12 October 2016


I have landed (or come to a stop, if you prefer) in rural Georgia.

The simple answer to the question why is that I have a place to crash here, a house that belongs to a family member who spends about 50 weeks a year somewhere other than here. The house isn't empty of furniture and there are several cans of black beans in the pantry, and dishes and pots and pans and so on. It has been empty of people for a while now, and so when I arrived a day or so ago the house contained a lot of cobwebs that I've since cleared out.

The family member I've been helping move is here too-- she's going to be staying here for an undetermined amount of time. It took September to get all of her stuff sorted and packed into a 20-foot U-Haul. Packing a truck with random household goods is a lot like playing Tetris, except that the blocks are boxes and bins that are different sizes and weights. The additional challenge is that she hasn't moved for a few decades, which makes deciding what stays and what goes a few orders of magnitude harder. There are things that are in the house somewhere that need to be located. These things are never where they are expected to be. I've been through this before, and it's not fun moving when you've been settled somewhere for a while.

I have become accustomed to moving. I hate it, but I've moved enough in the past few years that I at least know what needs to be done and can come up with a plan eventually. It took me a lot-- in time, money, and effort-- to get things in order so I could get moved out of my last apartment. That experience helped here, but ultimately it wasn't my decision what stayed and what didn't because it wasn't my stuff. I've been through the process of saying "fuck it" and leaving a house full of belongings behind that were once important, and starting over. So while I was ready to cut bait and leave, my dear family member was not.

There's no anger here from me. You don't know, can't understand, someone's situation or why they do the things the way they do if you haven't been through it yourself. I've been through enough of the same kind of situation to understand, mostly, but I'm at the point where I can grab my backpack and haul ass and figure it out from there. Not everyone is at that point.

I'm repeating myself, I know. I've been in enough places now where people who said they were on my side and claimed they were helping didn't want to understand where I was or how I was feeling. There's help, real help, where you do something that can or might or will make someone's life better than it is. You don't always get to decide what the "something" is that accomplishes that when it's not your life.

My mission was to help a family member get moved from one state to another, and helping for this mission meant helping pack, load the truck, drive the truck, and get it unloaded at the destination. That there was a hurricane in the Atlantic complicated things. When to leave (vs "when everything is loaded") changes. My deciding factor in leaving came when Hurricane Matthew started meandering through the Caribbean, bumping rather quickly from Category 3 to Category 4.

My first experience with tropical weather was landing at Keesler AFB in Biloxi MS after boot camp at Lackland AFB. Coincidentally this was around the same time as Tropical Storm Florence had arrived and so my new squadron's new people inprocessing area was under water. Not long after that, Hurricane Gilbert threatened Biloxi (and Keesler AFB) and so in addition to filling a lot of sand bags I also got to spend a night in a shelter.

My second encounter with a hurricane was Hurricane Hugo, a category 5 storm that stomped on South Carolina in 1989 just before I arrived back in the states from Turkey on leave. I wasn't there for the storm, but I did see all of the aftermath. It wasn't pretty, and it made a lasting impression: hurricanes can really mess a place up so don't ever take one lightly.

In an operations sense, the next hurricane I had a connection to was Hurricane Katrina, which was another category 5 storm that stomped on New Orleans LA (as well as Biloxi MS, Keesler AFB, and the rest of the neighborhood). At the time Katrina happened, I was active in things like the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES). I didn't actively participate in Katrina relief efforts, but as a ham I had the tools to monitor what was going on very closely.

The one thing I'd always heard from people in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi went something like "if we ever get another Camille through here, we're fucked" (Camille having visited the area as a category 5 storm and leveling most things in its path in 1969). Katrina was just that "another Camille". Many people were unprepared for a storm as strong as Katrina. Many more thought it would just go somewhere else. Very few people though that the worst possible outcome would happen.
Now that things are settled down a little and I have a desk to sit at and a coffee maker to make coffee
The people who didn't think the worst could happen found out they were wrong in a really bad way. There are still people who haven't returned to where they lived before Katrina. I monitored a lot of emergency radio messages that came from within the area affected by Katrina, and it was frightening and heartbreaking. Between that experience and my experience seeing what Hugo had done, I developed a sense of both awe and respect for hurricanes. You can't beat them. They are simply too powerful.

There are also a lot of people in Florida that say similar things about hurricanes, things like "it won't hit here, because they always go by or aren't anything" and "it's been n years since we've had a major hurricane here so this one won't affect us either." These are statements of faith-- blind faith. It's true that you can't often afford to react with full on battle readiness to every storm, and it's true that forecasters are often wrong. I found myself in Florida watching Matthew develop and saying "we need to go, we need to finish, we need to geNow that things are settled down a little and I have a desk to sit at and a coffee maker to make coffeet out of here" for days, always receiving the response "don't worry about it, it's nothing, it won't do anything". It turned out that Fort Lauderdale didn't get much from Matthew, but a lot of other places in Florida did. And it could have been far worse, had Matthew turned just a little more west and run right up the coast instead of staying offshore. Saying a hurricane won't get to you because none have before is like saying "none of the scud missiles so far have hit me, the next one won't either."

It is true that not every street or restaurant is dangerous. Danger does not, in fact, lurk around every corner. That being said, every gun is always loaded. In order to not shoot yourself, the safe and wise thing to do is assume that every gun, no matter what, is always loaded. That keeps you from doing stupid shit with guns, or at least it should.

Every missile is going to land on you. Every hurricane that's pointed towards you is going to make landfall where you live. Missiles and hurricanes are a lot like guns. Always loaded.

I did all I could to get the truck fully loaded, and then I left in the middle of the night without the family I was there to move. The message boards above the highway on I-95 North exclaimed "HURRICANE WARNING", ominously speaking to no one. Everyone, family included, had decided for themselves that Matthew wasn't going to be a problem. Me, I was in a loaded U-Haul doing 75, gas tank full, coffee cup full, headed for the Florida Turnpike (and ultimately,
Georgia), alone. Missiles and hurricanes are a lot like guns. Always loaded

At a certain point, the first rule of first aid applied: in trying to help someone else, don't put yourself in a position of danger. Playing chicken with a category 4 hurricane (or any hurricane) met that criteria.

The drive? More or less uneventful. I've made the trip driving from Wisconsin to Florida and back before, and so I know that there's nothing to see from the Florida Turnpike. I stopped at a couple of the service plazas to eat and rest, and check in with the family that I thought would be following closer behind than they turned out to be following. I sent updates: the food service places at the service plazas are closing, fuel isn't rationed but they're not staying open all night like they normally do. Continuing north on I-75 all of the rest areas were filled with hurricane evacuees from farther north in Florida into Georgia, so I kept going until traffic got terrible and I let Google Maps find me another way here. I've lived in my car for weeks at a time, I can handle being in a truck for a day or two (although I don't like sleeping in the car/truck, because it reminds me of being homeless).Now that things are settled down a little and I have a desk to sit at and a coffee maker to make coffee

I made it here safe. So did family, although a day or so later. Mission accomplished.

The lesson in all of this is that a lot of the things that make PTSD a bad thing-- hyper awareness, avoidance, etc. -- can sometimes be assets in civilian life just as they were on the battlefield. One of the things in therapy that I heard over and over again was that the world isn't as dangerous as PTSD wants us to believe. Okay, so maybe the crowded and loud restaurant where we ate dinner last night wasn't a dangerous place (although it was triggering), but there are times when being in battle mode is exactly what you need to keep yourself safe. Fear of hurricanes didn't keep me from volunteering to go to south Florida to help my sister move, but I damn sure kept an eye on the weather and knew when Matthew began to look like a threat. When Matthew was a threat I took action on my own to make sure I was safe and in doing so protected an entire truckload of my sister's stuff. (If Matthew had leveled her house, at least she'd have all of her stuff safe and dry.)

It is sort of strange being where I am now, in someone else's house that feels like everything here (including the house itself) is here just in case. If all else fails they always have this place to come back to.

I'm finding myself thinking about maybe I should have a place like this, some small house out in the middle of nowhere that I can drive to any time of day or night, to find the power on and non-perishable food in the pantry and a few cases of bottled water in the closet. A car in the garage, gassed up and on a battery charger. Clothes. Tools. A generator. Internet. The extra expenses every month would be worth the peace of mind know it's there.

There is always the question of what's next; the answer to that is the same as it's been for a while now, I don't know. It's quiet here, out in the country, which at this point is pretty nice. I have a vehicle to drive, even if it is borrowed. I have a desk to sit at and work. I have a coffee maker and coffee. I have internet, although it's just me tethering to my phone. I'm setting up a work schedule, trying to get into some sort of routine, where I can work on the training I have available and get some resumes out.

More to come.

14 September 2016

Unwritten endings

I'm in Florida now, helping my sister get packed up and moved to Georgia. Moving, especially after being in one place for long enough to accumulate a lot of memories (some good, some not) is something I have some experience with. Driving a 20' rental truck is also something I have experience with, as once you've driven things like military trucks and school buses commanding a U-Haul is reasonably easy. Helping someone else move also means that I have a place to stay and something useful to do for a while.

The initial plan was to leave Florida early this week, and be in Georgia at the very latest by Thursday. We're behind schedule. The new plan is that my sister will continue to pack up stuff over the weekend and then we'll leave Florida on Monday, after I'm back from Hack the North at the University of Waterloo, ON.

The other part of the initial plan was that I'd fly from Atlanta to Chicago to get on the flight I already had booked from Chicago to Toronto for Hack the North. Now the plan is that tomorrow I'll fly from Ft. Lauderdale FL to Atlanta, then resume from there. I'm going to be spending a lot of time on airplanes and a lot of time in airports over the next week. This is not a bad thing, because I actually like airports and because I'll have some quality time to read and think.

There's a lot I have/want to read, and a lot I need to think about.


I sent a good-bye email to one of the non-production-related work mailing lists on my last day at work at Wisconsin. Doing so is an unwritten tradition, one where people say thank you and good bye and invite soon-to-be-former coworkers to connect on LinkedIn if they haven't already. Some people skip the email; I figured after seven years, I needed to say something about something, so I did.

While I'd been thinking for a long time about what I wanted to say, versus what I could and/or should say, I never really considered what would happen after sending it. I've also been relatively lazy about adding each semester's new student employees on Facebook. As a result I didn't know what to expect-- a bunch of new Facebook friends, a bunch of new Twitter followers, lots of people added to my LinkedIn network? Turns out a couple of people who I wasn't friends with on Facebook added me. One person sent a short note, a couple of weeks later, saying thanks.

Then I got an email in reply to my good-bye email late last week, nearly a month after I'd left and nearly six weeks after I'd given notice that I was leaving-- from my boss's boss. My team lead, the same person who had given no indication of caring or planning to do anything about the problems with my ADA accommodations, never said a word. His boss at least acknowledged that I'd given notice. That's the person who emailed last week to wish me well wherever I was headed next.

There has been nothing from the software development team I was a part of, no questions, no concerns, no "um, how did you want us to deploy this monster?", just robo-notifications from Trello that I'd been removed from the board that we used to track our projects.

It was honestly a little weird to receive a "good luck!" email nearly a month after my last day there. Maybe artificial is a better description.  It was pretty clear to me that no one was really concerned about me leaving, so why send such an email after that much time?

Honestly? I don't care.

I envisioned that one day I'd post a picture of myself here, in a cardinal red cap and gown, smiling, holding the cardinal red diploma holder I'd just received after walking across the stage at the Kohl Center during a UW graduation ceremony. That post would be the last I'd make to this blog, and it would serve as notice that I'd made it. Maybe it would inspire others with PTSD, especially other veterans, to pursue advanced education knowing that someone had done so successfully.

There will be no such post, no such photo.

In the end, I learned a great deal about programming, and human-computer interaction, and computer science in general at the University of Wisconsin. I will note that the majority of that learning occurred because I did research on my own. I read page after page of blogs and tutorials and books and reference manuals. I participated in as many hackathons as I could, went to as many tech talks and lectures as I could, built and maintained as many of my own personal projects as I could. I helped create and build a hackathon, and helped two other schools start their own hackathons.

In the end, it is me-- my actions, my determination-- that got me through PTSD messing up my life, putting me out of school and being on and off of the street. I kept working and kept learning and kept going even when the music stopped and there was no reason left to dance. 

Hackers gonna hack.



I'm in classes this semester again, Fall 2016, at the same community college where I finished an associate's degree before transferring to the University of Wisconsin. Both of my classes are online, so I'll be making arrangements to physically take the exams somewhere else. I don't know, actually, where I'm going to be living after next week when I've finished moving my sister to Georgia. I have a couple of options, so I won't be homeless. None of the options include a return to Wisconsin beyond going back to pick up my belongings from my storage unit in Madison and pointing the loaded U-Haul towards somewhere else. I don't even plan to stay overnight in Wisconsin.  

I've taken being in (and at) Wisconsin as far as I was able. 

When I first started writing, posting my thoughts about PTSD and college, it was because I couldn't find much to read on the subject. There's still not a lot out there, but now there's at least a little more. I still don't claim to be an expert on this stuff, just someone who's spent several years living through it. Writing has given me a voice that I didn't otherwise have. 

Although I've been admittedly terrible about replying to feedback from you, the people who read what I write, I have read every word you've written in comments and tweets and emails. I know that some of you have cited my writing, and used my answers to your questions, in scholarly research. I am humbled and honored that my words were worth being added to The Literature. 

It's been and will continue to be a source of strength for me that I am not alone, that there are others out there that experience the same frustrations that I experience. I hope that you who read this will know that you too are not alone.

I don't know if I will continue working towards a degree again at a different college after this semester. It's not easy being old in tech. I'm proud of the gray in my beard; after all, I've earned it. Even so, college in the traditional sense may not be the best next step for me. Work in the traditional sense-- getting an internship, getting hired at some hip startup in The Valley-- may not be the best next step either. My experiences at Wisconsin, both academically and professionally with regards to having a disability and the Americans with Disabilities Act (and accommodations) give me pause. Maybe I'm better as a consultant. Maybe I'm better starting up my own tech shop with my own rules.

I don't know what's next, and so I don't know what's next for this blog. There's not much to say about PTSD and college this semester that I haven't already said. If there's nothing past that, well...

I have considered both continuing to write, maybe changing the title to "PTSD and ...", and perhaps starting something new and different. I haven't decided either way.

For right now, then, I'll just leave the ending unwritten. 

21 August 2016

I'm on the move (again) (still)

Left my help desk/software dev position on the 12th, just shy of seven years there. Someone got me a card and had a few people sign it, which was really nice. I was able to say goodbye to a few of the people I'd worked with (and particularly enjoyed working with). Other than that, my second to last night (the 11th) was my last working on software there, and still nothing about anything I'd been working on (and fighting over disability accommodations to work on).

So that story is over.

I'd had nearly all of my stuff moved out of my apartment a couple of weeks before, but I got the rest out and got checked out/turned in the keys on the 15th so I wouldn't have to deal with the stupidity that is moving day in Madison. Checkout was done by 1030, and after a trip to the laundromat (which is deserted on moving day) I got on a bus to Mom's house.

So that story is over, too.

Mom is retired, and lives in the woods in northern Wisconsin where the internet reaches, but you occasionally have to look for it. My phone says it's connected to 4G, but fast it ain't.

I'm sitting in a coffee shop where they don't take credit cards for purchases under $5.00 (wtf?) and you need to ask for a password for the wifi-- which really isn't that big an issue, it's just that after being around a university where few people use cash ever and even the gas stations have free open wifi, it just seems silly. (Honestly it's been sort of nice not being connected all of the time, but only to a point.)

Life here (Mom's place) is a lot different from mine-- it's almost as if there's an unwritten rule that "we're retired so we have to to retired people things". She lives on a lake and has a boat but doesn't fish (or in fact ever use the boat), lives in the woods but doesn't do outdoors things. Keeping up appearances. Look at how good things are here. If you've ever read Gaiman's American Gods some of the small towns here bear some resemblance to Lakeside. I feel a bit like Shadow, laying low and out of sight. (It's a good town.) *sigh*

Sitting on the pier that sticks out into the lake, it feels odd. Here's all of this nature-- national forest, a lake that only has a few houses on it, fish, berries, etc-- and a huge house and a barn where everyone stays inside and watches TV and ignores that there's all these good things right outside. It seems like such a waste of resources. I'm reminded of that public service ad from the 1970's, where the native American guy sheds a tear at what "modern" civilization has done to the land and water. It's not that it's polluted here-- it's just ignored, which is perhaps worse. Nature gives you all of this, you work for most of your life to be able to move here, and then you spend most of your time in a bingo hall.

Case in point, I'm sitting in a coffee shop a few miles away because there's nothing to do but watch TV at the house that's on the lake. 

There's been some discussion of when I'm leaving-- consensus is on the bus tomorrow morning. It's one of those "well you could stay longer if you wanted to" things where it's implied that you won't. Don't get me wrong, I love my Mom. Right now I'm a drifting hacker/veteran/student who isn't due in class until October, and she's got a schedule of things that doesn't involve worrying about me. Historically I haven't gotten along well with the yayhoo she married after my Dad, and while we've reached some sort of detente over the years it's a peace that can wear thin if pushed too far. So leaving tomorrow is probably pretty reasonable.

It's beautiful up here, but I like it best when I'm alone in the middle of the national forest, camping and hiking and being bitten by bugs as opposed to sitting in a coffee shop. So I'm ready to get on the road again.


What's next? Still working on it. I've applied for a few new gigs. My experience asking for, fighting for, and dealing with ADA accommodations at UW-Madison really changed my outlook on things. It's really important that I find a job slinging code, but it's also really important that I find the right job (and employer).

After leaving here I'm headed back to Madison to transfer buses then to Milwaukee for an undetermined number of days. I've been basically on vacation since the 15th, so I'll need to start keeping known-only-to-me office hours again and finish getting some things organized. September is going to be busy, and then classes start up again for me in late October.

Not sure of the exact date yet (first week of September sometime) but heading to Florida to help my sister move in a week or so. She has an entire house of stuff so a truck plus towing a car; I get to help load the truck, but that means I also get to help drive the truck-- across Florida, the long way, and likely through Atlanta. Which also means we'll have lots of time to talk about lots of things (I haven't actually seen her for quite some time).

After that it's back north to Chicago, to get on a plane to Hack the North at the University of Waterloo-- then back to Chicago to get on a bus to Madison again. I'll finally get all of my stuff out of storage and into a UHaul (meaning it will rain whatever day that is), and from there I'll be in the mid-Midwest where I'll have a temporary roof over my head (and a place to unpack my stuff and figure out what I'm throwing away) while I look for a new job, new school, and more or less permanent new home.

Ultimately, stability is something that's still a work in progress, but that's okay right now. I've seen enough people lately that have everything laid out-- this is what will happen now, this is what will happen tomorrow, this is the way things will be twenty years from now. That's not how nature works, and that's especially not now PTSD works. Change is constant. What works today likely won't work tomorrow. It's taken me a long time to realize (and learn) that.

12 August 2016

kthxbye. wtf.

Tonight was the last night that I'll be on scheduled software development hours at my current job-- when I first took on being a software developer here, this wasn't what I imagined my last day would be like. Not. At. All.

I've been working on one project for several months now, all of 2016 plus some. It has been a challenge, one that I've had to use a lot of CS fundamentals on plus a few new things I've learned. I have actually, honestly, enjoyed working on it even with all of the trouble that's come up related to ADA accommodations. That I was able to keep working on the same project while overcoming my disability has been a positive feedback loop.

It's pretty clear to me now that my (soon to be ex-) employer either doesn't understand the importance of the ADA accommodations, doesn't believe they are valid, or just figures I'll eventually leave and and the problem will go away. Maybe it's a combination of all of the above or maybe there are other factors that because I'm not a management person I just cannot see. It is important to note that while someone from human resources contacted me to see how the accommodations were working, no one from the shop I work in has ever even asked. If I hadn't been making a fuss over the past month, nothing would have been said.

My experience in dealing with PTSD in general is that when I ask for something that's an accommodation is that it is usually ignorance (and not malice) that gets in the way. If it's not ignorance, it's that people are inconsiderate and/or just don't care. They don't see the problem so there isn't one. It is rare that someone has an active bias, but it happens. Again, I don't know what the case is here. The way things are structured here I don't ever see my supervisors much less sit down and have meaningful conversations with them.


When I gave two weeks notice, the reply I received didn't mention anything at all about my project. Since then no one at work has mentioned it (actually no one has asked me anything substantial about what I've been doing all summer).

You can tell me my code sucks because _____. Pick on me because I use vim when everyone else here uses an IDE. Call me Grampaw. Cancel my project and put me on something really stupid instead. Laugh because I like Nickleback. Be cautious around me because you've heard I'm a vetran and have pee tee ess dee like that one guy. I have, at various times and places, encountered all of those things and I generally know how to handle them without (too) much fuss or bother.

I have been underemployed and unappreciated doing different jobs in my life, but I've never been so completely and effectively ignored at the end of a job. Which tells me that it really is the right time to leave.

11 August 2016


I'm back from a trip to a hackathon in Holmden, NJ this past weekend. There's a lot going on in my life right now, but it was a very welcome chance to get out of town for a bit, dedicate 24 hours to hacking, and even relax a little.

The actual hackathon was Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon, but I left Madison at zero dark early on a bus to catch a plane in Milwaukee on Friday morning. After several hours delay (thanks United!) I landed in Newark NJ, found the AirTrain, found the right stop, found the right hotel shuttle, and eventually stopped moving at a hotel near the airport. I'm fortunate that my parents taught me how things like airports, buses, and trains work when I was still young; I was flying alone on commercial flights when I was eight years old. (Not such a big deal now but in the mid-1970's being an unaccompanied minor was a very big deal.) With apps and websites and push notifications (all of which I know something about as a software developer), I can get from point A to point B pretty easily.

I like to travel, especially by air, but I'm fine with trains or buses or whatever.  Flights and airports, trains and stations, buses and stops-- these are all systems. They have rules, and they have variables. Once you know the rules and understand the variables, you reach a certain efficiency level and the next thing you know you're in another city without really thinking about it. As a hacker, I see modern transportation is a series of interlocking systems.

Which often means that I sort of look like I know where I'm going, and so I have people ask me directions fairly often. It happened in San Francisco, where people asked me questions about BART. This weekend it happened at the NJTransit station at Newark Liberty, where someone asked me about getting to Asbury Park by train and about how to buy tickets. I often get a nod from the people working the TSA checkpoints, when I've got all of my stuff from my pockets in my hat and my shoes off and my laptop out, and have my ID and my boarding pass ready. Sometimes they'll ask "So... fly often?" and I'll just smirk. Yeah, actually.

Newark Liberty (EWR), for the record, is one of those airports where shit just works. It's not huge and the layout isn't complicated, there are a ton of guest services people around to answer questions and give directions, and it's easy to get to/from the gates and to/from places like the AirTrain and parking and such. It's crowded, there are a lot of people coming and going, but there's a constant flow-- perhaps vibe is a better word-- that suggests that someone has actually thought about the best way to get the most number of people in and out the fastest.


It felt a little odd, being in Milwaukee-- my hometown. There are many good memories of the city I'm from, there are plenty of bad ones too. I've never really wanted to move back; I figure I've left twice, that should about cover it. Even so, while sitting at MKE last Friday, I thought about possibly living in Milwaukee again for just a moment. It wasn't until I was staring out the window of my hotel room in Newark, watching the traffic on the freeway headed towards New York, and then again  out the window of my hotel room in Milwaukee again on Monday night, that it started to make sense.

It didn't really feel any different in Milwaukee than it did in Newark. Now, I know Milwaukee. On the bus, when I woke up a few miles before the airport on Friday morning it took less than a second to figure out exactly where the bus was. In Newark I had to check my phone to see which direction was which, and make sure I was getting on a southbound train towards Hazlet and not a northbound train (which would have put me in NYC).

An airport is an airport, an airport hotel is an airport hotel, a train station is a train station. Each one is different but they each work essentially the same way, they each intersect in predictable ways. I am, in a way, more comfortable when I'm in transit than when I'm home-- I grok travel in a way that I don't grok "home sweet home". Growing up "my home" was never stable, and since then I've always been in motion, so perhaps it just makes sense that I'm more at home on the road than when I'm sitting still.

You'd think that my PTSD would be at least a little worse, in transit-- but I'm not so sure that's true. It's certainly a factor. I routinely carry a set of foam earplugs in one pocket for noisy public places, and I wore them for a majority of the time I was at both EWR and at MKE. I made it a point to sit where I wouldn't be snuck up on when I sat, and I got up and wandered around often enough to keep track of who was doing what where. The symptoms were certainly there, but perhaps not to the same extent as they've been while I've been around Madison lately.

There are of course a lot of things that are triggering for me in Madison. They start with my apartment, follow me to and from work, exist at work/on campus, etc. Being away from those things can't help but help.

I want to imagine a situation where I have a home, a base to work from, something stable-- and I'm in fact working on that, with help from friends, a place that's not perfect but at least is solid and isn't going to disappear. The truth is that I'm leaving Madison on Sunday and I'm not sure exactly which direction I'm going. There's family that I haven't seen for a while, both in northern Wisconsin and farther away in Florida, so I'm going to do some traveling to get to those places.

There's a place that I might be actually moving to, a place that's probably more off the beaten path than I'd like but that is also pretty quiet (and cheap), and I really do need some quiet time (in a place that's cheap). It's farther away from everything that I really would rather be closer to, to travel to other places. So it isn't perfect, but at this point that's really okay. I need some time to open up all of the boxes that I filled up and taped shut two years ago, to sort through the stuff in them. I need to see what I have that I've forgotten that I have. Probably, there's a lot that I need to throw away. I need/want to be more mobile. Being more mobile means having less crap to move when I want, or need, to move again.

Quiet is a really big factor. Madison isn't a large city, but it's really a noisy place. Granted, I live downtown where there's a lot of people and cars and trucks and things moving around-- but people don't care how much noise they make, or when or where. Loud music at 0300? A carpet cleaning crew in the apartment below at 0800? People standing outside my apartment window talking on phones, loud enough that I hear both sides of the conversation? All of these have happened this week. I'm from Milwaukee, a much bigger city, and I think Madison is too loud. (Honestly, unless I'm walking somewhere where I have to have hearing, I'm either wearing noise-limiting earbuds or foam earplugs.)

So the plan is: move to temporary digs. Get settled and unpacked. Walk down some quiet country roads. Stare up at the stars at night. Drink some coffee. R&R, essentially. Then back into school, online. Back into self-training, working on some of the hackathon projects that I've started but not finished. Digging back into algorithms and data structures, some re-learning and some new learning. A big bag of infosec related learning and work that I've not had the change to dig into yet. Catching up on some of the learning and training and experience that I expected to get at my current job but didn't.

Yeah, I'll probably sleep in once or twice or maybe more. I'm tired, the kind of tired that you don't erase just by sleeping in one day. Where I think I'm headed, I've already let people know that I'm going to need some space the first few days until I realize (and accept) that the stress and triggers that have been causing me problems are gone. (There will of course be new ones, but I'm hopeful that being away from where I am right now I'll have more control over them.)

There are some specific job opportunities I'm going to explore, some of which involve travel and all of which involve hacking. I'm certainly not going to be on R&R forever (or for very long).

It is strange to be leaving a place where I've spent so much time and effort and emotion. In one sense, I failed to do the things I wanted to do here-- but in another sense, I finally realized that what I really want from life, I can't find here.

Maybe, somewhere in my future, exists a specific place that is stable, someplace that is "home". Maybe it's actually that "home" is "wherever I happen to be this week"?

(Hit "play" on Freebird now.)