf is going on... often enough, even on shit I'm really not all that familiar with initially. There really IS something to be said for grokking things completely, from the absolute ground up, in the sort of utterly concrete way that only self-directed learning can attain.
But... there are difficulties with that, too, especially in a world where institutional processes are universally relied upon for classification. You may gain a unique understanding of a lot of things by pursuing their study nontraditionally, but you also wind up ... well, not fitting in. Which can be a problem. Professionally, you can wind up being the guy that everybody calls when the chips are down but nobody hires because you're a round peg in a world of square holes.
But fuck "professionally" for the moment; what I'm really here to talk about is personal development. Because I wound up doing the same damn thing with my personal life that I did with my education - I wasn't content to proceed in a nice linear fashion through the standard stages of development along with everybody else. Noooo, I had to skip around all over the place.
I learned how to be in my mid-twenties when I was a teenager.
I learned how to be a teenager when I was in my early twenties.
I learned how to be in my mid-thirties when I was in my mid-to-late-twenties.
So now that leaves me in my early thirties, trying to learn how to be an early twenty-something, and worrying about when the FUCK I'm going to find the time to learn how to be in my early thirties too. And realizing ruefully that some things, you really NEED to do in the same order as everybody else, because goddammit, all that shit that grownups say about suddenly realizing "hey, I'm not immortal" about the time you turn 30 really is true. It's not so much that you think you'll never die when you're 20 or 25, it's just that you don't really understand that some things are a LOT easier to get done at that age, and it's going to be WAY harder to get them done if you wait until later.
When you're 21, the only difference between you and a 25-year-old is that they're probably a little more cool, a little more competent, a little better paid, and their insurance is lower. When you're 25, the only difference between you and a 29-year old is that they're probably more competent, and probably better paid.
When you're 30, you realize that the only difference between you and a 35-year old is that the shit that you're a day late and a dollar short on NOW are going to be one HELL of a lot worse if you still haven't gotten them done THEN.
It's a sobering realization.