One Year Later

A year ago I was on a military deployment to Somalia. At that time I was uncertain about my future upon returning home. I would be retiring out of the Oregon National Guard, turning 50, and moving to a new city in southern Oregon. The economics and types of jobs in the area are not not good for someone my age looking to reenter the job market. Basically, it is all construction or timber oriented, or, health care. Being that I gave a lot of my body to the military and I have various aches and pains now from being infantry and such, I wasn’t really relishing starting over in a job where I’d be nothing more than lifting heavy things.

Besides, I’m a nerd. Surely there was something I could do? In the 90’s I learned HTML and have off-and-on served as web administrator (when such titles existed). Why not web design?

I invested a couple thousand dollars into some online training programs to learn HTML, CSS, and be introduced to things like Node.js, GitHub, and more. Being that I was in Somalia, our network was slow and spotty and unreliable. Online courses were difficult to take, but I pushed on. To fill time when I couldn’t stream videos, I started reading. Here I got overly ambitious. I started reading things on Python (and joined some websites and took some tutorials when the network allowed), JavaScript, R (because I love displaying data in a beautiful way), Ruby (because the book was so hilarious, if not weird), and Swift.

And it confused the living crap out of me. Switching back and forth between languages made it all worse. Should I just pick one and go there? Which one? I opted for Python, if for no other reason than I am a big fan of Monty Python. And even tried to work on a text-based game using various loops and if statements. I learned to love Dracula theme and Sublime Text.

Self doubt, however, was never far away. After all, just trying to use Bbedit was sometimes daunting. And working with examples of Python in IDEL, wasn’t always the same as the training. Or trying to simply install the package in Sublime Text that would allow me to run Python. And more.

Then deployment ended and next was weeks of living on a cot in a tent for quarantine. Followed by living in a crowded room in a transition barracks for demobilization. Followed by, at long last, home.

David Allen talks about how we make plans and lists, and something happens, and it shifts everything. Suddenly I found myself back in a relationship that I had started before I left. Not only that, but now there were two kids in the mix. Darwin once pondered over whether or not to get married and have kids, or remain a bachelor. He eventually ended up married, but for a moment he was undecided. I understand why. In the months that followed my return home, the routine of my life had changed considerably. Not only from deployment to civilian, but my norms at home were different, from introvert nerd to now dating someone with two kids.

Engaging emotionally with people, and in the case of children especially, trying to be mindful of engaging as my best self (which I so often fail to do), is very tiring for me. I’m not used to it. Plus there’s all the activities and concerns of kids, visits to places, what’s for dinner, bedtime stories, play time, and more. This isn’t a lament for something lost. It is a description. The first weeks and months were tiring. I’m not well practiced in this. Kids are hard. I’ve always had respect for single parents, but in just a few short weeks and months, that respect grew ten fold. Now I look forward to seeing the kids, like hanging out with them, and playing games with them. They’re pretty awesome little humans. They get this from their mom, who is really amazing in her own ways.

In the past couple of months since I’ve returned home, there’s been Halloween and Yule, birthday parties and trips for sledding. And, the epic building of a chicken coop, where for a week I would go buy a needed tool and wood and continue construction of a chicken coop. The last thing that I’ve built was a bird house in shop class in the 80’s. I made a lot of mistakes, built and rebuilt the roof three times (and I’m still not happy with it), but in the end I have a small coop for three adorable chickens that makes everyone happy. I find myself beaming at the joy of watching the two kids go outside and talk to the chickens.

a chick coop, four feet by four feet
a chick coop, four feet by four feet
three chickens at roost, Sesame Seed, Poppie Seed, and Puddles
three chickens at roost, Sesame Seed, Poppie Seed, and Puddles

But it hasn’t all been chickens and Lego. At work, I am given fliers made on Microsoft Word (and I shudder deeply). Or perhaps a person used a better program than Word to make a flier, but the images they used are poor quality and highly pixelated. Or the original artwork, comprised of layers, made by an intern in a forgotten age, is now uneditable. As much as I’ve disliked Adobe in the past (because I couldn’t afford their suites or subscription rate) are now important tools for me (thanks to my company, I have access to the entire suite of apps). For a fun Friday night (when I’m not driving to see my sweetheart), I’m probably watching tutorials for Illustrator or Photoshop online. I was asked by my work supervisor if I’d mind reworking some fliers, because I seemed to be someone that both enjoyed it and had the tools. It was a happy couple of hours for me to recreate and edit these fliers.

What I’ve learned is that I am not a designer pro. Not even close. Even something I’ve done a couple times already, I forget and have to go look up again. How do you make text wrap around an image in Illustrator? Oh yeah, select the image (or if it doesn’t have a nice edge, create an image shape over it without lines) and select Object and Wrap. Duh. Wait, how do I adjust the hue of this image to be only green? I can do this easy peasy in Affinity Photo, but Adobe Photoshop is kicking my butt. And so it goes.

And suddenly, here it is, that tomorrow is the one year anniversary from when I bought the domain I got the reminder in my email that the domains, hosting, WordPress subs, and more would all renew. It was a hefty price and I almost let it go. But I still have ideas. Maybe this current job will dry up and I’ll need another one. But really, I’ve had ideas for two apps in mind for months. The impetus behind them is that they are something that I want and would use. Nothing exists quite like them. One of them is a different take on a common app already but, I believe, has a sounder psychological basis. I don’t want to go into more detail, because I believe it is a good one. Also, I’m not thinking to make the app to make me rich and famous (does that happen for anyone besides Flappy Bird?).

These two apps in mind would require Swift. Recently I’ve put down Python and instead have been reading JavaScript. This is because two apps I use often (Drafts and OmniFocus) can be modified with JavaScript. Also, website creation with HTML and CSS can be improved with JavaScript. And if I had these three skills under my belt, I’d be more marketable. Ground floor, junior level, if that, for sure, but still… marketable. Or least better at my current job. We had an issue and I used Developer Tools in Safari to look at the underlying CSS/HTML and find it and send it to the actual web admin.

So I’m keeping my domains. I’m scaling back over ambitious learn everything approach. I’ll work on JavaScript to beef up my HTML/CSS skillset, and I’ll start doodling some sketches for the apps in my mind (iOS only). And maybe, maybe, this time next year, I’ll be starting in Swift to start building them.

Or I might have built another chicken coop.

M1 Mac Mini powering an HP monitor.
M1 Mac Mini powering an HP monitor.

Published by Eddie

I'm a goofball. I like Doctor Who, Star Wars (yes, all of them), and of course Firefly. I think that "Out of Gas" from Firefly is the single greatest episode of any SciFi. Closely followed by "All Great Things..." from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I'm an Apple geek. Seriously, I brought a 2013 MBP and two iPads with me on deployment. Every year I watch all the Apple Keynotes. Someday I'd like to learn Swift, as I've got some ideas for some useful apps that I'd like to use. One might find me at a coffee shop, at the LGS getting more Magic: The Gathering cards, on some trail in the mountains of Oregon, on one of my Macs, running a trail, or who knows.

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