I figured out what happened in Singapore. I wrote this on the plane between Singapore and Manila, and then sat on it for a little while to let the thought trickle through and see if it still sounded right later. It does.
Weird. I... feel like a grown-up. It's weird that this doesn't feel nearly as weird as I think it should. I think that's what happens when you're too busy to fight becoming a better version of yourself; when there are too-big shoes you don't think you actually deserve to stand in, you sometimes have to be reminded that only by lacing them up and flopping around will you be able to grow into them.
I'm still in zomg they trusted me to do that mode. I made a lot of mistakes this week, for sure - but I made them well, and on the whole, I'm proud of what I did and what I learned. And I'm fighting against fighting it. I'm writing now so that my brain is thinking about something else - that post I made earlier about how to rewire your reactions? I'm trying to rewire freaking out after I do something well. I'm trying to pause it, but I can't replace it with silence yet, so I'll fill it with alternative noise. You did fine, Mel. There are things you can get better at and learn from and you did a fine, fine job.
Project for this 3.5 hour plane flight to Manila: BAKE THIS INTO MY BRAIN. I want this better version of myself to stay; as much of it as I can keep with me, I want to keep. The main feature of this Mel++ is Lack Of Crippling Self-Doubt. I have taught well before, I know how to be contagiously enthusiastic, I can adjust and improvise and adapt, and all that. These are features that came out in prior releases, to run with this (highly imperfect) self-as-engineering-product analogy. But they cost a lot to use. They had to struggle through a but no! I'm not supposed to Be Awesome! thicket, or I was able to trick my defenses by GETTING REALLY EXCITED! about something I cared about (and I got better at this over time) and forgetting for a while, but afterwards it'd come crashing down, and I knew it would come crashing down, and that the better I'd done, the worse it would be.
Why would you ever punish yourself for doing well? That progression looks something like this:
- If you do something and get whacked, and this consequence is reasonably consistent (do X, get whacked), you usually learn to not do X.
- If you get to the point where you can't not do X, you do X and you know you're going to get whacked - so you do X and then you flinch (and then you get whacked).
- You quickly discover that if you punch yourself, that satisfies the whackers (they don't whack you) and hurts just a little less because, y'know, you're doing it to yourself, you can rationalize that. Do X, flinch, whack.
- And then one day you realize you're in a different place and nobody is going to hit you any more. And you keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, and nothing comes. THIS IS REALLY STRESSFUL. Can you actually safely assume you can stop pre-emptively beating yourself up? Is this a false sense of security that'll render you unable to handle it if somebody comes back and goes BAM BAM BAM BAM again? (They're going to, right? This can't possibly be perfect...)
- You know what? If someone does whack you for doing X once in a while, you can handle it. It isn't like you need more practice fighting crap. Stop giving yourself crap to fight. You won't lose your ability to fight actual crap - you'll just use that ability to fight actual crap instead of fake crap that's all self-imposed.
(All of these easier said than done, of course. I can't claim to have totally gotten #4, I've barely started #5. And becoming able to do #2 was really hard - but I was also at the point of exploding, so, y'know... you pick the way to mess up your brain that's less awful.)
So what happened this week is that for a whole week I did well and didn't punch myself in the face (because I didn't have time to stop doing well and punish myself for it). That is all that happened - but it's a small change that makes a big, big difference.
I may not be able to do it all the time, but at least I have done it once now. This means that the rewiring that I did two weeks ago walking around the soccer field did work, did help. That's good! It did soak in!
I wonder how much I'm going to get to keep. That's why I'm running these thoughts through my head as intensively as possible as I sit on the plane. In a few hours I get off the plane in Manila and I'm going to be a child again. (With the probably exception of two sections of a few brief hours where I'll get to hang out with Fedora Ambassadors and Sugar Labs folks - looking forward to that.) It's not a bad thing, just a different thing - but I need to be aware what habits I turn back on and what habits I don't. Every time I go home to my family, it's interesting to see how much of the "grown-up-ness" stays with me - it's more and more each time - and how that changes various dynamics. You see how much some choices cost - and you're sometimes pleasantly surprised at how little others do.
When I can stay the same no matter where I am or who I'm with, I'll stop feeling torn. If you stand between two worlds as a bridge, it's tough if it feels like they're stretched far apart, or moving in opposite directions, and you're being ripped and stretched out farther than you can go. But if you see them not as two things that are apart, but rather two things that are coming together, it... changes. Doesn't make it any easier to do, in terms of effort needed or pain felt. But it does make it easier.
I'm looking forward to this. I'm looking forward to getting to know people as the person I am now, and not as anybody else. It's been a good week, and it's going to be a good weekend (needing to dress up for Willison's wedding notwithstanding) and it's going to be good times. And I can handle whatever comes up. Yeah.
Reading this post again makes the 1.5 weeks since that day seem... like... a good lesson for me to learn from on the kind of life I want to live, let's put it that way. Posting this for my future self, then letting my brain run out some more. It's only 2:30am.