Soothing Tasks

· geek · life ·

I’ve had a very difficult month or so for one reason or another. Nothing earth-shattering, really, just the accumulation of a lot of small problems and set-backs, plus a health scare which turned out to be nothing to worry about eventually, I’m glad to say. In the midst of all this, I noticed something about myself, which I should probably have realised a long time ago: I find solving geeky problems soothing.

I was planning to do it anyway, but re-structuring the site definitely helped to relax me outside of work. I enjoy getting absorbed by a logical problem and trying to understand a system. The key thing is that the system is possible to understand. Unlike dealing with my fellow humans, there are rules, and the rules are logical and can be uncovered by careful debugging1. I like the fact that I can have control over code, even when I have no control over the rest of my life.

I find that getting absorbed with the knotty problems of how to compile a tags page or write a rake task takes my mind off worrying about other things, over which I have much less control. Looking back at similar periods in my past, I can see the same pattern. Those periods have coincided (entirely un-coincidently) with re-jigging my site, learning another programming language or some other piece of abstruse geekery. In a way, it’s self-medication for stress, and I can think of more destructive ways to deal with it.

1 I suspect that I'm really bad at debugging humans.