Changes

by Mr. Cheap

Still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets

After much soul-searching (and spending half of every other day fixating on how much I didn’t want to be there) I quit my new job on Monday. To be fair to them, they were an amazing group of friendly, smart people.

Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet

My reason for quitting is somewhat hard to explain to non-technical people, but basically they had a very complex system they wanted me to work on, and I wasn’t able to get the other members of the technical team to provide me with information about how it worked. The other people there have been working on the system for years, and I think they didn’t realize (and I wasn’t able to convince them) that one sentence responses to questions aren’t enough to get people up-to-speed. I tried talking to the group and making adjustments, but it just seemed to stir up bad feelings (and didn’t get me any further to getting up-to-speed). In all fairness, this is probably a cop-out. I could have just started digging through the code-base and traced what they’ve done over the last 5 years and figure out how the system works from the ground up, but I suspected they’d get impatient with me going through this exercise (it would have taken months) and I wasn’t too happy to dive into that when there’s someone sitting next to me who could give me the information I needed but wouldn’t. Plus their system was built on custom hardware, which isn’t my forté (damn, damn serial communication!), so I was struggling even with this approach.

So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test

I’ve hit the point where, given that it didn’t work out at what was in almost all respects a great company, that I’m really not cut out for 9-5 life. After a string of bad experiences, at some point I have to admit that the common element is me. People are amazed at how little cash I live off of, and it’s really not due to much beyond that I find standard employment far, far more painful than most, and therefore have had to figure out a way to get by on less. Paul Graham perhaps put it best, when talking about the transition from school to work, that “You’ve gone from guest to servant.” I don’t care how modest the house is, but I need to be master of it.

Ch-ch-changes
Just gonna have to be a different man

Given that I’ve failed at being an entrepreneur and repeatedly failed at being a good little worker (pity poor, poor Mr. Cheap! ;-) ), I’ve decided that I’m going to focus on moving for the rest of the month (I’ve found a new place, and I’m going to start trying to get rid of “stuff” before the move). Starting in November I’m planning to decide on areas that I’m interested in applying to for a PhD, then spend the time between getting the applications in and the start of the program on figuring out what makes me happy (I want to become more of a Tigger and less of an Eeyore), what I want to do with the rest of my life, and maybe the occasional short-term contract just to prevent me from going TOO deeply into debt (I figure I can probably last about 6 months before I have to get into my line of credit). My hope is that I may be able to find happiness as a researcher, academic or teacher (and failing that I’ll be a bum on the street hanging out in front of Mike’s house trying to scam grilled salmon and beer off of him ;-) ).

Ch-ch-changes
Don’t want to be a richer man

PhD programs provide a stipend for students to live off of (at least in Canada most do). It’s reasonably generous (around $24K), which is more than enough for me to live off of (and pay back whatever debts I accumulate).

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through

I’ll apologize if any of my posts over the next few months get overly bitter or introspective (Mike, please pull anything too poisonous before it goes live – you’re too late for this one ;-) ). Obviously the “retire in 3 years” plan is off the rails and my cost of living is going to swing from a surplus to a deficit almost immediately.

With respect to the poet Bowie as popularized in the classic film “Shrek 2″.

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