Becoming Less Clueless: Learning To Take Care Of Myself

So in February, I started a job. And over the past several months, between the pandemic and the fact I work in software, this has meant I’ve been spending a lot of time at my desk at home. This was compounded further by the fact I do tutoring on the side. It resulted in me getting very little exercise and either eating whatever random stuff I could scrounge up or skipping meals entirely. This is not what I would call the ideal situation. Over the past month or two, though, I’ve been making small changes at a time to move towards a healthier lifestyle.

The first change I made was, admittedly, a pretty obvious one: I started eating breakfast. I’m not really a big breakfast person, normally. I’m not that hungry first thing in the morning, so I generally just drink coffee and get on with my day. That’s fine when my schedule is more open and I can take a break to eat whenever I need it. Not so much when I have work and meetings. Luckily, I’m an early riser – it turns out, I don’t have to eat at the same time as I drink coffee. I can have my coffee, then eat a couple hours later, before starting my work day! Who knew, right? (Everyone. Everyone knew.)

The next issue was exercise. I hate running. Also, I’m bad at it. Partly, this is a lack of stamina thing that I can work on by doing it more, but it’s also a physical issue – I have, like, no arch in my feet. This has led to some ankle problems and balance issues. It’s not a problem in my daily life, but it does not make running easier, and contributes to my aversion to exercising. But given the whole software developer sedentary lifestyle thing, it’s kind of important that I get moving from time to time, and running is not exactly my favourite way of doing that. So I’ve done a few other things – taking walks, doing some yoga – and more recently, I joined a gym. And you know what I’ve learned? It’s actually kind of fun when you do stuff you don’t hate! Instead of spending half an hour on a treadmill all the time, I decided to try five minutes walking and five minutes running as my warm up, then going on to do some strength training. And it’s actually fun! I can handle that much running without wanting to give up and never go to a gym again, making it an easy place to start from which I can slowly build up my ability. I’ve also found that rowing and swimming can be a nice break from the running for cardio, too – they’re difficult, and getting out of the pool after swimming did make me dizzy enough to nearly fall right back in, but it’s a really nice break from the same old monotony that had made me dread the gym. On top of that, I’m genuinely shocked to find out how much I actually enjoy strength training – it has done wonders for my mood. I actually feel good after having gone to the gym instead of just exhausted! This taking care of yourself thing is kind of cool.

Exercise led to a new discovery: I do not want to eat after having worked out. I know I probably should, but after exercise, at best, I’m not hungry, and at worst, I’m actively averse to the concept of food. That led me to try out smoothies because now I better understand the appeal – an easy way to get the nutrients and calories you need without having to actually cook or eat. The problem with that is…the same thing that’s appealing about it makes it even harder for me to shake the perception of these things as just adult baby food. So I will probably never be a “smoothie person”. But when it’s hot and real food sounds unappealing…a smoothie can actually be pretty good. Definitely easier than just eating all the unblended fruit. I can handle that from time to time.

Outside of the changes to my lifestyle I’ve been working on such that I can improve my physical health, my side gig got exhausting by just a few months into my new job. I tutor in the weekends, and while it’s not a physically difficult job, I’d argue that it’s a lot more mentally stressful than my fulltime job is, just by virtue of needing to constantly interact with other people and think not just about how to do something, but how to explain how to do it to people that think not just differently from me but differently from each other. It’s not an easy task, and even though I was doing it for only a few hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays, it was not great for me to be doing those hours on top of working full time during the week. So I rearranged my schedule such that instead of doing long blocks during the weekends, I instead do just an hour or two each evening during the week. I am so grateful I have the ability to move my schedule around like this – the vast majority of people in the world do not have this freedom, but it is one that has been a huge help for balancing my life – it’s even helped me be more consistent about my self learning.

For over a year now, I’ve been using Duolingo to try to learn basic Spanish. I have made some progress, but not as much as I would have liked. Though I have consistently been doing a couple lessons each day, it’s been more about keeping that streak going than actually learning. With regular life getting in the way, Spanish has kind of fallen by the wayside. But building a better routine through going to the gym and tutoring in the evenings has been helpful – now, I can take more time to do Spanish in the time between coffee and breakfast, or in the evenings, after tutoring. I’m still working on figuring out what works for me, but it now feels less like rushing through it for the sake of getting it done and more like learning.

I’m new on this journey of self care and self improvement. And I know that a big part of why I’ve managed to settle on my current equilibrium is that the pandemic and working from home has cut down immensely on all the other stuff that fills up time, like commuting and meeting friends for dinner. So, if and when this pandemic ever draws to a close, that might result in a whole new struggle of trying to figure out how to fit in all these things into a day. But right now, I’m feeling good, and I’m very much enjoying making the necessary changes to take better care of myself.

Becoming Less Clueless: Interviewing

I theoretically understand what I need to do in an interview. But I’m really bad at them.

It’s not that I don’t know the answers to the questions I’m being asked – of course I do. They’re either about me or reasonably basic technical questions about things I’ve done and know. But I get self conscious about everything – my voice is too high pitched, I can’t pull off a suit, do I have a giant pimple on my forehead preventing my interviewer from processing a word I’m saying, when are scientists going to develop technology that would allow me to be a brain in a jar – oops, was that another question? It definitely doesn’t help that I really haven’t done many of them. In August, though,  I applied to a job that I really, really want. And the application process here? Well, it helped me get a lot more confident and a lot less clueless about the terrifying prospect of a job interview.

One of the things that I find discouraging is getting back a form rejection before even getting to a coding challenge, let alone the interview stage. I have no idea what that means – what specifically did they find unappealing? These are entry level positions, and so it’s rather unlikely that many candidates have much  more to offer than I do. So what is it? There’s only so much I can change, and for all I know, the rejections stemmed from other candidates being from “better” schools! Luckily, this application process was not like that. A couple months after I sent in my application, they sent me a coding challenge.

Fine, I thought. This is good.

A coding challenge is something that I can control, far more than I could with if someone was deciding whether to call me based on my resumé. Some companies will send you a timed test, which are almost universally hated, but this was better. I got a problem and ten days to return my solution. And you know what? I do know how to program. I may not be the world’s best speaker. I may panic at everything. But I am good at getting things done. Good enough that a few days after I submitted my solution, I got an email from someone in HR asking me to set up a phone interview. That’s when my obsessive reading of the Glassdoor page started out.

Now. I am a giant nerd that thrives off having as much information as I can on any given topic. So I read every single review of the interview process and wrote down answers to every question people said they were asked. I read countless lists of interview questions and practiced my answers to those. I made flashcards. I even recorded myself talking so that I could get more confident with the sound of my own voice. And when the interview actually happened…it went well! So I got an invite to an in person interview.

This was far from perfect. I stammered through a few answers. There were questions to which I didn’t like my answers and that I wish I’d answered differently. But it went well enough. My preparations weren’t perfect, but they were good enough that I got an offer. It made me realize…I don’t have to be ready for everything. I’m probably never going to be the kind of person that’s effortlessly confident and always believes in her own ability. But I am capable of preparing for the most likely questions well enough that I’ll be solid, and sometimes, that’ll be enough.