My boss liked to poke at me because of how much I enjoy my “toys:” the little tools, tricks, and habits I’ve picked up over the last five years. But I’m starting to learn the toys I play with have a profound effect on the decisions I seem to make.
Let me be clear: he was never hurtful. It just shows how different we approached our identities as developers beyond our immediate work where we held so many of the same opinions.
Does it really matter if I like Carbon to make source code snippets look nice? Probably not. It’s just a toy and there are a hundred other ways to share code snippets. But I bet I also read a lot more 🔥tips on twitter than he does, and in that circle of devs Carbon is super common. People like us share code like this.
Terminal vs Hyper. Google Docs vs Simplenote. Plain text vs Markdown. QWERTY vs Colemak. It would come up all the time how not only did I not use what everyone else used, but I very much loved my choice for one reason or another. The point being not that we disagreed, but that it seemed kind of silly that I would spend time even considering my preferred toy when the normal kind does just fine.
Toys are Tools When Work is Play
It might be my downfall one day, but my love of the tools in my craft is part of why I love the craft itself. I spend too many hours a day trying to make good art not to feel like my tools are helping me instead of hurting. Software, hardware, my chair and desk (yes, I have a sit/stand desk) have all been carefully improved upon bit by bit for a long time. And the more I feel at home with these tools, the more my art is just a game I play.
Next week is my last one full-time at ye olde web agency. It has me a bit emotional because the is the first job I’ve left where I feel like I’ve truly left a mark. I’m proud of my earlier jobs too but in all of them I think I was a cog in a machine. At Makespace I always tried to be me, doing the best I could to help others.
Multiple people have pulled me aside or messaged me privately to say it won’t be the same without me, or they’re not sure how well some such thing will happen without me or even a true plea to stay. For the first time I think I’ve succeeded in doing work that is indispensable. That’s a goal I’ve been striving to reach for at least 10 years.
But that’s also why I have to leave. If I’m ready to do work that’s worthwhile, that people would miss if it was gone, that makes my tiny square of this world ever so slightly better, I have the responsibility to provide it as best as I can.
To accept that responsibility I’m also ready to accept the risks that come with being a craftsmen. It’s scary to be sure, but it’s never felt more right.
At the beginning of 2018, I recommended an episode of Cortex that was all about discussing “yearly themes.” I’ve genuinely been working on this idea in my head all year. The closest I ever really came to making a theme for this year was “the year of flexibility.” I wanted to become more open and experimental in how I worked, how I planned, how I parented, and also literally become more flexible physically.
None of those things really worked out well, though they’re all still on my mind. Such failures have driven me to figuring out exactly what I do want out of the next year or so: a refactor.
If my life had a changelog, I’d say we’re on Alex version 4. V4 is considered by all to be a great leap from previous versions, but it has come with a lot breaking changes. The health API (arguably the most important feature) is inconsistent at best and the source code is very hard to work with when bugs are identified.
Metaphors aside, I’ve identified that coding for a living is exactly what I should be doing but this state of sacrificing everything else so that I can keep chasing that identity has to stop. I need to cleanup my entire approach to living, not just programming. And some big commitments need to be made to really let that happen. It’s going to be a grind, but at this point there’s no avoiding it.
Some not-fun grinds are ahead, but what you can expect a year from now is I’ll still be coding: but with a different aim. I’ll still be parenting: but happier. I’ll still be a big dude: but less big.
No one ever tells you your well seems dry and you should do what it takes to fill it back up.
No one ever tells you to work on your framework technology instead of their project.
No one ever tells you to stop the unpaid overtime you’ve worked for them.
No one ever tells you that leaping can be safer than staying put.
Just because no one else says it doesn’t mean it’s not the right choice. Have the courage to say the thing no one ever says. Say it to yourself and to anyone you care about. Your words matter.
One of the better decisions in my work was pushing as many of my workflows as possible through Alfred. My brain is now configured that if I ever think “I need to do…” it just immediately opens Alfred and muscle memory takes over from there.
Tonight I downloaded Karabiner and this is definitely going to level up my Alfred game again. The first immediate boost was mapping the nearly-useless Caps Lock key to a “hyper” key, equal to Shift+Ctrl+Option+Command.
All my Alfred stuff is now available at CapsLock+F, keeping my left hand on the home row. My frequently-used Clipboard viewer is now at CapsLock+C, a comfortable shift.
And now I’m waaaay less likely for any of my Alfred commands to interfere with keyboard shortcuts! Had that been happening to me? Yes it had. But no more!
I’m going to think through some other useful mappings (like maybe prefixing some TextExpander snippets with a weirder combo) later but even this first change is proving useful. h/t Wes Bos on Syntax
Featured Image from Caleb Woods
Second trip to the new gym. Deadlifts and overhead presses plus walks there and back.
Made some decent choices about food – the only irresponsible thing being a trip to Dairy Del in the evening.
Grocery shop, dishes, laundry folding, straightening up the house all as a matter of course.
Tons of time with Grace today since it’s the weekend and Ber had an event to attend. She’s getting a lot better at playing with toys of her own accord. We haven’t even be trying to potty train and she apparently figured out how to do that on her own to our pleasant surprise.
The last episode of Cortex, Minimum Viable, was so freaking good. Made even better today when listening to ATP. I audibly snorted at the reference to fanny packs.
Been re-reading a bunch of classic MMM articles recently. Also a lot of re-visiting Apprenticeship Patterns as I think I’m at somewhat of a milestone in position at Makespace and needed to remind myself what road I’m on. I finally got started on Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators and I’m not far into it but really did enjoy the section on Ada Lovelace.
UofL has a small gym about a 15 minute walk from my house. We’ve meant to join it ever since we found out just how much cheaper it is than the Y. We finally joined on Monday night.
Tonight was my first workout there and I had a blast. The walk itself is just enough time for warmup and to think through what I want to get done. Since this was my first time working out there I first walked around the place, just to feel more comfortable. Once I was ready to lift, I stuck my old favorites: squats and deadlifts. They’re never not good for you. More variety will come soon.
Walk back home was the perfect cool down and I was ready for my weekly “decompress” night.