Fifteen Years.

It’s September 2013… I find that somewhat amazing. It’s true what they say about the passage of time speeding up as one grows older, even though I’m not all that old. I’ll be 52 next month. Well more than halfway to the hole, most likely, but not yet doddering. My best years are behind me, so they say, but this one’s still been pretty darn good.

In my former career as a technologist I was focused more on the hardware side of things, first as an electronics technician then as an electrical engineer designing electronic circuits. I made a name for myself as a guru, and got called upon to pull miracles out of my ass on demand. My ego got stroked pretty regularly, but then the market changed and hardware gurus were no longer in much demand in North America. To make a living at it I’d have to live out of a suitcase, which was then (and still is) entirely out of the question. So in 1996 I decided that I was (a) going to become independent of corporate Amerika, and (b) focus on software instead because there was still call for gurus in that field and with the internet I could live anywhere at all as long as I could get an internet connection. I’d always been the hardware guy who also understood and wrote software, so it was just a simple matter of leaving the hardware behind and focusing on software for general purpose, internet connected systems.

It took me about two years to make a sufficient name for myself that the software endeavor would replace much of my former income. Things got dicey a time or two dozen, but I was dedicated and somehow managed to make it happen. The internet was then a rapidly growing market so there was room for most if not all. From ’96 to ’98 I worked some hardware gigs only to support the growth of my business — which really meant keeping food on the table more than anything else.

This afternoon it occurred to me that I spent about 15 years as a hardware guy, changing jobs every two years or so to drive up my value, and I’ve now been in this software gig full time for about 15 years but self employed so not changing jobs even once. I don’t know anyone in a technical field who’s still in the same job today that he or she was 15 years ago. So I guess it’s true what they say that moving into self employment is trading the illusion of security for the illusion of freedom. I’m much more secure now than I’ve ever been in any Joe Job working for wages, and for quite a long time I had no time for any freedom that I might have gained. Now, though, I’m fortunate to be able to call most of my own shots. I don’t feel any need to work for assholes, which was always my biggest beef when working for wages. I can tell the assholes to take flying fucks at rolling donuts, and through some kind of miracle every time I do something much better comes along within a month. Don’t ask me how that works. Maybe Amethyst knows? She seems to think that she does. I don’t question it.

Fifteen years in the same gig and with no plans to leave it. Wow.

I’d started the year believing that 2013 would be the year that I made big changes, but here it is September already. I wasn’t intending to leave my field or anything like that, just to leverage the skills and relationships I’ve got to do something more profitable with a promise of less effort being required in a couple of years… But here it is September already. The calendar really does move faster the older you get.

But, still, fifteen years in the same gig. It was either September or November of 1998 that I made this my full time gig, and it seems strange that I don’t remember which it was. Either way, I’m lovin’ it.



5 thoughts on “Fifteen Years.

  1. Roadkill Spatula


    I’ve been in my present line of work since March of 1998, and at my present job since April 2000. I’m fortunate to have one of the few relatively stable employers left in the country, so even though the job is often tedious and boring, I’m grateful for the steady paycheck and good benefits. My bosses by and large have been okay.

    But it is much more satisfying when I do an unrelated side job of tiling or carpentry, whether for someone else or myself. I love the creativity and working with my hands and the satisfaction of seeing something nice that I put there.

    1. happierheathen Post author


      Everyone I know who was 15 years or more in the same gig has recently retired. The times they went and changed, I guess. But in another couple of years you’ll be there, eh? Welcome to the minority! 🙂

      There’s a lot to be said for putting one’s hands to something both tangible and durable. Some of my oldest custom software has been retired recently, but it went at least ten years. Some of the stuff I give away for free has lasted longer, which is nice — but it’s not really tangible. Not like a cool tile job or a water filtration system that doesn’t have to be backflushed once a month. Though I did get a huge kick out of seeing a tree I planted in the 60’s still being there in 2003, and being one of the few that hadn’t been destroyed by bad weather. That was cool and a half. I was half tempted to knock on the door of the house behind it to see if my handiwork from long ago was still in place, but I really didn’t want to risk that I might find that it wasn’t.

      1. Roadkill Spatula

        A guy who was on the rowing team with me in college was a computer genius from Michigan. In high school he created the Shootout game that was on the old Ataris (I think it was Atari). In the shootout, the loser fell down, a dirge played, and his eyeballs popped out. I haven’t seen that game in a while but I know those old games are still available.

        I wonder whatever became of Bob Coble. I’m sure he went on to great things.

  2. g.

    I’m envious, but inspired. I’m just now starting to try and make this transition in my own field. I’ve never heard that phrase, “trading the illusion of security for the illusion of freedom.” Yep, sounds about right.

    1. happierheathen Post author

      In the first, oh, decade or so, that’s really what it boils down to: Lots and lots more hours than one’s ever worked before just keeping the loose ends in the same county. Then one gets the hang of it all and can back off some… Though it’s after midnight and I’ve just called it a day. It doesn’t happen that often for me, but darn it the buck stops here.

      I wish you the best of luck in your new venture, and the luck that is required to make the hard work pay off. (Even the failures do serious networking and work very hard, after all, so luck is important. The trick is to figure out how to give it as many opportunities as possible to strike. Or to luck into it. 😀 )


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