TL;DR: My why is “tough stuff.”

I’ve gotten through some backlog of “catching up,” at least about the big updates. I feel a shift in my writing.

I’m going to try and focus on how to navigate “tough stuff” in life, and especially at work. I intend to write inclusively so that regardless of where you’re coming from, there’s no blame or shame. For a decade, I tried to make things better. Now, as my colleague Steve Flowers puts it, maybe we can make things suck less.

It’s Not Just You

Almost every single day, last month, I interacted with someone who read something that resonated. Almost every interaction included something like “I thought it was just me.”

When I was first piecing together if I might be somewhere on the spectrum, I sought research. I found the neuroscience studies very complex when I tried to decipher medical-speak. In pre-Musk Twitter, there was an active neuroscience research community. Through the discourse around research, there were narratives I read that resonated deeply. It helped me accept why I’ve always felt a little different and outside of any group.

The calls and text chats throughout April have been great feedback for me. I gained confidence that writing close to the heart hit notes I wanted to hit. Feedback certainly encouraged me to open up — find some acceptance — and helps me open up a bit more.

As my peers and I become leaders, if not managers, of people, we need to all get more comfortable talking about mental health, acknowledging our own biases, and continually invest in the self-work that helps us and our different groups and teams communicate and work together better.

Getting Out of Our Own Way

Which brings me to my other reason why I had to start writing about my sitch. For years, I’ve noticed a pattern of, well, thought leaders going rogue as they get older. I’ve been concerned why, as I was getting older more and more of my crutches for getting through social situations were breaking down. I’ve had several mentors with different sorts of mental health challenges as they got older. I didn’t want that for me.

Conversely, people who can be the most egregious in their projections of self-loathing are people who are on the spectrum but undiagnosed (and in self-denial). These are folks I’m hoping I reach in my writing. From a self-reflective standpoint, I hope this audience reads something that at least makes them stop-and-process. From a “can we make things suck less” perspective, I’m hoping my writing going forward yields some tools to get through tough stuff, no matter what side of them you might be on.

We have to be able to talk about and address the tough stuff if we want to ever make a real change or impact we might see and feel.

Why Tough Stuff?

A friend invited me out to Michigan this week to touch nature and get out of my head as I begin to navigate divorce. After work, I’ve been hiking to lighthouses, watching sunsets over Lake Michigan. It doesn’t make reviewing the divorce paperwork any easier, but it’s a real pleasant way to replenish the spoons I need to get through this particular moment.

I’ve recognized Gen X and Millennial colleagues in design and technology roles, in particular, struggle as we approach mid-life. Our lives, growing up, didn’t provide many of us with the mental health tools and acceptance our kids now have. Many of us are are caught up mastering a language that helps our kids overcome trauma and the realization that with language to describe the shit we’ve lived through… we never got the acknowledgement, let alone the help we needed. That manifests itself in a lot of ways.

How many of us have challenges with scoping (at work) AND setting boundaries (at work and everywhere else)?

Who has challenges all of the sudden with keeping up with shifting priorities (at work or in life) and your ability to get little stuff done (like keeping up with eating, taking your meds on-schedule, sleeping enough)?

The pandemic largely forced the intersectionality of a work-life and a life-life to commingle in ways that are now hard to undo (for me). This is coupled with the intersectionality of growing mental health awareness and acceptance AND heavily-entrenched organizational processes and cultural practices that do not always complement each other. Navigating this as responsible adults is “tough stuff.” This is the stuff I intend address for the next bit.

I hope that’s going to be useful. What are some examples of the tough stuff — the intersection of different forces — that you’re navigating?