Todd Libby

War and Peace, My Version

If you are going through hell, keep going.

Usually I see that quote attributed to Winston Churchill, of whom I do not particularly care for, but the quote is something I have long subscribed to since I could remember first seeing the quote some time in middle school.

Also, I know there are others who have had a rougher time. I know there are those who have had more hurdles and barriers than I. I also know I am a white guy in tech and that comes with privilege. Privilege that I know I have benefitted from in the past in and out of tech. This is not a story about “Oh woe is me”.

It's a story of how the constant beating down has worn me out to the end. There is only so much someone can take. I have seen this with all my friends and peole in tech. Not just me. This is a story though of how it sucks to be in a place where you no longer know what to do or feel.

Only the dead have seen the end of war.

I have been doing web for a little over twenty-one years now. In that time, I have applied to a lot of companies. I didn't keep a tab until after my first year of designing and developing websites. I think in that first year alone, I probably applied to approximately 5-6 companies. It really wasn't a thing where I lived.

Then however, the more I poured my heart and soul into making things, creating websites, using Adobe products to make flyers and tri-folds. When I used Quark to make business cards and branded stationery, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I knew that when I was nine-years-old.

I saw a Commodore PET 2001 series running in that classroom I remember so vividly walking by. Then, when we moved from Maine to New Hampshire, I saw them again. Math classroom, one was open, one was running Oregon Trail. I was mesmerised. I wanted to know how they worked and what made them tick.

I knew this was something I had to do as a career.

So I learned. And learned. And kept learning up until this very day.

So when I started doing websites back around 1997 for kicks, I decided maybe I could do this thing professionally and started my first “company”. “North Country Web Design”. Even bought a overpriced ad for the Yellow Pages.

If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.

I poured everything into that. Then when the burnout came, I took time off, that was my first case of burnout. Then I moved four years later to California. Figured I could do it out there, so I went to school and freelanced.

In the meantime, from 1998 to 2001 I applied to a couple hundred companies. Nothing. So I applied to a few hundred more in 2001. Nothing. 2002-2006 before I moved back to New England, I applied to about 500 companies. Not one job.

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.

I was determined to get a job. So when I moved back to New Hampshire, I applied and applied. And applied… you get the point. When I checked that old Excel spreadsheet last week I had over two thousand companies I had applied to. 2,137 to be exact.

How many hired me? Two.

I've always tried to let it roll off my shoulders, but this last time. The last rejection email. It broke me.

I have great faith in fools - self-confidence my friends will call it.

It is almost as if I'm Robert Johnson at the crossroads of highways 61 and 49 and I'm willing to sell my soul to the Devil himself if it meant getting a job. Although, it hasn't quite gotten to that point yet, the thoughts of willing to go to great lengths to get what you want seriously traverses through my brain now and then.

Now I'm at the crossroads. Do I quit? Do I remain? Do I sail off into the sunset or do I ride that atom bomb down to the ground like Slim Pickens? Or do I remain the whipping boy to a process that is so broken and fractured?

Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove riding the atom bomb out of the plane like a rodeo cowboy
Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove riding the atom bomb out of the plane like a rodeo cowboy.

This was the one that got to me. Granted, I let my emtions get the better of me sometimes, that is a work in progress, but the fact remains a 0.0009358914% success rate is not what I would call stellar.

I see it all the time. Folks getting jobs like it was candy being handed out at a candy store. You can learn at the job while on the job, such great succcess stories that I am very happy for all those people, don't get me wrong. If you have applied to as many places I have you start to wonder when the hell am I going to get a shot?

That is what I am facing now. I feel like giving up, to saying, “To hell with all this!” and I have to some people. I am drained and tired of trying to find a home with a company that wil have me because none of them don't. Maybe that's a sign.

Then I was saying last night, that a friend of mine once told me, “I'm so happy I didn't get all the things I ever wanted, because I wouldn't be where I am today if I had.” And you know what? He is right.

But this. Just the chance. The chance to learn, to work in a group, to work and succeed. To make great things that benefit and create accessible, inclusive things. You begin to wonder.

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.

I've been doubted my entire life. That I'll never work in tech, that I'd never be a programmer, that I'd never do some of the things I wanted to do. I proved them all wrong. Friends. Family. Everyone. This time though. This time I'm trying to prove myself wrong and it's waged a war in my head that is constant.

I have been beaten down too much and been told I am not good enough too many times and I know that is not the case, but the fact remains, those voices still are there, they still speak and when another rejection email comes in the inbox, it is just another case of I am never going to be good enough even with the skills I have and the learning I do daily. Never good enough.

My heart tells me to quit. That it can't take any more rejection. There are issues behind that which I won't go into. My gut, my gut tells me to keep fighting like I always have and never quit. I have ten to fifteen years left in me and I'm not to stop now.

I don't know or think I have it in me anymore. The constant being beaten down needs to end.

Something I loved to do since the age of nine, forty years plus ago. I'm ready to leave it all behind but the question is, do I walk away now or hold out hope for yet another day?

Strange as it may seem, I still hope for the best, even though the best, like an interesting piece of mail, so rarely arrives, and even when it does it can be lost so easily.