I’ve been in a rather dark, pressure-filled place in my journey the past couple of weeks. You can tell, more posts here about my feelings, rather than code. Less posting on Twitter about anything work-related, or anything at all during the work week. The usual “How are you?” is greeted with an exasperated sigh, rather than my usual “Life is awesome!”
It’s something to do with another level I’m trying to attain in my career, a lack of balance, a frustration with not being able to do what I wish I could. Many have tried to help me out of this funk, and just as I start to feel better, another monkey wrench is thrown my way. My medical problems — I can deal with. High blood pressure, take a pill. Leaking protein – take some chemo. Fine. But this general discomfort is hard. I don’t know the end goal, nor the path. I’m horrible at hiding my emotions, so I say things I shouldn’t, things I don’t truly mean. I hope the team knows that.
I enjoy working out of Washington, DC, and have long said that choosing between working with my colleagues by format or by subject matter, would lead me to choose working in person with my colleagues by subject matter. I love the “Washingtonness” of AP. But sometimes, the people I talk to on the phone need to be just a little bit more. I come back from three working days in NY feeling…better. I love seeing them in person, but miss my DC colleagues. In DC, I miss the people in NY. But I’ve always lived in an intersection. After my recent trip, it would be a lie to say my ennui is fixed, but I’m starting to see a path.
I thought I would share some clarifying quotes from my colleagues, who put a bit of a skip back in my step. I think they may be helpful to anyone learning a new skill, in any field.
“At some point, it’s not enough for me to believe you can do it. You must believe you can do it.”
“Perhaps you are frustrated because your potential is not yet matched by your skills.”
“Asking questions about how every line works is an excellent trait for a technologist. But sometimes it’s enough to grasp the big picture, and let the rest come.”
“Are you afraid of failing? Because you haven’t yet.”
“Think of this like school. It just happens to take place in a large global news organization.” (#nobigdeal)
“I have never known you not to find a solution to a problem.”
“If you want to work on the weekend, go ahead. If you want to do something else, do that. You have nothing to feel guilty about for not working outside of work.”
“Side projects are supposed to be fun. If it isn’t, why are you doing it?”
“Why do you refer to learning as struggling? It’s part of the process, no different than before.”
“I know that you don’t see programming as the point, but a means to an end. But you know what? The journey is pretty fun, too.”
“At first, you will just feel like you are copying down code. But it will make more sense.”
“It’s just so hard. (later) I never really learned to code with music, it was just so, so difficult I had to concentrate…wait a minute…like it’s hard now…oh wait, I think I just had a moment of clarity–this is no worse than when I started learning Python! I can do this! Too.”
And my favorite question:
“Do you understand this enough yet that you see how the structure can help you dream up new interactives?”
Not yet. But that day sounds pretty darn awesome. That quote’s going on my desk.
And for the first time in years, on Saturday and Sunday, I didn’t touch a line of code. I gave myself permission to rest. I visited with relatives. I entered a world where my biggest problem was turning down the apple turnover being pushed on me after breakfast. I gabbed with college friends over pickles and corned beef at a NY deli. I rode back to DC, just…thinking. The Capitol building glowed at me as I exited Union Station. I was home, but with a renewed perspective. And it was…liberating.
I’m still in a dark place. I don’t know where all this will lead. I don’t know when I’ll come out of my current funk. I hope that passing on what I do know, inside and outside my organization, may help me feel better. I don’t know how I’m going to meet my own expectations, which I’ve learned, are even higher than those of my workplace. Which is ridiculous — I’m doing well enough for AP, but not for myself. I always have been my own worst critic.
There is no wrap-up conclusion at the end of this post. Just this: I’m in a better place now than I was on Tuesday, before I went up to NY. And maybe for today, that’s enough. Tomorrow? That’s a question I’m not ready to address quite yet.