Advice for Amateurs, Addicts, and Orphans
My girlfriend was banging on my office door at 12:30 in the morning but I ignored her and didn’t answer until eventually she left, screaming my name.
A guy named “Seggev” from Israel and I would play one minute chess all night long on “the world wide web”. I couldn’t stop playing him. I couldn’t get up. It was like I was an addict.
I was so tired sometimes I couldn’t tell if I was being checkmated or if I was just having a bad dizzy dream. My heart broke when I lost.
Every two hours or so we would reluctantly agree to take bathroom breaks, 9000 miles apart. Whatever it was I was running from, he seemed to be running away from it as well.
On one of my bathroom breaks I ran into the guy from the office next to mine. It was two in the morning. “Why are you here?” This guy had a new baby at home so of course I meant as a rhetorical question.
“I’m writing some software to catalog pages on the world wide web”, he said. This new thing. “I figure maybe I can get some government funding.” This was 1994.
Good luck with that. I went back to my office. Seggev was already back and challenging me to another game.
When I finally went home at about 6:30 in the morning my girlfriend at the time threw her backpack at me. It was filled with books. “Ow!” “Get out!”
I slept for an hour and then went back to play more chess. I was an addict. I have never stopped being an addict although it took far more dangerous forms later on.
Later it would cost me family, money, my children, my self-respect, and all of my relationships. For now, it was just a baby addiction. Enough to distract.
The computer in the office next to mine was “lycos.cs.cmu.edu.” My friend’s company, Lycos, became the first major search engine. I think he made $200 million. But we weren’t really friends.
The other night there was hail outside and my daughter was up and couldn’t get to sleep. Her mind was racing.
I was tired and I wish I had told her these things. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself these things.
I wish I could go back in time further and tell my mother (who won’t speak to me) and my father (who is dead) these things.
- Fly kites as much as possible. While they are in the air, they keep your feet on the ground.
- NEVER read the newspaper. They sometimes breed the worst horror fiction.
- NEVER do anything you don’t want to do. You will resent it. You will do a bad job. Others will be dissatisfied. And then you will die with regret.
- FREEDOM is something you can have right this second. Else you lose the chance and this moment will vanish while you were waiting in prison.
- DIVERSIFY everything in your life, including the people you listen to for advice. Including me, your father.
- LEARN lots of games. They turn you into a hard-core killer without you ever having to hurt someone.
- This is a cliché, but never listen to anyone who says “You can’t do that”. Those are usually the people who can’t do it. Not you.
- Even though life is short, there’s also no rush. You have to put on a parachute before you jump out of a plane.
- PREPARATION is the key to having good luck. And lots of it. People will never understand the source of your luck but will be amazed at it.
- KINDNESS to others is a greater power than any god people preach to you.
- Every day is an adventure. Every day you can squeeze art out of the day. And art causes delight and that delight compounds every day.
Eventually she fell asleep and I went upstairs. I try to close my eyes but I can’t sleep. The rain stopped and the house is dead silent.
I’m sad. Can’t I do more?
There’s going to be a day when she has to do it all on her own. Without anyone to sit quietly with her. To calm her down while her mind speeds faster than she ever thought possible.
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She said “No” to me and slammed the door. She was on my paper route.
I asked out every girl on my paper route. All three of them. I liked having a captive audience. I’d hand them the paper and say, “Want to go to a movie?”
They all said “No”.
(Photo by Brian Dewey)