Dispatches from a Nomad: Recurse Epilogue
Welcome to the Epilogue edition of the Dispatches from a Nomad 🎒: the Recurse collection 💻
In case you missed last week’s edition, you can find it HERE.
To my readers:
I broke something. Rather, I broke some things. There were two goals I set out to accomplish with this writing exercise: accountability and consistency. I regret to inform everyone that I have not lived up to these goals. This is why accountability is good: a few of you have pointed out to me that they hadn’t seen or read my Dispatches in a while. I tried to excuse it away with my increased travels and my wanting to be in the moment. These reasons are true but they are also what they are, excuses. I have packed my laptop with me wherever I have gone. Mind you, I have considerably downgraded the amount of things I’m traveling. At this point in my journey, I am only carrying an underseat bag and my satchel, that’s it. My laptop accounts for about a quarter of the space in my bag, more than my shirts, more than my underwear, and it weighs more than maybe all the other contents of the bag! (Ok, this last statement is a bit facetious but the laptop is freaking heavy, it’s a 15” MBP and the thing is a TANK)
I remember letting one week pass, and I thought, it’s not that big of a deal, I’ll hop back on the saddle, then a second week slipped by, and then a third, and now we’re 1..2…3…4…5…6 dispatches missed and no words written. I spoke with a friend and I’m paraphrasing: why not just write some bullet points of things, not every post has to be so long. My writings have been a bit of a weekly odyssey, and that’s actually me holding back (and preventing everyone from unsubscribing).
In other news, and along the same line, I’ve kinda tacitly put Recurse on pause. To any future Recursers out there who might read this: do yourself a favor and enjoy your travels while you’re traveling. I realized back at the beginning of July that I might should have (I’m from the South, double modals are totally accepted) done the first half batch, never graduated, then resumed for a second half back after this month of travels. Learning and building things while playing tourist is rather tough and not worth it in the end. You’ll be frustrated with your progress, you’ll constantly be thinking you should be working, you’ll be having less fun wherever you are because you won’t fully be in the moment. If I were honest with myself, I would have stopped back on June 23rd with the half-batch, Never Graduated, done my travels accordingly, and rejoined August 7th for a second half-batch. Lessons learned.
So I had this grand idea to extend my batch from a half-batch to a full-batch. All with good intentions: I was finally beginning to make progress on my project and I had finally built the good habits I had been trying to cultivate over the past six weeks: reduced coffee intake, regular running, regular writing, I was eating better, and I was meditating more.
But I realized something: I wasn’t being fully honest with myself. Yes, I did want to continue, but I knew that it would be a bad idea. Let me explain: I knew that I would be constantly conflicted with the fact that I should be working on project, but I wanted to be present while traveling for the next month so those two feelings did not align with being focused on a project. While traveling, I would be among my friends, I would be exploring new places, neither of those truly lend themselves to cracking open my laptop and writing new code and learning new things.
In hindsight, I should have “Never Graduated” at the appropriate moment. I think the real crux is that I like ceremonies. I really like marking and celebrating the beginning and the end of things. As some of you all know me, I sometimes have a loose understanding of what it means to be on time. Yes, yes, I know this might be considered a character flaw, but in my defense, it has greatly improved! Back to my point, even though I am not often on time, missing the beginning of a movie at the theaters is like sacrilegious to me. I am a completionist, I need the beginning, middle, and end, I need the whole sandwich. I wasn’t going to be available for the Never Graduate Ceremony for my first half-batch, and I also had the feeling that I needed more time to get things done with my work, so I extended it even against a suggestion from one of the mentors who even mentioned that I should just enjoy my vacation. I felt I had something to prove, even in a self-directed program. I think I proved to myself that I need to be flexible, I need to be able to look at a plan I set out and realize that yeaaahhh, maybe I should change it; maybe I should scrap something.
This is also advice that I got from my guided running program with Nike Running Club, sidenote I highly recommend it if you’re looking for inspiration during your runs. Coach Bennett always says that I am the head coach, and that the thing a coach should know and what makes coach a good coach isn’t The Plan but it’s how they modify the workout plan to fit the athlete. More on running later.
Also I should have allowed myself to pause the writing. Sure, I actually did pause the writing, but I just felt bad the whole time that I hadn’t done my writing for the week. This is very different than saying “hey, this is going on hiatus until I get back.” Something totally reasonable and normal but I felt I needed to prove something and then I failed dramatically at proving myself wrong.
While writing about my experience during Recurse, I realized that I like writing up and sharing out things related to my travels.
SometimesMost of the time, I would write more about my travels than my project itself. Over this past year during my career break, I did A LOT of travel. Like a lot, a lot. So I have decided that I will start a periodical about my past year of travel. It will be a monthly and it will be a collection of highlights and an accompanying album.
After the first week of the second half-batch, I realized I had made a mistake with extending the batch, and here’s why: I traveled across Spain visiting Madrid for Pride, San Sebastian, Bilbao for a music festival in the woods with Florence + The Machine and The Chemical Brothers, and a day party with Rufus du Sol doing a DJ set. I had about a week stopover in Paris before traveling to Germany to visit a friend in Hamburg then a trip to Berlin to celebrate Pride with a NYC friend who had recently moved to London followed by a brief trip to Warsaw to finish off in Budapest. From Budapest, I made my way to Paris to immediately head to the West coast of France to spend some time in Batz-Sur-Mer with some friends 😮💨
I did manage to participate and attend the Never Graduate ceremony. It was super touching and I could really feel the love of my fellow batchmates and the whole Recurse community. I really would like to continue to engage with the community. And since I didn’t really participate in the second half of my batch, I asked if they could retroactively adjust my time with Recurse, more for personal sake, so this would now reflect my true time at Recurse.
- Recurse is what you make of it.
One big takeaway is that I realized how rusty I had gotten with my programming after not being a data scientist for a little while. It had been about two years since I regularly coded so this time back was a great exercise for me to see where I was and what I needed to brush up on.
- You can’t really do Recurse and something else at the same time.
In terms of work, I did set up my days to be focused on Recurse work, but I was also living in a new place and I wanted to also enjoy my time there. Be diligent about your commitments and make sure you make time for your personal projects. Otherwise you would only be letting yourself down for not setting yourself up for success.
- You’re likely not going to finish your project and that’s OK.
I did not make nearly enough progress on my personal project as I thought I would and that’s ok. I think the project is a good framing to get your ideas onto paper and to make progress toward completing a goal. Six weeks go by really quickly. I am certain I would have needed at least a full batch to complete the work that I set out to do.
- Be open to detours, you can learn a lot from them.
I realized that one thing that I ended up doing during my batch was that I started a letter-writing project with some friends. It was a broader
I expanded the scope of my original project to include a non-coding component. I started a letter-writing project among my friends where I asked them how they remember things in their personal life and professional life. These questions tap on some of the ideas I have structured within my project, which aims to bring the real world and digital world closer together through digital scrapbooking. I think that it has added richness to the work that I am doing and together, they reinforce each other. It has also given me some ideas on how to connect with more people on this topic of memory. With technology that we have today, we don’t have the same processes for reflection, creation, and remixing as we used to with scrapbooks, memory boxes, and refrigerators filled with flyers and ticket stubs.
Embrace where the project leads you, be along for the ride :)