One of the benefits of having a kid is the opportunity to read with them: brand new books; stories you have known all your life; stories you wished you had read. It’s a chance for you to grow and learn as a family.
Before reading it together, I had known the broad outlines of the Zen koan, Banzo’s Sword. It’s the story of a young man, desperate to impress his father, finds the sword master Banzo and insist Banzo train him. Banzo agrees. The young man asks how long it will take to become a master. Bazo tells him a lifetime. Too long, the young man says. He tries to bargain with Bazo, offers to be his servant, and with every offer the time to mastery grows. Eventually, the young man realizes that he can’t get to mastery without putting in the work and being patient. I recommend that you read Bazo’s tale here.
This is also the plot to Karate Kid.
I fell in love with the X-Files in it’s second or third season, in dark basement in Centreville, Virginia. A friend introduced me to Mulder and Scully and the Consipracy through her brother’s library of VHS recordings off the air. We went our separate ways – college in different states – but I kept up with the X-Files until the end and I have all seasons on DVD – except, strangely, Season 4.
Viewers may remember the The Lone Gunman. Byers, Frohike, and Langly were allies of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, who ran The Lone Gunman, a publication that explored conspiracy theories (i.e., Lee Harvey Oswald was either a patsy or part of a larger conspiracy, the was filmed by Stanley Kubric on a soundstage in Hollywood, Extraterrestrials walked among us. ). They provided what could be charitably described as “operational support” for Mulder and Sculley, including legwork, photography, and hacking/phreaking, in service of the Agent’s search for the truth in the alien invasion conspiracy.
Sometimes they got up to their own shenanigans.
I do prefer the one-off X-File episodes over the Conspiracy, if only because the Conspiracy was bleak. Check out Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space” or Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man.
Another, Unusual Suspects is the Mulder/Gunmen origin story. In a scene with a character, “Holly,” who is running from the Cigarette Smoking Man, when she asks him about his hacking skills, Frohike tells her that his “Kung Fu is the Best.” The phrase, a kung fu film trope and well-worn in-group code from the black-trench-coat-and-combat-boot nerds, struck in my brain. I liked it so much at the time that I added it as my signature on my home printed business cards.
I seriously I thought that was sufficient to will myself to success (whatever that means) without having to actually put in any work. I had no patience. Success as a writer would find me.
I’ve had a lot of jobs since college and no explicit plan other than to be a kick ass novelist: Sales Associate, early morning chyrons for major market TV, secretary, program coordinator, and secretary. I thought the novel would come by magic and my future set. Eventually I decided to turn the only skill that I spent any time actually working on and turn it into a corporate career. I took a certificate in Technical Writing and through the power of nepotism found a job doing that for a small software company.
And over the last 13 years the job grew far outside that specific title. The knowledge I built up writing about our software products made it natural that I should also do pre- and post- sales. And live trainings. Marketing material. Trade shows. We were part of a much smaller company then and everyone did what they needed to do to move things forward. Honestly, I really liked it. I like having a skill or knowledge people appreciate. Still, nearly everyone who’s ever known me longer than 5 minutes thinks it strange that I’m a damned good capitalist.
I had no explicit plan. I took opportunities as they came (opportunities that are only available to a select few, I remind myself; I’m a stupid lucky human being) and eventually found something I genuinely liked to do.
My kung fu is just okay.
That friend popped up on my radar a few years ago. I happened upon an article she wrote about her distrust of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop. We reconnected on Twitter. Soon, she found global internet fame from her piece on Brigid Hughes, the second editor of the Paris Review, and how she was erased from the history of that publication by that publication and, among others, the New York Times. She advocates for the remembrance and recognition of women in the arts, especially those who have been edited out. She started a quarterly journal and a bookstore, as a single mom, an American living in the UK.
And if you were not paying attention, while her success might seem as the work of magi, she has made a series of explicit choices large and small that move her to her goal. Choices invisible to all but those who care the most. But as she will tell you – and has told others who make the same assumption – she’s put in the hours building her knowledge, skills, and “brand.” She’s put in the work on her kung fu.
This is not the same scale. I’m not shining a light on long suppressed, yet fantastic, women authors. I want to build software that makes life just a little bit easier. I don’t want to disrupt life; I want to help smooth out the bumpy trail so we can all get to where we need to be.
I’ve put in 13 years. I’ve got some skills. My kung fu is not the best. Not yet.
I starting my third week of a 15 week Coding Boot Camp at Flatiron. With the support of my family and an okay from my supportive boss, I am taking Vacation/Leave to learn to code, to add that skill to my set of tools. When I finish, I will be armed with the skills to help me be closer to that kung fu mastery that I wanted to advertise on that cheap business card nearly a quarter century ago.
To some, this may seem like a giant, brave (or insane) leap into the unknown. To all those who love me the most, this is the next, small logical step in my pursuit of happiness and some kick-ass moves.