I was going to write up a list of the differences between my three careers (optical engineering, writing, and programming) and post them here, but then I realized what all my differences had in common: they were changes in the way people thought of me.
As a NASA employee I was awe-inspiring, as a writer people envied me, and as a programmer I’m mundane but very very useful.
Is that all a career is to me? A set of other people’s opinions?
What I should talk about is what each career taught me.
How NASA showed me how much human engineering can accomplish, while humbling me by forcing me to realize that decades-long projects are too long for me.
Writing made me appreciate how hard it is to tell a good story, because my own efforts were far short of what I needed to keep steady writing work.
And programming took me back to my days learning BASIC on a Commodore-128, while schooling me in how hard it is to run a company, to compete with other businesses and succeed.
But I keep thinking that’s using the present to justify the past. What I’d like to know is: was I right to leave NASA, at the time I left it?