S02E16: The week after the week before

Slowly getting there

Mental health update

Andy Samberg giving a big thumbs down

I am going through some stuff, so I’m going to mention mental health for the remainder of this season. It’s not sufficient, and I’m casting around for a therapist, but I want to get some of this stuff in front of me. Skip it if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

This week it’s been odd, seemingly trivial things that have triggered a drop in my mental health. At other times I feel like I’m doing better, until I catch myself feeling okay and worry that it means I’m a bad person.

I am trying to remind myself that bad people don’t generally worry if they’re bad people, because they think they’re good people. So I’m hoping that by virtue of the fact that I’m worrying that I’m a bad person, something bad people don’t do, I’m actually a good person. More or less.

Helena Bonham-Carter looking very confused

Eating has been better: I’m doing three meals a day again. I’m eating out more than I should, but it’ll be okay in the short term. And it’s for a good reason, good people have been rallying around me and encouraging me to do stuff and talk to them. Thank you good people. You are people and you are good, and you know who you are.

The week in brief

Monday was mucking around⁰ in a language called bash, with an aim to automating some of the tools we use.

Image result for automate all the things

I’m getting more comfortable in the team, and where I fit in. A good day.

On Tuesday I was working from home and did some remote pairing. Pairing is a process where two people work on the same thing at the same time. I was worried that it would be harder to pair without people able to see my pair’s face, but it actually worked out really well. My pair was really patient and helpful and I think I’ve now got a handle on how to solve a particular class of problem I’m working on.² I took the afternoon off to help a friend out.

London is the black hole into which all regional hopes and dreams tumble. The upshot of that is that on Wednesday I was asked by an old friend from uni — who now works for the same organisation as me! — to do a little video interview type thing. I hope I did well; everyone involved seemed happy. It was a nice little five minute session of being outgoing, which I do less of now that I mostly wrestle with computers. I don’t know if it’ll ever be published. If it is, I’ll put it in here somewhere.

On Thursday the community of technologists at GDS got together to look at the stuff we’re doing and where it sits on a spectrum of “we need to start doing this” and “we need to stop doing this”. It’s a “Liberating Structure” exercise, and looking at the page it looks corny as heck. That’s not to say it wasn’t valuable and effective, and I think the way it was adapted to the group helped. It gave us some good actions and reflections, and it’s certainly structured my thinking on where I want to start agitating for change³.

John Oliver waving a Pride flag. This symbolises my desire to agitate for change.

This sounds too aggressive, but it’s a fact that we always need to be changing. Deciding where to focus that is a necessary strategic decision because we can’t change everything.

I also saw fellow #weeknote-r Dan on Thursday. Dan is open in a way that aggressively breaks down typical masculinity, and I have a lot of love for him for that.³ It was helpful for me to listen to things he’s thinking/feeling/doing in a work context. We shared problems. I feel like I learned things.

Chris and Ben, characters from Parks and Rec, hugging

I also saw the ~secret~ underground passage from 1 Parliament Street to Westminster Palace, which was exceedingly cool. Thanks Dan.

Friday at last, and I had a brief objective setting meeting with my manager to talk about how we do things in my new organisation. I’ve got rough outlines and I’m immensely excited about all of them. I like objectives, or at least some structure around what I’m aiming for. It helps me keep my head up and prioritise my work.

In the evening I had an incredibly good dinner at Rosa’s Thai Café. Go, I entreat you. It’s absolutely delicious. In particular, try the ice tea: I’ve never had it before and it was a taste sensation. I was dining with a friend after doing interview prep; as before, my job was to ask tricky questions and imbue her with confidence. I hope it worked. She’d be excellent.

⁰ “Mucking around” diminishes and minimises what I do, and if I heard any of my peers or mentees talking like that I’d tell them off. I should do better at living my own advice.¹

¹ This was an extremely stream-of-consciousness sidebar. It’s meta, but I’m going to leave the original wording and this commend in for people to point to and remind me. And for me to point to and remind me.

² As an example of the mental health section above, I wrote “partner” instead of “pair” first. When I did that, it triggered lots of really unhappy connotations. So I changed it, and then I went for a walk.

³ I was nervous about using the word love, but fuck it. Loving your friends is a thing, a positive thing, and it’s a thing I feel we men should be more comfortable saying.

S02E15 : The hardest thing I have ever done

Hrrrrngh. Alright, let’s do this.

My partner and I broke up. There. It’s a thing that happened, and now it’s written down. And now I can talk about it.

It’s impossible to write about being broken-hearted without hamming it up, chewing the scenery like a Romeo who’s in it for the snogging. There’s such a weird depth of pain and loss and sadness that describing it properly needs music or arm movements or massive, unnecessary wars that will eventually spawn a movie starring Brad Pitt.

Describing it improperly is easy. I’ve been doing it all week. I’ve been “sad”, as if with three letters, with one syllable, you could express the feeling of walking through life with a hole where a person used to be.

It was, in the parlance, “amicable”. There’s a difference in where we see our lives. We did the right thing; the grown-up thing. The hard and horrible thing. I don’t recommend it. If you’re going to break up with someone, do the right thing. Commit some heinous sin. They will hate you, but they won’t feel like this. And that’s probably better. In the grand scheme of things, the amount of sadness will have reduced a little.¹

Other things happened this week, but I need you to understand that this was the screaming backdrop against which the following things happened.

2nd Troy GIF

I tried to learn Ruby as I’m in a team that works entirely in that language. Cue scenes of panic as I attempt to speed read Why’s (Poignant) Guide to Ruby.

It is not a book you can speed read. It is barely a book that you can read. I am perplexed that anyone who’s ever read it can still speak English, let alone program in Ruby. Here’s a quote picked at random:

One day I was walking down one of those busy roads covered with car dealerships (this was shortly after my wedding was called off) and I found an orphaned dog on the road. A woolly, black dog with greenish red eyes. I was kind of feeling like an orphan myself, so I took a couple balloons that were tied to a pole at the dealership and I relocated them to the dog’s collar. Then, I decided he would be my dog. I named him Bigelow.


I got a sticker at just the right time. I needed this reminder that being generous with myself is an a-okay thing to do, and I am writing this sentence weirdly because even expressing that sentiment makes me feel like less of a man so let’s get to the end of this sentence quickly thank you.² Credit and love to Sam Villis for the lovely sticker.

I finally got to meet Jess Neely, whom I’ve been coaching in the mysterious art of confidence. I come into this as a middle-class white man, so I’ve got an absolute lifetime of experience of people assuming I’m more competent than I am. I’ve done my best to spread this amazingly mundane superpower around. It’s too much power for one man to possess.

I organised many things, including exciting meetings with people I deeply admire. I had lunch with another former Fast Streamer, bumped into someone I went to uni with, and generally tried to fill my time with useful things. I’ve literally just lined up a meeting I’ve been trying to get for three years, and I’m absolutely over the moon. I’ve already got a corporate objective in mind. Watch this space. Watch it. Waaatchhhh iiiiiitt.

I wrote this. And it was really, really painful. A bit good. But painful. And you read it. Thank you for doing that.

¹ I really can’t stress enough that if you take advice from me, a guy with a shattered heart, you are in for a really bad time. Please do not do this.

² The patriarchy fucks up e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e