Success Metrics for Being Lost

and who knows what you could become
Credit: flickr / Andrew Russeth

For the last week I’ve been thinking that I should post some kind of “this is how my break is going!” update. OK, more than the last week, I had some thought of doing one every week but the poor internet in Bali was a handy excuse to scratch that.

But I’ve struggled to have some idea of what to write. How’s it going? Well, my shoulders are no longer up around my ears. People tell me I look more relaxed. I finally think I look more relaxed. I wrote some code for fun. I read a lot of novels. I made time for yoga classes. I spent quality time with my friends. I had another post on LifeHacker.

So much of what I’m getting from this is distance. Distance from this stupid, misogynistic industry and the navel gazing circle jerk that constitutes “innovation”.

I was so tired of the gas-lighting, the misogyny, the pointlessness of so much of what technologists create – what are we doing? As an idealist, I signed up to make the world a better, more equitable, place, a more interesting one, at the very least. And I read the tech news, and just think “is this it?”

New feature on apps that I use that I’m most enthused about? Retry when send fails, helpful in places where the internet sucks. I don’t think it even featured on the release press. Know how long it took? Too freaking long.

And the finger pointing on all the stats to make it somehow not the fault of that place. No women in industry! Blame the universities. They are all culpable. If it didn’t suck so much to be a technical woman, there would be more of us. The numbers don’t lie.

Anyway, I read my twitter feed in the morning and I’m despondent about it, and sad for my friends, and then I go away from it and take a break, because this is not, currently, my life. It just will be again, soon.

How do you quantify that?

How do you quantify, measure, the benefit of just being purely sad to leave a place and people I loved, even as I know it was the right decision? The relief I felt knowing that sub-optimal situation over, fades, and I can just be sad about all that was good, amazing, even?

Is there some benefit to having space to look at a situation and go, wow, that was making me miserable! Really miserable! Why was I going along with that, thinking that there was some benefit that was going to be worth it? Even if it came, never when they promised, it was never going to be enough!

And how about the things that I’m failing at? Completing, afore mentioned coding for fun. Failing to write more things that really challenge me. Failing to post the things that I have written, that I’m afraid to post. Failing to finish the stack of half-written blog-posts in my notes folder. Failing to even open the file for that project that I swore now I was ready for, would make time for.

Failing to accept that I’m probably going to have to live in London, and doing research on whether it’s viable to Air BnB a flat in Paris and commute by the Eurostar (it’s not).

So I came up with a plan – I would do an hour’s “work” in the morning, and in the evening I would have cross a task off my todo list (thereby balancing time to do open-ended things with actual, completing of things). And it worked, for a day, and then I walked well over 10k and was too exhausted and just went to sleep instead.

Fail.

Although, I have a todo list again. This is new, for a long time I was just so stressed that I wouldn’t need one – I didn’t really use a list – no need, it ran through my head on repeat. Because the next most important thing was almost always clear.

This gap, is my whitespace. Success metrics, fail metrics, whitespace shouldn’t have them. This is life, learning to feel alive, and interested, and curious, and optimistic again. Measurement is somehow meaningless in the face of that.

In two and a half more weeks, I will walk back into an office again, and the only thing I’m sure of is that I should wear my black wedge LK Bennet ankle boots, the ones with the four inch heel. OK, I have a vague idea of the outfits I’ll pack (theme is black, will mix in some grey) and I’m not sure which Michael Kors handbag will be best – purple or black?

I don’t know where I’ll stay (better get on that).

And I don’t know how I’ll feel – ready? Optimistic? Energised?

This is my time to be lost. To not know what to do. Maybe by the end of this break I’ll have it figured out, and maybe I won’t. Maybe what I’ve come up with will be right, and maybe it won’t. The only metric that matters is – do I feel like it was worth while? Am I glad I took this time?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

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