All entries in the 'Life Story' series:
In the previous part, I covered one of the most exhausting and mind-wrecking moments of my life.
On this one, I would like to focus on more positive aspects from the same period. Mostly positive. Positive meaning it all worked out in the long run.
Just a heads up: This post is a bit longer than the previous two, but I tried to make it easier to digest by adding multiple headlines.
It was during these years that I met some of the most amazing people I have ever met.
I have kept in touch with them for years, we still occasionally hang out to play board games, videogames, have a drink, or just chat.
Most notable, Camilo. We’ve been friends for over 10 years now, and we’ve been through highs and lows.
He was there to help me pick up my pieces after all the events I mentioned in my last post. Even though at some point we took somewhat different paths, we’ve managed to stay friends to this day and for that, I am extremely grateful.
Foundations For My Career
I loved it, programming concepts clicked almost instantly and I was able to make connections across all these lessons. I enjoyed most of these classes.
Later on, I did have some issues with a couple of technical courses. I just wasn’t giving my 100% at the time; I was depressed and anxious, due to the reasons I covered in the last post.
I had to retake a couple of these courses but managed to pass them on the second try. No big deal here.
For one of these classes, there was an assignment where I had to make some queries on a database implementing a simple web page. I spent hours making things look pretty. I discovered I liked making things look pretty and began playing around with CSS even though none of my courses really required it.
I would strive to deliver all my assignments looking polished, and professional.
To this day I love making things look pretty, and usable.
There came a moment when I could not take any more advanced programming courses until I finished all the Calculus and Physics ones, and we already know how that went.
So I took the chance to experiment in other areas, and boy that was fun.
Somewhere halfway through this period, I took a few creative courses. I’ve already established that I’ve liked music since my teen years, and by this time I began to have an interest in photography as well.
Camilo and I decided to take together a class called “Experimental Video”, and these were some of the most enjoyable months for me at that school. There were no wrong answers; whatever idea you had, you could just go for it. It was refreshing. Even when I was out of ideas the professor would just give me a good one out of nowhere; pretty much doing my homework for me.
I didn’t feel any pressure, I enjoyed working on my assignments. I loved being able to just ditch logic for a moment and focus on emotions.
At some point, I took a 2D animation class too, and again thoroughly enjoyed that as well.
These courses may not have taught me skills applicable to my day-to-day job, but they certainly helped me to stay creative and made me curious about other ways to stay creative.
During these years I kept playing games when I had a bit of time to spare. I remember playing a ton of Far Cry 3 and 4, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, and lots of Call of Duty and League of Legends.
Games have been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember. For me, games are a way to unwind after a long day or maybe even a way to stay in touch with people I care for.
I had a decent gaming PC that would upgrade occasionally with parts I could afford. Then I bought a PlayStation 4 within a year of it coming out. I played a lot of GTA V on that thing (and on my PC when it was good enough, and years later on PlayStation 5). Rockstar really managed to milk that cow.
And speaking of rockstars…
During these years I kept practicing guitar with the only one I had back then. I really wasn’t serious enough at the time to start investing in more of them, not that I could afford any back then anyway.
At the time was obsessed with Megadeth. I was hooked on their musical style and complexity; for me, musically at least, Megadeth has always been way better than Metallica.
But that’s a hot topic…
I recorded and uploaded a few covers (with crappy quality, obviously) and I enjoyed the challenge of trying to learn how to play their songs.
To this day I firmly believe that my current guitar-playing skills stem from all the time I spent practicing Megadeth riffs back then.
So it is only logical that when they announced a show in Bogotá, I had to go.
And when they announced they would sell meet and greet packages? You bet I had to get one.
I really can’t remember how I was able to afford that at the time, I think it was like US$200. And that was just the meet and greet, I had to get the actual ticket for the show separately.
I can’t even remember how I was informed about my academic suspension. It was probably a cold automated e-mail; I was expecting the news anyway, dreading it.
How could I break the news to my mom?
I probably spent two days in my room, not leaving it unless strictly necessary; I couldn’t face the world.
And I had to have a plan of action before letting my mom (down) know.
There was only one thing I could possibly do: Find a job and in six months go back to school – even if it was just half-time.
So I told my mom in the calmest way I could, it wasn’t easy as you can imagine. However, at the time I had come to terms with the issue; I had accepted what had happened and I knew I had to move on. But I still could feel the judgment, the disappointment, and I could barely handle that.
My plan to find a job had softened the blow… Just a bit, but it was enough.
I started filling out applications online. I really don’t remember how many interviews I had, probably quite a few.
In the months prior I had been learning Android programming, so I applied to a few positions as a Jr. Android Developer.
There was this Android development company where I first had an interview, and that went well – I mentioned my intentions to go back to school after 6 months and they said it was fine; they were flexible. I submitted a technical test, and that also went well.
The last step was a psychological test. I hate those things, it’s probably one of the most useless and backward interviewing processes to ever exist, along with live coding interviews.
When I was halfway through that stupid test, the HR person came to see how I was doing and asked a few more questions. I happened to mention the whole ‘going back to school’ bit again, and then they went “Oh… Yeah we are flexible but, like, you can probably leave an hour early at most; we need you full time”
Well fuck my life, that’s not what you said at the beginning of this whole process! Thanks for wasting my time I guess…
I didn’t even finish the stupid test, I just left after that.
One day I had an interview at a small company, like really small. Start-up small.
They didn’t have an office; they were operating out of the house of the owner. It was just him and two developers.
The day of the interview I almost didn’t find the damn address because they failed to mention it was a house.
When I made it there and they let me in, I immediately knew I didn’t want to work there. It just wasn’t a nice place. I did the interview anyway just for funsies.
This was just ridiculous, their interviewing process was like two questions and a test. A written test. As in, pen and paper. It would have been okay if they had asked simple things, but they expected me to come up with entire functions on paper.
I just wanted to leave, I filled out about half the test, got bored, and said “I finished”. When they were going over it they asked me about the missing parts, and I just said “Yeah, I would do this and that. I just didn’t put it there because I’m too lazy to do that.
One of the devs looked at me perplexed, and said “… too lazy to do it? Okay…”.
I purposefully botched it, what kind of circus was that anyway?
“Yeah I’m too lazy to write it down on paper”, I said.
We exchanged a few more pleasantries and then I left.
My First Job
Around the same time I had that last fucked up interview, I had another one at a decent web agency.
A couple of fun facts about this:
- I had interviewed there in the past, with the CTO. He was an asshole; the social skills of a fork and the management style of Darth Vader. I still wanted to work there though; I had the feeling I could learn a lot.
- When I was called for the interview, the person on the phone gave me the address, the date, and the time. Then they said: “When you get here ask for _________“.
I had forgotten the name. It started with J. It was either Jairo or Jaime. Probably.
The day of the interview I still wasn’t sure who I was supposed to ask for. I just said the first of those names to cross my mind. It was Jairo.
Upstairs in the office, I was greeted by this skinny, tall AF dude. For the interview, he brought a pen and paper. “Not this again…”, I thought. But the “test” couldn’t have been simpler; he just asked to write down a tiny JSON object. “Ok…”, I was a bit confused; this was just too simple. I did it. After that, I think he asked me a few simple technical questions and that was it.
The whole thing probably took like 10 or 15 minutes tops.
Follow Your Gut…
A few days later I got a call from the crappy start-up. I just couldn’t believe they still wanted me after I intentionally half-assed their “test”. How desperate were they?
It was one of the devs calling (remember, it was a small operation), and he said something like “What do you think bro? Will you take the plunge with us?”. Uh… NO, hard pass.
“I already have another job, sorry”, I said, trying to be just a bit polite.
I didn’t have anything else lined up, I just didn’t like their vibe.
Something else will come up, I thought.
The next day I got a call from the web agency; I had passed Jairo’s JSON test and they wanted to make me an offer.
I had a job.
The First 4-5 Months
This was an exciting time; except for the whole ‘getting up early’ bit. But I was learning a lot, I really enjoyed the job and I was making decent money (for someone without a lot of experience, and for the time).
The day-to-day was enjoyable enough and most of the time there was a nice work environment. The CTO was still an asshole though. I didn’t take long to find out that the HR/Management person was an entitled asshole too.
I came to the conclusion that there are shitty people everywhere.
Being able to afford things I wanted to get for myself was an eye-opener. I grew up constantly being told ‘No‘ most of the time I asked for something; there wasn’t enough money back then.
But now? I was enjoying a newfound freedom. Videogames, music, and food. I loved (and still do) trying new restaurants and types of food.
I’ve always liked tattoos, and since I was a teenager I knew I wanted to at least get some ink done on one arm. I got my first tattoo with my first paycheck. Painful but totally worth it.
My mom wasn’t too happy with it at first but after a short while, she came to accept it. Nowadays she has even admitted she really likes my tattoos 🤷♂️.
This was, generally speaking, a fun time. And it was still fun for a while even after I went back to school.
Back to School (For Now)
At work, they were okay with me working half-time, and I was able to get my class schedule neatly organized to fill my mornings and I would go to work before or after lunch. It was a 15-20 minute bus ride, not too bad.
By the time I had distanced myself from
Satan Laura; she had found another victim, not even a couple of months after I had cut all contact with her. It still hurt though; after going in circles for years with me she got into a relationship with someone else almost right after meeting them.
Everything happens for a reason. In this case, I had dodged one hell of a bullet, I just didn’t know it back then. I cut contact entirely, until a couple of years later. We’ll get to that at some point.
Nearing the end of the semester, I began working with Jairo on a new project. It was a kind of farm and cattle management application.
Someone had reached out to him with the idea, and he asked me if wanted to work on it with him. I accepted without hesitation.
At first, I would go to class in the morning, then go to work in the afternoon, and when I got home I would work on this other thing in the evening.
When the classes were over, I changed my working schedule so I would go to the office in the morning and then go home and work on this other thing in the afternoon.
Working on this made me really happy; I had nothing to lose and I was learning A LOT.
I can’t remember very well what classes I was taking that semester, besides the nightmarish Calculus and Physics. It doesn’t really matter, the point is I fucked up again.
By the end of the semester, I was pretty sure I was about to get a second academic suspension. It felt inevitable, but at least now I was better prepared to handle it.
After all, I was working and I was being somewhat responsible.
But then I made one of the most drastic decisions of my life. The Catalyst for absolutely everything that came after.
First of all, I was done with school. I was informed of the suspension and I pretty much shrugged it off. It was going to suck telling my family again, but oh well…
The school told me that I could probably go back again after six more months, but I was fucking done with them.
That entire experience had given me nothing but anxiety and insecurities, it was a toxic relationship at that point. I was done.
Everything happens for a reason. I’m a firm believer in it, it’s my mantra. And life has rewarded me for my patience in ways I couldn’t imagine back then.
Going back to working full-time was the logical thing to do, but my gut has many times told me to go in the opposite direction from all logic.
This was one of such occasions.
And I followed.
Jairo had taken a couple of weeks off from work to focus on the other project we had. He was working on it from home and really enjoyed working like that. And so did I.
On his first day back at the office, he had a run-in with the CTO (an asshole, remember), and he quit immediately.
He had enjoyed working on this other thing so much, that this office job felt like a prison.
And I felt the same.
A few weeks later I quit too. I followed my gut and followed him.
Picture this: I had just been suspended from school for the second time, and shortly after that I decided to quit my job. My mom wouldn’t talk to me, literally.
I was overwhelmed, and Jairo said “Hey I was planning on making a trip, wanna join me?”.
Fuck it. Yes, I’m in.
No school, no stable job, and now I was going on a trip in the middle of a jungle.
I was taking risks left and right. And I loved it.
Loved most of it anyway… One day into that trip, I called my mom because I wanted to tell her about the bus ride, where I was staying, the plans I had, etc. Her response to everything I told her was either “Uh huh” or “mm okay”. That hurt a lot and we didn’t talk anymore until I was back home.
This was a short trip, less than a week, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I have good memories of it.
I came back home recharged and with a new sense of purpose.
A month later I was getting my second tattoo.
I had gotten my first tattoo after starting my first job, and now I was getting the second tattoo just as a new chapter of my life began as well. I swear this wasn’t intentional, it’s just how these things lined up.
And it wouldn’t be the last time.
Part 4 will be out in a few days ✌️.