-- William Gibson, All Tomorrow's Parties
My own experience with becoming a system administrator did not involve drawing Sun logos onto my Trapper Keepers or memorizing IBM hardware line-ups instead of important Civil War battles. I wasn't even really aware of those things. No, I fell into it from the bottom-up. The first UNIX box I touched was Linux, and I didn't even really understand there was a whole ecosphere of UNIXes out there for a couple years after that. I knew they existed, I suppose, but they were like funny birds you hear about in far-off countries.
Looking back on the (almost) ten years of my "career", it's only now that I actually feel I'm edging up onto the ramp of competency. It's more an understanding of all the things I don't know than a pride in the things I do, though. In some respects that's heartening, because it means I'm becoming good enough to know what I'm not good at, instead of simply being blindly ignorant. It's also disheartening, though, because there's a great deal of areas in which I know I need a great deal of improvement.
When I get down about this, I'll break out my (rather beat up) copy of Hagakure and read the following excerpt:
A certain swordsman in his declining years said the following:
In one's life, there are levels in the pursuit of study. In the lowest level, a person studies but nothing comes of it, and he feels that both he and others are unskillful. At this point he is worthless. In the middle level he is still useless but is aware of his own insufficiencies and can also see the insufficiencies of others. In a higher level he has pride concerning his own ability, rejoices in praise from others, and laments the lack of ability in his fellows. This man has worth. In the highest level a man has the look of knowing nothing.
These are the levels in general. But there is one transcending level, and this is the most excellent of all. This person is aware of the endlessness of entering deeply into a certain Way and never thinks of himself as having finished. He truly knows his own insufficiencies and never in his whole life thinks that he has succeeded. He has no thoughts of pride but with self-abasement knows the Way to the end. It is said that Master Yagyu once remarked, "I do not know the way to defeat others, but the way to defeat myself."
Throughout your life advance daily, becoming more skillful than yesterday, more skillful than today. This is never-ending.
It doesn't necessarily make me feel better, but it usually makes me hate the world less. Getting back to even, maybe.
My job is often stressful, and mainly seems to be ever more rare islands of "ok, now this is cool" amongst a sea of frustrations. I wish I could say this condition makes it easy to lose sight of why I started down this path -- but like I said: I fell into it. I'm still here because I don't know anything else. I suppose it's enjoyable enough, and typically pays well enough, that the Irish genes kick in.
Like Colin Sullivan says in The Departed:
I'm fucking Irish, I'll deal with something being wrong for the rest of my life.
(Still not sure what it means, being California Irish by way of pretty much everywhere.)
And lately, anytime something ridiculously stupid occurs, it's harder to treat it as nothing more than a challenge. Now it's just another reason to stumble off this path and find another.
Good luck with that, me.