My 2009

I figured it’s only fitting that I do a year in review style blog post, since that’s what people do after a year is over. 2009 was a strange year, one that I’m not completely sad to see vanish into the ether. It started off simple enough, much like any other year really. We started off in St. Louis, with myself working at Contegix. We ended the year in Chicago with me working at Imaginary Landscape. Obviously, I went through a bit of a career change, and I dragged my loving wife along for the ride.

The main reason this all occurred is I wanted to do something I enjoyed more. Contegix was great to me for the most part, we did naturally have our bumps and bruises along the road but most was well. Ultimately, I wasn’t doing what I loved there, and I couldn’t see a real future for me with them. This lead to me looking for work as a Python developer, which I quickly learned didn’t exist in St. Louis. I have a lot of disdain for St. Louis as a city, because it’s generally a very weak city. Jobs are scarce, especially in the tech sector unless you really get your jollies off on Java. Simply put, that’s just not me. As a result, I ended up looking outside the realm of St. Louis, extending my search to pretty much anything in the continental United States. 

This lead me to an interview in Boston with a company, which eventually did make an offer. Also, it obviously lead to Chicago where I also received a generous offer. Chicago generally made more sense overall. The work is a lot more specific, so I’m not getting to play with as much general technology, and am instead pigeon holed into a view specific items. Overall, that’s really not that bad, because I find way to use and play with other technology along the way to keep my general skill set roughly sharp. Mainly though, Chicago was closer to our friends and family, and it didn’t look as ridiculously expensive on the surface as Boston did. As a result, we pulled the trigger and made our move to Chicago. We said our farewells to our St. Louis friends, packed our bags, and made the some 300 mile move.

We’ve now been here for roughly six months, and have enough of a sample to sort of grade our decision making. We do enjoy Chicago, it’s an interesting city. Lots of bars, food, music, and of course lots of people. I walk roughly 2 miles a day here, while in St. Louis I probably walked about 2 miles a year. As a result, I pretty much have to be healthier than I have been in years. Also, whatever it is you’re into in life, you can pretty much find a group of people in this city that enjoy it as well. You’d think that’d make for a rather inclusive city, but I can’t help but constantly feel isolated here in Chicago. 

You see, I really thought it’d be fairly easy to accomplish the task of finding new friends in this city. Oddly though, I’ve found it really difficult to get out and really do anything here. I’ve never really been one to go out on my own, and socialize with others. As a result, I’ve all but failed at getting out of the house and making new friends. Unfortunately, Kristie has been just as lucky in the task of finding new friends. This all culminates into this weird scenario where despite being in a heavily populated city, the two of us are essentially isolated on a deserted island together. We’ve weathered that all fairly well for the most part though, and I’m thankful for that. 

I’ve learned a lot from this trip though. Before, I thought that if you did what you love for a living that everything else would sort of fall into place. That’s not incredibly true though really. Friends don’t grow on trees, and they make a trying job significantly more tolerable. That all’s much more apparent now, but what do I do with such information? Is going back to St. Louis even an option? That does constitute as failure does it not? I’m willing to accept defeat in some regards, but I at least want to stick it out for a full year to see what may come in these next few months. It’s hard to call the whole trip a failure though, because portions of the change have been largely successful.

For instance, I’ve learned a lot about Python and Django development while at Imaginary Landscape. I feel like I’ve done a rather good job here, and have made solid contributions to the company. Unfortunately though for the past month or so, we’ve been really slow with very little to do. It’d be awesome if we were using this downtime to invest in new technology, and pushing our current knowledge base to new limits. That hasn’t really occurred as we seem to worry about how busy we might be in the near future instead. I do think part of my concern here is the spoiling Contegix had on me though. There everything operated at a breakneck pace, while at Imaginary Landscape that is hardly the case. I can’t recall really feeling under pressure at any point, but perhaps it’s occurred and I just don’t recall it. 

I guess at Contegix I felt like I was doing things on a routine basis that very few others were doing. You couldn’t help but feel like a pioneer sometimes. Even though the vast majority of what I did was general system administration tasks, you still had that one ticket everyday that forced you to think. That doesn’t occur as much here, mainly due to the slower pace I suppose. That and we don’t have customers that need or even want anything that requires load balancing, AJAX, message queues, or caching servers. All that being said though, I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of company that treats their employees better than Imaginary Landscape does.

We have absurdly excellent benefits for one. I haven’t ever been asked or expected to work over a 40 hour week since I’ve been here. I’ve had holidays off that I barely knew even were holidays. If I’m sick I never have a problem calling in, or working from home. Upper management is always willing to hear about new ideas or new ways to tackle old problems. Communication overall is pretty top notch. I really can’t say enough good things about the company, and the people that I work with. 

I guess that pretty much sums up my current feelings on 2009. The question is, what do I do with all of this? I have a great job, that’s exceptionally comfortable. However, I feel like some skills stagnate as a result. Chicago obviously has more opportunities for me, but it’s still been frustratingly difficult for me to make new connections and friends. I’m an introvert, I’m pretty atrocious when it comes to actually making new friends. Would moving back to St. Louis in the future fix any of this? I’d probably get my old friends back, but finding work I enjoy would be damn near impossible. I’d have to buy another car as well, and I certainly wouldn’t walk as much. I’d have to seriously consider a gym membership to keep myself anywhere near “in shape”. 

The answer is basically that I just don’t know. I have to at least ride out my lease here at my current apartment, and I’m going to work to make the best of that time. In the end though, I believe I can look back at this move to Chicago as a pretty selfish move on my part. I’ve caused both of us to miss out on time with the friends and family we had back in St. Louis all for a gamble on doing something I wanted to do. Yeah, we made the decision together, but what choice did Kristie really have in the matter? She could have said no, and then what happens? Would I have blamed her for thwarting my chances at attaining my biggest goals? It’s tough to say. At least we can say we both learned quite a bit from the move.