31: Follow the fear!

30: Be the conductor
31: Follow the fear

It’s new-number time! And time for a new yearly theme, too. It was pretty awesome thinking about being the conductor as I rode through the age of 30, and I’m looking forward to this new number. 30 was perhaps my favorite year so far, in a lot of ways, though it wasn’t without its hard parts.

The past year has been pretty intense, really. A lot changed, and much of that change was instigated by me. I could list those changes out in bullet-point fashion (and I did, for myself), but it boils down to “stop doing things that make you unhappy” and “start or keep doing things that make you happy.”

This is, unsurprisingly, easier summarized than done.

I moved for the first time in over four years, which would have been intense enough if it involved just the old apartment (which I loved). I haven’t lived anywhere for longer than that, except the house I grew up in, and it was a bit scary to give up the physical roots I’d come to depend on. I’m hoping to put down some new ones in the next year, but for now, I’m making peace with a little more flux. The storm before the calm.

And, of course, it’s much more complex than that. That choice and that moving-time chapter represented the end of a number of different dreams. It was stressful, it was sad, it was hard, and for the cherry on top, it coincided perfectly with a really tough time at work. Emotionally, summer sucked, and fall sucked, too.

But even now, looking back, I am certain that it was the right thing for me to do. And so I made big scary choices, and I’m finding myself a lot happier and calmer for having done so.

I kept going to therapy, which I’d just started a year ago on my own. I’ve been talking pretty openly about it with friends, and a number of them have come to me with questions as they think about how it might help them in their own lives. I’m honored to be trusted by people who I admire so much, and I’m proud of them for being proactive about their overall well-being. I really believe that everyone who has the opportunity to do so should think about doing some therapy from time to time, even (especially!) if you think that everything’s more or less okay right now. It’s like a check-up, and it establishes a useful baseline if things DO get harder later.

I wish I had done it way, way sooner, although it was financially a scary prospect a few years ago.

I’ve had a rollercoaster of technical learning at work, from official on-schedule time doing Python with our ops team (outside of my usual support role), to nothing, to learning outside of work with one of our data team members (and independently). Teachers are important, but so are noisy advocates. I’m really glad to have a coworker who’s good at both, and I’m looking forward to seeing what doors we can open this year.

My partner and I camped and hiked and hiked and camped. We have camping gear now! We use it! I’ve been spending so much more time outside in the past year than I ever, ever have before, and I am so much happier for it. We even started running again (neither of us has run in years), and we ran our first 5k together in April.

I’ve never used the word “partner” with as much intention as I do these days. With him, I feel like I have superpowers. I feel so much more capable of taking on things that seem impossible; a lot of it feels like magic, but I can articulate a lot of the individual components. We’ve talked a lot about how the stories we tell ourselves can be so critical to our future actions. Part of our story is that we always talk about everything, so I never have to wonder whether or not I should bring something up. I just do. And it is stunningly easier than it’s ever been, and words keep turning into action. I am regularly amazed by the ways in which we support and encourage each other.

We’ve been looking at houses, which is fun and scary in turns. We live in an amazing apartment, which makes the hunt seem much less daunting. (The housing market, for its part, makes it seem much MORE so.)

And I’m looking into how I can support my own growth as a programmer. Learning to program is something I’ve been fitting into my schedule in fits and spurts — right now I get up early most weekdays, come into work early, and work independently or with someone else. I told myself a year ago that I’d be in a programming role by now, and I was wrong. I still know it’s work that excites me, but it’s hard to make much progress with that little time. So I’m working on being creative about how I approach this. Is that vague? Absolutely. More clarity as I build it.

For this coming year, I’m taking a page out of my older sister Inara’s (metaphorical) book (although she’s going to have a real one out before long): follow the fear.

I’ve heard her give this advice — when you find something that scares you, go after it — and I’ve seen her live this advice. We’re a northwest family, mostly. And she and her husband sold their Portland house and moved across the country to Iowa a few years ago so she could go work on an MFA. They’ve been back in Oregon this year, but they’re about to move right back to Iowa for a new job at her university. It’s far away from everyone…and it’s as though this opportunity was tailor-made for her. I am certain she’s going to be an incredible professor; her future students are so very fortunate. For my part, too, I’m grateful to have a sister that inspires me to think of huge challenges as possible.

There are a lot of things I want to do this year, and all the interesting ones terrify me. I can think of three big scary things I’m excited about, and I hope to report back next year with “yeah, and I did all of them.”

Thanks, 30, and I hope your new neighbor is just as awesome.