Falling Out of Love with the Screen

Ever since I was incredibly little, I have spent my life behind one sort of screen or another. My father was a computer operator for mainframes as I was a kid, so I can’t remember any time that there was not at least three different computers in the house that I was growing up in. My dad even got me my own computer when I was about 2 years old and it was on that computer that I learned how to read. After all, you had to know how to read and type at least a little bit to get around on DOS.

I loved it. Computers became a huge part of my life. I became the go-to person for fixing any computer problems in my family. I set up our first home network, tried to learn how to make video games (and failed horribly), played a ton of video games by myself and with friends, and eventually started building websites for fun and profit.

When I got to college, I decided to try to go all in on computers and get a Computer Science degree so that I could finally figure out how to get past the blockers that I had in learning how to program. So I applied to the University of Illinois Computer Science program which was the 5th best CS program in the nation at the time and managed to get in. It was an absolute miracle considering that I didn’t have a programming background already like most of my classmates did and since I was an idiot who didn’t have a backup plan at the time.

However, I quickly realized that I was in over my head. I learned that the CS program at U of I really expected you to have that programming background before getting into their program as they had no interest in teaching you how to program explicitly, but rather teach you general programming concepts and the math needed to make your programming better. I can absolutely understand the reasoning behind this, but it definitely wasn’t what I needed at the time, so I transferred to the English department to get a degree in what was called Rhetoric at the time and eventually became Creative Writing.

But computers were still a big part of my life in college. My first job in college was as a Student Technology Trainer for CITES where I gave hands-on training sessions to people on how to use things like Photoshop and Excel. It was pretty great. Unfortunately, the budget for that job ran out and I joined the CITES HelpDesk to do tech support for the next four and a half years.

Fast-forward to today

To detail my entire history with computers really would take a novel – one that I already accidentally started with my last blog entry, Online Communities and the Evolution of Relationships. However, I’m going to skip ahead to where I am today.

Currently, my life is still pretty embedded in computers. I’m doing community management full-time for the GitHub Community Forums, I’m working on a couple of website side projects for Support Driven and for a local author, and most of my communication and recreation involves the TV, computer, or phone. I am behind a screen more than ever before.

Despite that (or perhaps because of that), I’ve been starting to feel this pull to move away from the screen, especially for recreation. I’ve always had a love of working with my hands and before I took this job at GitHub, I even considered whether or not it would be feasible to become a full-time carpenter and make hand-crafted furniture for a living. While I still find myself watching TV or playing video games in my free time, my desire to do so has been diminishing quite a bit.

Replacing the desire to be behind a screen, I have had more of a craving than ever before to be outside, doing active things. I want to build a #vanlife van so that I can travel more and bring things with me. I want to create a garden to grow mushrooms and plants that I can use to feed myself and my community and I want to learn about herbalism so that I can use plants to help treat people. I want to go hiking and camping and maybe even get myself a recumbent bike so that I can go on long bike rides with John and Renny and just explore new areas.

Eventually, I think I’ll have a life that is more full of those things than it is full of screens. I just planted some garlic and bought a pink oyster mushroom kit to experiment with those desires with the help of John and Renny. We’ve also talked about what it would take to turn this idea into a real business. While I love working for GitHub and I’m not ready to give it up yet, the idea of starting a little farm, growing most of our own food, and creating a sustainable ecosystem around helping people is really appealing.

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