When I needed money, I learned coding—but I ended up so miserable that I left IT forever.
Unless you live under a rock, you have probably heard about the recent wave of layoffs in the news industry. Over two thousand skilled writers and editors lost their jobs almost overnight. Their sudden anguish stung me in a familiar way because a year and a half ago, that was me. Oh and it wasn’t just me, it was everybody on my editorial team—and some of my former colleagues are still looking for a steady gig.
A sad face.
Spoiler alert: gig economy is like twisted zen, talking or reading about it doesn’t give you any idea, you have to taste it with your own thirsty lips. When experienced personally, the buzzword-ladden paradise of disruption is an unglamorous place where the rates are competitively low, and you are a disposable ant, your dignity and your intrinsic talents notwithstanding. Disruption has an ugly face unless you are a theoretician giving a TED talk about futurology, while well-fed from all the tech industry funding.
I first saw that face years ago when music industry was flushed down the toilet. Back then, I came up with Plan B: a side gig in the newsroom. It felt like a steady thing! But before my eyes, the news industry was knocked from underneath my feet, too: Hail Facebook, hail Google, my sweet Lords. Your hands, I kiss.
Annoyingly, it did not take long for the preachy choir to get in my face. “Learn how the code,’ the sages explained to the confused creative professionals such as myself, as if doing what you love for a living were treason.
“Learn how to code,” they said—but what I heard was, “Accept your existential failure, slave. Did you really think you could be yourself in a world where we can’t? The nerve of you.”
And you know what, the nerve of me is right. I have, in fact, learned how to code years ago, as a newcomer to the United States of America. I had a dream of continuing my studies in Tibetan music and linguistics—but I don’t come from money and I couldn’t afford to pay for school. I had to regroup and pick a practical trade. At the time, I was dying to be adequate. An artist, I was tired of being a glorified idealistic weirdo, so coding became my magical potion and my recipe for fitting in.
And by the way, I didn’t suck at coding. After graduating at the top of my class, I got a million job offers. The one I took was from a strange startup whose motto was, “Do or Die.” They were great at taking advantage of young immigrants, but they promised to take care of my papers, so I took it. And then I joined a techie tech team at Blue Cross where I wrote Java frameworks for other developers. But as time went by, I was getting increasingly restless: A coder from God, I wasn’t. I missed being me. I missed music, poetry, writing, I missed the life of a weirdo. Job security and the paycheck were lovely but I felt old and fading away, as if I were living somebody else’s life. Coding is not for everybody. UX is not for everybody. If the society is organized in a way that makes you do things you hate—or die of hunger—it is a vampire society.
Nothing about this is new.
Whenever an ambitious self-appointed messiah comes along, the old broken record plays again. How can a humble peasant like myself recognize a messiah? By the smell of “innovative” business models that somehow require our collective participation—via sacrificing our silly individual desires to the messiah’s desire of leadership, to the Great Ghost of a Better Future.
And of course, any self-respecting messiah needs a massive following of orphaned, uprooted spirits, and so they deprecate—and then eat—other people’s uniquely shaped creativity—and turn it into hard money.
Thou, outdated, they say. Thou, dirty! Thou, backwards! New light, I have conceived. Embracest the new way of life thou wilt, or else perish like a pig, in mud and obscurity.
An unsolicited imposition of personal will on others is what it is. An act of war wrapped in cuddly emojis.
This is how European invaders preached onto the heathen: Assimilate.
This is how the fathers of industrialization preached onto the independent craftsmen: Get a job.
This is how the Googles and the Napsters of the world preached onto the musicians: Adapt.
This is how they are preaching upon everybody today: Learn how to code.
Learn how to code because your natural talent and the desires of your heart don’t matter.
Learn how to code, or die.
Methinks though, why don’t you go f*ck yourself?
Maybe you adapt to being a part of humanity and not owning the entire world?
There are more of us than there is of you, dear Messiah. Seriously, go f*ck yourself.
Photo credit: Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash.