techISH

May 30, 2007

Final Summary

Filed under: Creating, MiniNovel, publishing, TVC, Writing — techish @ 1248 UTC

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I have three manuscripts in raw format that I will probably never publish. I have always wanted to write a real book however; one that I actually publish. The problem is that I don’t write stories, I write life.  Anyone who has ever read any of my life notes makes comments like “You should write a book” or “man that sounds like a Lifetime TV Special”. But this project is to be my first real published work. I have a sincere desire to write something that speaks directly to people I may pass on the street. I’m constantly talking to people who desire knowledge in working with their computers so I’m constantly telling them about courses at TVC and how it’s not as scary as they might think.

This book is to be something general enough however that anyone thinking of going to college for the first time in their adult life can read, grasp a feel for what it’s like to jump over that initial fear hurdle, and to watch yourself excel in learning something that truly interest you. I purposefully left out details like class names and getting too specific about skills learned, because it should speak to whoever reads it.

The typeset and layout of the book, illustrations and design elements are all my own and will speak for themselves as the reader eventually realizes that the author not only wrote it, but designed it and published it as well.  For that reason too, I want to keep it short. Not so short it could be called a booklet, long enough to paint the full picture of my experience at TVC, but short enough that someone could set down and read it in part of an afternoon.

It’s been a challenge to say the least but a very welcomed challenge in my writing skills. It’s still a challenge as it’s not finished… it’s written, but the actual events haven’t all taken place yet, so I have to wait to see if they do.  I have to actually finish the things I’m talking about in the book before I can publish that I have!

Saving posts doesn’t publish them – I know that!

Filed under: publishing, Writing — techish @ 1110 UTC

After four months without Internet access outside of work, and 8 weeks of calling at least twice a week – I finally concvinced Ace Tekk to hook me up. I can’t say much good about the company, their service, or my connection – as I spend about as much time disconnected as I do connected, I can’t transfer large amounts at one time — it’s taking days on days on days to upload photos to Flickr! And I cannot use ANY email address for sending except my UAF account, and that’s unacceptable IMHO. It’s two guys! Not a big company – just two guys – but also my only option! It’s also unacceptable to have to contact your ISP half a dozen times before they finally start to respond, yet don’t actually answer the questions or fix the problems without another dozen or so exchanges in email. *sigh* this sucks! I can’t **wait** till GCi can get in here.

Anyway Aparantly all of the posts I was trying to catch up on before graduation were “saved” instead of “published” — they are all published now. I still have to write my summery – that’s what I came here for today and how I noticed there were no posts, only drafts..

May 10, 2007

Dedication

Filed under: Creating, MiniNovel, publishing, TVC, Writing — techish @ 2326 UTC

I have yet to find a clear guide to the anatomy of a book. I think dedications are supposed to go in the front, but because I know these people I would dedicate my efforts to, I know they wouldn’t want public recognition to begin with, so they’d prefer it be buried in the back.

I have taken something important from every prominent person who has crossed my path on this journey – so it would create a whole new chapter if I were to thank them each for what I specifically gained from them. Instead – for once in my life – my dedication will remain extremely vague and cryptic, as there is one person who has not only influenced me the most, but influences me in some way every single day of my life. He’ll never know how much strength I get from just knowing him, nor will he ever really know how much he means to me.

My dedication reads this:

Eroe, Guida, Caro Amico

Thank you a million times.

May 8, 2007

CH13 What’s Next?

Filed under: Creating, MiniNovel, publishing, TVC, Writing — techish @ 2215 UTC

What comes next? Completing my Bachelor’s of Technology of course! I’m also very close to finishing my BT, but I had to finish my AAS before I can even apply for my BT. I have to form a committee of individuals willing to put the time into verifying for me if in fact I’ve fulfilled the requirements for my BT. I’ve ruined some of these relationships over the past few years though I fear – as these people were near me through the Fatigue & Reality phase. One can only try though before they give up – right?

This chapter is written – in ink anyway, but without the ability to close chapter 12, I can hardly justify writing chapter 13 for real.

This chapter should focus on the fact that I have a great job already with great benefits and an amazing group of people that I work with. I am currently on Family Medical Leave from work however, and though I will return to work, it’s unclear to me how long I will be there. I have to give UAF at least 2-3 months because while on FML they still carry your insurance and benefits as if you were only on Annual Leave. So in a sense you go into the red. If one was to not return, they would owe UAF actual funds. And because of what FML is, your employer has to let you come back to work even though they can fill your position temporarily. But there is no guarantee you will stay.

So, the What’s Next I had originally written may not even apply now. I won’t know the reality of it for a few months; until after I’ve gone back to work and find out if I get to stay. It will be too last to register for fall classes, and frankly, after a burnout like this one, I would probably wait until spring semester 2008 to register for classes anyway. I still have a month’s worth of medical appointments of my own before I go back to work, and any one of those could change the course I will follow for the rest of the year. My future is actually quite uncertain right now.

Regardless, the intent of the final chapter in this mini-novel is to fill the reader with hope and inspire them to look beyond just getting a degree. Look beyond fulfilling the requirements for your Associate’s degree to the next level of achievement they wish to climb. Whether that is to the next level of a higher degree, or to getting their dream job, I want the reader to look beyond whatever their current path is into the neat realm of possibilities.

CH12 “Piss or Get Off the Pot”

Filed under: Creating, MiniNovel, publishing, TVC, Writing — techish @ 1733 UTC

Those are the words of my father that echo through my head every time I’m taking too long to make a decision or whenever I’ve taken to long to finish something. Even though we haven’t spoken in several years, I could hear him very loudly over the last few semesters as I desperately wanted to finish this chapter in my life. It was time to finish. Whatever it takes, even if I can’t complete something to my own preferred level of perfection – I just needed to finish.

The challenge with this chapter is clear yet so clouded. How to finish this little mini-novel on a positive point seems as difficult to me as finishing everything else I’ve started. I look around me even now at a dozen projects I’ve started here at home, but the view would be the same if I were at work. Project or assignments or tasks I’ve started and don’t know how to finish. A degree program isn’t vague – it’s clear. It’s cut and dry. Yet – it’s taken me so long to complete it. I’ll never understand why I am like that.

My brother graduated high school in 1977, I graduated high school in 1987, my eldest niece and nephew both graduated high school in 1997, the same year I got out of the USAF. So 2007 seemed like a perfect year to finally finish this degree. My eldest brother’s eldest daughter also graduated from college this year – but with her PhD! Yah – I feel like an underachiever when compared to her – but that’s not the point. The point is to simply finish.

When my brother found out last fall that my graduation was in the works he said he wanted photos. I said I had no intention of doing the dog-n-pony show just for an AAS, maybe once I got my BT though. Then the plot thickened – If I walked, they’d (him and our sis-in-law) come! Our sister hasn’t seen our them in some 7-8 yrs, I haven’t seen them in 14 years, and our mother hasn’t seen them in 25 yrs – so this was more than a big deal over graduation – this was a HUGE, monumental event in our family!

I can write about it, I was there, I walked, I have photos, but I will not be receiving my diploma in the June mail out like everyone else, because I have once again, fallen short of the finish line.

Finishing this book in a way that the reader feels inspired to go after their goals to completion; how is that possible when I’ve failed to do just that for myself? This chapter, the final chapter, should be about my graduation, my own final completion.

May 5, 2007

CH11 Fatigue & Reality

Filed under: Creating, MiniNovel, publishing, TVC, Writing — techish @ 2020 UTC

The last four and a half years has really changed me or it’s really worn me out – I’m not really sure which. When I first started my current job, it was part time. The job grew into 3/4 time, which grew into full time.  I work on site part time and I telecommute part time. When you telecommute, there is a tendency to work much more than you would at an office. For a long time I viewed the same way I viewed putting in the extra time between classes and above and beyond homework – as another means to bettering my skills. Because that’s the way the job had morphed over the last few years, that also meant it was less and less time I was able to devote to school. I cut my classes to half time or less. I stopped taking summer classes all together because that’s our busiest time at work. I let my independent business go under because I didn’t have the time or energy to do both jobs.

Then the job started to change as well. I was doing less and less real design work. I was doing less and less web design / development until it virtually disappeared from my job all together. Before I knew what hit me my job had become mostly typeset and layout for course packs and not much else. I fought it whenever possible, but that’s just the way the ball bounces – jobs change.

My health began worsening after about 2 yrs on the job, and many things in my personal life began to fall apart. If you’re health is bad and you find yourself miserable in general, and miserable in your job too, you have to stop at some point and examine this dilemma. Is it you? Is it the job? If you can find answers then you can make some changes to make things better, but it’s very hard to break out of a slump if you can’t figure out what’s wrong.

Before I knew it, another year had passed, and another. I’d taken classes one or two at a time here and there, but at least twice two semesters without any classes had passes and I had to reapply at UAF before I could register. I was so close to finishing it wasn’t funny, but each time I thought I was taking my last two classes, something came up in the middle of that semester that caused me to either miss classes, or miss assignments, or otherwise made it impossible to finish the class;  illness, injury (auto wreck once), or work. Work always came first, and more than once work won out. Even when I thought my health issues had cleared up, they also got worse.

Fatigue and reality are something all college students have to deal with. Having a family to take care of, a demanding job, getting sick, loved ones’ lives ‘getting in the way’ – I didn’t feel like I was experiencing anything more or differently than anyone else. But at some point I had to give in to the reality that I apparently was not able to handle it as well as others do.

Truth is, I was burnt out. On work, on school, on life. I’d tried taking a little leave from work here n there and had taken breaks form school for work, but it was evident to me that I’d burnt out in all areas when no matter how many times I tried to make things better or to try harder, I was just getting worse.

Again – the challenge with this chapter is to tell what happened without getting bogged down with the pity party. To write without whining!

May 4, 2007

CH10 Networking Pays Off

Filed under: Creating, MiniNovel, publishing, TVC, Writing — techish @ 1941 UTC

If I had to finger the one most valuable piece of knowledge I have gleaned from my time in this programs, it would be this:

What you know and how well you do your job will keep may keep you in your job, but you can never meet too many people, no matter what they do or what their role in their company is, at least not in this town, because who you know may be the single final groove in the key it takes to open a door.

It’s not a hard, fast, chiseled in stone, golden rule, but a reliable generality to say that in this region, Fairbanks, people in their fields tend to travel in like skilled, like minded, related circles. So you may know Joe Blow, who knows Jane Doe, who knows Suzie Chapstick, who knows Sammy Snowflake who has an opening at his company for a position that you may fill… and if you get out there and meet people and apply yourself – there is a chance Sammy will ask Suzie, who may ask Jane who may ask Joe if they know anyone with this certain skill set who may be right for the job. That’s is exactly what has opened every door I’ve been blessed to walk through since I first enrolled at UAF and joined the ranks of TVD Students.

Always bridge the gaps, never burn a bridge. Shake the hands, help where you can, keep your ears and eyes open, and be sincere.

It wasn’t verbatim, but that’s the gist of the advice that was given me when I left the secure, protective shell of the USAF. And that’s what I’ve done.

For a while there, my first couple years in the program at TVC, I was flourishing, at times I felt like the cat’s meow or at least a tag-along on the cat’s collar and I was loving every minute of it. After my internship at Third Sector Technologies ended, I went back to my independent business. I knew I didn’t want to remain in business for myself but I also knew from my time with Third Sector Tech that web design/development was not a one person job. You really needed to be a part of a team.

One of those first instructors that I admired so much had contacted me to let me know there was a student position as her assistant open, and she really needed the help. As tempting as it was, and as much as I really wanted to help her out especially after all she had done for me, I had to reassess where I was standing at the time. My skills were quite good at the time and definitely far beyond student skill level. I had to be honest with her when I told her I would love to assist her, I really would, but not in a student position.

Without going into the details that I find so tempting to talk about – I want this chapter to mention, even just skim over so many of the opportunities I’ve gotten because of who I knew. And the vast majority of those people I met through TVC in some way or another. Instructors or colleagues of instructors ended up being my word of mouth advertising. Almost every client I had with my independent business was met through classes or from spouses or employers of fellow students. Not to mention that my current job of which I’ve been at now for close to five years, started as that student position I didn’t want, but one I anxiously went after once it became a temp hire position.

CH9 Burnout or Relapse?

Filed under: Creating, MiniNovel, publishing, TVC, Writing — techish @ 1456 UTC

By my fifth semester I’d been attending classes at full time to full time and a half, tutoring or teaching, and working as an intern part time. I felt tired, frustrated, and a little frazzled after my first semester of teaching. I’d considered not taking any classes that next spring semester so I could focus on teaching and my internship. Since we register for classes for the next semester so early, almost before the current semester ends, I was still undecided. I’d registered for courses bringing me up to full time.

November and December are really difficult months for me anyway. Without family, without my children, and being bipolar as well, it’s generally when I am most likely to crack, break down, or have a relapse. I’d been so busy this particular semester; I’d barely had time to feel anything personal. I was hoping that the holiday break between December and January, which is a fairly long break, would give me enough time to rejuvenate, recollect myself, and ready myself to press on. I’d figured wrong.

During the break, instead of resting, rejuvenating, and renewing, I suffered a sever relapse. There were doctor appointments and additions and adjustments of medications, adding a few therapy sessions wherever time would allow. I just kept telling myself that once the new semester started things would level out and I would be fine. Instead, I focuses my energies all on my students and on my internship. When one has low reserves already, those reserves should be used on self. If self is not cared for, all will fall apart. I ended up having to drop all of my own classes and since my internship was a telecommuting position, I was able to adjust those hours and times as needed. But it was a miracle that semester that I was able to pull anything off at all.

Personally, I was a complete disaster. People with illnesses or disabilities like I have do become masters of disguise however. We learn slowly over time how to hide the signs. If I’d had a family at home – or anyone else to take care of – it would not have been possible – no way.

 

I had another slight setback with 9/11/01, and I know I was not alone. I may not be a medic in the field anymore, I may never drive another ambulance, or be another first responder, but there is something deep within that ties all firefighters, all medics, all police, all EMS together, forever. It’s like what ties together all airmen, or all marines, or all soldiers together. There’s a loyalty, a dedication, a camaraderie that may not be evident when you pass on the street, but you can bet your boots it’s there when the chips are down. When the Twin Towers fell, when the Pentagon was impaled, when flight 93 crashed; for days I was stunned. I felt guilty, I felt useless and helpless, and I felt like I was shirking my duty by not being somewhere, anywhere to help. Of course the reality was there was nothing at all I could do even if I was still in that job. I had to allow myself several days, but I knew I couldn’t give myself weeks or months. It just wasn’t realistic. It had an utterly profound effect on me. During that time while I could not tear myself away from CNN I built a tribute website (tributeto9-11-01.com) that I will support as long as I have the means to do so. I allow myself a day every September to honor the crash of the Yukla 27 in 1995 also. Loss is a part of life and these things can crush you, or they can effect you. I’ll always be effected, and I’ll allow that.

The biggest challenge with writing this chapter is courage, and fact. The courage to admit what was really going on, and the need to focus on fact vs. emotion. I don’t want to come across as a ‘whoa-is-me’ victim to the reader, as that has too many pathetic undertones to it. But I do want to honestly confess to the reader what happened, the severity of the situation on my health and well being, how close I came to losing it all, and to convey what kept me going. My loyalty to my students, loyalty to my employer, and the pure drive not to let anyone else down. I don’t want the reader to feel sympathy or pity for the author; I want them to realize that they need to take great care to balance their lives if they should attend school, work, and have people at home – because what happened to me could truly happen to anyone – I just happen to be more vulnerable, therefore I should have known better.

May 3, 2007

CH8 Teaching is a Gift; Not a job

Filed under: Creating, MiniNovel, publishing, TVC, Writing — techish @ 1825 UTC

There is one individual I’d been calling my hero and my mentor; my hero because he saved me from myself by believing in me much more than I believed in myself. And my mentor, whether he liked it or not, because I was more-or-less following him around doing my best to acquire the skills he had. More or less because I wasn’t exactly stalking him, but I was assisting in his classes and substitute teaching for him occasionally and he also worked at Third Sector Technologies so I was around him constantly, if not in person than at least on the other end of an Instant Messaging client; and I called on him often. With the patience of a saint he always took time or made time to help me with whatever it was I was trying to accomplish. He was wonderful about making me go find the answer without blowing me off, even if that meant he had to turn me in a circle and point me in a new direction.

He wanted to move on to teaching something more advanced. The head of the degree program I was in and this hero teacher were both saying I would take over his class. I truly thought they were both kidding as it would send me into near panic mode every time they mentioned it. It didn’t take very long however, for me to realize they weren’t kidding. As many times as I said, “No”, both of them were there to say, “Yes!” By now I’d come to respect the instructor opinions almost more than my own and I believed him, trusted him unconditionally. He saw something in me that I didn’t. He had faith in my abilities that I didn’t. If he’d told me I could fly, I would have tried. Okay, maybe not literally – but you get the gist.

The greatest challenge of this chapter – is that is is an extremely personal and emotional one. I failed miserably the first semester. And although the second semester was at the far opposite end of the spectrum and I felt it was a great success in comparison – I was not invited back to teach again. This is where it’s highly charged with emotional connection for me, because teaching is something I really really wanted to do. But without guidance, with ZERO experience other than substituting and tutoring – which are not the same and are barely a warm-up to actual teaching – without any real guidance and with complete lack of communication from my boss and advisor – I feel I was hung out to dry. The instructor did try desperately to save me, but I was not able to understand what he was getting at… so there was a complete disconnect there at well. The facts surrounding it are viewed differently by all three people – but this is MY story :) and even though I don’t want to step all over the opinions of the others, I know what it was from where I was setting. If all three had input here – I’m sure I would finally get a better rounded understanding of what really happened.

So, the greatest challenge here is to try to write about what happened objectively – which is technically impossible. Of course I’m objective! I’m still extremely sensitive when talking about this particular two semester span because I failed so miserably – which meant I failed my students as well – and it’s not my nature to fail and quit. It’s my nature to fail and try again, and again, and again if I have to until I can at least succeed even if I cannot master whatever it is I’m trying to do.

The challenge to ‘report’ if you will, on what happened in a way that the reader can grasp how horribly affected I was, yet that the reader can still see this was just another hurdle in the learning process. I want the reader to fully understand how emotionally charged this is, without having to muddle through reading the emotional sludge that the freewriting produced. Because the utmost reason for this book has to remain in front… this is to inspire and motivate the reader to realize that s/he may be taking some classes working toward a degree, but also that opportunities can and likely will crop up all around them if they are truly applying themselves, and that they might even fail miserably at an attempt. But that’s not the end. That is merely one facet of the total gem that is the education they will take away with them.

What I desperately do not want the reader to go away with is the same bitter taste that I have in my mouth for some of the events that happened. I do not want my reader to sense that I am still anger or that I still with I could call individuals to the carpet to get the direct answers I needed how many years ago (?) that would have possibly allowed me to try again. I do not want the reader to know the ultimate underlying truth in this chapter, which is that I was so damaged by this experience (miserably failing at teaching) that I have shyed away from, avoided, and refuses to teach ever since – which has had some detrimental effects on my current job and possibly my future career. I do want the reader however to go away knowing the truth of my failure, yet knowing that ultimately, I still want to teach… someday… somehow. I do want the reader to feel the respect I have for teachers and to feel that after this experience it increased immensely.

 

This chapter will prove the greatest personal challenge to successfully write. Multiple attempts thus far, have brought me down from about a 708 grit (sandpaper grit reference) to where I am now at about a 190 grit. For this chapter to be acceptable for the reader, it really should convey no more than a 30.2 and even that number is a bit high, but I believe a little passion should remain. For it to be completely objective it would have to be about a 10.3 grit but I’m not sure I’m capable of that

CH7 Third Sector Tech. Internship

Filed under: Creating, MiniNovel, publishing, TVC, Writing — techish @ 1759 UTC

At the end of my second fall semester I remember talking to a fellow student and he telling me about this internship he was going to be starting after the holidays. I was very happy for him but I was also more than just a bit envious. This guy had never worked anywhere before but had more talent pouring out of his pinky in both graphics/web design as well as in the networking and technical computer areas – so I wasn’t jealous of this opportunity he more than deserved but also would greatly benefit from – just envious! Shortly after the holidays were over and the spring semester had started, I received the same opportunity! I was ecstatic! I assumed I would be working along side this fellow student. I found out however that I received the position instead of him.

“What? That doesn’t make any sense!” When I found out why, I felt I owed it to him to let him know why. This internship was not only an opportunity for me to work with a real company doing real work, but the rarest of internship situations, it was a paying position. On top of going to school full time, and working the tutor program I now had this internship. They were awesome working with us around our school schedules and these were part time positions (although they often resulted more than part time work) – but the experience alone was priceless. It was a telecommuting position and we were working with a specific grant program they’d started.

I received invaluable experience working on a design team, in a situation where I only saw them face to face during occasional staff meetings and all other correspondence was via email and I turned in files and mock ups via FTP on their server. I got to run teleconferences with multiple clients at the same time, sometimes with other employees, sometimes by myself and had to make progress reports on each of the clients in the program that I was working with. We even got to be a part of a week long conference where all the clients in the program came to Fairbanks and we were able to help them in person as well as being able to teach them as a group some of the skills they would need to keep up with their websites we were building for them.

The position also gave me an opportunity to work with the man who founded the first ISP in the interior and one of my most respected instructors. I felt like I was being showered with blessings and good luck no matter where I was and no matter which way I turned. Life was so good that year!

Not wanting this chapter to be solely about the internship position itself, the challenge here is how to tell about the internship while keeping a balanced focus on what was going on in classes at the same time and how what I was learning at both places was supporting each other.

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