Monday, June 22, 2015

Inspiration: I Can Picture Myself As Andy Weir

A year or two ago while I was still deep in the throes of depression, I had in fact heard of the acclaim that The Martian had been getting from a couple of friends, and some public personalities I had been following. Back then I was simply not in the mood to read any new literature. It is hard to say if it would have inspired me had I read it back then, but probably not. I recognize that my issues then were profoundly unexpected, and in my opinion underestimated. Possibly even now.

In any event, as I slowly emerge from my personal horrors, I've had the opportunity to follow a video link from a professional gamer (TheMightyJingles) Facebook page, where Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame got to interview Andy Weir, the author of whose novel is now set to be a major Hollywood movie. What an interview it was!

Andy's personality and demeanor reminded me of all the parts of me currently suppressed by my (still) deep sense of low self-esteem (and my anger ... justified or otherwise). I can in fact picture myself as the same geek as Andy, with the same passions, the same guiding principles in life, even a similar life history. The only thing different is his sense of happy-go-lucky altruistic self-confidence he carries - some of it had been with me since birth, some of it had been brutally beaten out (by the system) of me as I grew up, things that I have since had to (and am still trying to) unlearn. So yes, I see quite a bit of the old "ideal me" reflected in him.

And like him, I had thought about writing a hard science fiction story ever since I fell apart professionally. Of course unlike him, I had never made a deeper effort than merely writing down my ideas in a scrapbook - though to be fair, nothing stops me from taking out those notes again. My financial situation is pretty different though. Andy got lucky in that AOL laid him off at a time where he was forced to exercise his stock options at an all-time high. I assume that had bought him a nice big financial buffer from which he did not have to worry about survival. I have a decent chunk of savings from the 4 years of work I've put into Computer Science academia, and so I have a more modest buffer to sit on and some of which I have already consumed in the last 2 years unemployed. Plus my depression, and my lack of self-confidence over my situation did not help.

Anyway his life story, and the story surrounding his writing of The Martian is an inspiration to me to reach out for the sun again. This is especially true since the fog around me has finally slowly started to clear, and I can finally see some light. I love his altruism in the way he shared initially (and still does, I believe.) And I liked how it affirms my own approach to any product create from my pursuit of my own intellectual passions. I had often asked myself what I would do if I wrote a useful piece of software people might like - "give it away" had always been the answer I was most comfortable with; "have advertisers get me a bit of cash" was my other answer, if I imagined myself in a scenario where I was in need of financial support. Right now I am directing my own professional skills to volunteering with the OpenWorm project - an open science collaboration amongst volunteers and academics to simulate in software a simple nematode worm species in all its biological details. It is not pure altruism on my part of course, I very much need to feel like someone finds my skills useful and feel needed, and I very much need some direction I can comfortably put my energy toward. I had already decided some time back that while employment is nice, I am in no shape to pursue it and I still have some time before I must seek employment simply to put food on my table.

In Andy Weir, I find faith that I am not alone and that my position is not hopeless. One day I'll reach out and thank him for this.

1 comment:

Kevin Jang said...

Somehow, I think that both of us will get somewhere eventually, and that "somewhere" will not be a bad place, even if it is post-academia. Yes, I think that it did not work out over the last year (for me especially, with failed attempts to re-enter academia even from Australia, and then, now with a possible stint for the time being which is also not probably permanent) but who knows what the future holds if we keep on doing something to break out of this situation? I have written something on my blog which I hope will encourage you a little.