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December Writing Challenge 2018: The Journey’s End

Level 17


Over the course of December, the THWACK community had the privilege to peek inside the personal thoughts and formative moments of many of our members. The ideas, stories, and emotions they shared with us were sometimes raw with honest sincerity, often amusing, and always relevant and engaging.

As monitoring aficionados, we are sensitive to patterns, seeking to discover the signal that may lie, undetected, beneath the "noise" of unrelated data. And sure enough, as the days progressed, certain themes surfaced again and again in both the lead articles and the comments. While I identified a few of them in yesterday's post, I'd like to focus on a particular one here.

Catherine O'Driscoll may have phrased it best on day 10:

"I found it quite difficult to pass on just one piece of advice when there is so much I wanted to tell my younger self; to prepare her for and to protect her from. But then I realized that if she doesn’t go through it, then we wouldn’t become the person we are today."

The idea that we cannot go back, cannot undo what we have already done, because it will fundamentally change who we are, came up time and time again. And here, on the first day of 2019, I'm going to challenge that idea, in the hope that it allows us to set a goal for ourselves in the coming year that could have far-reaching consequences.

Recently, I read an essay where the author laid out the following logic:

First, for any action, there are many downstream consequences—some expected, others not. Some of the results of an action are intentional, while others are not. And some of the outcomes of that action can be understood as empirically "good," and others not.

So how are we—the individual who performed that initial action—judged? Are the expected, intentional, and "good" outcomes ascribed to us, or the ones on the other side of the equation? Or are we credited with all outcomes and results? Or a mixture of both?

The answer, this author states, lies in our reason for taking the action in the first place.

If our reasons were to harm or hurt or otherwise "do bad," then those are the results that we, in a sense, get "credit" for. The fact that our action might ALSO have had helpful or positive results is less a credit to us, and more a credit to fate, Karma, nature, luck, Divine providence, etc. And, obviously, the reverse is also true.

But let's say that, at some point in the past, we acted wrongly with the intention to harm, and that action had a mixture of reactions both bad and (unintentionally) good. Sometime later (moments, days, or even years), we look back at that moment and feel true, sincere, honest regret. We reflect on that moment and learn something about ourselves that we understand much change.

And we change it.

We work on ourselves. Grow. Improve. Mature. That moment in the past becomes an object lesson for us, and impels us to become better than the person we once were.

NOW, standing in the present moment, how is that action judged? As it turns out, all the positive results—unintended though they may have been—can be ascribed to us and the negative ones (while not disappearing entirely) fade into the background. This is the critical idea behind reformative, versus punitive, consequences. Behind repentance. Behind forgiveness.

Looking back at that theme that came up again and again—that we cannot offer advice to our younger self because it would fundamentally change who we are today—I say that if we use those past moments as motivation to change who we are today, then we HAVE changed our past selves. We have reached back through the years and changed the past. Not by changing WHAT we did, but changing the MEANING of what we did.

And in the words of the author,

"Time then becomes an arena of change in which the future redeems the past and a new concept is born – the idea we call hope."

My hope is that over the course of December, you found more than just some interesting stories, or chuckle-worthy reading. I hope in either reading or writing the words that were shared, you found a catalyst for positive change that can lead you toward hope and happiness in your life in the coming year and beyond.

From everyone at SolarWinds and the THWACK community,

we wish you a very Happy New Year and the best to come in 2019.

P.S.: Use this link to catch up on any part of the 2018 December Writing Challenge you may have missed.

Level 13

Thanks adatole! This has truly been a blast. The paradox of what I could/would change is most certainly something I could spend hours conversion about.

When you have watched Rick and Morty, you get a very crazy view, how changing the path of the past can result in Chaos.

so let’s keep our decisions from the past, good or bad, and „get schwifty“ in 2019

For the non Rick and Morty fans... sorry for the bad reference

I've been saying something similar all month. I started off by first referencing the Butterfly Effect. And then after that I challenged the notion of giving our younger selves spoilers of what to expect. Life is about the journey, the experiences of the up's & down's and how they can sometimes be the same (re: my Jake Tapper tweet). I then reminded us that we are now tomorrow's yesterday. We have that chance to tell ourselves, today, not to be so... To go and do... Go travel... Learn... and so on. Because if you wait for tomorrow to do it you'll wish you could go back to yesterday to tell yourself to do so. And that day is today.

Level 11

Long time lurker first time participator.  Have to say it's been a blast, sharing views and reading experiences.  It's weird and wonderful to see how similar, yet how diverse we all are.

Level 20

Here's to a great 2019!

Level 15

I really enjoyed the writing challenge this year.   Looking forward to 2019. 

Level 9

Let's make 2019 a schwifty one and show them what we got!

Wubba lubba dub dub

Level 13

That was fun.  Off to another year 2019.

Thanks, adatole​, for putting this together, and to all the contributors and respondents.  I really, REALLY enjoyed this "mission", even though I had to miss the last few days (that saying "No rest for the wicked"?  Yeah, I was NOT wicked! 😉  Off we go into 2019...make it a GREAT YEAR, everyone!


This was a fun and useful month. The interaction in the Thwack community make it one of the best - if not the best - online tech community.

I love the writing challenge and my only wish is that this continues going forward as it has been basically a fun thing every time!

Level 12

Here's to another Thwackful Year.

Level 9

I loved this whole experience. It really makes you challenge the way you look at things and made me not only realise what I would like to impart on my younger self but also what I would like to change right now. Happy 2019 everyone!

Level 8

I loved to read all contributions,
Have a good 2019 everyone, lets make it even better as 2018!

Level 14

Not wicked ?       I was  

You made me smile big, petergwilson!  Thank you!

About the Author
In my sordid career, I have been an actor, bug exterminator and wild-animal remover (nothing crazy like pumas or wildebeasts. Just skunks and raccoons.), electrician, carpenter, stage-combat instructor, American Sign Language interpreter, and Sunday school teacher. Oh, and I work with computers. Since 1989 (when you got a free copy of Windows 286 on twelve 5¼” floppies when you bought a copy of Excel 1.0) I have worked as a classroom instructor, courseware designer, desktop support tech, server support engineer, and software distribution expert. Then about 14 years ago I got involved with systems monitoring. I've worked with a wide range of tools: Tivoli, Nagios, Patrol, ZenOss, OpenView, SiteScope, and of course SolarWinds. I've designed solutions for companies that were extremely modest (~10 systems) to those that were mind-bogglingly large (250,000 systems in 5,000 locations). During that time, I've had to chance to learn about monitoring all types of systems – routers, switches, load-balancers, and SAN fabric as well as windows, linux, and unix servers running on physical and virtual platforms.