Thursday, May 24, 2012

Windswept

It's no secret that with less than a year left on my current life, I've been thinking, talking, and writing about it pretty consistently. It seems that every time my fingers hit these keys, the words that form revolve around my impending separation from the military and all the other changes that come as a result. I speak with excitement about moving home and being close to family and working in whatever aspect of technology my new career focuses on.

What I haven't mentioned is something that I've been avoiding, whether I knew it or not. The fact remains that over the last decade I've done something. Something big. As my last blog mentioned, the military is comprised of less than 1% of the US population. It's not a job. It's a lifestyle. It is actually a way of life. And while it's not the way of my entire life, 10 years is a long time. Hell, it's nearly a third of my life to this point.

More than that, what we actually do in the military matters. I remember conversations with my mother about joining the FDNY in what was our new post-9/11 life. It was the initial inspiration to do something bigger than myself. I recall talking about that desire. The Palm Pilot was still all the rage and I made reference to my legacy being synchronizing some executive's computer calendar to his Palm because he knocked the cable out with his fat foot in $400 wingtip shoes. Residency requirements and demons with the FDNY loss my family suffered, precluded fulfilling that new legacy. After some floundering I found myself in a different uniform.

What we do is not about business. It serves a higher purpose. There is much good in it. I managed to get that chip off my shoulder. I found purpose. And for all these long years I served my country and that purpose with a deep sense of pride, despite getting caught up in the day-to-day at times. I'm going back to the NY technology lifestyle, but differently. It isn't about corporate and money anymore. My plan is to exist within the startup space. Lots of innovation and vision. Using new and emerging technologies to change the world and how we interact. Civilian work with military sense of purpose and bigger picture accomplishments.

The uniform I wear every day is functional. It camouflages me and my brethren from those who wish to do us harm. Additionally, it helps us accomplish our mission by virtue of the fact that we all wear it. We call our squadrons units. We work as one team. We move as one. We are uniform and we wear a uniform to remind us of that. Every single work day since July 15, 2003 I  have, robotically, grabbed one from my closet and put it on. They've traveled and been donned in many states and multiple countries. They identify me to a very grateful civilian public. They are not clothes. They are equipment. They accompany and enable me.

Tonight, I had a series of images flash in my mind. It was my last day of my military service. I finished my final bit of out processing. I surrendered my military identification and drove off base. I couldn't get back onto a military installation if I wanted to. I came home. It was mostly packed for my move. I took off my uniform and laid it on my bed. In my realization, I had a realization. I would not put it back on ever again. My second skin was officially a memento. My clothing would never again be representative of me more than style and comfort. They would not be a utility.

In my realization within a realization I stopped. I looked at my uniform. I touched it. I ran my hand over my embroidered name tape carefully feeling the letters. I did the same, even more carefully, over the one that reads U.S. Air Force. Then I grabbed one of my sleeves and pinched my stripes in half, enhancing the sharp crease that runs down the middle. Staff Sergeant - a rank of leadership. A non-commissioned officer in the United States Air Force. I folded the uniform neatly and squarely with crisp corners and razor sharp edges. Blouse on top of pants. Hat on top of both. I picked them up between my hands - one underneath, palm up and the other on top, palm down; cradling it the way we hold the American flag. I nestled it on top of everything else in a suitcase. It was the only thing so neat and rigid on top of a pile of haphazardly packed clothes. It was as if it had been laid to rest and maintained itself as a shining example of the order and discipline instilled in me from the day it was issued to me.

They say clothes don't make the man. These aren't clothes. One more example of how these threads are woven to represent something. They have come to mean something to me. I will miss the message they deliver. I'll miss the mission they help accomplish. I'll miss the global sense of purpose.

I know I'm onto the life meant for me. I know I'm preparing to do what I'm meant to do with the rest of my life. I also know that none of that would happen without this. I've been windswept by what I am heading toward that I have been quick to gloss over what I'm leaving behind. The gain outweighs the loss, but there is loss nonetheless. Somehow, I foresee more of these realizations in the ensuing months.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Metaphorically gleeful

So, I was watching the 2 hour Glee episode from a week ago. First and foremost, I have to admit that the story is hokey and corny and generally ridiculous. However, the musical performances are outrageous and downright professional. It is kind of like a porno in a way. The story line serves no purpose except to tie together the action. I know that's awful, but I couldn't resist. I digress.

It was the episode where, after three or four years, they finally won the national championship and weren't ridiculed for the first time. Their teacher is honored with teacher of the year and many of them are just about to graduate. They are all together for one of the last times, as a family, riding high on the amazing times before parting. Emotions are riding high and, presumably, not all contrived, acted tears as I'm sure many won't be returning for next season.

Amidst the ridiculous cheesiness I found myself feeling slightly mushy, but it had absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the show. I have been known to forward through the DVR'd story line until I see a stage and just listen to the music. I'm not invested in the characters. Truth be told, I started watching while laid up after a surgery. The concept that evoked the emotion in me could just as easily been another show with another plot and all different characters.

It was about the sense of belonging. That family. Being near people that mean that much to you and having to say goodbye. I know that feeling. I felt it almost nine years ago when I drove off in a government car for the last time to Fort Dix and raised my hand before donning the uniform for what was meant to be 4 years and what would become a decade. I remember my friends and family gathering together for one last hurrah. I remember the uncertainty of what my life would hold when my parents' house disappeared in the rearview mirror for what was not the last time overall, but the last time as also my own home.

If this episode was three years ago, I may not have noticed at all, but with my impending return on the horizon, reflection of my choices, experiences, and events since July 14th, 2003 has been as nearly consistent as the daily devotions of the habitually faithful and religious. While the singing high schoolers and this tone deaf pseudo-fan have little in common; we share, either by plot or in earnest, the feeling of leaving it all behind. The difference between us being they are beginning their separation as mine comes to a close. I am about to return to all that was.

The military has given me many things and my time apart has taught me many things. I have learned love and appreciation as well as a level of humility and work ethic. I have fixed my financial standing (albeit not as much as I would have liked) making my return somewhat prodigal. My completion of college can be counted in weeks at this point. However, I did not get one thing I thought I would get and that is my second family. Everyone has heard terms like "Army buddies" used in the movies. I was under the impression that my fellow service members would be like family and remain lifelong. I thought we all shared in each other's triumphs and supported each other during tribulations. I thought the uniformity of the uniform bound us together.

I have some close friends and some who will remain as such forever. The military gave us the chance to meet, but it is not what made us close. Our personalities did that trick. There is certainly little credit given to the military specifically and the constant ebb and flow of people in our lives almost makes the military to blame for the felt isolation on many occasions. There are things I've done and accomplished during my days in camouflage and I have had handshakes and toasts with beers amongst "the guys" on many of those occasions, but categorically without deeper connections. The movement between locations may preclude roots from taking hold in the way I am used to and came to expect.

I don't blame the military truly, as it is just a function of the mission and its requirements. Blame, to me, holds a certain purposeful approach to hurt rather than simply causing it collaterally. There is no intentionality on the part of the military to limit relationships. I also do not fit the average mold of a uniformed service member. Either way, it is almost done. I mention it often as I grow more impatient each day.

I suppose that part of the feeling I experienced was not just remembering the loss as I left or feeling the ache to return, but also the pure level of disappointment in most people around me. The lack of deeper connection to the people who wear the same pattern as I in support of a grateful nation. We number less than 1% of the US population. We are kindred in that way, but treat each other like acquaintances.

So as I watched the poignant scenes of hugs and tears and people saying goodbye; I once again yearned to never have to say goodbye to the most important people in my life and then I realized that the empty days are almost over and my wish comes true in the not too distant future. And the day I get home marks the beginning of a new life... one I'll never leave again - no matter what.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

No risk, no reward

I spend so many hours in front of this computer. I sit down at it from the moment I get up until I leave for work and then for a few hours after work when I get home at midnight. Sometimes, for a change of pace, I use the laptop in the living room. I'm on Facebook and Twitter interacting or reading articles on tech sites, news sites or other social networking sites. I'm writing articles on Examiner.com, videos on YouTube, blogs here, commentary around the web, essays on JayVigMedia.com or editing and uploading photos to JayVig Photography or Flickr. Sometimes, I'm doing school work to finish up this degree. Sometimes, I'm learning something new like Adobe After Effects so now I know how to great 3D graphics and animations.

This is my thing. It always has been. I made a bunch of money doing this type of work for the New York Stock Exchange before. Now I serve my country's military doing the same thing. Before long, I'll be a civilian again and hopefully doing this type of technological and social work in the startup space, but maybe corporate America.

I know it seems like I'm constant posting something and you get bombarded with requests and links and updates and they all come from different places. Sometimes you have no idea what goes where. There's my regular Facebook profile and then fan pages for Vig the Geek, JayVig Media, JayVig Photography and now The Truth in Between. My updates come from Facebook directly or Tweetdeck or istatus+ or some other third-party post management application I use.

You don't know about all these things and they are named similarly (using the JayVig or Vig moniker somewhere in it) and you can't always tell the difference. Luckily, I don't even talk about Tech-City, which has taken a back seat to everything else these days.

On top of all these things I work my full time job. I have actually had people get annoyed at me for all my projects and say things like "Dude, enough is enough" or to someone else "how many businesses is he going to start?" So I ask you in return - Why is it enough? What is enough? and my answer to the other question is "as many as I damn well please."

I grew up with everything I needed, everything I wanted, and a little extra of each. Now I'm an adult and nobody is handing me stuff anymore. So I'm going to take it. I have lots of interests and lots of knowledge after 17 years in the computer/network/technology industry. There are lots of people out there with millions and some with billions of dollars. I don't care what anyone says about this economy - a ton of money is being spent on tech and I want all of it (or as much as I can get my hands on).

And why not? I want no hand outs. I work for it. I learn and try and take risks. The end result is that sitting on my ass without an education is not going to help rake in the dough and nobody is dropping duffle bags full of cash on my doorstep. This world is a big place with lots of cool shit to see and do, but it takes money.

I guess the point is that I understand the cliche of you can't lose what you don't put in the middle. That's why people don't gamble. There's no risk, but there's also no reward. Everything is a risk. You may get hit by a bus if you leave the house. You may break a leg playing baseball. Everything has a risk, just to different levels. Unmitigated risk is dangerous. I don't do that. I don't start a venture and put every penny I have into it.

I will keep drilling for oil on the web (that's my space) with project after project. I'll lose more than I make for a long time. Sooner or later, I will hit and when I do it's going to be big. I can say this with 100% certainty because I'll never stop until it's true. I'll make it true. So right now is the new web show. I want to turn the news and media industry on its ear. No more biased bullshit. We will not tolerate news without facts. Editorials are ok - opinions based on facts, but misreporting the story doesn't work. The Truth in Between will work on the facts. And it'll be big if I do it right. If not, I'll so something else.

No risk, no reward. You can play it safe if you want. That's not how I'm built. I want it all. Every dollar, opportunity, experience and location. I want to see, do, have, and know as much as possible. If someone mentions something in my industry and I can say "I have no idea about that at all, I've never heard of it" then I have failed. All the things I do teach me something and mitigate my risk a little at a time.

Be patient, participate and ignore me, but do not question me. It may not be for you, that's fine. There is no need to drag me down in the process though.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Don't judge a pen by its cover

It was 8am and I was listening to my instructor drone on about something mildly important and not at all interesting. Bleary-eyed, I tried to take notes, my special pen in hand.To my right sat an Air Force captain spinning his pen. On break I put mine down and engaged in conversation with others. The captain, who is apparently very proud of himself, says, "Nice pen. Ever see one of these? It's a Cross."

I love my pen and it's special to me. I even wrote two stories - one about losing it and one about finding it. But I don't need to get into it with him. So, I say, "Yes. Very nice" and leave it at that. He asks what mine is and I simply say, "Mont Blanc" and, again, leave it at that.

Here is where he gets shitty. "Oh. Well this one is pretty pricey. Would have set me back about 60 bucks, but it was a gift when I got my commission." I fought the urge to get sarcastic. It was a battle. I lost. My response was, "Oh? $60? Wow" with a definite tone of being less than impressed. He says, "That's a lot for a pen." I eked out a "Yeeeeaahhhh. I guess." Now he's feeling challenged and his quills go up and he says, "Well how much did that...what's it called?""Mont Blanc" "Yeah... Mont Blanc cost?" Oh boy. Here we go.

"Well, SIR, I didn't pay for this hand-crafted, serialized, lifetime guaranteed/cleaned/polished, writing instrument made with accents of platinum. It was a gift by an employer when I designed and supported computer network infrastructures for the New York Stock Exchange. Had I paid for it, however, it would have set me back $285. Of course, that price is from when I was 20... thirteen years ago." While he stared at me, agape, soaking it all in, I said, "Oh, the instructor is talking again. Nice pen though."

I know what you're thinking. I was being an arrogant, pretentious, pompous jerk. And maybe my response warrants that title. I still maintain that I tried to be polite. I didn't incite this interaction. I was minding my business, taking notes with my pen because it goes everywhere with me. He rattled my cage and pulled the "my pen is better than yours" routine without having the slightest clue what he was talking about. I don't flaunt my pen.

He's a captain. That means he's a commissioned officer. That means he finished college. That means he's in a leadership position. By his collar. I am enlisted. By my sleeve, I am low-middle management. I may or may not have finished college. I could be some bumpkin that enlisted to escape a fate that consisted of a Wal-Mart register for all he knows. Then again, maybe I finished college and joined to serve my country. Maybe I have more experience and knowledge than my stripes tell. You don't know me. Do not assume that my uniform is all of me. Since he's an officer I respect the rank and position he holds, but that rank says nothing of character or personality. And his personality does not speak highly of his leadership.

At the end of the day, you may out rank and out earn me tenfold today, but you don't know where I come from or where I'm going. You have not earned the right to judge me. Keep in mind the only other interaction I had with this man was his snarky comment about gambling with my future when someone asked me if I was still separating from active duty and I answered to the affirmative, yesterday morning. This pen incident was the last time today he'd acknowledge my presence.

Your rank or pen do not make you special. I earned my pen and subsequently lost EVERYTHING. I have spent the last 10 years working back up to it and my transition is nearly complete. I'm not gambling with my life and even I am, far be it from you to judge my decisions.

By the way, on the very next break I wrote this entire story in my notebook with my pen while he scowled at his as if it had let him down on his quest to belittle people nearby.