Still Scared

I started this month-long writing journey with a post about how sharing is scary, based on past experiences and the anticipated anxiety I knew I’d have writing about personal topics. In thinking through what’s both top of mind and a fitting conclusion, I wanted to reflect on this same concern in this final post. For reference, here’s the full twenty-nine-day archive–thanks a lot, leap year!

All of these posts were very personal, ranging from the stories of how I came to feed the neighborhood crows, make three dozen muffins a week, and turned into a park person, to my beef with the design industry, a life changing injury, and thoughts around anti remote work sentiments. I always followed where my head was, even when it was incredibly taxing and set a weird tone for the day. I gave my best daily hours to these letters. I don’t regret that, but it’s not something I could commit to longer-term.

Through it all, it never necessarily got easier. The only thing that improved was the routine itself since I quickly got used to reserving this time. I’d start writing as soon as Ben left for school and aim to wrap up within 1.5-3 hours. I ate while writing and pushed appointments back to the afternoon for the month. I knew that if I waited past lunch, these wouldn’t get done–my mind would be entirely elsewhere. This self-imposed hard deadline actually worked pretty well. I wrote about ADHD this month, and this structure proved essential in pulling this off.

The sharing side of the project remained confusing, and the uncertainty of what’s too much never lessened. Even now, I don’t know how long I will keep these posts up. I’m not really sure what comes next if anything. I like this as a stand-alone project, but I can also see the need in the larger community for a space where weekly letters around vulnerability, hard lessons learned, and unique insights are shared in an open and safe space. I feel like this could be something bigger, or it could also be what it is–I’m happy with it either way.

Throughout the month, I still frequently found myself wondering if I was oversharing and worrying about how my thoughts would be perceived by others. Sitting on whether or not something was too weird, too emotional, too angry, or too preachy was a fairly frequent occurrence. The only things that helped move each day’s file into the publishing folder were those who voiced having similar feelings and the near-complete inability to write about things I don’t care about. So, even at the finish line of a sharing marathon, I still think defaulting to sharing is the right choice for me–it’s scary, but all things worth doing are.

Aside from the obvious time commitment, the most challenging part of this project was looking back through old photos to pull from for specific posts. Looking through glimpses of Very Good Times, when in contrast, this past year has been one of the darkest of my life, is painful. I’m trying to remember that I will have good times again. They’ll probably look different, which is only natural and doesn’t have to mean worse. I’m trying to remember that it’s a collection of these good times and bad that make us who we are. I’m trying and often failing to remember that my preconceptions around how I think things should be are directly adding to the distress.

Ultimately, I’m really glad I undertook this challenge. Carving out time to process what would otherwise be fleeting thoughts proved to help better understand them. Misunderstood thoughts can fester and impact us in ways we are not aware of, and this served as an exercise in combating that. I’ve never kept a journal, but I can better understand their potential benefit after these Breakfast Letters. PLUS, what better way to verify I’m human when that soon becomes our most significant competitive advantage.

Mostly, though, it was a great experience to go through it with other Wigglers: Sarah, Matt, Nick, and Jeff. We cheered each other on, helped one another through blockers, and served as go-to gut-checkers when something was feeling questionable. I know with 100% certainty that I would not have been able to complete this undertaking without this support. And it would have just been so boring without them–I’d never recommend someone do this alone.

This project has reaffirmed my passion for communities, and sharing vulnerabilities and deep inner thoughts makes them stronger and more genuine. I’ve always defaulted to contributing to and building communities since I need them and find it to be among the most fulfilling and worthwhile ways to spend time. So, through these efforts, I feel closer to my fellow Wigglers, and it’s served as a significant affirmation for me regarding how to differentiate a space from the countless sterile, unfriendly options. I’m rereading The Obstacle Is The Way and am reminded of this quote:

Help your fellow humans thrive and survive, contribute your little bit to the universe before it swallows you up, and be happy with that. Lend a hand to others. Be strong for them, and it will make you stronger.

I believe this writing challenge as a whole has served as such a contribution. I’m grateful for the community that made it possible, and I’m glad we had this time together before we get swallowed up–I feel stronger and more prepared for whatever form that takes.

I will NOT see you tomorrow over breakfast, but I hope it’s a great one.

February 29, 2024


I’ve worked from home for over a decade, and I’ve never been more confused and angry over the state of things. There’s more manipulative, anti-remote sentiment popping up each day in our feeds and control tactics like having cameras installed in home offices being put in place. So, in-office is preferred, and if that’s impossible, extreme measures will be put in place to make the experience unbearable and dehumanizing. It feels more important than ever before to call out this nonsense.

In another recent thread, everyone involved was seriously proposing that no one ever mention the desire for remote work in their cover letters, resumes, profiles, etc. The argument was that it was such a desperate look, signaling to hiring managers that you only cared about working from home. This was somehow translated to then being incapable of caring about the position or employer itself–that you are declaring a line in the sand, and that’s too forward.

Even if I try to put aside the ridiculous notion of caring about an employer” in this way, the idea that even voicing a preference or need to work from home is akin to writing profanity all over a resume is absurd. And allowing these companies to make you feel bad enough to hide it is assigning them too much power. You know what you need and what works for you; you know how to be successful. There should be zero shame in wanting or needing to work from home. What an absolute mind-melting, dumb game this has become, and we can’t feed into it.

None of this is to suggest that employees need to openly say why they require a work-from-home setup–it’s not anyone’s business. While demanding to know should stop in general, I think the first step is not entertaining these questions, which shouldn’t be legal–not that this is a solution in itself because I’ve been asked countless times in interviews if I have kids. Whether you are in chronic pain, have an isolating health condition, need flexibility to take care of someone else, or just can’t stand being enclosed in a small space while someone burns popcorn, it shouldn’t matter. Since the post-pandemic” fallout regarding remote work, everyone has been put in a defensive position over it. Breathlessly sharing their deeply personal needs and preferences as a price to be paid to get what they know they need.

Drawing lines in the sand should not be a negative thing. When we allow companies to make us feel bad about being upfront about our needs, they get away with things like failing to disclose pay until they’ve wasted hours of precious time. Time needed to earn money, time needed to care for loved ones, time needed to recharge. This time is gone after learning you can’t afford to live based on what they are offering, and you’re supposed to thank them for the privilege of it all. Unless we push back on anti-remote work talking points, we’ll be dealing with this unfounded shame and smallness forever and continue to lose fights for fair wages, fights for sick leave, and fights to protect privacy–it’s all interconnected.

Working from home is not easy, and it’s not for everyone, but this doesn’t mean it should then be for no one. When companies that have no real reason to require humans to sit in loud, smelly, cramped spaces with shitty lighting but are preaching it’s required, a tightly held value,” and necessary for bonding,” what I hear is that they don’t know how to hire in this new environment and that they are protecting the desires of an especially greedy few. And are likely afraid of their office landlord.

Additionally, the idea of in-person environments being equated to optimized productivity and the absence of killing time” is delusional and out of touch. Really, though, it also speaks to a larger issue around the perception of what productive time looks like. Allowing people to have mental breaks to socialize and clear their heads as they transition into a new task is positive and essential. As someone who’s also worked in-person, I can confidently say I got a lot less done.

My best work is done on walks and when I take a break to make my bed because I’m stuck on a complex problem. When I return, the problem is a lot less complex, and my ideas are more creative. And yet, this would be labeled as an unproductive waste by those clamoring to defend an anti-remote work stance.

So much of this mess is based on propaganda and uncertainty around how to manage remotely. Figuring out how to make this work despite the challenges is empathetic and good management. It’s forward-thinking and smart, but it requires strategy and work–work that will be rewarded with top talent and employees who are more fulfilled, not spending their nights looking for a better job that meets these valid lines in the sand.

Remote work has shaken up the power dynamic in place to assert control. This has scared many people, and they seem to be lashing out and railing against data and common sense as a result. When in a position to do so, I think change starts with openly discussing how idiotic and damaging this all is, even if it sometimes just feels like a rant–this is worth publicly ranting over.

See you tomorrow over the final breakfast (I will still keep eating breakfast, just not while also writing each day).

February 28, 2024

Wiggly Goals

Since my mind is on help this week, I thought a good follow-up to yesterday’s letter could be speaking in more detail about my Wiggle Work goals and that professional help I was vaguely speaking to.

Wiggle Work is currently a small, cozy, fun, down-to-earth, friendly Discord community for remote tech and tech-adjacent workers. We hang out all week, sharing funny and weird internet things. We also help each other with problems, share wins, and do questionable things together, like agreeing to write each day for a month. There are weekly video call chats and special events with prizes (reclaiming these from kids). It’s going well, but I have a lot of ideas on how to make it even better. I want this to be an enjoyable haven from overly business-bear spaces–a retreat where people can genuinely connect and break free from isolation, build each other up, and take refuge from the negative toll that working on the internet in a remote environment can have.

I’ve documented these goals based on needs and wishlist items. First, we need a new Wiggle Work site with a blog. The current site was never meant to be a long-term solution (I know, classic tale), just a functional space to throw an application link. We are ready for one that instills a feeling of what the group is all about by capturing the events, channels, and people that make it special. This is also a group of people who love to write and take tools seriously. A system that allows for multiple authors and breaks away from big tech” is crucial. I’ve been waffling over this a bunch, but I suspect 11ty is an ideal fit and I hope to tackle this over spring.

Wiggle Work is not free to run. There are server fees, prizes, and mail involved, at a minimum. We have a Ko-fi account, which helps, and I’m very grateful when people are able to contribute. In looking ahead, a stretch goal here is to have enough funds to pay for special guests, pay for help with specific tasks when necessary, cover the cost of participating in certain events, and have a fund to pull from to help members cover things like the cost of conference tickets or training–I’m eager to call this the Friendly Foundation, obviously. The community will always be not-for-profit, and I love the idea of giving this back in a helpful, impactful, structured way.

Part of the financial growth planning involves figuring out how to be helpful and provide value within and beyond the community. The first valuable thing that comes to mind is our daily discussion prompts, our Ponder Prompts. I’ve written about these with some examples in the past, though we’ve had a lot more since. These can be helpful for other communities but also teams and 1-on-1s operating in a remote context. Getting to know each other while spread across the world takes extra, deliberate effort, and these prompts are a great way to achieve this, hitting on things that would never come up organically. I like the idea of packaging these up somehow and continually adding them to the list to be sold or to solicit donations in order to help others while also supporting Wiggle Work.

There are countless ideas around additional activities that foster growth and provide a sense of knowing each other better, with a community podcast (I’m eager to call this Wiggle Work Waves), a mini conference, and a space to exist and document outside of Discord being among my favorites. There’s no limit to exciting ideas and the overall potential of this community, though figuring out what to do within the confines of available resources and when to expand these resources becomes the most important factor when prioritizing these goals.

To further complicate things, these available resources cannot be consistently relied on. I’m currently the only organizer, and I also have a major surgery coming up in March. It’s important to me that Wiggle Work grows and continues to be a fun, safe space for people to spend their remote days. To do this, I need to expand and diversify our reach and ensure daily tasks are minimally impacted, if at all. And I need to do this without becoming burned out since I have done this with previous community efforts.

These goals are too grand for a single person to deliver. Further, I recognize the importance that a different perspective and network can bring. I need help with daily prompts while I recover from surgery. I want to make sure no one is talking to an empty room during parts of a week when things are especially busy at work for many members. I want to make sure someone is regularly providing distractions–we’ve never had a shortage of these, but I’d never risk it. And I want to make sure video chats are not put on pause.

More than this, though, I’m also open to having a partner in all this, a coorganizer, to help with these goals and share their own for us to work towards. The best match here will be someone who believes in and wants to contribute to what Wiggle Work is all about. This person will find this a worthwhile, valuable space to spend time and contribute to. I haven’t figured out exactly how to find this person yet, but this is where my head has been, and I’m determined to figure it out.

In the meantime, though, if you’re open to posting a week of prompts and guiding a couple of weeks’ worth of video calls in the middle of March, please send me a very welcome DM.

See you tomorrow over breakfast.

February 27, 2024

Requesting Help

While I believe the problem with asking for help is related to perfectionism, I also think it’s different enough to stand as its own post. I need to ask for help soon, and I’m unsure how to do it. There are a lot of mixed feelings that pop up whenever this happens, and it’s happening more than ever before.

I’ve always struggled with asking for help. I grew up in a house where I was often on my own and often expected to figure things out quietly since there wasn’t room or resources for whatever I had going on. This isn’t necessarily as sad as it may sound because it prepared me to be resourceful and pragmatic. This became more evident to me in college, where I could see things and solve problems in ways that simply didn’t occur to my peers.

As an adult, my world became even smaller. Most of the other parents I know have what appears to be an army of help through extended family. I cannot even for a second imagine what that is like. I can’t imagine what having an emergency with help looks like. I can’t imagine how many emergencies wouldn’t have been emergencies at all with this support in place from the beginning.

We are on our own for the most part, so everything is a bit harder for us–there’s no village” to rely on and contribute to. This was fine for a long time. We did it all and paid for help when necessary. We juggled everything. It was exhausting, and people thought we were super-human. I’m not sure what changed, I suspect age and circumstance are heavily involved, but we can no longer manage as we once did. It’s gone from harder to impossible, from a bit empowering to soul-crushing. I’ve grown confused, defeated, and resentful as a result.

This has all left me guarded and distrusting, even professionally. If someone offers help in a professional context, there can be a lot at play here. It’s possible that they are asking because you appear as if you need help, and that can’t be good. If you ask for help outright, is this saturated with the assumption that you can’t manage your time well or are just too slow? What a wild ride! It can feel so much easier and safer at times to work extra, to get through it alone to avoid getting help that is used against you somehow. This is, of course, a fragile, unrealistic existence.

Additionally, when you invite someone in to help, there’s an unspoken agreement that they then have a say in how things are done. You open yourself up to unsolicited critique. While this can be OK professionally, it’s a nightmare when the matter is of a personal nature. You’re opening yourself up to opinions that are actually judgments, judgments formed without necessary details. You’re opening yourself up to asking for help from people who have denied any previous request. You also lose a piece of ownership over something, and its success is now attributed to many.

This is all especially complex and tricky to process when you’ve lived a life that involves trying to figure out how to sue your father when barely an adult yourself and having to get two siblings ready for school because parents never came home that night and cell phones didn’t exist. On top of this baggage, I’m supposed to also know when things will actually be different and when the situation calls for help in a way that is worth any drawbacks that come with it. In theory, asking for help is supposed to make things easier, but that mostly hasn’t been the case so far.

So, I have a complicated history with asking for help, but I want to figure this out–I need to figure this out. I can see the value in it, and, at this point, I no longer have the luxury of it being an option, and I want to do it differently this time. I want to be more specific in what I need, be less guarded and more trusting, and drum up enthusiasm for a collaboration over trying to always go it alone. If it doesn’t work out, I don’t want it to act as validation of jaded thoughts and lessons learned from past experiences–I need to break free of those and try to move forward.

Professionally, I’m going to write up goals and specific needs and be open to a true partner in these efforts. Personally, I need to be very direct in asking for help since this is not something people expect of me at this point. I need to ask for help since it won’t come otherwise, and I need to be open to disappointment if any help I’m able to get doesn’t look exactly as I hoped. I also need to be open to the concept of it being successful in a way I hadn’t anticipated–I can’t control everything and no longer feel like trying to.

See you tomorrow over breakfast.

February 26, 2024

Sunny Sunday

It took most of my life, but I finally love Sundays. This one is already feeling extra special since it’s the final Sunday of this enjoyable yet painful month-long writing challenge, and, against all odds, the sun is out. My routine will be about the same, but this helps everything feel even lighter.

Kids generally hate Sundays since school is just around the corner. There’s no chance of sleeping in, and Monday marks the start of a long week. Adults generally hate Sundays for similar reasons, but it’s work to blame for the dread. I could only shake the Sunday Scaries once I made a few changes and became open to accepting more than a few realities.

A job that I don’t hate was the first obvious step here. Or, more specifically, not having to report to insufferable managers. There’s nothing new about a boss that makes your life miserable; it’s a tale as old as time. But from my experience, managers in tech can be uniquely unequipped to manage humans. There are a couple of jobs that stand out as being especially toxic. I’d obsess about them all day on Sundays, wondering exactly how bad this week would be, dreading the moments when I would cease to breathe s as I waited for these particular unqualified managers to pop up on Zoom.

These thoughts would impact and ruin my entire day, sometimes in ways I wasn’t fully aware of–even when I didn’t realize I was thinking about it, I was. Getting out of these jobs, but really that space and industry as a whole, was the most crucial step in not wishing days and weeks away. Any unpleasant Monday interactions now mostly fall on my ability to plan and prepare, and that’s much more controllable.

Part of this planning has been understanding that I can’t account for everything that Monday could throw at me. I’ve been able to adjust my schedule in a way that leans into this and also sets the bar a bit lower than other days. There are never any hard Monday deadlines or even phone calls. It’s a day of setting up for the week’s work. It’s more emails and project management over design work and tangible deliverables.

I try to remove any blockers that stand in the way of starting Monday as peacefully as possible. Since bills so often like to appear in the mail on Saturdays, I pay these online on Sundays, so it’s not on my plate on Monday. This doesn’t take a lot of time, but for some reason, it carries a heavy cognitive load in the context of starting a fresh week. I live through my calendar, so I spend time fine-tuning this for the week and reviewing it with everyone in the house so there are no surprises.

For at-home prep, I use Sundays as big cooking and baking days. I’ll tackle a few tried-and-true recipes and experiment with a single new one. Gluten-free, vegan baking has more failures than successes, but the main part of getting wins is mastering various flour blends. Store-bought blends, for me, have the greatest fail rate. So, making these blends myself is the way to go, but it’s very time-consuming and something I save for Sundays. I maintain three separate blends since a cake needs a much different flour-to-starch ratio than bread. I keep waiting to document these blends until they are just right, so maybe after another decade or so, I’ll be ready.

An easy” bread is generally a soda or yeast-based recipe, while sourdough continues to be unpredictable and insanely time-consuming. Today, I’ll be making two small rustic loaves, banana bread, sandwich cookies, pumpkin muffins, seasoned sourdough crackers, and legume-free vegan butter. The goal here is to overproduce and freeze to prepare for the entire week–here are some of my faves from over the years. Additionally, making something like a casserole will ensure we have lunches for a couple days. It’s an entire day in the kitchen.

There’s also a school uniform to iron, a lunch to pack, and swim gear to prep. If I save these for weekday mornings, we all have a very bad time and usually run late. I also make sure to spend time socializing without the nagging sensation that time is limited, like during the week. We typically watch a movie, I find time to read, and we spoil the pets and water plants. We go somewhere if we want to, but we don’t have to.

Sundays are now a day completely grounded in caring for living things. It’s beautiful and makes my soul happy, and I’m so grateful to no longer dread them.

See you tomorrow over breakfast, the final Monday.

February 25, 2024

Divergent Thinking

So far, 2024 has already been one of the more significant ADHD resource years since diagnosis. Between ADDitude magazine and podcast, the ADHD Women’s Wellness podcast, and now the incredible How to ADHD book by Jessica McCabe, things are feeling more hopeful and less mysterious than ever.

There are a lot of phases involved with accepting ADHD. On one hand, it’s a profound relief to have a name for what you’re going through. There’s reassurance in that and a sense of potential belonging where before, there was just isolation, confusion, and chronic disappointment. On the other hand, getting a lifelong title doesn’t feel great. It’s confirmation that things have been and will always be harder. There’s initial denial to work through on the path to acceptance and, eventually, advocating.

There are still unfortunate stigmas around ADHD to the point where being open about it initially was not an easy decision. It was the right decision for me, but I would never blame someone for keeping this a secret. Ultimately, I don’t want to be ashamed of something that actually makes up a substantial portion of my personality and directly contributes to my ability to do my job well and parent well, though differently. Divergent thinking can sometimes be a beautiful benefit, and these resources have enabled this clarity for me. It takes all kinds to contribute to well-rounded families, teams, and communities, and the ADHD brain is part of this unique, successful equation.

In considering the benefits of divergent thinking, curiosity and creativity are among the first things that come to mind. The unrelenting urge to further explore a random element leads to important questions and then important answers and revelations. Even on an individual level, it’s very nurturing for the mind and body to allow this unstructured wondering. These non-typical thought patterns and tendencies produce results generally perceived as more creative.

Reactions to the word excitable” are interesting. I’m not sure when it became acceptable to shun those with lots of enthusiasm, but I find it to be by far one of the most unique and powerful aspects of many ADHD personalities. Being genuinely, thoroughly excited about something, anything, is seemingly as rare as ever. It’s infectious in the best way. It’s motivating and can produce incredible products, incredible art, and incredible alternative thinking around a problem.

Unique thought patterns, in general, can be such an untapped, unacknowledged gift. One interesting experiment referenced in a recent podcast was based on the productivity of two groups of kids, one where the group included a kid with ADHD. As expected, the group with the ADHD kid got more off track, but what wasn’t expected was that this group got more correct answers. This is an essential insight into advocating for a shift in what we value and what being productive” even means. The kids with ADHD are not inherently wrong; it’s the society built around them that is falsely framing them to be.

Energy comes in abundance with ADHD–either in mind, body, or both. We punish kids who exhibit too much energy, and we harshly judge adults with unusual amounts. People half-jokingly wonder out loud what drugs we are on, and damaging words like too much” are thrown around. There are literally no limits to what this energy can achieve when harnessed and attached to a positive goal. And yet, those with this energy are berated because other people can’t imagine how it’s possible and seemingly feel threatened by it. It’s too often associated with behavioral issues with no regard for what these minds need.

Hyper-focus is a perfect follow-up to energy, but it is the one I’m most conflicted about including here. I find it to be among the best and worst parts. Like many ADHDers, I have mixed experiences with hyper-focus. Sometimes, it feels like the stars have aligned. Like this is what I was born to do. I’ll focus on a project, feel more alive than ever, and produce something that’s incredible, that I’m proud of, and is celebrated by others. Nothing else matters in this moment–like living in a tunnel.

But, even when something good comes out of it, living like nothing else matters has consequences. There are always other responsibilities that need attention, there is water to drink and sleep to be had. It’s all about understanding how to do it responsibly and in a controlled, deliberate way through creating cues, fighting distraction with distraction, establishing time cutoffs, and leaving breadcrumbs to find a way back. It’s hard and takes practice, and it is something I am still slowly learning how to do, but I have made significant progress. The ADHD mind has no trouble focusing when interested and I’ve found that just having this insight is invaluable.

While divergent minds can be extraordinary and offer the unique insight and empathy that we need as a society, they can also cause a life of pain and struggle. It’s a potential gift, and unlocking this gift depends on the individual’s ability to let go of shame and guilt, let go of trying to be someone they are not, and lean into these potential strengths that are right there going unacknowledged–leaning into who we are instead of fighting it.

This is especially difficult for groups of people who have been told we are wrong, weird, a lot,” and flaky. There’s no room for strengths when you’re told that who you are is a weakness. But as Dr. Hallowell, a psychiatrist and ADHD advocate, points out, we don’t metabolize our strengths but need to in order to see them.

Knowing how to kick off such an enormous undertaking can feel impossible. It’s a journey, and the first chapter of How to ADHD is an excellent start in holding your head a bit higher, understanding that you have value, rewiring your brain to be less cruel to yourself, understanding why you think the way you do and that you’re not alone. Anything is possible when we let go of what we should be and embrace who we are. And as a society, we need to better understand that no one is good at everything, and diversity in thinking benefits us all, unlocking solutions that are impossible otherwise. It takes us all working together to achieve greatness.

I’m excited to raise a kid in a space of empathy and empowerment versus how many of us were brought up. I’m excited to break the cycle. I’m excited to go finish the latest episode of ADHD Experts on my walk.

See you tomorrow over breakfast.

February 24, 2024

A tiny project byJoni Trythall inspired by friends at Wiggle Work.