I relocated to my native country of Greece–where I grew up and received my foundational humanist education–and thusly, my 15-year life & career in the United States shifts to the memory box. As always, at the conclusion of any project or life experience, a comparative appraisal prepares me for the future.
While reviewing my ulyssian travels over the past 15-something years, I came to the realization that most things I have accomplished are despite my being Greek, and largely attributable to the kindness, generosity, and/or capitalist self-interest of the American people. (And yes, I’m very disturbed with the current state of American affairs.)
From my public high school’s Computer Science teacher (Emilia T.) refusal to write me a recommendation letter for American colleges, on the basis of “I can’t be complicit in the exportation of Greek talent to the US” on the basis of her own political beliefs, to the Greek Consulate of San Francisco that has NEVER answered their phone or email;
from the 2008-era Greek Ministry of Education which still owes me and MZ €5000 for software we wrote back then to make the Greek Computer Science Olympiad easier to manage (after I ranked 1st in said competition for 3 consecutive years), to officials of the Greek Computer Society who reallocated our pre-Internarional Olympiad training camp budget so he and his wife could fly first class…
BEING GREEK more often than not has been an obstacle.
The exceptions in Greece can be counted on one hand. I am eternally grateful to Mandoulides Schools (and K Mantoulidou in particular) for giving me a scholarship, and enabling me to study in the US, despite my family’s inability to pay or provide guidance on that.
I am eternally grateful to Janet Alexander and my professors at Grinnell College who were a home away from a home I never had (SamR, B French, and JD Stone come to mind).
I’m eternally grateful to my supervisors/investors at Google, and Yahoo!, and YCombinator, and OpenAI (despite their numerous moral shortcomings) for giving me a chance and believing in me, despite my numerous shortcomings.
I’m eternally grateful to the numerous friends I made in Grinnell, New York, and San Francisco who tried hard to overcome our cultural differences and bridge our gaps, to the numerous friends that helped me move between apartments, and hosted me in between my haphazard travels, and offered a metaphorical shoulder to cry on. (Christine G, Michelle F, Oliver C, Ryan L, Matt D, Megan G, Tighe, Julie S, Katerina K, PJ P, Kostas P & Christina A and countless others come to mind.)
I have returned to Greece, hoping to adapt and enshrine some of the Silicon Valley teachings in the Greek commerical and social mindset, hoping to make it easier and more profitable for future generations of crazy ones, misfits, rebels, troublemakers, round pegs in square holes–for the future generations of the ones that see things differently to push Greece forward, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change a country, are the ones who do.
It will be difficult, but I am now at the advantageous position of deeply understanding a multitude of different culture, having lived and worked in many different locales over the last 15 years.
And for my future biographer: when you write a book about me–hopefully entitled “The Allen Funt Show: a boy of no land”–don’t you ever dare mince your words about the pain of having an abusive relationship with your homeland. Or else, thou shall face my full, unadulterated, and laser-focused wrath.