Penned on the 20th day of March, 2020. It was a Friday.

Before I get into what I need to say, I need to stress how important is is that I don’t get lost in the coupling of my thoughts to the language I put them in. I want to say so many things, they all want to rush out onto you, but it would be unintelligible. Vice versa.

I have spent most of my life confounded with people on a fundamental level. It has been hard, but I have spent it all fighting with myself to understand everybody around me, and make some sense of my place within it all, and I am still doing this today because I have nothing better to do. Surely this must be done before I can advance to whatever might be next.

As a grade schooler, I was confounded by the idea of school, and learned my way out of it very quickly. It never got me out of my sentence, but I understood a lot about how people tormented and cherished me as a child, and why they did the things they did. It never made it feel better, but I at least understood the harm they had done was out of harm done to them. Making sense has a remediative quality about it. A lot of people were actually good, too.

In high school, I was confounded by neglect from some of my family that left me behind. No sooner could I look into it that I was blindsided by the rest of my family with ruinous, violent rituals that caused a great deal of pain for me. I reeled for a couple years to make sense of it all and grow out of it again.

After school, I met my husband-to-be, married at 19, and reeled for years at the innards of marriage. We enrolled in school on the most embarrassing impulse that no one knows about, and our social life exploded into the most beautiful flower as we hashed out our marriage to the last nail. I learned how to be an adult at a pace most people never do.

Throughout all of these times, I became incredibly good at talking to computers. In the space of my teenage years, I learned as much as a Ph.D. candidate about computer science reading online materials and filling in its blanks by talking to those who went to school for it. And well, I guess it fits. At the outset of grade school, I was beholden to the computer. I saw its power.

I have never made a successful program, in the sense of anything popular. I spent a lot of time with Pokémon on the Game Boy Advance, and prided myself so much on applying what I learned that I knew everything I ever needed. What never made sense was how people took it. Most precisely, they didn’t.

I did things that had never been done before, shown my ability for all to see, and it didn’t seem to interest people as far as any signal would tell me. It was one of many times where I was appreciated, but never credited so, in the social sense. There was often a most painful hindsight that people liked me, or loved what I did, but for some possession stayed in the shadows, never spoke up, and I couldn’t keep it up when it looked as if no one cared.

I recall a piece of writing by Adam Elkus regarding the tortured Lisp programmer, and it was interesting to me as it confirmed I had a different affliction with the world and my profession. I had been concerned about such antisocial defeat, and well, I guess it makes sense it wasn’t me, because I write C, and program video games, the most loved software of all.

I don’t have some kind of misanthrope, but I do have a disconnect with the things I’m good at making and what the world seems able to receive from me. It causes me a lot of pain. I could understand if I’m just bad at describing it, or if the idea is so big I would just need to do it to show what I mean, but I’m afraid it’s worse than that.

I like making things that are powerful and fun. I always wholeheartedly agreed with Reggie Fils-Aime in that if it’s not fun, why bother. I always practise so much diligence, I would swear to you that I am the best C programmer you would ever see. But, you probably wouldn’t want that.

Many people would argue what I do is stupid. I can see their point. Silicon Valley is a gravy train that runs on Python and JavaScript. They don’t care about C. They won’t hire a C developer without college like they do the JS code monkeys. Even if you wanted a C programmer, you probably can’t afford all of the things I do that take so much time and effort. You probably want something that ships this year. You probably want me to be able to cooperate better with other programmers by doing things that don’t seem completely bizarre to them for being totally out of left field and without any precedent whatsoever. I could do all of those things for you, but not today, not that way.

My husband has been on this planet for a good few years more than I have, and I think he has suffered a similar fate, in a different way from I. Part of me believes that’s why he loves me. Why he doesn’t want to be successful in his home country, even though it couldn’t be more of a cakewalk for him if he wanted to. He doesn’t want to, not that way.

There seems to be something so zero-sum about becoming successful that it leaves nothing to the imagination. I could write JavaScript all day. I could make six figures. My in-laws would happily pay for me to move to SF tomorrow, and I could shoehorn my way into work with nothing I don’t have. They still want my husband and I to leave NC and go to California even now.

But why would I do that? Why!? How is that supposed to make me feel? What’s it supposed to accomplish? What, I get a lot of money to live on? What good is that for? I’m already alive, housed and fed as it is. What, I get financial independence? Our dependence inconveniences no one. If anything, we are more resilient with it, what with the pandemic ongoing.

There isn’t anything special to the lifestyle in SF or SV that I’m in such desperate need of. The party cult is so toxic for one’s mind. The city is more expensive than it’s worth. Traffic is such a timesink and only now did it occur to anyone to not even bother with it. I can be a better person than that. I know everyone can be a better person than they are. A certain kind of me has to live there that doesn’t exist in a way anyone can picture now. I can’t accept some devolved version of myself for such a pitiable reward.

There is more to what I do that I can’t seem to tell anyone about, no matter how much I aspirate. There is so much I want to do, so much I have already done, and I would do it for myself as easily as for them, because it doesn’t matter who it’s for. I always thought that what was done had a merit of its own. I thought actions carried the meaning they did for what they were. I’m afraid that I have spent my entire life with the wrong people. It seems I will have to take it upon myself to do the things I know would be great, but I can only do so much without others’ help. I would do almost anything to have people say more about my hardest work than a passing “that’s interesting!”

I have heard from many that perfect is the enemy of good, and that is what I have been grinding against for the past year or longer. But to whatever extent I compromise, it feels like a disservice to what could be. I just don’t see it as striving for perfection. My work in C can be done all day long. It’s a catharsis. Moreover, I have no problem acquiescing to acceptability. I have changed my work philosophy to happily accomodate what begins as mediocre, or even bad. I think most programmers don’t appreciate literally rewriting code to the extent I do. But it still doesn’t seem to matter to anyone.

When I let deadlines crunch my work, it forces it into impossible time windows, and I resign to say I should have just been using GMS2 or whatever. It’s a defeat to everything I am supposed to be capable of to have my work reduced to mere Game Maker script, especially after all of my effort to succeed.

I’m also afraid people may misunderstand. It’s not like I am ignorant of what makes success. I don’t disregard it. I don’t even dislike it at all. I am not aligned against such things in some cognition of mine I’m unaware of. I want it a lot, because there’s no point in what I do if no one sees.

I am always concerned that people can’t see the whole me, who I really am. I want people to understand, in the most general sense possible. It hurts me to see when they don’t want to. I know that the full me is not bottlenecked by these mediums of expression. I think it’s a client-side problem. I can’t change my genes to not need all of you. I don’t even think people disbelieve my ability! It’s more that they don’t have a reason to care.

Where are the other people whose drive is rooted in understanding the world above all? Would you like me for what I do? Do you understand life as something for you to do the best you can? Do you see the hell implied in the bliss of ignorance? Do you cherish the struggle of being human? Would you do that for me as I would for you?

Until next time,
Άλέξανδερ Νιχολί