SIGAVDI #33: Things fall apart

Hello friends. It’s been a long time. My life has changed, and I’ve been debating whether to continue these emails at all, or whether to take them in a new direction. As the presence of this mail suggests, I’m leaning towards the latter.

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time there was a young programmer. For reasons that are beyond the scope of this story, he had decided to skip the usual aimless and fancy-free period of his 20s, and get straight to the settling-down-with-kids stage of life.

Life was strained and difficult. He longed to break free of the stress of being a sole provider and the monotony of working in a cubicle farm.

Luckily, he was a quick study, and he found people listened to him when he said big words like “polymorphism”. The programmer looked around, and he found role models. He painted a picture of his future in his mind, and set to work making it a reality.

For fifteen years he toiled singlemindedly towards his goal. He transitioned from BigCo to SmallCo to startup to consultant to entrepreneur. He made friends and traveled. He understood early that money alone was false security, and so he labored to build up his tribe. He did his best to make himself helpful to as many people as possible.

And then, one day, he arrived at his destination. He ticked the last item off his list, and he breathed a sigh of relief that lasted for months.

And he started a newsletter.

In a way, the newsletter was a symbol of the programmer’s new status in life. Because what he had been working all those years to accomplish was this:

In his heart of hearts, he wanted to be a grand old man of the industry. He wanted to find a place a little removed from the world, contemplative and serene. He wanted to walk out on his deck in the chill of the morning in slippered feet, coffee in hand, look down on the world below, and write thoughtful words. He wanted to watch the turn of the seasons, get to know the hills in their seasonal wardrobes, grow roots down to bedrock and be a voice of calm, conscience, perspective, and insght.

He wanted to be the 21st century software developer version of what they used to call “a man of letters”.

And for two years he lived his dream. Which is two years longer than most people ever get.

Then everything fell apart.

I could claim I haven’t been able to write any SIGAVDI emails because in the aftermath of unexpected life changes, in the process of self-care and suddenly multiplied responsibilities, I simply haven’t had the time. And there would be a lot of truth to that.

But the deeper truth is that I haven’t had the heart to write. I haven’t been able to find it in me to write detached, thoughtful observations on software development culture.

I can’t find my “NPR voice”. I’m no grand old man. I can’t write a newsletter about the human side of software while denying the mess that is my own human side.

I can’t open with heartwarming little capsule updates about life in the hills. I can’t serenely pretend to be someone whose life you should envy anymore.

So here’s the deal.

I’m going to start writing these mails again, when I can. I’m going to write because I need my tribe, and because I need to write. And yes, because I make my living selling stuff to programmers and sometimes I need a good excuse to tell you about new stuff I’m selling.

But from now on I’m not always going to write just about software. Sometimes I’m going to write about life, and grief, and joy, and single parenthood, and why I think programmers should get on Instagram, and about finding salvation at poetry slams.

Or maybe I won’t. Maybe this will be the last you hear from me for another six months. Real life is unreliable that way.

The point is: shit’s gonna get real. If you’re in, stick around. If you just want software industry commentary, I can recommend some other very fine newsletters.

Talk to you soon.