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Whatever Happened to Jamie, Part 2

Whatever Happened to Jamie, Part 2

To be fair, this might be more like Part 30-ish. I keep disappearing. If there's one constant in my life, it's probably people looking around and saying, "Wait, where's Jamie?"

To say a lot has happened over the past year or so would be trivializing all that I've done. I've written about leaving Tyler, and my plans. I also made a few posts after that, discussing various projects and cleanup tasks I was working on. And then... I sort of wandered off.

I usually find this time of year to be good for reflecting on life, so let's dive in:

TODO Lists

The short-short version is that I basically took a year off and tried to tackle my TODO list.

I would try to do something with this phrase but Nike would probably sue me.

While at Tyler, my personal TODO list had grown to 783 tasks with more than 2,300 open sub-tasks. Every time I came across something I wanted to accomplish, I'd put something on my list. Stories to write. Games to design. Websites that needed updates. Computer problems, condo problems, even timely things like researching upcoming voting questions. All of it went on my list.

What a mess things become when you ignore them and just add them to an eternally growing TODO list. Things were so bad that even just opening my kanban board gave me anxiety.

Just a quick glance at 155 tasks or so...

After basically a year and a half, I can proudly say I've managed to reduce that list. I did a bunch of random work, and yes I deleted a lot of things that weren't worth doing. Over time, I added more tasks but the net gain has been quite good. I'm currently sitting here looking at a list of 567 tasks, with about 1,100 open subtasks.

Okay so it's not an amazing reduction. 216 tasks is still a lot, and cutting down subtasks / steps by more than half is pretty awesome. Things feel more manageable, despite the fact that I still get a twinge of anxiety when I open my task list. I still have more work to do (way too much), but there's a reason progress has slowed and I disappeared again.

Job Searching...

About a year ago, while trying to figure out what I was going to do for income, I was also getting a lot of anxiety from reading job posts. There's a lot of jobs out there. Or at least there were when I last checked. Many of the positions I was reading about were for architect-level openings at companies all over North America. Most of them were listing salaries nearly two to three times what I had been earning. One in Canada would have been even more – plus free healthcare, yay! – and those are valid points to consider because I'm also a Canadian citizen and would be able to move there easily.

The Good: I felt like I could take my time and choose something that both paid me what I'm worth and was also interesting.

The Bad: I'd read the responsibilities and requirements and realize I was actually over-qualified for most of the jobs. Plus all that reading was making me upset. Just thinking about the interview process was making me unhappy.

The Ugly: I didn't want to disappear into a corporate culture again. Meetings. Emails. Quarterly results. Ugh. I just want to write and/or fix software.

...and Job Finding

In the midst of all this, I was contacted by a family friend and asked to work on his software. He has a software service startup with good potential, and wanted me to help out with various tasks: fixing issues, cleaning up code, adding new features, migrating it into the cloud, and even helping to mentor him along the way.

The terms of this agreement were appealing because they left me as a free agent – once again I was going to tackle the world of entrepreneurship. I've done freelance work in the past. In fact, I've probably written more code as a freelancer than I have in all my coding jobs combined. I enjoy the freedom of working from home and choosing my own hours – any seven days a week I like!

But when I've done freelancing in the past, I always worked as a self-employed person and accepted payment directly. Which can lead to problems when you don't have an official looking invoice and are so busy wearing every hat that having even two clients is too much juggling. There's also no possibility of really expanding and having a real company... I'd love to get to a point where I can hire employees to help out with various tasks.

Introducing Syntax Sorcery

So this time I decided I would go "pro" by forming an actual company, Syntax Sorcery LLC:

Yeah it's a little wizard. I'm either that or a robot.

When trying to figure out what to call the company, I decided that what interests me the most about software architecture and engineering is when I get to dive into the deep end and troubleshoot the really weird problems that nobody else can figure out.

I am a software troubleshooting wizard. The rest just fell into place from there.

When this current contract winds down, I'll have to seek out additional work. But I'm doing it on my own terms, as a consultant instead of as an employee. I haven't fully fleshed out everything and obviously haven't found the time to even make a website for this venture. I have an email asking SCORE for a mentor that has been sitting in my draft folder for like eight months because their website had the audacity to ask me to choose one topic I wished to talk about. I should probably just request someone familiar with Barbara Sher's writing and see what they say.

Even these things have been sitting on my TODO list because my current client project has been keeping me busy. Yet even with just one client, I'm earning enough to cover my living expenses and still working fewer hours than before. So it's all good. Sometimes life has a way of working out.

The Future

I probably shouldn't talk about the future or what I'm planning to tackle in the next few months. That usually sounds promising and then I get pulled away to deal with other things. Next thing you know, a year has passed and I'm blushing as I read grandiose claims I never found the time to implement.

So all I will say at this point is that I have had some free time to slowly chip away at my task list. I also started a bit of writing again this summer. I hope to have more time to focus on creative endeavors for Lost Luggage Studios in the coming months.

Believe me, I have tasks on my list for them.