Running on the Water
I don’t have breakdowns very often. I tend to continue patching the dam, making sure that everyone (including me) knows that everything is ok, even when it’s chaotic. I look for ways to make things work… rearranging priorities or acknowledging burnout when it starts to raise its ugly head, but rarely addressing the underlying issues:
- what’s causing me to burn out in the first place (other than the amount of work that’s on my plate)?
- why am I reacting this way when yet another company reveals that they don’t actually understand Developer Relations or the value of community?
and this time…
- why am I choosing to take on this many projects in the first place?
I’m no stranger to therapy and have an amazing therapist that I’ve worked with on and off for the past 4 years (👋 hi Ann!). But while I’m accustomed to addressing the “why does this pattern seem to keep repeating?” or “how can I properly respond to those emotions?” questions, I’ve rarely dug deep enough into my professional life to realize some of the patterns that have emerged in these 3 short weeks that I’ve been involved in the altMBA.
Part of that is because Ann, while amazing, isn’t incredibly well-versed in the ins-and-outs of the tech industry. And part of that is because some of these things were so embedded in my belief system about myself as well as DevRel that it’s taken a lot of outside observations from my fellow altMBA’ians (e.g. imposter syndrome can sometimes present as not believing that I come across as professional to those who don't know me) to even crack the surface of these deeper issues.
One of our last altMBA projects brought out a lot of the generic frustration of how DevRel is pushed and pulled in a lot of organizations, but I still hadn’t dug into how that applied to me and my personal experiences with this tension. As I reflected on that project, I finally started breaking through the surface-level issues and diving into some of the long-term effects of constantly hearing that you aren’t doing your job right simply because no one actually understands what your job is.
Walls were shattered, skeletons were revealed, and silence fell. I sat in this silence for a few days, forcing myself to not act. Not everything has to be fixed immediately. Some things need to be sat with and marinated on and recognized for what they are instead of what they’ve become.
But time and space produce tension, often causing awkwardness or a desperation to move forward, to escape the uncomfortable silence. So I forced myself to not rewrite my priorities, to take a little bit of a break on Friday, to talk things through with another DevRel friend and again with my partner, watch my fellow altMBA’ians comment on my project, and simply sit with it.
Now what? Now that I understand one of the reasons why I’m pushing myself so hard, where do I go from here? How do I move forward? How does this realization change what I do tonight, tomorrow, next week, with the future of my business… or does it? How does this change how I see myself, how I see others, how I view those past employers and colleagues?
The first thing that a good friend reminded me of is that while I might be pushing myself because I feel like I have to prove myself, my motivations are still pure. I want resources for the DevRel industry in order to prevent this from happening to other people. Do I wish it hadn’t happened to me? Absolutely! Do I hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else? Absolutely! But I’m not in this to rub my success in the faces of those that have scoffed. I’m in this to hopefully prevent others from being scoffed at in the future.
My altMBA coach dropped some wisdom in the comments:
What can you let go of that’s no longer serving you?
As my group wrapped up on Thursday night (late, and emotionally exhausted), we went through some of the uplifting quotes we keep around our desks and workspaces. I looked around at mine and realized that while some were helpful, there were others, that while encouraging for a season, might actively be pulling me down now… asking me to look back at times past rather than looking forward.
While I need to actively remember this quote, I need to do it in a way that directs me forward… using it as a springboard to push myself onward and upward rather than hashing and rehashing every detail of the past — I’ve been down that masochistic road too many times before.
I went on a whale watching trip with my partner last weekend for his birthday and while there were many, many things that were absolutely incredible about the experience, the one thing that keeps coming to mind is the birds that we saw. These large birds were effortlessly riding the waves and occasionally diving down to grab a fish, but when it was time for them to fly, they’d spread their wings, lower their feet, and seemingly run on the water before taking off. They were creating tension by pushing against the water with their webbed feet, and then using the momentum and energy caused by that tension to “take off” to go do their next thing.
This tension… this pause… this stopping to meditate and consider and marinate on these new revelations is exactly what I need to get out of this “dip” caused by fear, by (invisible) external pressure, by ghosts from my past. By dwelling in it, finding some unexpected truths in it, and then pushing against it, I can take off to power forward on the next leap that’s ahead of me.
While I can’t say that the silence necessarily eased the tension, it definitely let me take a bit of a break. I gave myself some grace, as so many have been telling me to do, and just breathed. I organized my to-do lists and reprioritized life over work for the day. When I did sit down to do work, I knew definitively that “done” was better than chasing the ever-changing standard of “perfect.” I allowed myself to receive praise and truly revel in it. I thought through what I’m doing right and verified mentally as well as emotionally that those things line up with my own personal mission as well as my company’s mission.
Now I’ve come to the next question: How do I demonstrate my resilience? How do I parse what is right and good and motivated by that which is right and good, and keep on keeping on, pushing the ghosts aside and letting the chattering monkeys chatter, but not listening to their words anymore?
I stay quiet.
I use my mission as my north star… my touchstone for everything I choose to do.
And I keep doing what I’m doing: providing resources for the community of community builders in order to push the entire industry forward.
I do it for those who are struggling. I do it for those who are feeling alone. I do it for those who have been told they’re not doing enough. And I do it for me. To make a better place for those of us who are storytellers and connectors and have the community’s best interests at heart, 100% of the time.