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Posts Tagged ‘Literature’

next: action on the home front

At university in Iceland, I studied physics, literature, and graphics design. After graduation, I found work at an advertising agency as a designer. The creative side of the job, especially the art, suited me, but the office chit-chat and politics clashed with my taciturn nature. Frustrated by my square-peg-in-round-hole status, I went back to university, obtaining a masters degree in mathematics after more than the usual number of years. Student life was the perfect arena for the exercise of one of my character disorders: following the interest-of-the-moment rather than doing what I should. The damage done by weeks of inattention to my classes could be repaired by a three-day binge of studying. Yes! I could out-concentrate the most obsessive of the obsessed among my fellow students, even Harald Haraldsson himself!! Out in the real world once again, I found a series of odd jobs, few lasting for more than a year. Waiter at a local restaurant, copy editor for a newspaper, writer of advertising copy, web design. Etc.

It was in the web design job that I learned about programming. For extra money and as a kind of challenge, I started writing software. Creating and shaping code soon morphed from a pastime into a monster that devoured both day and night. I would wake up on the living room couch, exhausted from a three-day binge in a labyrinth of logic, data structures, and context-free grammars, unable to stand the sunlight streaming in from the windows that looked out onto the sea, books, papers, and dinner plates scattered across the room in revolting disorder.

The beast was destroying me. Alcohol could not have been worse, though I barely touched it. A year ago I went cold turkey, writing no software for eight months. A small inheritance helped me to survive during this period, though the money did not go far. I played the piano, tried to compose music, and took long walks by the sea to calm my nerves.

Then, partly due to the economic crisis in Iceland, I decided to come to the US. I needed work, and one of the few options open to me was to resume software development. I am giving it a try, but this time under strict guidelines: I write code only during daylight hours, and preferably in latitudes where neither day nor night last too long, where the Earth itself lives from season to season with less dramatic swings of mood. The hours of darkness are reserved for music and a long-delayed writing project.

So far the experiment has worked. A few dollars are flowing in, and the old obsession seems to have been tamed for now. I live, as always, a somewhat reclusive life. I prefer it that way.

– HH

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