Life as an Extreme Sport

to boldly go

I’ve had jobs that are there to just pay the bills. I had an entire career that, like most of the dotcom employees, I fell into sideways, and stayed for the money, not for any particular love of the work. And now I’m working in a field I love, and am passionate about. I live, breathe, sleep and eat it in a way I never truly embraced (but had forced on me) in the computer sector, and I’m enjoying every ulcer-inducing moment of it.

I’m also in a state of some awe at being here, finally, in this position of doing what I love. I’ve been working towards it slowly for years, but I think I really thought it would be several more years, maybe even a decade. So there’s the natural inclination to wonder just how I got so, in my view, lucky! The thing is, though, when I step back, I don’t think luck had anything to do with it. I’m here because of hard work, stubborn determination, and that infectious passion for the subject that lets me step up and speak, regardless of who’s around.

It seems like there’s a growing desire, on a lot of people’s part, to blame their lack of success on things out of their control. If they’d only been born into a rich family, if they could have gone to a fully funded Ivy League college. There’s this belief that some people have an easy life laid out for them, and others are doomed to be living failures, solely because of their birth. There’s no personal accountability, no responsibility for one’s actions – it’s all society, all things outside their hands. It’s an ill-fated, pre-deterministic, martyrdom of “poor me.”

I marvel at people who are capable of living like that, and believing those things. The belief itself seems so toxic! And they would likely look at me, and see someone who’s been handed everything just because I have everything. They wouldn’t see the years living as a broke student, or that I paid for college myself, took out huge loans to get through, worked fulltime while teaching and taking classes. That I busted my ass, and now I’m reaping the rewards. People with that toxic mindset would try to find something in my story to write my success off to, some way where it didn’t stem from my actions. And I think that’s offensive, to me and everyone else who’s bootstrapped their way into success
My father was quite literally raised in a one room cabin in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. My mother lived in a small, three bedroom house in the deep south – with her sister, parents, and five brothers. Neither had college educations when they married, to say they were anything but very low income class would be a gross misrepresentation of facts. And yet they worked hard, for themselves and their children, and they pulled themselves up to where they are now. But there was not a silver spoon to be had for my infant mouth.

I was reading an article yesterday that made me smile, not just because it was a very characteristic interview of someone I have grown to admire greatly, but because of how he speaks of getting one of his most prominent academic positions. He wrote a letter to the new director of a certain center, and basically said “Dear Doc – you would be nuts not to talk with me about the center.” It’s brash, it’s ballsy, and it’s how you get ahead.

Life isn’t going to send you an engraved invitation to join the party; sitting around and moping and waiting will get you nowhere, and fast. Life will happen with or without you; make it happen with you, not to you. Find the thing you’re passionate in, and chase it. Make yourself be noticed, stand up and stand out.

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