Going larval

Going larval

I keep starting blog posts and then discarding them. I can’t seem to find the right way to talk about what’s going on.

January was quite a ride–thrilling, exhilarating, inspiring. February is much the same, except that it just dawned on me that I can’t see the track ahead. I thought I was boarding the Jungle Cruise, full of sights and sounds and laughs, and found myself on Space Mountain instead. It’s dark in here, and I’m pulling some serious Gs, but there are lots of twinkly stars and day-glo asteroids to look at*, and the comforting presence of someone who has been on this ride before and knows we’re not going to die. I’m just living in the moment, not knowing whether I’m about to turn or climb or dive, and taking whatever comes next in stride as best I can.

Which is my oblique way of saying that things are changing.

Honest to Crom, I work all the time now. After the day job I intern for the podcast, I read slush for a magazine, and I’m doing some other unrelated stuff for an editor, which it’s easiest for me to think of as another internship. I’ve put in almost 20 hours on those things this week, and I’ve loved every minute of it.

Well, that’s not strictly true. I haven’t loved every minute. But every minute was worth spending, every task worth doing. I have asked for all of it, and when I’m done I ask for more, so I do not get to complain. I am human, and sometimes I get tired, sometimes I wish I were working on something of my own, but I’m starting to find a balance there.

Other things are changing, too. I started working from home for the day job, and that meant making some changes to the household structure and also to my day. It became more important than ever that I get out to the gym and use my body, because I now sit at one desk for eight hours, and then go to another room and sit at a different desk for four more. That didn’t strike me as healthy, so I stuck the gym in between.

Another side effect is that alcohol is much less a part of my life than it was. Some of the stuff I’m doing requires intense focus, and ultimately it’s someone else’s name and reputation at stake, so there is no room for carelessness. It’s one thing to sit down with a glass of wine and edit my own stuff, or try to bang out some new words, but I can’t do that when the product is for someone else.

I am healthier and happier, and have a lot more energy than I did a couple of months ago. I laugh a lot these days. And with all the intensity of my commitments I find that my time off matters more, and the time I do spend on my own projects is more focused. That time has become minimal, though, and most of the time I don’t miss it.

That part is honestly a little bit alarming.

Someone recently commended me on “taking full advantage of an opportunity,” and cited his own experience with volunteering and where it led for him. For a moment I was taken aback and felt misunderstood–the words “taking advantage” really hit me hard, because there can be a negative connotation to that. I don’t want to take advantage of anybody.

I did not take any of this on with an outcome in mind. I saw it all as an opportunity, yes, but an opportunity to help. The happiest, most fulfilled times of my life I have spent in a support role, supporting the success of someone I deeply respected and truly believed in. I’m lucky10 enough to find myself in that position again now.

It only took me a moment to realize that wasn’t at all what the guy meant, and then also realize that it’s not actually a bad thing to look at it in terms of what I’m getting out of it all, or where it could lead. It’s not particularly comfortable for me, but thinking about it doesn’t make me a bad person.

In the 90s (and probably still today) in the programming world there was a process by which a novice programmer (or Linux user) became proficient. They would cut themselves off from the world for a time, and do nothing but eat, sleep and breathe the new language or operating system. After a little while they would emerge changed, the process complete, the goal accomplished–they were a full-fledged wizard. In the Hacker’s Dictionary this is known as the “larval stage.”

I think that’s what I’ve done. In raising my hand for these assignments I effectively went larval. The metaphor doesn’t include the pupa stage, which to me feels more accurate. I’m in my chrysalis of commitments and words.

I’m morphing in here. My priorities are changing. I went in a writer–but I’m beginning to suspect that in time I may emerge as something completely different, something that I never even knew I wanted to be.

* I have not been on the rebooted version of Space Mountain. This is how it was in its first incarnation.

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