It’s Already September [en]

Started writing 05.09.2023

Reading Mark’s recent post prompted me to open up WordPress and type something.

My stepmom Monique died two weeks ago. She had been my dad’s wife for the last 20+ years and a person I really cherished. It was sudden, although she had been ill for years, but stable. In the space of a week we went from “coming home from this hospital stay tomorrow” to “it’s the end”. Although I know there is no right or wrong way in grief, I do not feel like I’m dealing well. I do not want this new world without her.

I had recently found increased confidence and stability at work, after my holidays, constructive discussions with my boss that eased some of the pressure I was putting on myself, and some tweaks and adjustments to my self-organisation. I struggle all the more with accepting that I need to cut myself some slack. I’m taking the measure of how much I pressure myself to perform well – even though intellectually I do not feel like I’m giving in to it, emotionally it is still there.

Over the years, I’ve often dealt with grief by writing through it. But this grief is not just mine. I mean, I am not alone in having to deal with Monique’s death. And this makes things more complicated. I plan to post a written version of what I said at her ceremony at some point, however. But I feel stuck, in many ways,

So stuck I abandoned this post for a week. Picking it up again after stumbling on this post by Annette.

It’s Monday afternoon. Doctor’s orders, these last three weeks I’ve been partly off work. Though I struggle with accepting that, as mentioned above, I can feel it was (is) needed. I’m slowly starting to feel somewhat “normal” when it comes to dealing with daily life, and a bit of (easy) work.

But I don’t have any bumpers, extra bandwidth, suspension, or whatever other image might work to express that minor complications of life see me on the verge of “OMG I can’t deal with this”. I’ve not only lifted my foot of the gas regarding work, but regarding pretty much everything that requires an effort on my part, to give myself space to recover. I’m “OK”, but not my usual OK. My bike fell down this morning (clumsiness) and the onboard computer wasn’t working anymore when I put it in place. I didn’t melt down, but the idea of having to deal with bike repairs (maybe a day or so without my primary means of transport) filled me with dread and despair. Luckily it was “nothing” and a quick stop at the repair shop solved it. It’s just an example. Life is full of such “little-big problems”, and usually one groans and deals with it. In my case, today, I was happy I didn’t end up crying in front of my bike when it wouldn’t start up.

Back to grief. I’m past the “burst into tears at bad moments” days. But I’m still in this weird space where I’m living as if Monique’s death is a bad situation that is going to resolve itself. Like, it’s temporary. Of course I know death is very, very much not temporary, but I seem to have trouble truly convincing myself. I feel like I’m on hold, in some no-man’s-land between shock and a deluge of emotions I really don’t want to have to face. All this is bringing back a whole lot more than “just” my mother’s death, which is the obvious parallel to draw. Details maybe some other time, or not. We’ll see how I process all this.

So, here are a few things I could be writing about but don’t really have the energy for right now. If you’re curious, ask me, and it might give me the impulse to continue, who knows. I could write about the two-week hypnotherapy introduction course I took this summer, and what a life-changing experience it was. I could write about how much time I’m spending at the chalet, and all the hikes I’ve been on, including a recent via ferrata. I could write about being back on track with judo, losing 10kg last year (on purpose) and how happy my (otherwise unhappy) knees are about it. I could write about singing, about making difficult but much-needed decisions, about using Asana, about balancing the need to follow impulses and stick with the programme, about the new boat and taking it out alone for the first time today, about Oscar and managing a support community for diabetic cats, about navigating a multilingual work environment which sends me back to topics I spent a lot of time thinking about back in 2007-8, when I did what I call (in my personal biography) my “Babel Fish Conference Tour”, I could share some poetry and write some more, or write about trying to get a coworking space back off the ground in 2023 while working in another city, even tell you more about how I’m making sense of the story of my life right now (thanks As’trame).

I feel bad about not writing about all this. Frustrated, because I like writing, and sharing, but also guilty-bad because in a complicated way it also has to do with all these things I feel I have to “do for others”. Because I’m good at them. And, again in a complicated way I might try to explain someday, but that maybe some of you will understand immediately, it has to do with the meaning of life. The meaning of my life. And of life in general. Especially when the biological “meaning” of life (to perpetuate itself) is absent from yours.

So here we are, early September coloured by death and multilayered sadness and pain and fear, from the simple grief of having lost somebody I loved to the meaning of life, sitting on my balcony with my cat, trying to keep pressure and others out of the equation of my life for a little moment more.

I’m off to judo.

Looking at 2022 [en]

[fr] Un récapitulatif de mon année 2022

I haven’t written in ages (a familiar refrain) and figured I would use the pretext of 2022 coming to a close to jot a few things down. No particular order, just follow my brain.

I’m still listening to a lot of podcasts. Here are some: Meta de choc, On The Media, This American Life, Vethologie, Radiolab, Conspirituality, Atlas Obscura, The Moth, Hidden Brain, The Ezra Klein Show, NPR Politics, Short Wave, Science Vs, The Pulse, TWiV, Planet Money, Vacarme, Fresh Air, 99 Percent Invisible, The Daily (NYT), Brian Lehrer, Consider This, Hacking Humans, Trade Offs, Throughline, My Cat’s Tale, Gates Investigates… and Sleep With Me when I can’t sleep. Just realised writing this list that I’ve dropped a lot of Gimlet shows now they’ve gone Spotify-only (I use overcast to listen to my podcasts). In the “serialised investigations” department, The Trojan Horse Affair (Serial), Will Be Wild (Trump, Inc) and The Disappearance of Nuseiba Hasan (Conviction season 3).

After finishing Star Trek The Next Generation, I’m deep in Deep Space Nine, which is absolutely wonderful. I’ve also picked up (intermittently) the last books of the Foreigner series, that I’ve been reading for years now and highly recommend.

This has been a year of managing to do judo reasonably regularly (of course, still also regularly absent because of injuries), singing, hiking. Not much sailing and just a little skiing, but I hope to do more next year. I tried stand-up paddling and to my surprise, really enjoyed it and am planning on taking it up this spring. Along with snow-shoeing this winter. I figure that with 50 on the horizon, I should make sure I also have physical activities available that are a little less “rough” than judo and skiing.

The big event of the year has been starting a new job. It’s with the national train company, in the field of energy maintenance, near Bern. Quite a change from what has been my professional life until now, in a way (and I’m glad about it), but also a perfect continuation for my interest in management, strategy, and basically, how a business runs. I’m learning a lot and improving my German – at the same time, discovering what it is to function in an environment where I’m linguistically challenged, not something I’m used to. I’m really enjoying the environment I’m in and super happy about my new position.

2022 is the first complete year I’ve been through since my ADHD diagnosis and treatment (end 2021). And I can really say that it has changed my life. I finally feel alive and not surviving. I started being able to accomplish things I wanted to again. I stopped feeling overwhelmed all the time. My life felt like it was like it was supposed to be, instead of feeling like there was something horribly wrong with me all the time. Despite the stress of not having a job during the first part of the year, I was able to enjoy my life and learn more and more about how I function and how to manage myself. I already had quite a lot figured out (or I wouldn’t have made it this far), but the tweaks I started putting in place really made a difference. Long-term personal projects didn’t seem like something out of reach anymore. I even felt up to inviting my family over for Christmas.

Starting my new job has of course been a big change in the way I organise my life, and I do feel I have temporarily backtracked in some of my progress (personal admin and projects, social life). But it’s pretty normal and I’m not too worried that I’ll catch up again with myself over the coming year.

During 2022 I also lost 10kg – on purpose, of course. I’d been slowly putting on weight over the years, and it sped up these last couple of years. Coming close to 90kg on the scale got me serious about doing something. My ADHD treatment also helped, certainly (better impulse control). I was followed by a nutritionist who really helped me tweak my food habits for better balance and more reasonable portions. I have never been on a diet in my entire life and didn’t intend to – I just knew I was eating “too much” and probably not making the best decisions regarding what to eat, and when (I never looked at the calorie count on food, so for example had no idea cheese was so… energy-dense). Overall the effort required was minimal, I feel better in my body (mobility) and fit in my large collection of 14L trousers again.

I’m still active managing the Feline Diabetes community I founded nearly 5 years ago on Facebook. 2022 is clearly the year the community for veterinarians took off (1.2k members and counting). I was even invited to give a talk on the occasion of the annual veterinary congress in France. An accomplishment I’m pretty proud of!

I still have my coworking space eclau, but have really had trouble getting it going again after the pandemic. I’ve also kept a small independent side-business in consulting, but I’m keeping it very minimal right now as I want to focus my energy on my new job and my personal activities and projects first and foremost. I continued my training in the Palo Alto brief therapy approach, and that is also on the back burner until next summer, when I’ll be going to Paris for a course in hypnosis and brief therapy. I should have gone this year but I got covid just before I was supposed to leave.

Overall, 2022 was a really good year for me, and I can’t wait to see what 2023 has in store!

The Job Market: Finding Where To Fit In [en]

I’ve been looking for a new job for a while now. And with time – and a few interviews – and rejections – I’ve come to an understanding of one thing that is making things tricky for me. Any good problem has multiple causes, so this is of course just one of them, but it’s the one that has to do with me, how my life played out, decisions I made, my experience, my skillset.

It’ll be a surprise to no reader of this blog that I have a rather atypical career path. Just having been self-employed for over ten years does that to you (and there is more). I don’t know about other job markets, but here, although everybody will tell you that having an atypical profile is an asset, recruiters are not readily going to pounce on you to hire you. And honestly, I don’t blame them: if you have interested and motivated candidates that ideally fit your “persona” for the job, why take a risk with somebody who doesn’t, however promising? We don’t like risks that much.

It quickly became clear to me that there was a big difference between jobs I would be capable of doing and jobs I had a chance of being hired for. There are many jobs I could do. But not that many where, in comparison with all the other candidates applying for that position, I would seem like the best person to hire.

Most of the time, it boils down to experience. Especially at my age and seniority level, they’ll often be looking for somebody who has “occupied a similar position for 5 years or more”. I haven’t, obviously. I have the skillset, but I don’t have the indicator in my career path that one would expect to confirm it. One of the reasons is that I have been self-employed most of my career, and the other one is that I learn fast. My experience goes a long way. But that’s not a very convincing argument on a job application.

The corollary is, of course, that when I apply for more junior positions, where less experience is expected, I don’t get in either, because I’m overqualified.

Now, where do I stand the best chance of “fitting the profile” when it comes to work experience? The answer is, as far as I can see, in digital communications/communication strategy, as this is the core of the work I did while I was self-employed, and the first two years after that. Digital transformation also fits the bill, but most positions in that area require more enterprise/organisational change management than I can demonstrate. So, I’ve been focusing my efforts on Communications Manager/Digital Communications Manager positions.

The problem seems to remain, however. Other candidates for the same positions often have more formal management experience, which is reassuring for a recruiter. I have to say this is starting to seem more and more like a catch-22. And knowing the value that I can bring an employer, not being able to get a foot in the door is quite frustrating.

Whether you’re in recruitment or not, I’m interested in your thoughts about this. Am I onto something, or am I “finding excuses” and I just need to try harder – or try differently? Have you found yourself in a similar or parallel position? What am I missing?

I’d like to add (because people who see me as The Freelancer, which I was indeed for most of my career, sometimes have trouble coming around to this) that I really want to find an employed position. I don’t particularly want to become self-employed again. I guess this is something I might detail in an other article!

I’m also aware that networking is the key. And I’m starting to think that in my case, it really is the only key.

How Your Struggles Can Shape Your Strengths [en]

How come I am so good at setting priorities in a work context, or helping others sort through their priorities, when I can spend a whole Sunday faffing around because I can’t decide what I want to do the most?

When it comes to my personal interests, I struggle with setting priorities. There are so many things I would like to do! The world is so interesting! Which book do I want to start with? Will I write or work on my photography? Shall I spend time on refining the documentation for my existing support group, or dive into a new communications project on the margins of that community? I’m sure some of you can relate.

So, I tend to view myself, internally, as somebody who has trouble setting priorities. But that is not how others see me. They often see me as decisive, clear-headed, rapidly capable of teasing out what needs to be done first or what is most important.

How come?

As with many things in life, it is my personal struggles that have honed these skills. I have spent an immense amount of energy trying to figure out how to help myself decide if I would rather go for a walk on my free day or sort through my holiday photos (two activities I enjoy). I have come up with countless strategies to break down projects into manageable tasks, and determine what must be done before what. I have spent hours thinking through the consequences of doing or not doing, so that where to start would become clearer. Because if I do not take the trouble to do this, when I’m alone with myself and with few constraints, I tend to slip and slide.

So, I have had a lot of practice doing this, because it didn’t come naturally to me. I’ve had to think it through. I’ve had to devise methods. I’ve done it again and again and again.

Put me in an easier setting, like work or facing somebody else’s priorities: I have a huge toolbox, and I probably don’t even need to use all of it.

The very fact that I have a personal struggle with – in this example – setting priorities in my personal life means that I have developed strong skills in that area. Skills that are an asset in my professional life.

Think of a young man who has to carry a heavy load of rocks on his back everywhere he goes. He might struggle compared to his peers when they go hiking. He may actually stumble and risk falling more, he will be tired, he will be slow. But if he can put down the load of rocks to go and run an errand, he will be the quickest and the strongest of them all.

What superpowers do you have that were born from your personal struggles?

Il y a mouvement et mouvement [fr]

J’ai toujours vu dans mon rapport au corps et au mouvement un paradoxe: autant je suis parfaitement à l’aise dans le sport, autant quand il s’agit de danser ou de marcher en rythme, c’est une toute autre histoire.

Ça ne se résume pas juste à la question de “sentir”, comme on pourrait croire. Quand on dévale une piste de ski à toute allure, ou qu’on est dans un combat de judo, on n’a pas d’autre choix que de sentir le mouvement. Le sien, celui de l’autre.

J’adore la musique, j’adore chanter, mais il y a quelque chose du registre de “sentir le rythme” et le manifester à travers mon corps qui m’est très difficile.

Ce soir, lors d’une discussion de fin de cours avec ma prof de chant (on avait justement fait un exercice très difficile pour moi, bouger et chanter en même temps), j’ai mis le doigt sur une caractéristique qui distingue ces deux sortes de mouvements, ceux qui me sont faciles et ceux qui me rendent toute pataude. Dans le mouvement sportif, ou le mouvement de tous les jours, on est dans du mouvement “intentionnel”. On cherche à faire quelque chose. Une action. A amener notre corps ailleurs ou autrement dans l’espace. C’est, d’une certaine façon utilitaire.

Quand on danse ou qu’on marque un rythme avec ses pieds et ses mains (une forme de danse, en fait?), on est dans un mouvement qui est plutôt expressif, je dirais. On ne cherche pas à accomplir quelque chose, on cherche à accompagner, soutenir ou marquer quelque chose d’intérieur.
Tiens, je me dis que ça doit sûrement exister, des typologies du mouvement.

Je me demande aussi s’il y a un élément “neuropsy” dans mon rapport très différent à ces deux familles de mouvements. Je sais, par exemple, qu’un exercice particulièrement difficile pour moi est de maintenir ma vigilance durant des temps morts de longueur variable, et d’agir ou non ensuite en fonction d’un stimulus (une lettre apparaît à l’écran: appuie sur la barre d’espace; si c’est un X, n’appuie pas). Je me suis demandé si ça pouvait avoir un lien avec ma difficulté de sens du rythme.

Par exemple, quand je chante une chanson, à moins d’être très entrainée, je rate tous les départs. Une fois dans la phrase, le rythme ça va. Mais savoir quand commencer, c’est toujours un problème. Si je tape des mains et que je chante en même temps je perds très vite le rythme des mains – ou alors je me concentre sur les mains et j’oublie de chanter.

Voilà. quelques réflexions que je voulais capturer. Si c’est un sujet que vous connaissez, je serais ravie d’en apprendre plus, j’avoue.

De l’auto-censure du chercheur d’emploi [fr]

[en] When you're on the job market, what do you write about, what do you not write about? I realised that for sometime now I've been self-censoring quite a bit. Maybe it's time to try and do things a little differently.

Quand on cherche du travail, il faut faire attention à ce qu’on écrit en ligne. C’est bien connu. Une évidence, même. Il ne faudrait pas risquer d’effaroucher des employeurs potentiels, dans un marché du travail tendu comme un arc.

Alors je fais attention. Je me retiens. Je ne parle pas de ci, de ça, ou encore de ceci. Mais ça me chicane. Si vous me suivez sur Facebook, vous avez peut-être vu une vidéo live (privée) que j’ai faite à ce sujet il y a plusieurs mois.

Il y a plusieurs raisons pour lesquelles ça me chicane, et qui se rejoignent au final. En fin de compte, il s’agit d’une pesée des risques et bénéfices. En étant “prudente” dans ce que j’écris, qu’est-ce que je perds? Qu’est-ce que je gagne? Qu’est-ce que je gagnerais et perdrais à l’être moins? Où mettre la barre? De quoi est-il OK de parler, de quoi ne faudrait-il surtout pas parler? Et comment?

Cette situation m’est d’autant plus pénible, j’avoue, parce que m’exprimer par écrit, en public, est une grande part de qui je suis. C’est entre autres comme ça que je réfléchis, que je fais sens du monde et de la vie, que je crée et maintiens des liens avec autrui, et que – à mon petit niveau – j’essaie d’apporter quelque chose au monde. C’est ainsi que je me suis construite.

Aussi, durant toute ma carrière de pionnière du numérique, ce qui m’a porté c’est la vision d’une communication plus transparente, plus authentique, plus humaine. Cela ne signifie pas se passer de stratégie, de renoncer à influencer autrui, ou de sombrer dans une transparence radicale et sans filtre, mais tout de même: maintenir autant que possible qui on est dans ce qu’on dit ou écrit. On crée des liens avec des personnes, pas des constructions ou des artifices. (Enfin, on pourrait discuter de ça concernant les marques ou les célébrités: mais qu’est-ce qu’un lien?)

C’est même quelque chose que j’ai enseigné, comme approche du réseautage, et aussi pour se rendre visible dans le monde du travail.

Et là, j’avoue, maintenant que je ne suis plus (depuis plusieurs années) dans la position de l’indépendante mais de l’employée, je me retrouve, de façon presque un peu humiliante, saisie par la peur de “faire mal”, de “me griller”, de lâcher dans l’espace public quelque chose qu’on me reprochera par la suite. Quelle ironie. Moi qui ai passé des années à encourager les autres à prendre quelques risques, voilà que je n’ose pas non plus.

Qu’on soit clair: il ne s’agit pas de dire tout et n’importe quoi. Mais peut-être de mettre le curseur un peu plus loin que ce que la prudence “officielle” (et toute helvétique) dicterait. Par exemple: est-ce que je parle de ma difficulté à me positionner sur le marché de l’emploi, vu mon parcours? du diagnostic qui est en train de changer ma vie? du genre de travail que je cherche? est-ce que j’ose dire “je cherche”, plutôt que d’autres périphrases qui cherchent à renverser le rapport de forces, présentant ma disponibilité sur le marché du travail comme une opportunité à saisir pour l’employeur qui aura l’intelligence de s’emparer de moi avant les autres? est-ce que j’ose montrer un peu de vulnérabilité? est-ce que je parle du fait que par moments, l’avenir me fait peur? est-ce que j’écris sur des thématiques qui m’intéressent, comme le diabète félin, mais ne font pas partie de mon coeur de métier? est-ce que je publie des choses que j’écris en mode créatif? en gros, est-ce que je reviens à “être moi”, ou est-ce que je continue à être, ici aussi, en mode “entretien d’embauche permanent”, sans montrer la moindre faiblesse, la moindre faille, costume et cravate, ongles faits la veille?

Ecrire a toujours été pour moi un puissant moyen de me connecter aux autres. Une de mes forces, c’est mon réseau. Et j’ai fini par réaliser, il y a quelques mois, qu’en m’auto-censurant ainsi j’étais aussi en train de me couper de mon réseau – à plus forte raison durant ces années de pandémie.

Alors, qu’en est-il pour moi de cette balance des risques? Est-ce que les opportunités qui vont s’ouvrir si j’écris un peu plus, et peut-être sur des choses dont “il n’est pas considéré bon de parler trop publiquement”, vont compenser le risque que je cours de désécuriser certains? Est-ce que je saurai gérer le délicat exercice d’équilibrisme entre une plus grande transparence, et ne pas se tirer une balle dans le pied? Y a-t-il d’ailleurs une mesure objective du moment où on se tire la balle dans le pied? Je suis personnellement convaincue que la balle dans le pied pour une personne peut être le courage admirable pour une autre.

On m’a dit à plusieurs reprises qu’un de mes grands atouts était ma personnalité. Une personnalité, c’est difficile à mettre sur un CV. Que ma force était mon réseau. Un réseau, ça ne se manifeste pas tellement dans les listings de LinkedIn ou JobUp. C’est utile justement pour accéder au marché caché – mais ça ne va pas fonctionner si on le laisse dormir.

Une dernière chose qui me motive à changer ma façon de faire et d’écrire ici, c’est le principe suivant: si ce qu’on fait n’est pas en train de fonctionner, il faut essayer autre chose. Cela fait maintenant un bon moment que je réponds sagement à des offres d’emploi et que je surveille la façon dont je me présente en public. Je cherche toujours.

Des postes pour moi, il y en a. J’ai eu des entretiens. J’ai même cru, il y a un moment, avoir décroché un poste qui aurait été vraiment un bon match – mais juste pas. Je sais donc que je suis une candidate viable sur le marché du travail, et je ne doute pas de ce que j’ai à apporter à un futur employeur, mais je pense que le processus (annonce, envoyer CV+dossier, tri, entretien…) me dessert. Il est donc temps pour moi d’essayer de faire les choses un peu plus “à ma manière”, et de voir si ça change la donne.

Comme toujours, si ce que j’écris vous interpelle ou vous fait réagir, n’hésitez pas à utiliser les commentaires ou à m’écrire!

Des mots perdus sur un clavier [fr]

Il y a des choses qui me trottent dans la tête. L’importance de la perception qu’on a des choses, même si elle ne colle pas à ce qu’on pourrait appeler la “réalité objective” (allô Merleau-Ponty). Que nos actes et silences communiquent, eux aussi (allô Watzlawick). Que la communication est interactionnelle (allô je ne suis pas sûre précisément qui, mais à l’IGB on baigne là-dedans). L’importance du vécu intérieur et sa réalité inaliénable; la nécessité de le prendre en compte dans nos relations.

Mais aussi, les âges de la vie: qui je suis aujourd’hui par rapport à qui j’étais il y a 20 ans (plus même), quand j’ai commencé ce blog, ou même il y a 10-15 ans, au coeur de ma carrière d’indépendante dans un domaine innovant. Aujourd’hui, j’ai moins envie d’innover, j’ai aussi moins envie de créer. Est-ce derrière moi? Est-ce une phase? Je suis moins en lutte avec le monde, plus acceptante, est-ce lié?

Alors que d’un côté je pense être un peu plus en paix avec le monde et avec moi-même, je me trouve plus facilement irritable avec les gens. C’est pas quelque chose qui me plait, et c’est le vilain petit secret que je tente de bien cacher, mais la réalité est que je me sens devenir moins tolérante, moins patiente. Je pense que c’est la pandémie. J’espère, en fait, parce que je n’aime pas être comme ça. Du coup je me replie un peu dans mon petit cocon, un peu trop peut-être, je fuis les sujets polarisants, j’attends que ça passe. Ma vie maintenant a moins de lien qu’avant, et je suis sûre que ça me fait quelque chose. Ne pas voir de visages, ou si peu, ne pas pouvoir être en contact sans insouciance. Je sens que tout ça est un poids, un poids sournois qui ne me fait pas du bien.

J’attends, donc, tout en me disant qu’il ne faut pas que j’attende trop pour vivre, parce que la vie c’est maintenant quand même, même si c’est pas la vie qu’on voulait ou le monde qu’on voulait. Ces années de pandémie, on ne va pas les récupérer. Je tente de me tourner vers l’intérieur: apprendre, me former, mieux gérer mon quotidien, mieux me connaître, écrire, écrire plus. Méditer à coups de mots sur le monde et la vie, faire quelque chose de constructif et peut-être même de créatif de ce que le hasard ou le sort nous ont servi. Tant bien que mal.

Mais je vois bien que la vie au temps de la pandémie ne convient pas à mon équilibre. J’ai la chance et le luxe que ce soit “juste” mon équilibre. Pour d’autres, c’est leur gagne-pain, leur santé physique, leur monde qui s’écroule ou même prend faim. Dans mon privilège, je cherche toutefois à “être mieux” et “faire mieux”, à regarder le verre à moitié plein, à ne pas juste attendre que ce soit fini. Parce qu’à force d’attendre que ça passe, on court le risque de se retrouver au bout du chemin en n’ayant pas fini d’attendre.

Alors aujourd’hui j’écris, même si je ne suis pas trop sûre quoi dire, même si les idées sont mal formées dans ma tête, même si ça me semble un peu vain, d’étaler sur un clavier un peu de mon mal-être et du sens que j’essaie de trouver dans le monde. Parfois j’ai le sentiment que les mots ont le pouvoir de dissiper le mal-être et d’en faire quelque chose qui peut compter, qui peut toucher une vie autre que la mienne, et ainsi créer du sens et du lien.


Grey Sky [en]

Another grey day outside. Another day of rain and rain and rain. A single day off, and back to work. Working an irregular schedule is not making things easy for me. Other than that, work is good. There are ups and downs, but globally it’s an enriching experience and these last days have worked out fine.

I’m sick and tired of the pandemic, like everyone I know. I’m lucky that the only direct impact it has on me is on my daily and social life. My life has shrunk. I have shrunk too.

The loss of variety, freedom, and unmasked social interactions is starting to get to me. I feel as grey as the sky, and my heart is permanently on the edge of rain. At least give us spring and outdoor life, long light evenings to enjoy the world.

For now, I will try not to sink between the walls of my flat. Use the day I have for myself in a meaningful way. Take a deep breath and wait some more.

Influence [en]

When I was a teenager I had a strong desire to change the world. Make a mark, have an impact. When I was 16 I joined the scouts and learned some organising skills. I discovered I could give directions to a crowd. Organise a summer camp.

I went to university, a student like any other, still wanting to do something big with my life. I chose chemistry. I would do research and make ground-breaking discoveries. Reality was sobering. I lost my motivation, and failed in my third year.

I switched to Arts, deciding it was better to do something I enjoyed rather than hang on to pie-in-the-sky ideals for my future that didn’t match with the reality of the world. My focus became understanding. The world, language, people, myself. I tried to let go of wanting the change the world, put less pressure on myself, and be satisfied with changing myself and living my life.

Because I decided to go and spend a year in India, I discovered the web. The web of people, on top of the web of information. My world expanded, fiercely. During my first year or so online, I made two ground-breaking experiences, which I realise now set the path for these last two decades of my life.

I had a little website (the ancestor of this one) on a shared hosting platform. That platform had a community support forum. I used it. I contributed. With a few other users, we actually started a user support site that had a certain degree of popularity. We were changing things for people.

Later on, I was an active member in a few forums, elsewhere online. One in particular. I remember giving the founder some feedback based on good practices I had picked up reading Practical Internet Groupware. To my amazement, he implemented the change.

I was 25. I learned that my words on a screen could have influence.

Around the same time, I had my first real work experiences. I learned that my spoken words could have influence too.

Twenty years later, it is clear that writing and speaking is my way of “changing the world”. Moving ideas around online and offline, and also, of course, transforming some of these into action. My words gave me a career in the burgeoning digital space, they built relationships, created online communities, had an impact on people’s lives.

Being an agent of change is a large part of what gives meaning to my life. I see problems. I see solutions. I try and fix things. I try and say things. I have learned that I have power, in a way. And I have done (good, I hope) things with it.

It’s no wonder, knowing that, that I am training in an approach which leans heavily upon the idea that one cannot not communicate, and therefore one cannot not influence (Watzlawick et al.).

But today I am working hard at learning to function (healthily!) in an environment were my influence is limited. I am learning not only that there are things I cannot fix (that isn’t new, of course, there are plenty of things I cannot fix), but that it is OK to leave things alone even when I think I can fix or influence them. I am learning to step back, and trying to do that without disengaging. It is far from easy, as such a large part of my identity is tied to how much I can influence the world around me and how I can be of service to others.

It is a good thing to learn: my focus on others, on changing things for the community, being the one who makes things happen, is something that draws me away from focusing on myself and my needs. Something I am working on changing – but it’s not easy when the urge to rush in and do for others is so strong. So I’m taking this experience as an opportunity to learn to manage that urge, manage my energy and my priorities, and really choose what I do and do not do.

And maybe, who knows, learn a different style of influence.