I suck at inbound

I’m not someone who’s great at dealing with a lot of inbound communication. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself the past few years, it’s that I really like to control where my time goes and what occupies my brain space. This became really apparent when we pivoted Firstbloom to be a service-based business. The fact that I was responding to questions as people were brewing their coffee and attempting to troubleshoot on the fly gave me this real deep sense of anxiety. I developed a really unhealthy relationship with WhatsApp notifications. It got to the point that seeing the little green phone icon started giving me panic attacks.

This anxiety was largely self-imposed, though. I’m convinced the people who were paying us would understand if we set better boundaries. But, I have an unhealthy relationship with being reliable and high-performing. It’s a character flaw that often causes me to put myself last. And, it’s a relationship with self that got even worse while building Firstbloom. It’s a part of myself that I’m not a fan of, mostly because it inhibits me from doing good work, and adds an extra stress to my life that I really don’t need. It’s something I want to get better at. Not everything requires a response, and barely anything demands an immediate response.

There was a moment where I was great at dealing with inbound messaging. My relationship with work was really healthy. I was really healthy in general. And, I’m looking to get back to that. I’m just not totally sure how to get back to it.

I have noticed that it’s less about the content of the message, but more the frequency or size. Back in 2018 I forked an open-source project and maintained briefly while at Sportlogiq because it solved a problem we had but was missing some features. Due to the name I gave it when publishing on npm, it grew to be a little popular. Not immensely popular, but it’s gotten to a point where people are opening new issues a few times a month. Had this started happening while I was still at Sportlogiq, before Firstbloom became my primary focus, I would be all over it. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. Now we’re sitting at 28 open issues, 3 open pull requests, 91 stars and 127 forks. I want to go back and maintain it, but I’m overwhelmed by the thought. It’s a fun little library, and it’s something that provides value. It wouldn’t be hard to maintain or make better. However, I get brunt-out and anxious thinking about the fact that there are people who I’ve let down, and the amount of work to start maintaining it.

My hypothesis is that it has to do with practicing delayed gratification again, and in general practicing sitting in discomfort. I’ve developed an avoidance coping mechanism because the physiological responses to discomfort are at all-time highs now. But, what I want to cement for myself is that they won’t harm me and that they can be trained out. However, if left untrained, they’ll catch up with me eventually. So, it’s imperative that I get back to training myself again. It’s just a really tough framing to keep in mind. It’s easy in the moment to think that whatever you’re experiencing is the end-all-be-all. That this is my last moment on earth. It’s terrifying, but unlikely. Sitting with those feelings is how I’ll ultimately improve. It’s what’s worked in the past. Granted, it wasn’t as severe a decade ago.

One of the reasons I want to get this resolved is because I have aspirations besides maintaining this JavaScript library, but they all require a good amount of sacrifice, patience, and grit. These past 2 years have undone a fuck ton of work I’ve put in over the last decade, and it’s likely going to be double the effort to get back to where I was before this global mess. Ironically, you’d think that would overwhelm me, but it mostly gives me comfort because there’s some sort of path ahead. Sure, it causes me to spiral at times, but I also know it’s nothing I haven’t dealt with before. It’s just manifesting itself differently. I keep telling myself once socializing becomes a regular thing again, I’ll have so many other distractions that these feelings will start to fade.

I’m mostly writing this to vent, and to have something to claim as a weekly creation. It’s also decent practice at throwing thoughts together. Even though it’s very informal, it’s writing practice nonetheless.

If anyone who reads this is feeling similarly and has tips, or just wants to chat, please feel free to reach out. It’ll force me to practice with dealing with overwhelm. Well, I hope it will anyway.