Saturday, June 4, 2011

I'm Ready Now

From the time he was fourteen until he was twenty or so, Luke spent most of his waking hours playing video games. Sure, there were brief interludes of mountain biking, pot smoking, and just hanging with his friends, but his heart and soul were about the highest score.

Ask Luke about helping around the house or doing his homework and you'd swear the boy had the resourcefulness of the proverbial damsel in distress. Slow down his response time on a networked game, and he'd show you a complete analysis of all the Internet router hops and where the latency bottlenecks were likely to be.

He eventually settled into a single system, XBOX and a single game, Halo, a shoot-em-up, multi-player sci-fi game that became his raison d'etre. He and his friends formed a Halo club at school and played anytime they could. They'd link two XBOX systems together, each with its own TV attached, and play four-on-four. I'd walk in the door at 7:00AM after taking a Red Eye from California to Boston and find eight-to-twelve teenagers sleeping on any available horizontal surface, pizza boxes and individual two-liter bottles of Dr Pepper scattered among them. Walking in from the garage, I'd look down the steps and see half of them strewn across couches and chairs in the basement, a lone cable climbing the steps and winding its way up to the living room where I'd find the rest of the crew.

Luke and his buddies got really good at Halo. They entered competitions. They won. Luke decided that he'd make his living playing Halo, why bother with things like school, or, well, anything else. Indeed, trying to get him to do so was an exercise in futility, that is, until he met a girl named Sarah, or more specifically, until they decided to get an apartment together and she told him, "Not until you get a job!"

What hadn't been accomplished in twenty years of encouragement and admonishment, of angst and effort, was rendered easily by six little words spoken in the right moment, by the right person. More powerful than Dorothy's ruby-red shoes were the words, "Not until you get a job", and suddenly Luke was back in Kansas.

That was seven years ago.

Since then Luke has worked consistently moving from job to job and gaining a better understanding of how he might have better invested some of his Halo time. Two years ago, Luke and Sarah had a son, Jack. They got married. They bought a house. Sarah developed a rare blood disorder, a form of cancer, that is treatable, but requires her to visit the hospital frequently for treatment. They're expecting a second son in October. And now, Luke is ready again, this time to invest in learning some skills that he can transform into a career that he will enjoy and that will make him money.

A few weeks back, Luke called to explain that he'd been writing software to help automate his job and the jobs of his colleagues in the call center where he works answering phones and providing technical support. Although writing software was not in his job description, the management liked what he'd done and asked him to do more. As Luke explained what he was doing, he said, "Dad, I feel so guilty getting paid to write software, it doesn't really feel like I'm working. It's too much fun. I start typing and before I know it, four hours have gone by."

I thought, "Hmmm... sounds ready to me", and then said aloud, "Hey, you want me to teach you some coding techniques?"

It was a rhetorical question.

Happy Saturday,

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