In my last article, I talked about continuing to make progress on testing nested containers. In this article I talk about finding middle ground with yourself.
I thought about putting this article down in my personal section, but I believe that it has relevance to anyone who is in the software development field. By our nature, we try and analyzing and sort things into distinct categories. And while that ability helped me get to a certain point, I feel that I needed to change direction to make further progress.
Hopefully, it does not come off in these articles that I know it all. Just like everyone reading my articles, I take things one step at a time. This last step that I took was noticing something that I should have noticed before. But at least I noticed it: There Is No Such Thing As Professional Life.
Why Do I Say That?¶
I think I have been building up to this point for a while now. For the longest of times, I have said things “you have to find balance between your personal life and your professional life”. And while it is true that there are usually at least two aspects to your life, I now believe them to be aspects, not different entities. But to understand that statement, I believe I need to help any readers understand how I got there.
For any longtime readers of these articles, it should not be a surprise that I have Autism. Since the moment when I was clinically diagnosed with Autism, it was the start of another journey to understanding myself better. From my interactions with people before and after college to my first marriage, knowing where I stood with respect to Autism helped me to understand how it shaped my life. And although there were many painful interactions with my peers growing up, I was able to find peace in accepting that they were largely acting out of fear and ignorance. I was different, and that can be scary.
As my life navigated past my first marriage into my forties, I was able to find my second wife. She accepts me for who I am, while at the same time giving me the personal desire to be better. Just to be clear, unless it something like remembering to do certain tasks (which I seriously am horrible at), she does not ask me to change. Instead, just by her love and support she inspires me to change.
And with that momentum present in my life, I was able to move past a lot of negatives associated with a disability like Autism. Do not get me wrong. My Autism presents me with gifts, but it balances out those gifts with things that can sometimes be crippling. But instead of hiding who I am, I started to talk more openly about my Autism and how it affected me. On the personal side, I talked to people and helped them to understand how I viewed interactions from my point of view. From a professional side, I helped managers and colleagues understand the benefits and challenges of working with me.
Along the way, there were a number of people whose comments I still cherish to this day. There was this one lady at an Autism hackathon who was inspired by me being open about my Autism to try and talk to her family about her mental issues. There was the manager who commented on how introspective and understanding I was, and how he thought I was more human than most of the people he knew professionally. And finally, there were the people who said it was nice to hear someone talk openly about their disabilities, instead of hiding them away in a closet.
But even through all that, I still maintained that there were two distinct parts to my life: a professional one and a personal one. I think I believed that I could maintain a dam-like structure between the two sides of my life, and not let stuff bleed from one side to the other. It was a nice dream, but not reality.
Everything Has A Cost¶
For anyone reading this who does not believe the same way as I do, I ask that you keep on reading to understand my point of view. I try as much as possible to understand the points of view of others, especially if I disagree with them. It is part of how I was raised and who I am.
I believe in the science around the pandemic that is going on. Did the various governments get it right from the get-go? No. But that is why they stuck the label “novel” in front of it. When faced with a new situation or experience, how many of us can say that we are going to correctly respond every time? If we are honest, very few (if any) of us could realistically answer yes. The best we could do is hope that negative consequences of the times we were wrong did not hurt people.
So, yes. I believe that social distancing, mask mandates, and vaccinations are needed. That is what my doctor and the people around him say. That is what the majority of the governments around the world say. But with those evolving measures, they also pointed out that there was going to be an emotional toll that we were going to have to look for signs of among signs and friends.
Nearing the two-year mark of the start of the pandemic, I did not realize that the emotional toll was wearing on me until last week. With my wife attending an event and my son at work, I had a few hours to myself on Saturday. Instead of being happy that I got some of my own time, I felt dread. As one of the guys who is known for being silly and cracking jokes, dread is not a word that I have typically used to describe myself or my feelings. But it was what I was feeling.
But where was it coming from? Why was I feeling that?
It Was Not Immediately Obvious¶
Having that free time, I decided to try and figure out where all this darkness in my life was coming from. Looking back at all my interactions over the past month or two, I realized that I was quicker to get upset at people now than I have been in years. While I would take the time to strive to understand people in years past, I was now quickly leaping to conclusions. Thankfully, I have people in my life that help me reorient myself, for without them I probably would have made a fool of myself on multiple occasions. But why?
That is when I caught myself wondering why my personal life was bleeding into my professional life and vice versa. I spent a good hour or so writing stuff down and exploring that using a technique that works for me. It was only by chance that instead of scratching something else out that I scratched out my basic premise, the wall between my personal life and professional life.
When exploring stuff in such an experimental manner, be it computer code or trying to work through something like this, I do not believe in accidents. That exploration may result in “wasted” time being spent exploring an avenue, but it is not until that avenue is explored that you understand what its real nature is. Simple road you need to travel down? Parking lot of issues for later? Throughfare to take you past non-relevant issues? Dead end for what you are trying to find? My experience tells me that I must explore it to find out.
So that is what I did. And the result was interesting.
Where Did I End Up?¶
There is no such thing as professional life. There is no such thing as personal life. At least for me there is not. It is all connected in one big pool of things that make me Jack. Be it the emotional toll of the pandemic, the emotional toll of having a mother with dementia, or the emotional effort needed to positively talk to colleagues at work. It all comes from the same source. My life’s battery for lack of a better term. And before anyone asks, yes, it is rechargeable, but no, I cannot swap out batteries when mine get low. Keeping that analogy going, solar energy does seem to recharge me somewhat thou.
At fifty-three, I am not sure if I should have seen this earlier in my life, or if this is early in life to be discovering this. I think I had notions of this in different forms over the last ten to twenty years, but never have I been able to more fully comprehend what it means to me.
What does it mean to me? I love helping people, I love learning, and I love being creative. But each of those things, and the tasks needed to conduct those things, take up energy that I have to budget to renew. And as I now see everything more clearly as one big bucket and not two smaller buckets, I realize that borrowing from the other small bucket never made sense. I might have been fooled by for a while, but that was all.
A large part of what helps me stay healthy is finding a good sense of balance. But for some unknown reason, I always felt a bit of kilter from time to time, with nothing in my then mindset that explained it. While I am confident that this is not the only thing preventing me from finding this balance, knowing that I need to account for it will help me find part of what my current balance is missing.
What is Next?¶
While I got a lot of scenario tests added, there is one more set that I want to add before the next release. And hopefully I will get through them this next week. Stay tuned!
So what do you think? Did I miss something? Is any part unclear? Leave your comments below.