When I first moved to Indianapolis, there were a couple of nagging thoughts in the back of my mind that I couldn’t shake: “What if I couldn’t accomplish anything? What if I wasted my time in a new state and ended up going back home with zero success to my name?” I was 21 years old and at that point of my life the lack of any meaningful career progress made every day feel aimless. I mean, I had been working as a banquet server at a golf club for three years and college was not working quite as well as I had hoped.
I moved out to Indy after a friend that lived here suggested it would be a good way to start over but more importantly, to find better work. With only a couple bags of luggage and $300 in the bank, I didn’t have too much to lose. Because my friend was letting me stay at his apartment while I found my own footing, I made it a point that if I couldn’t find a job within four months then I would call this little life experiment a failure and go back home. Who wants to be a freeloader? I figured that if I had to cut my adventure short the moment I started to feel like Dupree from “You, Me, and Dupree” with Owen Wilson, then yeah, I would walk back to California in shame if I had to.
And I nearly did go back home.
I did not have a car at the time, so my options for employment were limited to where ever IndyGo bus route 34 would take me. I applied everywhere I could along Michigan Rd, especially at any businesses that would take my application at the busy intersection of 86th St and Michigan. I thought that I had a shot – surely a Chipotle would hire me, anyone…I mean, how hard could it be to get a minimum wage job? Indiana being less populous than California meant it must be just a tinge easier, right?
Turns out: it’s hard without a car ’round these parts.
I had a few interviews with some prospects but none ended up with me wearing their uniform. It was three months in and I was ready to pack my bags. Living off of a few sandwiches every day to save money eventually grew tiresome, but my money well was running out regardless and I was getting desperate. It was a stark realization as a guy who had only left home a few months prior that life wasn’t quite as easy without Mom or Dad to carry me with their pocketbooks every day. Having respected this, I did not want their help. I wanted to make it on my own to prove to my family that I could make it – that I could finish the race. If I finished third, sixth place, it didn’t matter. I just wanted the brief sense of euphoria that came with accomplishing something. Anything. It was important that I stayed and did as I had promised for once because I recognized that being able to pull through – that’s incredibly powerful. It builds trust, and I want people to trust me. I really do.
At the apartment I even tried to refuse my roommate’s insistence to eat out of his fridge and pantry in light of my situation, that’s how petty this whole thing was. I refused to swallow my pride. I felt that to accept anyone’s help would mean I failed my independence – that I would be regressing back to what I was running away from.
But as time went on and time was running out, I started to realize that pride was a silly thing to protect when there was nothing to be proud of, not yet.
Reluctantly, I started to let my mom send me enough money to stay afloat a couple more weeks at a time, I started to freeload off of my roommate’s food, and eventually even accepted my roommate’s referral to work at the hospital he worked at. With dignity out of the window, I learned one thing: accepting help when someone lends a hand can be good, even if it doesn’t always feel good.
For the next three years, I would meet people that would help me even more.
I’ve been in Indy for three years now, soon to be four. I couldn’t have survived or accomplished much of anything without all of the great people I’ve met in that short span of time. With their help, I’ve learned how to drive a car, how to ride a bike, how to sign my own apartment lease, how to buy a car, helped me transfer to another hospital closer to home, helped me get a promotion at work, even how to order drinks at a bar, among many other things. Some of these sound silly, but when you’re someone like me who isn’t exactly a social butterfly nor had much life experience outside of “good evening sir, would you be drinking red or white wine tonight?” then yes, I gobbled up any opportunity that came my way if it meant it could improve
The point is this: other people helped me survive Indiana, and I’m super thankful for it. Of course, I won’t discount my own part in all of this. I still had to work for these people’s respect, and for that I had to meet them first. Even then, I still had to work for what I earned – no one handed me a free car, a free promotion, a free bike, a free apartment – no, I earned those, and even though I had help along the way, I still had to run in the same metaphorical race every single time. Although they do give me free beer every once in a while so that’s always awesome regardless if I earn it or not.
With that said, I think it’s time for me to try something a little different.
College has been particularly difficult for me, especially in light of my full time job with rotating 12’s and working nights 6p-6a. There are people that are able to do it and I envy them, but I just can’t. This is disappointing because as I get older I start to realize that life feels meaningless when you have nothing to work for. When days feel like they’re over the moment you wake up, there’s a problem. I had felt like that back home in California for a time and that’s why I came to Indiana, but even after everything I’ve accomplished for myself here I still feel like something is missing. (If someone suggests that it’s a someone and not a something, I will personally make it my mission to find you and force you to drink at least six IPA’s and will watch as you surprisingly enjoy every initial chug of that beer, but with every chug your face twists in dissatisfaction when an immediate pounding aftertaste of bitter disappointment overwhelms your taste buds. I will show no emotion as this happens, there will be no remorse.)
Anyway, I still want success, and I will achieve my dream of becoming a software engineer, some way, somehow – with or without college. Not only that, but I still yearn the opportunity to learn and accomplish new things even if it means it’s through gimmicky methods that I will explain below.
A couple weeks ago I signed up for a coworking space at The Hatch in Broadripple. Coworking spaces are these new trendy shared office spaces that feel like you’re lounging on your laptop with other entrepreneurial coworkers. It’s meant to be collaborative, a place to network with like-minded individuals, but most importantly a place to be productive away from all of the noise at home. I go there every night I’m off and study web development through freecodecamp.com, but I don’t want to stop there. I want to treat my free time as if I were going to college and gaining new skills, whether it be through self-study or through friends I meet along the way. I do not want to live my life in the passenger seat, I want to be in total control. My website, GalvanizeIndy, is meant to be a tool to hold myself accountable to the new challenges I will be giving myself by publishing them here and sharing my experience along the way through social media. I also want it to be a platform where I can share about my time in Indianapolis and the great people that live here. It’s meant to be encouraging as much as it is, well, self-promoting.
I have six new skills I want to learn, and I will be sharing my progress with every one every chance that I can get. By the end of every challenge, the idea is that there would be a recognizable difference in experience gained. Did one of my new skills earn me a new job? Was I terrible at producing results in the beginning? I hope to give myself 100 hours of practice time with each new skill I want to learn and hopefully with this I can show that talent doesn’t always have to be innate – it can be earned through practice.
The first skill I want to learn is in reference to the picture of me sitting at an empty table at the very top of this blog post. That’s the coworking space at The Hatch I go to study for quiet time. As I had mentioned earlier, my dream career is to work in software engineering, preferably something in web development, so I have been using a free course called FreeCodeCamp.com to learn much of what I know at the moment. I’ve also been hanging out at Meetups to meet people that already work in the industry and, well, we talk about computers and coding. You know, gross nerdy things. Part of the reason I made this website is to challenge myself to improve it as I get better with web development – in fact, all I did was use somebody else’s website design that they published for free. I mean it looks okay, but I want it to be my own design and my own code that runs this website eventually. That’s why my blog at the moment feels a little like an empty white dystopian abyss of nothingness. But that’s kind of the point, for now.
As for the other five skills: those will be published as soon as I have another long wall of text dedicated to each announcement. I can already hear my mom groaning in Spanish right this moment as the prospect of deciphering more novel-long articles through Google translate to keep up with me sounds like a tedious idea.
Anyway, I will end with this picture I took at the Downtown Indianapolis Library the other day that conveniently fits with the topic of my first blog post: