tablesaw: Close crop on Brock Samson's I'm-gonna-kill-you face. (Brock Samson)
The office shut down for the last week of the year, and I spent almost all of it at home, sleeping far too late, and playing videogames. It was perfect.

There's been a lot of stress in the last month. We're buying a house, the national political landscape continues to shift, and there was friends and family to visit in and out of town. We tried to cut down on extra stresses (this was the first time in my life I didn't decorate a Christmas tree, and we abandoned plans to travel to Boston for the Mystery Hunt), but it was still tough.

In addition to all this, I've been stuck on some intractable problems at work, which had been decimating my "agile velocity" and generally demoralizing me. I knew I was getting burned out, but I knew the winter break was coming, so I held out.

Now that I'm on the other side of the break, I can tell how stressed I was and how direct the solution is.

I'd already noticed some changes, since transitioning from general office work to programming. One was that I have been doing a lot less puzzling since problem-solving became my job. Another is that I haven't had as much time for leisure during workday downtime. I never really felt like I *needed* a vacation, so I saved up time (non-salaried) and felt fine. Even at my last job—programming with friends on a team, taking long convivial lunches—I got to dispense with a lot more stress than I realized.

So I'm trying to hold on to the change I feel between now and two weeks ago to remember to take the sustained time off. Even if there's nowhere I need to travel to. Because, while I hope to end up in another workplace with more day-to-day destressing, I'm probably not going to want a less-demanding job any time soon.
tablesaw: A young Shawn Spencer learns proper saw technique from his dad. (Cartoon)
When I was laid off from my last job, and I settled in to relearn programming, a friend told me not to think of it as learning to be a programmer: Programmers are always learning; at some point, you just call yourself a programmer.

Today, I approached the app I've been building with a specific goal (writing tests for the basic framework of the app thus far). I got started in the morning, I worked for a few hours, I got frustrated and grabbed some lunch, I went back to work, and when I finished it was evening, and I'd met my goal.

I didn't necessarily do it well, but I did it consistently, and I'm going to do it again tomorrow.

So starting today, I'm calling myself a programmer.

Now to get much, much better at it.
tablesaw: -- (Real1)
Short version:

I've been laid off again, and I'd like help taking a month or so catching up with technology and programming, most likely with the goal of starting a new career, but also for my own fulfillment.

OK—deep breath—let me elaborate.

At the beginning of February, everyone in my department was called into a room at the same time despite being in offices across the country, and we were informed that our department was being outsourced. This has happened before. The last time it happened, I ended up working temp assignments pretty much immediately, and I worked continuously (though at temp-job salary) for about a year, when I got a permanent position. It was a good permanent position with a good salary, but everything's come around again, and my last day of work is on Friday.

I've been putting off planning what I'm going to do next, because up until last week, I'd been busy planning a wedding (mine, yeah, happened last week, sorry I didn't mention it here). But now, satisfactorily wedded, I'm turning my attention to the empty days ahead, and what I need right now is a lot of help.

See, I know that if I wanted to, I could go back to the placement agencies and go through the same cycle again, but because I do a pretty niche administrative job, outsourcing seems eternally inevitable. And it's not a job I particularly enjoy; the thing it had most to recommend itself was stability, and it's clearly lost that. I'm looking toward something new.

I'm skirting around this paragraph, because it feels like I'm giving into cliche. I want to get into programming!!!1! That's the hot new thing, right? I was at this pool party and a man leaned over and whispered into my ear, "Programming," and now I'm going to do something on the World Wide Web!

But it's more than that. I started programming when I was six, but I stopped in college when I shifted focus to arts and performance to help ease my growing depression. And as time went on, I fell more and more out of sync with things. The world became plug-and-play, and I got complacent. Through it all, I missed programming, but felt like I never had the time to bring my programming expertise literally out of the twentieth century. I know how to code, I just don't really know anything to code in any more.

The last time I was laid off, a friend encouraged me to shift to web development, and I was just about to start looking at Rails, but the temp work came in fast, and I let it all slide. I don't want that to happen again, so I'm telling the placement agency that I'm taking a month for myself to learn new skills. I've got a cushion from the severance package, so I don't need to worry about income immediately, certainly not for a month. So I'm looking at April, at least, as a catch-up month.

And now, I get around to the help. I am friends with lots of very smart people in all areas of technology and programming (psst, that's you), and I'm hoping that I can both get lots of help, but also spread that amongst a bunch of you, so I don't feel like I'm leaning too hard on anyone. Some things I'd like to hear your thoughts about right now:
  • What sort of programming should I be looking at doing? As I said above, I have a good friend who's pushing me strongly into doing webdev, which seems promising. But I know I have firends (who don't see me every week for gaming) in other fields who might want to stump for their own specialties. Any thoughts?
  • What references/manuals do you recommend? I'd like to get any books I should look for sooner rather than later.
  • What sort of technology am I going to need? I've got a cheap, basic prebuilt desktop computer that I bought at Staples five years ago. It has been intimated that I might need a laptop or something stronger.
But knowing myself, I think these next two are the most important:
  • What sorts of challenges can I set up for myself to drive learning?
  • Can I bug you for help and encouragement?
I know that I learn best when I can apply techniques to a specific problem, and it's hard for me to invent those out of thin air. And I'm always a little anxious about making direct contact with folks, so knowing that it's okay will help a lot.

I don't really know what's going to come of all of this. It's possible that at the end of all of this, I'm going to go back to doing the same kind of job, or shift to an administrative IT position, but I just want to feel like I'm caught up with everything.

Thanks for everything.

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August 2017

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