Category Archives: Meta

38: Share the ease

A weekend birthday! So no headache-inducing overly-exhausting solo birthday hike for me this year. Instead, the three of us went to the Rhododendron Gardens, which I somehow have never been to in my 14+ years in Portland. Absolutely lovely, despite the 4-year-old whining about how she was hungry and needed another snack (no, not that snack) about 80% of the time. Looking forward to going back and exploring again, maybe soon — some of the rhodies are done for the year, but a ton of them are just explosively gorgeous, peak blooms right now. And the waterfowl! We saw a few big-kid ducklings, plus some possible teen ducks, plus some kingfishers, plus some swallows, plus what I might describe as a Canada Goose having a sneezing fit. I’ve never heard one make that sound before.

Usually, around this week, I start getting sort of angsty about what The Theme might be. It can feel so weighty! It can feel so permanent! But no angst this year, and no ideas, really. This is largely what the last year has been: I am finally in the role, career-wise, I’ve been trying to make happen for years. And it turns out: I was right. It’s a phenomenal fit. My team has changed a lot, and I still love it. The work fits my brain well, even though I feel like a fool a lot of the time. I have enough freedom and enough safety that I can focus on thriving, not just surviving. (Do I have off weeks? Of course. Have I had a couple this month? Of course. Nevertheless.)

My mom recently commented that when she asks me about work these days, I sound excited and engaged. (And I am!) A few years back, she asked me what I’d done over the weekend, and after I talked for a while, she said, “do you realize you’ve just given me a list of things you haven’t done?” I realized, in the days and weeks and months that followed, that I did this ALL the time, in all kinds of scenarios. And now, she noted, I tell her what I have been doing. Of course! I’m still in over my head, but I am learning a lot, the work fits my brain better, I relish working independently and with my team, and I have so much more freedom and flexibility. Work is not who we are, but in a capitalist society, it’s often how we spent a LOT of our time. And I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful that I get to spend my work time with people I respect and like, doing things that are doably challenging (mostly), being reminded that the world is in fact full of people who are both kind AND capable.

I’ve also had a year where I’m starting to more tangibly understand what I was told by a practitioner I saw a few years ago. She said that trauma and hard times are awful, of course, but that they give you access to strong medicine that you can’t get any other way. And that sometimes I’d be able to give it to someone directly, and sometimes I’d give it to someone else who would ultimately use it to help someone. (I think at the time I felt optimistic but irritated by this, like, could I NOT have gotten whatever boring secret medicine I have, and NOT have had the trauma?) And also, sorry that happened to you, AND…it will make you a better parent down the road, because honestly, who do you want to talk to when something difficult is happening: the person who’s never really struggled, or the person you know went THROUGH it?

This year, I’ve been starting to learn about the medicine I hold. It’s not a magic bullet, but multiple people this year have told me that I gave them exactly what they needed, when I really just thought I was saying “obvious” things calmly and emphatically. What is obvious to you is not necessarily obvious to other people. Sometimes your “obvious” is someone else’s shred of hope.

I’ve also started piano lessons again, for the first time in what I think was 23 years. (I studied for years as a kid. How many years? No idea.) I had my first recital as an adult last Sunday, after six months of lessons, and got to listen to two friends (and be heard by them, plus Nathan and Astrid, who did ADMIRABLY for her first “real” recital/concert as a non-baby/toddler). Utter treat; can’t wait to do more. And I also started bouldering (climbing at the rock gym, no ropes) a couple months ago, mostly because we took Astrid and then I got envious and then I went “hmm, I feel like that feeling is telling me something.” And now I get to hang out with another friend or two in a new context, too.

The ways that my job, bouldering, and piano all are sort of in conversation with each other is lovely harmony, honestly.

My struggles, meanwhile, are a little the same, a little different this year. Quieter, I think. Mostly I don’t want to talk about them until I am making progress, or have solved them, which I don’t particularly think is a great strategy, but I DO think is what I’ve gone back to lately. I’ll tell you this one, though: I am stumped on a theme for the year. I have a longer list of candidates than ever before, and a few of them twinkled, and I feel like I’m just throwing a dart at one. But it does, eventually, feel better to make a decision.

37: Cheers to a little frustration

30: Be the conductor
31: Follow the fear
32: Plant the seeds
33: Completion is freedom
34: One thing at a time
35: Bigger follow-through
36: Protect the fragile and unruly

37: Cheers to a little frustration

Oh man. Listen. I went on another birthday hike this year, and it wore me OUT. I am not in the same sort of headache purgatory that I was last year, but I do finally have one (a headache) setting in, and I know I asked a lot of my body today, and what I most want is to rest. Mama’s tired, yo.

What’s this past year been about? Getting things unstuck. Really cherishing the sweet spot of “the right amount of frustration.” I have this new theory about this I’ve been called the “bitters theory of frustration.” But it’s me, so why not a little backstory first.

Our kid is now 3. A couple months ago, her daily note from preschool came home with a couple lines about how, at the beginning of the day, she’d come in and said “I need some help with my zipper, because two year olds don’t have a lot of motor skills yet.” Nathan and I looked at each other and laughed, and then went “we really have said ‘motor skills’ to her before, haven’t we.”

It’s a weird thing to say to a little kid, though. And I started thinking about the moments that push me to use more complicated language with her, and realized that it’s when I’m just a little frustrated. Not vibrating with frustration and upset, not perfectly content, just ever so slightly frustrated. Using slightly overcomplex language is a way of very gently trolling a child, which makes me feel like I have any control over the situation, but isn’t outwardly wretched. (It also means she ends up with these vocabulary options that are surprising for her age.)

And then I realized…this is actually true in every part of my life. To return to the “bitters theory,” I like a glass of plain fizzy water. But I LOVE a glass of fizzy water with a few shakes of cocktail bitters in it. But NO WAY am I drinking a glass of plain bitters. The frustration is the bitters, see?

My latent frustration at work, coupled with my relative happiness in my erstwhile role, pushed me to reach out, over and over, to people I liked and admired and respected at work. I asked for help navigating a role change, and information about where their teams were at. They tried things, reached out to their managers, advocated for me. (This has been happening for years, but I picked up the pace this year.) They didn’t always know quite what to do, but the past year has really proven to me that I do make an impression on folks. I kept reaching out, and kept fostering those relationships (something I’ve been wanting to do anyway!). And this spring, one of them was well-timed, and my coworker Cian knew just how to advocate for me, and his upper-level manager confirmed he had perfect timing, and that’s how I’m nearly a month in to a 6-month internal apprenticeship in software engineering. I’m on an especially great team, in over my head with Clojure, in a role that I’ve been trying to work towards for, oh, eight+ years?

Meanwhile, somehow I learned about forest therapy again (inspired somewhat by the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku — forest bathing — but also its own thing), and went on a few guided forest therapy walks. I had this sense that it had something I needed — I was frustrated that I hadn’t found a way to get at certain things inside myself, and once I read about it I went, “oh, I understand now what it is to feel called by something.” (I tried resisting for a while; it consumed me.) There are things I have cracked open for myself by sitting and doing nothing for 20 minutes, or going for an incredibly slow deliberate walk, full of noticing, for a few hours, that feel like they would have taken me years to realize otherwise. And long story short, that is how I’m two months in to a six-month forest therapy guide practicum through ANFT.

Truly, this year I don’t actually feel like letting go of last year’s theme. So I’ll see what I can do to carry it forward. But my newfound appreciation for a soupçon of irritation can’t go undeclared.

36: Protect the fragile and unruly

30: Be the conductor
31: Follow the fear
32: Plant the seeds
33: Completion is freedom
34: One thing at a time
35: Bigger follow-through
36: Protect the fragile and unruly

Where do I even begin this year? There’s the work life, where I FINALLY have a new role on a tiny team, supporting my old team’s department (so, that team plus a few others). Some massive years-long weight has lifted off my shoulders; in the scheme of things, I’m actually pretty excited about what I’m doing.

There’s the home life, where we have a two-year-old who is indeed about twice as old as she was last year. A lot happens in a year, but especially at this age. She’s got a bunch of language now and everything. Her observations regularly have me doing double-takes. She’ll eat every single visible salmonberry if you take her on a hike (the “eating one berry while picking the next one” thing is apparently a dominant trait on my mom’s side). She does everything in her own time; she is cautious and adventurous at once. We work at home a whole lot more, and she’s been around a lot more lately, and everything’s seemed kind of chaotic, you know?

I mean, there’s that whole pandemic we got going on. And then the part where a lot more people are taking a lot more action to declare that Black lives matter, and we have got to stop killing them. That’s a zillion posts in itself, but I’m some well-intentioned white lady, and I see my role right now as (in part) volunteering my money and time, and making space (e.g. shutting up & working to be a better accomplice) for Black leadership to do the work they want and need to do.

And then there’s this ritual. This is the first year I haven’t written this post on my actual birthday. I’ve had an almost superstitious fervor about that in the past, but this year, I took my birthday off of work and went for a gorgeous solo hike in the woods (my second solo hike ever?), and it was precisely perfect…until it went off course. I went to the forest, and I marveled over rhododendrons at the tops of massive nurse logs, at winter wrens perched on top of tiny stags, at the bounty of salmonberries, at the phenomenal power of a good giant waterfall (thank you, Silver Falls), at how generally excellent my fellow hikers were at keeping a responsible distance, at the lushness of the cleavers. It was just right, and then I returned to the car with a tiny headache. No problem! I’ll drink water and take it easy, I thought. I put on some Simon & Garfunkel, then some Wilco, and drove home. I had a very meaningful birthday call with family where I stared at the screen and people said nice things about me, and the headache got worse. I decided it was not actually part of my dogma this year, writing this post before midnight, and went to bed early.

And then the headache stayed until the morning, and I threw everything I could think of at it. Water. Salt. Caffeine. Ibuprofen. Acetaminophen (paracetamol for my non-US friends). Chocolate? Bath? Sleep?? Sleep was the only thing that even touched it. And then I woke up the next day, and it was STILL there. And long story short, almost 48 hours in, I talked to a very kind nurse on the advice line (who ALSO had a horrible time at the hospital where Astrid was born! shocking), and had a very nice visit to urgent care (just in case!), where the NP was sympathetic and unconcerned, and they gave me some drugs, and I went home and still felt awful.

And I woke up the NEXT morning and…felt like I had narrowly avoided a hangover. Not stellar, but headache-free. And then the weekend was almost done, as if turning a four-day weekend into an almost-two-day one was adequate at all.

There is probably a lesson or a greater message in all this. I spent my hike thinking about themes for the year (and talking to trees), feeling truly inebriated on nature and life, and now all I can see is “the body is fragile and unruly, and we just have to do what we can, and help to protect other people’s fragile unruly bodies, too.” I tried to do a meditation of sorts on the way the forest works, the way all kinds of terrible things happen to individuals (like trees) and how they recover, and it’s in recovering that a whole bunch of new possibilities have opened up.

Life has felt like that, little by little, more and more, in the last year. I have been learning new skills, I have been exploring things with more gentle curiosity. The shape of my rage has changed. Did you know that at least 10% of new mothers have PTSD? I mentioned this to my therapist last year, who laughed grimly and said she was certain it’s higher (she’s of the general opinion that PTSD is overdiagnosed anyway, so for her to say this made a hell of an impression). I have only known that I’m one of them for about a year now, and the more I talk about it, the more I find how many of these stories are lurking right around me. I know I will need, or someone will need, what I am building up as a result, but the details aren’t clear yet.

The thing I keep getting stuck on is my utter loathing for moderation. I have two settings, F YES and F NO, and I have spent years wishing that were a dial. Looking at my previous yearly themes, it almost screams this to me.

But I’m kind of stuck on my irritated summation earlier. The more I sit with it, the more I love it. I’m calling it.

34: One thing at a time

30: Be the conductor
31: Follow the fear
32: Plant the seeds
33: Completion is freedom
34: One thing at a time

My birthday is somehow already here again, and as I realized just yesterday, that means it’s time for a yearly review!

(Past years’ entries all have this tag.)

A LOT happened this year, and I’m going to try to keep it short, because while our whole house is currently in a time warp, we’re still striving to get to bed at something resembling a decent hour (and it’s already past that, as I’m starting this…so I’m going to try to not push it too far).

We did manage to get an offer accepted on a house last summer, and while it was a bit of an adventure getting everything sorted (including but not limited to “buying the house a new roof before we closed, because the appraiser wouldn’t sign off on our mortgage until we did”), everything basically worked out in the end. So we have a house! And we live in it! And the house is full of deferred maintenance, so there are lots of things we CAN do, and will eventually want to take care of, but nothing is really urgent anymore. One step at a time.

We’re within walking distance of a bunch of friends, we host a monthly Quiet Reading Night modeled after a friend’s erstwhile Dinner For Tired People (a Friday night dinner wherein the expectations were that 1) you might eat soup, 2) you were okay with the presence of cats), we have gardening space, we have a zillion roses blooming right now, and I have my own office (a big win for me in terms of thriving as a remote worker).

Still lifting, and the gym’s just moved to its own new location (not subleasing any space anymore!). I’ve had some really good months recently of practicing moderation and being extra attentive to my form. Although I’m taking a short break at the moment, because also…

We had a baby! Like, real recently. She is 16 days old today. If you follow me on any kind of social media, you haven’t seen anything about this, and that’s been intentional. It’s been nice to share the news with people one-on-one, as we talk to them…although I think we’re at the point where that won’t really last much longer unless we keep deliberately editing her out of everything we post. (Unlikely! We’re big fans of this kid.) She’s been (knock on wood) a blessedly easy baby so far, even though the road to get here was a mess. And we are extraordinarily fortunate to (BOTH!) get several months’ paid parental leave, which is giving us a bunch of focused time as a family of three, and means we won’t need any kind of childcare until the fall. I cannot believe how lucky we are to get that much support from our employers in this country.

I don’t feel like I was as serious about completion as I’d have liked to have been this past year, but the house and baby projects have been percolating for a while now, and it’s kind of amazing to have had them both work out at about the same time.

And then I entirely forgot about the practice of writing this post until yesterday. Very unusual for me at this point, and means I haven’t been mulling over (or fretting over) possible themes for this year. (Another opportunity for completion, not perfection.)

I know I want to be especially intentional about being present this year; the parents we know all stress that these early days go so fast, even if it can seem so slow at times. I know I’d like to spend more time practicing focusing on a single thing at a time (I already know “multitasking” is a crock, but I still split my attention most of the time, especially during work). That goes for work and home, and I’m actually a bit excited to have to work harder to maintain both, because I think it’s likely to focus my attention in a different way.

I could probably say this in a million different clever ways, but keeping it simple seems like an excellent idea.

On to the next thing!

33: Completion is freedom

30: Be the conductor
31: Follow the fear
32: Plant the seeds
33: Completion is freedom

It’s my birthday, which means it’s time for a yearly review and a new theme to carry me forward!

(For previous years’ iterations, see this tag.)

I did indeed plant a lot this last year. Nathan and I got married (it was amazing, I’m so glad we did it, I have no desire to ever do it again, and we still haven’t exactly finished our thank-yous…). I love being married this time, which I expected, but which was also a relief. We went to Iceland for our honeymoon, which I have been describing as “like the moon, with flowers.” We still live in the same wonderful apartment with the same wonderful cat, who got a few teeth out this year, and is a single-fang kitty now.

I started a new role with a new company, and while I am pretty constantly overwhelmed by it, it’s my favorite job ever. I have a supportive team (who are extremely distributed around the globe), and I have the most amazing manager ever. What did it take to get here? It took getting totally fed up, writing a blog post, and sharing it. I mean, I had to do some other things, too, but it was kind of amazing how putting that out in the world really did exactly what I was hoping it’d do. I heard from three people I didn’t know, from companies I hadn’t heard of, and one of them is now my manager. It’s my first remote role, which is part of the overwhelmingness, but I keep finding myself grateful for all the lessons about remote work I learned at my last job. (I had tons of remote coworkers, and we improved our process greatly over time.)

We’re looking for a house (again), which is a bit terrifying in the current market, but unless everything (economically) comes crashing down, this might be our last opportunity to afford something in our neighborhood in Portland (all our close homeowning friends are in this neighborhood, and as a side note/reminder, “homeowner” has the word “meow” in the middle). We have a couple neighbors down the street who bought their houses four and six years ago; the market value on both their homes has about doubled since then. We’ve put in a couple offers which weren’t accepted; one, which was $60+k over asking, was in the middle of a pack of 18. Yipes. And yet. We feel pretty ridiculously fortunate to still be able to chase this dream.

I’ve been having what can most easily be summarized as “health adventures” this year (nothing scary, just frustrating), and my wonderful nurse practitioner suggested I might try seeing a Chinese medicine practitioner. (She’d kind of run out of ideas, and a western specialist she referred me to, after a lot of tests, said the best thing for now is just time.) Said Chinese medicine doctor is the first person who has looked at me without an ounce of surprise through this particular journey. Last week, I summarized this to someone as “western medicine said huh, and eastern medicine said mmm.” I’m taking two herb blends, one in tiny spherical tea pills, one in a foul-tasting powder whose flavor I described as “wrong chocolate,” and getting weekly acupuncture. It is the most positive I’ve felt about my health in a long time.

We’ve continued going to the powerlifting gym (though there was a gym divorce, and we had to pick a gym parent). Newly-split gym is a lot better in most ways, but it’s been much harder for me to track my progress over time. I’m probably better? I certainly have a bunch of muscles I couldn’t see before, which is awesome. I can pick pretty heavy things up. I can give really good piggyback rides to 7 year olds, even up hills or stairs.

I’ve continued building my 750words streak back up (1120 days today!), which feels good. I haven’t been great about writing them in the morning in a while, but I’m still doing them. It continues to be the proof I sometimes need that I can actually stick with things for a long time, even if they require regular effort. I am more likely to write my words than brush my teeth on any given day (and I brush my teeth every day!).

In short, it seems I have, indeed, planted a lot of seeds this year.

There are a lot of spaces in my life right now where I’m disappointed by my own performance, too. I’m not in trouble with anyone, but I know I could do better. I also find myself deeply irritated by the idea that it’s “just impostor syndrome,” and when I hear it, I take it as a signal that someone isn’t actually aware of both my capabilities and my performance. (To be clear, I think there’s a good dose of impostor syndrome going on, too — I just don’t think that’s all.)

In the long interminable space of unemployment, I got a lot better at many things — avoiding cabin fever, setting my own schedule, remembering to eat independent of an outside structure — but since I started my job, a lot of this feels like it’s slipping. I’m respected by my team, but not by myself. My partner’s deeply fond of me, but I’ve been slacking on my end of the bargain. I’m late for everything. I don’t tend to finish projects. I commit to things, then don’t follow through on them. I’m going through the motions, but I’m not pushing things forward. I feel like if I don’t turn my ship around somehow, it’s all going to catch up with me.

I’ve been thinking a lot, too, of how delicately I walk the line between introvert and extrovert. Having all my social contact be up to me (e.g. I have no local coworkers!) has accentuated this in a bigger way than ever before. I cannot be alone all the time — it’s awful — but I get profoundly worn out by being around people constantly for hours (or days, or weeks) on end — it’s awful. May has been social time for weeks on end.

And it’s been hard trying to settle on a theme for the year! I am intrigued by the idea of cultivating a comfort with discomfort. I want to flip “the journey is the destination” on its head, inside out. I am perpetually bothered by the idea of giving 110% percent (or even 100%), but I think I’d be thrilled with 80% or 90%. (Lately it feels more like 30%.)

Ultimately, it feels important right now to be uncomfortable. (I hear a strong echo of 31’s motto here.) I can do that because I’m coming from a place of strength and security. It’s not a dangerous discomfort I’m after — just the willingness to put myself in situations where I might make mistakes or fail (which is still a horrifying thought to me).

There are probably just a lot of ways to get there.

It would make me really uncomfortable to commit to finishing things. That seems valuable. I’m also kind of curious to see what happens.

Let’s do this.

32: Plant the seeds

30: Be the conductor
31: Follow the fear
32: Plant the seeds

For the last couple years, I have written a birthday post that goes over the year a bit, looks forward to the future, and sets a theme. I started doing this thanks to one of my birthday twins, Buster Benson, who’s been doing this for years. I started doing it at 30 and rather like the opportunity to reflect on what’s behind and anticipate what’s ahead. At 30, my theme was Be the conductor. At 31, my theme was Follow the fear, inspired by my sister Inara.

And this year? I have not really been thinking about themes, because I’ve been busy planning a wedding with my partner. This has been pretty awesome, and it has been an interesting thing to have as my primary focus.

I can’t remember what the big three scary things were last year, except for that one of them was applying to the Recurse Center.  I was convinced I wouldn’t get in, but I decided to let them make the decision, and I was awesomely wrong. Aside from my partner Nathan, nothing has changed my life in the past year as much as RC. Well, as long as we’re looking at positive changes.

I lost a lot and I shed a lot in the last year. Two friends in their early 30s died last summer, one quite suddenly and unexpectedly, and one from stage IV breast cancer. 30 and 34. I am smack in between how old they were, how old they somehow still are. They were differently important people in my life, and I am still not totally sure that the world has kept spinning without them.

Going to RC gave me the boost I needed to be sure that I really do enjoy programming. It is something that I will do all day if given the opportunity. It is something I even want to do when I am learning to live with a new layer of grief in my life. I practiced a hell of a lot of resiliency last year, and while I wish that life weren’t ripe with opportunities to do so, that’s not the way things go.

I came back to Portland, interviewed at my old company for a role on the engineering team, and was told I wasn’t a fit. It stung, but I think I’d already grieved most of the loss over the course of the summer. I turned my personal leave into an actual closing of the door, having satisfied my curiosity as to what would happen if I really went for it. It wouldn’t work out, is what would happen. And now I know. Sometimes I can make peace with not being enough, or not being the right fit, even if it’s something I really wanted at the time. I am not sure if this is one of those times, but I’m working on it.

And then we made space for life in those gaps. We got engaged under a tree in Central Park, and we exchanged engagement things (neither is a ring). We came back to Portland. We started going to an amazing little gym, something I’ve been meaning to do for years. We got a niece (I guess legally, Nathan will be Uncle Nathan in three weeks, but I’ve just been calling him that anyway. He’s got a knack with little kids and it’s a joy to see him in that role).

In three weeks, we’ll be married. I have a small amount of complicated feelings about this being my second wedding, but mostly this whole process is affirming to me that this is a terrifically good choice this time. I am engaged with my life, I am engaged with this process, I am doing something big (which I don’t know how to do) with my partner, and we’re having a really good time with it. People keep asking me if it’s stressful, if it’s the worst. Making a guest list was the worst — it taps every stressy part of me (“just rate all the people you know by how much you care about them!!”). Every other part of the process has been a joy.

What’s this year about? Oh boy, if I only knew. It’s about filling in space. It’s about building things where there’s been necessary demolition. It’s about planting seeds and watering the garden. I am seeing a theme here, despite my total belief that there wasn’t one yet.

How shall we put that, then? Plant the seeds. Yes.

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.

On being 30; on being the conductor

Every day, I write at least 750 words on I’ve been doing this for a while now — well over four years, in fact — and just recently tied the ribbons on my 1533-day streak. (It’s a better way to view it than “I finally broke my streak.”) It’s something I take seriously, and it is not something I share.

I thought it would be fun to do something a little different today. Below are today’s words, minus two lines and my metadata, and sans proofreading:

Here goes.

Today I’m completing my 30th rotation around the sun on this weird little blue marble we call home. This has some interesting implications (e.g. contemplation of one’s unavoidable aging, the Saturn return aspect), but mostly it is one of the things I inexplicably love best: a totally arbitrary clean slate, fresh start, opportunity to redefine things.

This sort of clear, defined deadline has helped me do all kinds of things, although at this point I mostly remember the big ones (like when I decided to go vegan, or when I first tried a taste of vegetarianism).

Much of this gets lost in the shuffle, though. It’s easy, today, to say that I feel so fresh and renewed and lo, I no longer care about what other people think of me (and truly, I have been caring a whole lot less lately, which is something I’ve heard from a number of friends about 30). It’s harder to make that last a little longer. What about in a week? What about in a month? What about on my 31st birthday?

I have a really hard time facing things that I think are difficult, even if I logically understand that they’re not. For some reason, this seems easier at these arbitrary cut-offs.

I put off listening to three voicemails from my car insurance company for months, until I finally decided this morning that I didn’t want to start my 30s with their little notification bubble on my phone. So I listened to all of them, going as far back as last December, and they all said exactly what I thought they would, and now I have no notifications on my homescreen.

A little spring cleaning.

I got a bit of extra money a couple months ago, and realized I could pay down the last $1200 or so of my student loans (I dropped out of college, a bit to my surprise, 10 years ago this month. Partial advantage: I left with a bit over $5k in loans, which I’ve been paying off at $58 a month). But did I? Nope. Too daunting. Until today, when I realized I could look up the information and send them the amount to pay it all off. And off it went electronically, and I’m officially debt-free (well, as soon as the payment posts).

These things are not complicated, and they are not difficult, and what’s more, I am entirely capable of doing them independently. The extra push of a birthday just made it seem more urgent (and urgent things are what get done). And suddenly they’re off my plate.

But I can’t wait to do everything important once a year.

There are the important things, too, that I don’t even consider THIS often. I’ve been meaning to fork Buster’s /public directory on GitHub, because I have a long history of adopting habits or rituals he’s made (e.g. 750words, Health Month, 8:36) to great success. I worry, a bit, about not creating or starting things on my own. But one thing at a time.

Buster’s been doing yearly reviews for his birthday for nine years now, starting on his 30th (see for this year’s). This is especially interesting to me because we share a birthday, so the reminder that I could also do this thing on this one magic day usually hits about a day too late. Even today, I’m supposed to be heading out to meet friends to celebrate a little. And instead I’m writing up things here as well.

So I’m issuing a challenge to myself: set down a few big things today, flesh them out over the next week, and consider that to be good enough for this first crack.

This year’s theme: actually, I’m not quite sure. I made myself a list and I’ve been throwing ideas on it today.

I mean, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we (okay, I) accomplish things. Ruminating a lot on the general metaphor of gathering steam, like a locomotive, and looking like you’re doing nothing for quite some time until finally, you push away from the station, and you’re on your way.

I want to be my own conductor this year, and this decade (well, and this life, but I have to start somewhere).

I want to realize that I’m on my own train, and I’m the one fueling it.

If I don’t fuel it, it won’t go.

And if someone or something keeps trying to put out my fire, I need to find ways to block that or put it out.

This is a pretty fine metaphor. (I’ve been thinking about trains a lot lately.)

So okay. The theme for 30? “Be the conductor.”

I think.

And then I’ll work on my /public repository this week. And I will start putting a little more structure into how I conceive of myself (I hope), and how I create my own storyline.

Invocation for new beginnings

It’s best to start quietly.

There’s plenty of time and space for noisy mistakes soon enough.

As I work on building up my code, guitar, and assorted miscellaneous skillz, the aim here is two-fold:

  1. Document the process of learning something new, or figuring something out, so I have a record of my own history.
  2. Blaze a trail for people who will learn the same (or similar) things later.