The last two months have been among the most stressful I have had since I started programming. It has been more stressful than writing my first book or working at my first real programming job or even as stressful as when I essentially dropped out of school due to a nervous breakdown.
In September, I took over the Swift tutorial team at RayWenderlich.com. Part of the reason for my decision taking over the team was related to my previous job. At the time, I worked for SonoPlot. I had worked for them for a year and I was trying to figure out where my career was going. I had spoken about this with the company a few times, and it was pretty well established that there was not exactly a lot of growth potential for me there. Most companies have management as a potential way for people to grow within their jobs, but at a company with a few people, that wasn’t exactly an option. Also, SonoPlot is a hardware company. Our software wasn’t the selling point, it was a peripheral. I was trying to figure out some way of staying there without feeling like I was just stuck in a dead-end job, and doing a part-time gig managing a team on the biggest tutorial site for iOS seemed like an ideal compromise. I would get some exposure, work with really smart people, and have a chance to impact the way that people learn this new language! Awesome.
Things did not work quite the way I expected…
I received an offer I could not refuse from Black Pixel. I had dreamed of working for Black Pixel eventually, but I didn’t think “eventually” meant “right now.” While I was talking to them, I realized I would be a fool if I didn’t accept the job. So in September, I started two new jobs, while also trying to finish working on a book.
I tried to get my start date to be after I finished a week of speaking at two conferences in two different states, but that was not considered an acceptable option. I have never traveled to and spoken at two conferences in the same week. I was home for only two days between them. I was really looking forward to doing what I always do after a conference, get right back to work and focus on getting things done.
This is not what happened.A few days after I got home, I got sick. I mean REALLY SICK. I had had migraines in the past and just generalized exhaustion, but usually my body had the grace to have these things happen on weekends so I would just be annoyed that I didn’t work on my side project because I was stuck in bed.
I would wake up in the middle of the night coughing my lungs out. All of the muscles in my back spasmed. I was working from bed because trying to sit with my back muscles spasmed was just too painful. I took cold medicine that did nothing and I had to ask my mother to go to the liquor store for me to get some honey whiskey because drinking hot tea with lemon, honey, and a good slug of whiskey was the only way I could stop coughing for a short period of time. I finally reached a point where I simply could not work anymore and I had to finish my week early and take a weekend to get better.
That weekend was not enough.I was told to go to the doctor after that weekend to make sure I didn’t have pneumonia. I didn’t have a fever, my lungs were clear, and my weight was ten pounds over what my “overweight” marker is. I was not a happy ninja.Even though it’s good that I didn’t have pneumonia or consumption, it was kind of like, seriously? I feel like dying here and there is nothing you can diagnose me with that sounds really scary so that I am not just a wimp? I was offered prednisone, but that stuff scares the living shit out of me and I refuse to use it unless I am dying without it.
This past month has really sucked and been completely demoralizing. I am upset that my first month on my new job was taken up with me being gone then having the Plague that Would Not End. I am mad that I spent a weekend in bed trying to get better when it didn’t work and I couldn’t just start the following week bright eyed and ready to go. I am mad that I am still kind of sick and this will not fucking go away. I am traveling in a few days and I am afraid of picking up another bug that won’t fucking die. I am sad that the people I am working for have a bad first impression of me because everything I have been doing all slammed me all at the same time and my stupid body gave out and wouldn’t let me do anything.
I am grateful and appreciative of all the people I work for who were incredibly understanding about this situation. I know I have let people down and that vexes me tremendously. No one has made me feel bad about this. I am making myself feel bad because I hear myself giving this constant stream of excuses about why I am not getting work done and I hate this person I am being. I don’t have anyone to blame but myself and I am angry that it has taken this long to get better.
Here is what I am doing about it.
I am organizing myself. I am taking responsibility for the things I have not done. I am going through and trying to take stock of what I have let slide. I am working to fix it.I have been pushing my body to its breaking point for the last three years, figuring it was just a crunch. I need to crunch to learn enough programming to get my first job. I need to kill it at my first job to avoid being fired. I need to kill it at this book to get a better job than that first job. I need to kill it so that I can learn all this awesome code from my programming mentor…
I can’t do that anymore. I need to make taking care of myself a priority. Yeah, it might mean that I miss out on some once-in-a-lifetime side project app opportunity that will only happen once that someone else might do or might just go away. I might miss out on an amazing conference. I might miss out on insert-cool-thing-here.
One reason that Xerox missed out on the computer revolution wasn’t just that they didn’t recognize the opportunity. They didn’t have the structure or the bandwidth to take advantage of it. Their business model and structure didn’t allow them to easily adopt producing personal computers. One reason Apple succeeded at this was because they gambled and went all in. Xerox could have done that, but it would have been a terrible business decision.
At some point, you have something to lose.
When I took up programming, I had nothing to lose. I had time. Time is important, but considering the return I got on that investment, it was a good decision. Right now I have basically made it. I am working at the company that was my dream job and I get to work with the people who taught me programming and to have an impact on how this new language is taught. I have career investments in things and as cool as it would be to learn virtual reality or electronics or even Metal, I need to offset the risk with the bandwidth it takes away from the things that are working for me now.
I am not going to give up on this stuff as a hobby. I simply have to acknowledge it for what it is and not think of it as an investment in my future. Making sure I have food and that my house is clean is more important right now than writing my own app or starting another book. I have people counting on me to do my job and I need to take care of myself so that I don’t let those people down and burn out.
Remind me of this in a month when I will inevitably talk about the next book I want to write.