I was afraid to go on a mission

I was pretty sheltered as a kid.

My dad died when I was three.

My mom kept me home most of the time.  I was happy there, so I didn’t mind.

In the LDS church young men are expected to serve a full-time mission for two years.  At that time they would go at age nineteen.

I was afraid of being on my own for that long.

I’d been on my own at scout camps and events, but that was it.

I was afraid of being far from home.

I had always wanted to get married.  That seemed a lot safer, and I’d always been romantically inclined.

I had a plan.

Right after high school I would go to college for a year.  While I was there I would find someone to marry.

Never mind that I had never gone out on a date before.

Never mind that I was afraid to even talk to girls.

My plan was foolproof.

What could possibly go wrong?

My artist friend

He lived down the hall from me.  Everyone in the dorm had to share a room.  After the first term his roommate left school, so he had the room to himself.

I’d talk to him about the woes of my love life.  He was a good listener and he’s share stories of his own.  Sometimes we’d go for long walks together.  Once we even walked to the next town, six miles away.

It was the end of the school year.  I asked if I could move in with him.  He was reluctant at first.  He enjoyed having a room to himself.

I explained the difficulties I’d been having with my roommate.  He agreed to let me move in.

I broke up with my first serious girlfriend/fiancee.  I called him and told him what happened.  I hadn’t seen him for a few years.  He was going to school an hour and a half away.  He invited me to come visit him the next day.  He spent the day with me.  He introduced me to some of his friends and showed me around campus.  He asked me to consider going to school there.

That was the last time I saw him.

I’ve contacted him several times since then, most recently on Facebook.  It’s not the same.

I miss my friend.

I’m so glad I met him.

She was engaged

I had just been broken up with.

Kinda.

I was watching a movie with some girls.  I started crying.  One girl put her arm around me.

Later she and I talked about my heartbreak. Then we talked about hers.

She was engaged.  Her fiancé’s mom had died.  He hadn’t talked to her since.

He lived kind of far away.  She didn’t get to see him much.

We started spending a lot of time together.  I started to have feelings for her.  I didn’t do anything about them.  I kept telling myself we were just friends.  We were going through hard times together.

We went to a school dance together.  Just as friends.

Later I found out she had broken up with her fiancé.

I saw her in the computer lab the next day.  She started walking to the cafeteria.  I followed her for a little bit.  I was going to see if she wanted to talk.  Then I thought maybe she just wanted to be alone.  I went somewhere else.

Later I emailed her.  I asked her if she wanted to go to the dance.  She had already been asked.

She had wanted to talk to someone that day.  Another guy was there for her.  They started dating.  That could have been me.

The next term she didn’t go to school.  She went to Texas to help her twin sister with her wedding.  While she was gone her boyfriend cheated on her.  By then I had a girlfriend.

My girlfriend insisted that I get a haircut.  I had long hair at the time.  My friend who was cheated on was there.  She said if I had gotten a haircut earlier she might have broken up with her fiancé earlier.

I should have gotten a haircut sooner.

College ≠ SUCCESS

Ray Bradbury’s parents couldn’t afford to send him to college.

Since he couldn’t go to college, he read every book in the town’s public library.

He turned out okay.

If you’re reading this you have access to the greatest library the world has ever known.

Make the most of it.

I don’t believe in public school

Public school is designed to turn you into a cookie-cutter cog for The Machine.  That way you can easily replace someone, and someone else can easily replace you.

We were meant to be unique individuals with unique functions.

We weren’t meant for soul-sucking jobs.

School doesn’t teach how to be happy, or any number of other skills necessary to be a functioning adult.

School doesn’t teach you to ask deep, probing questions.

School doesn’t teach you how to think, it teaches you what to think.

School is the mold.  Break it.

“I had a feeling I should come talk to you”

It was Sunday night.  I’d just moved into my dorm.  Classes hadn’t started yet.

I graduated from high school a few months before that.

I didn’t have any friends there.  I was alone.

I went for a walk that evening.  As I was walking I noticed a girl wandering around.  I kept my distance.

Then she came up to me.  She had a feeling she should come talk to me.

We walked and talked for a while, getting to know each other.

We went back to her dorm.  She introduced me to her roommates, who I became friends with.

I started spending more time with her.  I started having feelings for her.

We went to school dances together.  I’d never danced with a girl who wanted to dance with me before.

Later we were alone in her living room.  I was sitting in a chair.  She was sitting on my lap.  We were talking and our lips brushed against each other.

Most guys would have kissed her.  I’m not most guys.  I’d never kissed a girl.  Well, not since first grade, anyway…

I burst out laughing.

Things slowly went downhill after that.

I didn’t see her at all during Christmas break.

I wrote her a long, rambling letter.  In the letter I said I loved her.  I slipped it in her bag before she went home for a long weekend in January.

She wrote me a short note.  She said she was sorry, but she didn’t feel the same way.

I was devastated.

I was secretly relieved to get kicked out of college

I didn’t want to get stuck in a job I hated.

I didn’t want to be mistreated by employer after employer.

I was a computer science major.  I was planning on becoming a programmer.  Then I read this:

Now let’s talk about death marches, mandatory uncompensated overtime, the beeper on the belt, and having no life. Men accept these conditions because they’re easily hooked into a monomaniacal, warrior-ethic way of thinking in which achievement of the mission is everything. Women, not so much. Much sooner than a man would, a woman will ask: “Why, exactly, am I putting up with this?”

Eric S. Raymond, Women in computing: first, get the problem right

For those who are unfamiliar with ESR, he is sort of the godfather of the open-source software movement, and a master programmer.  He knows what he’s talking about.

I wanted to be able to be a family man.  That blog post didn’t give me a lot of confidence I’d be able to do that, or much else I wanted to do.

My enthusiasm about school had already started to cool.  I had to take classes I wasn’t interested in.  A lot of the work seemed like busy work.

I talked to my wife about the doubts I was having.  She left me know she would be very unhappy if I quit.  So I tried to soldier on.

I didn’t do a good job of it.  I wouldn’t do assignments.  If I did them it would be hurriedly, at the last minute.  A lot of times I skipped class altogether.

This went on for a few years.  Then when the university told me I had to switch majors it ended.

I was disappointed, but also relieved.

A few months before the end of my last semester of college, I discovered James Altucher.  Glenn Beck had him on his show to discuss an article he’d written, called 10 Reasons Why You Have to Quit Your Job This Year.

I started reading through his blog and listening to his podcast.  Among other things, he says he regrets going to college:

When I was 19, I won some money in a chess tournament. So instead of using that money for my college tuition I decided to drop out of college and buy a car.

I bought a used 1982 Honda Accord. I drove it around for a few hours since they let me drive it right out of the lot.

But when I saw my girlfriend and everyone else taking their classes I got a little jealous. I returned the car and cancelled the check and entered my sophomore year of college. But I regret it now.

James Altucher, 8 Alternatives to College

James was a college graduate.  A computer science major, like me.  He graduated college and did programming work for them for a few years.  When he got a programming job in the real world, and he couldn’t even program.

I was more conflicted that ever.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to finish school.  I wasn’t sure I wanted a programming job anymore.  I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to get a programming job if I finished school.

But I didn’t want to upset my wife.

That summer the university gave me a reprieve.

I didn’t finish college

I went to college right after high school.  It was a little college in a rural town.  I didn’t know anyone there.

Before long I made friends.  I started dating for the first time.

I worked hard at first.  I took seventeen credits my first semester.  I practically lived in the library.  I didn’t shower for a week.

After a couple of weeks I burned out.  I started skipping classes and not doing assignments.  I hung out with friends instead.

Or I played on the internet.

I never really used the internet before college.  Once in high school our class went to the library to do research on the internet, but I had no idea what I was doing.

In college the internet and I became best friends.  I’d spend hours in the computer lab looking up everything I could think of.  Sometimes I’d take CDs and headphones so I could listen to music while I surfed.

As the year went on my grades got worse.  After going home for the summer I got a letter saying I would have to take a term off.  I decided not to go back .

A few years later I tried teaching myself Japanese from a book I got from the library.  That wasn’t very effective, so I decided to take a college class.  Then I thought, “If I’m going to take one college class, why not take a few?”  So I signed up for several fun classes.  After a couple of years I started feeling burned out.  I didn’t know what I wanted to major in.  So I stopped going.

A few years after that I was married and had a toddler.  We were living in my in-laws’ basement.  Then I was laid off from my job and having trouble finding another.

My wife suggested that I go back to school.  She suggested that I go to the small-town school I’d gone to previously.  I’d dreamed about going back, but I didn’t think it would happen.

I jumped at the chance.  We moved just after Christmas and I started school in January.  I was going to be a serious student and get good grades this time.

I did really well the first semester.  After that my enthusiasm waned.  After a year or two I had a conversation with my wife about whether college was right for me.  She was working to support our family while I went to school, and she let me know that my degree was her hope for the future.

After five semesters at the small-town school I decided to transfer to a university in a larger town.

I was at the university for a year.  When I attempted to sign up for computer science classes for the next fall semester I got a message saying I needed to be in the computer science program.  I was already a computer science major.  I emailed my adviser to find out what was going on.

My adviser informed me that I had taken Calculus II too many times without getting an acceptable grade.  I wouldn’t be able to take it again.  I had to change majors.

I wasn’t interested in another major.  I had gone back to college to get a programming degree.

I left the university.  For a while I thought of other ways to get my degree, including online courses.  I decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do.  There were other paths to success, and I wanted to pursue one of those.

It broke my wife’s heart when I told her.  She had pinned all her hopes and dreams on my degree.

Things haven’t been the same since.