June 28, 2018
In a few days, this domain expires, and I'm not going to renew it. So it's kind of an "end of an era" situation for me.
I made this site shortly before going to jail, after realizing that I need to double down on my portfolio so I would be more likely to get a job after I come out.
So I opened up my old backup drive and Dropbox and found all my old blog posts from all my old blog post sites: from Github Pages to Octopress, Sinatra blog and Wordpress, and some exported technical posts from Tumblr.
And I found all my old projects on Github, which people had forked before I deleted them during some really difficult years, and which they kept alive since then, and I re-forked them back and hosted them for this portfolio site.
It didn't help much though. Every potential employer was definitely impressed, don't get me wrong. In fact I was offered almost all of the jobs I applied for.
Plus I had good interviews with VividSeats, Bosch Tools, DevMynd, and a dozen others I can't remember anymore. (Walmart contacted me a few days ago and I would have loved to work with them.) So why didn't I get any of these jobs?
Yeah, it was because of the jail thing. Back in 2012, I flashed a college girl. Turns out she wasn't quite in college yet and so I was charged with "sexual exploitation of a minor".
Why would anyone in their right mind do that, you ask? That's just it: I wasn't in my right mind. I had extreme anxiety attacks on a daily basis, and I was suffering from a compulsion disorder. Even while I was going through treatment afterwards, I let my anxiety stay in control and wouldn't let the treatment in, so I didn't get much out of it.
Which is why it happened again in 2016, almost identically to the first time. This time, the story was featured on the news, complete with my face, and worded it in the worst possible way: "sex offender exposes himself to girls on bikes." You'd think I was a pedophile by this. I'm not defending what I did, but I'm sure as hell not attracted to kids and never have been.
But that doesn't matter. The news articles come up as the first page of results when googling my name. So every single employer who goes to hire me, whether they do a background check or not, whether I tell them early or late about my criminal history, or not at all, they rescind their offers, or cut the interview process short without explanation.
For the first few months, I was pretty sure it was just that I wasn't disclosing early enough in the process. And when I did disclose early, and they said it would be okay, I was pretty sure it failed because of the background check. And when there was no background check, I was pretty sure it failed because I tried not disclosing it that time. Unfortunately it took me 6 full months to realize that there was really no way I was going to get a job.
So in late April, I made ReformedFelonForHire.com as a last ditch attempt at getting a job, or at least some consulting work. I did get one steady client who has been paying my bills since then, and I'm really grateful for that. But he can only sustain this for a few more months, maybe a year tops. I have no Plan B for afterwards.
15 months after being fired as the sole developer of CleanCoders.com, I'm still unemployed, and as of this writing, our checking account is overdrawn by $150. (Last month I could not afford the $70 to go to counseling, and my probation officer said that the State's Attorney could send me back to jail for that.) Being able to pay for July's bills depends right now entirely on nothing going wrong on my client's end, who pays me out of pocket.
My whole software career existed because of the charity, pity, and compassion of others. Before this, my wife worked as a CNA and I worked odd-end jobs at factories or fast food, never longer than 3-6 months before quitting or getting fired.
I got my first softare job in late 2009 at IOCOM because Jason Foreman saw a blog post that I wrote about how we were struggling to get out of poverty, but how in the midst of poverty, everyone pushes others down to stay up themselves. He saw that post and reached out offering to pass my resume on, and I got that job. Every single day I was nervous that I was going to get fired because I was doing a terrible job. I actually wrote almost no code there, but Jason kept assuring me I was doing fine and to relax, but I mean.
A few months later, Aaron Hillegass from Big Nerd Ranch saw the same article and offered me a job, paying for our whole family to move to Atlanta and start a software career there, and we lived there in the summer of 2010. I screwed that up big time by deploying an iPad app under BNR's name that had poor performance, and Aaron made a point of ot to tell me personally that I was a huge embarrassment to the company, and fired me.
Then in late 2010, Eric Smith at 8th Light took me on in their early Apprenticeship Program and at the end of the shortened 2 month apprenticeship, I was later told that the company almost said "no" when deciding together to keep me, but they gave me a chance. That lasted 2 years, and every single day of it, I was sure I was going to get fired for not doing good enough. Even when Jim Suchy and others told me to relax, I was sure I was doing too poorly, learning Rails too slowly, etc., and would lose my job any day. In late 2012 is when I flashed someone, went to jail for 7 days, became a sex offender, and got fired.
(I used to tell Jim and Eric that I wish I worked at a factory. I used to work in factories. It was simpler. I didn't have guilt over not being able to do the job properly for lack of mental capability. Sure, it didn't pay as much as software, but I could go home with peace of mind, knowing that it was a job well done.)
Micah Martin (co-founder of 8th Light) also had another company with his dad Bob (Robert Martin) and they were kind enough to take me in. I learned Clojure for this job, and added code to cleancoders.com, making mistake after mistake, doing a generally terrible job, and being constantly terrified that I would lose my only hope of livelihood by getting fired. Micah told me to stop worrying about that, and to just relax and that I would do fine. This job lasted 5 years, during which I worried almost every day that I was going to be fired, but did a terrible job even on days when I trusted that I wouldn't.
Well they hired a CEO to take over for them. He promised clients impossible deadlines for software features, came to me and told me to make these features happen, and heavily implied that if I didn't meet these impossible deadlines, we would go out of business.
I had to decide between writing clean code (for cleancoders.com no less) and possibly going out of business, or writing super dirty buggy code in half the time, and at least staying in business a month longer. I told him I could only hit this deadline if we did some bad things in the code, but made him promise me that immediately afterwards he would give me time to fix the code. As soon as the deadline was over and the features delivered, that conversation was completely forgotten, and suddenly we had a new deadline.
This cycle happened for at least 6 months straight. I knew I was going to be out of a job soon, and not be able to find another one. I was convinced I would never be able to provide a decent life for my family.
So I began drinking a ton (like literally a glass of koolaid-vodka per hour, day and night), gave up all hope of a good life, and once again gave into that old stress relief of flashing again in June 2016. That offense being identical to the first, made it a Class 4 Felony. But more importantly, it made it to the news.
When I came home from the police station and saw my wife crying while praying a Rosary for our family, it woke me up, and I realized I had to change myself completely. I quit drinking that day, finally took myself seriously, and decided to work towards a better life no matter how bleak or unlikely it seems.
All the software jobs that I had were opportunities given to me out of compassion and charity. But I wasn't qualified for them.
I've always had attention span difficulties. Each of my open source projects were done out of excitement. I had an idea of how to automate something, and I just went for it, and could focus on it for weeks at a time.
Heck I even wrote a Clojure IDE for macOS at one point, because I had some ideas on how refactoring in an IDE could be done better if it had deeper knowledge of the whole project, and learned some C++ along the way.
I made about 10 window managers, 2 or 3 of which got really popular, until I burnt out from it, at which point the community forked one of mine and are still going strong.
A few months ago, while I was between interviews (and being assured by GS that my background would not be an issue), I made a unique kind of pixel art community in my spare time, which is still alive and kicking to this day, and most of the people there have been very supportive of me knowing full well my situation. In fact, I received $550 in donations over the past few months from editfight users who are really appreciative of the work I put into that site for them. They've also made some amazing pixel art.
I've thought a lot about suicide as a possible solution. Not for my sake, but for my wife and children's sake. Our neighbor likes to yell "pervert motherfucker!" towards our house. My wife and children can't really go outside anymore. We get looks when we go to the grocery store or church. Even if we were to move, I'd have to register my new address, and people are very diligent about checking their neighborhood for sex offenders, so the harassment would start all over again. There's no way my family can have a normal life as long as I'm alive and living with them. But my wife refuses to leave me despite my urging her for her sake. She says it goes against her conscience, that she made a vow to be with me through rich and poor, through sickness and health, through good and bad. Even more proof that she's too good for me and would be better with another man, maybe someone without a criminal record.
But suicide won't help any. It can't undo what I did wrong, and it would do more harm to my wife and children than any satisfaction that the local community would get from it. I need to be around so that I can do whatever little I can do right the wrongs I've done. I need to be around so that I can be a father to my children, and I need to figure out another way to minimize the difficulties they'll face on my account.
I'd love to just pay for my crimes with a one time payment, and then be able to have a fresh start and move on with my life. But that's not how society works. If you do something wrong publicly in the internet age, it is remembered forever. Or even to have the death sentence would be better than being denied the ability to provide for my family. That's my fundamental duty in life, and it's taken away. I feel like Zod in Man of Steel, my main purpose in life is being ripped away from me.
My hope is that if I just do the right thing and become an upright citizen that my family can be proud of, and completely ignore the naysayers and harassment and don't let it get me back down, then in a few years maybe I can request a pardon and the ability to get off this list that I deserve to be on but that's ruining my family's life. I know it would be political suicide for any government official to grant, but it's a hope worth hanging onto.
While I was in county jail for 60 days, I was very careful to make sure that nobody knew what I was there for. I kept all my paperwork in my chest pocket at all times. On the day I was called down to the nurse (like everyone is), some inmates snuck into my cell to play a friendly practical joke (they assumed I was there for drugs). They saw the letter I got from my attorney's office, which I forgot to put in my pocket, and who really honestly should have mailed it to my house and not to the jail, and when I got back they all acted differently.
The next day I got a letter glued together from pieces of newspapers like in an old fashioned mystery crime movie, saying "you're not welcome here child pervert" and a bunch of dirty looks from the people who obviously wrote it. So I did what anyone did and panicked, asking for a chance to explain myself, but there were only silent judgmental looks. I was sure I was going to die.
One guy who was a body builder and very intense, he came over to me and did the right thing. He took it out of my hands, put it in the trash, and told me to relax, to not be afraid of them, that those other guys were there for traffic or drug offenses, and that he was the only one here for a violent crime. In retrospect, I really should have been a lot more afraid of him.
Anyway, he told me something along these lines: These guys are pretty low on the totem pole, and they just want someone to look down on so they can feel better about themselves.
In the world and in jail, there seem to be two kind of people: those who immediately scoff in disgust at someone who has done something legitimately wrong, or those who have compassion, looking at the person as a person, treating them kindly despite the fact that they legitimately did something wrong.