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What Do You Love – Guest Post by TJ Phillips

What do you do in your life that you really love?  This should be an easy answer, because you should be spending lots of time doing it.  I love playing music.  I love reading, and writing.  I love camping, food, beekeeping, drawing, traveling and MMA.

Does your job fall on this list?

I consult with Small Businesses about their technology needs.  I love it.  I love showing a business something that they didn’t realize was possible.  I love seeing the look of understanding after I’ve broken down something that was thought to be too complicated to approach.  I love it when I save a business a lot of time and money through adopting new technologies.    I love that every day provides me with new situations, new acquaintances, and new puzzles to figure out.  I love it when I can help save a business from disaster.

I have the best job ever, and I’m the best in the world at it, because I love it.

I was brought through a huge server room when I was about 11, and fell in love immediately.  At that age I didn’t say “Hey, this is what I want to do when I’m old enough to work” but I knew that this was the most exciting place that I had been in my 11 years!  No, seriously, I had left the house before.  I found a way to intern there when I was 15, and was hired as a part-time employee about 6 months later.  I had to be to work at 5:00am every Saturday morning and often worked until 5:00pm Saturday, but I didn’t care, I couldn’t get enough!

During my Junior and Senior years of high school, I had a better understanding of the school’s computer system than anybody at the school did.  They had a programming teacher who understood the basics, and they hired a consultant (who I would become friends with later in life, which made for some funny stories!) for the more complicated issues.

When the school would piss me off, I would break the network.

I would hear over the PA system: “can everybody please log out of the system now, thank you” and I would sit in my seat with my face in a book so nobody could see me tight-lipped and quivering with my face getting red at trying to contain my laughter.  “Take that!”

My programming teacher eventually caught on to what I was up to, though they never could actually catch me doing anything wrong.  I can remember the day I was called out of my English class to come out and talk to him in the hallway.  I walked into the hallway and he and the principle stood there, both looking down at me, and the principle said “Listen, we don’t know what you did, but we know you broke it.  How about you just make this easier for everybody, and fix it.”

I smiled, very genuinely, because in my head, I was looking at the principle and saying “How about you make my life easier and go fuck yourself.”  I didn’t though, I simply smiled and said “I’m not sure what you’re talking about, but let me see what I can do.”  I didn’t have a problem with our programming teacher, any more than I did some of my other teachers.  He would get mad because I didn’t pay attention in his class and wouldn’t put forth any more effort than what was required to get a passing grade, but he wasn’t a bad guy, so I fixed the problem.

The point I’m trying to make is that I did like my programming teacher, and I knew he just thought I was a pain in the ass and a screw up.  When I got my first paycheck, I brought that paystub into school with me to show him.  I was really proud.  Look at this!  I’m using my powers for the forces of good!  I’m helping people, and fixing problems, and…and…upgrading the Citrix cluster!

So I found him in the hall after school and said “Hey Mr. So-and-so, I’m working in the IT department at Company X now, I just got my first paycheck, I’ve got my own desk right in the middle of their server room and…” and as I was talking I was pulling out my paystub to show him, and he looked at me completely uninterested, for about as long as it took me to say that much, before giving me a “mm, great” and turned and walked away from me before I could even finish.

I stood there, deflating, with my paystub in my hand, and waited until he rounded the corner before muttering what I wanted to tell him to his face.  “Fuck you too.”

He told me in 10 seconds that he could give a crap if I was successful in my pursuits of a subject that HE WAS TEACHING ME!  I was a disobedient trouble maker who didn’t care about getting A’s and didn’t learn it in the method that he was teaching it.

Teachers are not the problem though.  There are some really awesome teachers out there (I’m looking at you Peterson!).  I would guess that most people choose this career path because they love the subject, they like working with children, or they want to make a difference in a public school system that gets worse every year.  I don’t believe it’s a system that can be helped, and I think compulsory schooling by its very nature must put obedience in front of actual learning and that this is what actually creates teachers like my old programming teacher.

This was what I thought about when we considered taking our oldest son out of public school in the 1st grade.  Am I doing what I love today because of what I gained from school?  No.  I’m doing what I love today despite my schooling.  I had my family supporting me, but really, I was fortunate that the passion I had was for something that my family recognized as a profitable career.  If I had instead developed a passion for playing card games, or graffiti, I don’t know that I would have gotten the same support, and I might be doing something today that brings me no joy.

I want my children to do what they love and create their own personal definition of success and not live by somebody else’s.  My kids will always be supported in whatever their passions happen to be, and they will always have me as an example of doing what you love.

TJ Phillips is saving the earth several computers at a time.  He is also my husband and personal superhero.


  1. Andrea says:

    The name Densmore comes to mind for me, but I hope you were spared his ignorance! Great post TJ, I got a real kick reading about your experience at the same darn HS I went to. Peterson started when I was a senior, never had him. Ahh, the stories could go on and on…

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Merhia Madsen Wiese and Heather. Heather said: What Do You Love? Guest Blog Post #unschooling […]

  3. Heather says:

    Oooh. I think he was my keyboarding teacher.

  4. Natalie says:

    I love your PASSION!

    I get it and it’s why I’m living the life I am now and why I’m delighted that my children are too.

    Thank you for such a passionate, inspiring post!

  5. Nate says:

    I still remember my first class with the computer teacher (I think it was Mr. Densmore)… his exact words “not another Phillips”. I think they fired him though, because I ended up with a really good programming teacher

  6. Colleen says:

    I love that story. Thank you so much for sharing it. My heart feels all warm and fuzzy now. :) Not because of the teacher, or your experience, but because your kids are so darn lucky.

  7. TJ says:

    Glad to share the story, thanks for the compliments!

    @Andrea and Nate: Not Densmore, I actually never had him

  8. This is fantastic, and what I’ve been reading about in a couple books recently. Great timing, too, because my husband is back in school to do what he wants to do!

  9. Frank says:

    Ah, you kids these days. When I was in school, I hadda sneak into the office cave with my special chisel (carved to emulate the school’s chisel) and re-cut my grades into the stone tablets which were about to go to my folks by special dinosaur messenger.

    Computers. In schools. Bah! Humbug!

  10. ruth says:

    This story was awesome!! Not to mention hilarious at times. Thanks so much for sharing. I read bits out to my husband and he laughed too. We are unschoolers.

  11. Heather says:

    Thanks for reading! 😀

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