Judge Me Not

I’ve had this argument a lot of times with lots of different people over the last few years.

It usually starts with them making a snarky comment about how Microsoft is continuing its “extend, embrace, extinguish” strategy. If you didn’t know, Microsoft had a dominant stranglehold in almost every sector it competed in during the 1990s and 2000s, and that’s a good reason why it’s been such a successful company for so long. A lot of its power came from very questionable practices where Microsoft would force itself into key segments and use its massive status to disadvantage its competitors. Extend into enemy territory, embrace different technologies, extinguish competitors by leveraging Microsoft’s massive market share to lock out the competition. For example, by making pages render differently in Internet Explorer versus Netscape, other browsers would behave worse, making users switch over to IE so it worked. Similar cases such as Microsoft adding specific code in Windows so that WINE, a Linux Windows emulator, would not work, or Microsoft paying its hardware vendors to avoid selling computers running Linux distributions instead of Windows. Since Bill Gates left, Steve Ballmer and current CEO Satya Nadella have made efforts to repair the broken trust, but still, there are thousands and thousands of developers who struggled through that time period and are still reluctant to trust anything Microsoft does.

And this is fair.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Or is it?

I think I would be mad too if a company betrayed my trust multiple times. But I’m not so sure. There was a Futurama episode too where Amy said something similar.

Fool me seven times, shame on you. Fool me eight times, shame on me.

Where do we draw the line? Should we even draw the line?

I have this argument a lot, and I think I’m going to keep having it.

I cannot judge people for their pasts (at least I try my best not to), because I have to keep my hope that people will not continue to judge me for my past.

I say this all the time here, but I spent so many years of my life being an ass. I had such a gross lack of self-awareness that I didn’t really care about how I treated people and managed my relationships. And even today, I’m still figuring out how to communicate and foster relationships, and fighting 20 odd years of broken programming.

The most illuminating examples of this I experience is when I talk to some of the friends and people I’ve lost contact with since high school and the early years of university.

I’ve visited my Grade 12 Math professor a couple times. Math was my favourite and strongest subject, so my relationship with my professor was strange. I would know most of the answers she was looking for when asking questions in class, so I would have to chime in when the class was stuck. She would try to stump me and call me out when I didn’t have the right answer, probably to try and temper my ego, but really didn’t work. I would answer questions really egotistically when I had to, otherwise classes were boring and I was often focused on other things.

I visited her twice after I graduated. We had a nice relationship, and I wanted to thank her for getting me as far as I’ve gotten in university. The first time was awkward because she had shown me some new terminology (‘iff’ if and only if), and I never understood it until I saw it again in university, which I mentioned. When I visited her the second time, the dissonance felt much stronger. After all, I’ve spent several years distancing myself from who I was in high school. But she could only remember me as that kid. And she could only talk to me and about me with that same attitude. She asked me if I still found math easy, and to be honest, I still do (more on that another time). However, the way I find it easy now is very different from the way I found it easy before, but there was no easy way of explaining this to her. And it pains me now that I can’t begin to explain how much I regretted who I was during high school and all the changes I’ve made since then, because that who I was has been so deeply ingrained in her. So I just laughed and smiled and walked away.

I have a couple of good friends I try to keep up with from elementary school and high school. Our relationships are more time worn than anything. I feel like we keep in touch because it’s a nice memento of the years spent together. We really don’t have much in common anymore except our past. There’s this one friend who talks to me with a great deal more respect and understanding now. I think attending university and seeing that the world has a lot more people like me in high school broadens everyone’s perspectives a bit. It’s like, “Hey, he was pretty douchey, but that seems to be pretty common and normal too”. So it’s nice that it’s normal, but I really don’t want to be that person anymore.

But he still talks to me like that. It’s awful.

I don’t laugh at the same egotistical, sarcastic jokes as I used to. Talking about people being stupid isn’t fun to me anymore. Talking about shitty school projects doesn’t make sense to me. Laughing about how I was right about life in high school makes even less sense. I was wrong.

I’ve worked hard to not be that person anymore. But all I can do is play along and pretend again, because I can never explain all my feelings.

In my first year of university, I made a few friends with my good roommate and my ex’s mutual friends. It was nice to have an ‘in’ with some new people because I was that new roommate that came from a different school, and I knew basically no one else at this university. I had limited interactions with them because I was busy with my ex, but generally I thought I was doing okay, however weird I was. Things got worse when I broke up with my ex, and much worse when I did some mean things to those same roommates at the time, and I’ve gradually broken contact with all of them except that one good roommate.

I try to keep in contact with him over the years, which gets hard because we ended up on different sequences - I would be working in another city while he would be studying at Waterloo, or I would be studying in Waterloo while he worked in another city. The last couple of terms we’ve managed to get back on stream, so I try to catch up every once in a while over dinner or something. This last time, he invited some of the old mutual friends to come to dinner. I haven’t talked to them in so long I haven’t a clue what they’re doing now, and they probably don’t know or don’t care how I’m doing anymore, but it’d be nice to see what’s going on in their lives and make some amends for my past behavior, as much as I can at least.

Only one showed up, which is fine. She’s my former roommate’s best friend so they got along really well. I never really gelled with any of them, but it went well. It started off awkwardly as we had to get over that hey-we’ve-met-before-but-who-are-you-again? phase, but that’s the best I could hope for. It got more comfortable over time, and I felt like that I’ve left a better impression by the end than the one I’ve left several years ago.

I try my best to treat everyone without judging them based on their past. I may fail, but I can never accept giving up on this, because how can I ask people to give me another chance now, when I don’t give it to them?


Contact me at lai.victor.vl@gmail.com.