Impetus for Change

For any constant readers who don't know, I've accepted a job offer and I'm moving on from Haemonetics. Moving on, once again, from Bisonweb. In order to do so, I've had to come to terms with how things ended at Gamesys, and basically, and as stupid as it sounds, had to forgive the notion of permanent employment and the failures I've suffered at its hands.

When things fell apart at Gamesys, I was angry, I was bitter, and I didn't want to be. I wanted to be strong, I wanted to be productive, and, if I couldn't have what I had at Gamesys, I wanted just a crap-ton of work to bury myself in.

Coincidentally, Haemonetics had a crap-ton of work that they needed to get done, and no luxury of time. Sounded good, so I signed up. Bisonweb rides again. It's funny how, three times, a contract at Bisonweb has rescued me from a bad employment situation. I probably should give some thought to that and acknowledge the role they've played in my career. Maybe that's a blog post for another day.

Anyway, it didn't take long for all that pent-up crap that I was feeling but not acknowledging about Gamesys to get into my head. I started going to a not good place. You know what? Fuck it. Call it what it is, Liam. I was in a full-blown state of anxiety for two months.

For those of you keeping score at home, this is what anxiety looks like for Liam: No sleep. Sleep is for people who can take care of their shit. You want to rest? Stop fucking up, idiot. Also, increased work hours. I'm not talking, like, an extra ten hours a week. I'm not talking about maybe picking up some extra time on the weekend or after the kids go to bed. I'm talking about 40 extra hours a week, that I didn't bill for, busting my ass because ... I dunno... because the big bad boogieman is going to get me if I slow down? Anxious Liam doesn't stop to take a look at what he's doing. It's too late for that. It's time to buckle down and put on the ol' hermit-hat and just get the job fucking done. I'm usually wide-eyed, looking in the direction of my laptop, and if you're talking to me, you're getting maybe a quarter of my attention. Not because I don't appreciate you or care what you have to say, but because I need to be on top of things.

Needless to say, last November and December, and more than a little into January (but I think I'd moved past it by February) were my own little Hell. It was a Hell of my own making, I accept. It was my unwillingness to stop, take a look at where I'd come since September when my job fell apart, fear of judgment, and the pride that says, "You can do it yourself. Just work a little harder." I didn't ask for help. I didn't speak out. And I didn't slow down. Eventually, I hit a breaking point and talked to my team lead. I forbade myself from working any overtime for a couple of months, and I got my life back on track. Boy, I bet I was a bundle of fucking joy to be around. I'm sure Kim could tell you.

All right, that part's done. It's said. No takesies-backsies. Anyway, I'll admit that things stagnated at Haemonetics. We've been waiting for new work to be approved for a couple of months, and I know that, despite the attitude in Edmonton, head office doesn't like using contractors. I didn't start a campaign to get a new job, but when my friend Robb asked about how I was doing, I was honest. I did all the stuff I talked about in the other blog post, forgave an abstract concept, and took the job.

And they all lived happily ever after, right?

Not so much.

There was a fair amount of anxiety that came with that decision. The new job has a whole bunch of new responsibilities, challenges, and growth that will be pushed on me. I'm equal to the task. But, you know, things. And the past. And anxiety telling me things that aren't true, sending my mind in circles, trying to solve problems I haven't been given yet.

I took control. I took a step back. You know how hard it was to make myself take that step back? Let's just say that, when I agreed to meet with the bosses at IntelliWave, I knew I was going to have to have this conversation with myself. That was December 7. I managed to push it off by just about a month before I finally managed to make it happen. The first step was the hardest. I took out a notebook. I took out a pen. It's galling to me to realize that up until that time, I hadn't sat down and written anything the whole time during the application process, or anything for a couple of weeks before that. That first conversation with myself didn't really go so smoothly. I chit-chatted a little bit. Not exactly about the weather, but, you know, things that weren't consequential to where I needed to get. Still, as I wrote in that entry, "For now, it feels good to just spray some ink onto the page." I knew I didn't have it in me then, but I knew what I needed to do, at least.

Finally, I got on my ass and sat in front of that notebook until words came out. And I wrote, and I wrote. I wrote about what went wrong at Gamesys, I wrote about where I had failed, where I had not failed, and what lessons I would take from that experience. Finally, I wrote down some intentions that I am going to take with me to IntelliWave, to start the next stage of my career, with a company I am ready to believe in. I think this will help me get a good jump-start on my new job, and I am happy to say that, with this analysis, the anxiety is gone, replaced with an almost giddy anticipation. I get to work with my friend Robb again, with tools and process I can help choose. Let's get to work!

Originally, the intentions I wrote about were going to be the thrust of this blog post, but I realized I needed to get the rest of it out, the bits about the anxiety, both at the end of 2015 and at the end of 2016. I do intend to write about the intentions, their genesis, and what it can mean, but I've exhausted my reserve of words today, and I'm sure you've got... oh... something to do besides reading more of this.

The Evening Redness in the West — or — Forgiveness all Around

I'm not going to lie, when I left Gamesys, I was done. Done with permanent employment, done with "career paths" and "the promise of advancement." I was angry, sad, and disappointed. I went back into contracting, sure that I would never go permanent again. It was a fool's notion. A silly thought that I could stick it out, that there was even something for me in that world. I turned back to contracting with Haemonetics. It was something I knew, somewhere I could just put my head down and work.

Jon Secada, you crazy sage, you, you were right when you said that Time Heals all wounds.

The fact is, the first eight months or so of my Haemonetics time was very cathartic. I had my head down the majority of the time, working copious overtime, and getting stuff done. There were no politics, no worries about getting shut down, and it was something I was familiar with.

Eventually, though, I started feeling the pull of the things I'd had at Gamesys. Leadership, mentoring, a little agency where process is involved. Let's not kid ourselves, when you're living under ISO-13485, there isn't much room for a contract developer to have any sort of opinions about the software development lifecycle. Regulations are strict, and if a company wants to be in that space, they need to meet or exceed those rules every single time.

I'm not saying I'm a guy who plays fast and loose with the rules. I work with what I'm given, and I do my best. But I do my best when I feel like I have a voice. When I feel like I can have a say, and maybe in a place that isn't quite so locked-down.

Three weeks ago, I started interviewing for a position. It sounded great. One of those positions that doesn't seem to come along very often. Something a lot like what Gamesys was, without the heavy breath of head-office on the back of my neck. I made my way through the twists and turns of the hiring process at Intelliwave, and they seem to like me as much as I like them. The TL;DR of this piece (not just at the end, Cliff, but buried in the middle of the story. Beat THAT...) is that I've accepted a position, and I start on January 16th.

What am I going to be doing? Well, it's been made clear to me that I'm one of two senior developers on the team, and the way the team grows and accommodates a backlog that is as impressive in its scope as it is in its ambition is going to be, at least partially, up to us. But for the most part, I'm going to be heading up the web development. Robb (you may know him as the double-b, I sure do) will be in charge of the back-end services, and together, we will make great things, build an awesome team, and have a lot of fun doing it.

I'll miss my spot at Haemonetics. They've turned a pretty big corner since the tall-cubicle days of 2009. The open concept is something I feel like would be a benefit to pretty much any development office, and I think Robb and I can take a bit of credit there too, maybe, as we dismantled part of our cubicle partition to more easily collaborate, way back in the day.

So, I've forgiven myself and Gamesys, and, absurdly enough, permanent employment. I really want this to be the one, the position where I can see myself retiring in ... ah, whenever they nail the coffin shut, I suppose, and I'm going to give it, and myself, every opportunity to make that happen.

Thanks, Haemonetics, for being there when I needed you.

Liam

Writing Lull? What Writing Lull?

Hi there. It's me, Liam. You might remember me from such times as that one Summer Blog Challenge, or the times that I've done other blog things. I'm looking around here, and it's hard to make anything out through all the dust. I mean, that picture in the corner, it's all faded from the sunlight, and dang if that 20 to 40 blog challenge didn't make a huge mess and just refuse to clean up after itself.

I wonder what anyone who cares to keep up with this blog thinks when I go away for a long time between posts. I mean, I'm reasonably active on other social media platforms, primarily facebook and twitter, so I doubt there's any concern after my health. But I wonder if you think I'm not writing.

Because I am writing. I write all the time. Just that a lot of the things that I write are not suitable for the blog. But I hit a milestone last night in some of the writing that is not for the blog, and I thought I'd bring it up, because it's something that I'm proud of.

Last year, despite professional upheaval, I decided to try something epic. I was going to try to write a 50000 word book in a month. By hand. I figured it was a new way to look at writing a novel, would let me let my thoughts outpace my writing, and hopefully come to something that was more readable than the novel that I'd successfully completed the year before. The novel I completed the year before is only notable in that it exists. It will not likely ever be edited or cleaned up, because it is stupid.

Anyway, as I should have anticipated, work and life got in the way of my lofty goal and I did not complete my hand-written novel in 30 days. It was too bad, too, because through two weeks, I was keeping up. But work just demanded too much.

Instead of 30 days, the novel took 362 days to complete, hand-written, every single word. And I think I like what I have. It's raw, no joke there, but it is a story that is remarkably less stupid than the one the year before, and if it isn't as cool as the one from two years before, it has the distinction of being finished. four days before NaNoWriMo is scheduled to start again.

I don't think I'm going to hand-write my book again this year. It's tricky, what with word-counts and time, and then the added time of eventually typing out the book into a computer if I want to ever actually do anything with it beyond putting it on a shelf to stare at.

Still, I wouldn't trade the last year of writing this book for anything. It's been an experience I won't forget, and if I do, there's a physical reminder of it. No, not the book, the indentation I have permanently scored into my middle finger from my pen.

Anyway, this isn't where I'm going to recommit myself to writing. I'm still writing, and I've been writing. But there are a few things I want to share with you before I jump back into the NaNo insanity. Thoughts about Luke Cage, thoughts about Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. You know, things.

They might not make it up here, especially if I don't get them written in time, but I am thinking of them, and chances are, I'm writing about them too, even if they don't end up here.

On Writing

Well, if that title doesn’t dissipate the cloak of humility I usually try to wear, I can’t imagine anything else would either. Now that it’s out of the way, I can get to what I want to say.

I’ve meant to be a better writer than I am. I’ve meant to be more consistent in my writing effort, and more conscious of the effort I am putting out, in order to be a writer with greater skill. I’ve wanted to fill my blog with poignant pieces, both about social issues and about personal things; about writing and programming, as well as the occasional piece of fiction.

I haven’t done any of this.

In fiction writing, I got off to a great start with my current project, sprinting out of the gate for last year’s NaNoWriMo. I’ve stalled out a half-dozen times, changed directions more than once, and I’m at the point where the story feels stupid, unnecessary, and not worth my time.

I feel like I've been spinning my wheels and struggling uphill with writing, and the worst part is, I feel like I haven't gotten any better. It's very discouraging.

I'm sure that this would be a super-appropriate place to pledge renewed commitment to improving and inspire myself to new heights of productivity and quality.

Rescuing, Fostering, and Other Acts of Heroism

It started, for me at least, with good feeling. I learned about Zoe’s Animal Rescue through a friend who was fostering one of their dogs. Kim was maybe, possibly interested in adopting him. I wasn’t incredibly against it either. We could give a dog a good home, especially since we’d moved out to the country. Jack could use some caninely companionship. And really, I love dogs.

But it wasn’t until I got to know Jagger-who-would-become-Bear’s story that I really got an appreciation for just what Zoe’s do for the animals they take into their care.

When we got Bear, he was a skinny little thing, just sticks for legs and a bunch of ribs. I’ve seen photos of him from when Zoe’s picked him up, and if possible, he looked even worse. I’m not a veterinarian and I don’t know the details, but from what I understand, Zoe’s invested thousands of dollars to keep Bear from death’s clutches.

We’ve basically spent the last couple of years feeding Bear, and he’s filled out. No longer a skinny stack of twigs, he’s a massive, glorious dog, healthy and happy, whether he’s jumping in the pond for the fourth time that day or pulling a sled.

That was my good feeling. Y’know, the one that got me into fostering.

We’ve had, I think, five fosters since then, of varying shapes and sizes, from Melanie, who left us too soon, and passed on from a heart failure, to Sweet Georgia Brown, who was as sweet as her name implies. She came to us mangy and miserable, and every time I see pictures of her, with her shiny, healthy coat, and playing, I get wistful. Then there’s Chance, the big dog who liked to play and who didn’t like to be on the leash, and Poppy, who we completely failed to foster, because we fell in love and adopted her ourselves. And finally, Two-Bit, the super-cute chew machine we’re taking care of for now.

With all of the hard work that Zoe’s volunteers do, with all the emotion, time, and money they’re willing to invest to keep these dogs alive, it seems like a small sacrifice to open my doors to a dog for a week every couple of months. With three dogs already, the idea of a long-term foster doesn’t seem feasible to me, but I’m certainly happy to provide an interim place to stay, before they go to a long-term foster home.

My Friend Cliff

We grew up playing countless games of street hockey, football, tennis, even baseball. I totally forgive him for breaking my nose with a baseball bat the day of grade nine graduation (mostly because it was totally my fault).

Apart from sports, we've worked together on a lot of things: we've been writing partners, we’ve been the protagonists of our own stories, we've podcasted, we've had blog challenges together, and dueled via comments on various platforms.

I've been friends with Cliff for at least two and a half of his four decades, and as he embarks on his fifth, I can't help but look forward to whatever it is he cooks up.

Favourite Cliff Moment: I dunno. There are so many. Is it sneaking out of my house at three in the morning after waking up my mom? Is it the hilarity over whether I could drive some piece of construction equipment at Bonnie Doon Mall? Is it the complete debacle that was the NBA Hoop-It-Up tournament? Could be any of those.

Worst Cliff Moment: Was I not clear before? Dude broke my nose. Though there was also the ankle thing on his front lawn. And the wrist playing street hockey. Come to think of it, Cliff might just be hazardous to my health.

Happy 40th, Cliff. We're so goddamned old.

Also, Ass-kick and Nunchuk.

Becoming

I was too young. Then, I had my head in the sand. I honestly believed that racism, hatred, and xenophobia were on the sharp decline. I thought that things like, y’know, gender equality, and acceptance of LGBTQ were, if not here, at least inevitable. I have to face it: I was naïve. I was doing the lazy man's "good job" of substituting my life and my experiences for those of the world at large. This helps nobody and serves nothing but my own ego as I stick my fingers in my ears and smile inwardly at how good a man I am.

A child received rape and death threats because her mother dared to have an opinion. men made the decision to send rape and death threats to a child. A child was abducted and murdered because her mother made bad relationship decisions. a man decided to kill a woman and her child. And a very real human piece of garbage is about to be handed nuclear launch codes. But everything is getting better because, hey, none of that happens in my immediate vicinity. In fact, if I narrow my scope enough, nothing bad ever happens.

LA LA LA, can't hear you over the sound of me not raping or killing anybody!

I have to do better. We have to do better. Men, we can do better. Instead of "not raping anyone" and "not being that guy" being the alpha and omega of me making the world a better place, instead of just telling my son not to rape anyone instead of telling my daughter not to get raped, maybe I should see these as a pre-requisite for being a man. Not a good man, but a man.

Instead of letting my lack of horrific decisions be my legacy, letting that be the change I want to see in the world, maybe I should start doing things that are actively positive maybe I can say the things I think instead of just thinking them, and following it up with a "tsk tsk, how terrible," before finishing my cereal and getting on with my day.

Guys, and by that, I mean all you guys out there who are doing the hard work of not raping anyone and not sending death threats to little children, maybe you can join me in this. Instead of letting "not horrific" be good enough, maybe we can make our voices heard that not only should WE not rape and murder and threaten the same, but yes, ALL MEN should not rape or murder or be pieces of shit on the internet who hide behind anonymity and threaten little girls.

Finally, instead of carrying the standard and defending the purity of the millions upon millions of guys who are so amazing that they don't send death threats over twitter, instead of standing up for poor put-upon men who are lumped in with rapists and pieces of shit by women who have had enough, before you slam on the caps lock and unleash your "never done anything life-alteringly horrific" indignation with a "NOT ALL MEN" blast that you're sure will finally let the man's point of view be seen, because, by God, we haven't heard enough from the offended heterosexual white man, put your keyboard away, and try to understand. Before you try to explain why you're offended at being lumped in with all other men, maybe try to understand why that person chose to do that. Then try to understand why you're offended. Then, if you're still offended, log off and go eat some chips. Because I promise you, if you try to override someone else's feelings by telling them what they should feel, not only are you one of "those guys" but it's been said and done so many times by "those guys" that you won't be saying anything anyone hasn't heard.

As for me, I will make this my next first step. I admit that I haven't understood. I accept that I need to know more, to do more, and to do better. I hope I have the guts.

You Can Have Your Party Too

I've got something to say to all the people out there who keep saying that All Lives Matter and Straight Pride and White Power or white-specialist interest groups are not allowed to happen. You know, all you people who are physically threatening the diligent members of a hard-bitten downtrodden majority. If you've ever passed a law that has made it illegal fora straight white mail to profess his love of a straight, white woman or her love of him, if you've ever even tried to physically bar someone from a rally that says, "Hey, everyone's important!" then this message is purely for you: STOP IT. Stop passing those laws that restrict the movements and assembly rights of the majority. They just want to live their life in peace.

But seriously, folks: If you are seriously chapped that there is no Straight Pride Parade and Festival (tm), no All Lives Matter rally in your area, no event to celebrate any silly thing that comes into your head, rather than cynically and disingenuously trying to take the air out of someone else's sails, I'm going to tell you something. The reason those things don't exist isn't because you're being repressed. It's because nobody has created those things. Nobody has thought it important enough to assert our human right to be white, or our human right to be heterosexual. You haven't created those things. You have that right. Look it up! Gay pride wasn't something that just started itself. Black Lives Matter wasn't some natural phenomenon. People did work to make those things happen. Courageous people who faced real danger to stand up for what they believe in.

What you call "not being allowed" or "repression" for your coveted cause isn't that. It's societal pressure. Society's moved on from what you espouse, it rejects your backlash against inclusion, and for once you're left in -- that's right -- the minority. Your fear of speaking out doesn't come from fear of physical danger, but from a niggling suspicion that you might just e wrong, and from the very real knowledge that you're being judged for your words and your actions, as we all ore. If everyone were so easily silenced by the disapproval of others, probably we wouldn't be where we are now.

So go ahead. Float your white supremacy balloons. Walk proudly down the street, unabashedly holding the hand of your heterosexual life partner. Play some Pat Boone or some other unthreatening and unchallenging music. No one's going to stop you. The jeering might get quite loud, though, so you'll probably want some hearing protection.

The Reason for Me – 20 to 40 Gratitudes Parts 19 & 20

So, here we are, at the end of this blog series. I didn't want to be writing this last post on my birthday, but hey, it's getting written, and that's what counts.

It should go without saying, but if I don't say it, I'll always wonder if I should have. This list is by no means exhaustive. There are so many things to be grateful for that I could spend the rest of my life and not reach the bottom of the list. If you're reading this, chances are that you've impacted my life and I owe you my gratitude.

I wasn't planning on posting about my mom and dad together (hence the two different parts) but to me, they are a team, inseparable, so maybe it's better that it end this way.

Mom had charge over a lot of my life, particularly early on. She made sure I had my hair brushed, particularly the back. I couldn't see that in a mirror, so I never thought to run a brush through it. She's the one I went to with my scrapes and bruises, of which there were a lot. I told her before I told anyone else. What, you ask? What did I tell her? Everything. She gave more of her time, attention, and love to me than I could ever repay.

Don't get me wrong, mom could be a hard-ass. If I stepped out of line, it was usually her that put me back on task. I tried to stay on the right side of her because, as with a lot of sons of mothers, I was terrified of her at the same time that I loved her.

I've told a lot of stories about my mom. About how I miss her, about things that have happened to her. Funny stories. I think most of my friends when I was a teenager were scared of her, too.

There is simultaneously not a lot and too much that I can say about what my mom gave to me and did for me. Words feel completely inadequate in the face of that. But they are what I have, so I will keep it simple: Thanks, Mom. Miss you every day.

--

Dad and I have the kind of relationship that you would expect a father and son to have. Straightforward on the surface, but filled with nuance and subtlety just underneath that.

From my dad, I learned first about how to provide. He didn't tell me outright that it was important for a husband and a father to hold down a job and to do that job well in order to provide for his family. He didn't tell me that because he never had to. I saw it every day, growing up. We never went without. We never missed out. Mom was able to stay home with us until we were in school because Dad provided. Which I also appreciate.

I don't think I would have ever played baseball if it weren't for my dad. My first experience with it was not so good. I was a pretty uncoordinated kid and I would have probably hidden from it after that if it weren't for playing catch with dad and learning the fundamental skills.

Dad also introduced me to golf. I've walked away from the game, but I remember summers with Dad, golfing at least once a week.

There were also other typical father-son things: He took me into Wetaskiwin on his motorbike to get burgers. He taught me how to drive a standard. He supported me in going to university. He steered me away from jobs and careers he thought would be bad for me, essentially guiding me into the life I have now.

--

I never received differing messages from mom and dad. As a parental team, they were united, or at least that's what I saw. As an older kid and a grown-up, I saw at last how different they were from one another, but taking that long to see it is an indication of how committed they were to raising me without constant conflict between them. That's something that I've striven for as a parent too.

Mom & Dad, I can't really ever repay you for the sacrifices you made to get me to where I am. I can only hope to do as much for my children.

Thank you both so much.

Catching Up – 20 to 40 Gratitudes 13 – 18

Ok, so like every other one of my #20toX blog series, I’ve fallen behind. How far, you ask? Well, thank you for asking. I really appreciate your concern. The truth is, the blog challenge is supposed to be over by Saturday night. It’s supposed to be 20 TO 40, not 20 while I’m both 39 and 40. So I’m left with a bit of a conundrum. 8 posts. Two days. How to do this? Well, I could bail. That’s always been an option to me, and it’s one that I’ve been more than willing to take when things got more than a little bit uncomfortable. Thing is, I’ve really enjoyed this gratitudes series. I think it’s important to recognize the things I appreciate so I don’t get caught in negativity spirals. Or, I could cut it down to 2 more gratitudes. Those two are incredibly obvious, if you’ve been paying attention. If you haven’t, well, maybe you should search this site for 20to40 and figure it out. That thought is more than a little tempting to me. I have a lot to say about the two people who are the last low-hanging fruit on the list. Or. and I’m guessing you know that this is the way I’m going to go because I’ve left it for last. Yes, that’s right. Two posts. But eight gratitudes spread out over those two posts. Because I’ve got a thought about those six gratitudes, and the idea of banging them out here, with you, on a Thursday night/Friday morning, with the grainy feeling just starting behind my eyes, is filling me with some inspiration.

So, here they are, the best of the rest. I’m going to avoid individual people in this post, so some of these things might seem a little esoteric or a little (or more) out there. Bear with me. Or don’t. I’m sure there’s more Instagram pictures in your feed now than there were when you started reading this. But without any further ado, here is:

The Rest

20 to 40 Gratitude Part 13: My Body

It’s beyond obvious to say that, without my body, I wouldn’t even be here. But my appreciation for my body goes far beyond just my presence. Here’s why:

I am the king of bad decisions when it comes to exercise. Kim’ll tell you, I never ease into anything. If I’m going to run, I’m going to go from sitting on the couch seven days a week to 10k runs on a whim. Not a good idea, right? And as I get older, I’m going to seriously have to start thinking about maybe planning these things out better.

I occasionally like to help people move. Or, you know, there is the odd time that a couch has to go from here to there, or a tree needs to be pulled out of the way or something.

And don’t even get me started on sports. Or do get me started on sports. That sounds like fun. So much fun that I’ll go from a complete stop to a full-out sprint down the field/gym/tennis court with no warning.

Yes, I’ve had my share (and probably more) of injuries. A hernia operation has taught me that, while I can probably lift it, it’s not always the best idea to try. And yes, my knees have been known to fill with fluid if I’m less than smart about what I do to recover from punishing them in whatever way I deem appropriate.

But what it boils down to is, my slacker fitness level is high enough so that I don’t pay an extremely high toll to get back in the game. And I really appreciate that.

20 to 40 Gratitude Part 14: My Mind

Sure, this one is a little bit obvious. I mean, I went with body, how could I not go with mind? I’ll accept that criticism, but you have to also accept that this appreciation is as genuine as any other on this list.

Between the years 1994 and 1997, I worked a number of so-called brain-dead jobs. I packaged bleach, I worked an oilfield pipeyard, unloaded uncounted trucks, cut leather, baked donuts, and that’s just some of it. The point is, after high school, I ran from the idea of academics and intellect, hiding from it in a world where I was paid for the strength of my back.

Something, some dissatisfaction, some part of me that cried out against imbalance, drew me, first to writing, then to programming. And hey, guess what. Despite my slightly less-than-average achievements in high school, it turned out that my mind was suited to academics. Don’t let my grade-point average fool you. (Not that I’ll tell it to you.) I learned a whole pile of things in University. It’s funny how little of programming that I use in my job I learned there, but so many critical thinking skills, logic, problem-solving, I soaked it in when I was down south, and, low grades or no, I got what I wanted out of my time in post-secondary, and it’s far more than just that piece of paper I’ve never quite managed to hang on the wall.

The fact is, my mind is the reason I was able to buy a home. It’s been the instrument I’ve used to make my living for more than thirteen years, and, along with all the other wonderful things my mind has for me, including story ideas, mid-nineties NFL quarterbacks, basically the entirety of the Wheel of Time series, I can’t rightly say how much I appreciate my mind.

20 to 40 Gratitude Part 15: My Roommates

Edmonton and Lethbridge, I’ve had my share of roommates. No, I don’t mean you, James. You’re a roommate in a totally different way. Jake, Sean, Daryl, Brad, Dylan, the Surbers. All of them put up with my habits, my tics, my musical choices, my odd hours, my less-than-stellar track record for picking up after myself, and the creaking of my omnipresent wicker chair. Thank you all for the gift of your company, your friendship, your forbearance, and, in a couple of occasions, your family and your home. Though my heart was not always wholly with me (usually, it was in Leduc), you all made it a little easier to bear.

20 to 40 Gratitude Part 16: Music

What can I say about music that you don’t already know? I grew up with music. There’s a soundtrack to my life, and at any time, a song can start up, and I’m rewound to a different scene in my life, just whisked away there in my mind, usually back to my parents’ house in Leduc, or the bleach factory, or Lethbridge. There are so many memories tinged with nostalgia that all tie back to music. The song, the one song I can’t seem to remember for the life of me, that my mom used to practice at the piano while I sat beside her because I couldn’t fall asleep and I was keeping my brother awake. God, how that infuriates me, the one time my memory fails me. Fur Elise, and how Lily hammered away on that song to perfect it for her recital in December, while I worked at the desk on the other side of the room. I’m sure that song will pull me back into this very room, poof, just like magic.

I won’t necessarily always remember where the music took me, when I get older, and my faculties start to fade, but the music will be there.

20 to 40 Gratitude Part 17: Books

If I haven’t made it clear yet, I’ll try again. I wasn’t what you would call popular back in the day. I had some friends, usually Rob, and I had some activities, but from the time I read The Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis, The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander, and The Source of Magic by Piers Anthony, my course was set. Now, I have friends. I have more activities than I have time for. I have a million little distractions through my days that seem to conspire to rob me of any free time, but I am true to my course. I still read as much as I can, and my love affair with books in general, and two of those three books in particular, remains undimmed.

20 to 40 Gratitude Part 18: My Village

Family, extended and otherwise, friends, acquaintances, social media connections. I’m not going to lie. I am a very rough slab of granite. I mean to say that I have a lot to learn and some very rough edges to smooth out. If I’m a work in progress, let’s just say that I’m still early in the process. But through my earnest desire to improve, and the sometimes less-than-subtle efforts of My Village, I’d say I’m coming around. Social issues, parenting, feminism (which is starting to feel like it shouldn’t even be a term, just the way that people are), privilege, labeling - both good and bad - I’m learning.

I won’t pretend that I understand why some things are more right than others, but I’ve learned to trust people who have been there. I’ve learned that when something someone says makes me feel bad, it’s more likely to be because, oh shit, I’ve been doing that or, oh shit, I haven’t been preventing that, rather than the idea that someone is lying to make me feel bad.

I know that I’ve got it good. Probably just about as good as it gets. I have food, a house, money, influence, and all the privilege of a white boy in Canada. Which, by the way, should be a saying. But I understand that I have it as good as I have it because of people who help me to be accountable, who are probably more patient than I have a right to expect.

I appreciate all of you, even (and maybe especially) when I feel like an idiot. Life’s a process, and when I finally feel like I’ve got it all figured out, I’m guessing that’ll be the time when I have to look a little harder.