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Dear Readers,

I’m pretty sure it’s not a big secret in the tech industry that sometimes we take interviews or accept calls from recruiters just to see what happens. Sometimes I just want to know, what does that company think I’m worth? How is the interview process these days? Could it be better there compared to where I am today? Of course, the grass is always greener so you have to be careful with that question.

Anyway, the point is, I was interviewing for a position. It was the very first interview where the recruiter asks some simple questions to see where you are in your career, make sure you are applying to the right thing, and that you’re not a complete weirdo. This recruiter, though, asked me: “Where do you see yourself in five years?

Mitch Hedburg would have responded, “Celebrating the fifth anniversary of you asking me this question.”

I’m pretty sure I could respond with that and get away with it because the interview process is optional for me since I have a job that I’m reasonably satisfied with but it has been a very long time since I’ve been asked that question.

My five year plan? I can’t envision where I’ll be in five years. I can’t believe how far I’ve come in the last five. I’m mostly just living my life putting one foot in front of the other, getting on from day to day… my five year plan? I don’t recall what I actually responded with. Probably something about how I have no desire to be in a management role and that ideally, in five years, I would just be doing the same kind of work albeit with new technology and new problems.

Writing this now, I wonder if perhaps the right response should have been: “Well, Mr. Person I’m Talking to Right Now, where do you think the world will be in five years?”

I know we’re supposed to have plans and I do. I want to continue learning guitar, music, and art. I want to learn another language. I want to spend the latter half of my life doing everything I can to enjoy the time I have. The years of striving to give everything to my company, plotting out every move to try to advance my career… well, I think those are behind me.

As I continued to think about that question over the following days, which I absolutely did, I started to think about how incredibly personal that question can be. So why ask it to begin with? For previous generations, perhaps it made more sense since you could honestly expect to work your entire career within a single company. But in the tech industry? Staying in the same place has often been seen as a negative. If you spend too much time in one place, it’s bad. (Not spending enough time in one place is equally bad. You have to spend just the right amount of time which seems to be somewhere between two and three years.)

And there’s the answer – it’s a personal question because my career objectives likely don’t involve staying in the same role or company for very long. In five years, I’ll most likely be in a new job. If I’m really lucky, it’ll be one that I’m passionate about and love. Otherwise, it’ll be another job like this one Dear Recruiter – one that pays the bills, keeps my family fed, and hopefully keeps me interested long enough to stick around for a couple years.

My question to that company should be: where do you see me in five years? It’s a question they can’t honestly answer so why should I?

Sincerely,

Achira

P.S. I know I don’t have many followers but should you be a repeat reader of this blog (thanks so much!), you might wonder: “Hey, where’s the tie-in to music or arts?” There isn’t one, really.

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Dear Readers,

Being a writer has been forefront on my mind lately. My lovely partner is a writer, and I watch her struggle with the business side of things – researching literary agents and publishing houses, writing query letters, dealing with rejections, and all that. I’m impressed by her commitment and fortitude, truly, but I also get to think about my past desire to be in the writing game.

There was a time when I wanted to be a writer. I wrote short stories as a youth and poems as a teenager (of course I did). Somewhere in my digital archives I’ve managed to keep works from my early adulthood: there are poems, stories, and even a book! I haven’t read them but I can assure you that they are terrible and probably quite embarrassing. I’m not willing to open them and find out.

That unwillingness to open up the archive, refine the work, and pursue the story until it’s finally told and in the world – that’s why I’m not a writer. I’m not a writer because it doesn’t interest me the way other artistic pursuits do. Sure, if I were famous enough where I could just get that book deal – I’d do it. Putting in the time and effort, though, to actually make it happen? No thank you. This blog is the maximum amount of effort I’m willing to put into writing and this basically sums up to being a public journal.

I try harder with music. I research song structures and how other producers make music. I submit to contests in the hopes of getting my name out there. I submit songs to playlists. I release to Bandcamp and successfully submitted to the editorial staff for my last album. I always release my music with a release date that’s 30-60 days in the future – for playlist submission to Spotify mostly. (Fun frustrating fact: you can only have one active pitch to for a single song to Spotify for playlist submission and it’s only available during that pre-release period. You get zero notification if the pitch is even viewed and zero notification when you aren’t put on a playlist.) Every now and again, I remember to get on Twitter and see what other musicians are doing.

Maybe next year, I’ll figure out how to actually do the marketing part…

Obviously, my past self was naïve. My past self thought that publishing a single book would bring untold riches and allow me to live the most luxurious life. It wouldn’t take any work and everything would be easy, because that’s exactly how the world works. It is nice to dream…

I can’t say I remember exactly where I was trying to get in this post so I’ll just wrap with this. If you’re among the creatives out there struggling to be heard, don’t give up. There is an audience for you, it just might take some time to find them.

Sincerely,

Achira

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Maybe I mentioned this before, maybe not, but just in case: I’m a runner. I actually enjoy running and I gather that many people think this is weird, because most don’t find that same enjoyment. Granted, some days are tough and it is a chore but mostly it’s just great to be alive and active. Health and mental benefits aside, one thing I enjoy is imagining the lives of the other people that happen to be out and about.

On most days, I’m time-bound in my runs meaning that I have a set amount of time when I need to be done so that I can get back to my desk and do the work thing. As a result, I tend to run the same route every time I go out because I know exactly how long it takes and there are multiple shortcuts I can take to get back home in the event that I need to cut the run short.

This route takes me through some busier areas in my little city so I’m always seeing people. Sometimes, I see the same people. Sometimes, I don’t see those people but I know they are out because I see their car parked in the usual spot. At least twice, I’m pretty sure I saw the former mayor out for a walk but since he’s not wearing a “I was the mayor” t-shirt, I can’t be sure.

There’s usually at least one person out practicing guitar, a few people experiencing homelessness, the obvious tourists, a couple people on a coffee break, younger moms with their pre-school children, and pretty much always the same people running. I always love seeing the other runners because there’s nearly always a wave and a smile, like, “Yeah, I’m crazy too!”

When I don’t have pressing issues of my own to solve, seeing all of these different people is a fantastic exercise in imagination. I like to imagine what they are doing out and the decisions they made that led to this point. Sometimes I might think about the decisions I’ve made that got me to where I am today, how different decisions may have landed me in their positions. I might imagine an entire alternative life where had I made some series of other decisions, I could be that other person.

Going through this imaginative process often leaves me feeling pretty good about where I’ve ended up. Have I made choices in my life that were bad? Yes. Some of them were likely downright terrible. There are things that are cringeworthy and just stupid. (One upside to being a little older: none of my bad decisions are recorded on the internet!) But that’s life, and sometimes making a wrong turn can lead you to something unexpected and fantastic.

Going through that imaginative process also leaves me feeling creatively refreshed. It’s not that I’m going to capture those lives in my music – it’s just that I’m reminded that I wouldn’t be pursuing any art if not for the decisions that I’ve made in life. Some were good, some were bad, but they all led me to the place I am today.

Sincerely,

Achira

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Dear Readers,

Well, it happened! About eight months into this project and I ran out of ideas for my weekly posting… which is why nothing went up last week! Now I’m down to the wire of my self-imposed deadline, again, wondering: what am I supposed to write about? Should I go into more personal topics? Should I try to dive into more technical postings and explain something about my work?

I’m not really sure. Up to this point, I’ve tried a few different things but the one I like the most are the opinion posts. The posts usually tie into music in some way or have a point that might help give some inspiration but they all serve to keep me accountable in this project. They give a little insight into the kind of person I am without spilling unnecessary details about my life onto the internet. Also, bonus points: they are the easiest to write because there isn’t much research involved.

Thinking about all of this, led me to thinking about having direction.

I feel like you have a few options in life: a) you can wander aimlessly never knowing where you want to be or caring where you end up, b) you can plot out every single point and plan exactly how you are going to get somewhere, or c) you can pick a direction and just go towards it. You probably know people that are on each of these paths. Or more likely, you’re thinking that it’s not such a simple choice and it’s situational.

You’re right. When it’s road trip time, I’m definitely more in the Option B category! But when it comes to general living, I think I gravitate towards Option C.

This option is right in the middle – you know you need to be somewhere or want to be somewhere, but you aren’t concerned with the specifics of how you get there. It affords flexibility, plan changes, and random acts of life that would just interrupt all your carefully laid plans anyway. It’s a way of enjoying the journey without being disappointed by every planned stop going awry along the way. But the path to your destination is winding and a little longer than it needed to be.

Also, this option is the best for me because I accept two truths: a) We don’t have control over everything; and b) Your fate and future isn’t predetermined. Which I guess is just another way of saying that you need to work hard for what you want and accept that failure is an option along the way.

Missing my schedule last week? That was a minor setback. A minor failure. But it’s okay, it’s not going to derail the direction I’m heading and I’m back at it today – getting something out there and holding myself accountable. Maybe my path is a little longer now but I’m still pointed in the right direction.

If you can take anything from this post, maybe it’s this: don’t let little set backs get in your way. The most successful people have lots of failures along the way, what makes them successful is that they continue to push forward.

Sincerely,

Achira

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Dear Readers,

Patience is a hard thing to learn and practice that mostly just comes with time. I won’t say it’s universally true, but with age comes patience. There’s a willingness to sit back and just accept things as they come – to sit back and listen. I think you can practice patience by doing things that require you to just be still and in the moment but mostly, I think it just comes with time.

Perhaps it’s less about age and more about acceptance that there are things you can’t control in life. When you are younger, so much of life is out of your personal control and you don’t really accept that thinking, “Hey, I’ll get out of this house someday and do whatever I want!” You eventually get some freedom but then the reality of life steps in – turns out, you can’t do just do anything you want without consequence. It also turns out that there are just some things in life, these days, that you can’t change.

My life experience was exactly that.

As a teen, I had about zero patience but I was also willing to walk away from something when it wasn’t going my way. In other words, my teenage version of patience was apathy and the ability to walk away from anything not specifically going my way. In my early 20s, it was much the same except I wasn’t able to walk away so apathy turned to anger – anger at bosses for being so slow to take my suggestions; anger at co-workers for being so dumb as to not know the basics of our job; anger at the parents that took days off because their kids were sick. Misguided anger, everywhere and for everyone.

Mid-to-late 20s? I had kids. I can honestly tell you that nothing changes your outlook on life quite as much as having kids but it can take some time to fully set in. In terms of patience? I gained some, sure, but probably not as much as you would think. In fact, having children really pushed me to change my life and left me feeling like I had wasted the first 20-some years of my life. (Which is a broad, incorrect generalization, but I’m sure you understand.) Feeling that way spurred me to change a lot, mostly for the better, but was a source of anxiety and stress for a long time.

It still is in some ways. I was an avid video game player – it consumed my life for many years – but when I had kids, I walked away from the worst of that. As my kids get older, though, they play video games now and I struggle every day with my own past – I want them to have fun with their friends while also ensuring they don’t waste years like I did. But hey, this isn’t a parenting blog, so moving on…

Getting to 30s, well, I finally found more patience. I think it was the cross-section of a lot of things in my life. I’ve achieved some goals and as my children get older – I have more free time to get back to pursuing dreams. Also, there are some fundamental differences between me now and the person that existed 10 and 20 years ago – differences rooted heavily in those life changes I alluded to but continue to provide zero details. The main point is that I finally found something.

Maybe it’s better to just say that I found some peace. For a lot of my earlier years, there was a sense of urgency tied to every pursuit: “If I do this, I need to be amazing so I can make a bazillion dollars and never work again.” Even in more recent years, I stressed about my paintings and how I needed to produce something that would get me known. The goal was less about adding something positive to the world and more about how I can walk away from my current career.

Reality hurts. As it turns out, all of these pursuits are extremely hard work and require a lot of effort and first attempts are rarely as good as we’d like to think. Even when you do turn out something great, you’re unknown so money doesn’t just pour in through some funnel without stopping. Even with my career – the reason why I’m good at what I do in my day job is because I now have years of experience and accumulated knowledge behind me that puts me above a lot of the competition. I haven’t crossed the peak into a place where new technologies are completely foreign to me and the younger generation is taking my place. That’ll come in the next decade, I’m sure.

These days? I have enough patience to understand that it’s a long game I’m playing. I might have little successes along the way but I expect to be struggling to get this off the ground for a long time, depending on the amount of effort I can realistically put into it.

So that brings me back around to our core topic. Looking back, there are a few things that I wish I had known which contribute heavily to my ability to be patient. Those items, in no particular order:

  • Don’t put off doing the thing you love thinking that life will somehow afford you an opportunity later. Life will never work out that way. You have to make time and chase those things.
  • You’re never as good as you think you are at first. That first album? Not the best. That first painting? Not the best. BUT, that’s okay.
  • When you suffer a setback, don’t give up. Just keep working at it.
  • Define what your version of success looks like in realistic terms. “Being rich and famous” is not a realistic goal when you are starting out, so don’t make it your measure of success from the start.

If I had practiced these things from the start, my anxiety would have been reduced and perhaps I could have been more patient, stuck with something for longer, and found modest success earlier in life while following my dreams.

If you have some secrets for staying patient, send them my way via email or twitter, I’d love to hear it!

Sincerely,

Achira

P.S. Patience also comes from acceptance that failure is a potential outcome and accepting that it is better to have tried than to have done nothing at all.