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I Wear a Uniform at Work

And So Can You

A screenshot

That was a pretty funny pic, I thought. And then I wore that vest – a lil Arcteryx prototype vest my aunt found at their Vancouver outlet and gave me for Christmas – everyday at work until I got too hot sometime in June.

Why? To remind myself that I was at work.

“That’s obvious, though! Why bother?” Unfortunately, while it may have been obvious that I was at work based on the beige and the cubicles, I had a lot harder time finding the distinction between what was and wasn’t work. At its core, this was a failure to distinguish what work could and couldn’t do for me: work could, I kept discovering, keep me diverted and engaged at its best. But it could not ever give meaning to my life.

Work, I kept having to remind myself, shouldn’t be everything. It shouldn’t be all-consuming. It shouldn’t be the thing at the core of my life that gives meaning to the rest of what I do. Because I’d lived that way for enough years and in enough failed ways to know that it is a lie. There is no life worth living for me where work is the principal thing, or even the third most important thing, in my life.

This last role I was in was very demanding: it felt a lot like being a startup founder again in terms of scope, but without any of the commensurate control and authority you enjoy. So that throwback to my startup founding days made it real easy to regress into an older way of being that really fucked me up, and translated into many small bad things, like spending too much time and emotional energy on work, even when I wasn’t there.

But once things got really bad at my job, it meant what little capacity I had for maintaining that distinction just completely fell apart. I leaned on every coping strategy I had until my finances and my inner life were a jumbled mess.

And then I got a uniform.

You wear the uniform at work, and take it off when you get home. And with it, you have a ritual for setting aside all of the demands work will place on you. Whether you concede to those demands even after you have removed your uniform is up to you, ultimately. But then the fact of your betrayal of your own self is a little plainer: here you are, in your own clothes and home, making the habitual out of the supererogatory, ignoring all the things inside you that you swear can wait just a little longer.

Sometimes, people will make fun of your uniform, which I think is great. A bud at work showed up wearing a black vest and looking stoic, and yep. That’s me. I have been read, and I have been placed. I am the guy with a uniform. I am doing exactly what I must, and then I am free.

A Christmastime Story About Automating Your Appointments

With Heroku, and Twilio, and Hope for the New Year

I’d been trying without much success to get an appointment to put on winter tires at my local Costco. If you get up early enough, you can go wait in line and they’ll do it for you, but who wants to get up at 6am? For that, I’ll wait until I’m a more elderly Costco patron, with fewer demands upon my time. Fortunately, Costco uses an online scheduling webapp to book appointments, whose API calls I could examine!

Thus began an exhaustive foray into discovering just how many appointment openings I could get notifications about, using Chrome dev tools, Heroku Scheduler, and extremely simple Python scripts.

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Feet of Fury

A skate vid 15 years in the making

Meant to be the hottest skate vid of my adolescence. Filmed from 2002 to 2003. It was honestly my very first big, ambitious creative project. I learned (or tried to learn) Final Cut Pro to create it. I spent some time at the Regina Film Pool with their editing room, but never got much further than trying to find sound effects for the slo-mo tricks we aspired to make over sets of stairs that didn’t exist in our town.

What I think I didn’t have, back then, was the capacity to grasp what I had, and accept that as a freedom from my own overbearing expectations. I didn’t have enough content to make a feature length skate film. So I forced my friends to have laboriously long sessions at all our favourite skate spots, until it wasn’t really fun anymore. And then I forced myself to try to turn it into something it wasn’t, in aforementioned editing room.

After all that work, nothing really came of it. But on visiting home last year, I found the DV cam and tapes we’d filmed it on. And I realized, that after all my time making videos as a travel blogger, I might be able to actually create something my younger self would’ve been proud of. I finally had the sense of how to make something into what it should be.

It’s not the Feet of Fury that I thought I’d make. But 15 years later, it’s at least something. It’s a little bit absolution for all the frustration I made for myself with my teenage ambition. And it’s also a model of how to do work, now: by letting things slide.

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An Attempted Survey of All the Netflix Christmas Movies

I have been sick this whole week, so I watched all the Netflix Christmas movies. Just the Netflix Originals – meaning I didn’t get to watch Merry Kissmas, unfortunately. What follows are reviews of those movies, made while I was still sick.

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I used to think that confidence emerged from success. That if I pulled off enough, was rewarded and awarded enough, I would finally feel what I’d been missing in my life: a sense that I was enough. If I aimed high enough and got there, I’d find something up there that could give me the inner buoyancy that lets life seem easy, that could keep me afloat above all the things that dragged me down before.

In the course of pursuing that vision of confidence, I started a startup that failed, landed me in a tremendous amount of debt, and left me a little stumped. I had lots to show for it – shit, I did learn how to code after all – but I’d ultimately failed to do the biggest, scariest, hairiest thing I aspired to. After a couple years of tentatively pursuing more startup-shaped things, I decided to drop pretty much all of it. Something didn’t seem right about this path, or about the way I was trying to find my path.

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