You can’t change who you were, only who you allow yourself to become

Warning; openness approaches.

It’s been quite a decade.  It started on the floor, drinking away loneliness (perceived loneliness) and ended with everything that I saw in a vision at 22 coming true.  There were many ups and down, too many downs considering.  Mentality changes, reversals, twists, and turns.  When I turned 20 I got a card from my parents that said (paraphrase): Life is like a movie, it has ups and downs, parts that make us scared and parts that are happy.  But through it all, we love you.

I’m able to look back now and see how critical that card was (I still remember it) and just how obvious my sadness must have been.  I was in a funk.  I had been dating for the better part of 5 years consecutively.  Fell hard too many times, fell harder in succession (ahh puppy love).  But now, I found myself here.  On the floor. Unable to move. Unable to think.  Wallowing in self-loathing.  I hated who I was, what I had become, the person I had lost (myself).

It was there, laying on the ground in the fetal position, knowing I didn’t want to be who I was. “Pick yourself up” a voice said.  I suddenly felt calm.  I wasn’t happy, I didn’t know what just happened, but I knew in the silence and sadness, something finally made sense: I had to correct who I was.

Over many, many years (4 or so in fact) I started a slow, gradual climb away from the person I was letting myself become and towards the person I wanted to be everyday.  I don’t talk about those times much and I rarely reference that person because I don’t typically consider it myself.  I wasn’t myself, or at least not the myself I wanted to be. I had 2 blogs across many years of ranting through the pain, trying to figure out who I was.  I was so embarrassed of that person that I created multiple identities to break from my current persona (btopro in all things).

I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing this.  As was the case with Knowing How to Smile, a listing of truths that I formulated in my times of darkness, I guess I’m leaving a record incase anyone else finds themselves in those dark times and needs something, even just a web search to suggest that It gets better.

I don’t regret anything in my life, you can’t change who you were, only who you allow yourself to become.  But if I could have told myself anything through the last decade now, especially the early times, it might have gone something like this.

Dear 20 – Sadness is ridiculous.  At this age the only direction is up yet you are lost; without purpose. Everywhere you can go, no idea how to get there. Be still, listen, and find yourself and find your purpose.  Pick yourself off the floor, go out for the things that make you happy, they will lead you to who you want to be. Play Hockey, but don’t abuse it as an outlet for your hated of yourself.  Also, walls, particularly stucco walls; are not breakable.  Your right hand, your dominant hand, is.  “I didn’t know you were that kind of person” — allow this phrase to consume you, he is correct, you aren’t the person that you want to be (far from it).

Dear 21 – Don’t be afraid to love. Don’t be afraid to fail.  Don’t be afraid to have fun, your only this young once, but do nothing you’ll regret.  Stop being selfish, it won’t get you anywhere you want to go.  Deal with your doubts head on and for the love of God stop listening go 45 by Shinedown.  You have far too much going for you to focus on negativity.  Pick your head up as you walk, see and actively experience the beauty around you.

Dear 22 – Don’t let your wife get up from the table just friends.  You will see the next 8 years in an instant and two divergent paths.  Yes, you will need to make this important a decision this early on.  Be not afraid, she is your wife, be happy with how many of your days the two of you will have with each other.  She’s your best friend, the love of your life, your better half, and your soul mate.  Stop taking her for granted, treat her the way she deserves.  Stop being an idiot, be still, listen, this is purpose.  Apply to grad school, ignore DC; there’s nothing but broken promises there.  Many of your “friends” will go, you’ll never see them again.  Go to grad school, stay in the state, stay near State.

Dear 23 –   You are starting to pursue your purpose, code is more than a job, it’s the ability to change things.  Identify the impediments to progress, document their behavior, remove them.  Information Altruism is the wave of the future.  Donating time is the way to change things.  Donating code and time, you will be unstoppable.  Buy your first house, realize it’s not your last.  Be ok with the transition to “real life” from “college town”.

Dear 24 – Marry your best friend, trust her, always.  Be happy in her job transition, it will only be to both of your benefit.  The only thing constant is change, be ok with this.  Never allow the negativity of others to dissuade you.  Little people make their business creating and focusing on little problems.  Don’t hide your joys and successes.  Don’t be embarrassed with how happy you are and the life you’ve been given. What you will do to deserve it is seek to earn it every day.

Dear 25 – “Let no one live in your head rent free”.  Ignore distractions both in and out of the office.  Allow yourself to escape work now and again, downtime is just as important as on-time.  Put the time in now so you can focus on the news at the end of the year.  Make things happen, don’t let things happen.  Invest in yourself, figure out how to go about your mission in life.  Merge politics in all aspects of life, but never speak of politics.

Dear 26 – Trust in yourself, you are ready to be a father.  Be confident in your decisions, put him and your wife above everything.  Yes, even work.  Work hard, work additional, but take breaks often (I know you won’t though).  Don’t work yourself to sadness, money is not a requirement of happiness. Be not afraid, birth will be scary but everything turns out ok.  There will be family job transition again, be happy, your best friend will make sure your son is safe, happy, and loved.  Don’t backdown on coaching, keep going, be true to yourself.  Ignore those that want to dictate to you how your team is run, this is part of your family, do it the right way and you will win.

Dear 27 – You will be disillusioned as to what your purpose is.  Don’t get caught up in the ripples, look for the waves and shoot for them.  Take the 40 day, 40 night challenge, be a different person.  Be still, listen, He is speaking through everyone if you only listen.  You will be pushed to your breaking point with your work.  Stick with it, the rabbit hole goes deeper and you will pick up skills that will last a lifetime through the experience.  Use everything as an opportunity to learn, great failure = great growth.

Dear 28 – You will defeat your opposition if you continue to push forward with consistency, passion, and openness.  Information altruism reigns supreme, victory is at hand, the ball rolls slowly but it will get there.  Make time for your family, they are more important than anything you could “accomplish”.  Always remember, you are doing this to improve your son’s life and potential outcomes.  Never lose sight of that fact, his future is more important than your own.

Dear 29 – All change is good if perception is good.  Change is constant, embrace it, adapt, and revolutionize.  Strike a new tone with your work, no one joins efforts through verbalization of destruction; create as always, but speak of creating and building.  The future is now not only about you and your son, it is about both of them.  Be picky in your consultations, your children’s hourly rate is far greater than any rate of a client.

Be happy, live healthy, Pray daily, be thankful, be charitable, give away everything and you will gain everything.  Thank you 20, through great pain comes great growth.  I thank God daily for the growth that I have undergone and the increased awareness I have of others.  Understanding needs in a context more than just work, and making sure it is always His work being done, not the Joker like schemes of my own.

I told myself at 26 that I’d be burned out and dejected with my attempts to create a movement by my 30th birthday.  I used this as additional motivation to keep pushing forward, putting in far more work “hours” then I will ever be compensated for.  Compensation isn’t the point, transformation is.  Keep building, keep innovation, keep donating, and the future only gets brighter.

I wrote those here in part because while it’s not related specifically to any work project I ever do, it drives and influences everything I’ll ever do.  It is who I am, who I’ve wanted myself to become and who I’ve been allowed to become through Grace.

I won’t stop pushing, won’t stop donating, won’t stop responding positively, won’t stop trying to improve educational outcomes with better educational technology.  I’ve come too far from who I once was to want anything less then a world without boundaries for my kids.


  1. bosah vandenberg · March 14, 2014

    Congratulations on your journey and thanks for sharing.

  2. Ruben Puentes · March 27, 2014

    Bryan, I have been reading your posts and learning about ELMSLN, not easy as I am not a tech expert. But enjoying! I’m involved with an interesting, ambitious initiative — University of the World — aiming at reaching those who not have access to tertiary education. We are exploring our IT platform and from what I learned from you, ELMSLN may fit well. How can I contact you? Ruben

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