Now before you scream out. Sorry check your calendar, our calendar does not have a year 0. So the millenium began in 2001, and the decade (like all decades) begins in the first year, not the zero year – so 2 days ago, not a year and 2 days ago. Yep how geeky, trying to be mathematically accurate about these things – when in fact all it really comes down to is the earth (an insignificant little blue-green planet in the unfashionable western spiral arm of the galaxy as the great Douglas Adams once said) passing a completely arbitrary point in it's orbit yet again (which is rather unsurprising considering it's managed it quite successfully about four and a half billion times already.
And yet, I am human – dates matter to us. For all the existential and cosmic insignificance they have meaning because we gave them meaning. So I'll enter this new decade (which has begun with an event that promises to make it one of the best of my life) with a look back at the highs and lows of the last one. I'll do the lows first – because I would rather end on with the positive highs.
The lows of 2001-2011:
- 2001: The whole world forgot how hard we worked to prevent the Y2K disaster a year ago, forgot that the only reason it didn't happen was because people like me warned the world, they listened and we set to work – putting in countless hours and massive effort. By 2001 some people already called it scaremongering and laughed at people gullible enough to prepare for it… but some of us who were there remember – and know, to this day, that the only reason it didn't happen was because we prevented it. This was the year that realization started to sink in however – we would never really be thanked, our efforts would go unnoticed. Today I look at the predictions about global climate change- and how people call that scaremongering, and refuse to listen to the advice on how to prevent it. They listened to the threat of CFC's – and prevented the ozone depletion disaster, they listened to Y2K and prevented a global computer meltdown… but their not listening anymore. I guess we got to good at preventing foreseable problems from realizing – and now people no longer believe they were real problems. Looking back -I can see the roots of today's problem in this year.
- 2002: This was the year 9/11's true impact became known around the world – it put a maniac into the most powerful office in the world and solidified his position. Under his rule fuel prices skyrocketed, two massive wars were started (one entirely on lies), thousands of innocents died and everywhere in the world people's quality of life and freedom declined – mine as well. It may say something about me that I consider the impact of a leader literally half a world away as being one of the greatest personal tragedies I went through in this decade – but if freedom matters to you then you have to see it that way.
- 2003: In February of this year my then girlfriend of four years broke up with me. Shattering my heart. For a while I never saw anybody, though I had some meaningless flings. In March was in a bad motorcycle accident and somehow in the aftermath of that we got back together. Things were okay and we seemed to be making progress, but I wanted more. I wanted marriage, children – and she didn't want commitment. By June she proposed living together again, but in July I broke up with her. I only saw her one more time after that and I have no idea where she may be now as she cut off all contact. She always wanted to work for Peter Jackson in Neu-Zeeland. For the good 4 years we once had – when we were young and stupid (and mostly students) – I hope she got her dream. But this was my first true heartbreak. It counts without a doubt as the worst time of the year. Since bad years always happen badly, an even worse pain was to follow. My grandmother passed away shortly afterward making for one of the saddest events of this entire decade, an event I would write about in my poem Elegy.
- 2004: After a relatively uneventful year, the December of this year counts as the time I meet a girl. At the time I would have considered it the high of the year, 2 years after divorcing her for abuse, I see it as the worst thing that happened.
- 2005: This one went bad oh so early. In January of this year George W. Bush was inaugurated for his second term as president of the United States. The Star in Johannesburg covered the event on the front page under the headline: "A dark day for the entire world". Never before did freedom, equality and peace seem so far removed from humanity as the day the most powerful nation in the world proved that the fear of seeing two guys kissing was far more important to them than the welfare of their fellow human beings. This would set the tone for a year in which Bush's arrogance and violence would reach new levels, as he refused to attend the World Summit in Johannesburg (because apparently he was on holiday), finally did visit South Africa and became the first head of state in the history of the country to refuse protection by the South African police in leu of his own secret service guards (yes, that includes every other American president who ever came here). I sometimes wonder how much better my day to day life would have been that year if George Bush didn't rule America.
- 2006: This is the year I moved to Benoni for my job, I would spend most of the year there. I didn't know it at the time but it was the beginning of the end of my OpenLab years – and that is quite sad as they were all in all among the most wonderful years of my career.
- 2007: Oh there can be only one contender. I married that girl I met in 2005 at noon on February 12th of this year. Bad mistake. I guess the fact that the first time she threatened a divorce after a minor disagreement was on February 15th pretty much sums up why…
- 2008: The global economic slowdown as it was called hit, the start of a recession – and forced me to essentially close my own business and find a dayjob. While I love the job I ended up in – I do miss being my own boss, solving the challenges of customers and coming up with unique and innovative products and solutions. There was another major personal loss for me in this year. On July 14th of the year my longtime friend Uwe Thiem passed away.
- 2009: If marrying the wrong person was hard, and led me through enormous suffering – getting divorced was even harder. It would become without a doubt the worst year of my life. Sometimes what made it bad was simply taking stock of the previous four years in my relationship and subsequent marriage. Sometimes it was the stresses of trying to work out a divorce settlement. Sometimes it was just the reality of trying to rebuild my life. I spent a large part of 2009 in therapy.
- 2010: I think the very worst day of 2010 must be the day I came close to wanting to kill myself. As I sat home alone on a Friday night, drunk and miserable about the state of my life – I could see no point in struggling on. And as I cried for help… and found no answer from the friends whom I had always been there for – my misery deepened. My salvation came from an unexpected source, and I survived to be stronger and better than before – but those 12 hours were without a doubt, the worst of the year.
Now with all those sad and depressing memories revisited, and filed away – lets cheer up and look at all the good stuff of the past ten years.
The highs of 2001-2011:
- 2001: In this year I ended up my university studies and began my career at DireqLearn which would ultimately become OpenLab and be the start of a wonderful period in my life where I would travel the world and make a true positive contribution to the lives of others. It must stand as one of my proudest and happiest moments when I was first offered the position at that firm.
- 2002: This feels like such a long time ago. Honestly I can't remember many particular events – but I will tell you that the release of the Spiderman movie was somewhere among the happiest days of my year. Call me a geek if you will but man I'd only been waiting for that my entire life !
- 2003: The start of another career high as OpenLab signed our first contract with Netday Namibia. The contract would ultimately culiminate in our free operating system with it's massive collection of educational material running on 95% of all school computer systems in the country much to Microsoft's chagrin. It all began in this year however – and included my first visit to the country and meeting Uwe Thiem and Joris Komen who would become good friends.
- 2004: The highlight of this year must by visit to France. During the first week I was at a technical conference in Nancy where as (apparently) the first ever African visitor to this tiny industrial town near the German border I was treated as something of a celebrity even getting an introduction to the mayor. It was quite a sight walking through it's ancient streets and seeing it's old buildings and floral clocks. The second week I traveled through the Champagne region and then to Paris where I got to see the grand old city of lights in the sweltering heat of it's hottest ever recorded summer.
- 2005: The greatest event of this year must be the one that happened in May – when I published my book "Batteries not included". It was never a best seller and I never really expected it to be – but it was my work, my words, my soul beautifully bound with an ISBN number and all. That book continues to be a positive force in my life to this day.
- 2006: Once more the highlight of the year was a trip. This time to the beautiful and liberating San Francisco in the United States. My feelings toward the USA were less than pleasant at the time (as you can see from their two mentions in the lows list) but San Francisco was absolutely wonderful and I loved every second of my time there.
- 2007: I bought my first home. I still live in it – my little apartment in West Beach. For the first time in my life I wasn't renting, but a homeowner. Redecorating it to fit my personal style was an expensive but very fullfilling excersize ( and still not quite done ) and when I finally after months of looking walked into an apartment and knew "this is where I want to live" – I had one of the happiest moments of my life.
- 2008: This is the year I began work on Kongoni. Still a matter of personal pride though in the intervening years I stepped down as project leader it survives and continues to grow. In a real sense it was my last major code contribution to free software, while my believe in the ethics of free software has only grown with time – my energy hasn't and since stepping down from the project I have taken an extended sabatical from all programming which will continue for a while yet.
- 2009: Well it's the year I got divorced, the same thing I wrote up as the low of the year above was also the highlight. From it came a period of rediscovering myself, I started writing poetry again, I felt creative and alive again- that which had been suppressing me was gone. For all the hardship and suffering the divorce caused it was ultimately a needed thing which left me a better and happier person than I would have been without it.
- 2010: The first highlight of the year must be the day I met Caitlin who grew to be my best friend. Our friendship has only deepened over the months since and she's inspired me to try new things, be more myself and cut away things that were holding me back. She was a source of strength when I nearly crashed emotionally – and though we had just started being friends then was already proving what kind of friend she was. A realization that she continues to enforce not only in how she is towards me, but also towards our other mutual friends. Specifically one such mutual friend – whom she in fact introduced me to and that meeting must count as one of the biggest highlights of the year – Megan. Megan in whom I can see so much of myself, who gave me the strength to be a romantic again… who held me on the beach at Muizenberg in the final moments of the year and who started 2011 off with a kiss.