If I had the know-how, this is what I’d build.

If I had the know-how, this is what I’d build.

I’d build a filter for the internet that counted the number of horrible things that people try to show me, and brought it down to a manageable number.

I don’t need to see every story about every grieving widow, child or parent to know that there is sadness in the world. I don’t need to see ten stories in the same paper on the same day about the same event to be informed about the news. When it’s overwhelming, it makes people sad and complacent, not informed.

I would love to take all of the terrible, awful, no good and generally depressing link-bait that are used to generate ad revenue and run it through a single channel, and then turn down the volume so low that maybe the little bits of happiness that make it into the daily news would actually get some eyeballs.

With enough views, it might just encourage the major news companies to start baiting me with happiness, and inspiration, and pictures of new life instead of the grotesque horror show that passes for popular news. And maybe, if enough people saw as much good about the world as we see bad today, that would be enough to make things just a little bit better for all of us.

So, that’s what I’d build, if I had the know how.

Saying Goodbye

Today, Xavier’s best friend moves away. He’s taking Sarah’s best friend with him.

Sarah I’m sad for, but she’s an adult. She understands what’s happening, and why, and she has the ability to make new friends more freely than a 3 year old. Xavier on the other hand still doesn’t really grasp what’s happening.

“Leland is moving to his Grandmas” we told him. He knows that Grandma’s always live on the other end of a plane.
“Big plane!”
“Yes, he’s going on a big plane. He’s moving. You may not see him again.”
“Me big plane! I go with Leland!”
“No, you can’t go with Leland. You have to stay with Mommy and Daddy.”

And so it goes. He hasn’t asked yet when Leland is coming back, but I know that this is coming. His friend, who is a little older, still uses words like vacation and holiday to describe what’s happening.

Moving is hard, but being the kid who doesn’t move feels at least as hard. In Xavier’s case, nothing new and exciting happens, there is no change except for loss. On our end, we are going to try and fill his time over the next two weeks. Partly with fun things to do, and partly with play dates if we can find them. Xavier and Leland (and Sarah and Dani) played together about 6 days a week, so I don’t expect we’ll be able to fill that gap in their lives. But, given enough toddlers, we might be able to make a dent.

Getting better

Sometime round about the beginning of Autumn 2010, I started feeling not quite right. It was hard to put my finger on what it was though – I had hypertension, an upset stomach, overall unhealthy, quick to anger, forgetful and generally emotionally unwell. The problems nearly always surfaced around the office, and a colleague was the one who finally diagnosed it as stress. Stephane had commented that I was quick to over-react to simple questions, and complaining a lot more about work than was really reasonable. As someone who was unfortunately familiar with stress, I think he was more able to pick it out.

It was a surprise to me. I’m a very chill person by nature, and had never really felt stress before, and it had been at least a decade since I had been introduced to a new emotion. Stress, as it turns out, is the kind of thing that builds up slowly, and can take you by surprise. It also is the sort of thing that you can’t just shed. Like Christmas kilos before beach season; what snuck into your life takes a long time to shoo out, even if you’re trying.

I spent a lot of time thinking about it, and chalked it up to work. I’d been working on a project that was going gangbusters in terms of users and reach, but was bleeding resources like a stuck pig. As much as I was happy to be in demand, I couldn’t meet it if I was the only person left working on the project. I tried taking vacation, working with management to change things, investing time in hobbies, home life, church life, whatever, and the stress-o-meter continued to rise. Slower than before, but it was still going up. I hadn’t reached burn-out yet, but I was very close.

So, I quit. I decided that if work was having such a negative impact the best thing I could do was cut it out completely. I signed up for a 1 year sabbatical, with the intention to resume my old position after 12 months, and moved to the other side of the world. I didn’t stop working entirely, but I did make a dramatic change in my work environment, and responsibility levels. I also did everything in my power to not talk about the previous 6 years or so of my work life, hoping that shutting it out and starting over would make me better faster.

And 12 months later… I wasn’t better. This was my second big surprise.

A year felt like a long time. And as far as years go, it had been a great one. I spent all of my free energy on making Xavier’s life awesome, and by consequence had spent 12 months having an absolute blast myself. We soaked up a ton of vitamin D, met a lot of happy people, completely reversed our financial situation (from debt to solid savings) and ‘discovered’ a lot of wine and friends along the way.

But, the stress wasn’t gone. I know this because around the end of January 2013, I spent an afternoon going through the motions of planning a move back to my old job like I’d originally planned, and I had a remarkably violent reaction. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as vomitus of the psyche, but this is what happened, and it took several weeks to wash it all off again.

So I did a bunch of other things. Some of the things that I probably should have done in France. Things that really weren’t that important in the grand scheme of it all. But things that got me moving again. And, as of this past Thursday, I can say that I am fixed. This time for real.

I know this because on Thursday someone sat me in a room and started talking about the hideous, boring, terrible things that I spent three years in France talking about. And I didn’t die inside. I got excited. I literally jumped from my chair to help them explain their ideas, to draw pictures for them, to refine things, and to cheerlead where I could. I knew this stuff, and wanted to share my experience with them.

And at the end of all that, I felt good. Not because I’d helped someone, or because the result of their project was anything super interesting. I felt good, because I didn’t feel bad anymore.

That was really nice.

It took about two years of active recovery, and I still have to actively manage my stress levels, but I think I’m finally getting better.

Justin Bieber owes me breakfast

Justin Bieber is in Sydney this week. I know this because my normal route to and from work is heavily congested with unusual traffic. Yesterday, on the walk to the office, there were scores of journalists surrounding the Star Casino in Pyrmont. On the walk home, the reporters had been largely replaced with an entire school worth of young girls, still in their uniforms. This morning, some of the crowd had been replaced with burly security guards, all of whom insisted that it was impossible for me to take my normal shortcut through the star to get to my office on the other side.

OK – so it wasn’t a really big detour. Maybe 5 minutes out of my way, but it was a critical five minutes. Those few minutes meant the difference between breakfast, and not-breakfast in my canteen. I managed to make it there just as the last of the spread was cleared away. Justin Bieber — you owe me some toast!!

During my hunger glazed morning, I flipped through some of the articles of his arrival in Sydney. I guess he’s here for a concert last night, but offered some additional fan related activities during the day. He performed an outdoor concert this morning at a major transit point, and spoke to the crowd about how they “have been following me all week trying to get a picture of my car and at the hotel. You are great fans.”

And what is the difference between a stalker and a fan, really? Apparently not that big. Some of the fans offered gems of quotes like: “I just love him so much I want his babies,” and “I’ve been chasing him everywhere this week.”

Forgetting about October

Some days are worse than others. And sometimes, big batches of those days band together to form months that are better left forgotten. October was one of those times. Some things happened that I’d wished hadn’t, and some things didn’t that I’d wished had. In all, a bunch of completely unrelated, inconsequential items seemed to fall in steady sequence to make for a generally nasty month.

I’m glad that I didn’t write much (anything) during the past 40 days or so. I think it’s probably better that October is left as a blank, rather than black, spot on an otherwise great year.

PingMag Goes Dark

Ping Mag, one of the blogs that I read regularly, has gone dead for 2009. The blog was an interview-style, journalistic site that focused on people that ‘make stuff’ in Japan, with a pretty big focus on small manufacturing businesses.

The blog was especially interesting because of the attitudes of the people that were being interviewed. These were people that had dedicated their lives, oftentimes going back several generations, to things that I never really think much about, such as making soap, rice boxes, or sandals.

Another common thread in their articles was that even though you might want to be a businessman, electrical engineer, or graphic designer, your true calling might really be making kites. This thread was brought up many times, and usually came up when exploring how people ended up in the job they had. Some people followed their hearts into a new career, some changed jobs to follow where their talents were, still others took over the family business and used new skills and education to shape their grandfather’s or father’s company into something of their own.

Reading about people that take tremendous pride in their work, while also being very humble, was really refreshing when compared to many of the other business and marketing sites that I follow. The articles always made for an interesting read, and a nice change from the business culture that I’m familiar with it.