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How I let myself finally become an artist

Nearly 9 years ago, I got my first tech job at an e-commerce company that sold appliance parts. Since then, I’ve had eight different jobs in tech, hoping that the next one would feel more okay, or make me less depressed and despairing, or would just use my talents well enough that I wouldn’t be bored. And that mythically good, sustainable job in tech never showed up, never transpired, never emerged spontaneously from all my trying and resolving and trying again.

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No More: a self-care app for you and your apps

This post is the second in a series. You can read about the other apps I made here.

For the last year or so, I’ve been working on an app that makes your social media weirder, nicer, and less addictive. It lets you turn off individual features, like Instagram Stories, or Twitter replies. It lets you hide annoyances, or completely change how an app works and feels. In short, it lets you exercise a degree of autonomy over Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – apps that give you little to no choice about what you see. Apps that insist on showing you what will drive maximum engagement, no matter how damaging that is to you.

The app is called No More. And in the last couple weeks, as I’ve been putting the finishing touches on it, and after receiving the final illustrations for its settings, I’ve been considering whether or not it’s okay to release it. Since the death-by-strangulation of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer who had 18 complaints against him, who refused to hear the pleas of a man dying under his boot, I’ve been considering something about my use of social media that’s a little uncomfortable to acknowledge, and which I’ve been worried this app could exacerbate.

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Not every urge to create is a good one

The three kinds of creative impulse I know

The first is the one where you feel like you should be making something, and are bummed that you’ve done nothing with it – with your time, your effort, your knowledge that there is something creative in you. You’re mostly feeling shame at not having made anything, and your main motivation in forcing yourself to make something, anything is just to finally quiet that voice of shame.

You might be feeling this a lot in self-isolation.

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I Made an App to Stop My Compulsive Spending

(With the Power of Feelings)

This year, I pledged to make some dang apps again, but unlike the apps that I did for my startup years ago, these would be things made in no one’s interest but my own. I wanted to know: could technology, deliberately made and applied, allow me to connect with some important part of myself?

This post is the first in a series. Eventually, you can read about the other apps here.

I have a problem with spending. Like most things in my life, it fluctuates wildly as a counterforce to give me emotional stability. Money can do many things: chiefly, it can add novelty and surprise and promise and hope. It promises transformation with no other effort required than the spending of it.

The problem comes when I fail to actually hear what I need, or actively crush and abandon those feelings, and then use money to make up the difference. What hope can you have for feeling whole and happy if you live in constant denial of your needs, always trying harder and with higher stakes to make up for not having listened to yourself in the first place? We’ll get to why I do that in another post, maybe, but it should suffice to say: there are a lot of reasons why it’s hard for me to hear myself.

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Healing is about releasing

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The bloody shins are worth it! Finally, after 2 years of lifting (and a year or so of recovery), I pulled off a bodyweight snatch. Tried 190 and fell on my butt real good. Next time!

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I do olympic lifting as my main sport. And even before rupturing my achilles tendon (in a fateful night of rec league soccer), I was stuck. I couldn’t seem to make any progress and lift anything more than what I’d done many months before.

I was very stuck, it turns out. Stuck in my approach and method, stuck with advice from coaches I didn’t really click with, and stuck in a depression that was itself all about stickiness.

Two years later, in a new city that I loved, in a home I cared for, in a gym I liked – I’ve started making personal records again. First, a 105kg clean. Then a bodyweight snatch. Then a 97kg jerk.

The last one – the 97kg jerk – was only a little more than what I could do two years earlier. But it made plain what’d been different for me.

I was trying way too hard. I was using muscles to protect some part of me that had been hurt. And those same muscles did so much work that helped me, but prevented me from moving past the same weight. At a certain point, their activation worked against me, and prevented my progress.

Every day, if you confront the things you can’t do, you have two options: to notice what in you is trying harder than ever to do what you increasingly know it can’t, and to let go of it; or to keep letting it try, and watch what you want elude you.

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