I think that most people would agree that I march to a different drummer -- maybe not 100% of the time, but more than most others do or are willing to. This is a tendency that has continued to manifest itself to a greater extent as I have gotten older, much to the concern of some of those in my life. Part of my desire to march to my own drummer is that I want to feel a sense of control over my life. In an effort to exercise that control I have been willing to take certain risks. A case in point is my current employment situation.
Out of college I worked as a computer programmer. For the first eight years I worked for different companies. Then, I decided to become an independent computer consultant. I had a pretty good run of it and got bored. So, I decided to pursue my dream of being a high school math teacher. After four years of a graduate program and one year of a post-graduate program I got my first teaching job. I wasn't renewed at that position and, as a result, moved to a new state to get another teaching job. I decided that I didn't want to return to that school and found another teaching job. After teaching at three different schools in two different states I decided that maybe teaching (high school) wasn't the right fit for me and left that job. I made that decision in 2008.
For the remainder of 2008 I volunteered on a political campaign and then did remodeling in my house. Come 2009 my wife wanted to pursue some type of paying employment. So, I started a handy man business. I earned a small amount of money during that year. My situation changed in 2010 when the handy man business seemed to dry up entirely. So, I decided to return to my technology roots and teach myself to be a web developer. Things got even more interesting when my wife decided that she wanted to start a private counseling practice. Now it *really* mattered how much income I was able to produce. So, I had to start working hard to acquire some lucrative employment. I started pursuing/creating a number of different avenues to market myself in the web development arena, with varying degrees of success.
This (reasonably) brief history of my employment brings us to the current date. Yesterday I had followed up with a contact I made in one of my networking forays. Things went well and he put me in touch with one of his employees to continue the discussion. I spoke with that person today and he said that he thinks it would be a good fit to work with me. So, it appears that I may have finally opened and walked through the door of more consistent income doing web development. It's still too early to declare victory on this matter, but things look good.
Thanks for your patience while I finally get to my point of this post. While developing my technical ability was certainly a factor in the time it has taken to (finally, I hope) obtain consistent, gainful employment, I believe that there was an even more important factor: my attitude. You see, for a while I had become quite anxious and desperate about my financial situation. I let that fear impact my sense of self worth. The doubt of my self worth caused my to exude a certain energy as I talked to people about how things were going in my life. In fact, I would pretty much tell people that I was desperate to obtain any type of web development position and that I was having one incredibly difficult time getting anybody to give me a chance. That same type of woe-is-me energy surely manifested itself in the various job opportunities for which I applied. Fortunately, at some point I recognized how I was sabotaging myself with the way I was approaching things. At that point, I decided that I was going to change my attitude about things. It was possible for me to make clear to people that I was hungry/motivated/eager to break into the web development field without having to come across as desperate and negative. Instead of whining about how little success I was having getting anybody to give me a break, I could tell people that I was still plugging away and developing different approaches to sell myself to prospective employers. I could portray a sense of adventure and optimism.
As it turns out, right about the same time I was having my change in attitude, a number of handy man projects materialized. Also, I started getting warmer prospects and better success talking to people about what I do have to offer as a web developer. A couple of weeks ago I had a great interview with a company that was extremely interested in me. Unfortunately, their current opening requires somebody with a bit more technical experience than I currently have. Nonetheless, it was great confirmation of the potential to find a good match. So, let me address the question that is the title of this blog. How much control does one have over ones life?
As I have already noted in a previous paragraph, it is too early to declare victory on the employment front. Even if this current opportunity does pan out, I will still need to prove myself to this employer. Furthermore, it is a contracting position. So, there is no guarantee of how much work the company will have for me. But, I am well prepared to rise to the demands of this assignment and it appears that the company has plenty of work.
So, I still choose to believe that one has a significant amount of control over ones life. I firmly believe that my change in attitude has brought about a change in my situation. While I won't discount the advantages my particular upbringing and life situation presented, I will assert that everybody has a similar amount of control over their lives. Furthermore, I think that my experience gave me a valuable opportunity to experience the emotions that many other people feel -- emotions that I never had to grapple with to this extent before. Maybe a part of me created the experience just so I could learn some lessons and develop a greater connection to others. It's easy to be optimistic when things are humming along smoothly. The true optimist is able to persevere in times of difficulty. I've been given the chance to show my resilience and optimism. I've been given the chance to explore how much I control the circumstances of my life.
I'm out to demonstrate not just my belief, but the fact that one does exert a significant amount of control. Here's to a positive attitude!