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Good Times

Since I graduated UT-Austin, I’ve been searching for a profession.

My goals were modest; a likeable job, my own place. I wasn’t asking for that much, enough to be independent and in a position to raise a family. I’d planned to live with my folks for a few years, save up and use that as capital for my own thing, whatever that might be.

Eventually, I took up programming. I found a tiny little niche, which I suspect a lot of people have drifted in and out of, over the years. For a long time, it looked like it might be relatively dry, where I’d have to scrape and scrape to make enough to justify the effort I put in. Then, yesterday, I made a couple key realizations, game-changing ones that transformed how much I could make and how quickly I can make it. It went from beer money to a good fallback income.

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Now, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I have a profession which can support me. I can live anywhere that I want, within the continental US. And that stigma is gone – of time running out for me, of being unable to hold down a job, of having nothing to talk about when the topic of careers comes up, of shame. Things are really good now, and after checking and re-checking things in my head, the hardest part is behind me. It feels really good, just an immense feeling of relief.

A couple points.

One, as I was saying to my friend yesterday: programming is the new factory job, in a historical sense. It’s an amorphous field, but in the end it’s a decent job where you can put in a solid day and make a fair wage at the end. Those jobs are getting fewer and farther between, especially without expensive credentials; programming is unique in that, in terms of the job market, it doesn’t strictly require them. You shouldn’t reify it; you don’t have to love computers or technology or be smart or have a smartphone (I don’t) to do it. It’s just a ready source of money that’s not too hard to pick up and that returns the most reward for the least effort. You don’t need any other reasons to learn it, besides that.

Two, my niche has been a window into the business world, a shadowy side of it where you can see the market in action behind the scenes, where prices are set and customers are set up to buy into them. One of the things that really stands out about it is the sense in which there are no signposts; you could be standing right on top of a gold mine, but unless you know what a gold mine looks like, you’d never know. It would look like just any other patch of grass; dig one inch to the left or right and you’ll just find rocks, but in this one inconspicuous spot, there’s millions. Also, more obviously, don’t trust the sellers to have your best interests at heart, or even to be fair. You’re profit to them; sentimental illusions about this are dangerous.

Three, if you’ve ever heard that expression ‘there are no overnight successes:’  this is true, if you mean you have to learn a lot first. Yet there can be overnight breakthroughs, overnight leaps in possibility. Sometimes small changes in boring places are enough to transform a money-losing proposition into a huge win. A couple days ago, I was resigned to struggling in this field. Now I’m expecting to make much more than I planned on.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m happy.

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