How I learned every wrong lesson

2020/03/30 - work

High School

High school is where I learned to be a bully. I was very small, probably 5’2” until Senior year when I grew 8”. As a freshman, a large man came up to me during lunch break, and wrote in sharpie marker the words FROSH across my forehead, then picked me up and put me in one of the large waste bins. Since then, until about senior year, I suppressed my personality. I tried not to stand out.

I had various encounters since then, but tried to keep a good sense of humor about things. Sophomore year, a group of cohorts detained me and forced me into a storage locker. It wasn’t until the director noticed I was missing when I was let out. At this point, it was already well known that however I ended up there, I deserved. It has been said to me many time throughout my life that, “I bring it on myself.” At age 40, I’m still trying to figure out what this means.

One of the ways that I might bring on this kind of negative attention and invite people to ridicule and humiliate me is because I act and live every day as if nothing is wrong. I try to remain positive and use humor and sarcasm to cover up the things that I see as wrong-doing, or problems deeply ingrained in our society, that I believe only through exemplary misery of the masses will ever change.

I talk a lot of shit. Not in the way that I am trying to hurt someone’s feelings, but instead the odd, fast conclusions that are so far reaching it might cause the listener to question my own perception of reality. I consider this to be safe, because I’ve accepted certain facts about this universe, and I would never try to convince people, or disrupt those facts for other people.

The facts are this. People are oddly self-destructive. For example, a person will only kill themselves if they believe it is easy. I’ve witnessed this personally, multiple times. There is nothing supernatural on this earth. If you want to read that as, “God does not exist,” then you are looking for God in the wrong places. People forfeit their principles over money, a symptom of not feeling secure, I’ve witnessed this dozens of times. People are judgemental, and they are OK with it. The same Christians that pray every week in church are some of the MOST judgemental people I have ever met. They must not hear the part about throwing stones. Heaven and Hell can only exist on earth. People adapt learned philosophies and call them “my own philosophy.” This is ridiculous, every philosophy has come from somewhere or someone else. Your own “personal philosophy” is just a summary that removes proper attribution of how you learned it. It is lazy.

College

I was quickly labelled a troll. When I first entered the Computer Science program, I found a study group called ACM. It was full of different kinds of people, some female, mostly males. They came from different backgrounds and different countries, but we all had one thing in common. We spent a huge portion of our lives using and studying the interworking of computers, and most of us had touched on, at some point, programming a computer.

One day in this group, I was invited to join an online forum. I’ve been a part of many forums in the past, I had even started a few. But this membership was short lived. Within the first day, I found myself reading about another student who was bragging about how Apple is the greatest company in the world, and their Mac is the perfect computer, and they were ridiculing another student for not having a Mac computer. I detested. I made some stupid comment about how all computers have problems including Mac. I was quickly banned from the forum. My opinions didn’t matter to anyone else, especially when they went against the forum’s administrators opinions.

This same experience and rejection has happened pretty much constantly throughout my entire career. I worked, or tried to work, in my field the entire time I was in college. I worked for the Student Helpdesk, we would do things like verify people’s birthdays in order to reset their password. Clean people’s computers of malware. And make dorm room house calls to install internet connections, correctly for students. One day, my co-worker, a friend who turned out to be one of the greater Christian influences in my life, asks me “If a Fag is the derogator word for a gay man, what is the derogatory word for a lesbian?” I responded, “A rug muncher.” My boss, who was extremely overweight, and never expressed an ounce of joy, especially in this moment overhearing our conversation. She told me I was fired, and not to return to the office.

It was then that I learned, the classic saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” doesn’t apply to everyone. In fact words do hurt, and worse, words can be used by people in power to oppress others, but when I am hurt, no one gives a fuck.

I witnessed many examples of this cruel fact. My third year in, freshmen come around the computer science department. One student expresses a toxic relationship with his mother, says something sexist, and instead of being reprimanded, he is expelled by the administrators.

When I was in my final year of college, I had trouble coming up with my last semester's tuition. I worked for the radio station. I was on academic probation, so in order to keep my job, I had to pester my professors every week for a grade report. My professors weren’t as organized as I was, and told me they don’t bother calculating grades until the last week of school when they add up all of our scores from assignments. I stopped asking and lost my tuition sponsorship. I had a meeting with the administrator at the School of Communications. This is when I learned that no matter how valuable or invaluable your work is, there is some passive aggressive middle manager who will refuse to see things any way other than through his own process and rules.

I’ve learned this lesson many times over. People are blind to thinking outside their own perfect little box, and it doesn’t matter what I think.

My First Gig

Right after graduating, I quickly realized that I was not prepared for the workforce like my school had promised. I didn’t have any interviews lined up. I didn’t see any “Good” opportunity. Maybe I was the one who was blind? Isn’t that the point of all this education, to prevent you from going blind?

I applied for GoDaddy, where after talking to a former employee, I quickly realized this was not where I would fit in. Luckily I had a side job working on a Microsoft Master pages website. It was intended to be a social network. The code was an absolute mess, lots of redundancy. The owner told me “I would love to pay your $50 per hour, but I will only give you $15.” This was higher than minimum wage so I accepted it.

GoDaddy rejected me. I learned that the hiring manager was known around town for being a chauvinist prick and they were not going to appreciate someone who can think outside the box.

My dad found me an opportunity working for a medical device company called EPIC Diagnostics. They were building a device that could diagnose your body based on kirlian images of your fingertips. It works by creating a magnetic field around your finger, and using that as an antenna for detecting mitochondrial stress. I saw the algorithm work. I saw the linear regressions, the image analysis in MatLab. I rewrote the entire stack from the ground up to work on videos of images, not just still shots.

I had various minor run-ins with authority. One morning I had been working for about 2 hours, I took a 5 minute break to watch a YouTube video. My boss came up behind me and saw me watching, and complained to the other managers about me. It was at this moment I realized the same lesson I learned from the Director of Communications at NAU. It doesn’t matter how valuable my work is. There will always be some passive aggressive (overweight, unhappy) middle manager looking to make my life hell.

In this time, I came to realize some sad truths. Another unhappy worker in the office quit the company and then was asked to rejoin, was intentionally creating a “moving target”. Any time we accomplished one task, there was another task in the way of releasing and building new software. I developed my rewrite of the system as a skunkworks project. My version worked incredibly well, and I performed my own personal verification using the data from all the other clinical trials. I documented the verification using the methods I learned from working with the Quality Assurance department. But it would never see the light, it would be lost in time, and I don’t even have a copy of the work anymore.

I sent her an email that the changes to the document were “redundant”. Redundant means adding superfluous and repetitive words. Just like in computer science we try to remove redundant code. My boss printed out the email, and told me that “[I] wasn’t allowed to call people in the office irrelevant.” I took it. I didn’t defend myself, or try to explain that isn’t what happened. I didn’t tell her this person is creating unnecessary work and expectations just to waste your time and money. I didn’t stand up for myself and tell her that I never called anyone names. My boss told me I need to grow up and learn how to speak to people. I blew it off, because I already knew the truth about her mental illness. It was very apparent.

This same female boss proceeded to lay off all men in the office, only 4 women and 3 engineers remained. I learned that sexism goes both ways, but the word is only applied to men against women, not the other way around.

My boss said to me and another employee during a lull, “If you stick with me for the next 6 months and we find more funding I will take care of you.” The company limped on for another 6 months when a contracting company and (mother of an unknown at the co-worker) Kathy Hanrahan, and her goons with http://www.rivieraconsult.com/ came to “clean up around the office.” I didn’t realize at the time that I was training my replacements. I did realize the gravity of the situation when one of the consultants said “[My previous boss] didn’t raise me right.”

My Second Gig

Out of the heavens came an angel investor of my own. I literally have nothing bad to say about working for a company called Study Sauce. Except that my own failures were clear. I built a “rigid” system. In computer science, this means it is hard to make changes without breaking something. I didn’t get on the SPA train soon enough. And I didn’t get off the SPA train sooner, as you can tell from this page, it is plain HTML/CSS with some microservices on the backend.

Unemployment

I took an interview in San Francisco, the city of trash and dog urine. With a company called digit.co. I couldn’t connect to their WiFi, so that made me look like a noob. I told them, “Everything is a waste of time.” Because I already felt like a clown for being the only person in the financial district of SF wearing a suit and tie my wife got me from Brooks Brother’s. The CEO told me "[they] can't afford to raise me," and I was asked to leave. I later emailed to ask if he got a copy of Flatland. And he said he didn’t get any mail. I am pretty sure they work for the mafia and are trying to legitimize their thievery.

I’ve labelled this section even though I have worked continually because I haven’t enjoyed the companies involved. I worked for Charles Schwab for 3 months where a gigantic female frog croaked at me every morning for months “have you done your employee training yet?” There was no training assigned to me. When I finally contacted HR about it, the training took me 15 minutes, but she spent an entire week on the same material. I am not sure what the lesson is here.

I worked for a marketing company called Swiftpage that bought a product called ACT! It wasn’t long before I realized how fucked up this company is. They instructed their clients to change the update stream for Microsoft products because of a bug in their own platform. Then they retracted their instructions to change update channels. They abused retailers/partners out of the program. They exposed other businesses personal clientele to hackers. The network administrator in the first week told me “There is no policy for development environments.” But I heard this as, “There is no security in dev.” This is one of those situations where I bring it on myself.

They had a stupid fucking awards system with points through HR, and I spent all my points on the award called “One-on-one with your boss” I got to pick managers to have lunch with. Honestly, I just wanted to have lunch with people because I already accepted the fact that the people working at the company were more important than the bullshit work we were doing. I also liked the people who worked there. I thought they could give me some advice, and it was nice for the company to buy people lunch. I thought a lot of things that ultimately led to me being the problem, or the focus of people’s ridicule.

My boss called me “Easily distracted” 3 times in an employee review. He also told me “All of [my] work is a waste.” I haven’t recovered from this, as you might be able to tell from still writing about to understand some sort of resolve or rationalize my reality. If I wasted so much time, they should look at themselves and remove their stupid fucking award system, meeting with my bosses was a waste of time. I thought I was doing what they asked me to do and more.

Mental Disability

I’ve descended into many dark places. 6th grade math class was the first time I realized I’d rather kill myself than do homework. I literally slammed my head on my desk repeatedly until solutions came out on my homework.

A friend told me I have autism. That helped quite a bit. I have trouble understanding people’s feelings based on their words. If someone seems hurt, I think it is because of themselves, not because of me. Sometimes, I don’t like being touched. I shudder at the thought of certain smells, like a sweater ginger. I puke if I see other people puke.

It took a long time before I was able to watch a movie and see an emotional response, but I could finally bring myself to tears and cry with them. Not sure if that is a better direction or worse. But I do know it is different from many people. The movie Sully with Tom Hanks made me cry from fear the entire film.

I had a child with my wife in another country because I am terrified of money grubbing doctors. They wanted us to pay $3,400 at 18 weeks, before we even knew if our baby was alive. They told my wife she would definitely need a C-cut, and ridiculed her for watching too much Doctor Oz because she didn’t want to pay for a 40 minute ultrasound every single week. We have a friend whose baby was killed by the needle used in the Amniocentesis test for Down’s syndrome.

Our baby came out perfect and innocent. This idea of original sin is complete bullshit. He was born naturally in Poland in November of 2018. I was unemployed and on disability. Which means at any moment the government can decide that I am not suitable to be a father and take him away from us to be raised in foster care. I can lose my ability to vote. I can lose my ability to decide on medical treatment. I can be forced into a lobotomy or electric shock therapy, against my will. I can lose my rights to assistance programs. I can lose my right to work. People judge me negatively constantly. My own father thinks I am making it up and I am a liar. I am dispicable to him for needing help.

The Cure for Acedia

Hobbies. When I left this idiotic marketing company that no one needs, I thought I never wanted to use a computure again. I tried various things, I tried advertising on Facebook. I tried creating some fake news like the Russians are profiting from. I tried automating some data collection from LinkedIn like hundreds of recruiting companies are profiting from. I mostly wanted to test to see if it was possible. I even gained 3,000 connections on LinkedIn. I pretended this was valuable, and then I stopped writing code for a year.

I closed my accounts. I tried to find some amount of acceptance in Reddit. I found one reddit called /r/legaladvice. I am pretty sure this is actually illegal, and most of the time it only exists to tell people “this is not actual legal advice and you should contact a lawyer.” Which is exactly the problem. Lawyers have made giving advice illegal, and they can’t even bother to find you a lawyer in your area. There is no lawyers network where good lawyers go and aren’t money grubbing pigs. There is nothing safe or sacred, or holy on earth. Not even the law.

Churches are back to selling memberships for prayer candles, just like in the story The Cleansing of the Temple from 2,000 years ago. Banks charge overdraft fees and I’ve written about Backwards World before. My own government makes it a law that banks can charge $115 per day in fees. I cannot think of anything more Anti-Capitalism than my own government. That abhorrent to me that the government should not only meddle in private business (which is in itself anti-capitalism) but to the dismay of its own citizens it is employed to protect. This is money people should be spending on food.

In all of this madness, I’ve come across a cure. Focus on your family and hobbies. Passion projects are the only thing worth doing. Even if it fizzles and the project loses traction, as long as it is open source or published somewhere, someone else can pick it up where you left off. You might even find inspiration in other people’s enthusiasm and find a way to enjoy it again. This world right now is crazy and we are instructed to “stay inside” when any healthy minded person a year ago would have told you "spend more time outside."