Thursday, December 8, 2016

Four Years of My Life, Each Ending in 6

I was born in 1964, in January. As of this writing in December of 2016 I'm nearing the end of my 52nd lap around the sun. As I've been thinking about my life now and the time of transition I'm in, I recall other transition times. Oddly, four important transition times in my life have come to their culmination in a year ending with 6.

1986. I had been going to school at University of Wyoming (pretending to be a student) since fall of 1982. I arrived at Laramie from west Michigan where I was born and raised in a small town. I showed up with a pretty impressive substance abuse problem for someone my age. During my years in Laramie, in the heyday of the 'Just Say No' Reagan 80's, I went pro. As a friend and roommate put it, in the summer of '86 we were Promenading Down the Funky Broadway. When the fall semester started that year, my lifestyle was off the rails. I actually tried to keep up with my classes, but I was too engrossed in a culture of drugs and alcohol. I flunked every one of my classes except for an Economics class, for which I believe my major advisor (who was the instructor) gave me the gift of an A.

This was taken in 1986 at a sister's wedding reception. My face tells the story. Two of my three sisters are there.

My life had become a shambles, and dangerous. I was messing around with a culture that had the potential to send me to a prison or mental hospital. When I wasn't high I was depressed. So finally I figured out that I needed to leave Laramie. And I needed to be at least several hours away. My long time girlfriend had a job and was living in Grand Junction. That seemed far enough away, and I didn't have many other options. We had more or less broken up during my crazy summer (she had graduated in May and left town to go to work). Now I begged her to let me escape Wyoming. Grudgingly, she did. In December I moved to Grand Junction with no job and no plans other than getting away. I've been in Colorado ever since.

1996. I defended a thesis and graduated with a Masters Degree in Computer Information Systems from Colorado State University. I accepted a job at Hewlett-Packard in Colorado Springs.

On the way home from a house-hunting trip, I stopped at Mt Falcon Park near Morrison, CO to ride my bike. During that ride I crashed and sustained a traumatic brain injury. I still have an inches-long scar on the left side of my skull from the impact. I drove home to Fort Collins from Mt Falcon by myself after the accident. Drove right to my house in rush hour traffic and remember none of it at all. I used my golden hour to make it home. I lost the memory of most of that day. I know I was at Mt Falcon only because I knew that was my plan. First I remember is being slid into a CAT Scan tube at midnight.

I think this was around January '96. The mullet was replaced by a grownup short haircut before I went to work at HP.

I started my career at HP with stitches hidden under my hair. I didn't want them to know, because I was afraid I might not be as smart as the guy they'd interviewed and hired. I worked my ass off that first year. By Christmas I was fat, as heavy as I've ever gotten. But I'd figured out how to be a valuable staff member. So my job was secure, I was married to the girlfriend from Wyoming, and had a house in Black Forest. I was 32 and had become a responsible grownup.

2006. My marriage had been falling apart for the whole year. In May of 2003 I had been laid off from Agilent Technologies (an HP spin-off). Agilent had moved me to Salida to be a stay-at-home programmer. Things had been tense between my ex and I from the job loss. Then there were some deaths in her family and we lost some beloved pets. We were withdrawn from each other, each of us pursuing our individual interests. I was suffering from anxiety and depression and a loss of identity.

During the Thanksgiving holiday that year, we had the fight that ended it. We separated, but there was no place for me to go. We weren't ready to sell the house, and she was the one who loved it, so I was going to need to find a place.

It was December. As soon as I knew that we were separating I signed up for a 24 Solo spot at the 24 in the Old Pueblo near Tucson. I had been wanting to do a 24 Solo after years of being on 4-man teams. Now I was free to do whatever I wanted. So I signed up and started figuring out how to get fit for it in the couple months I had until February.

I sold my last chunk of Agilent stock and bought a travel trailer. To hell with getting an apartment and sitting in it through the winter. Our early winter had already been suckful and it was making me miserable. I decided to drag the trailer down to Southern Arizona to live and train.

During December I was getting the trailer ready. And I was looking for a window of good weather to get out of the mountains. I wrote a blog post when I finally decided to stop waiting for dry road and just GTFO. I don't mention the trailer in the blog post, but that was really the deal--hauling a 4400 pound 2-axle trailer in a raging storm was scary. But eventually, the need to be gone overcame the need to be safe.

Standing in front of my trailer in Colossal Cave Mountain Park east of Tucson. First day. So... now what?

I met some amazing people down there, got involved in Arizona Trail trail work, and was eventually offered a job on a Pima County trail crew that could lead to supervisor. I almost stayed. But Salida drew me back.

2016. Which is now.

During the last 10 years I took endurance riding to a level that I'd never achieved. I had a long relationship with a wonderful woman that sadly didn't work. Relationships with women have gotten harder to keep working. I've become a crotchety old fart. I sustained injuries in a motorcycle accident in 2014 that kept me off the bike for four months, and it aged me. My beard is now totally gray.

Snow biking 12/7/2016. The hunting beard has become the winter beard. Needed it for the warmth that day!

In 2010 I went back to a programming staff job after working for Absolute Bikes starting in 2004. I worked hard, and made enough to buy a house of my own in 2011. That first return to IT job was in Buena Vista. In 2012 an old friend gave me an IT job here in town, 13 blocks from home.

This year, I seem to have lost the ability to do the work. My brain simply is not as agile as it was years and decades ago. Keep in mind, I had the 80s with vigorous substance abuse, a major TBI in 1983 and an even worse one in '96 (described above). And I'm aging.

I don't find the new technology exciting any more. The pace of change is exhausting to me. Becoming low-productivity and resistent to change is classic for aging softward developers. I remember the people we called dinosaurs back in my HP days. Now I'm the dinosaur. If I still worked for a big company like Agilent I would have had the option to go into management perhaps. But I chose Salida--I stayed when corporate America barfed me out.

Being a software developer is hard work. And it's over for me, at least as far as I'm concerned right now. I can still do things with computers, but writing the stuff that runs on them is now somebody else's job. I am both crying uncle and choosing life. So there's my transition theme for now.

I'm back to working at the bike shop, which is good for me. I'm trying to get my body healthy again (desk time and the impact on my energy level from feeling inadequate at work have taken their toll). I want to lose 15 pounds and get VT125-fit again.

I hunted successfully this Fall, killing a young mule deer buck. He's in my freezer. My life will hopefully be simpler and cheaper in the coming years. It will need to be cheaper because my income just took a pretty severe haircut. I have my amazing little dog and three good cats, a house in a town that has become my place to put down roots (17th year!), and many dear friends. As I have in four years ending with 7, I'll create a new reality for myself. Nothing to do now but get on with it.

Funny how life can happen in tidy little decade chunks.