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July 29, 2006

The Death of a Dream

There was a time, not too long ago, in which I could go to bed at 3 or 4 AM and be up at 7 or 8 AM and ready for another round of 16 hour day. OF course, not all days, all year; but, such schedule was not unusual and with a couple of days of rest I was ready for more heavy duty time. I was committed 100% to the tasks I was involved in. I usually worked 7 days a week, bypassed holidays, forgo entertainment. Heck! what I was doing was fun! Monday was as good a day as the rest. I almost didn't noticed the Fridays.

Now that seems like a very long time ago.

When I started to fight the sheets to get out of bed I thought I had a sleeping problem. I tried hard to go to bed earlier so I could get more sleep and be ready early in the morning. I tried moving the alarm time a little bit further into the day. Finally, when I found myself doing inner pep talk in desperate attempts to motivate me out of bed, I started to realize, that it wasn't lack of sleep. Slowly but steadily I began to recognize the true nature of the problem. It was something more fundamental: I had nothing forward to look at! At least not anything worthwhile. Instead of thriving, I was merely surviving. I heard a voice inside me: "Your Dream is Dead!"

The Beginnings

It was the year 1987. After graduating from college in 1986 I went to the "real world" looking for a job, like everybody else. I graduated a B.S. in Architecture. At the time there were no such thing as jobs in the industry, therefore I associated with another colleague I meet at the college and went looking for projects. We couldn't get anything big, just a few small contracts that at the best, kept us from going under. A friend of mine suggested that I apply for a scholarship at the regional branch of IBM with the goal to learn to operate the main-frames and systems that they were selling to corporate clients. The scholarship was a six-month of training which included a small pay (they were going to pay me). The incentive was that the last part of the training is done at the offices of IBM's clients, and usually, these clients end hiring the best trainees. That's were the real bucks were. However, I was reluctant at first because I knew that the orientation of those jobs was accounting at worst (something I hated at the time) or financial software programming at best (I liked the programming part but not the financial field). However, the reality of the bills that demanded attention, forced me to go. And I had to fight hard to get in, because there were lots of applicants and only a handful of open positions. The first screen was an aptitude test. Only the top 10 would qualify for a series of interviews, and only 3 people would be selected. I was called for my first interview. I was explained the program, the schedule, the pay and what they expected from me. Later on that day I was called for a second time. I was briefed by the top executive. He told me that my application brought his immediate attention because of my Architectural background. He let me know that I scored at the very top of my group and that the scholarship was mine. Then he added that because of my combination of computer knowledge and Architecture I could be interested in a position a new company he was launching with a partner. He was very open with me: I could immediately go with him to see what he was talking about and check if it was something I could like better. If not, the scholarship position was mine. I went to see what I later knew was the introduction of Computer Aided Design (CAD) in Honduras. Although the offered pay was lower that the scholarship, let alone, any job's salary I could get with IBM's clients, I was hooked, and thereby started my career in the field of CAD consultancy. The software I saw was AutoCAD version 2.52 (in the current numbering format it would be R7) with an add-in package called AEC, which we never used for real projects because the add-in supported only imperial units and we use metric units in Honduras. However, looking at the nice productivity enhancements that the add-in brought to plain AutoCAD, I developed a strong interest in AutoLISP (AutoCAD's programming language). Over the 3 years that I was an employee I came very close to develop a metric version of the original AEC software. Also, during that period I learned about 3D modeling and animation (something that caught my attention very much).

The Development

When I became an independent consultant I had nothing to start with. No savings, no equipment, no software. Not even projects. Only a promise by a friend to help me get something... It was a very interesting story of struggling to build my practice. During the early years I didn't have enough revenue to cover my necessary investments, and pay for my living expenses; which, by the way, were extremely low because I was living with my parents. Since I started with inadequate hardware, every new contract which were bigger than what I was doing, required even bigger investment in equipment. And when I started to explore the field of 3D modeling those demands increased exponentially! But I was building momentum and 5 years after my humble beginnings I was doing contracts with an international client. During that time I re-established my goals from being a CAD consultant to become a top 3D modeler and animator. Since that field was almost non-existing in Honduras I invested countless hours in developing a showcase of my proposed services. I wasn't discouraged by the initial lack of interest, since at the time nobody was doing it. It was just a matter of time. Then, a new development came to my life. During my early consultancy years I came to know someone in California who is the principal of a small engineering firm. I visited CA a few times during that period and came to like the life there. Now he was interested in having some 3D "things" for a web site and asked me if could be interested in move to CA.

The Last Burst and Death

Sensing an opportunity to continue the expansion I agreed. The only drawback was that I have to go back into employment, mostly because of the laws. At the time it didn't seem to be a big issue. However, the control over my future direction was surrendered to a great degree.

The first year went by in a breeze. I was so happy developing what was supposed to be the starting point of my new career in 3D Modeling and Animation. I had at my disposal equipment that just a few months ago I could not dream to have. The final product surpassed my previous showcase but only to a certain degree. Unfortunate developments halted the advancement and I went back into CAD work, but now being dependant upon others to advance, both, professionally and financially. At that point, it didn't become clear to me the profound implications of such developments. An inner voice keep telling me that such situation was only temporary... My Dream died a slow death. So slow that I was unable to recognize the signals of its demise until I found myself carrying a hefty load. It is the weight of my dead Dream. Now, the future that once looked so bright is as dark as a cave. For the time being I have to wake up every morning to walk in a treadmill that I know is not leading me anywhere. Again, forced by the harsh reality of bills due. 

The King is Dead, Long Live to The (new) King

A complete autopsy of my former Dream has been deferred, and possibly will never be done. It is better to focus on positive things. However I am sure that a thoroughly examination would put me at the center of many issues. While it is true that there are always external factors over which we have no control, we always have control over our reaction to those events. It is something I have to remain myself over and over again, now that a new Dream is taking shape. The conditions are quite similar to the ones I had when I started my CAD consultancy. I overcame those obstacles then, therefore I am capable to do it again now. It is an irony that the subject I hated the most, back in 1987, has become the center of my new Dream. For details on it see my Back in Business! announcement.

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