Report from the land of Brood X. We now welcome our new cicada overlords.

On the recording, you’ll hear some birds, some individual cicadas and then the entire background susurrus is the Brood X horde singing.

They started emerging over the last couple weeks but this weekend they really started swarming. There’s entire tree trunks in my neighborhood coated in them.

I live in an area that hasn’t been touched in decades, lots of old houses with established landscaping. So they’ve just been chilling underground for the last 17 years and at least a few generations have been able to do the same.

Questions for myself

I recently started getting James Clear’s newsletter. In it, he asks a question for the reader to ponder. This week’s was:

“How can I create an environment that will naturally bring about my desired change?”

This is an important question and one that, for me, brings other questions. Most importantly, what is my desired change right now?

My current answer to that is probably: I want to write, study, and read more.

If I take a look around, my environment is already dang well set up for bringing about that desired change. I’ve got an office separate from the rest of the house (huzzah finished attics) and multiple options for where I want to work. Inside, outside, the entirety of my environment is set up for doing good work.

So, why then do I struggle to write, read, and study the way I envision?

Some of it is disorganization. The things I want to work on are in a bit of chaos, spread out over various notebooks and file structures. That aspect is slowly being brought under control as I consolidate digital notes into Obsidian. Physical notebooks are a little harder to rein in. They have an organic flow to them that doesn’t digitize as easily as I’d like. Even so, this is all an active work in progress.

Some of my struggle is related to my the way my mind works, how my brain is wired. Work days leave me mentally tired, usually too fatigued to do much more than eat dinner and watch something. I’m also currently working on this aspect as I look at ways to carve more creative time out of my week. Leaving my phone far from my bed has started improving this considerably.

Some of my challenge is life itself. This aspect doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room. There is laundry to do, meals to cook and eat, and the seemingly endless task of sorting and reorganizing my various collections of stuff. This last continues to be a source of stress, both in finding time to do the sorting and in deciding what things I can truly let go of, regret-free.

All in all, this whole question of creating an environment that will naturally bring about change is a difficult one. I can see where I’ve set some things up to help facilitate change, but I honestly don’t know how “naturally” that will ever occur for me. Maybe accepting that the changes I want will not happen naturally is part of the work I need to do. Accepting that I’ll have to work for the changes I want in my life is okay. As is accepting that they will not happen as quickly as I’d like.

I’ll just keep showing up and working to manifest them and maybe one day I’ll turn around and the path behind me will look natural after all.

My 2020 tech job search play by play

This was such a stressful process because I had no idea when I would be furloughed. There was no set date and client budget and priorities kept changing. There were a lot of unknowns, but at least I was still getting paid.

Additionally, holy shit tech job interview processes are hell. I mean, I knew this from previous experience but it felt more intense this time. I was working 40 hours plus juggling upwards of 10 personal and technical interviews a week along with the back and forth emails to get them scheduled. Plus take home code challenges on the weekends and some evenings.

In short, I would not have gotten through that without Trello, a calendar app, and shutting everything else down. I have a lot of wonderful, challenging catch up work to do.

The pluses of all that work though was that:

  • I was in demand for the first time in my life.
  • I got to see a ton of different interview styles and patterns.
  • I learned that I really prefer take home challenges and panel style interviews over pairing/whiteboards and a string of single person interviews.

I was rejected most of the time, mostly because I wasn’t up to snuff on algorithms. On the other hand, I actually rejected a few companies for the first time in my life. I got to learn about a lot of different industries and company structures. I also got to interview with Disney, but wasn’t upset about that rejection. It was a bad skill fit.

The end result? An emotional rollercoaster over the last week, particularly the last 2 days.

There were two companies who I really liked and where I had made my way through to the final offer stage. One (a consultancy) was going to be another week or so to final offer. The other (a startup) gave me a verbal offer on Monday, set to finalize on Friday.

The startup had me meet with the founder and scheduled the final offer chat. On Thursday afternoon, I was planning to accept the offer. I was happy with it and ready to sign on the dotted line. Then the consultancy opened door number two, asking if I had other offers or if they should see about accelerating their process.

I replied that I had indeed gotten an offer, but I was still very interested. What kind of acceleration was possible?

They accelerated. FAST. Like, within a couple hours and not with information but with an offer. I would get details in the morning.

It’s familiar territory. I can start there with confidence. But was I concerned about being pigeonholed as a consultant? The startup was still very attractive. The offer was going to be the deciding factor. Sort of. Along with a lot of talking things over with my family.

The offer came in the next morning (actually, there were weird glitches in the matrix all day Thursday and it had come in the night before but didn’t land in my inbox until the morning, but I digress). It was stellar. Hands down better than the startup. I was still undecided for a few reasons. There was a lot more talking through things.

In the end, I surprised everyone, including myself and my family, by taking the consultancy gig. Money and benefits weren’t the only factor. I also gelled considerably better with their founder and leadership. I’m likely pigeonholed in consultancy work, but tbh I’m 45 and I really don’t think I give a shit about that. It’s good, stable work that I know well. That’s an asset rather than a detriment from here on out.

At the end of the day, this process was a massive confidence boost. I know where my skills sit amongst my peers’. I know where my gaps are, but I also know that my approach and skills are really valuable in this industry. I’ve never been called “amazing” so many times in such a short period. I’m still processing that, but also taking it as a mandate for my next steps. It’s difficult to maintain imposter syndrome in the face of all that. 😀

I’m going to step into this new opportunity with joy.

A small anecdote

Lately I’ve been watching a spider spin her web every morning on my walk. I live on a big enough piece of property that I do my walks here rather than travel because pandemic. Anyway, this spider redoes her web at least once a day (often twice) and I got to thinking. She doesn’t give up on the web just because it got wrecked. She keeps going, each time a chance to rebuild it stronger, or tighter or better connected to the branches or what have you. That in turn got me thinking about how I need to work on my confidence and habits and other things I want to change about how I move through and act on the world.

I never had a ton of confidence in my abilities as a programmer. A few years ago that little bit of confidence was actively wrecked by a guy I work with gaslighting the whole company (myself included) into thinking I should probably be fired. I actually really liked a lot of this job, I didn’t want to leave. Of course I started looking for a different position, but now I was totally behind the eight ball because I had literally no confidence I was worth hiring. I’m grateful that in the end we reorganized and was assigned a new boss who listened to me and helped me keep my job. Fixing the even deeper confidence problems I was left with has been an uphill climb over the last year and I’m nowhere near back to where I was (which wasn’t enough to start with, considering my skill level).

But that spider has shown me that just because things might seem futile, like an unending battle where I keep falling down forever, each time I needlessly apologize or feel bad about the code I’ve written or feel overwhelmed, it’s a chance to build myself stronger. Next time maybe I won’t apologize, maybe I won’t feel stupid for not seeing the answer myself when it’s shown to me. I’ll learn new techniques, I’ll train myself to spot my repeated mistakes, I’ll won’t apologize.

My web will get stronger.

Mornin’

I’m folding again after a weekend of too high temps in my workspace. I just didn’t want to put poor Weathertop through that. The current process looks like it’ll take 2.3 days. I’ll check on that later to see if the timeframe has shortened. Is folding like bittorrent?

Had lovely weekend that’s brought some inner work to the fore. My current schedule is great and I want to keep it great, but there’s some work that I want to do that’s not getting done. My main focus right now is keeping that internal pondering going, keeping the door open for answers to a couple questions.

The new normal is still shifting far too much to predict anything and I find myself being in the moment far more often than not. For someone who’s struggled with burnout and putting too much pressure on myself, this is a very welcome change. Yes, despite everything.

Today so far, I’ve read about the return of the community cookbook, did my Duolingo for the day (I made Sapphire league yesterday!), and opened the window to get some fresh air.

I’ve got a lot of day job work on tap and then we’re celebrating May The Fourth Be With You in my house this evening. Which I always want to respond to with “and also with you”.

Best get to that then. Hope you have a good day. Stay safe, and not just in your body, but in your heart and mind, too.

 

A personal body hack

We’ve been doing an experiment on me and my autistic, unfocused brain. Things were getting desperate last year with my depression and general mental health. Some of this was related to where we lived, but many of the symptoms were simply worse versions of what I’ve been suffering with most of my life.

My dear ones, whom I trust implicitly and literally with my life in this case, did the research and came up with a supplement, but we agreed I wouldn’t know what it was in order to eliminate any expectations I had about the effectiveness.

I had suspicions about what it was, but went along pretty happily for the next couple months. There were subtle improvements over all, but the most significant was a much less drastic and awful menstrual cycle. I have PCOS, so this is a massive, important change.

Then our move happened and they had trouble locating the supplement and I went off it for a little. It was bad. It took a couple weeks to feel the effects of not having it in my system and then, once we found the supplement again, a couple more weeks to work it into my system again.

After a round with that supplement back into my system, they did a bit more looking around since the original was difficult to source locally and told me they found a new supplement that included the original but also had the potential to be even better. I said yes to this one as well, again keeping it a secret from myself.

Cut to a month later and I’ve been feeling like something is very different. Yesterday I had a little time to think and realized that what I have been feeling is a clarity that I have literally never had before. There’s no background noise in  my mind. I’m only thinking about what I choose to think about instead of being bombarded with random, chaotic thoughts.

It’s so foreign to me that it took me a couple weeks to understand and recognize what is going on. It’s pretty life altering. I am now starting the process of relearning how to think about things, how to write, how to be creative, how to move through the world in what feels, from my past experience, like a zen state all the time.

I’m grateful for the experiment because it means I have confidence I’m not just convincing myself this is working. I’ll double down with the fact that the change was so unexpected I never could have imagined it and to me that verifies the efficacy of this supplement for me.

I’m now using Host Defense. As with anything like this, ymmv and see a professional.

Let the relearning begin.

Don’t forget to breathe

“When you were little, you were so carefree. But these last few years, more and more, it’s almost like I can feel you holding your breath… You get to exhale now, Simon. You get to be more you than you have been in… in a very long time. You deserve everything you want.” – Emily in “Love, Simon”

This morning when I woke up everything felt tight, strained. I’m 43 and that means that things have indeed started to hurt more in odd places, but this was more than that. I felt clenched.

I turned to a guided meditation on my phone. It helped a little, enough to get the ball rolling in making me see where the clenching was coming from, or so I thought. I was looking at how stressed I’ve been lately for various reasons.

I can feel the burnout creeping in around the edges, enough that it might start effecting my work. I can taste it on my tongue and feel it in the way I interact with the word. I knew when I signed off for the day I needed to unplug for a day or so, at least from writing code and wrapping my mind in those logical thoughts, useful as they might be.

I lit some incense, took a deep breath, and started to unclench. Then the noisy neighbors came home and wrecked the mood I had so tentatively started to foster. Fine then, I’ll just watch a movie, right?

I had heard about “Love, Simon” from a friend and they were pretty passionate about it. All I knew going in was that it was a teenager’s coming out story and I was guaranteed a happy ending, which is so welcome right now.

I liked the characters, enjoyed the soundtrack, and was very much appreciating the whole thing. And then I got blindsided by that bit of dialogue above. In the moment I didn’t understand why, but I started crying. Okay, sobbing is more like it.

The words are what the mom, Emily, says to her newly outed (by another student, not by choice) gay son. A little while later, the dad says some similar kinds of things. I could not stop crying. It’s been a half hour since the movie ended and I’m still crying.

In my spiritual tradition (as much as what you can what I do a tradition) we call this kind of experience a “heart opening”. Something comes along and just breaks you wide open and the feelings are overwhelming and intense and beautiful, if a bit painful as well.

I realized how much I needed to hear those words. In that moment I realized how much I, too, have been holding my breath. Unlike Simon, though, it hasn’t been four years. it’s been more like thirty-four.

I’m queer, this isn’t news to most and definitely not news to me, but my parents don’t know. I don’t have a partner. They’re conservative. I know they would still love me if I told them, but they wouldn’t get it, I don’t think, just how like they don’t get that I’m on the autism spectrum, though I have at least tried to explain that.

They don’t know about my spiritual path or lots of other small, personal, fragile things about me, either. Being exposed to them for the better part of the day yesterday left me feeling both tired and wired. Nothing was wrong, we had a nice time, actually, but I felt that gap between us, that secret. I was holding my breath all day.

This movie hasn’t made me suddenly want to tell them. I’m not planning all of a sudden on coming out. It has made me, however, realize that I hold my breath a lot. I have all this tension just balled up in a tight coil inside me. It’s not just my queerness, my spirituality, my personal beliefs. Not just being afraid of the world we’re living in and how it all feels so wrong.

It’s about how I’m approaching things, too. I’m not finding enough joy, or making my own. I’m not taking care of my health, spiritual, physical, mental or otherwise. I’m clenched all the time, with fear and nameless (and named) anxieties. I’m not resting enough.

I’m not breathing enough.

I don’t know what the next step is from here. I’m open and raw right now and that’s okay, it’s good. I vaguely was aware that there was a barrier up around me and it’s wrecked now and that’s good, too.

As Robert Fripp once wrote, “It is necessary to know the next step, but not the step after that.” My own “next step” was to sit down and write these words, to get it down on the page and find the connections.

There’s more digging to do, as well. I’ve got unreconciled feelings of something that might be regret, but it’s waiting for now. I also know that the world will do it’s best to come creeping back in, the good and the bad and that the intensity of these feelings will fade and it’s very possible I may even forget that this evening even happened. I like to hope not, though and to also hope that I can start building from here.

Is it strange to say that I wish any of you reading this a similar experience? It’s not fun, it’s not one of those “nice” feeling things. There is a chance though that it can be very healing and will do more good than harm when you recognize it for what it is. You may even feel like yourself again, though a slightly different version, when you come out the other side.

It’s not too difficult to start. You can begin by taking a nice, slow breath…