How the f*** I got here

On march 3rd 1987 I was born in Juiz de Fora, a city on the border of the brazilian states of Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro. My dad was a systems analyst and my mom a management intern, both born in Rio who happened to meet and marry while living and working in that city. At the age of 5, in 1992, I got my first contact with computers. It was an i386 machine with a black and white tube monitor which got me interested from the very first moment.

A couple of years later I would get introduced to computer programming. My dad used to pick up exercises for me from a photocopied VB 3.0 manual and that's how I wrote my first lines of code. In 1998 I had my first contact with HTML and by this time the Internet was already playing a big role in my life. I would spend my days on IRC chat rooms, gaming and hacking the OS. Some years later I started to make music and firstly heard about C/C++, Java and Linux.

The years passed and I developed interest on MIDI applications to use with my keyboard piano. I dreamed about the day my dad would give me that tablet which would help me to model 3D game scenarios and graphics for my Flash websites. Through out my life I always found ways of taking advantage of this powerful object with which I grew up by. Looking back to my life history I become amazed by how technology has evolved. Today there is basically no limit to what you can do with computers and my work is to help people take advantage of this power in their lives one step at a time, just the way it happened to me but faster.

Technically I’m just a rebel college dropout still dreaming with a formal academic degree. Now living in Argentina I’m enjoying what is one of the few advantages one can have as a citizen in this country: free, accessible public education. Back in Brazil the situation is completely different and in order to have access to free higher education one must go through an unhealthy competition they call Vestibular. Those who can’t approve, as I did, got to try again in the next year or go to a private institution if can afford one. In that country most private institutions are garbage. Some of the priciest get the job done for some careers. In my experience I joined three of them and learned everything but how to pass exams and adapt to society.

This voyage started ten years ago when I kicked off the Law school at Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, or just PUC as people call it. Although I never really wanted to do that, anxiety and family pressure took me in. My dream at that time was to become free from parental economic dependency but also wanted to make them feel proud of me. In July 2004 I was 18 and had lived most of my life unhappy with the way the world is. I used to complain about myself, my friends and my parent’s relationship. I was actually upset about almost every aspect of my life. I couldn’t understand existence and struggled to find a reason to keep going.

It turns out that I failed in this first attempt to get a diploma and live a successful adult life. My way of living wasn’t coherent with the routine I encountered studying at that institution. At that time the little moments of joy I had were all related to outside and radical sports, music, girls and marijuana. I just couldn’t adapt to an everyday two hours commute back home from college even though I was doing it driving my own car, a gift from my family for being a good child.

An year passed and I decided to make a shift into what I thought was a better solution to the urge I felt to live the ultimate happy life. I wanted to have the best people around me, the best clothes, the best skills, wanted to be at the best places, everything as subjective as it looks like. I desired a wonderful, impossible, fulfilled, altruistic, intellectual life and I didn’t wanted to disappoint my parents who already had spent an year on private college wishing only the best for me.

Anyway I changed and started from scratch at another renowned private institution called Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing or just ESPM. The law school wasn’t giving me a perspective on making anytime soon the kind of money I was wishing to make so I took a chance becoming a design student. I knew I had learned a few good things in the past year and I knew I could take advantage of my computer knowledge by studying a visual communication career, so I did it.

Time went by and I was quite happy with my new path except for one thing. The price my parents were paying for an education like that was at the moment probably 5 times the minimum wage in Brazil. The life I was living was simply unsustainable and the more I advanced on that career the more I realized it was no different from my previous experience. In Rio the graduated design student would get paid a misery outside in the market and internships were simply an excuse for labour exploitation. I was disappointed once again.

By the second half of 2009 I was already less than 2 years away from my graduate diploma on graphic design. However the economic situation of my parents and their relationship had deteriorated a lot in this while and myself, I became deeply involved in a toxic relationship that took me into none but confusion. That period was one of the worst in my whole existence. I was completely lost and detached from all the values that firstly motivated me in my actions. I was certainly far from accomplish my goals and definitely needed to change.

Following a colleague who had just arrived from an year long student exchange program in Portugal, I decided to leave ESPM and finish my graduation at another, cheaper private institution. In august 2009, longing to spend less on college tuitions I joined Centro Universitário da Cidade, or simply UniverCidade. I did it aware that I wouldn’t graduate this time, I did it because I couldn’t assume it to myself. My parents expectations had morphed into a life trauma and although I felt ready for duty, the market wouldn’t open it’s doors for me. I wasn’t ready for that market. One year later I would give up my design degree altogether throwing a lot of money and time straight into the trash can.

Five years had passed since the first time I stepped into a private college classroom. I definitely had learned a lot and I couldn’t understand why I failed so many times. After seeing what I saw going on at those private academic institutions, I couldn’t accept that I was the only one to blame for not being successful. I realized that formal education was a big trap, at least private formal education and that made me positively turn back to the public path.

On march 2012, after a period dedicated full time to some personal projects I finally joined a public university. This time it wasn’t Rio de Janeiro, but Florianópolis a capital city on the south of Brazil. Unfortunately on the second half of 2012 the workers at Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina —UFSC— stopped demanding better salaries and working conditions. Obviously I joined them and finished this year failing on every single course. For the first time as a college student I felt I was really part of something relevant. The public university beyond it's problems is a huge democratic space. It doesn’t matter what career you’re studying, the point is to claim your share over something you own as a citizen right.

Yes, I left again. Studying computational mathematics is not easy and I didn’t managed to sustain myself without a job. Employers still couldn’t absorb me and my family wasn’t able to help me anymore. I realized I would have to raise the white flag for a moment and submit myself to any job that could help me pay for my critical way of thinking. In 2013 I worked at three different places. First for two days as a secretary desk on a pharmaceutical products distributor. After that I found a part time job on the weekends as designer for a daily print sports newspaper and finally in June 2013 I got a formal job. For approximately 4 months I worked as a managed services technician for an IT multinational serving a brazilian public giant, then I left.

I left because there were too many restrictions placed by executives which were simply blocking me from accomplish the very tasks proposed by them. Also the money I was getting doesn’t made me able to afford a peaceful place to live. At this moment I was a 26 years old guy living in an apartment where used to be a home for me, my brother an my two parents. That time it was occupied by me, my brother, our girlfriends and my mom. There wasn’t a family anymore, there wasn’t a home anymore so I had to change one more time.

Now I’m trying again, in a place where I managed to get back peace of mind. I’m back into a public university where I hope to become a teacher and I don’t regret about any of the choices I made in the past. I’m still 27 and I’m full of different experiences to share which luckily will lead me to become a valuable professional on the years to come. At this moment I can only say I have some design and engineering skills. I don’t have a shiny portfolio and I don’t have a wonderful title to exhibit. Surely I’m educated and certainly people will find on me a valuable person. Maybe in the next years I’ll be able to satisfy all of my expectations as it should. I’m still working to build up success within formal education but for now it still is yet to come.