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Ten Years Ago

At the time this entry is going to post, it would have been ten years since that fateful night, when I asked to be brought to the hospital, afraid of an ulcer. Instead of an ulcer (which I thought of because I vomited red — it turned out to be ketchup, rather than blood), they found I was nearly dying from pancreatitis.

It’s ten years, and I would say I’m still surprised I made it up to this point. As I already recounted years ago I spent the following year almost sure that I would not survive it – and indeed, an year later I ended up at the hospital again. I have been surprised two years ago that I turned 30, and decided to spend that day in Paris with my best friend. And now I’m surprised that I already survived 10 years, and thinking back to it, I would not expect I’ll be risking my life ever again, just as long as I keep away from alcohol.

It does not mean that those events ten years ago didn’t leave any sign. I don’t have a gallbladder, and my pancreas is connected to my stomach rather than intestine, that makes for an interesting acid reflux situation when I eat too much or eat something that disagrees with me. And the not-quite-clear-cut diabetes that sometimes confuses my doctors just as much as me. But all of these are now survivable problems, and I don’t live in fear of dying as much as I did.

I still haven’t managed to save up much money — I no longer spend everything I get and live day-to-day as I used to, but that’s mostly because I’m paid much better, rather than me acting like the proverbial ant. I just don’t want to plan for a future I’m not going to have, though I don’t want to go into the future with nothing.

The last ten years have been a different life for me. Before, and for the first couple of years after that, I could easily be classified as one of those “nerds in their mother’s basement” — although living in Italy my home office was in the upper floor instead. But soon after, friends who’ve been with me during the ordeal, or that I met afterwards, effectively helped me out of my shell, and out of my office.

A short, and obviously non-comprehensive list of things I did since leaving the hospital:

  • I legally changed my name — which is why you see me referenced earlier as “Diego Pettenò” rather than “Diego Elio Pettenò”. The name change had little to do with the hospital, and more to do with the the fact that three other people shared my old name just in my city.
  • I attended a number of different gaming cons in Italy, thanks to a friend who’s been trying to sell his game, including the one in Parma where I finally managed to meet Enrico.
  • I started (and closed), my own company. This may or may not have been a mistake, given the amount of taxes I ended up paying for it, but it was definitely an experience.
  • I started flying. Oh my if I did. And that was a huge change! I now live outside of Italy, attend conferences, meet my fellow developers. I spend a third of the year on the road, and can actually learn even more from people!

I have definitely not let my second chance go to waste, at least for what concerns professional opportunities and my career. From this point of view, it has also been very important, as it allowed for some other changes in my family life, but those don’t relate to me and so I don’t want to go much down that road.

My social life instead, well, that has not really changed much since those days. It clearly improved, as I’m no longer spending all my time in my home office, but the last few years while in Dublin it also shrunk down again. Which is why I’ll be moving to London in just a couple of months, hoping to find more people to share time with, whether it is playing board games or watching movies or anime at home.

The feeling I get now is realizing that I wasted a significant amount of my adult life without a social life, and without caring for my health enough to avoid these situations. So if I were to give a suggestion to other geeks who may now be in their teens, and think that it’s cool to be a shut-in, is to try to find some friends. You don’t have to be an extrovert for that. You can still be an introvert and like some people. And the people who you get around yourself are the people who will sustain you when you fall. And everybody will fall at some point.

As for the future. As I said previously, I’m moving to London in a couple of months. I hope there, between a number of people I already know, and the different scale that the city has, compare to Dublin, I will manage to build another group of friends to go around with. I would be a hypocrite to not admit that I also would like to meet someone special to share life with — but I’m also not counting on that to happen, as I probably am still too socially awkward for that to be possible.

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