The Truth About Growing Up

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There's a harsh reality: we're "grown ups" these days. Every once in a while, however, I see an image that takes me back to my childhood. My childhood was full of sports and video games and I can't help but smile on those days. I became a "professional" coder at 20 years old but began teaching myself coding at age 14. When I started I couldn't stop, so while I continued playing sports, I now look fondly back on the time when I didn't know coding. I was always outside, I was skinning up my knees and elbows and l loved it. I was doing stupid stunts on my bike and getting into the usual young child trouble.

When I saw the following image, I was instantly taken back to my pre-computer days:

That image hit me real, real hard. Calvin & Hobbes is a weak spot of anyone my age (now 31) -- that comic still represents a joyful look at the innocence of being young and the care-free, future-free state that comes with being young. A big part of the feeling comes from having a "Little Calvin" in my life -- my 1 year old son Jack.

Now that we are professionals, it's a good time for us to reflect on an image like this and consider if we're happy with where "Big Calvin" has gone and how we can keep "Little Calvin" playing inside of us. For some of us it's ensuring we're on the cutting edge of our job, for others its taking care of business at work and then seeking adventure on the off hours. For me it's a bit of both.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this image and how it applies to you and your career. Where is the "Little Calvin" inside of you?

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  1. Sauce for that image?

    • John


    • It looks like Banksy but I’ve been struggling to find its source. I saw this image on Twitter originally.

    • I recently saw it on Imgur actually, so I was wondering if that’s where it originated.

  2. My daughter is now a little over 3 and she’s 100% my “Little Calvin”. Or, whatever the female form of the name Calvin is. Anyway as she gets older we’re finding more and more fun things we can do together. Just silly things like building a blanket fort or playing hide-and-seek or pulling funny faces. David I think you’ll find that as your son grows up you won’t get hit so hard when thinking back to your pre-computer days, and you’ll start to re-live them instead.

  3. I am a big Calvin and Hobbes fan, and read every strip I see. As a coder I constantly remind myself to keep things simple – like C&H, un-cluttered, simple and effective.

    Sometimes telling a story badly will ruin it – writing bad code can mess up a good UI concept.

  4. Dario

    Hi David,

    Such a good article. I can’t avoid to look backwards and smile. I was like you when i was a child. All day long out with my friends doing stupid, but funny, things. I guess that’s why i still like doing stupid things occasionally, like extreme sports… I want to be a child forever!!

    I’m a Front-end developer now, and to be honest when i was 7 or 8 i wanted to be something like fireman or astronaut haha, but anyway I like my profession so i’m happy

  5. My daughters are 4 & 3 and they are my little Calvins. Sometimes it takes a good hour or so to detach from the code, but once I do, I can really get into building forts and playing dragons & princesses.

  6. Eric

    Some great words from Bill Watterson himself about not letting go of the Calvin in you.

    I work the grind too, but aspire to be able to work from home and watch my 3 sons grow and be there to remind them to appreciate the ‘Calvin Days’.

  7. benjamin

    I’m the same kid, yet responsible now. Having two kids makes this image even more powerful. I look forwards to bombing hills on a wagon with my sons. I’m happy I can make a living without needing to wear a suit. I’m happy that my profession allows me to maximize family time. Thanks for keeping it real DW! Stay awesome!

  8. Luca

    I’m slightly older than you Dave, and I keep in touch with my ‘little Calvin’ by still playing videogames (sometimes the same ones of when I was little!), buying Transformers toys I didn’t have (Dinobot Grimlock anyone?) and few other bits.
    I believe it helps me seeing that touch of magic in what we do in our jobs as developers and strive to learn how things work by dismantling them (like we did with toys).

    Also, things didn’t really change much compared to when I was a child – I used to ask my mom for permission to play (video) games, I’m now asking my wife the same when we are sitting in front of the tv!

  9. Me too! I began teaching myself to code at the age of 14 and since then I’ve never been able to stop. 21 years old now so I’m like half way through being a full grown up. Though I miss the days when the next Super Mario mission and strawberry icecream instead of Chocolate were the only things that could concern or trouble me :)

  10. My “little Calvin” couldn’t have predicted where “big calvin” me would end up. No matter how much she tried. Looking back, life as a kid is just so much easier. I tried to impress on my younger cousins how important their youth really was, without being the too much older cousin. Take advantage of those vast summer breaks where you can do nothing but whatever you want. Mostly.

    The Little Calvin is still inside me. Whether it’s just acting a little bit silly on occasion or just spending a bit of time forgetting all the responsibilities. Even if it’s just for an hour or so.

  11. Z

    I like the things shared here and I felt the same on occasions. I like to look at it as if we are getting wiser rather than just older.

    Don’t want to disappoint but with age and stalled lifestyle comes even more worrying health problems.

    The best way to avoid it is to keep active and eat healthier. Enjoy more time with your family. They are the ones that would stand by, no matter what. Me and possibly other developers don’t seem to spare enough quality family time but waste hours in coding.

  12. As a twenty something year old the pressure to acclimatize to a high ambition mold is great. Since I’m trying to get several large projects off the ground I’m starting to see that more and more. I think life is about finding the balance your comfortable with. Jerry Seinfeld said “the key to happiness is finding the torture you’re comfortable with”. I think that’s awesome because once your comfortable in your job you can focus on the things that make life worth living. It’s better to experience life then to just live it

  13. I need absolute technical sensory deprivation to “unplug” from my work. I’ve found the more I enjoy what I do, the harder it is to mentally detach from it and relax.

    For me, personally, I’ve found the following the most effective:

    – Fishing (meditation)
    – Target shooting (stress relief)
    – Riding roller coasters (adrenaline rush + thankful you’re alive)

  14. Wow. How appropriate. I am 31 myself, and could not agree with you more. What fond days, what fond memories I have of C&H. I cannot wait till my oldest (4 yrs) is able to appreciate the wit.

    I can only hope that my younger self would approve. I am about to make a huge leap of faith in moving my family to a new country. Something my junior me would never have dreamed of. But, something I think the more skinned-knee adventurous self would actually love.

    To our youthful sides, and their dreams: may we all achieve our “greatness.”

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