Masters of our own destinies

I spent years grappling with a feeling of inferiority having not graduated from university. When I finished school at eighteen I studied TV Production in Gloucestershire, despite my only interest having really been film; my father wouldn’t support this in the belief that TV was where the jobs were. My main interest as a teenager had been photography but there was also no possibility my parents would support me in that. Upon reflection, I think photography was one of the only things I was ever truly good at. I left university after a year with ~twelve thousand pounds of debt and depression.

I have no regrets having spent a considerable part of my life programming. I think I’m fairly good at it as well.

At several stages in adulthood I’ve looked into the possibility of returning to university in some capacity. Firstly, I feel I missed out on the opportunity to study. It was only as an adult that I discovered how much I really enjoy learning new things; any kind of passion I’d had for learning at school was thoroughly drummed out of me during GCSE & A-Level study; I read hundreds of books in my early teenage years before having to answer inane essay questions about which “literary techniques Bronte employed in Jane Eyre”. Incidentally, novelists don’t consciously employ techniques as if ticking off items on a shopping list, they read.

Secondly, graduating from university has always felt like a club I wasn’t part of. My parents, my sister, most of friends. Most of them describe it as a total waste of time, but a walled garden I may never have access to nonetheless.

The barriers to attending university seem too great: I would have to study A-Levels relevant to the subjects I want to learn about, which might take years with a full-time job. And what would it lead to if not another job? Why would I forgo gainful employment for the possibility of something else? It’s not as though I hate what I do currently.

At the weekend I finished reading “Masters of Doom” which follows “The Two Johns” (Romero and Carmack) (founders of id Software) who would make games like Wolfenstein 3-D, Doom and Quake and bring about vast cultural change in the process. Neither of the Johns graduated from university. Carmack, who was largely self-taught, would conduct his own research so that he could solve difficult graphics problems. It was incredibly humbling to read about the two prodigious programmers, who later went on to become hugely successful (in every sense of that word).