Through my teens and early twenties, I wanted to be musician. That was really how I defined myself. I knew where I was at, I would never be able to be a professional musician. I never truly craved to sign a record deal or anything like that, though I knew people in my small hometown that pursued it.
But just because inwardly I didn’t want to chase the fame didn’t mean that I wasn’t dead serious about what I was doing. I think I spent every waking moment for years learning about music, studying different forms of music, getting inside it. I would try different scales, modes and chords, and see which ones sounded happy, and which ones sounded sad. I would experiment with different chord structures to convey different emotions. I spent all my spare money on equipment, writing and recording at least a song a month. Sometimes I would play with bands, but sometimes, I would put everything together myself with a four track recorder and an eight channel mixer, laying out each track and building sonic walls on top of each other.
I released a few “albums” — ultra-limited release cassettes that I gave away to all the people I knew. I realized I wasn’t going to “make it big” or anything like that. I just wanted to share what I had created with the people around me. It was enough for me.
But eventually, I stopped. I did enough with music to be happy and say I achieved my goals. I played in front of a few crowds, kicked some ass and moved some people with my songs. But I didn’t do it for accolades or anything like that. I did it because it was something that I really wanted to do, even if it was for a few hundred people at most. Really, the whole time, it was for me.
When I first started working, I did a lot of restaurant work. At first, just washing dishes, then prep cooking, then line cooking and then managing the kitchen at a small pizzeria and Italian food joint. I learned a ton of stuff there, mostly through reading the recipes that were passed down from previous employees, but a lot on my own, too. Pretty soon, we were introducing new types of dough, baking our own bread and cookies, and making a different type of soup from scratch every day of the week.
Eventually, I left that job to work in a supermarket bakery, in the days before everything came pre-made in a box. I learned even more there. At first, I was the apprentice baker that the older guys didn’t want to teach. After a while, I learned everything they had to show me. I became the assistant bakery manager, and then moved to manage my own bakery in the next county. After a year there, I moved to a larger city, and rehabbed bakery departments that needed to get back on the correct programs.
Every location that I went to made more money and produced higher quality product than it did before I arrived. This is not brag, this is just fact. I knew how to do every task in the bakery, and often had to, when people would call out or go on vacation, or worse, we would not be given enough hours to do the work. There was one month near the end of my run where I literally had 2 days off in a five week period.
I ended up leaving that job, in large part because I was constantly putting work before family, out of a fear of scarcity, and consequentially, my life was unraveling. I ended up working in an European-style bakery for a little while, and learned even more things that I didn’t know before. But there was not a lot of money in it, and eventually I realized I would only have a few more years in that industry at all. The industry itself was never going to be as good as it was for the workers ever again. More importantly, I had really done all I wanted to do there, and it was way more than enough for me.
So, here we are. It’s been four years since I pushed my first website live, and I’ve been making my full time living as a web developer for a couple of years now. This industry is going through changes as well, but that’s okay by me.
It’s very strange sometimes. The vast majority of people I encounter in the world of web development have never done anything else. That’s neither good nor bad, its’ just an observation. Occasionally, I’ll find other people who came to the web from other paths. Their quality of work almost always is indistinguishable from people who have always been developers, and I think that’s awesome.
95% of the people I meet are glad to welcome people into our industry. They are a big part of the reason this line of work makes people happy most of the time. I love these people. They make me realize that I made the right decision.
What stages has your life gone through thus far? Which ones were you able to predict ahead of time, and which ones did you fall in love with unintentionally? Hit me up and let me know.
Twitter: @Lockedown_ — Email: john[at]lockedowndesign.com