Life, Gender, and the Pursuit of Happiness

2 minute read

This is a post I wrote originally on Medium.

A Commodore 64 personal computer, along with monitor, 5 1/4" floppy drives, and joysticks.
A Commodore 64 personal computer, along with monitor, 5 1/4″ floppy drives, and joysticks.

I was probably in first grade when I wrote my first computer program. My parents had a Commodore 64. (If you’re a bit younger, it was about equivalent in power to the original Nintendo game system.) My dad taught me how to put in a floppy disk, flip the lever to lock it in, then type LOAD “*”,8,1. I had no clue what that meant, but the computer listened. I eventually learned there were a lot of other commands you could enter to do a variety of other things, and the computer listened to all of them. It fascinated me. I copied programs in from the instruction manual, then would change them, or add on to them, to make the computer do more things.

I knew at that point that I had found what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a computer programmer when I grew up.

I was teased in elementary school for being a nerd. I was teased in middle school for it too, but also for having no athletic skills. By high school the teasing subsided, and people actually saw that I really was getting good at computer programming. Through this and some other after school activities, I started establishing a name for myself as a technical person.

I was always pretty smart. I did well in my classes. As in the ones I enjoyed, Bs in the ones not as much. I graduated from high school in the top 8% of my class of 340 people. I spent practically all of the free time my parents would allow writing programs and learning more about computers. I felt as if I was capable of doing anything I put my mind to.

I started at a community college my first year after high school, and after that moved to a school that was in state but far away. I needed to move away from home for a while. I was majoring in computer science (the obvious choice) and was doing very well. For a while anyway.

There was a problem. For as long as I could remember, this problem plagued my mind in some fashion or another. Depression. This feeling of life being awful. The feeling that I was awful. I hated it. The more time went on though, the more the depression soaked into my life. It stems back as far as I can remember — all the way back to kindergarten. I had many times in high school where I hated my life and really couldn’t stand it. It got worse in college. By the fifth semester, depression was so bad that I didn’t have the energy to go to class, and learning was impossible. My brain had basically shut off by that point. I couldn’t think straight. I was chronically unmotivated to do anything, often including eating. Those computer projects I loved hadn’t been touched in years. My passions were gone, and basically any form of existence I had known was gone too. I really wanted to die. I finally dropped out of college to try to save my falling 1.9 GPA before it got worse.

Please check out the rest of this post on Medium.