Random updates loosely centered around time
Here are a bunch of thoughts from a few days ago, a little connected under the theme of time, but also a little random:
Today is a big day in the Chang household. It’s the first day of full-day school. It is kind of a big relief for me, I felt like I had maxed out over the summer and wasn’t able to keep up with her.
A few years ago, I read a book by John Mark Comer called The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. The most memorable point from the book is the idea that we can carry around a state of hurry with us in our bodies physiologically. So we don’t just feel hurried in our minds, it manifests in physical ways as well.
I started feeling that more and more in the beginning of the year. We were trying to hit a big deadline at work and I started working long hours. Most of my work days felt like they were spent in meetings, and then I wouldn’t start actual work until Nora was down at night. There were some tricky technical problems and, whether right or wrong, I felt like I was the only one who could fix them. I think that was the first time in my life I felt some sort of “anxiety” not just mentally or emotionally, but physiologically. It was a little harder to breathe. It didn’t hurt, but there was enough friction or weight that breathing felt like it took some effort. It made the rest of my body alarmed, like it was perceiving some very real threat that wasn’t there. It made it hard to keep working.
I worked pretty hard for a few months and hit diminished returns. Completing tasks became harder and took longer than they should have (perhaps one of the indicators of burnout), but the project still languished. By the time it all launched, we had all moved on to other things (ie it was pretty anticlimactic).
Working at home makes time feel warped. The day can feel full of all of these empty spaces, none long enough to get anything substantial done, but simultaneously invaluable, non-fungible. I often feel like I can’t stay out 10 extra minutes on a run because things might be on fire at work or at home. But 30 minutes? That’s only long enough to fold half the laundry and read half of my unread Slack before getting derailed by something requiring a deeper dive. Any bit of touching code feels like it takes at least an hour. There’s a proliferation of docs, each which takes too long to read and process, and the asynchronous nature of it means review and buy-in could drag on for weeks. Same with getting all the context from a JIRA ticket or a Slack thread. Everyone’s so busy it’s hard to justify another meeting - but those ad hoc meetings also provide the most value (and what keeps everything human/interpersonal instead of just being transactions and “resources”).
Strangely, though, as work stuff has returned in-person, it is possibly the closest place I have to heaven right now. It’s the one place where I feel like everyone knows my name, thinks well of me, and wants to see me. I feel valued and appreciated. (I recognize some bit of that is definitely conditional on how much I’ve put into work over the past several years.)
Once a quarter, my team does something called a Recharge Day. Everyone on the team takes the day off and gets some budget to do something that they can’t normally do because of work. It’s nice to have that space, especially as a parent, but it’s actually very hard to unplug entirely, and it’s hard, even for a day, to forget about time. Things are usually so governed by “I have this much time until I need to go to __ or do __, so I need to be as efficient or productive as possible”. The first Recharge Day, I did hot yoga for the first time, went to one of my favorite coffee shops (Zoka in Kirkland), and hit a slow long run. The second time, I didn’t plan anything and ended up just taking my time reading at Olympia Coffee in Columbia City, running at Mercer Island, and eating lots of sweets with Nora.
But I think maybe you can imagine that a lot of what someone does is based off of these sorts of value propositions on top of their own personal values. If you feel like you don’t have enough time to fulfill all of these pressing needs, the things you give up are usually the things you don’t put a lot of value in. For us, it means we eat out a ton. We used a house cleaner for the first time (shoutout to Shae). Our backyard gets pretty unruly. And honestly, we haven’t historically made a lot of room for new friends or social events. You aren’t really rewarded for overexerting. What matters more is consistency and stability, since you have such little margin for error. If you put yourself at an energy or sleep deficit, it’s rare to get support at just the right time (shoutout to our friends Daniel and Tiffany who offered to help us out with Nora on the exact day when I really needed to get a tire fixed).
I’m hoping I’ll be able to forget about time more over the next month, with Nora at school. Suzi and I have another baby coming in October, which means we get a little bit of this season before things potentially get busy again and I go on parental leave.
I became a manager at work. That could be its own post.
In my absence of posting, I had started putting some more thoughts in Instagram instead, but the character limits are starting to push me back towards this blog (though this blog doesn’t really have any distribution channels, and I’ve become wary of posting anything too personal).
This summer, we went back to Tulsa. We were able to see a bunch of extended family in Tulsa, which was nice. We also visited San Diego for the first time, going to Legoland and 4 different beaches in almost as many days.
I’ve been reading The Story of Christianity, a book about church history (I just finished the first big section, which is the story of the church from like 0 AD to 300 AD). The last book I finished was The Great Sex Rescue (about how “purity culture” has affected Christians’ understanding of sex), and Gentle and Lowlly (about the attributes of God) before that. I also picked up a book called Fragmented Faith about deconstruction that I heard about on the Holy Post podcast, though I’m not sure I enjoy it enough to want to keep reading it.
I ran the Lake Union 10k with Nora about a month ago, and the Rock n Roll half marathon this past weekend (there’s a separate blog post about that race). Other than that, I haven’t really been running or doing much physical activity, though I still default to running when I have spare time.
I’m coming off a week of PTO, which has honestly been so good with Nora in school for the past 3 days. I really do feel like a different person. I don’t have an inexhaustible list of work tasks to worry about at night, and I don’t have to think about work tasks or meetings during the day. I haven’t felt like this for 4 years - this amount of freedom/bandwidth. I’ve finally completed a bunch of random tasks that I’d been putting off for months (easy things that just require time - like recycling styrofoam, mailing a package, selling a chair, etc). And I at least have 3 straight days of just drinking coffee and reading. Honestly, it’s been really hard for me to balance “work anywhere” with even just feeling like I have enough time to sit down and read a book.
That’s also partly the reason I’m writing again! Thanks for reading.