Jamie Henson

(Maybe) Halfway

February 28th, 2015

It’s been a good three months since my last instalment and a lot has happened. A notable theme last time was that of indecision and the slightly uneasy feeling of living between two highly positive parts of the world. That feeling still remains, although it has manifested itself under new grounds.

Towards the start of February I went back home to see family, friends, and old places. I won’t go into the details but the trip was immensely helpful - one of its purposes was to allow me to compare the two lives side by side, to see what I preferred looking long-term. In short, it was a lovely visit, mostly because it was a nourishing taste of stability and familiarity, with a taste of gimpery. And gigs. Those too.

The pressing issue now is that of what to do next, and how I should conduct myself here. Visa depending, my life as a US resident could be over in a few months, or could continue for another couple of years - it’s that ambiguity that sets aside this experience from a year-abroad at Uni, for instance. It means the difference between choosing which side of the Atlantic to focus on, which is important. SF, as I’ve learned so far, is not a place you can half-heartedly coast through. And as two 11-hour flights recently reaffirmed to me - that ocean is bloody huge.

The code-uber-alles lifestyle is a lot to keep on top of - I’m not averse to working hard, but for me it was always about maintaining a healthy balance between having a creative outlet and getting work done, and at times combining the two. Here, the power that the tech industry has over all facets of life is awe-inspiring. I went to part of the LAUNCH Hackathon yesterday and everything, from the contestants, to the location, to the prizes, was immense. For those who eat, drink and breathe code, it was Mecca. I cannot imagine something of that scale ever happening anywhere in the UK. And this stuff happens all the time.

Another thing - the definition of what’s “cool” in technology is very different here to anywhere else I’ve been. Here, “cool” is taking an on-the-surface boring (but highly functional) idea, dolling it up with snazzy branding and a wall of merchandise, and throwing it out to the masses for free. This is how innovation happens, by taking real problems and approaching them with an agile, nothing-to-lose mindset and a view towards establishing and growing a community. And because these cutting-edge tools are finding their way into commercial practice (my job included), it means I no longer have to slave over a monolithic tower of Java because some archaic business license says so - which is definitely a good thing.

When it comes to my free time though, I’d much rather tinker with a toaster to try and make it generate music. Nobody would ever buy the outcome, and you wouldn’t see it on a .io domain, but it’s a bit of fun. And that’s the thing, when hobbyist coding is culturally strong-armed into joining some open-source crusade with a larger agenda, it’s a noble cause, but it smudges the line between work and recreation.

Steering back towards lifestyle, over the past few months I’ve adjusted much more to actually living here. It took a trip back to the UK to realise that the Americans do some things better, and the Brits do some things better. The weather is definitely in the camp of the former. Cadbury’s chocolate is now only in the camp of the latter, thanks to Hershey’s.

Anyway. To conclude: things are alright.

But the Superbowl sucked. Oh God, did it suck.