Pregnant While Working in Tech: Part 1 – HCG and PHP

I’m overjoyed to share I’m expecting a baby girl this December! It was hard to keep the secret for so long πŸ™‚

I went into pregnancy with some sense of what the journey would be like, but no guidance on how to manage it while working full-time. I had no role model of a Mom working in tech, so I have found myself transforming into someone unfamiliar.

In Part 1 of this blog post series, I share the first months of my experience, in the hopes of contributing to the effort of making motherhood journeys amidst careers (particularly, in tech) more transparent and providing stories others may relate to in the beginnings of pregnancy. I am humbled by how much still is left to learn, because I’ve already learned so much even before baby has arrived.

From HCG (the hormone a newly formed embryo releases, to signal to the body to prepare for pregnancy — this is the hormone pregnancy tests detect) to PHP (a programming language I’m not familiar with and don’t particularly like, which I needed to use during this time) these were some really challenging weeks.

Note: While this post mostly refers to experiences in my first trimester, it also follows the beginning of my second trimester. My pregnancy symptoms were fairly similar in weeks 9-16 (the end of the trimester and beginning of the second trimester).

Remote work was a huge help, especially in the beginning.

It is impossible to separate this experience from the COVID-19 pandemic. My pregnancy began during a time when vaccinations were scarce and just starting to open up beyond health care works and the elderly. By the end of my first trimester, states were fully reopened and entering people into cash lotteries to incentivize vaccination. What this timing meant for the vulnerable first phase of pregnancy was that my job continued to be almost 100% remote with only vague discussions about partial or full returns to the office. This was an enormous relief.

At the time of writing (27 weeks pregnant, about two thirds of the way through pregnancy), I am still working almost entirely remotely.

If I had never worked remotely, I imagine I wouldn’t have thought twice about being pregnant while working in an office vs. from home because I wouldn’t have known another option. But having experienced pregnancy in the comfort of my home, it is so hard to imagine doing this (particularly the first trimester) in person. I was fortunate to have not too many symptoms, but my fatigue was crushing even into my second trimester — I felt like I was on some kind of allergy medication that makes you drowsy. I was in a fog and did not feel like myself.

I managed to do my work, but it took everything I had to get through the day. I made the most of my good spurts of energy (usually in the morning), but afternoons in particular were tough (not being able to have a second coffee was rough!) It was helpful to have just brief interactions and to be able to, for example, take a moment to read an e-mail or article while lying on the couch rather than sitting upright at my desk.

Imposter syndrome and the early weeks of pregnancy are a brutal combination.

The inability to focus or do work that stretched myself (easy, tactical work was generally OK) was a particular problem working in tech because imposter syndrome for women in tech is already a huge challenge.

Imposter syndrome is the feeling that — even when qualified — one feels they do not belong in a certain environment (mainly, referring to careers). It is particularly common for women and other underrepresented groups in industries like tech. There are many discussions of this issue out there, such as this TED-Ed video to start: What is imposter syndrome and how can you combat it? – Elizabeth Cox)

Starting as soon as I encountered programming and computer science in college, I’ve had many moments of feeling I don’t have what it takes to be in this career. With almost a decade of experience under my belt, I am now better able to evade those thoughts by reflecting on my accomplishments objectively and taking time to sharpen my skills when I’m feeling rusty; self-doubt still comes from time-to-time, but I have more practice squashing it.

However, during the first trimester, I lost my ability to manage self-doubt. From my perspective, I was doing everything poorly even if no one noticed I was slipping. Working remotely, I probably was able to hide how difficult working full-time was for me. On one hand, I was so frustrated with myself, on another hand I was too exhausted to care at all.

My tolerance for challenge was so limited, in a field where you are told an integral part of your job is to have the endurance to work systematically through problems. A stretch assignment at work that I continually got stuck on crushed my self-esteem.

Catastrophizing things further (naturally, since I had so many hormones running through my body!) I felt like the ultimate failure because I had made it so many years into a tech career as a woman. I had spent time mentoring others over the past years (encouraging them to stay when they felt overwhelmed or doubtful), and having done that felt like even more of a fraud for thinking of leaving (and contributing to the problem of few women in tech).

On one hand, I felt ready to quit. But the wiser part of me knew that was not what I wanted — and not just due to guilt about lack of women in the field. I thought: How awesome would it be to have a brilliant, confident coder Mom? That would be such an amazing example to my daughter and other children. I can only think of one kid I went to grade school with who had a programmer parent, and the parent was the father. To this day, I don’t even personally know a programmer Mom (I only know some online).

I also felt, more generally, that giving up on something I have worked so hard for and enjoyed would be a bad example to my daughter. So, sticking with things then became one of my first tasks as a parent: to follow through with finding fulfilment in my work.

This isn’t to say I am committing to never leaving the field. There may be a day when I decide — as others do all the time in various fields — it is no longer for me, and that is perfectly OK. But I didn’t want my exit from it to be due to these intense feelings of self-doubt working in a state where I physically wasn’t able to perform as well.

I would just need to wait it out until I could see myself more clearly, to believe in myself fully again and have the mental capacity to think about steps for how to boost my confidence and get back to the joy of creating things. And it did get better (more on that later).

I accepted that I would need to adjust my goals and lifestyle, and found some ways to pass the time.

Letting go of the need to make progress and have my usual mental clarity and energy was tough, but I was eventually able to do it. I needed low brain power activities to pass the time, which would make me feel good and could sometimes be productive.

One of the hardest parts of this time of pregnancy was that I spent so much of my limited energy on work, and then by the time work was over I was ready to crawl into bed. It felt like my life just alternated between work and sleep. There was no energy for the usual things I enjoy, so there were no activities to serve as gaps between work and sleep where I could have different experiences and regain a sense of self (I’m sure I will encounter this sensation again soon when we have a newborn in the house!)

There were a handful of activities I felt up to, which cheered me up and helped pass this time:

  • Audio books
  • Game Boy games (Pokemon)
  • Mobile games (Pokemon and Clash of Clans)
  • Texting friends and family
  • Watching pregnancy and Mom vlogs on YouTube
  • Going through pregnancy mobile apps (The Bump, Flo, PregnancyPlus, and WomanLog)
  • Yoga when I felt up to it

Communicating what I was going through was a huge help.

Lastly, connecting with other expectant parents has been a huge help. In the virtual yoga classes I have been taking, there is a check-in phase where everyone goes around and shares how far along they are, how they are feeling, and what they are hoping to get out of the class. Verbalizing what I am going through and hearing what others are going through has been extremely valuable. I am so grateful to have this opportunity.

As the “Part 1” in the post title suggests, there is more to this story. The sneak preview is, I was able to get back into my groove and — while not at peak productivity or confidence — make some small steps along my tech career path. There was also (and continues to be) increased importance in communicating my experience and setting clear boundaries. I also have encountered new professional challenges the closer I get to my due date. Stay tuned for Part 2!

How to Emerge a Better Version of Yourself After a Big Project

Last month (March 2021), the exhibition I’ve been working on at my day job opened to the public. I have been part of this team since 2017. It was an awesome and rewarding experience that gave me so much confidence in my abilities and demonstrated how my love of technology and art can work together.

Now, a couple weeks later, I find myself both tired from the push to complete it and feeling lost:

  • I have ideas for things I want to learn and work on next…but I’m tired and unmotivated.
  • I can function at my day job…but I can’t imagine doing the kind of various side projects I was doing a few months ago.
  • I have rested (both mentally and physically)…but even after what feels like “a lot” of rest, I haven’t felt quite rested enough.

This has all gotten a little better over time.

As I’ve navigated my way through this in-between space the past weeks, I’ve identified 4 things that are helping. I share them here with the hope they might be useful to you, too, and help you emerge a better version of yourself after you complete a big project, program, or other kind of effort over an extended period of time.

1. Clean up the garbage

When you’ve been working on something for a long time, you might put things on hold. When there is so much to do, it is easy to say, β€œI’ll think about that in X weeks, years, etc.” But what happens when that comes?

When first I joined this project, I was working on making a career transition by studying JavaScript in my free time. I was in a sort of jack-of-all-trades web/UI design career identity that did not satisfy me, and wanted to move toward a more focused software development track — that was something that excited me, that I knew was my calling but for many years was too scared to start working toward. Then, when the project started picking up speed, I did not need to study on my own time because I was learning so much on the job and doing exactly the kind of work I wanted (first using JavaScript, then moving to C#). Sounds perfect, right?

Yet, part of my studying a lot was not just learning the skills, but trying to shake a feeling of not being competent or valuable enough in the tech field. I had a sneaking feeling I’d like to partially or fully move away from design and into development in the future, and at that point in time was very far from feeling like I could be taken seriously as a developer. What I gained through studying was very valuable, inspiring, and necessary skills-wise — in fact, it is a key part of what allowed me to complete my work for the project in the following years — but that feeling of lack was never quite addressed.

So here I am a few years later, confronting these feelings again. Now that I’ve recognized them, they haven’t gone away immediately — and that’s OK! But I do want to banish those nasty feelings of lack sooner rather than later, and to not bury them again.

2. Be unapologetic about what you want next

Being extra assertive is important in an in-between time, where things are still malleable and a number of things may have drifted unintentionally following a busy stretch. I find myself more vulnerable to fall into directions I don’t want to go while I’m still in the process of resting, adjusting, and building myself up again.

For me, the solution has been being sharing with others (in and outside of work) my need to stay laser-focused on my software development path. I know from experience that spending significant amounts of time on other things would put me into the career ambiguity I had a few years ago that made me unhappy. With next year (2022) marking a decade since graduating from college, going for depth rather than breadth feels more important than ever (perhaps I will write more about this in the future).

When I shared this idea prior to writing this post, someone commented that this is a form of setting boundaries, which I didn’t think of at first, but is absolutely a great way to look at things.

3. Be specific about what you gained between point A and point B

For me, saying to myself “You did an amazing job with that project” does not internalize what I actually gained or give me context for what new things I bring to my next projects. Being tangible, getting into specifics of what you gained can make progress feel more real (especially if you, like me, suffer from imposter syndrome from time to time).

Here is the list of what I learned fall 2017 – spring 2021 that I wrote up for myself. (I felt awkward about posting it publicly but promised myself I would follow through and do it!)

  • Went from beginner to proficient in C#, object-oriented programming, and game loops
  • Working with Unity packages
  • Working with inputs from an Arduino
  • Writing and uploading sketches to an Arduino
  • Designing and implementing a multiplayer game
  • Using text-to-speech technologies to narrate game play dynamically
  • Routing audio from Unity to different speakers
  • Conversion of Unity projects to newer versions
  • Serializing and deserializing XML in Unity
  • Building and installing applications
  • Setting up computers to run an application on startup
  • UDP communication
  • Adobe After Effects basics

I plan to read and re-read this list (and add anything I forgot) over the next weeks to celebrate what I learned and bring with me to my next projects. I encourage you, too, to celebrate all the little details of your wins.

4. Rest more

Don’t give yourself a timeline for when you think you should feel rested. Chances are, you have been working harder than you think, and haven’t rested as long as you think you have.

I admit while writing this post, I first described the project as opening “a few weeks ago” when it was only opened less than two weeks ago. Maybe it was the strange COVID world flow of time (which can feel both fast and slow) that confused me. Maybe I felt like I needed to recover quickly so I could move onto the next things ASAP. (Most likely, it was a combination of both.)

I know I need to rest a lot more, and there is no way around it. To celebrate this, I treated myself to some new pillows (and didn’t realize until they arrived just how unsupportive and worn out my old pillows were!) πŸ™‚

2020 Book Share

I read a lot of great books in 2020, and excited to share the list here!

I typically read a mix of non-fiction and personal development books and that was the case this year.

My recent goal for reading has been to learn about topics such as ethics, economics, and politics — humanities areas I’ve skipped over while being so focused on art, science, and tech my entire life. I’ve also wanted to get more specific about my political beliefs and informed for the election this year. I started pursuing this process of filling in the gaps toward the end of 2019, and really proud of how better balanced I’ve become. I am better equipped to have (and stay engaged in) conversations about topics I was clueless about even a couple years ago. This is a path I want to continue going down.

Another aspect of developing my understanding on these topics is that by gaining more knowledge, I become less neutral, and that is meaningful as a means for making sure I am as considerate and impactful as I can be in my career in tech.

I categorized the books into the following groups: Environment, Ethics/Social Justice, Politics/Economics, Personal Development, and Art/Design. However, I imagine there would be other ways to group them, so please take the categories with a grain of salt.

A specific topic addressed by multiple titles here is systemic racism in technology. I was asked to research this topic for projects at work, so that specific topic is represented pretty prominently this year (alongside titles about racism more generally, which I had set out learn more about for the Democratic Primary debates early this year as well as during the social justice discussions this summer).

Thanks to everyone who has recommended these books to me! I gain a lot from others’ suggestions so I find joy in keeping the good karma flowing πŸ™‚

Without further ado, here’s my 2020 reading list!

Environment

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go From Here by Hope Jahren

Ethics/Social Justice

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code by Ruha Benjamin

Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need by Sasha Constanza-Chock

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil

Politics/Economics

Moneyland: The Inside Story of the Crooks and Kleptocrats Who Rule the World by Oliver Bullough

What You Should Know About Politics But Don’t by Jessamyn Conrad

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein

Personal Development

It’s About Damn Time: How to Turn Being Underestimated Into Your Greatest Advantage by Arlan Hamilton

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by BrenΓ© Brown

Everyday Cruelty: How to Deal with Its Effects without Denial, Bitterness, or Despair by Helen Kobek

Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message by Tara Mohr

You Are Enough:  How To Elevate Your Thoughts, Align Your Energy And Get Out of the Comparison Trap by Cassie Mendoza-Jones*

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams by Deepak Chopra*

No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hahn*

*Re-reads

Art/Design

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

Game Programming for Artists by Jarryd Huntley and Hanna Brady

The Grit of Skateboarding and Coding

The end of this month (November 2020) marks 6 months since I got my own skateboard and started on an awesome and inspiring journey.

I started skating at the end of May 2020, around the time of the decline of the first wave of the COVID pandemic here in the Northeast US. I was looking to gain a new skill and way to get around the beautiful parks and newly shared roadways in my neighborhood. At the start, I only had in mind to learn just to cruise around, but I’ve exceeded anything I thought I was capable of, now learning how to navigate obstacles in a skate park and do tricks.

In my earlier COVID Fall/Winter Routines for Wellness and Learning blog post, I mention that two things I’m working on these days are skateboarding (which I’m new to) and coding (which I am not new to, but aiming to elevate from professional competence to mastery).

In this post, I will rewind back to my first encounter with skateboarding and delve into the parallels between learning to skateboard and learning to code (there are many!)

Venice Beach, New Year’s 2016

My first encounter with skateboarding was in Venice Beach, CA when I was visiting the Los Angeles area for New Year’s almost four years ago. My now-husband and I had settled on a trip here because he is fond of the Santa Monica area, and I have family just south of there.

We were meandering around Venice Beach and came across a skate/surf rental which caught his attention. He rented one, and cruised around while I walked. It was a totally glorious day.

We also went to the skate park here, which I now know is one of the most famous ones in the United States. While my husband skated here, I sat nearby and drew the bowls which was enticing and challenging. Knowing absolutely nothing about it, or how the skaters were able to navigate it, it captured my imagination. While I was there drawing, one of the skaters came up and sat with me and thought the art was totally awesome. While he was a stranger, and this was a new kind of place for me, I felt at home being around someone who was so jazzed about art.

Plein air drawing of the Venice Beach Skate Park, January 2016

It wouldn’t be more than four years later until I stepped foot on a skateboard, but I have carried this wonderful memory with me all those years.

Working Through the Hard Stuff

The thing about both skateboarding and coding is you can’t do either without a substantial amount of hours under your belt i.e. both have steep learning curves. This isn’t to say that other things I’ve pursued aren’t challenging, it’s just that there are ways to engage in them fairly immediately (and of course, all of this varies person by person). For example in yoga, there are modifications to poses to fit level of flexibility, balance, mobility level, etc. For painting, there are coloring books where artists can paint within pre-drawn shapes but still use their creativity to get a great color balance.

The things I spent time on in the earlier part of my life — visual art, dance, music, and the sciences — are all things I am naturally good at. I wasn’t purposefully trying to do things that were easy (I genuinely did and still do love all these things!) but perhaps I naturally gravitated toward them because they provided immediate gratification. Coding (which I encountered in college, pursued with a lot of effort in my mid-twenties, and had my major breakthrough in my late-twenties) and now skateboarding (which I started a little after my 30th birthday) required me to put in a lot of effort to get started and were not immediately rewarding. With both, I had a feeling I would enjoy them, but wouldn’t be able to really understand why until months of effort. I trusted my gut and am glad I stuck with them.

Both skating and coding can both be incredibly intimidating to a newcomer. Something like jumping and flipping a skateboard 360 degrees in the air or creating a mobile app from scratch can feel surreal and very much out of reach.

A great deal of courage is needed. With skateboarding, the sensation of your wheels moving up or down an incline (rather than flat on the ground) and of course the fear of falling, can be frightening. With code, I think one of the scariest feelings is not knowing why something you created won’t work, and further down the rabbit hole: the fear you won’t be able to figure it out.

Another parallel is gender. Both skateboarding and tech now have more female representation, but are still male-dominated realms. It was perhaps due to my experience as a part of an underrepresented group in tech that I did not feel any hesitation to jump into skateboarding. Happily, I have seen many girls and women at the skate park in my city.

Being a petite female who innately looks like and moves like a dancer, others immediately identify me as one whereas with skateboarding I am reinventing myself a bit — but that’s part of the fun of this new phase in my life. πŸ™‚

The expanses of free time that opened up with COVID this year was a great advantage for getting started in skateboarding. If I didn’t have so much free time, I doubt I would have had the patience to get through the slow (and sometimes embarrassing) process of getting down the basics. For example, riding around in a basketball court for a while before skating in places I’d normally go (such as around the pond, along bike paths, etc.). The ollie, which I still haven’t 100% mastered, required several weeks of trying over and over again before anything came even close to “good”.

I went through a similar process going in-depth with JavaScript (and scripting fundamentals) about 3 years ago. I followed the Watch and Code curriculum for several weeks, completing a chapter every week, going through so many fine details rigorously to make a fairly simple example project. If you miss one tiny detail, the software doesn’t work. This fall, I am working on Python programming challenges and Unity/C# projects which are much more advanced and I have much better stamina for them compared to a few years ago. The perseverance of learning to skate has furthered my focus and fearlessness to get to the next tier of programming ability — I feel like the two are working together these days.

Learning to Fly

Over the past years, learning to code — and more specifically, learning how to meld it with my artistic passions — has been by far the thing that has given me the most confidence. I feel invincible knowing not just what is possible, but all the intricate inner workings and the energy to make my visions reality. I feel empowered to be able to create things that make the world a better place, or say, when someone on a team ponders an idea: “I know how we can create that!” Momentum and and lots of ideas are side effects of this technical competence.

While I’m just a half year into skating, I’m getting a taste of what it feels like to fly (really, quite literally) as I start to sail around the skate park here in Boston and see other skaters master the physics of it all. I’m not intimidated because I have been at the ground level toiling away at it, and know they needed to, too, to be able to do the incredible things they do.

My COVID Fall/Winter Routines for Wellness and Learning

It’s almost Halloween and life has moved β€” due to the colder weather and more severe COVID-19 spread β€” more or less indoors.

With so much uncertain, keeping routines has been a helpful way weather to the storm and imagine a new version myself that is skilled in areas that excite and inspire me. Here, I share routines for wellness and learning that I aim to continue through the fall and winter.

These are divided into two groups: daily routines and weekly events.

Daily Routines

Morning

I generally sleep in pretty late (I’m a night owl!), cutting it fairly close to my work start time but perhaps in a timing that ultimately works better with my natural clock. When I wake up, I avoid news and social media on my phone until after breakfast.

During breakfast, I write in my journal (see the blog introduction for more about this). It doesn’t have to be very long, a half or full page at most. A 5-10 minute journaling session helps me register how I’m feeling and what’s on my mind (whether positive or negative) before jumping into the day.

My bridge between home and work-from-home is a short yoga practice using the Down Dog app or YouTube. This helps me mentally shift gears and feel physically both more relaxed and alert. It is also helpful as a way to set up my Bluetooth headphones before my early morning meeting, so I don’t have to scramble to find and test them at the last minute. Sometimes, the yoga practice is as short as 5 minutes though depending on waking time and meetings as long as 20 minutes β€” I find the duration doesn’t make a big difference.

Before the work day begins (usually, during yoga and into my early morning meeting), I love to either burn incense or run my oil diffuser (my favorite scents are rich, earthy ones like patchouli and cinnamon).

A minor but important before work detail: putting on chapstick and hand moisturizer (I keep them in a rolling cart under my desk where I also store art supplies, essential oils for the diffuser, headphones, etc.). These are both important to offset winter dehydration, and the hand moisturizer is especially helpful since we are using hand sanitizer all the time nowadays.

My work station and two of my cats
This is my work station and two of our three cats. This area of the house was previously where the piano was, and the table came from the kitchen. I rearranged things once it became clear I’d be working from home long term.

Afternoon

Afternoons are where I have the biggest change from spring/summer to fall/winter. Working remotely since the middle of March, I’ve maintained roughly the same 9-5 schedule. When we had more sunlight, my husband and I would ride our skateboards around the neighborhood almost every day after work. It was something I looked forward to and signaled to my brain work was over. In the early- to mid-fall, I could still skate after work but it was increasingly more challenging due to the earlier sunsets. Certain areas like the basketball courts were more crowded than usual, since the same groups β€” usually spread out across the evening daylight hours β€” were now compressed into a short window of time.

The solution: I asked for and got approval to shift my work hours so I could leave in the middle of the afternoon to go outside, then come back and finish working into the dark early evening hours. At first it felt odd, but it’s a change I’m glad I made! I figure if I skate at least 3 times a week (weather, meetings, other events permitting) through the cold months, I’ll advance a great deal in the sport, just in time for warm weather and sunlight to return.

Afternoon skate break with fall leaves
This is a photo of me on one of the first afternoon skate breaks. There were tons of yellow leaves on the ground. Lightweight, dry leaves are OK to skate through, though to be safe best to go slow in case they are covering any leaves or twigs!

Evening

As I mentioned earlier, I am a night owl, so this is when much of my creative thinking and non-work projects happen. In the later evening, if I have enough time and feel up to it, I may practice programming, respond to emails/LinkedIn messages/etc., read, work on art, or write. I typically have at least one cat sitting with me πŸ™‚

At some point, I will at minimum stretch and foam roll my muscles to recover from skating. If I have more time, I’ll do an evening yoga practice.

Like in the morning, I often burn incense or run my oil diffuser during yoga and any other evening activities. I also set different light colors using my smart lightbulbs via the Philips Hue Bluetooth app. The combined sensory experience of the incense/oil diffuser and lighting is transporting and relaxing (or energizing if I want it to be, such as if I’m about to do some coding or illustration).

Before sleeping, I read the news and play mobile games such as Duolingo, Pokemon GO, and Clash of Clans.

Weekly Events

Python

I’m dedicating this fall and winter to learning the Python programming language and solidifying my computer science fundamentals β€” two things I have been wanting to work on for a while. This is an effort that happens on a weekly schedule.

Compared to the usual programming I do at work, Python projects typically require no user-facing elements (e.g. no artwork, user interfaces, etc.) so they are faster to set up and I can focus more on problem solving and theory. It’s been a while since I focused on these aspects very purely. I want to master these elements so that I can improve the quality and efficiency of the projects I build, and be sure (or at least, more sure) I’m creating things in the best way possible.

It feels good to focus on something general for a few months because it reduces the overwhelm of addressing all the things I could be learning instead. The projects I am doing at work are more niche (C#/Unity game engine), so there is a good balance of learning general and specific things.

I found a study buddy also interested in Python. This relationship and a weekly schedule keeps us both accountable to regular practice. It is especially fun because she is located in New Zealand, so we Zoom across time zones (the coordination of which has been yet more exciting by both of us having Daylight Savings shifts!).

Similar to the afternoon skating routine, I’m motivated by the cumulative nature of these Python weekly study sessions. Each weekly effort on its own is small, and I’m excited where I’ll be a few months down the line.

Fun and Relaxation

  • My husband is a PokemonGO enthusiast (I am to a lesser degree), so I always join him for the weekly PokΓ©mon GO Raid Hour on Wednesday evenings. It’s a nice way to spend time together and also connect with people outside our bubble (virtually!), such as some friends he met in-person playing the game and some of my coworkers. The new remote raid feature, implemented for COVID, enables us to play altogether.
  • I started taking a bath in the evening approximately once a week, toward the end of the week once various aches from sitting at my desk and exercising have built up. This I find really forces me to slow down, especially as it forces me to be away from electronics.
  • Every weekend, I practice the piano. Weeknights can be hard to fit it in, but I make sure I find even a half hour on the weekend.
  • I often plan some kind of weekend adventure. This is often just a longer skate session at somewhere further away (such as the local skate park, bike paths, or a basketball court in another neighborhood). Changing scenery for an extended period of time really helps me unhook from worries and enjoy my surroundings.

Closing Thoughts

As I share my routines, I’m aware that my circumstances during this time are very flexible and privileged ― this is something I don’t take for granted. I naturally feel some guilt as well as an awareness that any of this can change at any time. I approach my current situation with a sense of gratefulness and proactiveness. In keeping these routines, I strive to make the most of this time so that I am as healthy as possible to support others. By learning as many technical skills as possible, I put myself in the best position possible to solve challenges and come up with new ideas to support projects at work (and beyond). This is an opportunity to both fill my own cup and become as prepared as possible to serve others.

I hope the routines above were informative and/or inspiring. Above all, I’m sending you wishes for good health and happiness as we move through these challenging times ❀️

Introduction

I’m thrilled to begin this blog β€” thanks so much for finding me here! As the months get colder, and we’re inside even more, it feels like the perfect time to get started.

The seed of this blog is my almost 5 year old daily journaling routine. Starting in February 2016, I’ve been writing a page every morning (or occasionally, later in the day). Sometimes I miss a day, but in general I’m surprised how consistent I’ve been at this.

This 5 year period has seen big changes in my life: getting married, solidifying my career, family life shifting, meeting many new people, the onset of wicked food allergies that have shaped my lifestyle, and a lot of travel. It has been at times very stressful, very exciting, all around chaotic like an earthquake that has reshaped things for me significantly β€” I’m still looking around and figuring out how things have settled. And I have so much of this change documented, day-by-day, in 9 (going on 10) notebooks.

At one point, I re-read some of the journals from the beginning. It was a bit cringey at times, reading what I wrote sometimes very sleepily with no filter (which often comes across as whining, detailing my morning multitasking, or writing out the things I plan to do that day). Evidence of personal growth in these pages is tangible, even if messy when zoomed in too closely. Throughout the pages, I see strength during difficult or confusing times as well as joy and appreciation of wonderful moments. I see the evolution of new confidence and ideas, some of which have already manifested into projects or experiences. Other positive notes are gentler, like β€” in a page written the morning after a family member passed away β€” my writing about my appreciation that my now-husband Phil was putting coconut in the oatmeal at breakfast.

At this point, things are a lot more stable and I continue to look around and reflect. I’m psyched where I’ve landed, having carved out a unique life that is meaningful and completely my own. That being said, nothing is (and I doubt it will ever be) as solid as I imagined it would be at age 30: confidence and creativity levels ebb and flow, there are times when I feel perpetually behind, stuck, or that what I am doing feels irrelevant. My hope is that I can, over time, learn to more masterfully surf the ups and downs of a creative life. I’m sure writing this blog will serve as an introspective space on this journey.

What will this blog be about?

I’m open to where it might go naturally, though for the time being I’ve identified three threads to weave together:

  1. The intersection of personal and professional. This is a recurring format in my journaling, and feels like something I could write about for a while. Multiple sub-threads will weave together:
  • How things I come across in my daily life influence my work
  • Humanizing my career in software development β€” talking about my projects and technical concepts in a way that anyone can understand
  • Demonstrating diversity in programmers and types of software projects, with a focus on art, design, and my non-traditional career pathway
  • How I optimize my life to do the best work possible
  1. Delightful, inspiring elements in my life. I will showcase the interplay of delight, rigor, creativity, and kindness by sharing things that make me happy.
  2. Mentorship. I have a longstanding interest and participation in mentorship (particularly, in the realm of tech focusing on underrepresented groups). This blog will integrate mentorship within personal stories and projects shown. In this blog, I will be transparent about my struggles and how I overcame them, as well as areas I’m working on where I may feel stuck or vulnerable.

And with that, I’ll close with the first sentence of one of my favorite books:

Embarking on the spiritual journey is like getting into a very small boat and setting out on the ocean to search for unknown lands.

“When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron, p1

I return to this often, especially when starting a new project. I find the ripest mindset for beginning creative work to be this bare bones, solitary experience of exploring with nothing in view yet and the openness and fearlessness to encounter what is to come. I find myself more in-tune with myself and my current surroundings, situation, and environment (which results in more meaningful, detailed work) rather than obsessing over the end product or comparing myself to others and their work.

Even in the days leading up to finishing this introduction post, I admit found myself caught in a spiral of “not good enough” and “why bother?” and needed to refocus (the quote above helped). The process of doing was a reminder not to forge ahead too quickly and to start from a grounded, inwardly focused state. Now, I’m ready to begin.