TL;DL: “Code Monkey get up, get coffee. Code Monkey go to job.”
This comic, or more specifically my feelings regarding this comic, are why my sister has invited me to invade this blog:
I can take no credit for the comic beyond the fact that I read it all by myself, with no help from anyone. It’s from a web series called Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, a delightful combination of humor and usually something of a scientific or psychological persuasion. It’s part of half a dozen web comics I quickly run through each morning as I transform into motivated work mode Chris. I’ve read hundreds before it, but this one caught my eye. But, I suppose I’m ahead of myself already, by which I mean prepare for excessive amounts of back-tracking.
After the last post where we got to know enough other, you’ll know that I am, in a phrase, a code monkey. I spend my work days balancing coding simulations and organizing loads and loads of Excel data. The day women find Excel skills sexy is the day I quit my job and move into the Playboy Mansion. Don’t get me wrong, I have no complaints about my job (I’m lookin’ at you, anyone who employs me). I mean, planning and designing are sorta my thing. I can barely convince myself to clean my apartment, but ask me to plan you a party or build you some ridiculous device for a half-assed purpose and my eyes will sparkle like a kid in a candy shop. However, so many of us sparkly eyed engineers are thrust into the real world, ready to build and create, only to find out the real world mainly involves spending our days staring at monotonous computer screens. This leaves us channeling our spirit instead into Excel shortcuts and dreaming of building elaborate systems to water our plants for us in our spare time. For what it’s worth, I’m sure this is hardly the case for just engineers, and there are tons of butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers out there yearning for a little more. Regardless, it was this slow realization that made me realize the delicate balance between content and happy. Until this point, I had never really had any complaints, but is content really any way to live? What was stopping me from being a code monkey for the next 20 years?
One of my best friends hit the real world at roughly the same as I did in a different engineering field. Let’s call him Brian, mainly because he is Brian, and I’m convinced most authors that throw out pseudonyms in that fashion don’t actually bother making up new names. In passing, he mentioned that he’d always dreamed of owning a tea shop someday. That was all it took for me to become that sparkly eyed kid again, seeing an idea, and wanting to run with it. I am by no means a tea enthusiast, but it didn’t matter. He could have wanted to open Brian’s Emporium of Pancakes, Yo-Yos, and Miniature Poodles for all I cared, I was suddenly given a hope of a second option: Why couldn’t we open a tea shop? Next thing I knew, my down time at work was converted into researching existing shops and brushing up on my tea knowledge. I quickly added in my passion for beer, along with our other best friend Vaughn, a physicist currently working in computer IT until he sorts out his career path and home brewing loads of beer in the mean time. Together, a little fantasy began to swirl together: a place where myself and my two best friends could create our own establishment, where we could truly be passionate about our work while spending time with amazing people. This world began to manifest itself, a quaint tea house in a quiet town during the day, slowly morphing into a respectable brewpub at night, with Brian, the expert of the teas, Vaughn brewing our house beers out of the back, and myself as the overseer and general jack of all trades to fill in the gaps.
But, a fantasy is just that. A fantasy. We love to talk and plan and wish, but it was always “ten years down the road” and “someday”. Unfortunately, “someday” is also a time cluttered with the prospect of having kids, settling down, moving to far ends of the country; things rather detrimental to risky ventures. I discussed this with another friend of mine, Mike, the older brother and psychiatrist I never had. Mike is a man of simplicity, and offered the advice of “Why not now?” His response seemed so remarkably plain, and yet it hit the nail on the head for me. I had always been a subscriber to a “Life has a funny way of working itself out”, “go with the flow” philosophy. However, I’ve slowly begun to think this to be a great approach for being content with life. Content is certainly a step up from where many of us are or have been, but this view ultimately focuses on not fighting change. What about seeking out change?
Now, we finally get to the aforementioned comic. The comic proposes it takes roughly 7 years to master something, so why not make the most of the years we have? I realize “master” is a largely variable term, but bear with me. The way I see it, we can hardly master much before age 4, and ages 4-11 we spend our time simply mastering being a functioning human being, until 11-18 when we master being a student. My 18-25 thus far has worked towards mastering being a chemical engineer, but why sell myself short assuming I have the potential to only be great at one thing? Who’s to say 25-32 can’t be the years of being an astronaut or artist, let alone entrepreneur or master brewer?
So here I sit, a kid and a dream. I think it’s that jump between planning and doing that keeps 99% of us grounded. In the broad scheme of things, I think we all plan to be really happy some day, but what are we doing about it? We plan and we plan and we say “Not yet, I need a bigger safety net. What if I can’t go back? What if it doesn’t work out? Maybe just a little more planning.” When did playing it safe become such an accepted norm? I’ll admit, I’m certainly right there with those peering over the edge, hoping for the safety net to get bigger. However, we’ve got a set amount of years on this planet, and I would hate to spend a majority of them dreaming. My sister may long for my job stability and pay, but each day I long for the passion she wakes up with for her job and her willingness to do whatever it takes to make sure that passion stays. Am I going to be applying for small business loans any time soon? Not likely. Do I even know what my friends want to ultimately do with their lives? Do I even know what I want to ultimately do with my life? Maybe this tea shop, my little castle in the sky, will never be built. I mean, how many of us want to deal with buying dishes and escorting drunks? Who’s to say I won’t find myself a year later bored running such a place? Ultimately, it’s not about the shop. It’s about looking at my life someday, knowing that where I am is somewhere where I love what I do, and spend each and every day with the people who mean the world to me. I don’t know if that means opening a tea shop or just finding my way to another city, but I think we could all use a little more doing and a little less dreaming. Regardless of what I may be mastering in my upcoming seven years, I’d like to think I’ll be becoming a master of being really happy along the way.
(This music video is pretty freaking amazing. Even if you don’t like rock, you should watch it.)
TL;DL: “Cause I know there’s got to be another level, somewhere closer to the other side. And I’m feeling like it’s now or never, can I break the spell of the typical, the typical”