Curtis Autery, pretty ok husband, dad, and software writer.

Covid, rebirth, jobs, and elections

I, the performer
In the tense arena
Glittered under the flourescent moon
Was bent, masked by the table
Saw what focused my intent
The emptiness,
The air filled with an ether of cheers
My wrist extended a scalpel.

When last we spoke in June of 2017, I had big plans to write a suite of web programming deep dives, which I never carved away time for. Dear Leader had only been in the Whitehouse for a few months, and it was already clear he was having a bad go of it. I was packing a bag for a trip to Minneapolis, to teach a software writing summer immersion course at the University of Minnesota, just a few miles from where George Floyd would be murdered three years later.

Since then, the world has become a profoundly different place. Over 200,000 of us have died needlessly, while our science-denying despot preened and threatened his political enemies, yet somehow still received a thumbs-up from 68 million Americans on Super Tuesday. The world watched a policeman kneel on a prone, handcuffed, African American man's neck for eight minutes, killing him over a $20 dispute. Nationwide protests against police brutality were met with a militarized police response, and unidentified federal troops took Americans off the street into unmarked vehicles, in full view of the press.

During the election cycle, Republicans were coached to ignore the worldwide pandemic, and vote as normal on election day. Absentee voting was crippled by various procedural and legal attacks. The most egregious of these was the removal of mail sorting machines, which caused ancillary effects such as spoiled food, rat infestations at post offices, dead baby chickens, and life-threatening delays in prescription deliveries. The president and his allies in the senate installed a right-leaning supreme court justice one week before the election, in hopes of replaying the 2000 court battle for the presidency.

My personal world also went through an upheaval. My 60 year old next-door neighbor, a woman who encouraged and supported me in my early years as a single dad, passed away from a heart attack. Due to covid, my wife and I gave up our weekly date night, and time at the dance studio where we studied. After steady employment in tech for 25 years, I was laid off from a job for the first time.

Not every change was ugly, though. I spent some time caring for the adult daughter of a friend, helping her find a job, driving her there several times, buying her clothes and groceries after she moved away from home on bad terms with her parents, and tried to be a source of emotional support and encouragement as she put her life back together. This was such a transformative experience for me, that I took up being an "internet dad" on a few subreddits, and talked to several people of disparate ages about their struggles.

This invovled some mundane "how to" questions like registering for a driver's license in a new state, to some more gut-wrenching situations like the fear of coming out as gay to bigoted parents, grief over a deceased loved one, and struggles with anorexia and suicidal ideation, and many, many requests for someone to say "I'm proud of you". Since I'm neither a licensed therapist nor an idiot, I've referred some of my "internet kids" who were clearly in a bad way, to speak to professionals. Others I encouraged as best I could. Two of them adopted me, and we stay in touch. The whole experience has been very therapeutic, and helped me stay positive during my unexpected job hunt.

The job hunt turned out ok, too. I was out of work for two months, balancing a dwindling stack of severance money against finding a replacement job that checked two simple boxes - not a bunch of jerks, and enough salary to support my family. The first was an easy box to tick, and I had offers from three such companies before my search was over, only one of which ticked the second box.

My company is now RVshare, which manages an RV renting marketplace. They saw a post-covid uptick in customers, people who wanted to take vacations and not risk hotel stays during a pandemic. They also closed a $100 million round of funding shortly after I was hired, making this the third young startup I joined right before they "hit the gas" and prepared to scale up. I was actually hoping to avoid that for once, but it's familiar territory, and I quickly found myself in a variety of mad-science tasks no sane engineer would try to tackle. Again.

When I finally got the itch to blog a little again, I came back to the site and didn't like what I saw. I was using a static site generator that was more mental overhead than I wanted to give to a blog, so I started over, and took the serverless route! Bytes 2.0, now runs on Cloudfront, Lambda@Edge, and S3. The new setup lets me add new content with much less friction; I only need to write a markdown file, and upload it. Heaven.

My new plan for blogging is less reaching, which I think will encourage me to write more. Any long-term projects of mine will eventually make it to the now empty "projects" tab, but until then I'm going to watch the world, and write about it when I feel moved to. As you can see from this post, I'm not going to shy away from expressing a political view. I did that out of habit before, as a defense mechanism, both so as not to alienate any smattering of an audience I might get, and also to not risk chasing away potential future employers if they decide to google me. I see it a little differently now. If saying black lives matter excludes me from a job, we weren't a good fit to begin with.

I've been doing little behind a keyboard for the last couple of years other than moving scrum cards. Getting back to something creative and personal is a good start to regaining some of what I lost chasing a higher salary and building someone else's business. As my 50th birthday approaches, and after seeing up close how unprepared I was for this suite of disasters, I've been doing a lot of soul searching lately, looking for a good next step.

Blogging again is good start... but watch this space.