Decoding the Coder: Vortex Dwelling

Kyra Crawford Calvert
Published in
4 min readApr 2, 2019


Recently, I was helping a friend figure out why his code wasn’t compiling. We kept receiving the same error message, but because the files in error hadn’t been changed recently and they were working before, we thought we were encountering a deeper issue outside of the failure message. Of course, we didn’t know what that issue was so we just kept re-starting the server. Over and over again we terminated our server, re-compiled the code, and held our breaths hoping for Compiled successfully even though we hadn’t altered any code from the last time we saw Failed to compile.

I had a sense of knowing each time we re-started that the same unsuccessful message would show. Finally, I re-read the error and asked him a question based on what it said, something along the lines of, “Hey, do you have an image property on this object?” That’s all it took to remind him that he had added an image property to his object model and wasn’t accounting for that same property in implementation. Plainly, the error message was an alert that his instructions weren’t followed.

As software developers, we are trained to read error messages yet, in the moment described above, we still leaned far enough into our human nature to hold onto a suspended belief that this was happening outside of our control. And worse, outside of our instruction. We wrote the code for failure and asked the great computer gods why we were failing.

This brings me to a thought-cycle on life, in general, but I’ll speak to my own. I entered the world of software engineering while living on the cusp of Irrational. It’s not a place one knowingly resides — it’s a sort of illusionary vortex that mimics reality, the very truth of all things, so many of us don’t know we’ve lived there until the time comes to move out.

I bet you didn’t enter this reading thinking you’d come out with a definition of the vortex, but I have one that is recognizable whether you live in the vortex now, just moved out, or you’re further down the rehabilitation line.


The vortex is the desire to become…

Expanded into the idea of arriving. Compounded by an obsession over altering ourselves to be anything other than what we are right now. Supported by a mind constantly in both the past and future as a way to avoid the present. And roundly, largely existing as a refusal to follow our own instructions, which is — to say the least — unreasonable.

In all of my efforts to surpass my individual human condition, I wasted a lot of time seeking crises to ignite change in my life. This is because crisis allows for change all at once and I never stuck with processes long enough to see changes otherwise. I even reached a point of believing that change came through chaos, through a constant willingness to uproot my progress and completely alter directions until I located the self I had imagined. I would work very hard on something, hit a roadblock, and call it quits, thereby losing the progress I’d made and digging myself further into the beyond-my-control hole by ignoring my own instructions. This is no different from discounting an error message in our code or deciding to start a new project right before significant breakthroughs on the harder portion of our current project.

Progress is this:

Not this:

So rehabilitation for vortex dwellers is simple : implement and iterate. Set goals. Plan. Do something. Add to it. Do something. Fix it. Do something. Collaborate on it. Do something. Send it to its place. Set goals. Plan. Do something else. The iteration process allows us to give ourselves milestones so we understand we’ve reached a new point, but it tries to refrain from finishing. I don’t finish anything at all these days. I make my plans, step by step, and reach my milestones, stone by stone, until I see an ocean. And then I swim to the next milestone; I can’t swim so it’s rough. But that’s my point.

The hardest part in most aspects of our humanity — love, spirit, self-fulfillment — is sticking with the process long enough to reach its next iteration. I’ve learned to stop seeking the outcome, some grand moment of arrival. That has already come and gone; I was born.

We’ve arrived and we’re beyond that. Now, how are we going to iterate and respond accordingly?

First things first — we all deserve better living arrangements and the vortex association doesn’t require a move out notice.

As you will.



Kyra Crawford Calvert

Artist, writer and web developer from St. Paul, MN.