Fair warning – this post is a bit on the personal side. It’s going to read a little more like a journal entry than a proper post, which is why I’ve decided to keep this post hidden from the front page of this website, at least for now.
The past few weeks, I’ve started to feel the burnout effects of FIRST. I’ve decided that I’m going to take a self-imposed break for the next two weeks or so. I feel I should give myself some time to evaluate where I am and where I’m going, pursue some new opportunities, and recharge. The answer isn’t quite as simple as “I’m tired”, it’s more complicated than that, which is why I’m writing here.
I got started with FIRST in late 2014 / early 2015, as a student on one of our FRC teams. I was approached by a sponsor of the FRC program at an event I was attending with my high school, asking me if I wanted to take part. Truth is, I originally wasn’t sure whether I should attend the event, but in moments of indecisiveness, I like to flip a coin to determine which path I’m going to take. That coin came out to be heads.
Since then, I’ve written software that I’m now supporting for almost every single FRC team, became Lead Mentor, and have become a key contributor to development of FIRST in my region. There’s a lot of miscellaneous stuff on top of that, but it’s not really relevant.
That brings us right up to…
The now now
Right now, I find myself in a really weird, but crucial, point in my life.
I’m currently in my third year (of five) of my degree. I haven’t had much trouble with my studies at all, in fact I’m doing quite well so far, but I’m at the point where I have to start considering the opportunities coming my way, and where I want my career to go.
I’m 20. By all rights, I’ve entered the period that most people will consider ‘the best years of their life’. In a way, I think I might be letting some of that pass me by. I spend a lot of time and effort on these programs, and supporting those who use the resources I’ve published. But I can’t help but feel that my motivations are a little hypocritical. As a mentor, I do these things to help my students reach their potential, and to invest in their own lives. But am I doing that myself? The jury’s still out on that one.
These next few paragraphs are the most personal part of this whole post, and I don’t expect many people to relate or connect with it. But for those who do, I think it’s very important for you to hear, and for you to reflect and evaluate on.
As a trans person, I feel as though I’ve ‘missed’ a large portion of my life. Like many trans people, I consider anything prior to the day I’d come out as the life of someone else - someone who I now consider a stranger. For me, that was about 4 years ago.
That’s a large part of my life that I didn’t “live”. 16 years worth. The first time I rode a bike, the first time I spelt the word “community” from memory, the first award I ever received, the first party I went to, the first time I wrote a piece of code, the first time I led a team. They’re all good memories, but they’re not mine. They’re the memories of someone who I used to be, someone completely orthogonal to who I am now.
As I become more comfortable with who I am, I feel that I’m becoming more able to take my own life by the reigns. In a way, I’ve been given an opportunity to make my life my own for the first time. I’ve spent a long time in service to others, particularly in my leadership positions over the last few years, but I think it’s time to take a break and spend a bit of time in service to myself - my new self.
As I reflect more on this, the need for a break is becoming more clear. A few weeks to evaluate where I am and where I’m headed, and to give a bit of attention to my own needs; needs that I may have neglected in the past. It’s time to chase new opportunities and see where they lead me. It’s time to flip a new coin.
Of course, I expect to come back to FIRST after my break. I still have the drive and passion to make this program as great as I can make it, but it’s hard to hit the ground running when you’re on the floor.