Are you the person that you promised yourself you would be when you grew up? How many compromises were made on your way to adulthood to try to make your life work?
I’m not talking about the insignificant things like that time you promised yourself you’d have your own private jet by the time you were 25. I’m talking about the goals in your life that you swore you would achieve because they would make a difference. The things that keep you up at night begging for someone or something to show you the way.
My father got into a bad car accident that ended his career at GM. Since he could no longer do his job there, he chose to spend his new found spare time getting an education. His path at the university led him to work on a pilot project to study homelessness in the Buffalo, NY area. The whole team, my father included, genuinely wanted to find root causes for this disease and flesh them out. They did a bunch of data collection and statistical analysis that got published and I still see pop up and referenced in modern studies on the homeless and poverty.
But I was so stupid.
I was a child. I had no idea the importance of the work my father was doing. I remember him bringing many less fortunate people to our home and letting us meet the people they were trying to help. I remember being with him while he was working at the soup kitchens and shelters. But I was selfish. I wondered why all these strange people we’re allowed in my house. I wondered why they smelled so bad. I was ashamed.
As I grew into a teenager, I learned that I had a natural talent for computer programming. It was the one place I could go where everything was sane and made sense. I got a programming job. I worked to make someone else’s dreams come true. I worked to make their businesses run more efficiently and to eliminate really unnecessary repetitive labor. I started my own consulting business. I worked on phone systems, anti-malware software, online restaurant ordering systems, large e-commerce deployments, white hat vulnerability analysis. I got lost in the software. I got lost in the creation process itself. I got good at it.
Then one day I lost my father. He passed away at home relaxing watching TV. He was 60 years old.
When the time came for his funeral, I was completely disconnected from the world. I could barely stand to look anyone in the eye. I shook hand after hand, heard all the apologies, and I held it together pretty well most of the day. But as the day dragged on, something happened that I wasn’t expecting that caught me off guard. There were people everywhere I didn’t know. They weren’t my family, or my father’s friends that I had known. They were people that my father had helped through his work with the university, or his volunteer time teaching middle schoolers about computers, or the half a dozen other things he was doing just to make people smile.
I broke down. I didn’t know my own father. I didn’t know myself. This man was the genetics, the nurture, and the reason why I had a strong drive to help others. I had wasted so much time just being his son. I could’ve asked him so many questions. If only I could’ve grown up a little bit faster we would’ve had so much to say to each other. The things he never bragged about and talked about defined him, and are what I would later realize drive me. Now he was gone forever.
My father left me with something that I will never ever abandon. We are put here to help others. We are here to make a difference while we can. Whatever skills we are given are meant for that purpose above all others. In the end, no matter what we earn, or all that we conquer the only traces we leave behind are the actions that we took to help lift up others.
Can 3d connectivity be molded and formed into a 3d social galaxy that connects people in ways that have never been explored before? I think it can. I believe virtual worlds and VR will lead to technologies that help people. I think we’re headed for an age where you can sit down, strap on your headset, and sit down next to your parents and loved ones from oceans away. We’re headed for a time when we can share a full 3d valentines card and a rose in realtime with our spouse even though we were forced to travel on business in February. We will finally defeat spatial separation and its role in keeping us apart.
But I get so frustrated sometimes. I just want that time to be here. I want to see that the work I’m doing has lead up to my final goals being fulfilled. To know that finally something I’ve done is helping people feel less alone on a massive scale. Going through all the motions of modern business is just something that has to be done to get there. In the process I will not lose myself. I will be true to my most precious goals in all that I do. To thine own self be true.