Jun. 12th, 2008

jackofallgeeks: (Saddened)
In Freshman year ogf High School, we were going through grammar -- in
particular, sentence diagraming. I'd done diagraming before in middle
school, and I kind of liked it because it was rather like a game.
One random monday our teacher gave us a test on diagraming. I was never a
modle student, and as such didn't apply much effort into studying over the
weekend. When the grades came back, our teacher said she was really
disappointed because of the low grades, except for one paper that god 100%
correct. Then she turned to me: "Mr. Portner," as she called me, "tell the
class how much you studied over the weekend." I sheepishly responded with,
"you don't want me to do that," and she said, "no, that's the wrong answer."

I like the memory, though it earned me few points with my peers (with few
exceptions I didn't care that much), but I bring it up now because... It's
probably nothing, and it's probably not the big deal that it feels like to
me, but there have been rumblings that I'm giving my younger brothers a bad
example. That is, I'm too successful too quickly with too little effort.

I never planned to be where I am, at all. I don't think I thought
about college much at all before half-way through Senior year. I applied to
three schools: Xavier (a Jesuit school practically next door to my three
favorite paternal cousins), CUA (a Catholic school located conveniently
close to my maternal grandparents and cousins), and Drexel (a tech school my
buddy Louis was looking at, and the only thing that hints that maybe I was
thinking 'computers' more than I let on). I got accepted to all three,
though Xavier offered me almost no financial aid. CUA won out in my mind
because it was close to "home" and in my (parents') pocketbook because they
tacked on a little extra scholarship money (before that Drexel and CUA were
tied down to the dollar).

Interest in Drexel aside, I didn't always want to do computers. A large
enough part of me thought I wanted to be an English Major, though in truth I
think I was interested in Linguistics. My disdain for literary analysis (at
the time) saw me write that off, and computers were my second choice. I
took to programming like a fish to water and ended up graduating at the top
of my class (despite not feeling like I was terribly taxed by the

I had no plans for after graduation. If things had gone differently maybe I
would have made plans, but they went exactly as they did. In the Fall of
senior year I was handed (and subsequently filled out and turned in) an
application for a Master's degree program. In fact, a scholarship, where
they would pay me to go to school. I had no real drive to get a higher
degree (not really, anyways), and the driving force was the memory of how
hard Beth H.'s brother had to fight to get a job after he graduated with a
BS in CS. The only down side (and it was a major down side to me) was that
the school was out in California, but the benefits outweighed that one
negative. Even at that, if not for the intervention of one of the ladies on
the other end (Tanya Raven), my application probably would have been quite a
bit weaker -- I'd made a half-hearted attempt at the essay under the
mistaken belief tyhat they cared about the answer as opposed to my
demonstrating my writing ability. After submitting a REAL essay I was told
me application was "a lot stronger."

Despite doing well in Undergraduate and Graduate computer programs, I've
never felt very confident in my technical skills. I think I'm much more
valuable for my well-roundedness and my ability to bridge the communication
gap between people who are actually technical and people who really

I was able to get a nice paying job right after graduation, and was able to
buy a house in a very favorable market. I get paid probably twice what
common wisdom would expect me to at my age. Yeah, I have a Master's Degree
and maybe most guys my age don't, but... I didn't even *plan* to have this
job. I pursued it as much as I did because it brought me back home, and I
wanted to be home more than pretty much anything.

So, yeah. I'm setting a bad example because my dumb luck had placed me --
accidentally, from my perspective -- in a very favorable position. studied
computers more-or-less on accident, and it turns out that's a very
marketable skill set, especially when it gets refined through Graduate
School. It wasn't EASY, but it wasn't planned, either. I don't feel
like I exerted much effort at all, I just did what was needed for the next
step. I didn't even have a plan for the second step, it just showed up.

And this rumbling bothers me because it touches on two sore spots for me.
The first is that part of me things I really shouldn't be where I am,
that I haven't had to fight hard enough for the rewards I've been given.
And the other bit is that I really do care about the impression that I give
to people, particularly the role modle I present to my brothers. I'm not
prepared to deal with the idea that I might be having a negative effect on

Anyways, like I said, it's probably not as big a deal as it feels to me.
The people who said these things, almost in passing, probably didn't mean
them the way I've taken them. It just strikes much too close to my own
fears and demons, and it's something i'm having a hard time shaking off.


jackofallgeeks: (Default)
John Noble

August 2012

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