January 2016 In Review
Following a week and a half in Tulsa for Christmas and New Year’s, the first half of January was spent in Menlo Park, CA, and the second finally back in Seattle.
Menlo Park was like a working vacation. Everything is set up so that you can focus on work - you can take the company shuttle and work during the commute, there are countless food options at any time of the day, there’s even dry cleaning. For the first week, I sorta entertained the Silicon Valley dream of working hard and long hours and trying to prove yourself/make a difference. The first week, I was able to be really disciplined. But it was also an unusually good time spiritually. When I was at home, I was almost exclusively programming or pursuing God - I listened to about half of David Platt’s Secret Church on “Heaven, Hell, and the End of the World” (which is still 2 or 3 pretty meaty hours), prayed more than I have in recent memory, and read my Bible until I fell asleep, sometimes even fighting sleep with prayer so that I could stay up longer to read. I blazed through the book of Acts while I was down there.
Suzi came down to San Francisco for the weekend, so I joyfully showed her around FB’s main campus on Friday afternoon. We spent Saturday in San Francisco, going to the Exploratorium and seeing the seals at Fishermen’s Wharf and getting bubble tea at Plentea and Boba Guys. Sunday consisted of joining a small church plant gathering in Mountain View, lunch at In-N-Out, and coffee at Blue Bottle in Palo Alto before Suzi had to fly back to Seattle.
After Suzi left, week two was much less disciplined. I started watching TV and wasting a lot of time. My prayerfulness and time in the Word greatly diminished.. additionally, I had one of my more unproductive weeks at work. I had some integration tests that failed 20% of the time and I couldn’t figure it out. It set me back for days. [Eventually, I ended up just re-writing everything.] I started becoming a bit more disillusioned with the Silicon Valley dream and feeling a bit overworked, which was probably to be expected. I also spent some time catching up with some old friends - one night was spent catching up with a former intern in San Jose and another in San Francisco visiting friends at Twitter and Uber.
Being back in Seattle has been good, but interesting. It has been really great to be back at our church - we finished up a Friday night series on suffering, had our first marriage group in about a year and a half (7 couples!), and even had a spontaneous game night at our house (where I played Uno for the first time in around 4 years, but others were also playing Dixit and Sushi Go). We just had a pretty good food and friend night in which we invited a bunch of friends to come to church, play ping pong, and Suzi shared her testimony. Suzi and I just hosted a dumpling lunch at our condo yesterday for Chinese new year, and today we spent almost the whole day with our church community, between church, a leadership meeting, and watching the Super Bowl together.
I actually started discipling someone at church, which is honestly very exciting for me - he’s a PhD student at UW studying natural language processing (for example, two nights ago, I tried hard without success to follow the conversation as he explained why he didn’t think that P equals NP). We’re currently going through 1 Thessalonians, and the time together has been particularly enjoyable.
In terms of spiritual disciplines, I finished Acts, Romans, and 1 Corinthians, but am having some trouble as the text has started to get more dense. I am still memorizing in Romans 11 and set a loose resolution to be able to recite the entire book of Romans by the end of the year.
My right knee has been giving me a lot of issues (lateral tracking?) and so I’ve been on a break for a while, though I’ve already signed up for 3 half marathons this year (Cinco De Mayo, Seattle Rock n Roll and Seattle) and was sorta hoping to do more. It’s a bit frustrating to be out of commission, especially since the weather has been getting nicer here and I’ve traditionally turned to running to do some emotional and mental processing and keep things balanced. Getting regular physical activity has become a lot harder (and I’m sure it has shown in the whole 5 pounds I’ve gained since I’ve stopped running). My knee only seems to be getting worse, actually. It used to show up about 20 minutes into every run, but that time has decreased and I’ve even started feeling it when I’m just standing, sitting down, or even just lying down.
Work has been honestly very challenging and consuming. There have been multiple times when I’ve stopped and wondered “why did I leave Tune for this?” and fearing that I would fall behind in the same way that I struggled to perform at Amazon. I don’t think that my priorities have exactly changed (I think it’s still in an order of God, Suzi, work), but I think that work has definitely been taking up more bandwidth as of lately. There was a weekend I even lost sleep over it.. it’s been hard. I thought there would be a certain level of satisfaction and arrival, only to realize that there’s still another level if I want to play this game.
There’s an element of pride and wanting to prove and justify myself. How badly I want to prove and justify myself! How badly I want to “win”! At the same time, I often feel so terrible when I win and accomplish what I set out to do. I don’t really want this, to prove myself, to puff myself up so that I can feel better than others. Spending more time on Facebook itself ironically makes me feel like I’m wrong all the time. I see all sorts of things on my news feed asserting that I’m wrong for welcoming people with the phrase “you guys” and for not being more loving towards homeless people and for being a religious bigot because I don’t think that homosexuality is acceptable. I think it really does shape me and my thoughts/opinions.
I really thought I “made it” when I got to Facebook. For a few weeks, I used my Facebook backpack and wore my Facebook hoodie and felt an unusual sense of pride. I felt like I had a lot to boast about, like I was a really important person and wanted people to recognize that. (Though sometimes I needed to be subtle about it, or falsely humble about it, because if it was too obvious, people would be less impressed.) I felt proud when my backpack would enter someone’s line of sight. It was really stupid. I stopped using my Facebook backpack. It’s not good for my ego. This sort of thing will really eat at your soul. It’s lethal. This sort of thinking can only plunge me into despair because it seeks affirmation in something so fragile - my ability as a programmer, my career trajectory and job performance, how others perceive me… I believe that’s not a life worth living, but sometimes it’s hard to see that when the world around you is an entirely different paradigm. It is countercultural. But underneath the covers, you really will find people who are simply people, looking for purpose and reason and satisfaction, but disguised underneath status and salary and intellect. And they’re not going to find it at Facebook, or in being right in peoples’ eyes, or having money in the bank. They’re only going to find it in Jesus.