Dan's Musings

Boxing Day Reflections

Started writing this 2022-12-13T17:22:02-0700

2022: Healing from the Pandemic

As I look on this last year, I have decided it was one of healing. Healing from the pandemic, mostly. I had a job that was hard on me because I crave social experiences. This particular job was a fine employer, but they were more introverted. Social interaction was less of a necessity.

2020-2021: The Pandemic and its Impact on Me

When the pandemic hit, everyone was ordered home and we stayed there.

As if this wasn't difficult enough, I was in a department that was associated with on-premise virtual machines, which had recently gone out of vogue at the company. Everyone was moving to cloud.

This was also fine -- I am all for the cloud as much as the next engineer. However, it caused my team to be associated with the stigma of on-premise. This basically meant that people stopped asking us for favors. Work dried right up. Near the end, I was doing nothing of value at work, and they didn't notice or care. The lack of work, coupled with the lack of interaction, left me deeply anxious and depressed. I was showing signs of burnout, but it was strange because I wasn't really working on anything.

Weathering the Storm with Knitting and Other Things

I got therapy, I got on new drugs, got into a good excercise routine -- the whole nine yards. But try as I might, I just couldn't get to a place where I was happy. During this time, I started a hobby that I had learned from my Mom as a kid. I took up knitting. It sounds strange, but there's something incredibly soothing about the repetitive motions of knitting, and at the end of a stretch of time, it's fun to see the brand new cloth (and the pattern it contains) that didn't used to be there before.

I didn't realize how much this problem was tied to my then-current employer (plus the pandemic) until I couldn't take it anymore and switched jobs near the end of 2021. Being more of a start-up, the new job allowed us to come into the office, even encouraging it. Also because of its start-up nature, I had plenty of work to do. So many of my anxiety and depression problems disappeared. I knew I had really healed up when I found knitting boring.

Holding on to the Hobby

I can still knit if I'm listening to an audio book, it's still fun, even.

The reason I thought of all this was because this is a Boxing Day post, and I had committed to knitting 5 hours every week from September of 2022 until Christmas 2022. I did pretty good at it until I got sick for a few weeks at the end of November this year. I need to get back at it, but my goals of actually finishing that sweater for my mother-in-law and wife by Christmas seem a stretch at this point.

Still, I committed to it also because it gave me so much comfort and joy, so much peace during a time when I couldn't remember what peaceful felt like. When the jitters took me and didn't let me go. And it's still fun, the art of creation. I will recommit to it. I don't want to let it die.

Why it Matters to Programmers

Kind of funny, discussing knitting on a programming blog. However, I think there's still a moral here. Creative hobbies that create real things in the real world can really help balance and rejuvenate programmers, we who spend all our energies making pretty lights flash on a screen, who change lines of code but not anything really physical, who type with our hands but do not work with our hands. We see this everywhere, most notably when engineers burn out so much from programming that they no longer build software, dedicating all their time to more tangible pursuits. Dedicating some time to such a hobby while programming, I have found, really helped me avoid burnout during a time when I felt like I had fell out of the frying pan and into the fire, burnout-wise. Keeping hobbies like this can keep us sane.

For any knitters reading this, I'm scruffmcgruff on Ravelry. Cheers!