My story lives on

I don’t know when it all started.

There was a point where I remember a darkness draping over me. It was at the Oakland Coliseum at an A’s game when I was about 13. The closest I can get to describing it is the scene from Wall Street when Gordon Gecko is in the locker room and the whole scene just goes dark in an ominous manner. It hasn’t left since.

I don’t know the cause. I often think maybe there’s something in my childhood I can attribute it to; or blame.

My dad is an engineer. He started out in Electrical Engineering, and decided to switch to the newly created field of Computer Science. I didn’t want to do what he did.

I was a poor student. When I was in first grade I was reading at a high school level. I was denied entry into the GATE program for having a messy desk. I didn’t play sports. I played Star Raiders and Zork on my dad’s Atari 800. I input basic programs from the back of computer magazines.

There was a time when I didn’t sleep much for a year. I’d stay up all night and maybe get an hour or two of rest a night. I felt alone.

I was held back. Sentenced to serve another year in the 6th grade. As a consolation I was allowed to be a crossing guard. It turned out to be a good thing. My teacher allowed me freedom from the structure of the normal classroom and I thrived. I was the popular/smart kid for a year. The most popular girl in the 6th grade was also my girlfriend. I went to all the parties. She signed my yearbook “Love Jennifer”, then scratched out the Love and put something else instead.

At 12 we moved. Although it was only 30 miles away it was an absolute culture shock. I was the popular kid about to become the kid that was beat up for wearing “Zaps” shoes. They were hightops a letter “Z” that you could pull off and change the color. They attached with Velcro.

Kids seemed to be more divided. There were the rednecks that wore big belt buckles and Dallas Cowboys attire even though the 49ers played 20 miles away. There were the surfers. There were the stoners. I learned peer pressure and smoked pot for the first time behind the library with a stoner. I never fit in as a stoner. I never fit into any of the groups. I did my best to try. I stayed home and read a lot.

I had read car magazines since I was very small. Cars and mechanical things had to be taken apart. I bought my first car when I was 15. I worked at a gas station and I saved all my money. I made $3.25 an hour but I saved. I was engrossed in my car. I sat in class and daydreamed about it. I couldn’t focus on anything else.

I dropped out of high school in my senior year. Most of my grades were in the “C” through “F” range. I’d always be excited in a class and just lose interest. I didn’t do my homework.

I decided to go to junior college. I moved to my grandmother’s. I couldn’t sleep at night. I was scared to close my eyes. I heard things when I shut my eyes. I learned to ignore it. I don’t know if it’s still there. I prided myself on being resilient.

After a couple of semesters I went back to the Bay Area. I found out my parents had divorced. They didn’t tell me. My mom said my Dad was crazy. He took dangerous medicines. She said he was manic-depressive. My mom was aggressive my Dad passive. I never saw mood swings out of my Dad. He was always kind for the most part. My mom had a way of making you feel bad. She had violent mood swings.

I went to college again. I had to be tested because I hadn’t graduated from high school. I was put in the most advanced English class even though I had not passed one English class in high school. I lost motivation to go. I was working at a department store and I met a girl and we got married. I was 21. She cooked. We had a daughter. I went back to school. I went during the day and worked at night. My wife at the time worked during the day. I’d sleep maybe a couple of hours before the baby was up.

I made manager at the job I was at. I’d work non-stop even off the clock. I loved a challenge and I was rewarded with numerous raises. I remember calling a depression hotline from the shipping area. Then the feeling would go away and I had no clue why I would do such a thing. Then it would come back. I lost motivation for that job and I joined the navy. I didn’t tell my wife until after the fact. I left and I was happy to be doing something new. I wanted to be a mechanic. They told me I could only work on electronics or go into the nuclear program because of my test scores. I chose electronics. I found out later they were lying.

I spent 2 years in electronics school in Illinois. We were always kept busy. There was no time to think and everything was structured and done for you.

I was sent to be stationed on a ship in San Diego. I was happy to go back to California weather. I got used to the life of a sailor. It chips away at your morals. I drank often and had the proverbial girl in every port. My marriage didn’t last. I met a girl I thought I was in love with and I went AWOL. I was at the top of the world and then one day I leveled out and realized I should turn myself in. I broke down in a cell in the brig. They put me in a hospital. They let me out and I got so depressed; maybe it was the guilt of what I had done. Before long I was back in the hospital again.

I was discharged honorably. My bosses stood up for me and said I was just going through a hard time. I got a job as soon as I was out working on electronics. I decided to finish my degree using the GI Bill. Luckily they force you to pick a major and plan out every quarter. I don’t think I would have graduated otherwise.

I got married again impulsively not too long after I was divorced. I I had another child. My second wife was equally impulsive as I. She left home at a very young age. She has her own demons. I had to always tell her what she wanted to hear. I had never been so miserable. I spent years reflecting on my life while I was keeping it together for my daughter. I finally couldn’t take it any longer. It killed inside to be doing this again. She still terrorizes me and it’s been 2 years since I left.

I started off programming in C for a few years. Then I discovered scripting in bash. Then python. Then Ruby. I had no experience in the web. It was hard making the move. I realized passion matters and used it to get a job at a startup. I love working for startups. I’m on my second. The challenge keeps me motivated and I’m given so much latitude in choosing what tools I use and I enjoy the atmosphere. I feel like my lack of focus and my ability to see a whole system keeps me engaged. I have decided to focus in on Ruby. It’s hard not to get side tracked.

Sometimes I wish I could make my brain stop. I wonder what would happen if I could focus.

I’ve taken many medicines. I’ve seen many doctors. I feel like I just need to accept this is the way I am. Maybe I should embrace it.

You mean like a new startup company you work for? or a little project on spare time?

The only thing I can relate to this story is my grades at school (10 years ago or so). If there is something I don’t understand in a subject or a class, or my teacher is not too clear, I try my best but sometimes I fail, which really puts me down. And I am the kind of guy that doesn’t go up to the teacher or other students and ask for help. I guess you can say I want to show that I can ‘handle it’. But I fail at the end and I start blaming myself. I hate this about me…