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So, what do you do?

I think the most accurate answer to that is to call myself a "troubleshooter".

For my day job, that usually means there was a problem and I need to go figure out what broke and how to fix it. The majority of my day consists of trying to understand how complex systems are behaving so I can figure out what unexpected edge case is triggering unwanted actions, and those are usually happening in components that someone else developed in a different time. Most of my solutions come from talking to people about what requirements they were developing around, and trying to bring some new layer of context into the picture. My clients often have internal groups with conflicting goals, things change constantly, and we're always performing the difficult dance of time management, so this is a job for which knowledge gets you the tools, but experience gets you the answers.

For everything outside of capitalism - the part I actually enjoy doing - being a troubleshooter means I try to proactively find the warning markers before they actually turn into problems, and work with people to temporarily relieve stress while we find ways to compensate for the problems. This is all pretty vague, so let me explain with an example:

A while back, our family was having a lot of deliveries stolen. This was a major source of stress for people, because while sometimes those were discretionary items that could simply be marked as lost and redelivered, sometimes those packages were important things like medicine and household goods. My job was to understand that packages were getting stolen because people were put into a difficult situation after being disadvantaged by the system; the opportunity to steal the packages was created by packages being left unattended in an insecure place; and I could address the symptoms by switching us to a neighborhood delivery location while treating the problem by contributing ongoing resources to the local housing aid efforts.

This was a problem with reasonably low stakes, but I'm no longer the kid who lived in a virtually stress-free, protected environment, with endless amounts of time to look at interesting questions in an interesting way and follow my brain's own meandering path to an interesting solution. Now I know very clearly that myself and the people I care about live well outside of the Novice Area. I know that there are things which can do damage, and have - for one reason or another - decided part of what makes them feel better is to actively seek out our particular societal niche and hurt us. We could be seriously injured, and someone needs to prepare for that. That knowledge is something that cannot be forgotten, cannot be ignored, and can never be allowed to take hold. As a troubleshooter, I must remember the most important rule: There will always be another problem.

All of this is my "job", and I love doing it.

If I was a pessimist, I could say that it's unfortunate the end results are always a hope that the bandages will hold and the medicine will work, but I'm not a pessimist (most days). Instead, I know that if I notice the problems before they start then I can put less effort into solving things when they are actively going wrong, and more effort in prevention when things are relatively calm. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So, what do I do? I think about how to get there before problems start, how I can more thoroughly see the stresses, how I can find better solutions, and how I can make sure people are happier with the workarounds.

Why do I do this? Why not give it all up and explore those unknown areas I found so much solace in, when I was younger? Why not lose myself in the wilderness and discover all the corners of the incredible world that we create around ourselves?

To answer a question with a question: How could I? To do that, I would need to forsake those who depend on me, abandon them to the slow and unstoppable marching forward of time, and let all those tiny cuts build up and reform themselves into something much worse. Unresolved, those little problems will become something that cannot be solved. Something that causes people to stumble into an intense and completely rational fear. So I cannot. They must be helped because they matter. We are a collective, sometimes more directly than philosophically, but it doesn't matter which it is. We all share a fate, we all share in success, and we all deserve each other.

I do what I do because it is the most effective way I can contribute, with the greatest outcome I can see. Those around me have trouble tending to their wounds, and that makes them less able to do their part, so I take up the medic bag and get to work.

What do I do? I tend the garden. I bandage the wounds. I wrap the pipes. I reinforce the walls. I relieve the stress. I feed the hungry. I keep us alive. If I don't, who will? I love my job. I just wish capitalism would respect it or get out of the way.