Last on the Bus

Some time ago, I decided to go through all my old files (some of them being as much as 25 years old) to find all the things I'd posted online since the late 90s.

Hundreds of journal entries (before it was known as blogging), updates about things I was coding, and then a lot of day-in-the-life type posts from my college days. I took a bunch of them and re-uploaded them within this blog - preserving their original publish date.

Walking through them is not only seeing the progression of the internet, but my progression from student to professional. It's interesting to put myself back in the mindset of being a college student - and re-reading post after post after post where I was running on fumes, sleeping in the school library, barely scraping by. With graduation on the horizon, I relived the stress and anxiety of starting my first professional job hunt - and then ultimately the transition to adulthood.

I remember the final day of my senior year in high school. The final bell rang - and we all streamed out of the school for the last time. I walked with one of my best friends - it was a warm spring day, and we sat down on a park bench thinking about all the changes ahead of us.

I remember saying how there was just more school coming my way. 4 more years, at least. I capped off the thought by saying: 'I can't wait for school to be done, and I can just be an adult, get a paycheck, and not constantly have homework, tests and grades...'

My friend replied how that's when life would start accelerating - one year blending into the next, and the routine of life settling in. We were both still 17, and the conversation was the typical kind that you have at that age when you think you have it all figured out. And I guess, in some ways, I had more figured out than I give myself credit - because I knew I just wanted to code, and loved the idea of getting paid for it.

All those old posts are validation that - despite pursuing physics, despite only taking a couple of CompSci courses, that my heart was always in the code. Posts about redesigning websites, building games, experimenting with new technical skills as I acquired them organically.

And then, before long, I was working professionally as a coder - slightly before officially graduating from college.

I felt like I was in a race against time. That I had to move as quickly as possible to get to where I wanted to be. Many of my college years were spent rushing - and paradoxically, falling behind. Literally. Chasing after buses, city block after city block, because I'd missed them - and hoping they'd eventually get stuck in traffic. If I could just keep my endurance up, I'd get on the bus. Sometimes, I'd end up staying all night at a 24-hr donut shop because I missed the last bus of the night.

It's no wonder - one of my early creations was novel application to build an "open-source web-comic" - and I ended up calling it 'Last on the Bus.' It was literal, but also my metaphor. I was often so wrapped in what I was doing, I'd squeeze every second out of the minutes before I had to head to my bus. But - if the bus had to leave on time, and I still was going to be on it - often being the last one to get on. Laptop still open and in hand, not yet packed away, clutching loose papers and pens, and trying to balance a coffee in my hand. 

It's a coincidental wonder that one of my top 10 life-altering moments was my encounter with a tour bus... but that's a different story (and one of the old posts I'd dug back up and re-shared, in fact.)

It's also another coincidental wonder that any claim to fame I can make was due to some of the things I built while riding the bus (Broken Picture Telephone being one of them.)

For all the time I spent in coffee shops, it seems I owe a lot more to buses. Riding them. Chasing them. Having them chase me. Being stranded at 3am because I missed them. You learn a lot missing the bus, including whether you truly want to be on that bus to begin with.

Since graduating from college, and becoming a proper adult the years do seem to go by faster, but they haven't quite blended together the way my friend had predicted. He was wrong about that. But I was wrong about something too: The 'homework' doesn't stop. I still find myself spending evenings or weekends learning new things, applying them, refining my knowledge.

And there's still a bus.


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