Third Time's The Charm
I started my journey in working with technology, more specifically, coding, in 1977, on a rickety chair, in a small classroom at Bennington College, with an imposing DEC PDP 11/70. I made my first money coding in 1979, working in a cardiovascular laboratory for Columbia Presbyterian Hospital (now known as New York-Presbyterian), analyzing data on patients who had open heart surgery.
For a variety of reasons, mostly because coding wasn't cool, nor an assured career path in 1981, I went to graduate school. But in graduate school, I did a lot of coding. In 1997, after 7 years of teaching at Hampshire College, and on a sabbatical, I started my career in non-profit technology, working with a couple of organizations on technology change, which was a big thing back then. I left academia in 1999, and did this work full time.
Technology and coding have always been, and probably always will be, an important part of my life. I enjoy solving those kinds of problems. But as my livelihood, it's been on and off. Mostly on, but sometimes off. I took a break in 2005-2007, when I moved here to California, went to seminary, and thought I was going to start a ministry career. That ministry career didn't happen, and I went back to working in nonprofit tech. I took a second break, in 2014-2017, when I started on my path to become a coach of mindfulness, self-compassion, and emotional regulation in the context of relationships.
I'm ending my technology career for the third and final time at the end of this year. I'm not quite retiring, per se, but the amount of paid work I do will be greatly reduced, so I'll have more time for writing, working on our ranch, volunteering, and leisure.
I'm really proud of the work I've done in non-profit technology over the course of more than 25 years. Most of it, of course, was ephemeral and is long gone. Technology plans implemented for technology which is now obsolete. Websites and web applications replaced years ago. I happened upon an open source web application development platform I'd written in Perl back in 1999-2003, and was sort of amazed by it, but it is so, so obsolete now. I'm glad I got to be a voice for open source software in the nonprofit sector, even though that was one of the more frustrating causes ever. Interestingly, that battle was both won and lost at the same time. I'm also really happy with my most recent work, focused on internet freedom, some of which might live on, at least for a little bit.
So why am I finally hanging up my coding hat? Why now? A few reasons. First, I simply don't have the brain I did 20 or even 10 years ago. It takes me longer to solve technical problems, and newer technology gets more and more arcane to my brain. Secondly, I'm really tired of keeping up. Doing this work involves a constant process of getting to know the newest things - whether it be the new web frameworks, new DevOps tools, new languages, new cool libraries, etc., etc. I'm just done with all of that, and I know I can't really do a good job if I'm not keeping up.
And last, but I think not least, as I get closer to the end of my life, I get more clear that focusing on the things that matter the most to me, most deeply is an important part of the aging process. I'll still be puttering, I'm sure. I have an open source project I want to maintain for as long as I can, and I want to keep contributing to a very few others as they make sense. There are possibly some volunteer projects that will come along. But it will be such a smaller part of my life, and no longer an important anchor.
I'm excited about my next chapter. I'm focusing on my work as an embodiment and self-compassion workshop facilitator and teacher, work that I've been doing very part time since early pandemic days. I also will be doing some work on trauma-informed organizational process, creating safe(r) spaces for trans and gender-expansive employees, a new direction I'm excited about. I have some amazing collaborations that are in development, which I'll be sharing about when they come to fruition. I've been working a lot with the Wheel of Consent, and expect to be teaching the Wheel in late 2021 and 2022 and onward.
Life, for me, right now, is really good. Even in the midst of a burning, flooding, problematic world, and an aching, creaky, complaining body, I'm managing to find my way to joy and contentment. There isn't really much more I can ask. I am grateful to have gotten to this place.