photo of a woman wearing a swimsuit floating on water

Treading Water

photo of a woman wearing a swimsuit floating on water
Photo by Büşranur Aydın on

I’m not stuck in a rut. I’m moving more freely than I ever have. There’s just nowhere for me to go (career-wise) at the moment, and nothing xAPI-wise that’s been worth calling out to a wider audience for a while… which means it’s taken a bit to process just what all I can even write about.

Like John Wick, I want to serve. I want to be of service. I’m not motivated to write (or speak) simply to see or hear my own words. So, as loud and full of energy as I can get, I can also get very quiet.

Slowing My Roll

I’ve had a family of my own long enough to be one of the four of six drivers, and before kids, I worked without an employment gap since I was almost fourteen. Once out of college, lots of three-year stints, a few hard-turns into entirely different fields and career paths, with about a decade of bootstrapping two different businesses thrown in.

As a small business owner, especially a consultancy, this economic climate sucks. No one is spending money freely these days.

As a people leader at the lowest rung, with more ambition (and experience) than he knows what to do with at that level, I know I’m capable of more.

Staying proactive, constructive and engaged — treading water career-wise — is what I’m working on. I’m in a good job. I don’t think I’m untouchable; on the contrary, I’ve had to do a lot of self-work to recognize (for myself) the value I add to the team. I feel valued where I work. It just takes some work sometimes to accept that’s enough, as I’ve assumed conditions for so long that demanded more of me — there’s a part of my mind/body that anticipates and expects I must always push to the limits.

Part of that is the sensory disorder that comes with autism, and some of that how I learned to exist, conditioned for extremely challenging projects over a few decades. Oh, the unlearning!

When leaders talk about how the skills that got you the job aren’t the skills you need for the next level — one of those new skills is “abiding patience.” At work, all the xAPI efforts, especially those related to Casey Fink, have been active in terms of design; working out the details of integration. That involves a matrix of people, which means it moves slower than I want it to be. If the Universe would will it, we might be able to knock out this work in maybe six-ish sprints. I think we’ll be lucky if we get to build it this year.

I’m grateful, tbh.

Keeping Present

The slow down has meant we *know* what we’re going to build. That bodes well for how good we’ll build it. I’m thankful that we’re not in a rush to ship this feature — that everyone sees the value of user research. The team’s had access to Snowflake without the rush to build on it, so they’ve had time to learn it. I advocated early and secured licenses to Coursera for them, last year.

That I have a bit of time on my hands is great because so much is happening family-wise, it’s been a relief to not have to juggle attention, reduce my (and consequently everyone else’s) anxiety and be present for it all. Thank the Maker for flexible work arrangements.

There’ve been 8th and 12th grade graduations, part-time workers who need rides, and so much baseball… and my parents need a little more attention and focus.

I know I’m not the only 50 year-old, looking at kids and parents who need their own healthy doses of attention, focus and support. Adulting is a lot; especially if you have a mind that’s prone to overclocking… that is, if you’re not staying mindful of your own resources, and finding ways to slow down, even get ahead of impulses.

Lately, I recognize through interactions with folks who identify as autistic, having ADHD or anywhere on that spectrum, that I’ve come a long way from my burnout. Work has a mentoring program, and I picked up a mentor. I made it to the final round for a director-level product opening. Next time I go for a role, I intend to clinch it with her help.

Re-contextualizing Anew

In some part because folks who identify on various spectra largely build Mastodon as a social-network, the online community throughout the Fediverse is pretty vocal about sharing their experiences. There are a few times I’ve piped in with an anecdote that helped someone not feel like they’re the only one who ever has to feel certain kinds of pain. Lately, I’ve reflected on all these tools and strategies that I have — stuff I picked up over my career and use to figure out my everyday.

I can’t speak for the experiences of anyone but me. I don’t at all claim to be an expert on autism… but I want to share some observations and insights related to living and working that might help other autistics who are just figuring out what’s going on, and I want to also help those who love, support, or just want to work better with those cats.

I know how to write and defend a passing thesis (from UW-Madison, Go Badgers!), I got a lot of lived experiences. I’m not going out of my way to be someone’s role model or spirit animal… I hope I can provide some good tips and cautionary tales.

All this to say, I’m probably not going to be writing much about xAPI anymore. I aim to share what I learned over my career that help me build better toolsets (rather than “masks”), and when I can make it clear, how I work through struggles that many autistics (and their friends, families) go through, like burnout. I hope you’ll stick around for that stuff.