Week 5 at Recurse Center

Started off this week feeling not-so-good about myself, like I was just running waist-deep in mud, just trying to move forward but feeling so stuck. On Tuesday I made the very-good decision to break from my overarching goal (which had led me into video decoders and web assembly) and make a PBCore2.1 validator, which took only a small amount of time to produce good and useful results. I moved on from there into doing a bit of what I casually have been referring to as “javascript shitposting,” which is making things that don’t have much value and just cobbling together junk to make myself feel better.

This week, I am:

I’ve been thinking about a conversation I had with a batchmate a few weeks ago, about what we want to do after this whole adventure is over. At some point, I said (for the second time, among other things) that I just really had to care about what I was building. He paused and said something along the lines of “You really do care about that!” “Don’t you?” No. He said he cared about working with good people and with interesting technology, but what was being built didn’t matter all that much. I cannot imagine not caring. This often feels, in my day-to-day life and the repercussions I face as a result of it, more of a fault than a virtue.

I can follow this analogy to even being here at RC. Last week I was feeling lost and wondering if I even enjoyed actual programming, but I think I was 1) mysteriously moody for unrelated reasons but especially 2) having a hard time finding a small, tangible project that had meaning for me. I’ve never been a person who can tolerate doing things that don’t matter just for the sake of doing them, so I am in fact a terrible programmer when it comes to doing the kinds of arbitrary tasks and hoops required to jump through to get a programming job, like solving mathy problems for fun. I have to accept this about myself – I’ll never enjoy doing that because it feels very pointless, even when the point is “good employment.”

But I’m feeling a lot better about my technical abilities. Last week I was kinda like “wah wah, I’m so terrible at all of this and I’ll never be better.” Taking a break from learning Rust and diving into video to do some webdev and javascripting and then returning to Rust+WASM+JavaScript and realizing that I have actually learned things gave me the perspective I needed to keep moving forward.

This week I was reminded of how much I really, really love the work I was doing prior to coming to RC, with Archivematica 1.7 being released (and buying myself a slice-o-cake), working on some UX stuff from Collab Cataloging Japan, and checking in with Mark Morris Dance Group’s cataloging project to tidy up a few things. I really love what I do and I am grateful to do it, but on the other hand I realize that I need to make choices that reflect in providing me with stable income and (most importantly) health care. I worry that working on things that I love and having health care and living in New York are not all things I am capable of having at the same time. This leaves me often feeling essentially unemployable. Despite my attempts to comfort other people on the job hunt now that being a good, kind, empathetic, intelligent, and creative person is very often antithetical to being a good prospective employee and to be in general wary of vocational awe, I am often subject to the same struggles.

It is very much a privilege to be able to live in a way that attempts to be aligned with one’s ethics.