24 January 2016

Things and Changes

Things around here, right now, are sort of routine. I'm working (and getting to work) and in class (and getting to class). There are some really cool things coming up soon, which I'll get to in a minute, that are not necessarily routine but will be fun, and that's certainly okay.

That's liable to change at any given moment; whether it's true that things are liable to change at any given moment is always open for discussion. PTSD says that at any fraction of a moment the entire world can turn itself inside out and upside down. It's fear, but it's a different kind than you might experience if think you're about to be eaten by a grue. It's not the fear that something is happening, it's that something can happen-- but maybe it's not fear. So much has actually happened, so many really bad things over the past several years (and in fact, at various times throughout my entire life). 

It's different, somehow, when you've already experienced many of the really bad things that most people fear. Childhood abuse, very broken home, war, divorce, bankruptcy, PTSD, being homeless, health problems, losing friends, losing family... how much time and effort, how much therapy and counseling, how much self help and advice and religion and everything else do people invest in preventing these things from happening? Just like everyone else, I invested a lot in trying to keep things together, and in trying to keep the bad things that I had a chance of preventing from happening. I trusted a lot of different people. I trusted a lot of different therapy. I also trusted medication, meaning that I trusted research and science.

I still trust science and research if it is properly applied. There is a very small number of people on this planet that I trust, all of whom are or were military. I can't say that there's nothing I believe in any more, because that's not really true. I still have faith in a few things, one of the most important being me. I've often wondered why this is, because by all accounts anyone who's been through all of the shit I've been through should have given up a long time ago. *shrug* I must just be awesome.

Yeah, I know. I'm blowing my own horn, quite loudly. I offer no apologies. Here's why.

At work, the software development team I'm on is short one person. Internally, applications for new developers have been open for a bit. This coming week, we're doing interviews. The people who manage the department are going to be doing the interviews, but we (the current dev team members) are participating in conducting the interviews. Last week, I did a bunch of work on writing the questions we're going to ask, as well as sharing the duties of writing up technical documentation to get our new hires started quickly. It's very cool that not only am I writing code and getting paid for it (bonus!), but I have the opportunity to get practice doing some awesome team building work as well. Not bad for a student employee (basically an intern). I'm quite proud that the people that are our supervisors trust me (us) that much.

Next month, I'm going to California again-- this time to Stanford University for a weekend to participate in TreeHacks, Stanford's student hackathon. I don't know exactly what made the organizers of TreeHacks decide to let me attend. The application includes some general questions about what you'd like to hack on, and also asks for links to an applicant's GitHub, LinkedIn, and personal website. I do know that I have enough epicness that not only did I get accepted, but they're reimbursing me for most of my travel expenses.

Through everything that's been going on, I've been to hackathons at a bunch of awesome schools. Wisconsin, Michigan, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue, Waterloo (Ontario), Illinois, CalTech, Cal-Berkeley, USC. Coming up, Stanford, and after that Iowa State. (I've also been accepted for several others that I couldn't attend because I didn't have the resources to get there.) 

I've tended to internally discount all of the hackathons I've participated in, and all of the cool projects I've worked on. I've learned more than I can possibly list in a blog-- impostor syndrome is a real thing, and even more so with a disability like PTSD. How am I possibly good enough? I'm older. I have a disability. I could list all sorts of reasons why I can't do what makes me happy, but the truth is that I'm doing what makes me happy and I'm doing it well-- well enough that other people agree.

Which is pretty damn cool.

There's a lot of discussion going on about the economy, and whether we're in a tech bubble. Maybe we are, maybe we're not. My opinion? It doesn't matter. It in fact might matter, and matter a great deal, because I'm moving to California this summer. I lived through the Dot Com implosion in 2000, which was a whole lot more than a bursting bubble. It knocked me on my ass, honestly. It's entirely possible that I'll arrive in Silicon Valley at the worst possible time since then, end up homeless, in a really bad place, etc. I've certainly been in that place, where all of the money dries up etc. etc. It's not fun.

I'm moving to California anyway. I don't give a shit if we're in a tech bubble or if we're not. Maybe I'll have a lot of trouble finding someone to pay me to code, maybe I won't. Doesn't matter. I'm going to do what makes me happy, and being in California around a ton of other people who love to code will be a good thing. Am I afraid that it won't be a good thing? The negative voice in my head likes to tell me so. I'm listening less and less to that voice.

That I'm going to be at a hackathon at Stanford next month means a lot. There's so much technology, and so much philosophy surrounding technology, that I've used and learned and considered that originated in Silicon Valley. 

I said earlier that many of the things that I used to trust, I no longer have much faith in. Hacking-- programming, configuring, learning-- is one thing I have absolute faith in. It will take some time and effort to find the right place, some company or organization whose needs are a good fit with my skills. I have a lot of unique skills that many hackers don't have. I'm definitely not a cookie cutter person. I don't know how this will all turn out, but I'm going for it. 

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