Mike Bland

Finishing Business

Tuition is paid, new ID card is in-hand, and I'm all set to start classes at Berklee College of Music next week

- Boston
Tags: Berklee, personal, philosophy

A year-and-a-third after leaving Google, nine months after officially semi-retiring from the tech industry and subsequently figuring out the next step in my life, four months after moving to Boston, and one day after rushing to get four new vaccinations I didn’t know I needed until this past Friday,1 I’m now officially enrolled (as of yesterday) for the Spring 2013 semester at the Berklee College of Music. Yep, they took my money, then they took my picture. Placement auditions and class registrations take place this week, and classes start Tuesday.

I really don’t know what the hell I’m doing. So many of these people here—mostly kids—are far more accomplished than me. I’m probably the worst student at the school right now. But, I guess I’m used to that feeling, after six years at Google, feeling that I was in waaay over my head with no clue as to how I got in or why they let me stick around. Of course, I’m paying Berklee, not the other way around, so maybe that has something to do with my present good fortune.

This was me the last time I was here, when I was pissed at the world and freaked out from being more than one state away from Virginia for the first time (just as Nevermind began to take over the world):

Mike Bland's 1991 Berklee College of Music ID
Click for a larger image.

This is me now, having dropped out of Berklee after the first day of classes, returning home to earn a theatre degree at Christopher Newport University, failing to start a music career, hitting a dead end in the shipping department of Optima Graphics in St. Louis,2 returning to CNU to pick up a computer science degree, working on shipboard navigation and port monitoring software at Northrop Grumman, slipping through the cracks of the Google hiring process and subsequently playing a large role in profoundly changing Google’s engineering culture via unconventional means, living in two countries vastly different from Virginia and each other,3 traveling to a number of other countries—getting to know Barcelona as home-away-from-home—and eventually burning with frustration at Google before finally dropping out and returning to Boston4 to take care of unfinished business, to live up to the one big challenge I didn’t live up to before—and still feeling like a scared, clueless freshman, an imposter:

Mike Bland's 2013 Berklee College of Music ID
Click for a larger image.

Some people are lucky enough to know what they want to be when they grow up, and can follow the standard narrative required to get to where they want to go. The value they bring to the economy and society at large is measurable and observable. That’s how civilization works at scale, and I’m not knocking it at all. But since leaving Google, I’ve had plenty of time to accept that I’m not one of those people, and I never will be. And that’s actually pretty damn cool, too.

Mike Bland's 1974 rock star face
Dig the shag-tastic red carpet. Apparently the cats dug rock ’n roll, too, judging by the shredded album cover edges. Click for a larger image.


  1. Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), Meningococcal, Hepatitis B, and Varicella (chicken pox), two in each arm. Surprisingly, I suffered only the slightest perceptible soreness in my left arm, and no other side effects whatsoever. I even went to play in a blues jam and drink a couple of beers the same night. I swear, after getting over a brief bout of acute bronchitis around Thanksgiving without any medicines, I feel like Godzilla

  2. Actually, Fenton, MO. 

  3. Silicon Valley and New York City. 

  4. Making New England country number four in which I’ve lived. I guess St. Louis would make it five, but I didn’t notice it being different enough from Virginia to warrant it being counted on its own. In fact, the museum beneath the Gateway Arch—aka the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial—is practically a Hall of Virginians.