Back to School?

Yes, for some of you this will be kind of true (although to my understanding school started a few weeks ago), but I don’t mean heading back to school in that way. I mean for myself, back to an institution of higher learning. I’m at a point in my life where I’m seriously debating heading back to school to move my career down another path.

I never really thought about what I wanted to do in life when I did my undergrad. I didn’t really have a firm career in mind, I just knew I enjoyed writing and I enjoyed media and that lead me to my double major in English and Book and Media Studies. While I was in school people asked me what I would do with my education and my standard answer was something along the lines of “maybe something marketing or content writing”.

In reality I had this dream of becoming an author, grinding away for a few years in a job that didn’t matter while I worked on my great novel. The novel that would support me and my family and propel me to stardom. It was a total dream bordering on delusion but it was what my plan was.

Then I wrote a few books and realized that my dream was just that, a dream. That most authors are lucky to make a living writing their novels, let alone becoming literary superstars. While I was working on my novels I also decided to chase a dream job I had as a teenager and join the Army as an Infantry Soldier.

In Canada this is actually a half decent career and when you add in the honor and service it really worked with my world view at the time. I was stuck in some dead end corporate job, my books weren’t selling and the barriers to me joining the army were no longer there. So I went for it and after a lengthy application process I was declined due to a (previously unknown to me) medical condition.

That sucked because I thought I had found a life path, I thought I had found a career. Instead I was left in a dead-end job working in an industry I had never planned to be in just so I could pay rent. It was a dark and depressing few months (maybe even years) after that.

Then I landed a marketing job and it was finally something I had actually planned on doing in my life. Planned in the loosest sense of the word but something I had actually wanted. It was not bad (is not bad, it’s my current bill paying job) and I did / do enjoy it. However, an opportunity came up for a content writing position and I went for that.

Maybe I wanted a change, maybe it was the higher pay, but it ended up being a disaster. I learned very quickly that I don’t like content writing. I love writing fiction and writing on my own but I hate writing what other people tell me to, especially when it’s about topics I don’t care about. I should have known going into it that I wouldn’t like it, I had done some contract content writing while I was in school and not really enjoyed that, but sometimes my memory can be too short for my own good.

Thankfully my boss was willing to take me back and after a good half a year away I was back in marketing. In that time I discovered something that I actually enjoy doing and that can be turned into an honest to goodness paying job and that is software development.

I wish I had realized this earlier in my life and maybe I didn’t pursue it earlier because I had this deluded vision of being a writer in my head, but it lines up with one interest I’ve always had. I’ve been tinkering on computers since I was ten, dabbling in minor programming here and there. I just never even thought of entering computer science, maybe I was worried about the math.

You know that saying, that sometimes what you were looking for was there all along, that’s how it felt when I discovered programming. Now that’s not to say that I’m some savant programmer, if anything I’m actually struggling with some things more than an average person diving into this would. I have been working at it on my own for a year now though and think I have a pretty good base of knowledge built up. My Java needs works but I can hack out some intermediate projects with enough time (and googling).

I do need to refine my skills though. I know I need work, and while the self-taught approach is great it’s not the best for developing skills that can be used in a business environment. So I’m thinking I might be going back to school for a computer science certificate.

Certificate because I can’t take a full time course and don’t want to spend six to eight years in a part time computer science degree. The certificate is not going to make me overly competitive, but I want to actually spend some time classroom learning. Have my code reviewed and graded, learn the right way to do something, the most efficient way. Learn how to think in the right way.

It will also help from a discipline standpoint. I’m prone to bouts of depression, I actually have Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) also know as “Walking Depression” and sometimes that gets in the way of things I want to do. If it’s even a little easy to put off then I’ll put it off, however I also have a very well-developed sense of guilt, and that overrides the depression with some things. One of those is school (especially if I’m paying for it), playing my depression off my guilt was how I got though University.

Essentially, by going back to school I’ll force myself to work on coding instead of putting it off because I’m tired or busy. I’ve been better lately, but I spent a good three months not really working on my code skills, add in a few missed weeks here and there and I basically lost half the year. School will help prevent that from happening and also help me decide if this is something I really want to pursue or if it’s just another content writing job that I’ll regret.

I don’t know, I’m not enrolled yet, got to sort out time and finances, but I think it’s on my list for 2018 (unless I can make some significant progress on my own).  I’m also stuck on this idea of going it alone but that is sometimes not the best thing to do.

Long winded post that, I think the point is, if you find yourself in a situation you don’t like you have to be willing to at least try to get out of it.

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