Friday, March 25 2022

snow, pajama day, and fears

page banner

Dear Journal,

Good morning, friends. Happy Friday. Nothing pleases me more than writing the words Happy Friday. It's like my body knows what's coming next - a celebratory cheese burger at the pub, a bottle of wine at home, and a long night of sleep. However you choose to celebrate Friday, I hope you really lean into it this time. After all the crummy weather we've been having, that's the least of what we deserve.

Speaking of weather, it snowed yesterday. Big, powdery, fluffy snow. None of it stuck to the pavement, but it was still an intriguing thing to witness. Even though we were in different places while it happened, Marissa and I each independently tried to get a good picture of the phenomenon and miserably failed.

Here's my attempt back at home.


Not bad, but still not as magical as it felt seeing this up close. Let's see how Marissa did.


She has the better setting, I'll give her that. Madison's town center is beautiful, even while stuck in traffic.

Enough lingering on the weather. Grab your coffee and let's fire up this Friday morning journal entry.

Sip. It's good to be here today. I got changed right out of a hamper filled with freshly washed clothes. But even sporting my favorite sweatpants, I'm probably still not as comfortable as Rodney is right now. For him, it's pajama day.

It's pajama day - not sleepwear day. A subtle distinction, but the truth is that Rodney doesn't even own pajamas. If he wore what he actually wears to bed every night, he'd be sitting in class in his Paw Patrol underwear looking as fragile and naked as Mowgli from the Jungle Book. Just for Pajama day we had to buy him a brand new pair of Spider-Man pajamas from Target.

While making coffee this morning, I overheard the heated discussion emanating from his upstairs bedroom. Rodney was torn. He hates wearing new outfits - especially things that were added to his wardrobe without his explicit permission. But he was also too excited about pajama to abstain. The next moment, he was strutting into the dining room with the confidence of a runway model, sporting red and blue relaxed fit pants and a vibrant graphic t-shirt with his favorite web-slinger popping out of the center of his chest.

"I was brave today," he said. "I put on new clothes." Bravery comes in all forms, and courage isn't measured with what you fear, but in how you overcome it.

It's been an action packed work week. I've done a lot of pairing, which was fun. My teammate Joe and I have been hacking on some configuration for one of our team's services. I also met with a new friend, Ghandali.

Ghandali has actually been around at the company for almost as long as I have. We are the last few engineers left from the original operations team from four years ago. As the company grew, the single giant "ops" team was broken up into smaller teams and we went our separate ways. Now, almost five years later, we're working on the same thing again.

While waiting for her code to compile, I learned that Ghandali tends to an eclectic backyard garden. She told me that after waiting a whole year, her prized white lavender flowers are finally coming into bloom.

"This might be a dumb question, but... do you eat lavender?"

Ghandali shrugged. "I just like it because it's pretty," she said. "I eat the tomatoes, they are so easy to grow and they're delicious."

Evidently, tomatoes are easy to grow in California. I bitterly reminded her that in some places of the country, it snows in March. But California still faces a serious decline in rainfall, which has the locals worried about wildfires this summer. Every region has its problems.

I have some other exciting work news. Each year my work holds a virtual tech conference, and this year I'm giving two separate talks. The first talk is a long form reflection on overcoming anxiety when writing code in job interviews. The second is a sillier talk on keeping spiders as pets. Between you and me, the spider talk will probably just be an entertaining gallery of pictures, videos, and slow motion cockroach takedowns.

I've been meaning to go out of my way to find more public speaking opportunities. I'm not trying to puff myself up, but for some reason I don't get nervous speaking in front of big groups of people. I enjoy telling stories and explaining things so much that a big audience doesn't seem to phase me. While Marissa and I were driving somewhere, the topic of public speaking came up. She recounted the time she had to deliver a Saluditorian address to her entire school at graduation.

"But that's a BIG crowd," I said. "Like, at a certain point the crowd becomes so big, it gets easier, right?" I thought of the time I had to play a wise-cracking grasshopper in a junior high play based on characters from Aesop's fables. I remember the spotlight shining in my face so brightly that I couldn't see anyone in the crowd, and it felt so easy to recite my lines because it felt like I was just rehearsing by myself. Since I had every word committed to memory, I could just mentally blank out and enjoy the reactions from the crowd. It felt weirdly serene.

"You're crazy," said Marissa, shaking her head while staring forward at the road. "That doesn't make any sense, I think most people hate speaking in front of big crowds."

I feel like I'm bragging, so let me even the scales by divulging something that does make me nervous. I hate talking to any kind of tradesperson that's fixing something in my house. These situations feel so tense that my voice cracks and I sweat through my shirt. I feel uncertain about where to stand in the room, how often to talk, or how closely I should pay attention to them. Everything I say or do is quickly followed by insecure, invasive thoughts like do I seem creepy? or does this guy think I'm stupid?. Compared to Marissa, who talks to these people like they're longtime friends, I envy that kind of comfort zone. I bet the same kind of fear Marissa feels standing in front of a microphone in front of a crowd, I feel in my own house watching a guy fix my oven.

Are you afraid of anything that doesn't seem to bother other people? What about the opposite - are you weirdly unaffected by something that's universally deemed "scary" by everyone else?

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