This week I felt like a kid with a nasty belly ache after being left alone in the tech candy shop. There has been so much interesting and fantastic things to learn and experience, and I hit the wall with trying to do it all at once. I know better. My career for the last several years has been about prioritization. Still here I am gorging on the tech candy because it’s so hard not to.
This past Monday, the wall came in the form of feeling like a trigger switch in my brain (like it was revolting against me) and everything we were talking about suddenly went Greek. It was frustrating to the point in which it made me cry….twice.
This is not easy to admit. I am very conscious of showing any sign of what may be perceived as weakness in public settings. Years of working in business has taught me how quickly perceptions and belief in your abilities is shaken by the sight of doubt let alone tears. Plus, showing signs of vulnerability is hard when others may try to use that against you. And when you have limited time to generate value and are trying to drive efficiency, it can be very distracting.
On the flip side, I understand the cathartic value of a good cry and letting out the emotions just as much as a regular workout, sports, etc. can help balance the stress. Crying makes me human at the end of the day and when I’ve moved through the emotions, it’s also helps me move on from the challenge and keep going.
This program is far from some of the most stressful experiences I have taken on and accomplished/overcome in my life. I have cried for stupid things as much as for major challenges. I still don’t know how I managed to setup my father’s funeral arrangements while he was near death without shedding a tear (probably denial). I have shed plenty of tears since, but it goes to show that crying can come or not come at weird times.
I know that at the heart of my embarrassment was that I’m thinking I’m one of the oldest in the program and I shouldn’t be crying. I should demonstrate confidence and support my classmates. The reality is there is strength in showing and owning these emotions and what better place to have them than in the classroom. I know it, I still struggle with it and it doesn’t make it any easier if it happens again.
If anything this week really emphasized how special this program is. The women in the class, the instructors and my mentor, in different ways gave me a shoulder to lean on, encouragement, commiseration, reasons to laugh, and help to work through the programming challenges I was working on.
I totally had the thought, “screw it, I can’t do this” and after crying, I picked myself up and tried again. And I did make a couple of breakthroughs this week. I think Objected Oriented and LAMP are finally sinking in and I found that I really understand recursion. Still there is so much to learn and do and it only serves as a reminder, to pace myself and enjoy the accomplishments in whatever form and whenever they come.
Last point on this, we had a great field trip to Salesforce at the end of the week. A panel of women engineers gave us insight into their background and experiences. Without us even saying anything, they talked about all the different challenges and fears that I’ve heard from classmates and felt myself. They also talked about the “not enough time challenge” because there is so much cool stuff that you want to learn. In addition, they recommended saying yes to opportunities. I asked them how do they balance between the two concepts, and the response was being very clear in regards to personal and work priorities.
They also said it is an ongoing challenge and they recommended getting comfortable with being uncomfortable because that’s how you know you are learning.