My Stories Leading Up To Linux, Python, vim & git
Growing up with people who meant me harm, I didn't realize it until much later. I eventually saw my Uncle Bob as a war-era pilot and a slumlord, and I decided to take control of my life. I moved to New York City with my then-spouse, only to face a costly eviction and a failed marriage. I soon realized that everything in life is strategy and war, and I had to take over my dad's check cashing business and rescue my mom from
From War-Era Pilot to Millionaire: My Journey to Take Control of My Life
By Michael Levin
Friday, April 22, 2022
Despite what a bellyaching pity-party this exercise in self-examination may appear, it really is about my journey to Linux, Python, vim and git. It’s a long, winding route but without it I may never have found what I believe today to be my calling: straightening out and shortening that path for you. It’s not about learning to program for empire-building and making your fortune. Rather, it’s about self-worth, grounding and survival in the modern world.
I did not know it but I grew up with people who meant me harm. I don’t think even they knew it at a conscious level, but I was the second child, first being adopted and that’s a giant mind-fuck. There was nothing for me that wasn’t first for her and anything good for her that might reach me was pissed on. I actually have vague recollections of this quite literally being the case and setting the tone for my expectations in life forward in time to today. I’m only just correcting course.
My angry but out-reaching Godfather-complex Uncle and his wife would actually tell me they felt sorry for me and when I would meet it with a blank unknowing stare asking them to explain, they would embarrassingly mumble something about “all that’s happened to you” and “unfairness”. My Uncle Bob was a war-era pilot who got a gambling habit under control enough to become a gun-toting Lex Luther-looking slumlord with a sprawling family of doctors, scientists and programmers. I am today a search engine optimizer (SEO). I guess from their perspective I was to be felt sorry for. I am the acorn that fell into flowerpot destined to never grow into an oak tree. They reached out, but their “vibe” felt antithetical and almost poisonous to me.
The very person who spelled out to me later in life how much being the 2nd actual but 1st biological child in a family can screwed-up a person is the very same who would berate me for any writing like this, especially publishing, as narcissistic self-indulgence. My asshole uncle and projecting ex weren’t particularly trying to help me, I think. Rather, I think I fed their needs for someone to hold court over and over time their true feelings just slipped out through some process related to their pride. The reality is much more like Godfather needed a ring-kisser and the ex needed a chump she could saddle-up and ride into the “high-society” of upper-Manhattan where the cheating opportunities were better.
Your most important insights in life and stimuli to grow often come from the worst people you will ever know. And the worst people you will ever know come disguised as people who are on your team. Higher-form animals such as humans intuitively know ambush predation as the most efficient form of hunting. Cats and snapping turtles are both regressions of their less ambushy predecessors back to primitive sudden-attack strategies that let them have more free time for sleep and sex. Humans ambush predate their survival-needs through elevating themselves as the king of the pride and using that position to look for loopholes to manipulate others to do their bidding. You’re nothing more than a food or emotional supply source to them. They live smugly at the bottom of the Maslow Pyramid of self-actualization thinking they’re at the top.
So of course with my belief that anything someone complains about is most likely a projection of their own insecurities, I immediately turn to myself asking if I’m doing exactly the same thing. Am I an ambush predictor applying lessons I learned from some of the best to my own life? Yes at times if I’m totally honest. But right now in this self-analysis? Maybe. But I’m trying to get better. Right along with outing my ambush-predator companions in life is outing these tendencies in myself which I’m pretty sure evolved as a sort of coping-mechanism or armor. It’s how the turtle gained a shell and started eating veggies, but then started snapping and eating meat again. The evolutionary path from angry-lizard to gentle-turtle back to angry (and now super-powered) lizard again happens at an accelerated pace within our own lives whether we’re consciously aware of it or not.
Over life I’ve gotten better at spotting people who are mostly in it to hold-court. They end up in business, politics and co-ops. New York do-ops are the worst. For those who don’t know, there’s an alternative to buying or renting called cooperatives in which you buy a share of a company that owns the property so they can take care of community property maintenance like mowing the lawn and raking. For that, you get to pay both a mortgage and rent. I was up to $4000 per month for a half-million dollar apartment in New York City I was talked into against my better judgement right as my emotional and financial supplies were running low from an already bad marriage. I was under the terribly mistaken notion that a new place we could care about together would put things on a better path.
No sooner did I move into this half-million dollar apartment than my then-spouse went to war with my immediately next-door neighbor over Twitter. Drama flared-up. Hateful, corrosive drama flared-up. The co-op “board”, which is really just a magnet for court-holders as you might imagine, took the neighbors side and any imaginary persecution complexes I had at the time became very real. They came after us with lawyers and eviction threats. What did I get myself into? With a 2-year-old baby I thought this already pissed-on apartment in upper Manhattan was going to be my roots. What a chump I was. It wasn’t a question of whether I was cheated on during this time for I have love-notes (not to me) that were left about the place. I could live with a lot, and it wasn’t really until she got pregnant by one of them that I was forced to abandon hope of making it work.
It’s important to understand that at that time I was still not aware of what was happening to me. This is especially self-delusional because this very ex had explained to me her belief that she had the ability to make anyone believe anything. I smiled and went along with it, filing away this tidbit of information which jogged loose again whenever I would bring up one of my favorite topics, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, where an ancient Chinese general laid out all the essentials of modern strategy in a book the size of a keychain. She would tell me not everything in life is strategy and war.
In these rare moments of meta-awareness dots connected. Just insert a logic-inverter and you’ve got the truth. Of course all the most important survival stuff is conflict and war even if we give it gentler terms today like having a vocation and being able to earn money for a living. The terms of warfare may have changed over the years, but everything required to ensure survival such as food, clothing and shelter and all other matters concerned with the made of the Maslow that pyramid of needs certainly is the art of war stuff. The book opens that the study of conflict is necessary because the time always comes when you have to defend yourself. The US Constitution puts aside many personal rights in cases of national security. Survival trumps ideals and necessitates mastering either fight or flight. Those who do not die.
I was dying, so I accepted the end-game that was seemingly in store for me the entire time. Now I’m paying New York salary-level child support for results that have my child exhibiting signs of self-harm. I have neither the financial resources or energy to enter a custody battle I’d be unlikely to win, and which would likely just inflict more harm.
I’m sure self-righteous Karen’s would take exception to me not going to war (again) for my child, but I am. There are better ways such as artfully ensuring my child has the strength and curiosity to peer deeply and comprehend the subtlety and nuance of a situation. It is my goal to give my child high degrees of that uniquely human meta-awareness that lets us see through trickery and hypocrisy. If someone tells you to do something look at them and their life and see if they practice what they preach. If they don’t, measure whatever they tell you in that light. There is no amount of duplicity that can override the evidence of experience.
Adapt. Grow. Don’t hold future-you captive by past beliefs that don’t apply anymore. This is my greatest gift to my child. My dad died in his early 60s after having me in his 40s. So I never really knew my dad as an adult. He left me a check cashing business I had to take over and got hit in the head by a hammer in the course of running it, soon-after.
Soon-after that, my mom became schizophrenic, paranoid and disappeared. I played white knight and “saved” her from the streets of San Felipe, Mexico where the authorities contacted me threatening to throw her in jail there where she likely wouldn’t survive. I put my life on hold to do this and didn’t play white knight the next time she pulled the same act a few years later. I shrugged my shoulder figuring this was all too big for me. You can’t control another person and their view of living is your view of self-destruction, sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders and walk away—no matter the mental illness. This is why “the state” has to step in and help in those cases where the subject really wants help. My mom didn’t.
Already I was in my thirties with neighbors from my hood getting onto the Forbes richest in the world lists on the back of the dotcom-boom. I got my ass to New York City on the first opportunity that seemed a in-line with the course-correction I so desired. I got dumped by my Philly girlfriend and abandoned my condo in Philly. To this day I have no idea how that played out. I lost money hand-over-fist in the process, but I met a new girl, discovered weed and having my fantasies fulfilled, so I didn’t care. I was earning a New York salary as a Vice President of the same small public relations firm that launched Amazon. I had “I made it” stars in my eyes and was blind to what was really happening.