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Hi. I'm a Unix Administrator, mathematics enthusiast, and amateur philosopher. This is where I rant about that which upsets me, laugh about that which amuses me, and jabber about that which holds my interest most: Unix.
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Shut up and Hack

Posted 06-27-2014 at 12:06 AM by rocket357

I'm nearly 75% through a bottle of Merlot, so this blog post may not be here tomorrow afternoon after I sober up a bit and get a chance to read it. Suffice it to say this won't be one of my typical technically-inclined posts.

I read something tonight that bothered me. I happened upon a brilliantly written blog about a young woman's struggle for finding her self worth and her identity. It brought tears to my eyes as I read through her setbacks, her victories, and eventual vindication. It was an excellent read by an incredibly talented writer.

What bothered me about it is that the young woman in question is my sister. I knew that she had many questions as a child and the strict Christian home we grew up in had limitations on understanding, but I never realized **why** things worked out the way they did. (Spoiler: She's no longer Christian, having managed to denounce her upbringing and maintain an on-going relationship with our parents). Really, I'm amazed at what she was able to accomplish. I'm equally amazed at the compassion and understanding my parents did manage to display during what surely was a painful experience (having one of their children denounce their upbringing).

I'm a pretty shitty brother. I managed to live under the same roof with my siblings and never notice the pain my sister (any of my siblings, actually) was enduring. There were a number of life-altering events that took place when I was a kid, and I didn't have it together enough to see what was going on right outside my internal garden. I was too withdrawn to be engaged enough to notice.

But as I think about the events that took place, I can't help but realize that many of them were society's expectations. My sister was told she couldn't lead singing in church, but she could help in the kitchen or nursery (really?!? WTF?). My brother competed with me for my father's attention so much that when I mentioned it in conversation nearly *20* years later, he said "wait...what? You gave up 1995?". I was harassed and bullied relentlessly by lesser-minded scumbags that I went to school with because I was a very clumsy and awkward kid who wore glasses since anyone could remember.

I joined the Marines in 1997. I pushed through the daily pain and torment for five years. I never fully understood why I did that until just now. I scored 1 point shy of a perfect score on the ASVAB (military entrance test in the US), and the Army, Navy, and Air Force called me constantly to discuss opportunities. I turned them all down. And now I understand why.

Sure, I could've gotten more money for college going to the Army or Air Force, so it apparently wasn't college money (the typical excuse I barfed to people who asked at the time). I could've worked on the same gear had I gone into the Navy, so it wasn't the technology. I chose the Marines because I wanted to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was mentally and physically able to survive the toughest military entry boot camp on earth (the remaining 4 years and 9 months were another story, but I digress. I apparently didn't think that through to completion hah!).

I swallowed my fucking pride and joined up, realizing that it would suck and that my life would NEVER be the same afterwards. I was terrified, like so many others in boot camp, that I wouldn't be able to hack it and I'd be tossed aside as a broken human. I watched as others fell apart and grown men snapped like twigs under the pressure. I watched people figuratively and, sometimes, literally break.

I dunno...I think I was too fascinated with the psychology lessons going on around me (seriously, how often do you get to witness people pushed to their absolute limits...think about that) to notice that I actually completed boot camp. I was no squad leader or stellar recruit, but I survived. I graduated on top of a mountain in Southern California with Sergeant Smith pinning my EGA on my collar. I thought to myself as he spewed some bit about "making it" that I'd managed to prove to myself (no one else matters if you don't trust your own capabilities) that I was able to do ANYTHING I set my mind to. What a mind f*ck.

I left the Marines many years later with a girlfriend (who later became my wife) and a feeling that the world was mine for the taking. All I had to do was go get it. I failed to do that miserably, because the nice rigid structure of the Marines is **very** lacking in civilian life. I was gripped with fear of the sheer chaos going on around me. I was presented the second opportunity to prove myself. Years passed and I fell further into useless depression and fear, until one day my girlfriend told me something that changed everything.

Let me tell you something about human psychology. Humans are pre-programmed to avoid danger. Humans have survived for, well, all of human history because humans are good at avoiding danger. Fear keeps us safe.

You know what overcomes fear? Bigger fear.

My girlfriend told me she was pregnant. Suddenly I was responsible not for another human who was more than capable of taking care of herself (seriously, my wife made more money than me when we met and has the Cali attitude and street smarts that I lack), but now I'm responsible for this innocent, defenseless, *tiny* human who can do nothing but cry to express herself. Suddenly whether or not food was on the table became a **personal** issue, and I worked my tail off in school to learn everything I could to land the best job possible. I graduated with a 3.6 GPA after my first run in college left me with a 1.8 GPA. This time it mattered not for me, but for this tiny child that didn't just need me...she *demanded* that I work harder to give her the life she needed.

Fear is a bitch. Thus endeth the lesson.

Only, it doesn't end there. There have been times in life that I was mortified of something before me (boot camp, a roller coaster, an exam, etc...) and I worked my fingers to the bone to prepare as best I could. Fear is a ghost...a mental limitation that exists ONLY IN MY SKULL. Fear is the enemy.

I learned at a young (ish) age to give fear the finger and, as Nike commercials suggest, just do it. I've closed my eyes and dove off a cliff, only to open my eyes 10 seconds later and think "Jesus, I'm an idiot. What was I thinking?!?" I've come to realize that humans are capable of amazing things **when they are required to perform in order to survive**. Close your eyes, imagine a field full of flowers or whatever floats your boat, **and fucking jump**.

This philosophy has served me well through the years. I seriously didn't think I'd make the cut to get hired at a place like Rackspace, but guess what? I had a pretty damn good time there. I really didn't think I'd make the cut for Amazon, but guess again...loving it here, too. There will be interviews in life that don't jive (I've interviewed with Google twice and RealPage once, all three ended in disaster), but I would rather get to the end of my life and think "well, I tried!" than "I wonder if I could've made it?"

Close your eyes, forget what you've been told, give the world the finger, and take the plunge. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Thus endeth the lesson (for real this time).
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