Archive for the ‘Neurodiversity’ Category

There but for the grace of God

Each time I read about one of these events I think, “There but for the grace of God go I”. Even as my loved ones say I’m not like that, and the Professionals say “You don’t have the temperament” I know that is not true. The me of the past was a prime “creepy white guy”, with all the entitlement, rage, and relationship issues common to these mass shootings. And yes I do mean a creepy white guy, one of the tribe you might call the fedora bearers, or neckbeards, because somehow we breed most of this violence. I don’t know why, but I do know that the adjacent tribes of geeks, nerds, makers and hackers on are in a unique place to do some good here.

Everyone who’s on about gun control, mental health, or whatever pet issue you’ve brought up in the wake of the recent tragic shooting. Would you kindly stop arguing online and instead go help a creepy white guy. Do this every week, and you’ll have done more to end these mass shootings than almost any other action you could take. I know, because I got that help and now I’m here twitchy, and slinging code instead of there on the front page seeking some kind of glory or recognition.

The me of a decade ago or even just a few years ago, had ample soil for this seed. My heart has been broken, I spent a decade in the wilderness of the “girlfriend zone” where I subjected women, who would have otherwise become dear friends, to desperate neediness. The exact complaints the recent shooter made of college women. After a bitter divorce I entertained fantasies of a mass shooting, both as the actor, and as a bystander. A commonly found motivation in gun violence across the nation. But none of these grew to become the poison intent to harm my fellow citizens.

Instead I had a social network. A fabric of people who accepted me, as I am, and never isolated me while expecting better of me. My community never allowed that seed of bitterness and hate to find soil within me. More people than I could name have reached out and helped me. Explained why what I was doing needed to change, and helped provide the accountability to make that change.

I quite literally owe my life, my career, and my relationship to those people. The friend who explained why my attention lavishing was creepy. The fellow gamer who repeatedly called me out for staring at her chest, and then still was there when I was unsure where rent was coming from to make sure I had food and shelter. This list is endless, and every week it grows. I hope this list is always growing.

If you care about gun violence, then take a moment and practice empathy and grace to your fellow humans.


Today is a zittertag, literally a twitchy day. My German professor coined the term to describe the days when my Tourette’s Syndrome(or other neurodivergences) mean that I function in ways pretty radically different from your average person. For me it is intrusive tics, obsessive thoughts, and an inability to string together words when speaking aloud. It is also accompanied by deep depression, feeling that I am incapable of accomplishing anything, or what I can complete is too small and irrelevant to move my team closer to a working release.

Both sides of this are “interesting” and “fun” obstacles to pretty much everything I do. While I have to get creative about finding productivity I still managed to code review my co-workers work from the past few days, and find a new and interesting bug. Is that what I had planned to do with my day? Not at all! The build is still broken, and I need to finish 6 tickets before Friday. I am going to have to get pretty clever and dig deep to finish them all in time for the planned deployment.

When I transferred over from teaching to work in software I found that many of the skills that the project management and planning skills that formed the “Software Engineering” curriculum were things I had already figured out just to survive my History program. In my first group software project I discovered I was wildly more agile than many of my peers. Learned the lessons of the agile manifesto as part of getting by as a person with disabilities.

Responding to Change is a core life skill for me. When I don’t know what I will be capable of at any particular moment. I had to Collaborate to keep up to date when I might be forced to leave the lecture hall when my Tics became disturbing, and I learned closely that results and people are what matters, not necessarily the processes, check-lists, or plans that people might think matter.

Agile is the “reasonable accommodation” that makes it possible for me to make a living coding. It meaningfully enables me to bring the diversity and random bits of serendipity that life hands twitchy folks to bear in software engineering, and the insights of living with disability to making better software and tools.