“Who are we, if not measured by our impact on others? That’s who we are! We’re not who we say we are, we’re not who we want to be — we are the sum of the influence and impact that we have, in our lives, on others.”—Neil deGrasse Tyson on Carl Sagan at yesterday’s Library of Congress event celebrating Sagan
“Sell your expertise and you have a limited repertoire. Sell your ignorance and you have an unlimited repertoire. He was selling his ignorance and his desire to learn about a subject. The journey of not knowing to knowing was his work.”—Richard Saul Wurman on Charles Eames
Next week is my last week on the floor as an instructor at Dev Bootcamp for the rest of this year. After that, I get my regular three-week teaching break and then will be working on internal projects/enjoying holiday break by turns until late January of next year. It seems like a good time to take stock of where I am and where I’m going.
I’ve spent the past few months adjusting to life as a full-time instructor, which has been by turns interesting, frustrating, overwhelming and rewarding. I’ve learned quite a bit. Which was always the point.
I organized my first batch of Girl Develop It Chicago classes and events, including the first GDI HTML/CSS class I taught here. Every one so far has sold out. The Chicago tech community has been incredibly supportive of our work and, as always, seeing people discover potential to do something they thought they couldn’t do is the best thing ever.
My goals for next year are enticingly blank at this point. I will be spending the summer in one of two different, exciting cities, although I don’t know which yet. As of now, I have no speaking dates scheduled, but I’m looking forward to the right opportunities to develop new messages and connect with new audiences. I’m seeking coaching to improve my speaking skills and I’m continuing to build up my programming chops. I’m going to be traveling and exploring as much as I can.
I also might dye my hair a new color. The possibilities are endless.
“We need you to be ready. There is room up here. Get your shitty comics out of the way now. You will need each other. You will make stories that make you feel connected to others and the world and we will need that from you. Don’t be afraid. Start now.”—A call to arms for women in comics (or anything, really) from the wonderful Kelly Sue DeConnick.
“Some people want their paychecks and to go home, and that’s fine. You and me, though—we’re gonna work harder than they do. We’ll build things that ensure that entire populations just setting foot on the web for the first time can tap into the collected knowledge of the whole of mankind.”—Mat Marquis
“Don’t aim at success — the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run—in the long run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.”—Viktor Frankl
27 things I've learned in life that I want to tell my daughter
1. Have your own money. Safety, security and even opportunity bought by someone else is a poor substitute for pride in earning your own life.
2. Nothing external can make you happy. However, the right external factors will enable you to find it internally.
3. Say yes, then figure out how.
4. Don’t tolerate people who claim to care about you but don’t believe in your potential enough to support your growth.
5. Don’t be afraid of being alone. Lack of self-respect is far worse than loneliness, and when you like and respect yourself, you’re never really lonely.
6. No matter what you do and say, someone somewhere is going to judge you for it. So fuck it and be yourself.
7. Be willing to do the long, hard, devastating work necessary to understand how to be yourself.
8. Being authentic and genuine is more important than having success on other people’s terms. Appearances are bullshit. Distrust them, especially when it comes to yourself.
9. There is always a way. Always.
10. Human potential is the most important thing in the world. Honor your own. Respect others’.
11. There is nothing wrong in being pretty, or liking being pretty, but anyone who ties it to your self-worth isn’t worth your time.
12. If you get tattoos, make them good pieces from good artists in good shops. If I see any hack scratcher work, you’re grounded, no matter how old you are.
13. Learn to process your emotions healthily. They are nothing to be ashamed of, but they are to be managed. Not suppressed. Felt, processed, expressed, managed. They are not allowed to limit you and they are not allowed to hurt others.
14. Ask for help. Trust people who are worthy of it.
15. Don’t trust people who are not actualized enough to see you for who you are, rather than a reflection of their own needs and self-deceptions.
16. Empathize, empathize, empathize, emphasize, empathize. And behave accordingly.
17. Do what scares you. Don’t make excuses. Don’t run away.
18. Remember that the scariest stuff is not outside of you.
19. Own your own mistakes.
20. The world doesn’t like women who are too loud, too opinionated, too independent, too proud. Be these things anyway (all at once if you feel like it). Be prepared for the judgment. Be prepared to do it anyway and not complain.
21. No one owns you. Not one tiny bit.
22. Travel and explore. But don’t you dare just move around for distraction or escape. Travel to see yourself differently, and grow.
23. It takes a while to learn how to use liquid eyeliner without making a mess. So don’t get discouraged. Unless you don’t give a shit about eyeliner, in which case pass that tidbit on to someone else.
24. You are lucky. Help those who aren’t.
25. You can change anything in the world. You really can. Not everything there is. Not always a single thing to the degree you want. But never, ever stop fighting because you think you are powerless. Find the thing you can do and do that. You can always change something.
26. Making yourself better is the best way to start making the world better.
“Authenticity is about imperfection. And authenticity is a very human quality. To be authentic is to be at peace with your imperfections. The great leaders are not the strongest, they are the ones who are honest about their weaknesses. The great leaders are not the smartest; they are the ones who admit how much they don’t know. The great leaders can’t do everything; they are the ones who look to others to help them. Great leaders don’t see themselves as great; they see themselves as human.”—Simon Sinek, via Swissmiss
“Rather than protesting for nothing, for going out in the street with banners … a young person with an idea should be working on that idea instead of fighting what he doesn’t believe in. And I think that kind of … activism is wasteful. And it’s better to be working on an idea. And building on that than to breaking down and protesting something that exists.”—Ruth Asawa
“Like most of the others, I was a seeker, a mover, a malcontent, and at times a stupid hell-raiser. I was never idle long enough to do much thinking, but I felt somehow that my instincts were right. I shared a vagrant optimism that some of us were making real progress, that we had taken an honest road, and that the best of us would inevitably make it over the top. At the same time, I shared a dark suspicion that the life we were leading was a lost cause, that we were all actors, kidding ourselves along on a senseless odyssey. It was the tension between these two poles — a restless idealism on one hand and a sense of impending doom on the other — that kept me going.”—Hunter. The Rum Diary.
I think it’s part of the nature of man to start with romance and build to a reality. There’s hardly a scientist or an astronaut I’ve met who wasn’t beholden to some romantic before him who led him to doing something in life.
I think it’s so important to be excited about life. In order to get the facts we have to be excited to go out and get them, and there’s only one way to do that — through romance. We need this thing which makes us sit bolt upright when we are nine or ten and say, ‘I want to go out and devour the world, I want to do these things.’
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: ‘It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.’”—Jim Jarmusch
“In many ways, this is what designers are tasked to do. Designers have a hands-off relationship with the people they’re trying to introduce concepts to. Success relies on teaching a person to interact with the product without ‘physically adjusting’ them. The interface is most often the conduit of education. It’s one of the most important yet least discussed topics of what we do.”—"Design is implicit education," by P.J. Onori
“What I have come to believe is that children are more than what their circumstance put upon them. So my goal is to get kids to own their education. I don’t think I can hector them into doing this. I don’t think I can shame them into doing it. I do think that might be able to affect some sort of internal motivation. So I try to get them to see that every subject they study has the potential to open up a universe. I really mean this.”—"If I Were a Black Kid …", from Ta-Nehisi Coates.
“All love songs must contain duende. For the love song is never truly happy. It must first embrace the potential for pain. Those songs that speak of love without having within in their lines an ache or a sigh are not love songs at all but rather Hate Songs disguised as love songs, and are not to be trusted. These songs deny us our humanness and our God-given right to be sad and the air-waves are littered with them. The love song must resonate with the susurration of sorrow, the tintinnabulation of grief. The writer who refuses to explore the darker regions of the heart will never be able to write convincingly about the wonder, the magic and the joy of love for just as goodness cannot be trusted unless it has breathed the same air as evil.”—Stop everything right now and listen to Nick Cave speak and sing about the art of the love song from 1999. Sublime.
For the past two and a half years, I’ve been learning and considering three words and their concepts in succession: forgiveness, absolution and atonement.
These concepts are steeped in religion. But I am not. So I come to them for their distilled applicable wisdom and not their spiritual promise. That also means that I have no structure of support or guidance with which to understand them. Which is why it’s taken me so long to understand.
I resisted forgiving at first because it seemed unjust. If you forgive someone who did something wrong, isn’t it a betrayal of justice? Even if the wrong done was unintentional? Even if the someone is you? If there are no consequences for actions, we lose the underpinning of the significance of our actions. If bad actions are forgiven, we give license to hurt without repercussions, we rob ourselves and others of protection from harm and we preclude our ability to grow and progress. If bad actions are forgiven, what’s the use of doing good?
As it turns out, this isn’t really what forgiveness is about. Forgiveness is not something you can give to anyone else. It’s also not the alpha and omega, but rather a part of a whole. Forgiveness is how you understand the reality that led to the wrong and how you let go of the anger and confusion surrounding it. Forgiveness is understanding you are not responsible for the wrong, but you are responsible for what you feel about it. It’s divorced from action. Once you realize the limits of forgiveness, it’s remarkably easy to do.
The difficult part is understanding that, sometimes, forgiveness is the only thing you can do. And that, most of the time, it won’t actually change anything outside of you at all.
Forgiveness is not absolution. Finally comprehending the distinction between the two was a revelation for me. We conflate these concepts constantly, and that’s the trap. They are different things. We usually ask for forgiveness from someone when what we really want from them is absolution. We want to be absolved of what we did wrong, the slate wiped clean, our conscience clear. We want to be reassured that the mistake we made is okay and we’re okay and everything’s okay.
Absolution does not exist. It simply doesn’t. Because actions do have consequences, and erasing that fact necessitates the most grievous consequence of all - draining our actions and our characters of meaning entirely.
Forgiveness is something an individual does for herself. She doesn’t have the right or the ability to absolve anyone else of the consequences of their actions. Even if we did have the right or ability to absolve someone, we would be wrong to do it. We would be cheating others of wisdom, understanding, growth and, of course, consequence.
After I understood the difference between these words, I thought I had unlocked the secret. I was able to forgive, and understand the rest was not my responsibility to carry. But I still struggled with the implications of that. I wanted to know that there could be positive action in place of absolution, that there could be a solid chance of wisdom and growth. So I came to another word.
We can’t offer absolution, but we can open ourselves to atonement. Atonement is a complicated process of facing wrongs done, understanding why they were done and what consequences they caused others, and taking responsibility for all it. There is no formula for atonement, no ritual of blood sacrifice, no rules à la an eye for an eye. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about engaging truthfully with the process of forgiving yourself. It’s something you should do with the person you wronged. They are uniquely qualified to understand the situation at hand; also they must have gone through their own process of forgiveness in order to be open to atonement in the first place, and therefore they can help you with yours. If they have not learned forgiveness yet, you can help them.
In the absence of absolution, we are, at a minimum, responsible for resolution.
There is a cost associated with opening ourselves this way, which is that no one may take the invitation to atone. You may want resolution, you may be ready and willing to help with forgiveness - but you can’t force anyone else to come to the process. That is where the words run out and there is only one left: acceptance.
Acceptance, however, is also not absolution. Do not confuse the two and trap yourself in the cycle all over again.
If you skip atonement, if you absolve yourself of wrongs you’ve done because you think it doesn’t really matter, that in enough time everything will just be okay, you have cheated yourself. You have impacted the honesty and significance of your character and actions from that point forward.
If someone neglected resolution with you and refuses atonement, you must accept it. But that does not change their character or actions from that point forward. You accept that as well. You also accept that your responsibility is your own character and actions.
“If you see that some aspect of your society is bad, and you want to improve it, there is only one way to do so: you have to improve people. And in order to improve people, you begin with only one thing: you can become better yourself.”—Leo Tolstoy
For a long time, ever since my failed attempt at becoming a programmer, I wanted to have a local tech community of women I could teach, learn from and ask for/give support. So, about two and a half years ago, I made one.
I had heard about an organization called Girl Develop It that had started six months earlier in New York. It offered beginner programming classes with the goal of creating a welcoming, low-pressure learning environment. I wanted to do that. I arranged a phone call with one of the founders, Sara Chipps, and asked if I could start a chapter in Columbus, Ohio.
I had no idea what I was doing. I had a bit of experience organizing community groups, but only informally. I was completely unprepared to run classes, arrange schedules, find teachers, and eventually teach myself, all while ensuring that our primary mission stayed intact.
But I did it anyway. I poured time and effort into building up the program. I somehow found the people I needed, the space I needed. I started partnerships with local companies and community centers to sponsor our classes and meetups. I supported professionals new to teaching so they could learn how to guide people new to their field. I learned how to teach. I brought my daughter to my classes when I couldn’t find sitters and I learned how to live the life of being a single mother with a career and causes. I kept believing in what I was doing when plans fell through, when people I relied on disappeared, when I fell short of my goals.
I made mistakes. Sweet mother of Jack Kerouac, did I make mistakes. Slowly, I got better. I learned how to delegate and how to ask for help. I learned how to be tough when our mission was at stake. I learned that communication and collaboration with a dedicated group of people was the only way to build something new.
Now, two years down the road, I’m moving away from Columbus. I’ve transferred leadership to someone else. There is an entire team of people organizing the chapter now, some of whom started out as our students. They put their own time and effort into making our organization better and growing us even larger and stronger.
After the last class I taught, one of the students told me, “I was so scared to do this before class started, and now I feel really relieved and excited to learn this.” That was it. That was what I wanted to do. It wasn’t about getting people new jobs. It wasn’t about just raising the numbers of women in tech. Although we’ve taken steps towards both. This was, and is, about unlocking human potential. That’s it. That’s the most important thing in the world to me.
We’ve changed things. We’ve created something positive where there used to be nothing. We’ve made a community of women pushing their own boundaries while helping others to do the same. This city is different now because this exists. We made it that way.
Tonight I attended my last GDI Columbus monthly Hack Night, an event I started over a year ago to build community outside of our classes. Sometimes, in the beginning, the only people there were two or three organizers. But, now, we’ve finally gained critical mass, and, for the past few months, our hack nights have been full and vibrant. Beginners bring their projects, ask questions and get help. The more experienced in the community come to share their knowledge and passion. There is so much discussion, so much interaction. This community is thriving, completely independent of me.
I felt a little like I did watching my daughter go to school for the first time. You’re a success as a parent if your child grows into a healthy person independent of you. You’re a success as a leader if the people you brought together to fulfill a mission can still fulfill that mission without you.
I’m so proud.
And the best part is I know it’s really just getting started.
“One writes of scars healed, a loose parallel to the pathology of the skin, but there is no such thing in the life of an individual. There are open wounds, shrunk sometimes to the size of a pin-prick but wounds still. The marks of suffering are more comparable to the loss of a finger, or of the sight of an eye. We may not miss them, either, for one minute in a year, but if we should there is nothing to be done about it.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night
Yesterday, I wanted to suggest a few self-taught women programmers for an interview series (which someone else is conducting). However, I wasn’t sure how many of them had learned their craft via non-traditional methods, so, rather than contacting everyone individually, I put the word out on Twitter. I thought that a handful of the women I know follow me would respond if they were interested in participating and fit the bill.
This, of course, is awesome and I’m so grateful for and impressed by the interest. Unfortunately, I can’t accomodate all of the responses for this particular interview series. But I have another venue for you to tell your stories.
A while back, I made the High Visibility Project, to highlight the stories of women in technology. I haven’t had the bandwidth to keep up with it, though, and it’s been languishing on my list of things to redesign and reboot. But, well, why miss an opportunity like this to give more women a platform? Let’s start the reboot right now. If you were interested being interviewed, I would like to formally invite you to submit your story to the High Visibility Project and help us build a repository for women’s stories. You can submit no matter what your skill level or background is. Also, if you’re just starting out, watching the videos there is a great way to figure out your own path.
Teaching at Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco - That’s right, San Francisco. Starting late next week, it’s you and me for three whole weeks. Currently accepting offers of drinks, recommendations for fun stuff to do on the weekend, especially walking/hiking, and offers of drinks.
MoxieCon • 27 April • Chicago, IL - I’m looking forward to talking about, “How To Change the World with a Girl and a Computer.” This will be a whirlwind trip, but never fear, because …
Chicago - I’m moving the Chicago at the end of May.
I’ve idly wished for a personal assistant off and on for a long time, and it finally makes financial and professional sense to try it out. So I’m officially looking for one on a virtual basis.
Things with which I would like assistance:
Scheduling and booking travel.
Responding to speaking invitations and scheduling speaking engagements.
Scheduling both professional and personal appointments.
Keeping track of correspondence and helping to answer it promptly.
Helping to organize side projects.
All work can be done via email and/or phone, so it doesn’t matter exactly where you are physically - however, I’m currently in the US in the Eastern time zone and will be moving in two months to the Central time zone, so sticking close to that would probably help us both out.
I think, right now, the amount of work would average around five hours a week, possibly more. If it works out well, that would probably increase. If you’re located in Chicago and would be willing to help with in-person organization, it would definitely increase.
If you’re interested in learning more about web development, I’d also be more than happy to make this an opportunity to learn about working in the field and to connect with people I know. If you don’t already know me on the internets, swing through my website or my Twitter profile to get a sense of what I do.
If you’d like to chat about it, please send me an email at email@example.com to tell me about your experience and rates.
“Because we are human, because we are bound by gravity and the limitations of our bodies, because we live in a world where the news is often bad and the prospects disturbing, there is a need for another world somewhere, a world where Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers live.”—Roger Ebert
“The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.”—Neil Gaiman
“Be disciplined. Work hard. Be prepared to hear ‘no’ a lot and don’t care. My dad taught me an important lesson, which is to look at why someone does something rather than what they actually do. A lot of artists are making art because they they want to be cool and they want people to like them. That’s the wrong reason to be making art. Be prepared to have a lot of people not enjoy your work and have it not bother you; you should do it because you want to do it.”—The Great Discontent interviews Oliver Jeffers (via jarrettfuller)
This is essentially why I don’t know what to say when people ask me what responsive framework to use. Or front-end framework in general. Most of the time, I prefer to start from scratch for the particular problem at hand.