Friday, December 17 2021

putting things in the crib, public speaking, and covid burnout

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everybody. Happy Friday. We've just completed the last non-holiday week of the year. Do you feel the wave of relief yet?

I always forget how busy things can get in December. How busy has it been around here? I can show you in a single picture.


Isn't it magnificent? Marissa spent the day yesterday wrapping presents like a Christmas elf on Adderall. You might be wondering why we have them shoved against the wall on the coffee bar, and that's because of our dog Minnie. We can't even trust Minnie to leave the tinsel and tree branches alone. The truth is if we set out these presents in their rightful place under our Christmas tree, Minnie would have them all in tatters within the hour.

December is a busy month, but at least it all reaches a tipping point. Around this time of the month, plans finalize and unfold. The shopping is done. It's almost time to call it for the year and watch the good tidings roll in.

Speaking of good tidings, I brought some with me today. Good tidings in the form of a hot cup of coffee.

Sip. Today's banner image comes to us from last night. Our bedtime was derailed by our family's favorite past time - putting things in Miles' crib that don't belong. If you have a baby and a crib, do try it sometime. It's fun to watch a baby interact with something in a place where they are accustomed to being alone, like when they have to share their cozy crib with a friendly dog, a remote control monster truck, or in last night's case, a five year old boy who was just let out on winter break.


There's a downside to the prank though. On the off chance your baby is as gullible as Miles, you might be setting yourself up for a hissy fit when they realize you're not serious about it. Rodney humored us by sitting in his crib for a few minutes. Miles grinned, undoubtedly thinking he and Rodney would be permanent roommates from that moment forward.

I hoisted Rodney out of the crib by his armpits, and Miles immediately began to scream. He was once again alone, feeling cheated out of the brotherly companionship. Another lonely night in the crib.

So how has the week been going? My work load has been pretty chill. I spent some of yesterday in extracurriculars, preparing a proposed lightning talk for a work conference. If it's accepted, I'd like to give some advice about how to better write code for a job interview. At first glance, it sounds like a weird topic for a work conference, like I'm encouraging people to apply somewhere else. But a lot of people don't know that these code screens are often required to transfer within our company too. Even if you don't plan on going anywhere, you might still have to write code in an interview if you ever want to do something else at the same company.

Preparing an outline for this talk gave me a small flare up of imposter syndrome. I couldn't help but meditate on the irony that I myself haven't had to take a code screen in over six years. I didn't even have to write code for anyone to get my current job. The last time I had to take a code screen, I fumbling around someone else's laptop plugged into a noisy projector, trying to convince the other engineers in the room that I knew how to find the word sandwich in a string with JavaScript.

But imposter syndrome be damned. The truth is I enjoy public speaking, provided I can find a topic I feel I'm worthy to speak about. I get a lot of energy and satisfaction from presenting to people, so I think I'm just going to go for it. I just might have to fake the whole feeling worthy part for now.

In other news, we got an email from Rodney's school, following up on the new COVID cases in his classroom. Well, Marissa go the email. I couldn't find it in my inbox. Shuffling around the kitchen, I began to pick her brain about it, hoping she could give me the highlights.

"It's... kind of complicated," she said. "Just read it." She handed me her phone, and I stood by the sink for several minutes, trying to decipher the branching logic. There were stipulations about what he'd need to return to school, depending on when he completed his vaccine series. There were options, whether he wanted to self-quarantine until a certain date, or produce a negative COVID test dated at least five days from exposure. It felt like every time I got close to digesting some of the advice, there was another sprawling paragraph that began with OR, opening up a new tree of logic. I rolled my neck back and sighed, handing Marissa's phone back to her.

With that, I found a new dimension of COVID burnout: the rules. There are exclusive rules for ice skating class, kindergarten, the post office, and the grocery store. There are national COVID guidelines, state COVID guidelines, and local COVID guidelines. Whether it's a piece of mail, an exhaustive email, or a small type flier stuck to the door of a store front, it feels like I'm constantly reading, interpreting, and validating guidelines at every gap in daily life.

These COVID rules are mostly similar, but sometimes they're different. They're rarely simplified or summarized, for fear of being incomplete. They shy away from explaining the reasoning and the why's behind them, because why take on the extra risk of spreading misinformation? They stick to the rules - exhausting, detailed rules. As a result, it's terrible reading. Any typical establishment's body of COVID rules are written in the style of the privacy policy emails I routinely delete.

Meanwhile, where is the leadership? Where is the actual education? Do we get any guidance besides individual businesses just covering their assess? Are we ever going to agree on anything? Will this ever get any easier to understand?

Sorry I had to take a chipper Friday entry into a dark direction. I'm just feeling discouraged lately. It's been tough heading into another wave of COVID without seeing any way for the situation to improve.

I'm glad we have a weekend coming up, and an even longer Holiday break after that. Hang in there, we're going to be fine.

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a great Friday, everyone.