5 years later…

I was thinking about this last night: the first PHP version of this site appeared just about 5 years ago. I’d been laid off by my former employer about a month previously, and had decided to use my free time for something constructive (for a change). That’s when I got into PHP, a hobby that took me the way of certification and, we’ll say, two and a half major updates containing significant functionality upgrades.

I can even remember that day in particular. The weather was unusually cool in Hoboken, and the sky was gray, but I was feeling pretty damn good nevertheless; I went to my local diner to get a burger and fries to celebrate version 1.0.

The realization got me to ponder things. 5 years. That’s something. I was living in Hoboken NJ at the time and was about a month or so away from being hired by what would be my next employer. The World Trade Center was still there then — in fact I got the call confirming that I was hired just after having visited the observation deck for the 3rd time. That was the last time I was up there, for obvious reasons.

I can’t help but be a little disappointed, looking back. Frankly I can’t say that I’m where I was expecting to be at this stage of my life — a statement which seems to be true on just about every level. The career isn’t where I think it should be, nor is my social existence; and to be frank since my return to Montreal I’ve been looking for a ticket out. Not necessarily back to where I was, either. Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly my choice to come back, even though that doesn’t quite jibe with what I’ve been saying since my return. I’ve become quite good at putting a positive spin on things.

Anyway, this isn’t really about where I live. What bothers me in all this is, well, me. Reflecting on my 5-years-ago self I can’t help but think that there was a lot of wasted potential there, and at a time when the world should really have been my oyster. We are, after all, talking about the span of time between my being 30 and 35. I still maintain that my dismissal from the still-unnamed employer wasn’t about what they said it was about — I’m not laying any claims to perfection, but frankly I’ve seen people fuck things up much worse than I did only to then get promotions — but the fact remains that had I done a few things differently things would be quite different now. If nothing else, had I learned the value of self-restraint one or two decades before (which, I’m told, is when normal people learn and embrace that sort of thing) and not let myself be carried away in petty materialism I could have afforded to tough things out in Hoboken until some other job came along. And if I had resigned myself earlier to the reality that even the most technical job is ultimately dependent on the relationships you form with and the impression you make on your superiors I’m confident that I’d still be working in Jersey City. Ultimately the lesson wasn’t lost. The same can’t be said for the opportunity, though.

And it was quite an opportunity. By any stretch this was *the* opportunity of a lifetime for me. Not that I was smart or well enough to see it at the time. That’s one of the things depression does to a person — you just don’t perceive things as they are, but only see things vaguely through a veil of pessimism. Funnily enough when I made the mistake that was invoked as the reason for my dismissal (I still remember doing that in creepy detail, incidentally) I was quite depressed, and the week after that I resumed taking anti-depressants. If I’d started a couple of weeks earlier… well, that’s just another if in a long line of ifs.

We all have these ifs in our pasts. No matter how great your life turns out there’s always something important that could have been done differently. I think the trick to life is just to have few of these, and not spend too much time thinking about them; that distracts from the appreciation of the present. In the end this has traditionally been my real problem — the inability to appreciate the situation as it exists “in the here and now”, so to speak.

In any case, that’s what I’ve learnt over time.


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