this is progress.

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airplane safety placard infant water flotation device lifevest

a pictorial dumpling recipe

Henlo, friends.

I’m writing this post with my feet propped up on a chair at the dining room table while I wait for the Chinese herbal tea simmering in the kitchen to reach its full potency. My runny nose and I are working our way through a box of tissues, the cat is using the living room as her personal racetrack while she yells continuously (a Big Mood™), and my partner is perched on the Korean War-era military footlocker trunk we use as a coffee table, playing Grand Theft Auto V.

Last week I was in New York City for only the second time in my life, tagging along on my boyfriend’s business trip. It was equal parts enthralling and exhausting to wander around Manhattan by myself, and by the fourth day, I was completely wiped out, partially because I’d spent the entire day prior wandering the Met until my soul was replenished and my feet were blistered, but mostly because my partner was working normal business hours, and it was damn tiring to be out and about and always watching my own stuff, my own drinks, my own back, always aware of how much time was left until sunset when I should stop being visibly alone in public. I admire women who travel solo. I don’t know how they do it.

But even though I spent the latter half of the trip Netflix-and-despairing in our hotel room (mainlining Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and short circuiting over the steaming pile of shit that is Brett Kavanaugh), I loved NYC in a way I haven’t ever loved anywhere but San Francisco – in a way that made me feel like I’d enjoy living there.

anal street - canal street subway - new york city mta

(insert “nyc i’m in you” joke)

(wow that was an unintended triple(?) entendre)

Granted, I haven’t traveled all that much, so there are probably plenty of diverse cities with solid public transportation systems that I’d enjoy spending my prime childbearing years in. London seems promising, for one.

But I don’t think I’d ever actually go through with it, not for anything less than the death of the people I love most and a disgustingly lucrative job. I am far too comfortable and too content and too scared to leave San Francisco any time soon.

And beyond the thicket of fear that is the prospect of uprooting my life here, of moving far enough away from my mom and my family and friends that the number of times I can expect to see them before they or I die dwindles from the hundreds into the dozens, is the insidious thought that I wouldn’t be able to survive in New York City unless I were working a high-paying tech job.

Then again, I don’t think I can survive in San Francisco unless I’m working a high-paying tech job either.

It’s too black and white to be true, the idea that I have to either have a tech job or die. (After all, why not both?)

But it feels true. I know it’s just a story I tell myself out of habit, and I’m working on finding a new angle, but it’s like every time I try to look at it directly, it goes blurry around the edges and I can’t hold it in my mind.

Every few days (or hours), I regret quitting my six-figure tech job, but I’m trying to remind myself how unequivocally awful it was to work at my previous company. Reading the wall of one-star reviews (including my own) on their Glassdoor page helps. So does repeating the words of men I’ve worked with – words like “I’m sorry” and “As I’ve heard more of the stuff that you had to deal with, I’m more and more surprised you stayed as long as you did.”

I can’t yet see a way forward that doesn’t involve either forcing myself into another tech job, or dying. I’m trying to remind myself that my emotions make sense. That my response was a reasonable one, and that if I don’t or can’t work in tech again, I’ll still be okay, somehow. That it’s possible I’ll recover my original enthusiasm for web development, given enough time and room to breathe. And that until then, my most important task is trying to not feel guilty or useless or like a waste of space. Or a human leech. Or a liability.

I’m trying, and sometimes it doesn’t work particularly well. (Especially not lately. It feels immorally self-indulgent to be contemplating my career when this country is hurtling back into the 1800s and this planet is hurtling toward total catastrophe.)

So to help myself, here’s a partial list of things I’ve done over the past month-ish that have made me feel like a productive human:

  • showered, on most days!!!
  • convinced the cat that I am worth cuddling with

muffin the cat - look at this nugget

Look at this happy lil nugget! She fell asleep like this! Instead of chunching on my limbs! This is such a development! She even sleeps on my lap now!!!

  • cleaned things that’ve needed to be cleaned for ages:
    • the dish rack (goodbye, orange gunk!)
    • the washing machine (or at least I tried to; I can’t seem to get the last bits of black gunk out of the gasket with bleach or vinegar or elbow grease, so I’ve been using my mom’s washing machine for the past few months)
  • cooked new foods:
  • read a bunch of books, detailed in this follow-up post
  • watched a bunch of movies, also detailed in this follow-up post
  • watched some TV:
    • Jessica Jones (S2. It was… a lot, and I was kind of shocked at where they ended this season.)
    • The Good Place (S1 and S2; I’m watching S3 as it airs now. This show is pure and good, I ship Tahani/Eleanor, and Manny Jacinto’s character is so dumb and so hot.)
    • The Office (sporadic episodes)
    • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (currently working my way through S1; it’s kind of excruciating but I can’t stop watching?)
  • attended the City Hall wedding of one of my oldest and dearest friends 💖
  • viewed the Heavenly Bodies exhibit at the Met, got emotional about textiles

heavenly bodies - fashion and the catholic imagination - met exhibit - new york city metropolitan museum of art

I cannot remember who designed this or why it was made, but I got teary-eyed over the fact that the petals on those gold embroidered flowers are actually 3D and flutter outward off the surface of the garment.

  • had regular sex with my partner again as my sex drive finally returned to a normal state (THANK GOODNESS)
  • dramatically reduced the number of keepsakes I have by photographing them and then discarding them
  • made a dent in my stash of sheet masks and face masks
  • completed 6 more days of the Couch to 80k Writing Boot Camp 💪🏻 (I’ve written some really weird and really mediocre stuff working through these exercises, but it feels good to practice.)
  • put together a Halloween couple’s costume of Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before(!!!)

People keep asking me how “funemployment” is going, and I don’t know how truthfully I’m supposed to reply. I’ve just been saying “it’s good and bad,” but the reality of it is more like this: I vacillate between frenzied productivity and a completely debilitating triumvirate of ennui, terror, and self-loathing.

My rent payments are burning through my cash runway, I haven’t figured out how to spin my story if/when I apply for my next software engineering job, and I cannot stop my brain from returning to the comforting(?!) thought that I would rather be struck dead than have to code for a living again…

I am making progress, though, goddammit. Showering is progress. Sex is progress. Writing this is progress.

I just have to make it through.

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