The One with my Current State of Mind

6 weeks back at work and I’m still feeling pretty relaxed most of the time. That’s really good, isn’t it?

It took me a while to get back into the swing of things. Even before I went away, I still felt like I hadn’t yet fully arrived in this team and its code. Which is not a bad thing at all. It takes some time to get used to new team mates and their work flow. And I’ve only been doing this programming thing for about 2 years now, with real experience only in Elixir, the little bit of Ruby that I did at work or on my own before doesn’t really count. And the code base is really big compared to my old team’s.

It was kind of fitting that my MacBook decided to develop a second keyboard problem so I brought it to a repair shop and had a really old, kind of useless 2015 MacBook for a week. I didn’t even bother setting up anything other than mails and Slack, so I spent a week just looking at my colleages code.

In the weeks after that, I realised that I am a bit hectic when coding on my own and that I don’t add much to pairing sessions. I think I wanted to kind of keep up with my (very, very experienced) team mates, so I tried to get through features as quickly as possible, asking for quick help for almost everything I didn’t know right away and forgetting to look up the questions that I noted down during coding. And the pairing sessions were either me listening to and watching what the other person was doing or transcribing what I was told to do. And I never did any dedicated learning.

So I decided to talk to one of my team mates about it, about feeling like I’m not really getting ahead and not knowing what to focus on (and how to find the time to do that). He reassured me that I’m on a good path, that I can take as much time as I need to do anything and that I can always ask for help. And we decided to try to either put a ‘Vera Ticket’ into the sprint (something interesting to refactor that lets me learn about a specific part of our code) or split a big feature into chunks that I can pick one from that is also focused on just one part of our application. And we now have a bi-weekly appointment to talk over questions that came up that I didn’t manage to solve on my own or about any parts of programming that I am currently struggling with.

This has been working great so far. I spent about a week refactoring some commands and forms that did not have enough distinction and learned a lot about our command handlers and form objects. I finally finished reading (and coding along) the Agile Web Development with Rails book, with some help from him when I was stuck on things that I didn’t really want to get too much into. I took a lot of time to figure things out on my own without worrying about not keeping up. And I even got feedback for doing good and a lot of work, nobody told me to be faster (I know, that’s always only in my head). And I learned a lot! Both by trying to figure out things on my own as well as talking to both my team mates who were always available to help right when I asked.

Another thing that happened: There was a situation where someone yelled at me for being too negative. It was in a meeting with lots of people and I think this person was a bit stressed out about their own deadline. And I was just that one last drop. And while I listened to them getting angry and directing some of their anger towards me, I realised that this is a situation where I need to be careful about my own reactions and feelings. I decided that at that point, I was still okay but that I needed to listen to my body and leave the situation if it got worse. It didn’t get worse and the meeting was finished soon after. I had another meeting, just with my team, right after that difficult one and told them that I need to go outside for a bit which was okay for them. So I went outside, got some fresh air, went back inside, grabbed someone else that I’m close with to go into the kitchen and make a cup of tea, told him a tiny bit about that situation and did some small talk while our water was boiling and then went back to my meeting.

This would have been impossible a year ago. I never got into this state of knowing that I need to be careful. I only ever got to “too late, crisis mode now!!!”. On the one hand, this situation was very reassuring for me: I’m good now. I can deal with difficult situations. Yay! On the other hand: It’s so sad to realise that this is only possible because I came out of this depressive episode. I tried so hard before to be more mindful in situations like this, but handling them was never even on the horizon. I’m glad that I’m better now but it’s kind of bleak knowing that if I ever get stuck deep inside an episode, there’s no way I can get to that point then.

Let’s just hope it will never come to this again. And now back to the good things: This sprint I finally feel like I’ve really arrived. I can do things on my own, with just a tiny little bit of help. I’m not sure I’ve ever been there. It feels great.