Back in the saddle again… and again… and again…

binary code - lines of 0s and 1s
Slowly but surely, my ability to learn to code has returned

That old Aerosmith song is playing in my mind, this morning. I’ve been working on my programming skills, over the past week, and amazingly enough, I’m actually able to make sense of things.

This is a huge change, compared to where I was 10 years ago.  Even 5 years ago, I had real struggles with maintaining my attention long enough on anything to learn it. I would get so tired, cognitively, that I couldn’t continue with my learning. And I’d just drop it. I’d learn a bit, then I’d just wander off and forget I’d even started learning something.

Memory is a weird thing, sometimes. I can be so immersed in something… then I’ll get distracted and go do something else, and I’ll completely forget that I was working on anything else.

This is something I definitely need to work on. Because it happens to me at work, as well as at play. I lose track of projects I’m working on, at my day-job. And then I fall behind, and it’s a problem. I get turned around and end up behind the 8-ball, which is a terrible situation to be in for me.

I want to stay on top of things and keep current. But somehow I always get lost in the shuffle. I get distracted. I get tired. My brain starts to shut down on me, even while I’m on auto-pilot, just getting through my days by rote repetition.

So, since I know about this, I need to do something about this.

That goes for my job situation, as well as my own personal situation. In my current job, I need to keep up with what I’ve got going on, so I can just get it done and move on. I don’t want to be with this company past the end of the year. I just want to get out of there, and I need to make a career change back to doing programming again. I’ve come to realize that dealing with people all day in a capacity as a project/program manager is NOT for me. It’s been a good experience, but it’s not for me. I need a break from people and their messed-up emotions. I really want to work with machines. They’re very clear. And they don’t play head-games with me.

Plus, I can listen to music all day if I’m coding. I can’t do that, if I’m doing the people-thing. I need to work in a space where I can see immediate results of what I do. I’ve missed being a developer, and I realize now — once and for all — that this is what I’m meant to do. Not manage shit. Not run projects and programs. Screw that. I just want to build things. Make things happen. Forget the rest. I know where I belong, and it’s not in the position where I’m at now.

So, I’m using my time and frustration wisely. I’m building stuff in my free time. I’m doing tutorials, watching instruction videos while I ride my exercise bike in the morning, I’m building stuff I’ve been wanting to build, but haven’t yet gotten around to it. I’ve got some great ideas, and now I just need to work my way through them. I have another 5-1/2 months till I plan to move on, so I’ll spend time each month working on the core skills I need, building cool stuff that I can show to others, and eventually get myself to place where I’m as confident of my abilities as I need to be, to move on.

There’s a lot going on with me that’s pretty exciting, and I’m looking forward to getting up and running in earnest. I’ll start putting my work out there, as it develops, and see what comes of it. It’s pretty fascinating, really, so this will be fun.

I could use a little fun, for a change.

And this time, I’m not letting myself get sidetracked by distractions. I’m on a mission.

Onward…

SO, SO ready for this long weekend

field of sunflowers with blue sky overhead
Summer is shaping up nicely, so far

Happy July everyone. The next week or so should be pretty quiet for me, as we’ve got a long weekend for Independence Day, and a lot of people are going to be out of the office on vacation both today and next week.

And what a relief it is. Things are continuing to be weird at work, as the merger is supposedly on track, and we’ll supposedly be fully integrated into the new company by the end of the summer. I’m giving a lot of thought to what I want to do with myself. I know I have not been 100% happy with my situation for a couple of years now. I miss doing web development, and I miss being with really technical people.

I’ve been working in situations where people are just skating by, for some time, now. And it wears on me. I really need to be around people who are sharp and smart and a lot more daring than they’ve been in my situations over the past number of years.

So, I’m working on my skills, getting up to speed with reading about the latest technologies, just getting conversant with them. This is really important to me, and there’s even a chance I might be able to do some programming again, after having been away from it for so long. It’s been more than five years, since I was able to regularly do programming, and it’s depressing me that I can’t do it. Programming is my “happy place” — I have such a sense of belonging and purpose when I am doing it… and after years of doubting myself and not thinking I could do it ever again, I think I may be wrong about that.

I have really struggled with learning new skills, since I fell in 2004. I could not read for a while, and I could not retain information, and I could not work with other people. I drifted from job to job, hoping I would find a better fit, but I could never keep it together long enough to make a “go” of it. And I couldn’t maintain my focus on my tasks — it made me incredibly anxious and emotional (and explosive), and it also depressed me. That hindered my TBI recovery, and it made things even worse.

So, I had to find a different way, in a different place. So, I got away from doing that work, and I did more project management since 2010. But as much as I enjoy project management, I’m still not able to really do the kind of work I love — building things. Inventing things. Making things that no one has ever seen before.

That’s my happy place. And when my brain is engaged in programming, I feel whole and useful and complete. Time has no reality for me. I’m just “in it”… absorbed… So happy. So content. It used to be like that every single day for me, and even when I was working for people who exasperated and frustrated me and had no clue what they were doing, I still got to code. I still got to make things.

I’d really love to get back to that… to have that sense of satisfaction and fulfillment on a regular basis… to be totally and blissfully absorbed in my work, like I used to be.

rundown house in a field
This is kind of what my programming career seems like to me

I had a dream the other night, that my spouse and I were looking for a place to live. We were back in an old neighborhood we used to live in, and we were shown a house we used to live in. Before, we’d been in cramped quarters, because there was all sorts of leftover furniture and junk from prior residents in many of the rooms and the basement. The house was even more run-down when we looked at it again, but we loved that house. It had a lot of rooms that were full of the same old junk that was there before. The lawn was grown up, the neighbors had taken over the garden plot, and the roof was leaky.

But this time I was looking at the house with a whole new view. It’s like I wasn’t looking at the old house at all — when I looked into the rooms with that familiar junk, I just saw opportunity. Instead of seeing a pile of jumbled furniture, I saw individual pieces that could be pulled out and restored. And I saw how we could clean out those rooms and have a really nice house, in the end. I could actually see the big picture — not just get overwhelmed by the jumbled mess in all those rooms. I could see a clear path to moving forward. And although the neighbors were suspicious of us at first, when they found out we’d lived there before, they were happy to think we might be moving in, so they could have some help with the garden and other upkeep around the property.

That’s kind of how this job search thing is going. OR should I say, “Career reboot”… I’m being smart about this. I’m inspecting the territory. I’m checking it out. I’m doing my research, and I’m focusing my efforts on first of all finding out what skills are in demand, these days… and then what I can learn / re-learn in a relatively short period of time. There is always the chance that I actually cannot get my head around the newest technologies. It could be that those days are over for me. But I have to find out for sure. I can’t just give up.

So, this weekend, I have a chance to “play around” with things a little bit. To just stretch my wings and see what I can do with myself — and what I can’t. I don’t want to run off on some boondoggle where I waste a lot of time and energy on things that really don’t pay off — and end up humiliating myself in the process. But in any case, I do need to get more conversant in the latest technologies, so I can hold an intelligent conversation with my peers.

And so it goes. In the past, I’d say, “I need to get a new job RIGHT NOW!”, update my resume, and then go after whatever came along first. Now, I have the ability to hold back while I do my prep work, and pick and choose what I want to do with myself. So I don’t get in the same sorts of situations I did before.

That would not be good.

I know better know. And I can DO better now.

Onward!

A whole new exit strategy

It makes much more sense to me now

So, the reality of my exit is starting to sink in. I’ve been back and forth on this for quite some time, and it’s been weighing on my mind. I’ve been through the whole grieving process around it, and I’m finally at a place where I am feeling comfortable and good about things.

The one thing that has held me back from moving on has been the idea that I have to stay to follow through on a program I’m supposed to be putting in place. It’s a huge project with a ton of visibility, and I have NOT had the time to focus on it, because I’ve been “in the weeds” of day-to-day maintenance, and just keeping things going. I haven’t wanted to leave before my big project launches, because I didn’t want to abandon the project and have it fail.

But I realized yesterday that I actually have an alternative – a break from my dreaded plan of action. I’ve been thinking that I’ll need to stick around until July, when my big project rolls out. But now that I think about it, I may not need to stay even that long. There are some personnel shifts going on with my team, and my “official” manager is coming back from family leave in May, so the person who has been temporarily managing me will be freed up in May.

If I leave before July, they can take over my responsibilities and roll out the project that I’ve been putting together. They’re more suited to rolling it out, anyway. They’re much more social, much more connected, much better at connecting with people and making things happen within the organization.

Professionally, I need to stay on the technical side, and be more localized in my work… not be dragged all over creation in the company, networking with a gazillion different people.

How tiresome that is for me. But it really energizes my temporary boss.

And it would be a huge feather in their cap, to roll this out.

For me, tying myself and my future to this project is actually keeping me from getting on with my life and doing what I need to do. It’s not even the kind of work I want to be doing, long-term, so any more time and energy I invest in it will be wasted. My past experience will be wasted. My future prospects will be wasted. This project presents one problem after another for my career and my ability to earn a good living. Seriously, staying in this “pocket” of experience cuts back the amount of money I can make by tens of thousands of dollars.

And that’s no good.

It’s funny — as I’m re-learning my technical skills, I am realizing that I am actually better at programming than I was before. I realize that in the past, I thought I was really good, and that I understood everything… but I really didn’t. Looking back at the code I’ve written before (as I did last night), I see that my technique left a lot to be desired. But I never really understood it, because I was still working with the unaddressed issues of multiple mild traumatic brain injuries. All those concussions over the years really screwed up my thinking process and blinded me to my limitations.

Now, coming in with a new perspective, basically learning a lot of things from scratch, I realize just how much my thinking technique and my programming has actually improved.

And rather than needing to leave that line of work because of the different ways my brain works, finding the new and better ways of dealing with problem-solving has made me even better qualified to pursue it.

So… onward.