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Chris x 2 with Chris Bowman

Chris Bowman is a force. Chris talks to Relicans Host Chris Sean about being Chris, meeting your heroes, and overcoming some pretty heavy sh** to be where he is today.

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Jonan Scheffler: Hello and welcome to Launchies, proudly brought to you by New Relic's developer relations team, The Relicans. The Launchies podcast is about supporting new developers and telling their stories, and helping you make the next step in what we certainly hope is a very long and healthy career in software. You can find the show notes for this episode along with all of The Relicans podcasts on developer.newrelic.com/podcasts. We're so glad you're here. Enjoy the show.

Chris Sean: What is up, everyone? I want to welcome you to another Launchies podcast. I have an amazing gentleman here with me right now, and by the way, he also has an amazing name. I have on this podcast with me, Chris Bowman. Chris, I want to welcome you to the podcast. Thank you so much for joining me here today.

Chris Bowman: Well, thank you for having me. I appreciate it, man. I've been watching you -- I've followed your story for years.

Chris Sean: [laughs] That's so crazy for me to hear. I've received so many messages like that, and people have told me, but every time I hear that it's amazing to hear. Thank you. Because sometimes I do wonder, I'm not going to lie; sometimes I do wonder if I should keep creating content but hearing things like that pushes me, it really does.

Chris Bowman: Always create content, man. Always.

Chris Sean: [laughs] Thank you. Well, it's not about me. It's about you. Honestly, I didn't know who you were. When I read that email, wow, your story is amazing.

Chris Bowman: Thank you.

Chris Sean: I think you're better at introducing yourself than I can. So can you go ahead and tell everyone who you are?

Chris Bowman: Sure. My name is Chris, and I'm from Michigan. I’m in my mid-40s. So I've been an adult-ish for quite a while. I was born with a disability, so I'm an amputee, a lower leg amputee, and I’m missing parts of five fingers. In adulthood, I bounced around from job to job for whatever I could do without much of a college education. Eventually, I went on disability in 2003, stayed on that for 14 years. And about 10 or 12 years into it, I decided I needed to try to reinvent my life a little bit. So I started studying web development, and I actually was studying it while I was living in my van in Northern California in 2015.

So I started learning through Treehouse and lynda.com and tried to figure out HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, and HTML and CSS were a little bit easier than JavaScript. But yeah, after that, I ended up getting a job with a Top 50 company creating Sitecore pages and updating content with that. And within a couple of years, or a year and a half or so, I was able to buy a house. So the homeless days are gone, thankfully.

Chris Sean: That is amazing. A year and a half ago, you bought a house. Why haven't I bought a house yet? Okay. I am in debt, though. I’m personally scared to buy a house if I'm in debt. So I'm just trying to pay off all my debt first.

Chris Bowman: That's a great idea, in my opinion, honestly.

Chris Sean: [laughs] I could buy a house. I can now because I'm trying to move back to Vegas or to Nashville; I’m not sure. I'm trying to move back now, and realtors are hitting me up like, “Hey, I heard you’re looking for a house. Yo, I could get you a crib.” “I don't have the best credit.” “Yeah, but you have good income. We can get you approved.” But it’s tempting.

Chris Bowman: They'll give you anything, right?

Chris Sean: Yeah, anything. As cheaper as it may seem to get a house right now when you have debt, I'm just scared; what if the AC goes off? That just terrifies me.

Chris Bowman: Stuff happens. A week after we moved into this house, the water heater exploded in the basement.

Chris Sean: Oh my God.

Chris Bowman: [chuckles] My wife came out of the shower, and she's like, “The water was cold.” And I thought, well, maybe they didn't turn it up, the previous people. So I went down there to look, and nope, that's not the problem.

Chris Sean: Oh my God. Wow.

Chris Bowman: And then we actually are going to sell this house.

Chris Sean: Oh, okay. I see why. [laughs]

Chris Bowman: And move back to California.

Chris Sean: Whoa, back to California?

Chris Bowman: Yeah. It's a beautiful house.

Chris Sean: Hold on, hold on. We need to stop there. Hold on. I left California, and I can afford to live there again, but the taxes are insane, which is fine. They’re actually not that bad. I don't make that much, so it's not that bad. But it's expensive living there.

Chris Bowman: It is, yeah. I lived in Northern California near Lassen National Park, so just east of Redding; I loved it. That's where I actually lived in my van, and I'm actually a mountain man who happens to know tech. [laughs]

Chris Sean: The picture you sent me was like a car in the middle of the forest, which is so interesting. [laughs]

Chris Bowman: That's actually in my mom's property. That was a week after I bought that car. I just backed it at my mom's property, and my wife took the picture.

Chris Sean: Wow.

Chris Bowman: The car I owned before that was a $150 Ford van that I actually lived in. Someday I'll send you the picture of that on Twitter sometime.

Chris Sean: Yeah, please.

Chris Bowman: And then we bought this house which is --

Chris Sean: And was that the car you lived in when you were homeless?

Chris Bowman: It was the van, correct.

Chris Sean: Yeah, the van. Oh, at least you had a van. [laughs] Oh man.

Chris Bowman: Yeah, I had a little bit of space. And I also had access to the internet and electricity and a place to shower and cook my food and all that kind of stuff.

Chris Sean: That must help because when I was living in my car five years ago, which is crazy when I think about it now, I had no privacy.

Chris Bowman: Yeah. We were in about the same time. And definitely, if you have to do it again, get a van.

Chris Sean: Yeah, true. I don't want that to happen. I'm working my butt off now to make sure that -- that's my greatest fear. If I ever have to go back to that again after where I am at now, that would be the most terrifying thing ever. It's like, what did I do wrong?

Chris Bowman: It's not, because you've already lived through it, so you know it's going to be all right.

Chris Sean: True, but I don't want my family to go through that. [laughs] So that's a different story. Wow.

Chris Bowman: When I lived in the van in 2015 and early 2016, everybody thought I was nuts. And now it's the cool thing to work remotely.

Chris Sean: It's actually a cool story too. I love it. I think that's a privilege, to be honest, to go through something like that because it changes you in a way. And it makes you appreciate things that you probably wouldn’t.

Chris Bowman: Oh yeah.

Chris Sean: I know this sounds crazy. And I tweet this stuff all the time, and I say it in on my YouTube videos how I just can't believe I am where I am today. And every day, I think about wow, I should not be where I am right now. It's crazy.

Chris Bowman: Yeah. Well, it's hard work. Our stories are very similar, and it's just hard work. Once you get to a point where you've got nothing else to lose, it forces you to go ahead and make those leaps. And one thing that I have learned in my 44 years on this planet is everything tends to work out. So sometimes you just got to go for it and see what happens.

Chris Sean: So you are an amputee. You were born with disabilities. I was born with disabilities too. They’re hard in their own ways, but I can imagine how yours would be even more difficult or even going through school bullies. I can imagine that. I got picked off for my disability in school. I mean, yours is much more visible than mine, but mine was because I rode the yellow bus.[laughs] I'm not sure if you rode that, but mine was because I rode the yellow bus. But it wasn't as visible as being an amputee. How did that affect you? Being homeless, living in a car, having a disability, how did you feel at that point? Did you ever feel, I'm just wondering, that things will never get better?

Chris Bowman: No.

Chris Sean: Wow. Impressive.

Chris Bowman: And the reason is because this is all I've known. I literally was born almost exactly the way I look now, so I didn't have the leg to lose it later like some of our service people have, or I didn't lose it to a disease. It's one of those things where crap happens. I'm the oldest of three siblings, and I was just raised exactly like they were. So the biggest trouble was finding a direction. My mind tells me that I can build houses. My body says, “No, you can't.” I might make it a day on a construction crew, and that will be it. So I just had to find a direction, and it took me a long time, almost 40 years, to really find a direction and dive in. And by that time, I was pretty certain that I could do it, and I still am that way. I still have that mentality. I do freelance web development now, and sometimes if I start a new project or something, I'm like, “Can I do this?” But usually, it almost always works out.

Chris Sean: So, where does that mindset come from? What causes you to be so positive?

Chris Bowman: I wasn't always that way is the reason. I was 27 before I really accepted who I was as an amputee and (I don't want to use the word different, but I'm not sure what else to use) had to do things a different way than everyone else. I had super anger issues, negative attitude issues. You can ask my first wife all about that [laughs] and just feeling I got screwed. So the attitude that you get from me now is a 180 from what it used to be. And I can tell you specifically when that changed. I was having a conversation with my mom, and embarrassingly, she was talking, and I was yelling back. I said to her, “What difference does it make if I change? Nobody is going to believe me anyway.” And she said, “How do you know? You haven't tried yet.” It wasn't like a flip switch moment, but it was one of those things that sticks in your head that you don't forget. And so, from there, I tried to relax a little bit and figure out who I was.

And do you remember back in the old Yahoo days when they had the chat rooms and stuff? I found a chat room for amputees and people with disabilities, and I just went in there, and I didn't say anything. I just read through stories and stuff. And it was parents of kids that were like me, or it was adults who were like me. And they would share pictures and stories and stuff. And I took it all in and realized for the first time in my entire life at 27 years old that I wasn't alone. Like, I'm not the only one out there. The only other amputees I'd ever heard of were Terry Fox, who was an amputee from Canada in the ‘70s, and he had died from cancer. And then Jim Abbott was a baseball pitcher when I was a kid. But those are superstars that you don't ever meet. So I didn't know anybody like me at all, nobody to go, “Oh yeah. Hey, you and I have the same…” If you go to school and you have a similar background with somebody or a similar --

Chris Sean: A similar city, even something as small as that.

Chris Bowman: Exactly. It helps. But I had nothing, man. I felt like a kid on his own Island, so you just get angrier and angrier and more shut off from everybody and all that kind of stuff. But yeah, I had that conversation with my mom and just started researching other people who were like me, and I like to say it healed my insides. My outsides were okay, but my insides really needed some work. So yeah, it's been about 17 years now, and it's fantastic. I wouldn't trade my life for anything. I like to say to people --

Chris Sean: That was at 27.

Chris Bowman: That was at 27, and I'm 44 now.

Chris Sean: So from 27 to 44. When did you become a developer? How old were you, 40 years old?

Chris Bowman: I was 40.

Chris Sean: So 27 to 40, what happened?

Chris Bowman: I just stayed on disability. I figured that was going to be my life, making $800 a month.

Chris Sean: Why did you think that was going to be your life?

Chris Bowman: I didn’t know what else to do. I had no direction at all.

Chris Sean: Were you living in Redding at that time?

Chris Bowman: No, I was living in Michigan in income-based housing.

Chris Sean: And those aren't really the safest places to live in, by the way.

Chris Bowman: Not always, especially if you're in big cities. Thankfully, I was in some kind of Redneck hick town, so it wasn't that bad. I just lived with a bunch of old people.

Chris Sean: [laughs]

Chris Bowman: So honestly, I was happy just playing WoW all day and doing nothing.

Chris Sean: Hold on. We got to stop right there. Hold on. Class, what was your favorite class?

Chris Bowman: Warriors is about the only thing that makes any sense.

Chris Sean: DPS or Tank?

Chris Bowman: DPS.

Chris Sean: Okay, I just had to ask. I’m a WoW guy.

Chris Bowman: I’m not a very good one. My brother was a WoW player, and he was a Healer. And he was like, “You've been playing this for ten years, and you still suck.” I’m like, “I know.” [laughter]

Chris Sean: That's what brothers tell each other. When I play in NBA 2K with my brother, we've been playing the new next-gen on the new Xbox, and he can't beat me. And I'm like, “How does it feel to lose every single time?” [laughs] It’s so mean to say, but it doesn’t feel mean because that's my brother. [laughs]

Chris Bowman: Yeah. My brother playing Madden all those years, and he is always smoking me in Madden. And eventually, I'm just like, I'm just going to play games by myself. [laughs]

Chris Sean: That is hilarious. Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt.

Chris Bowman: No, that’s all right. So anyway, speaking of my brother, though, we were at my mom's for something in the summertime. And I was married for the second time, and he asked my wife he goes, “What is he doing with his life?” And I overheard it, and I wasn't supposed to. And I acted like I didn't hear it, but I did. And then I thought, what am I doing? So I decided to go back to school. I ended up getting a two-year programming degree that I finished about the time that I was living in the van.

Chris Sean: And what degree?

Chris Bowman: It was an Associate’s in programming.

Chris Sean: Nice.

Chris Bowman: So essentially, I learned how to do loops, and conditionals, and stuff in three languages, Java, Visual Basic, and C++. And I don't remember any of it. [laughs] So I just did it, but yeah, I finished that degree while I was out in California. And the reason that I got into web development after that was I couldn't find an entry-level programming job. And I thought maybe web development might be easier to get my foot in the door. I answered a Craigslist ad, and this guy took me on to help him. It was an agency, and he took me on to help him with some stuff. And I didn't even know how to upload files to Filezilla. So I was so lost and so embarrassed, and I'm like, that's not going to happen again. So then I dove into Treehouse and Linda, and matter of fact, I paid for those subscriptions by doing Amazon MTurk surveys for 20 cents apiece. It took all day to make two or three bucks. So then I’d pay for those subscriptions. And when I wasn't doing the surveys, I was doing that. My friends were like, “Hey, we're going to the beach. Want to go?” And I was like, “Nope. I want to work on this.” I enjoyed living in the van, but I didn't enjoy being broke all the time.

Chris Sean: If I could ask because I'll tell you this, I bought the tech degree programs on TreeHouse for so many people, and they've always given up. I bought the $25 a month, $50 a month course for people. They've given up, and I think it's mainly because it's free.

Chris Bowman: Yes.

Chris Sean: I just gave it to them. They didn’t have to work for it. And I think also because they don't want it enough. They're not motivated enough, and there's only so much I can do to motivate people to keep going.

Chris Bowman: Right.

Chris Sean: What is it that motivated you to -- okay, that's a lot of surveys. [laughs] That is a lot of surveys.

Chris Bowman: Yeah, it is.

Chris Sean: So, what pushed you to do that?

Chris Bowman: I just wanted to see how far I could get. “How far can I get in this life?” I didn't always think that way, but I started to as I got a little bit older. Okay, I can get this far and be comfortable, but I'm always broke. I'm not starving to death, but I'm always broke. So it's like WoW because you're leveling up your character to get to the end-game. So I'm a lot better at real life than I am at WoW, apparently. [laughter]

Chris Sean: There are a lot of people who are the exact opposite. I'll tell you that. [laughter] I'm happy to hear that.

Chris Bowman: Yeah. So basically, I just wanted to see what -- I'm a goal-oriented person. I like the path to the goal more than the goal itself. Like I said, we got this house, and we're actually selling it to move back to the Redding area to live in a travel trailer. We just want to live smaller. We got this giant house for just the two of us and a couple of dogs. My daughter is here sometimes. And it’s like oh, this was really cool that we got it, and now we're like, we don't really want it, which probably sounds ridiculous to anybody who's listening, but that's just me. I'm just like, okay, onto the next thing. What's the next thing?

Chris Sean: Wow. Man, that’s motivational to go through that. And so I think my question then is how was that journey then from -- You're paying for online school coding $25 a month or whatever by filling out surveys. And you're learning, and you're doing this on a monthly basis. And how long did it take you to get your first job from that point, from just starting to learn code?

Chris Bowman: Let’s see. I started my first job in June of 2017. So I would say two years roughly.

Chris Sean: Wow. So you did that for two years?

Chris Bowman: Yeah, actually, I did exactly that for two years, one year in the van, and then I moved back to Michigan to live in my brother's basement for a little over a year. So yeah, it was two years.

Chris Sean: So this just blew my mind away because you have to understand all the DMs, all the comments “I've been doing this for one year, Chris, I'm not a developer. You're a liar. You're a liar. You're lying.” “Chris, I've been doing this for six months. You became a dev in three. Why can't I do it in six?” People are telling me, “Chris, I haven't got a job after a year, so I’m just going to go back to school,” which isn't bad, of course. “I'll go to bootcamp,” which isn’t bad. “So you're a liar.” But I think people need to understand that not everyone gets to the same destination through one route. Every route is different.

Chris Bowman: That's exactly right. And as a matter of fact, I had a tweet go viral right around Thanksgiving, where I shared a picture of my van. If you happen to be scrolling through your phone, it's my pinned tweet. So there was a picture of my van and a picture of my house, and I said, “I got out of homelessness and got the house by HTML and CSS. You can do a lot with that.”

Chris Sean: Wait, this is the new house in Redding?

Chris Bowman: No, this is the house that I live in now in Michigan.

Chris Sean: This is a nice house.

Chris Bowman: Thank you. Yeah, it's like I said, it's 126 years old. It's beautiful.

Chris Sean: Oh really? My house is 100 years old too right now. Wow. That’s a nice upgrade compared to your van though.

Chris Bowman: [laughs] Yeah, it's a lot more square feet.

Chris Sean: You had a bed?

Chris Bowman: I did. Yep. I got that bed from the same place I got the van, which was a school for troubled youth. The reason I got the van was a kid had ripped the headliner out of the van itself, and they couldn't transport the kids anymore. So they told my friend, “If anyone wants it,150 bucks,” And I'm like, “Sold.” So yeah, so I got the van, and then, of course, we bought the house, which was a lot more than 150 bucks. [laughs]

Chris Sean: I mean, if you can afford it, you can afford it.

Chris Bowman: Yeah, we do okay. But it's too much; it's too big and too old. The upkeep in it with my disabilities is becoming too much. So when I didn't have anything, I wanted to buy things.

Chris Sean: Yes. [laughs]

Chris Bowman: And then when I bought the things, I went, “That's not it. That's not what I want at all.”

Chris Sean: That's so funny. Those exact words came out of my mouth last week.

Chris Bowman: [laughs] That’s funny. That's how you learn it, I think. So what we want to do is live experiences. I’ve got a YouTube channel where I film hikes that I do to inspire people with or without disabilities to get out outdoors. And I want to do that in the mountains in California, live smaller but outside. So that's the plan. But the motivation comes from just knowing that you only get one life.

Chris Sean: Yeah, exactly.

Chris Bowman: And it’s up to you regardless of the hand that you're dealt; it’s up to you to play that hand to win. So I try. Sometimes I win, and sometimes I don't.

Chris Sean: Yeah, you will win a lot less than you don't. Oftentimes, you will barely win, but those wins can be big wins if you don't give up.

Chris Bowman: Yeah. And you're not going to win if you do give up and just sit and rot your life away.

Chris Sean: Yes, if you sit and rot away, no wins will be coming your way because you're not working for any opportunities to come.

Chris Bowman: Exactly.

Chris Sean: I think like that all the time when I think about this is really just my one life. I know my ex-girlfriend was so annoyed by this. [laughs] I would always say, “I'm so lucky.” [laughs] I would literally tell her all the time, even my brother. “Man, Patrick, it's crazy how much I'm earning at just 33 years old. I can't believe my income right now,” because I was so used to the mindset of the most I'll ever make is 18 bucks an hour, not that that is bad. I'm not saying that's bad if you are. What I realized was I was limiting my potential by accepting that that's my future.

Chris Bowman: Exactly. Yeah, you got to go for it like you mentioned before with people saying, “Hey Chris, your story is BS. There's no way.” And I get that too. Right now, like I said, I work in Sitecore CMS, and I literally just have to know a little bit of HTML. Basically, I just have to know how to put the components on the page and then fill it with content, and knowing how to do that was my first job. I didn't know until I started it. And that's what bought me this house. Whether somebody believes it or they don't, I don't care. They're not paying my house payment.

Chris Sean: What people see is just a result. They just see the result. They don't see the ton of hard work it takes to get there and not to mention at your age, too, at 40 years old, just starting to learn code. You know what I mean? And that journey, there are people who ask me who are in their 40s, “Is it possible?” I'm like, “Yeah, it's possible. It will be harder not because you're not young but because you're not, maybe in your 30s or younger in your 20s, but it's not impossible. It'll just be harder.” And that's just a fact: it is harder the older you get.

Chris Bowman: Yeah. Well, one thing my grandpa told me before he passed away was, “It's only too late for most things when you're dead.” Go for it.

Chris Sean: Can you say that one more time? I like that.

Chris Bowman: Yeah. He said, “It's only too late for most things when you're dead.” Obviously, I'm not going to become a baseball pitcher for the Tigers.”

Chris Sean: I will not be an NBA player. [laughs]

Chris Bowman: Exactly. That's not going to happen.

Chris Sean: Yes. [laughs]

Chris Bowman: But in the realm of possibilities, most things are -- I see that on Twitter all the time. “I'm 29. Am I too old to do yadda, yadda, yadda?” Are you kidding me? You got 50 years to go.

Chris Sean: Especially at 29. That's very young.

Chris Bowman: When I started at the corporation, I was almost 41. There were three other people on my team of eight who were my age or older, but they had been there quite a while. But I just showed I'm willing to learn. I didn't know Sitecore at all. I’d never even heard of it at my interview.

Chris Sean: I have no idea what it is, to be honest. [laughs]

Chris Bowman: It's a CMS. It's basically WordPress but for corporations. So once you learn how they want their pages built, the components are done by front-end and back-end programmers and developers. You just put the component on the page and fill in the content and move on with your life. I mean, it's copy-paste. So I'll do it forever if they want to pay me to do it.

Chris Sean: For sure. I mean, if corporations are using it, you'll always have a job.

Chris Bowman: Yeah. They use Sitecore, and then Adobe Experience Manager is very similar to that. People just want their pages, and they don't care how it shows up.

Chris Sean: I have my own clients, and they don't care what tech stack I use to build it as long as it's built, and it works, and it's functional, and it’s mobile-friendly; that’s all they care about. So what I like about you as well, which is pretty cool; what I really like about you is the fact that you're documenting your journey and you're still documenting, which I need to do too. [laughter] I'm going to make one right after this podcast, actually after my stream. You're documenting your journey. So how was the beginning of this documentation of yourself, of your life? When you just started it, why did you do it in the first place?

Chris Bowman: The YouTube channel is mostly just outdoor stuff. I do occasionally take my thoughts from Twitter, which is where I do most of my documenting and put it into a video, but I always think they're boring [laughs], so I don't upload it.

Chris Sean: [laughs] Upload it anyway.

Chris Bowman: Yeah, I should because the stuff that I think is great doesn't do well at all, and stuff that I think is terrible people love.

Chris Sean: Oh, that is a fact. [laughter]

Chris Bowman: But you know what? One thing I learned from Twitter if you put a dollar sign in a tweet, the engagement goes off the rails. If I put some human rights matter, nobody pays any attention to it. But if I put a dollar sign, I get DMs, “How do you get these dollars?” And I tell them, and then they don't believe me. And we move on. But yeah, I am going to continue to document my journey on Twitter as far as the words. And I am writing. Actually, I am writing a book, about halfway through it, on my life covering some of the stuff we've talked about today.

Chris Sean: A lot of the people I've interviewed so far have been writing a book. I think I need to do that now. If your name is Chris and you're writing a book, I need to write a book too. I just feel like it's obligated now. [laughter]

Chris Bowman: Give you a Chris section.

Chris Sean: If you could add a Chris section for me, that'd be great on your book. [laughter] That's so interesting. So, why are you documenting or just tweeting?

Chris Bowman: To help people. Whatever it is I document, whether it's through words on Twitter or my book or the outdoor videos, is to show people that they're not alone. Because like we talked about, in the beginning, I didn't know anybody like me that existed. I like to say that I went to the University of Michigan's orthotics and prosthetics department, which helps you with, for lack of a better word, fake arms or legs. And I thought that whole building was for me. Nobody ever said, “Hey, look at my leg.” This is in the ‘80s, so everybody wore pants, and it was all hush, hush, didn't want to talk about it. I wear shorts everywhere Igo if it's warm enough and welcome people to ask me about it. Usually, what happens is somebody will come up to me and be like, “Hey, I served in such and such and such, what happened to you?” And I'll be like, “Oh, I didn't serve. It's a birth defect,” and then they just go, “Oh,” and then they walk away. And it's like, but it's still a cool story, bro.

Chris Sean: [laughs]

Chris Bowman: Thankfully, I didn't lose it like a lot of people through war or illness, but it's still a pretty neat story. But yeah, the reason I do that is one, it helps to normalize people with disabilities at least with mine. I'm old enough that I don't mind the questions or the stares.

Chris Sean: That's so brave of you, honestly, because I have a disability. I have quite a few. And one of the ones I've been hiding for so long and because I can now is a skin disorder called psoriasis. And years ago, it covered my whole body. It covered 90% of my body except for my face.

Chris Bowman: Wow.

Chris Sean: Like to the point you couldn't see my skin. And it was the most embarrassing thing in the world. This is when I was still in my 20s. I was still self-conscious. Now I don't care if people see. I don't have it. It's not that severe anymore because now I'm a developer, and I have good health insurance, thank God. So I can take care of it. But man, just to be open about the disability is easy now, but at first, I'm sure it wasn’t.

Chris Bowman: No, it’s not easy, but that the way I looked at it was, and you probably had this in school, people are going to target you anyway. So you might as well own that and be like, all right, if I'm going to be the center of attention, this is going to be the attention that I want to give. And I just became the guy that the kids -- I didn't have a lot of friends, but everybody knew who I was because I was the only one-legged kid in school. And occasionally, I had bullies, but almost everybody was pretty kind. So you have to be comfortable in your own skin quite literally.

Chris Sean: I agree.

Chris Bowman: And because life is long if you're not.

Chris Sean: I agree, for me personally, because of what I went through and just being bullied so much -- and believe it or not, I am a big-time introvert.

Chris Bowman: Yes, me too.

Chris Sean: I'm as introverted as they get. But of course, when I turn on the camera, I'm smiling, I'm loud. When I hang out with friends and family, I'm not quiet or anything. But I am a natural introvert, and it’s because of that because I got so used to hiding from the world. And then, after doing something with my life, I sometimes still feel that way. I feel subconsciously without realizing it; I feel like I'm hiding from the world when I shouldn’t. And I think that's really important to really just be proud of who you are no matter what you have, your disability, or anything about you.

Chris Bowman: Yes, it is because it's good for you, but it's also good for somebody who's looking for someone like you. And you have no idea who's looking. Like I said before, I've known of your story for four years maybe. And when I heard that you were going to interview me, I actually said, “Chris Sean: from YouTube?” And she was like, “Yeah.” Like, no way.

Chris Sean: [laughs] Oh my gosh.

Chris Bowman: I know who that is. So in 2017, 2018, 2019, I've followed, not stalkerish, but I know what you've been up to. And yeah, I remember all that stuff, man. I remember all the videos in your car on lunch or whatever.

Chris Sean: Oh, man. I think it was for one or two years where almost all my videos were filmed in my car. And the reason is because when I worked at my first job, my first two years as a developer was at my first company as a junior. And they told me, “No more filming in the office.” They were threatening to fire me and stuff. And so I'm like, all right, you know what? I'll just make it do. It doesn't look as nice. The background isn't as nice, but I'll just film in my car anyway, and I'm not going to let them stop me. [laughs]

Chris Bowman: I liked it because it was real. And just to see what you had to say and where certain things were going, that definitely was inspirational to me.

Chris Sean: That's crazy. Thank you for sharing that because, for me personally, you never know who you'll affect with whatever you do and the content you create. And obviously, I know that I'm helping people in some way somehow, but to see the outcome when you tell me these things -- and for example, I was in another interview where there were eight developers in there. Someone asked this random guy who I've never heard of, at least up to that time, now I know who he is, asked them, “Why did you start learning to code?” And that person said my name. And I'm like, wait, what? [laughs] This is crazy. It's crazy seeing what you can do through creating content. And people think of it as just showing off. Okay, I do love talking. I do love talking. I'm not going to lie. I love talking about myself, but it's not just that, though. They don't realize the outcome of how many people you could potentially help. And I really think it's important for all the people that do this, like what you're doing now, because all I'm doing is sharing my struggles. That's all I did.

Chris Bowman: Yeah, same thing. When I post on Twitter my successes, I post just as many of my struggles. And if I've got anxiety -- like I just started a project four weeks ago, and I knew going into the weekend before that I wasn't going to sleep. And anxiety is way worse than losing a limb, at least for me, because I could lose limbs all day, but my thinking head, [chuckles] my brain won't leave me alone. So I'll post on Twitter, “I'm not sure. I don't know if I got this.” But other times, I'll post, “It's just copy-paste, man. Anyone can do it.”

Chris Sean: Isn't the support of the community amazing?

Chris Bowman: It is. I know you're a Twitch streamer. I used to be. I find the dev community better than the Twitch, at least the gaming community when I was in it. I couldn't do it. I just couldn't do it anymore. And it works for some people, but to me, I didn't want to be famous on Twitch. My wife and I used to -- back when they had Twitch Sings; I built a stage in my basement with microphones and lighting and all kinds of stuff.

Chris Sean: Wow.

Chris Bowman: And we would do concerts, like two-hour concerts on Fridays. I can play a little bit of bass. I can't play much because of the way my fingers developed, but I would just pretend to play guitar, and I would fool real guitarists. They're like, “You're really playing. You’re really playing in rhythm there,” and I'm like, “Oh yeah, sure. Okay.” [laughs] But yeah, we would sing for my parents, her parents, siblings, some people in the Twitch community, we loved it. It's a nice outlet, but I didn't want to be a Twitch rockstar. I just wanted to enjoy that time with my wife and create content that way. The dev community is a lot more accepting for the most part. So I enjoy it.

Chris Sean: There are some toxic people here in the dev community, but it's not anything comparable to the gaming community.

Chris Bowman: A little gate gatekeeping maybe, yeah. I agree.

Chris Sean: Yeah, a little gatekeeping in the dev community. For example, I’m learning Svelte JS; I have no idea what I'm doing. I have no idea how to install some of these things through the terminal, and people give me a step-by-step guide on exactly how to install something, and it's still so humbling. My imposter syndrome is at its max when I'm streaming, to be honest, but everyone is just so understanding. And I love that. That's one of the reasons I stream. It's just because it's so nice just to talk to people live because when I make YouTube videos, people leave one comment, and that's it. I’ll respond, but they don't respond back. But on Twitch, it's totally different. You're having a conversation with your community, and you get to know them, and it's the best. I'm addicted.

Chris Bowman: Yeah, it's cool. I couldn't have a conversation and sing, but before that, when I would do gaming, it would turn into a chat more than gaming at all. And I really enjoyed it when I got to talk to people and do these kinds of things which I'm very introverted so it was nice.

Chris Sean: It’s nice.

Chris Bowman: It was nice practice to turn on the camera and just start like what we did because we started with a fresh slate. You had a little bit of a bio, but other than that, there was just, let's see where this goes. And I think that's just cool.

Chris Sean: Yeah, I agree. I have a question; in the email when I read, you said you're an amputee up to your knee, just below the knee.

Chris Bowman: Just below the knee.

Chris Sean: And then you said something about your fingers.

Chris Bowman: Yes. I am missing parts of five fingers. To describe it to you, on my left hand, I have a full pinky, a full index finger, and a full thumb. And on my right hand, I just have the full thumb and full index finger, so I've got five full fingers. And then, if you tuck the rest of them, you can see what the rest look like. But they've been like that all my life.

Chris Sean: So how, if you don't mind me asking, how is it just coding with that?

Chris Bowman: Fine. I guess.

Chris Sean: I mean, you don't even notice because you were born that way.

Chris Bowman: Exactly.

Chris Sean: So you don't even notice.

Chris Bowman: Nope.

Chris Sean: Wow. Okay.

Chris Bowman: In high school, -- I'm old enough that typing class was the last year of typewriters.

Chris Sean: Oh wow, typewriters. [laughs] I keep forgetting you're in your 40s now. Okay. [laughs]

Chris Bowman: I think it was 1990 [laughs] I'm at a typewriter, and they’re giving me the home row key garbage, and I'm like, “Look, lady, if you can make this finger that's a half-inch long reach up to the P key or the O, then more power to you but I can't. So just let me do it the way I can do it,” because my first line of code that I ever wrote was 1987.

Chris Sean: When I was born. Wow. [laughter]

Chris Bowman: That's funny. Yeah, ‘86 or ‘87, something like that. We had an Apple IIe, which was big time cool to have a computer at home. PCs at home were not a thing. And yeah, we had an Apple IIe, and my sister and I used to copy basic programs out of magazines that my mom would pick up, so we would just line by line copy out. She would read it to me, and I would type it out. That's how I learned how to type then. So you just make the best with what you got. But I gave up programming instead of becoming the next Bill Gates. I quit doing it for like 30 years, which is I think my greatest professional regret.

Chris Sean: Why?

Chris Bowman: I could be a lot farther along if I had stuck with it since 1986. [laughs]

Chris Sean: That makes sense. Honestly, that's one of my biggest regrets is just not learning to code after school. Honestly, I love gaming as much as I do. It saved me from bullies. It saved me from joining many gangs when I lived in the ghetto back in the Bay Area, that saved me. But if it wasn't for gaming, I know I would have been so much better in school. I was good at math, but I purposely did not care. So I failed because I just cared about gaming. It's so bad. I was supposed to be in honors in writing, and in history, and in math and I'm like, no, you're going to give me too much homework, and I can't play video games. So I purposely failed those classes just so I could play video games. [laughs]

Chris Bowman: Just so that you could play video games.

Chris Sean: Exactly. But I do regret that because as much as I don't care about a degree, I don't need one; I do wish I went to school because I would have been better at writing, which helps a lot. I would have had better vocabulary, which helps a lot in communicating. But at the same time, I am thankful for the journey that I've been through because it made me who I am today.

Chris Bowman: Exactly. No matter what, you got to pick a path. If you learn something from that path, then I think it's worth it. As I mentioned before, I've been married now three times, and I am actually a decent husband here on my third one [laughs] at least according to my wife, according to what she says, this isn't just me talking. But yeah, that's how you learn. You learn how to handle people; you learn what kind of people you can deal with, what kind of people you have in your bubble. As we talked about before, you just got to go for it and see what happens. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don't, but usually, you learn something.

Chris Sean: That literally is it. Man, Chris, thank you for being on here.

Chris Bowman: Oh, I am honored to talk to you, man. I've been trying to get your attention for years.

Chris Sean: Oh man, you should have messaged me. Don't tell me you did, and I didn't respond.

Chris Bowman: I figured you get enough.

Chris Sean: No, please message me. I wish you messaged me years ago, honestly. Any last words you want to say?

Chris Bowman: Just as far as anyone who's listening who's got this far, whatever it is you're trying to do, as I said before, you got to play the hand that you're dealt. My aunt told me one time, “There is no good life, there is no bad life; there is just life, and it’s there for you to live it.” So do that, take those chances, see how far you can go. Level up your character so you can do some end-game stuff.

Chris Sean: [laughs]

Chris Bowman: That's important. Do the end-game stuff, man.

Chris Sean: And where can people find you?

Chris Bowman: I'm on Twitter @GrouchyTechGuy. If someone's interested in the outdoor stuff that I do and amputee-related stuff, I'm on YouTube at Amputee Adventure, all one word.

Chris Sean: I love that name.

Chris Bowman: Yeah. So please feel free to check them out and if anyone follows me, send me a DM. Believe it or not, I don't get a whole lot, so I'm always free to talk. And if I can help out in any kind of way with my story or with some advice or whatever, I am always open to doing that.

Chris Sean: Awesome. Everyone needs to follow Chris. He is amazing, has an amazing first name, but more than anything, amazing story, courage, and just the fact he never gave up. Despite what the world may have thought that amputees or people who have a disability can or cannot do, you're proving them wrong.

Chris Bowman: Yeah, let me say real quick people who are on disability we tend to think that our disability is a prison, and it can be physical or mental disabilities, but mentally it feels like a mental prison, and you feel like that you're just going to be stuck that way, and it doesn't have to be that way. My passions are different than everybody else's; you got to find your own. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Chris Sean: Exactly. Awesome. Thank you, Chris, for getting on here.

Chris Bowman: You're welcome, man. Thanks for having me. It's an honor, and I look forward to talking to you again.

Jonan: Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. You can find the show notes for this episode along with all of the rest of The Relicans podcasts on therelicans.com. In fact, most anything The Relicans get up to online will be on that site. Right now, we're running a hackathon in partnership with dev.to called Hack the Planet, where we're giving away $20,000 in cash prizes along with many other fabulous gifts simply for participating. You'll also find news there shortly of FutureStack, our upcoming conference here at New Relic. We would love to have you join us. We'll see you next week. Take care.

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