Not for myself
This is the second time I've started this blog entry. I hope it's not the second time that I discard it as well, banishing these bytes with
/dev/null, where discarded thoughts and code go to be obliterated. I've considered the ramifications of publishing it -- whether or not it would be good for my career, whether it was anyone's business, and if it would help anyone else that happens to stumble across these legitimized bytes. Well, here we go.
Last year was incredibly rough. I started it off flying home to Seattle from the east coast during the transition from 2012 to 2013, sick with a lovely antibiotic-resistant infection (which would come back to haunt me many times that year). It was the five year anniversary of a bittersweet, life-altering decision that I'll talk about...at some point. I lost my two closest relatives within the span of six months, hurt my back (twice), and contracted mono.
I pushed through it.
Work on Google Cloud Platform inspired me; I was being challenged in ways I never had been before. I was having a blast. I earned every ounce of fatigue, and loved it. I turned an exciting idea of an industry panel into reality with distributed databases at Google I/O. I had the opportunity to craft a presentation on nurturing a developer community, and banter about the continuum of computing.
Despite all that went right last year, I had to cancel on no fewer than four speaking engagements, at least two trips, and missed two conferences entirely. I logged a record amount of sick time, hating every keystroke required to file it. I'm positive that airlines have tagged me as both "flake" and "goldmine for cancellation fees".
The psychological toll
I don't know of many people who enjoy being sick. Most of us get a cold or flu once or twice a year, stay home, rest up, drink tea, eat chicken soup, and return to life and work the next week. Your team doesn't usually mind picking up the slack for a bit while you're dead to the world. Your friends don't mind rescheduling from time to time.
But...for months on end?
I went back to work after mono, determined to make up for lost time. I would work for three or four days, and then barely be able to sit up in bed. I'd come home, cancel my plans for that night, and curl up with soup, a fever, and Netflix. I stopped committing to friends. I began committing to speaking engagements only six months in advance at work -- surely, I'd be better by then.
I started to ascribe adjectives like flaky, unreliable, and slacker to myself.
That's a terrible mental cycle. Being constantly "on the mend" and "on the decline" made me feel crazy. I'd make plans to have something to motivate myself, only to be heartbroken and angry when I was too ill to follow through with them. I'd be fine one day, only to wind up in the ER the next. It was nearly impossible to take joy from the good times, because I didn't feel like I deserved them: I was too much of a slacker.
The social toll
I'll admit, I dropped off the face of the earth. At some point, your friends get tired of your canceling on them, the excuses, and the lack of reciprocity. Some even doubt that you're telling the truth; they spin it around to be about themselves, and assume that you don't want to hang out with them. That you have something you'd rather be doing than seeing them.
To be fair, some of the excuses I've used have sounded ridiculous. Here's my latest that I just used:
"I'm sorry, but I just tested positive for TB. I think we should wait until we know that I'm not communicable -- unless you want me to bring along a cask of amontillado."
I find humor, even dark humor, helps. It doesn't keep friends around though, so I started self-censoring. I try to get together with friends when I can, but I have little to talk about anymore. Friends think, rightly at this point, that I'm concealing things from them. I don't want to bring down the mood.
Not for myself
So, about a month ago, I initiated short term disability leave, so I could track down my health issues. It's very strange, taking time away so that I can stop feeling like a slacker. It feels incredibly selfish focusing on myself and my own health problems.
I doubt the decision to go on leave every single day.
However, even if I can't convince myself that I owe it to myself, I know that I owe it to my partner, my friends, and my colleagues. They deserve a fully functional me, and I haven't been that for a good long while. Having a good day here and there doesn't invalidate my decision. I'm bored though -- I can't wait to be back, coding, writing, and speaking!
Also, watch out, because there's a distinct possibility that I'll have come back as a superhuman version of myself.