Weeks 7 and 8 at Recurse Center

Well, did I fall off the blogging wagon? Two weeks ago was Never Graduate Week at Recurse Center, which means alums get to return to the space and there’s a lot of activity, a LOT more people, and just a lot of everything more. I feel like I spent around half of this time rolling around in this “a lot-ness” (!!Con was also this week) and half of it quietly resting. And last week, we got a new, fresh batch of people joining us for my batch’s final six weeks, along with half a dozen people visiting for one week, which overall resulted in the same feelings as my own first week: Feeling disoriented, scattered, overwhelmed, with so many new interesting people to meet (and names to learn), and lots of new information.

Last week (actually, probably the week before) I started to hit some walls and feeling like my brain was too full. Presentations and workshops wash over me and I’m not struck with the same frenzied immediacy of needing to know more about every different subject I come across. I didn’t get a lot done in terms of goals-progress (with the caveat that I don’t want to discount the progress made in terms of socializing and community building). Every time I did sit down to do work, I’d have no focus and I’d feel like a big blob, sorta feeling like I had forgotten how to write code at all, and worried that feeling would stick around forever. I fumbled through and dropped multiple small projects, and tried to find the drive to work on something without giving up, and figure out how to actually find an appropriate project that was the right size and then apply the right breaking-things-down-into-steps logic that has become natural to me. I felt like I was sliding backwards instead of moving forward. I’m writing this in the past tense but I think I still feel this way, but I am trying to accept that this is just part of the process and I can’t be sprinting ahead all of the time (alas).

So, yeah. Half of my dismay involves feeling like my brain is full and that I am not learning as quickly or as many things as I did 7 weeks ago. And the other half is fearing that I somehow immediately forgot everything I’ve worked on in the past 7 weeks. I think both of these things are mostly untrue.

Another lament is that the rolling batches (which I think are overall a vastly great idea) are emphasizing how much of a liminal space Recurse Center is, which has been pulling many of us back in to the real world and remembering we will require jobs after all of this, which creates distraction and in some ways taints the previously more-pure experience. I catch myself thinking about which projects I should work on that are more advantageous to a jobs portfolio instead of being driven exclusively by self-directed interest, which bums me out because I have spent and will continue to spend the rest of my life with this at the front of my mind, unfortunately. It doesn’t help that tech interviews are a skillset within themselves and have very little, if anything, to do with the daily life of professional programmers.

Something I’ve learned through this experience is how to be more selfish with my time, in general. I think anyone invested in working in open source has a similar problem: wanting to be helpful, wanting to volunteer, and wanting to do more. During my time at RC, I am explicitly following paths that are most helpful to only me, and giving up working through or on things that are not beneficial to growing my knowledge, even if they help others. I mean, I’m not talking about not helping those around me – that is always a worthy endeavor – just not pushing forward on projects I feel I “should” do, especially if it means trudging through uncomfortable (i.e. undocumented and potentially non-functioning) or boring territory. This kind of selfishness is new to me, although it shouldn’t be, and I hope I can apply these practices moving forward when working on personal projects outside of the context of labor compensation (and especially for uncompensated labor).

I woke up this morning thinking of my hurt and bewildered (private) reaction to a friend of mine 6-7 years ago when she was rolling her eyes at a major tech company being interested in interviewing her for a position, and her saying she just couldn’t be bothered to put a resume together and fill out the form despite recruiters hitting her up, when meanwhile I was making $8,000/year, a SNAP beneficiary, and desperately seeking any form of employment to boost my income streams during graduate school and coming up constantly with nothing. All this just to say that I recognize that now I’ve become one of those people and I’m rolling my own eyes at my tiny self-involved half-whines over shifting feelings back towards survival mode when floating in this magical dream of a space and community. I am excruciatingly lucky in pretty much every aspect of my life, and that was as true when I was pleading with temp agencies daily in South Carolina as it is now.