Most of you don’t know this, but I grew up in a seriously disadvantaged situation. From my 7th grade onward, my family lived in a housing project. Yes, we lived in “the projects”. For most of that time, we were the only white family in the entire neighborhood, and we had to endure our own unique hardships because of it.
I lost count of the number of bricks thrown through our windows inscribed with the words “Whitey go home.”
But I admit this much: systemically, we had an advantage on our neighbors. We didn’t have the burden of being people of color. I’ve heard of the phrase “twice as much effort, for half as much gain”, and I’ve seen it firsthand. Everyone in the hood struggled, but we were the few who got out.
When I’m told by someone to check my privilege, this is where I come from.
I had a multitude of opportunities thrown at me to help me rise from my station and see the bigger world around me.
I was in a federal program called Upward Bound that aimed to lift kids out of disadvantaged situations and push them into college. I have this program to thank for showing me that I could make my way at OBU, despite all my hardships.
I had well-meaning people at my church go out of their way to pick me up, take me home, fund my trips to youth camps, in order to help me be a better person. Some had selfish interests, some were genuine. Most wanted to help this scrawny white kid out. And I appreciate every one of them for what they did.
Even after lifting me up out of the morass of being in a hostile scene, I still had to contend with the social competition of the white kids. I mostly lost, but I still showed up when I could.
They say adversity makes champions, but that only holds true for those whom all other advantage has been handed. The game is rigged, even for people like me for whom the game was written to win. Once you’re in a situation where you don’t have to struggle for food, shelter, and clothing, you get into a new struggle for the best diets, the classiest homes, and the most fashionable threads to give you an attractive advantage over your peers. The successful ones rise to the top like cream in vat of milk, like the most explosive gas in a fractional distillation column.
If you’re at the bottom of the needs pyramid and concerned about how to make your government assistance stretch until the end of the month, you’re not going to win.
So, yes, my privilege has been checked thoroughly. Thanks for asking.
Mental soundtrack today has been Spin Doctors’ “Turn It Upside Down” (1994), for various subliminal reasons.
Feeling kinda bedraggled and alone, wandering between obligations. This album was one of the few salves during my Hell Summer of ’94, where my entire week was accounted for; between two jobs, one summer course, and all the time in transit, I only had the 48 hours of the weekend to claim as my own.
I certainly would’ve lost my shit if not for the constant presence of my friend Tom A. down the hall, and with Pam B., Eddie W., and James S. (plus a handful of others) in my Arkadelphia periphery to keep me sane. (Thanks, guys.)
These people, and that collection of albums, really ministered to me to keep me together, to lift me up out of that soul-dead state. They really threw me a lifeline.
I guess the way things are going now, I could use a little bit of ministration again. And so here I am, spinning this album in their stead.
Break the thread of indifference
They’ll suck the wind right from your soul
To never listen to the voice of memory
Is to die waiting for nothing
Today is 18 years in Austin. Long, hard road; long strange trip; yadda-yadda-yadda.
I guess it’s pivotal that I closed a dark chapter in my life a few days before the anniversary. The new job is demanding, but I’m not feeling despondent yet, so I guess that’s something.
Personally, it’s time to turn some things around, y’know? Here’s to another year at least. [crosses fingers]
My tenure at Hostway has come to an end. Long live Hostway.
I put in my two weeks notice, then walked away a free man yesterday afternoon. It was a long, tangled, messy 4 years, 5 months, 3 weeks. I learned a lot while there, but the biggest lesson of them all is that I do not want to do public-facing technical support ever again. There are too many parts in motion at all times; there are too many façades to keep up; there are too many unfunded and untenable expectations to uphold to get through the job with any shred of self-respect. I found I couldn’t exceed because the constant and random barrage of imperative demands kept me out of focus.
I also learned about networking, how server farms and monitoring systems work, how to file tickets, how to make things talk to each other, and how to deal with remote teams. Which is the set of traits that landed me my next gig.
On Monday, I will start as a contractor for a research team at Samsung. I’m not fully clear on the particulars of the job, but it will be very much like what I did in the product development labs at AMD: benchmarking & power measurement. My new job will also entail the care and feeding of a collection of testing platforms, rescuing any devices that lock up, making sure remote engineers can reach the platforms, working on automation and reporting software, etc.
It will be an uphill climb. But if it means I don’t have to deal with downed servers, failed hard drives, and pissed-off customers, then I’ll be as happy as a clam.