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2019 in review (bullets)

It’s the end of 2019, and here’s my annual bullets.txt review.

This year, I’m mostly going to write about burnout (recovery).

I don’t really believe in burnout completely, similar to my stance on impostor syndrome. I don’t believe in imposter syndrome because I think what is “normal” should not be a “syndrome” (even though, this year particularly, I have experiences one might put in the “imposter syndrome” category). And I don’t believe in “burnout” as much as I believe in “there are consequences to prolonged stress, which might have a category of symptoms, and I guess you can coin a word for that so you can write about it.” Maybe that’s a thought about language, and how it helps us connect. Anyway.

But I’d like to write out some framing. In 2017 I separated from (and then divorced) the person I was married to for 6 years. In 2018 I poured myself into my job, because that’s an acceptable distraction one can do in American society (versus, say, another “worse” vice) but I ended up in an unpleasant place all the same. I think when I read about “burnout” it sounds too much like an event. My experience was not a single event, but an accumulation of things that are simply difficult. So with that, let’s talk about:

Burnout Recovery Building Blocks

The plan was: quit job – go to RC – find new job + sign offer – bail to South America for a bit – start new job. And I did it! This plan of action took up the winter/early spring of 2019, and laid the foundation for continued burnout recovery.

January: My last day at IOpipe was January 4th. My first day at Recurse Center, to do a minibatch (RC offers this as an option, for both returning alumni and new participants) was the following Monday. I wrote a blog post (and made a song) every day of the minibatch.

I was interviewing during January (continued from December). I wrote about my search earlier this year about the “Changes” incoming. Once I signed the offer from HashiCorp (February), I booked my flight to Colombia (going into March) the next day for a week or so out.

Why Colombia? A friend had visited a permaculture farm/ecohostel and highly recommended it, so I centered the trip around that, as one of the things I wanted in 2019 was to go to Spanish school. I made a kitschy slideshow about my trip, partially to impress a girl back in Philadelphia (it did not go past the first date, lol). I like it, but it’s kinda personal/has feelings in it, so, beware, it might remind you that I’m a person. Also it has a shit-ton of media, so look on mobile at your own risk.

In March I started at HashiCorp, moving from management (with a large dose of individual contributor) back to a solely engineering role. I would not be responsible for other people’s performance, and only mine. In software and in the context of burnout, I think this is a very good move — I interviewed for both management and engineering roles, and I think it would have been a bad idea for everyone involved if I had attempted to manage other people in my burnt-out state.

And here’s what happened: I’ve shipped things! On occasion, things people really wanted/features they were very much looking forward to! I’ve made things easier for my team (falling upon the CI/CD sword, with oodles of help from a new-friend on another team). I’ve been learning a new programming language (Go) which gives me something to dig into, so I don’t feel stuck. A bunch of credit for the job portion of burnout recovery goes to my friend Justin, who introduced me to someone @ HC who listened to me babble about how I felt, and what I needed, and was like “… how does this sound?” This turned out quite well!

I want to say I feel better now, and that this whole recovery plan is working, but I am scared because I felt that way before. But maybe setbacks are okay, and that that’s part of it, and being hard on myself is generally a bad idea?

Let’s pivot and talk about art.

Art & Music

In December 2018, I organized Philadelphia’s first algorave and a corresponding workshop with the amazing, talented, brilliant, digital artist Sarah Groff-Palermo. That’s where I learned the “how” of the livecode approach to composition, and in 2019 I recorded 40 songs, played 5 shows, and formed a band with Sarah Peony.

So, when I think about how I feel a bit unproductive with my computer things I … actually have been making a lot of things? Interesting to see how “what counts” is skewed by judgement.

I also made an effort to see and experience lots of art in 2019 – ranging from small indie theater, to visiting NYC just to see a particular exhibition at a library on electronic music, to visiting the lesbian haunted house.

One of my favorite novels is Eliza and Her Monsters, and it (surprise!) deals with burnout. Some of the counter indicators to burnout Eliza uses are art consumption and nature, and especially towards the end of the year, I put some intentional oomph behind my pursuit of art — visiting Light City in Baltimore to visit my light artist friend with another light artist friend (😅). But truly, looking at the year as a whole, I was doing this all year. Moogfest stands out as a highlight from the spring, as a great music inspiration.

Volunteering

Connecting to something greater than yourself is another component of burnout recovery (that’s from the Burnout book, not from the novel), and also a general life thing, and I put some energy into volunteering this year before I learned this. I volunteered a few times this year at Grace Cafe, which I cannot recommend enough as an accessible, drop-in, direct service volunteering opportunity. They do great work and would value your support. They especially need help in the summer when students (a large portion of their volunteer base) are generally on break.

From spring to fall, I volunteered at Bartram’s Garden Boathouse, spending a few hours on some weekends making experiencing the Schuykill River by boat available to everyone for free. This is an amazing program and I’m really hoping to volunteer again next year.

I also joined the committee for the Philly Dyke March, because they had no one to help them with their website, so it at least has the right dates, etc. now. They’re always looking for more organizer help, so if you’d like to get involved, see phillydykemarch.com for a definition of dyke and how to get in contact. I’m passionate about getting communities to exist off of social media/own their communication platforms, so this is one small way I do that.

In addition to that, I volunteered at a couple one-off opportunities that I’d like to plug/recommend — single day volunteer opportunities are a great way to get in volunteering in a time-boxed way! Philly Free Streets and Love Your Park Day (spring and fall events!).

Connecting to nature is important for burnout recovery/general life, and so I prioritize volunteer opportunities that let me be outside, ideally doing physical work. I have my eye on volunteering with United By Blue, and generally, “cleanup” days are great opportunities to help out.

Projects & Accomplishments

The original theme of the bullets.txt post has wandered over the years and that’s cool, because I can do whatever I want! But I find the things I’ve written above interesting, but also don’t do the punchy “I did This! and This!” that actually does reflect how I felt when I went through my calendar and such to do research for this post.

  • RC Mini ’19
  • First show performing live code at Bleep Bloop, in February, in Brooklyn (possibly Queens? Debatable)
  • Started playing in CatFans with Sarah, and we played our first show together at WITS Northeast (thank you so much for the opportunity, WITS!!), and we played at the Secret Synth Society in August, and at the Synth Spectacular in August as well.
  • Started a new job! Shipped things! My team is cool and I like what I work on (most of the time)!
  • Travel bullet: New York (RC/more), StarCon (Waterloo and Toronto), Colombia (the country), San Francisco for work onboarding, Chicago vacation, Moogfest/Raleigh for music, Playa del Fuego for art and camping, Austin for HashiCorp’s all hands, Argentina for the solar eclipse, Toronto for GDE Summit, Adirondacks for camping and hiking, Strange Loop/St Louis, Boston for a Harry Potter convention, Baltimore for Light City, Kentucky for family, and a European tour I’m currently writing from, which was (is) France, Italy, and Prague. Grateful for roommates who watch my cats 🙏🏻
  • Started organizing monthly(ish) friend happy hours [unofficially] for alumni of Leadership Philadelphia’s Keeper’s program, but a fun, chill, networking (I guess??) thing I run, but mostly, if I get to see my friend co-organizers each time and literally no one else shows up, I am still happy. This, I think, is key for chill organizing.
  • Volunteering at Bartram’s! General volunteering! Volunteering is rad!
  • Joined and quit an LGBT+ cheerleading squad in hopes of combining my athletics with community work. There was some group turmoil and I quit, but made some great friends along the way (and learned how to base stunts!).
  • Health-wise, I had a back injury last year right around the time I realized I needed to make major life changes, which was quite the bummer for wanting to spend lots of time on movement arts during my work-break. I trudged along and tried lots of things, and finally physical therapy after avoiding it, and am now weightlifting (re-joined a gym I left during divorce stress) again and dancing and trying to stay in touch with my capabilities and limits.
  • Started a remote education course in body positivity and eating disorder prevention and intervention, because that’s something that came up late last year in the Vortex of Doom (October to December, roughly). It’s so interesting and the people are all amazing.
  • Played a solo set in December at the East Falls Zine Reading Room, without a visualist. It was so lovely.
  • Started organizing Remote in Philly with Alex Hillman, had our first event that sold out beyond expectation, and I’m so excited about this. Hmm, should probably write more at length here on the blog about it!

Closing Thoughts

It’s been a big ass year my friends!! I also don’t want to forget to mention, since I did write a lot about burnout, of course I’ve been seeing a therapist. I don’t really think I need to say too much more about that.

While I thought that I had a restful 2019 (until I went and did research for this post), I did a lot of stuff you all!! And I accepted help from people who were kind enough to help me! And I try and help other people a bit more at a time, because I think I’m starting to have energy for it, but trying to be aware of my limits. I feel like I’m seeing more friends, and/plus/maybe connecting with them on another level, and it’s so great. I love you all and I wish you the best going into 2020!

Now I’m going to ship this post because it feels way longer and I want it to be in the wild. Away! 🚀

One Reply to “2019 in review (bullets)”

  1. Lots of interesting and cool stuff this year! It seems like you are on the right track in your recovery process. I am very happy to hear that. You accomplished so much, even with your emotional and physical challenges.

    The Sounding Circuits exhibit sounds extra good, I will try to make it up to see that before it leaves. I am also hoping to attend Moogfest this year.

    I am wishing you a great journey in 2020, and that your burnout will be completely in the rear mirror very shortly.

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