Bathroom Reading Material

Defining Life Based on Who You're Stuck in a Room With

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I turned 18 in February of this year. I’ve long known that hitting that milestone would mean a lot major life changes in quick succession, and I have prepared to be overwhelmed. I’ve been told that being overwhelmed is the only logical human thing to experience when these sorts of things begin to happen. I’ve got to say, it’s one hell of a ride, but it’s one I’m very happy to be taking.


I’ve been working with a wonderful company called Geni for the past year. Geni is a genealogy website dedicated to building a family tree of the whole world. You make an account and create your family tree.

Around two years ago, I was lucky enough to meet and become good friends with Justin Balthrop and Lance Bradley, both engineers at Geni. They had just created the cake build tool and I was one of the first users. The first experience I remember with these guys was me arguing with them over a feature cake had that I did not like, which was that it would start a swank server by default whenever you ran a command. I can’t remember the details of why this was a problem with me, but the end result was that they made the feature more configurable and off by default.

Days go by, we become friends. We met in person for the first time at the first Clojure Conj conference in late 2011. We spent the entire conference together. We had a lot of fun.

Eventually, Lance and Justin began talking about the possibility of me working at Geni as an intern. I think I was still 16 when I had my phone interview with the then-CTO, Amos. Several months passed while details were worked out. Amos left the company and Justin was promoted to CTO, which gave him more wiggle room for bringing me on as an intern quickly. I started in March of last year.

Oh my, what a wonderful year. 17 years old, working part time with Clojure from my own home all the way across the country. Even making money! Lance and Justin have taught me so much and given me so much experience. They’ve helped build my skill and my confidence in my skill, and I don’t think I’d be even remotely the man I am right now without their ongoing influence. I don’t think they’ll ever know what they’ve done and continue to do for me.

Turning 18

Turning 18 was always an important milestone for my Geni work. As long as I was a minor and still in high school, I could only work part time and the legality of things would be complicated.

Our plan was to fly me out to Los Angeles when I turned 18. I would work in the office for a week face to face with my coworkers and experience LA. A few weeks before I was meant to make this trip, I freaked out for a few days. Moving away from home is the expected end result of all of this. Unfortunately, there are circumstances preventing me from relocating my family at this point in time, and thus this is something that I would have to do alone.

Needless to say, this scared the hell out of me. So much so that I talked to Lance and Justin and pleaded for a way to continue working there and not have to uproot. Justin encouraged me to relax and just come out there for the trip and talk again after LA was no longer an imaginary place. His and Lance’s calm regarding this matter along with encouragement from my family to make this happen calmed me down significantly. I still wasn’t sure about moving, but the possibility stopped being ridiculous and began to make sense.

Los Angeles

The plan became a reality last week. I stepped on my flight on the morning of Friday the 13th. This was the first flight I had ever taken by myself, and it would lead me to a place farther away from home than I had ever been before.

I had a connection in Nashville where I got on a plane to Los Angeles. After this uneventful 4 hour flight, I found myself on an escalator down to a man waiting for me with my name on a card. This man drove me to the studio where I was to stay until the 21st. What makes this drive notable is that my best friend Alan (also an engineer at Geni) sent me a text message saying “Welcome to LA!”. I smiled so hard that I’m surprised my teeth didn’t fall out. My entire experience was braced on this text message. Los Angeles stopped being this scary place where I would be alone. Much to the contrary, I was surrounded by friends; the greatest people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. And they all wanted me there. They were all waiting for me to arrive. If you’ve never experienced this, you’re missing out.

I was picked up shortly after arriving by Lance and carted to the Geni office on Sunset Boulevard for the first time. They had set me up a desk and an amazing Aeron chair. Lance gave me a tour of the office and then he, Justin, Alan, and I all headed across the street to BOA Steakhouse for a fantastic dinner.

This was the beginning of a whirlwind weekend where Lance showed me the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. He gave me the tour of a lifetime and conversation that I will never forget. Alan came along with us for a lot of the weekend activities. Notably, Lance showed me Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Venice. I had never seen the ocean before, so it was mind blowing. We all took our shoes off and stood in the cold waters of pacific tide at Venice beach. I’ve never had so much fun in my life. Not for one second did I think of home, leaving my family, uprooting, changing. All that mattered was how I felt, and I felt amazing.

We did so many things that weekend that I couldn’t bring them all to mind in order to list them even if I tried. Notably, we saw a wonderful movie called The Chronicle and Lance and Alan took me to my first 3D movie (Wrath of the Titans) which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Monday begins my first 40 hour week at Geni, working in the office face to face with my coworkers. I felt at home the moment I plugged my laptop into the monitor on my desk. The conversations between my coworkers are smart and well worth listening to, and we have plenty of fun in the office as well. Light Table was kickstarting at the time, so we had lots of conversation about that and we followed developments closely.

During the week, Lance and I would sometimes do stuff after work. Lance took me to the hills one night and showed me the most amazing view of the city from above. The lights go on forever and the cars appear to be infinite. It is like an ocean on land, and it surrounds you on every side. It is inspiring and overwhelming in its beauty and is one of my highlights from the week.

I got a lot of work done during the week. I had never bought into the whole you-gain-a-lot-by-working-face-to-face thing, but I have to say, I believe it now. It is a lot easier to get things done and to concentrate when you’re in an office setting. If you need something from somebody, you find them and talk to them. There are few distractions. I highly value an office setting now and I’m excited at the prospect of doing it every day.

By Thursday, two nights before the morning I was to leave, I found myself in a position that I never expected myself to be in: I did not want to go home at all. I was enjoying it so much that the fact that I had to go home at the end of the week had been entirely an afterthought. It was saddening when the time finally came.

On Thursday, Lance and I left work early and drove to Malibu. Lance has suggested that Venice beach was not a good first beach experience. I didn’t know what he meant until I saw the beaches of Malibu. They were so utterly majestic! The first thing I noticed was that I could, for the first time, noticeably smell the ocean air. We went below Point Dume and climbed over rocks to tide pools. The scenery took my breath away.

Earlier in the day, Justin told me he wanted to talk about my trip and my plans for the future. We went to a private room and talked. He was concerned about putting pressure on me. He asked me how I liked it there and if I had decided whether or not I wanted to come work at Geni full time and live in LA. I was telling him yes in the blink of an eye.

Things are set in motion now. I get my diploma on the 25th of this month (April), and Geni will be able to make me a full time offer. In the next couple of months, I’ll move to Los Angeles and begin a life on my own.

Stuck In A Room

There is an episode of House where House talks with a patient (who had been raped and was pregnant) who he is reluctant to treat. There is a part where the girl says something along the lines of “All life is is a series of rooms, and who you’re stuck in those rooms with adds up to what your life is.”. This is what comes to mind when I think of this trip and my future.

Moving to LA, I will not be alone. In fact, I’ll be stuck in a series of rooms. The important thing is that there is nobody in this world who I would rather be stuck in those rooms with. I’ve got the best friends in the world, and I have the luxury of them also being my coworkers. I’ve never wanted to be stuck in a room so much in my life.

My friends have given me the best and most important week of my life. It was a life-changing trip that I will never forget. It has and will shape my life and future. A follower on twitter mentioned that it is amazing when things click, and I have to say that I agree.

I’m very excited about my future. My life is about to change radically, and I’m okay with it. I have choices and options I’ve never had before, and I see my path in front of me. It is going to be one hell of a ride, but it is a ride that I’m happy to take. Lance, Justin, Alan, thanks for making this a reality. Thanks for making things easy. Thanks for giving me an amazing new room to get stuck in.

Thanks for reading.