A Coder's Lament

As I slowly bring myself up to speed with the state of web design and various other scripting / coding languages, I find myself regretting how much time I squandered in the past.

I didn't feel college gave me more than a cursory knowledge of what I was doing; I had some useful information and a basic capacity, but it was never developed further. (That's where I think a Junior Developer job would have been ideal, but I picked a great time to graduate, in late-2005, when the local technology sector was imploding.)

Instead of following the path I simply assumed would be available to me (college to entry-level job), my journey has been a meandering and interesting one.

It took me 6 months to realize that cooking for a living, instead of at least trying to leverage my college diploma, was an absurd notion — and the frustrating realities of the industry issued a quick and painful reality check. There was simply no fucking way I was going to work ~90 hours a week to clear 20-something thousand dollars per year.

Taking a call centre job (the kitchen of the office world) was a significant step up in pay. Dell had some sort of partnership with the province of Ontario, to staff their call centres and train employees in some sort of call centre technician trade certification.

The whole arrangement made very little sense; there was no real acknowledgement of whatever the fuck this certification was supposed to be, or how to formally apply for it. All I knew was that it required a significant number of hours on the job (a number in the 10-20,000 hour range feels right), but that's all I remember. No one I know ever pursued it; we were there to get paid.

Of all the things I could say about that job, I will limit myself to this: the pay was very good, I got raises and bonuses, and they even paid me a significant sum of money to quit a job I was about 2 weeks from walking out of for free.

I wish there was a cool or funny story about that last bit, but what happened was Dell decided to cancel the deal they struck with the province and shutter the call centre. They also abandoned a second building midway through construction, in addition to having to pay jackasses like me generous severance packages — so it must have been really cost effective shipping everything to the Phillipines and Indonesia.

None of what I did at that job, or any of the others that followed, used my programming skills. Certainly not The Cursed Mail Room I spent 3 months at, as a contractor — that place had the highest insane story : time worked ratio of any employer in my life. The call centre job that followed was very basic, and I was promoted to an escalation team but the job didn't have any additional technical requiremens.

I took the job I have now, in 2010, after a friend I made at Dell was able to get me an interview with a local software company he worked for. I've been working a very unique and esoteric support role every since. I built the odd tool for work, usually a script or something to parse log / data files, but I am not what I would call a Developer by trade.

It feels strange, to have 20 years of time spent in the workforce, and still feeling somewhat aimless and lost. It's not a matter of whether or not I like my job (I do), it's just strange to consider how I ended up I am — and fills me questions and apprehension about where I am going. Twenty years pass quicker than you think; quicker than you want.

I'm trying to be more dilligent about not leaving things on my perpetually growing list of Things To Do. This includes sharpening my existing skills, hitting milestones that have been something I'll "get around to" for a decade or more. It's a mixed blessing, when you finally summon the motivation to tackle a problem you've been ignoring for ages, and it ends up being a trivial matter. On one hand: it's an accomplishment, on the other: I wonder how much further along I would be, had I not dragged my feet.

Procrastination has always been a problem for me. Things that get past that mental block quickly become ingrained routines, but the process of doing so remain elusive and mysterious. It also does not seem to matter how many times I am left saying to myself "this was so simple, why did I wait so long?", The obvious lesson remains unlearned on a deeper, subconscious level. I drive myself nuts.

Published: February 27th, 2021.