Dispatches from a Nomad: Recurse Week 01
The week of May 15, 2023
Every week, I’ll be sharing a travel blog piece related to this year of travel. For me, time is not linear 🙃 so you’ll see these trips as they come to me.
This week is related to my pre-trip planning for when I most recently took the Amtrak across the United States for the second time using the Crescent Line and the Sunset Limited. There are some annotations along with the trip. I’m currently testing out different ways to blog about travel. I’ll also be adding a redundant but more permanent blog piece to my blog as well because I have real trust problems with platforms and them shutting down.
Here are some of my commitments I made to myself before starting Recurse:
Remove time sinks. I really want to make the most out of my time during Recurse and I wanted to remove several things that seem to capture a lot of my time and attention. News. I kind of binge on news and I realized a few things: a lot of it, especially when covering the US, has just filled me with more despair, and I feel a bit more dimmed. So I decided to filter news out of my mailbox for the duration of the program. I’m allowing myself to get catch up and do deep dive reading on the weekends, but I’m trying to avoid the multiple-times-a-day check-in to what’s going on. Not putting my head in the sand but trying to stay sane. Same goes with social media apps including the gay ones as well. I will try to reduce my time on these a minimum.
Reduce caffeine intake. I really like coffee. I like the taste and that’s the primary reason I drink it. It is also something I’ve been consuming a lot of, multiple cups a day. However, these past several months, my sleep just hasn’t been all that great. I’ve also been going through a lot of different emotional states and lately, my anxiety has been at an all-time high. Also, I have been working on getting out of a deep emotional rut; this past year wasn’t been particularly kind, and I’ve been actively trying to get to a better, healthier emotional state. I think caffeine has been contributing to some of the anxiety I’ve been feeling so I decided to cut back on it. I’ve switched to decaf recently so I get the taste, and I get to still experience some of the same rituals.
Improving my health. I have coped with comfort foods. Pizza and burgers have been my go-to’s. Also carbs. I have cut back on those and just generally trying to eat better. Food is also a contributor to both mental and physical well-being so I’m just trying to do a bit better there. Caveat, I’m in Paris so if you see me with a croissant, cut me a little slack 😅 I’m also trying to consistently exercise more. I have committed to a running plan, 3x a week: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays; and I will explore incorporating crossfit back into my life. Also, back in March, I started a morning and evening routine of pushups to start and end my day. The goal is consistency, not perfection.
Meditation. In addition to address the mental/emotional and physical well-being, I am also seeking some balance spiritually. I’m not particularly religious and my last nominal affiliation was Unitarian Universalist, but over the past year, I’ve been learning more about Buddhism and generally I try to be a force for good in the world. I’ve been trying to incorporate meditation into my daily routine.
The First Week
The week started out with all the excitement and nervousness that accompanies the first day at school: making new friends, trying not to embarrass myself, etc. etc. The cool thing about Recurse is that everyone there is a nerd, and I mean that in the most empowering way possible. You don’t have worry about who’s the cool kid, we all are because we geek out over compilers, and front-end web frameworks, and creating our own programming languages. This is the stuff that champions are made of.
A sudden realization of things
Not going to lie, the first week of Recurse was a bit overwhelming. Flashback to when my team was laid off back in October 2022, I decided to take some time off and I’ve been trying to figure out a lot of things, I mean, just life in general and how I want to show up in it nbd. I also began to notice something terrifying: I hadn’t really written any substantial code in nearly two years! How did this happen?
Well, at the end of November of 2020, I made the decision to move from data science to product management. I really wanted to have a greater impact in the work that I was doing, and that point, in my role as a data scientist I didn’t have much sway in the product decision-making process; mostly I was responsible for the data analysis and reporting, but really I feel that my role should have been a true stakeholder in the product decision.
As a product manager, our team motto was Read. Write. Ship. I really liked this mantra and it was something that I had been trying to get better at, as we say at Recurse, to build the volitional muscle. For my role, I would do the analysis myself because I could and I would weave it into a narrative to present a case for a given feature or product. Yet, I was no longer using my programming skills on a daily basis, and let me tell you, they do get rusty.
Back in January 2023 before Recurse, I decided to apply for a role as a data scientist (a topic for future writing), and made it to the technical interview portion. I’ve done many technical interviews in the past and it is actually an area I’m not half-bad at, but it hadn’t dawned on me until I was in the (Zoom) room that I had forgotten a lot of the functions involved in doing the job. Let’s just say, it wasn’t one of my better interviews.
So Recurse Week 1 has been a realization of oh, I really need to get back on the saddle, especially I would like to return to a technical role.
Back at Recurse, the walls of Zulip, the message board we use during the program, are plastered with introductions, invitations, study group meetups, and everything Recurse. It’s a beautiful cacophony of organized calamity. There are so many things to choose from, to learn, to be inspired by. Simultaneously as a person who has FOMO about nearly everything, it was a bit overwhelming.
The first day was Orientation Day and we had breakout sessions and some icebreakers to address some of these feelings of angst, which was appropriately called Nervous and Excited. We shared with each other what we were nervous about and what we were excited about. It was good to feel that I wasn’t alone in these feelings and that I surrounded by other in a separate boat.
We then covered Three Self-Directives of Recurse, which are:
- Work at the edge of your abilities
- Build your volitional muscles
- Learn generously
And these really set the tone of Recurse as a place to grow. I really dig it. We also discussed social rules for grounding the group and making it a cooperative safe space. We ended the Orientation with some meet and greets, starting in pairs then to large groups. I unearthed an already existing, but under-utilized Recurse Running group on Strava then I too, plastered my proclamation to join on the walls of Zulip befittingly 😉
The Second Day
Tuesday, I saw that a fellow Recurser, Athena, was leading a silent group meditation, and I joined. I remembered reading a post from my friend AJ about brown noise how it has aided him in focus so I found this clip, and used it while meditating and it was supremely helpful with settling my brain and helping me clear my thoughts.
Then I participated in a Daily Check-in where we all write what we worked on the previous day and what we intend to work on today. At the end of the writing portion, there was a share-out. I’m currently keeping a daily log of my days at Recurse. I thought about blogging each day but I realized that was going to be put more undue pressure on myself to have a post daily so I’ve personally opted it for this weekly format.
There was a Pair Programming workshop offered to get us familiar with working with others on projects. The general premise of pair programming is that it tends to be one driver and one navigator, but you can also arrange for this in a larger group with many navigators for the one driver. It is a useful skill to have and useful practice to do. It engenders accountability: we’re less likely to check socials or procrastinate when we are working with someone, and you work to complete something together, which is hugely gratifying. I was partnered up with a fellow Recurser, Aiden, we, like all the other pairs, were tasked with building Conway’s Game of Life together. We were successful, we were victorious! Pairing was a lot of fun and I got a lot of it as well.
The Rest of the Week
The rest of the week was a mix of meeting and chatting with some other Recursers and getting my digital house in order. I also realized that I needed to do some work on my personal website so I spent some time dealing up a few things there and I also wrote a blog post about the new Pocket feature and how my Pocket is a beautiful messy of more than a thousand unread items. Thursday was a holiday in France, also essentially Friday for those who take “Le Pont” so I tried to balance a bit of work and play.
Nomadic Recurse Runs of the Week
I decided to incorporate sightseeing and running with my run program while here. It’ll be a great way to see other parts of Paris and share them along here.
Nomadic Weekly Roundup
Favorite Reads of the Week