It’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog post… sorry but I’ve been a bit busy! I have some down time coming up though and plenty of experiences to share. I should be able to knock out a few posts in no time. That said, I want to use this post to reflect. I find myself sitting in an airport heading to New Zealand again after visiting my family and friends for the holidays and I feel very thoughtful. Maybe it’s because of the new year, maybe it’s because I’m at another transition point, maybe it’s something else entirely… but either way, here goes!
The last four months have been, hand down, the most unique experience I’ve had in my life. There have been a lot of firsts: first time without a job and/or school since… well probably since preschool, first time living on a farm of any kind, first time living in a foreign country, first time going hunting, first time making kombucha, the list goes on. I’ve learned from all these new things is that I am actually rather capable of adapting. I changed farms or accommodation roughly every two or three weeks. I wasn’t always on farms (my awesome boyfriend visited for a couple weeks) and I did stay at the alpaca farm twice, but even so it always surprised me how quickly I settled into new routines and patterns. Every time I was leaving a farm, I couldn’t believe it had only been two weeks; it seemed like I had been part of the farm for a couple months at least. Every farm was different, but I was able to find ways to connect with the people I was living with and I think that made the experience feel like so much more than a couple weeks.
I also learned that living in other people’s houses is hard. Might sound obvious, but it’s a truth that is hard to ignore. Going from being an independent adult who makes her own schedule in her own house to living with other families almost felt like moving back in with parents… minus the years of boundary and expectation setting. Add to that the complication of an employee/employer relationship and things can get a little awkward. My best advice to anyone who wants to try WWOOFing is that you have to learn how to “manage up”. The people you are staying with may or may not be very good and clearly stating their expectations of you, so figuring out how to ask good clarifying questions and how to extract expectations out of your hosts is a very useful skill. I can’t say I’m perfect at it yet, but I’m definitely getting better.
The biggest thing I’ve learned, though, is that I have a huge support network. There’s nothing like coming home after four months away to show you how many people you missed and how many people missed you. So thank you to all friends and family for being there for me!
Oh dear… this is starting to look like a Connect (my MSFT friends will get this reference). The next few months I have planned will be mostly new experiences yet again. For the month of January, I’m planning on doing some sailing. I’ll keep you all posted on how that goes! After that, one of my best friends is going to hang out with me for a couple months. Not exactly sure what we’ll be doing, but it’ll be a good time.
Looking even farther forward, I finally have an idea of what I want to do when I get back to thinking about a career! I want to stay in computer engineering (I missed going to work for the first time last week, amazingly) and I want to continue developing my technical skills. But I also want to focus my efforts on a product I can connect to. Up until now, my career moves have been focused on money (the reason I joined MSFT) and specific technical challenges (the reason I moved to the HoloLens team). I’ve had some really good experiences and learning opportunities on both teams, but I was more passionate about the technical challenges than the actual products and solutions being developed. Now I just need to figure out what kind of products I can connect with… shouldn’t be too hard, right?
I found it a bit overwhelming when I started thinking about what I want to help change. I knew I wanted to do something that helps solve one of the major issues facing our planet, but where to start? The avocados I eat are shipped from Mexico and thus have a high carbon footprint. The electronics I use are almost all made in and shipped from China, which has both economic and environmental implications. The milk I drink comes from a dairy with questionable practices around animal treatment. And don’t even think about all the beef and chicken I eat. Also, I have access to good broadband which is not true even for all the neighborhoods in the greater Seattle area. Not to mention the extreme differences in the quality of education between districts in the Seattle area. Also, public transit is not nearly as good as it should be. And apparently streaming videos online has a big carbon footprint too? Need I go on? It’s easy to feel like I’m drowning when I try to consider everything that I could try to affect, so I decided to pick one focus area: combating climate change. Now this is still a huge problem space, but at least it provides an initial filter to start cutting out the noise. I don’t yet know what kind of climate change solution I want to work on, but every industry has areas that need improvement, so I think I should be able to find something.
But I’m going to leave that for another day. I am in SFO now waiting to board my transpacific flight. Time to relax a bit and prep best I can for a thirteen-hour flight. See you all when I get back!