I Am A Co-Dependent

by Jos Claerbout

Today marks the end of my second year as a Web developer. I use the term very loosely, as the first six months were spent building one of those "My Big Link Page" sites on Geocities, and even today I can't seem to build a simple JavaScript form validator without consulting Dejanews extensively first.

Why do I call myself a "Web Developer", then? First, it looks much more credible on a business card than "International Man of Mystery", and second, like The Jamaican Bobsled Team, I just love doing it. When I mentioned this to a friend at work, he cynically retorted, "Really, are you sure you're not just drawn to it because of some warped sense of co-dependency?

I laughed this off at first, of course. But then, as I found myself back in my cubicle, miserably punching my fist in the air and screaming incomprehensibly at a Perl program riddled with fatal logical flaws, I thought to myself "Hey, eating deoderant lollipops would be more fun than this."

Just as I was about to give up and go do something fun with the rest of my existence, my little program sputtered back to life. It didn't actually work, mind you, it had just decided to spit out a tiny nugget of hope. I was immediately glued back to my seat, nursing and cajoling my code, exploding every once in a while with a defiant declaration of "There is no reason for this not to work!", then crumbling back into my role as prostrate supplicant, begging my computer to show me the love it once did.

I'd like to think that this frustration is just a result of trying more complex things, and in a way that's true. But I remembered the exact weekend I started learning HTML, and the two hours it took me to learn how to make my links change color. That tells me it wasn't easy in the beginning. And whenever I browse Internet newsgroups, I come across people tearing their hair out over stopping conversion of a number to a string in a scalar context, so I know it's not going to get any easier in the future.

Why then, in the name of Tim Berners-Lee, am I doing this? I can't help but think that my cynical friend was right. Like the fifteen year old girl calling Loveline about her married, cheating 32 year-old boyfriend, I somehow need days filled with hours of frustration and seconds of unfiltered bliss. The satisfaction of a working Web program is one thing, but knowing that the satisfaction is ephemeral, and soon to be eclipsed by an unimaginable frustration, makes one savor it all the more.

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