Dreams and Dream Pop

August 11, 2018

A couple years ago when I was living alone for the first time on an 8-month internship, I was very into weekend programming side-projects. Maybe it was the location where I was living (4 hour drive from home in a small town outside Calgary). Maybe it was because it was the first time I ever lived alone. Maybe it was just the phase of my life (middle of University degree, finally specializing into more than "engineering" broadly). It was probably a combination of all the above. Whatever it was, during this period of time I started to really value the idea of using free-open time. Until that point, many years of my life had mostly been jammed full of commitments - I played a lot of sports, going between games and practices in high school. I didn't have significant chunks of time on many days or nights where I could decide exactly how to fill that time. But there is one caveat. I believe in producting work output, or focused learning on some self-determined topic during that time. I hate the idea of draining all the time in a night or weekend by binging a TV show (I don't care about the lost social utility of watching these shows and movies). I believe in filling this time with extra work or learning that's precisely what you are drawn to.

During those 8-months, I was drawn to learning as much as I could as possible about computer science and practical engineering skills. So this took the form of mostly either 1) reading on these topics (either blogs, Quora, books like SICP, Secrets of JavaScript Ninja) or 2) building shippable projects. Shippable projects is why I naturally gravitated towards web programming languages. I remember many weekends getting home from work on Friday, and so so excited to have two full days to work on building something I could commit to GitHub, publish on Pypy, or a website. I was inspired by people like John Resig, Zach Holman, Jordan Scales - who had online personalities and portfolios I admired.

This was also the phase of my life when I first got the idea of the city where I want my next internship to be. For some, the aim is more broadly to be in California, but for me it was to be in San Francisco. In retrospect I think wanting San Francisco specifically is because I like exploring big cities combined with the current small town I was living (30k people, a few restaurants worth going to, more deer on the streets than people after 9pm).

While this period of my life was in some ways defined by deciding my next goal was San Francisco, it was also defined by this feeing of distance from this goal and being a sort of an outsider to this Californian tech world. I very happy during this time, but on these weekend in front of the computer, obsessively learning and building projects, I always felt like an underdog to it all. I had very few peers aiming for the same thing (most of my fellow interns were from the closest city to this town, and planned on returning after graduation or going to another company locally).

But as I learnt about more engineering during all this open-free-time, learnt about the tech world, and about San Francsico, I had an ever-building desire to make this dream of breaking into San Francisco actually happen. The idea shifted from the soft "dreamy" dream-world, where I didn't really know how hard it would be to get there...to something I felt was very in reach. I remember many many nights listening to the almost-all-very-inspiring dream-pop Beach House albums, loud, reading or coding on my computer, wondering what was possible with the next few years of my life. To this day, I love Beach House and what it represents for me. Even now, it takes me to back to this feeling of forming dreams, hard-work, execution on them.

So this post is really about dreams, and the desire to fulfill them. Letting them start fuzzy and daunting. Allowing yourself to feel like an outsider to this dream reality. And using open time to work hard towards them. Then, waking up one day to realize the dreams are no longer dreams, but your reality. Then back to step one.