The Next Door

Well, here I sit, 5 years almost to the day of having starting working in a new career at a new company.  It’s been a wild ride, and in that time so much more has happened in my life even outside of the career shift.  Marriage, children, and a house purchase.  All the trappings of a great life vector.

So why do I feel, 5 years into this career, that I’m still behind the 8-ball?  I don’t think it’s from a lack of capability in my current role or position with my company.  Software Developer, Scrum Master, Tech Lead, all things I’m doing with varying degrees of skill joined with continued growth and learning.

So how about it?  Why does the 8-ball still seem ahead of me?  I’ve decided it has to do with vocabulary.  Not actual linguistics, but a vocabulary of knowledge that I lack that many in this line of work achieve through University, or year and years of various types of coding work on various projects.

I feel like I’m behind the 8-ball because when it comes to software engineering, I actually *am* behind the 8-ball.  I’ve cultivated a great deal of soft skills around problem solving, quick self-education when necessary, interdepartmental communication, interpersonal communication, time management, and even some software development and engineering concepts as well.  My problem is that I often fall short in knowledge that would lead me to being able to solve a problem more quickly, or have a greater understanding of a better path without having to do a whole lot of digging first.  I’ve been okay with making up for it by being able to figure shit out time and again, but I’ve been feeling a calling to educate myself again on the fundamentals.  To cultivate my software engineering vocabulary and toolbox further in advance.

Now that the whirlwind of family changes and learning on the job these past 5 years are behind me, and I find myself with some relative stability from which to grow again outside of work, professionally, I’ve decided to start tackling some University level courses.

I work remotely, and am in a fairly remote part of Ontario, at least when it comes to being easily able to actually show up at a University regularly, so I investigated several official sounding online options.  Open University, Athabasca University, a few others out there that can get you an official degree at the end of the journey.

I signed up for Athabasca, albeit in the wee hours of the morning, and went to sleep.  The next day I realized what I wanted wasn’t a piece of paper for validation.  I’ve got the career, I’ve got the fantastic workplace.  What I needed was the self-confidence in my belt of tools and books of knowledge to be able to speak on deeper levels when it comes to systems architecture, algorithms, and software engineering in general.

Enter, several University level courses available online for free, but for no accreditation.  So be it.  That’s what I need and want.  It would be lovely to get an official Computer Science degree, but that’s not what I’m looking for right now.  What I’m really looking for is a growth of fundamental knowledge and a larger toolbox from which to draw for problem solving.

Up first is Linear Algebra which I’m taking through edx.  I missed the boat on actually following along live with the class of 2018, but it’s set up for auditing and self-paced learning outside of the normal window.  I’m looking to document my progress through the course, and subsequent courses by trying to distill what I’m learning down a little bit.  Maybe some haiku would be good?  Force me to thoroughly process my learnings to be able to take it down so far for various concepts… who knows?

In any case, it’s time to pass out, my brain needs to digest the day, and my mind needs the sleep.

Peace,

Shane

On Life and Death, and Poetry : A tribute to Michel Dallaire

Life

I haven’t really written in a vey long time. I’ve instead been painting with decisions, and actions, and the joys and sorrows of a new routine sought and earned.

A man died this week; a man I once called uncle, then mentor, friend… and now since his departure from this place where we are bound in the physical I’ve just been calling memories of him to mind as often as possible.

Michel Dallaire. A cherished French Canadian poet and author. A brother. A son. A mentor. So many titles are laid at his feet by those that had the good fortune to have crossed paths with him and have been inspired by that crossing.

His crossing of my path happened at the most opportune of times for me at least. In the middle of my teenage angst. I met an uncle, a poet.

A family reunion full of aunts and uncles and cousins so far removed they may as well be in a neighbouring province or country. Me, in this crowd, extremely uncomfortable. Michel. A side room, door cracked open. He’s playing piano. We talk. And talk. Exploring the canvas of thoughts and ideas.

During those teen years, I was thankful to be able to interact with someone who I felt understood the thoughts that raced through my mind late at night. We corresponded, for a while, back and forth in a poetic chain through which we self published a little booklet of poetry. His and mine. I was euphoric to have gone through that process with him. For him to help me step from the constraint of rhyme to which I had bound myself prior. Free verse. Free.

I’m ever grateful for his influence, and also for the messages and conversations from time to time over the years since his leaving my immediate family.

Death

I learned of his death online through Facebook, as one does these days. Suddenly the world did not have a Michel in it any longer. It hit me rather hard.

Through the day, in waves, I came to think about what gets me most of death. It’s the culling of possible paths. It’s the removal of possibilities. My future no longer contains any direction in which our paths will cross again. His thread, cut short too soon, has ended and I have only the memories I have of him to sift through.

It’s the same reason I have trouble being decisive at times. Deciding and acting removes possibility, and while I know full well the flaw in this thinking when it comes to refraining from decision, in the moment it almost always feels better to leave all future possibilities on the table.

Yet we cannot, and truly live. We must act and decide and grow and cull and foster and tend.

And Death

I haven’t written in a long time, and the guilt of that hit me hard when I learned of Michel’s passing. A man who inspired me so fully towards writing I thought for sure all paths of my own would continue that writing no matter what.

Since 2013 I have been deciding and acting and growing my path towards a destination that I have achieved. A job I love, a wife I love, a son I love, a home I can afford (and love), and a countryside to explore.

All of those decisions led me away from my frequent writing. They led me far away from the comfort one has in such frequency of writing. No confidence have I had in my writing for some time now.

Out of practice. In a community of software developers in a job that I love, I’ve feared opening myself up to my old ease of vulnerability in writing. I’d killed that free spirit, to some extent, in favour of the certainty that vulnerability not presented can not harm.

And death.

Michel. Thank you. I know I’ve expressed in words over time how much your presence in my life at that time so many years ago and since has meant to me. It doesn’t change the fact that I had planned to continue thanking you for many years to come.

I will miss you. I will miss the possibility of seeing you again. I will miss the possibility of introducing my family to you.

I want to make a bold statement now, that I will wake up to the muses and daemons when they call late at night with words whispered in my ear. That the wind will give me pause again, the moon, the sun, the waves on the bay. I would have, once, made such a statement.

Unfortunately, I do not know if I will answer those calls or not, when they come visiting. I cannot make such a statement.

Life Again

I will post this, though. These words. Mostly unedited and raw. A little vulnerability in my sharing of your impact on a large part of my core. It’s how you found me in the beginning.

Maybe more words will come to me. More poetry beyond the laughter I can sometimes evoke from my son and wife and others around me. The kind forged of emotion and words and hopefully some of the echoes of your imprint on my spirit.

Thank you, always. Thank you.

Your friend.

Shane

Vacancy

I’ve left Toronto, my home of 13 years.  Today the house closed.  I picked up the keys around 3:30PM in Mississauga on my way to my new stomping ground.  The beautiful Bruce Peninsula.

I don’t have much more to say.  Buying a house for the first time is a harrowing experience.  I’m glad I’ve done it.  Hopefully, should the opportunity present itself again and we decide to make a purchase, I’ll have a better sense of everything.

Tonight I sleep at my mother in law’s and tomorrow morning we drive our rental truck over the property and unload.

Toronto may have a new vacancy, but my heart will always have a piece of Toronto contained within.

Peace,

Shane