Last night, before I went to bed, I did a little "vanity search" online. First off, I found a recording of a live stream of someone talking about The Mediocre Programmer which was really touching. Sadly I'm too much of a stereotypical USA person so I'm not quite sure what the presenter was presenting but it was nice to see my little book getting wings and flying throughout the programming community. That vanity search got me reading posts on my blog from 2020. I remembered writing some of these posts. Lots of introspection and realizing that I didn't need certain things in my life (lots of board games, lots of video games, etc.). One thing that was interesting to me was the realization that I was becoming a game designer after all of these years of wanting it. It wasn't as full-force as it is now, but I recognize the seeds being planted and the self-doubt melting away. I was deep in thought that year. Part of it was of course the beginnings of us taking the pandemic seriously and "locking down", but part of it was feeling like things were possible. I went to various gaming conventions online and reconnected with the community that I'd felt I'd lost with the demise of Google Plus. It felt like an awakening for me.
There were several posts of me figuring out what was useful and what was holding me back. Game Design: Respect, Acceptance, and Admiration was a pivotal realization for me, as was realizing that I'd filled my physical and mental shelves with game design books that were no longer useful to me. I also ruminated on failure after creating a scenario for a community content contest that was more about me researching the dawn of the personal computer and less about an actual game design. I determined that I was making space for ghosts and keeping things that others put there. I reminisced about the times I was driven away by fear and how I've since learned that fear isn't something to be avoided but a useful tool for realizing you're about to step into the vast and beautiful unknown.
It's weird to me how much my life has been shaped by finding myself in difficult situations. My year-long unemployment was the onus for me to write The Mediocre Programmer. I never wanted other folks to feel the feelings that I was feeling during that time; feelings of hopelessness, abandonment, and self-doubt. It was also a response to the intense burnout and impostor syndrome that I felt during my almost two-year employment at Sourceforge / Geeknet. In many ways that book was a memoir of those times couched in a book about how I coped with those feelings. It's a self-help book for programmers, but one that doesn't try to impose what worked for me over your own version of yourself. It took me a long time to realize that my experiences were always going to be unique to me and that my experiences needn't take second-fiddle status to other folks experiences. They're unique to me.
When I realized I had cancer I decided pretty early on that I wanted to replicate the same process that I used for The Mediocre Programmer. I wanted folks to understand what folks like myself are going through, and I wanted others to know that they're not alone in all of this. I also realized that my time on this planet is pretty finite. I don't know what the cancer will do to me over the course of my life but I do know that having something that's busily turning your cells into ravenous cancer cells is going to end with either the eradication of the cancer cells or the eradication of non-cancerous cells. And yes, there's a third option that I won't live long enough to realize one or the other side's ultimate triumph but there's not much room for a happy ending. I'm just happy I'm able to keep doing things that are interesting to me and keep plugging away at game design, interactive storytelling, and dabbling with computers. In some ways I'm grateful for the wake-up call. All-too-often we take our time here for granted as though we're going to live forever. Unfortunately our lives are bounded by two implacable events: the day we came into this world and the day we'll no longer be a going concern in this world. Everything that happens in the interim is of our own making, and we choose how we're going to interact with those events. I intend to give those events my full attention and give myself permission to care deeply about the people and things that bring me happiness while setting the things that don't off to the side and jettisoning them into the ocean (or sun, depending on my mood).
After I'd finished my vanity search I sat in darkness. I like doing this from time to time as it's quiet and gives me time to think. We had the windows open and a cold-front was sweeping in creating the most amazing breeze. As I was enjoying the breeze I thought about my cancer and what I'd like to say to it. I've mentioned that I'm not a fan of the battle analogies that folks have about destroying cancer or winning the war / losing the battle. I'm reminded of an episode in Red Dwarf where Lister is fighting a sentient virus that was trying to kill him. The voice they used for it was a morning radio DJ. I haven't determined what the voice of my cancer is yet, but I decided to try to reason with it. I told it that I was thankful for it being there because it's caused many positive shifts in my life, but that it was eventually going to destroy us both. I apologized for the damage we caused it with the chemo and radiation but said that it was for the long-term good of the whole system. If I die then it dies as well. I told it that we were at an impasse. Maybe if it slowed down a bit we could prolong our relationship together. I'm not sure we can ever get rid of it entirely but if we can continue to prolong my life we can do some pretty amazing things together. I'm not sure if it will listen but there's no harm in asking.
My mom wondered if I'd ever write a memoir about my life. She thinks I have lived a remarkable life. After reading those old blog entries I think I already have, and continue to do so. If someone wants to bundle them up into a book they're free to do so. I prefer to reminisce when it's useful and keep pressing onward when it's not. I'd rather make my impact now when I can enjoy it and leave folks to discover the rest when I can't.
The man that wrote those posts in 2020 was just figuring out who he is. I recognize him but only barely. The man that writes this post still carries some of the same burdens but he's left the less-useful ones behind him. He's decided that traveling light will help him get to his destination sooner, whatever that might be.