The Twelve-Year Mistake Part 1: Boston

By Shamus Posted Monday May 13, 2013

Filed under: Personal 79 comments

A disclaimer: This story is a bit of a downer in parts. I’m going to be talking about personal problems. I am NOT telling this story to try and generate pity or shake donations out of people. Remember that the stuff I’m talking about here happened years ago. I’m offering this account because other people might find it useful, instructive, or entertaining. We’re doing fine these days. Don’t worry. It’s cool.

Having said that, let’s jump back in time…


The offices where I worked in 2000. Swiped from Google Earth.
The offices where I worked in 2000. Swiped from Google Earth.

It’s midway through the year 2000. I’m 28 years old. Heather and I have been married three years. Rachel turns two this year. Our daughter Esther was just born. I’m about to make a large mistake. It will be eight years before I’ll grasp just how serious an error it is and it will take a good twelve years in total for the whole thing to play out. There are a lot of causes of the mistake. Even the causes have causes, which themselves have little tributaries of error and dysfunction. It’s complex enough that I’ll never be able to point to a single moment and say, “Here, this is where it all went wrong.”

Dad, sometime in the 90’s.

Dad is dying of cancer. He’s still talking about living to be 100, but the odds are so ridiculously long that I hope he’s just keeping up a brave face and a positive attitude and not in open denial. Or maybe he’s just kidding. It’s always hard to tell what’s really going on in that maddening, muddled head of his.

He’s never been very fond of going to the doctor, and by the time he got around to having himself checked it was years too late. They’re apparently calling it “intestinal cancer”, but the mass itself is a sprawling and ambitious thing that’s glommed onto his liver and a few other organs during its long and greedy lifespan. My brother explains all of this to me on the phone. I’m 600 miles away in Boston.

We never took a picture of the outside of our condo. This one was swiped from Google Earth.
We never took a picture of the outside of our condo. This one was swiped from Google Earth.

Living in Boston is not working for us. I’m feeling restless and missing my parents and siblings. We don’t have a lot of friends here. Since we only have one car, Heather is usually trapped in our little condo with the kids all day. I got a raise when we moved here, but it wasn’t nearly enough to cover the massive spike in cost of living between Pittsburgh and Boston. The dot-com bubble is in full surge, and Boston is a ridiculously expensive place to live. Like a lot of young couples, we’re making the mistake of throwing unexpected expenses onto a credit card until we have the money to deal with them. While the numbers zigzag up and down, on balance these expenses build just a bit faster than we pay them off.

Navigating the greater Boston roadways feels like trying to run a bewildering maze packed with aggressive and hostile people, because that’s what it is. I’ve been here over a year and I still get baffled the moment I leave the well-worn corridor between home and work. It doesn’t help that I need glasses, but don’t know it yet. Far objects have very gradually gotten blurrier, thus I have to get closer to signs before I can read them, which leads to a lot of situations where I have to make last-minute lane changes.

My health is bad. Something around here is inflaming my asthma. I’m pretty much always experiencing a low-level blockage of my airways. My breathing is heavy. The doctor puts me on steroids, which diminishes the asthma problem at the expense of making me perpetually hungry. I’ve been gradually putting on pounds for the last decade, but now I’m getting huge. At this point it’s entirely possible that some of my oxygen shortage is weight-related.

Also, the drugs are putting me into a constant state of agitation. My default mood is sort of “mildly pissed off”. That’s how I feel. All the time. Every day. When things actually go wrong, my temper is explosive. I growl and cuss and lose the ability to think straight. This makes technical work kind of challenging. I manage to keep my temper bottled up at work by grinding my teeth and muttering at the computer, but I’m always on the verge of slamming my keyboard into the monitor. It’s not that my job is stressful. I mean, it’s technical work and sometimes technology breaks, but this rage isn’t really instigated by my job. It’s bad medicine, bad health, and bad lifestyle. The job is just the catalyst. If I was unemployed, I’d spend all day at the home being mad at the furniture or the stuff in the fridge.

I can tell this anger is irrational, but that doesn’t make me stop feeling it.

For the record, the photos were staged for television. I never really decorated my cube walls with stuff I liked because the space never felt like mine.

I get to be on television. It’s a strange experience. Internet stories are all the rage these days, and some local station in California wants to do a segment on our company. Since I’m doing the graphical work, I’m chosen for the interview. I feel sort of sorry for the crew. They’re tasked with grabbing interesting footage, and when they show up they get a pasty fat guy and a bare cubicle to work with. I’ve never decorated this space because it’s never really felt like mine.

They hang some photographs and add some monitors to try and make the place look more interesting. This feels sort of dishonest, but what are they supposed to do? The real thing would make for lousy television. Heck, the fake thing makes for lousy television. I spend about two hours in front of the camera and the final product uses about eight seconds of this footage.

Actually taken in 2005, but it’s the same office.

Aside from brief moments of excitement like this one, I really hate working in an office. My bosses are fine and my coworkers are fine, but it’s just so dang uncomfortable. The constant screen glare. The distracting chatter. The ringing phones. The dress clothes. How can anyone be creative and productive in a place like this?

I spend all day talking, so by the time I get home I have no more words left for my wife. We’re turning into the classic couple where the wife has a pent-up need for conversation and the husband has nothing but nodding and grunts. She’s burning to get out of the house, and I don’t want to do anything but sit still and be quiet. We compromise by going out occasionally, but it’s not enough. I’m still going out more than I’d like and she’s not going out nearly as much as she needs.

After months of unhappiness a few key ideas begin to crystallize. Didn’t I TAKE this job because it was fun and interesting? How did this go so wrong? I’m not getting any joy out of it because just about every other aspect of my life is dysfunctional. I’m taking drugs that are bad for me so I can work in an office I hate where I don’t make enough to pay the bills at the condo that’s too small for the family I don’t have time for. Meanwhile, my Dad is running out of days and I’m not spending any of them with him.

Why am I still here?

I need to get out of here. I need to move back to Pittsburgh. I plan to tell my bosses that I want to work from home again. I know this is a good job, but I’m willing to give it up if that’s what it takes to get out of this madhouse.

We have a meeting. I tell them I’m moving back, and leave it up to them if they want to continue to employ me. They’re not happy at the prospect, but they agree to keep me. So there it is.

One silver lining to this whole business is that I’ve inadvertently made a fortune in real estate, and it’s going to be trivially easy to sell our condo. I bought the place for $90k, and eighteen months later it’s worth $125k. That’s ridiculous. While none of us have heard the phrases “dot-com bubble” or “housing bubble” yet, we’re in the middle of both. I can sell the condo at will. We don’t even need to show the place off. We have offers coming in for the place, sight unseen.

We begin packing our stuff. Now all I need to do is find a place in Pittsburgh.


We’re a week away from the big move when I get the call. Dad is gone. He was about a month short of his 60th birthday.


From The Archives:

79 thoughts on “The Twelve-Year Mistake Part 1: Boston

  1. rayen says:

    “This story is a bit of a downer in parts…I get the call. Dad is gone.”

    a downer in parts? of a story titled 12 year mistake? really? i never would’ve guessed.

    Seriously though, I’m not trying to trivialize your sufferings. I’ve been there. I’m 1000 miles from my nearest family member. I’ve had my mother and father go through near death hospital visits and my sister go through some traumatizing events. And i only hear about it after the fact. it’s not cool.

    also somewhat surprised you allowed comments. that ending screams “no comments allowed.”

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      Well, Shamus is rather agile with moderating, and these parts are pretty well-mannered with the stuff that really matters… Or, at least, the parts that get through all the anti-spam and profanity and nonsense filters in place.

    2. Piflik says:

      Welcome to the civilized part of the internet ;)

      1. Mistwraithe says:

        It’s bigger than I thought it would be.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          Aaaand… no one made a “that’s what she said” quip. Point made. Well done everyone.

    3. Trix2000 says:

      I’m lucky enough that I live about a half hour from my parents’ place and see them on a regular basis. I think my mom’s also really happy that she can invite me over every other week (she never was a great empty-nester, especially when my brother went to school too).

      Never is it so clear how much you care for family when they’re no longer under the same roof…

      1. Mersadeon says:

        I have to agree here. I moved about 3 hours away from home for university, and suddenly you feel homesick where ever you are – I spend the weekdays at my place with my roommate, thinking that it doesn’t quite feel like home, and the weekends at my parents place, in my old room – now empty except for an air-mattress, which feels like the pale shadow of a home. It’s a weird time. But, well, I can’t resist the call of education.

        1. Cybron says:

          Can’t say the same is true of everyone. I moved 3 hours away for college and was rarely, if ever, homesick. I can definitely say my parents missed me more than I missed them. And it’s not like I was on bad terms with them or anything (we get along quite well), it just didn’t really bother me.

          1. Alexander The 1st says:

            Like you, I’ve not gotten homesick despite having been across the country for a year, then went back to education and moved out again about an hour out.

            And yeah, not bad terms that I left on, but as my mother put it once, “We see more of you now that you’re away then when you were here since you always slept in until you needed to go to class and always came back way past our bedtime.”

            On the plus side, I’m not living at home, so no need to worry about “Living in [my] parents’ basement” remarks. On the negative side, I *feel* like I’m living in my parents’ basement.

  2. froogger says:

    Thanks for writing this. Having followed your blog for so long I’ve gotten a fair idea of who you are. We are of the same age, same background, and about same situation in life, only an ocean apart. Knowing more about how you got where you are now, and what you’ve been through is a rare thing I appreciate immensely.

    Looking forward to the followup.

    (what an inappropriate avatar I got. good grief)

  3. Wedge says:

    “It doesn't help that I need glasses, but don't know it yet. Far objects have very gradually gotten blurrier, thus I have to get closer to signs before I can read them, which leads to a lot of situations where I have to make last-minute lane changes.”
    I know you couldn’t tell because you needed glasses, but there aren’t actually any road signs in Boston. You just have to learn where all the streets are by rote.
    I love this city, but we really need to find some better traffic engineers.

    1. swenson says:

      For extra fun, every time my family goes to Boston, our GPS refuses to work. (probably the tall buildings) So we get to try to navigate a notoriously difficult-to-navigate city on nothing more than prayer. Exciting!

      1. HAhahah, GPS. Boston. GPS + Boston = Hilarity + lost. Boy, do I hate navigating in Boston. When we went to PAX East we spent half our time lost just because the GPS was sure we were a layer up or a layer down, and it wouldn’t let us eject from Boston. We kept ending up back in. Were nearly to NYC before it finally gave up trying to take us back and let us head home.

        1. John says:

          I can never remember which is which, but one of the GPS companies does well and one does poorly in Boston. And it seems specific to Boston.

          Which isn’t much of a surprise, given the absurd one-way streets, turns, rotaries, drivers translocated from the Car Wars universe, etc. etc.

        2. “When we went to PAX East we spent half our time lost just because the GPS was sure we were a layer up or a layer down…”

          Something similar happened to me and my family in New Orleans

    2. Mersadeon says:

      You can have some of ours. Our entire country, every single city is littered with signs. We call it the “Schilderwald”, the Sign Forest.

      1. Maharassa says:

        But you have to admit they’re quite helpful when the GPS suddenly stops working. If not for tons of road signs I would still be running circles through the phantom city of Bielefeld.

  4. David says:

    “Even the reasons have reasons.” That reminded me of this answer to why barns are painted red.

  5. Hal says:

    I’m not entirely certain what the mistake is at this point. How many parts will this story have?

    1. It is a series. It will take a while.

      1. It is a series. It will take a while.
        That statement made me laugh.

        And is there any geeky footage from that interview floating around, something that would make Shamus go ,”oh dear god, no, not that…”? *laughs*

        1. Peter H. Coffin says:

          Oh good. I’m not the only took Heather’s statement to be wry tragicomedy.

      2. MichaelG says:

        Do we ever find out how you two are making ends meet these days? Because I’ve been curious about that for awhile.

        1. krellen says:

          Heather has a job now.

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      This series of posts was hinted at when Shamus and his family moved out of their house that they lived in for twelve-ish years. So, buying the house is probably “the mistake” or closely related to it. But, knowing Shamus, he will bring up other sub-mistakes along the way. Like alienating the snow-plow driver.

      1. wheals says:

        He also mentioned moving to Boston in one of the Diecasts, so I was wondering if we would ever learn the story of that. Nice to know we will, I guess, though I had no idea Boston was such a horrible place.

        1. Klay F. says:

          I wouldn’t call Boston a terrible place. Its like any other ridiculously large city, If you like living in cities, its fine, if you don’t, you’ll hate it. And you have to have thick skin if you want to drive in these huge cities. The traditional hate-fountain that is American road rage is only amplified in large cities.

          1. Jarenth says:

            Rather than being a universally terrible place, it may just have been a poor fit for the specific collection of issues, anxieties and latent madness that was Past Shamus.

            1. Nick Lester Bell says:

              I am quite happy to have Present Shamus and his active madness. I mean, who else would pour their soul out on the Internet, then let us comment on it, but a madman?

              In all seriousness, thanks for being brave enough to share all these personal stories.

          2. Jeysie says:

            “And you have to have thick skin if you want to drive in these huge cities.”

            The problem is less that Boston is a huge city, and more that Boston is in Massachusetts.

            I live all the way out in Western MA, and when a friend drove up from North Carolina to visit with me, he declared after a day that we “drive like we have a collective death wish”. On top of that, the state was also designed back when a horse was the biggest thing you were driving around, making “you can’t get there from here” a very literal possibility.

            There’s reasons why I don’t drive myself, though being a pedestrian here is its own Action Survivor status. I even almost got hit by a bus once.

    3. Sabredance (MatthewH) says:

      I think most mistakes probably take 12 years before they are completely clear. Life is complicated, which is probably why stories and games seem so simplistic. What’s the old joke? “Was the French Revolution good or bad?” “Too soon to tell.”

      I, too, look forward to the analysis and storytelling.

  6. Adam says:

    This promises to be interesting, at least. Every time you’ve delved into your own life experience it’s proved to be an engaging read.

    Glad to know you guys are doing well now, though!

  7. X2-Eliah says:

    This line “I've never decorated this space because it's never really felt like mine.” strikes an all-too familiar chord, as that;s basically how I view the place I currently live at. I suppose other people would see that as just being weird, but.. Eh.

    Anyway, thanks forwriting this down. It might very well be useful to the likes of me and others who are trying a hand at this ‘grown-up life’.

    Edit: Also – if I may say… that company office, and the cubicle arrangement.. Can I just say that it is depressing as hell? Idk, I just can’t imagine tolerating a cubicle like that for more than a month or so.

    1. postinternetsyndrome says:

      I think like that too, but I’m aware it’s a classic mistake. You decorate a place _in order to_ turn it into your own.

      1. Felblood says:

        You decorate your apartment to make it your own.

        You decorate your cubicle to remind your co-workers that you are not a robot, and that it will annoy you if they steal your markers.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          Or (in some cases) to remind your co-workers that, even though there are rules against weapons in the workplace, it’s nearly impossible to outlaw “decorative letter openers.”

          1. bucaneer says:

            Is that where your avatar comes from?

          2. GM says:

            I got one covered in Silver,it has a really sharp point but other than that it´s quite blunt.

            1. Rosseloh says:

              You can still thwack people with it.

          3. Humanoid says:

            Mine’s dressed up as a Japanese sword of some sort, complete with bamboo sheath. If I carried it around I’d probably get pinged for carrying a concealed weapon. I call it my Daikatana.

          4. MrPyro says:

            Although I rarely need them, I do have a few tools lying around my desk. People in my office can tell when I am stressed because I start pacing up and down with my hands clenched around the hammer.

        2. Retsam says:

          Actually laughed out loud at this. (Got a strange look from my roommate)

      2. Zak McKracken says:

        This is a positive feedback loop.
        The more you feel at home somewhere the more you will like to decorate it, the more you feel at home.
        But! This is a stable feedback loop! It will (usually…) never lead to someone feeling infinitely at home because of infinite decorations. It only amplifies what someone is feeling anyway.

        Thus: If you don’t feel at home in some place it won’t really help to force you to decorate it if it feels wrong to you in the first place.

        1. X2-Eliah says:

          This rings true. I’ve considered decorating intentionally, but it has never felt… authentic. I took the initial efforts down after a short while, it didn’t feel like they belonged.

    2. Peter H. Coffin says:

      It takes me years to each the point of having much decoration. At least decoration that isn’t work-related. The 5×12 arrays of printouts that show the entire logic flow of an application I was working on don’t really count as “decor”…

      1. MichaelG says:

        My cubicle decor ran to “passive aggressive.” You know, inflatable dinosaurs with the company’s products written on them….

  8. djshire says:

    These personal blogs, about your life or how your life has gone, are always interesting to read. Thanks for sharing a little part of you with us.

  9. Paul Spooner says:

    “Something around here is inflaming my asthma.”
    I’ve only been to Boston once, but the entire time I was there it felt like I was breathing sand. At the time it was a rather novel sensation. ‘Wow! I didn’t know air could feel gritty! How intriguing. I wonder, what this is doing to my lungs?’
    Of course, if we were there for more than one day I suspect the novelty would have worn off.

    I know you’ve brought up weight issues several times, both here and in your autoblography. I’ve struggled with weight gain triggering depression, even though I’ve never been over-weight. I’d probably have killed myself if I gained that much weight in college (certainly a character flaw on my part). Even though I’ve gotten over it to some degree, I suspect I still have an unhealthy view of both the importance and the impact of weight gain.

    So, I’m curious. How did/does “being the fat guy” affect your self-image and your health? In the sense of, do you think of yourself as “a skinny guy” who just happens to have gained weight for a time? Did you come to accept being overweight as part of your identity, and feel insecure when you lost the weight again? Was it one of those things that you decided you weren’t going to let bother you (like the green dress socks) and just ignored or even flaunted?

    I know psycho-analysis (giving or recieving) isn’t what you signed up for with this series. Plus there’s lots of medical literature out there about effects of obesity. But, I was wondering if you’d mind sharing your insights into the issue.

    1. As someone who’s dealing with clinical depression and being overweight (stupid gorram thyroid, work right damn you), the two do go hand-in-hand to a certain extent, mostly because it’s nearly impossible to get the energy up to eat right and exercise when you’re having to decide between a shower and going to class on any particular day (seriously, I only had the energy to deal with one, thank god it was winter).
      For more minor depressions, I suspect it does have a great deal to do with both how appearance is so important in our current culture and also that we feel better (or at least I do) when we look better.
      I’ve never seen myself as the thin girl, mostly because I’ve never been one (see above mentioned thyroid). At my thinnest I was 172 which was nice, but I was still not a skinny minnie. It’s entirely possible that this has fed my depression, but I suspect genetic factors (hello suicides and alcoholics on both sides of the family) and learned behaviors (for the love of God, Montressor, never ever teach your daughters that nice girls are sweet and kind and never get mad) have much more to do with it.
      And yes, I know I’m not Shamus, but he hadn’t said anything yet and this is one of my topics (because I have it I feel the need to explain it, sorry)

  10. Nalyd says:

    I know you’re not doing this for empathy, but you have mine.

  11. Mike says:

    I really like reading these, Shamus. I never knew you were so frustrated at work during those years. It speaks volumes for your character that you were still kind and approachable to people.

    I have to say that the years that you worked in the office were absolutely my fondest memories of working at Activeworlds. Working through a problem together at the whiteboard, listening as you explain the vagaries and eccentricities of coding, or just plain making fun of clients ideas (remember the “can-O-beans” mall?). Also playing System Shock 2 co-op after hours using the intercom! It was never the same after you left, make no mistake.

    I guess my point (if there is one) is just to show that you had a really positive influence on people, even during perhaps your hardest times.

    PS: That second shot was taken from my cubicle, though not by me. Man, I do not miss being stuck in there all day..

    1. Shamus says:

      Thanks man. Yes, the whiteboard sessions were pretty much the Best Thing Ever. I have a whiteboard here that I use when I want to explain something to the kids, and every time I start scribbling I think of our marathon brainstorm / huddle / gripe / planning sessions.

      And yes, THE MALL was about the most awesome horrible project I’ve ever worked on. That ordeal shaped a lot of my thinking about how the tech industry works. Heck, a lot of my EA analysis comes from seeing all that money wasted in such a reactionary and uninformed way.

      I’ve often wanted to tell that story here on the blog, but I’m wary of revealing the detail in public. The two companies did not part amicably and millions of dollars vanished in a big hurry. I have no idea if there’s some Venture Capitalist out there who’s still sore about how it turned out.

      1. anaphysik says:

        Damn lawsuit-vultures. That story sounds like it would be /extremely/ illuminating to hear, but now that it’s been revealed to be connected with the company, it wouldn’t even be possible to tell it in a ‘names changed to protect the guilty’ method :<

        1. anaphysik says:

          I was evidently wrong; not wrong about the story being extremely illuminating (which it has been so far), but rather about it being impossible to tell: It’s told in the Crash Dot Com series, particularly starting from part 3, with the “Can of Beans” descriptor appearing in part 5

      2. Peter H. Coffin says:

        There is the escape of telling the story as “fiction”… The fun thing about “fictional” debacles is that few organizations want to make it known that they were significant players in them.

      3. Kayle says:

        (Real) technology VCs can’t afford to get sore: they lose their investment on something like 90% of the companies they invest in, break sort of even on most of the rest and make a killing on the few that succeed big.

        When I worked at the formerly large computer company with a headquarters in a former wool mill, I used to joke that it was impossible to get anywhere in Boston without violating at least one traffic regulation; fortunately I lived and worked way out in the burbs and merely had to skirt a few.

  12. Mike says:

    PPS: I am pretty sure Shamus and I made the same 12 year mistake :P

    1. Jarenth says:

      Great minds think alike?

      1. Halceon says:

        Great minds fail in predicatbly similar patterns?

        1. MelTorefas says:

          This is now my messenger status.

  13. Brandon says:

    The timing of this post is really interesting to me, because it kind of relates in a way to me and where I am in my life. I’m 25, fresh out of university, literally just landed my first job in software development. I’m about to move to a new city where I only know a handful of people, and the city is about four times the size of the place I grew up and have lived for all of my life.

    As always, thanks for sharing your experiences, and I’m looking forward to reading more.

    1. Humanoid says:

      I went through a similar, but in some ways opposite, time several years ago. Out of uni and after a gap year in between, I took a job in a city technically one-tenth the size of the one in which I grew up. It was my first full-time job, and I was fortunate to have work organise the logistics of the move for me. I knew absolutely no-one here of course, but was very lucky to find a landlord who is very relaxed with formalities: indeed I haven’t seen him for over a couple of years and I’m free to make changes to it as if it were my own place – it’s very liberating to have that kind of trust.

      Now over half a decade later ….well, nothing’s changed really. I’m in the same job (albeit with a couple of new office moves), living in the same house, and while sure, I know a few people from work, there are none I’d call friends. But y’know, perhaps to an extent surprising myself, I’m okay with that – but I’m a person with fairly low social needs. I fly back to visit family once, maybe twice a year (I never learned to drive), and though I can safely say I’m close to my immediate family, I find that, along with entertaining a couple reciprocal visits a year, to be satisfactory.

    2. Jan says:

      Yeah, it sure sounds familiar to me too (luckily without the dad dying part).

      Moved to the US from Europe to take up a job, first job after grad school, city the size of my home country, no people I know, and the wife just sitting at home not being able to do anything.

      Or Shamus might be talking about something really different of course. But it sure seems many people in the comments are talking about this same thing at least. This feeling that you’re not in the right place, you’ve done everything society/family expects of you, the job is the one you wanted, except you’re now lonely in a place you don’t know anybody, and family/friends are too far away now.

    3. Matt K says:

      Same here although I’m interested because my wife and I are currently shopping for homes and I’m curious what went wrong there.

  14. warbright says:

    Just echoing what’s above, but this hit me, I’m 30 just finishing training in my career, married with a baby on the way. Our plans to return to our home state were dashed by that state government having a financial crisis that delayed licensing for my profession, so now I’m taking a job (a good one, better pay, lifestyle, lower cost of living etc then back home) where I’ve trained and have connections…can’t help but worry if this is the start of my own 12 year mistake. You can probably guess writing is not my profession.

    Anyway, big fan, read the game posts I don’t know how long ago, then a couple years ago wanted to find it again to use as inspiration for my own campaign and holy crap the amount of content!

    Looking forward to the rest of the series.

    1. Zak McKracken says:

      I’m slightly older than you, have moved a few times and had several big choices in the past.
      Do I take the super-well-paid job in a super-motivated team of supercool dudes but forfeit most of my weekends and evenings, or do I take the rather pedestrian pay for the job where I will mostly be done in 8 hours a day but will be expected to work and make decisions on my own, but on something where I’m more confident I’ll know what to do?

      If I’ve learned anything in that time it’s that you will not know whether a decision was “right” until waaaaay later, and even then it’ll be mostly guesswork because you can’t just reload, check out the other branch and see how that’d have played out. So knowing in hindsight what would have been better is only helpful if a similar situation occurs again. Otherwise it’ll just be source for insecurity.

      This will be nagging me for a long long time, but that’s life.

      1. 4th Dimension says:

        This LIFE game sure is shoddily designed since it doesn’t even have save and reload gestures.

        1. Alderin says:

          Way too much grinding, not nearly enough drops, unintuitive leveling system, unfair economics system, unfathomable plot…

          But MAN, the NPCs are so lifelike and the graphics are rock-solid! (even though some of us need character upgrades to fully appreciate them)

  15. WILL says:

    By 12 year mistake I assume you mean this blog, right? HA HA


    1. Cuthalion says:

      Naw, I think this’s only been around 7 or 8 years. :P

  16. Cuthalion says:

    The personal stories are the most interesting, Shamus. Can’t wait to read the next one, downer though this series may be. Glad you’re fine now though. :)

    1. Mephane says:

      Indeed; I can’t wait to read more. *clings to seat*

      Normally my interest in the personal lives of celebrities approaches negative infinity, but Shamus is a rare exception that I can relate to very deeply. I suppose it has to do both with the actual experiences and their well-writtenness (no idea if that is an actual word, but it sounds awesome).

      1. Cuthalion says:

        It is now.

        I think the trick with relating to someone like Shamus — who we feel like we know, even though most of us have never met him, so we actually don’t — is that he’s too famous to be ordinary, but not famous enough to be a celebrity. The “that could be me” is stronger, and there’s no hype to backlash against. He even responds specifically to some of the things we say, and it’s entirely possible to consume hundreds of thousands of words by him over time, building the illusion of a personal relationship.

        Which is still kinda neat, even if it’s half in our heads. :P

  17. Ross says:

    Since I did ask for this, thanks for posting. And as suspected I see from the comments so far that I’m clearly not the only regular reader who enjoys your personal missives.

    I think you’re an exceptionally talented writer. All mistakes – good and bad – and whatever other meanderings have brought you to this point of your life, please keep writing!

    As a long-time follower (having arrived via DM of the Rings) there is certainly that sense of ‘knowing’ you, although in reality we are clearly complete strangers. And yet these deeply personal posts are still thoroughly entertaining, engaging and emotive. That for me is writing of the highest possible craftsmanship.

    Achievement Unlocked: ‘Make thousands of strangers across the globe experience your emotions’

    Anyway, Thank-you.

    1. Disc says:


  18. Gabriel Mobius says:

    Super looking forward to more of this series. You’re a fantastic writer, especially when it comes to autobiographical stuff. Plus, reading some of the trials, tribulations and mistakes from someone who was in a field very close to my own is fantastic, perspective-wise.

  19. IronCore says:

    Shamus, thank you for posting stuff like this. Your willingness to occasionally talk about personal things on a public forum continues to baffle me, but I appreciate it more than you could know. I’m a very private person by nature. The thought of writing personal stuff in a public place is terrifying. I’ve been coming here for years, but I rarely ever comment. Yours is the only blog I read. Thank you again for this. Your words have helped me through hard times of my own. I wish I could really express how appreciative I am, but this is the best I can do.

  20. Alderin says:

    Wow, it’s almost like you changed a couple of places and moved a family tragedy to my ~y2k decade story. A death, a big letdown, two moves, a massive house sale before the bubble popped, a period of time stuck in a place that you got to because it looked like it should have been the right place…

    Just a couple of date and name changes and a minor swap of timeline points. Gave me chills.

    The end result on my end though is… less happy. I lost my faith, my business, my best friend, my wife, thousands of dollars, and the final insult: I’ve lost the ability to code for codes’ sake, really to code anything beyond a quick script. I keep trying, I keep dreaming of the things I could write, the systems I could build, the AI’s I could train, but I keep losing.

    So like Zak McKracken said above, I’ve resorted to the fallback of IT guy instead of programmer, mostly 8 hour days, confident but not really growing or thriving. Low-end income for the Bay Area (which means most of the US would see it as quite comfortable without the cost of living here), dreaming of bigger and better things and wishing my code-fu would return.

    Bottom line: I look forward to seeing how you got from this beginning to happy now. Maybe it’ll help me.

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