In Our Own Backyards

When people ask me how the past year has been, just in terms of how I'm doing, the only word I can grasp for is, "Healing."

More than one person close to me this past year has been through serious pain or illness. And really, nothing else matters when that happens. People close to me mean more to me than anything else in this life. And when those people are in pain or brushing shoulders with death, you both are forced to think on what you are living life for.

But the habits we've built up are so easy to go back to. I'm so used to feeling afraid.

I'm so used to feeling that I have to work all the time to survive.

I'm so used to the sinking feeling as I tell someone I care for that no, I can't spend time with them.

I was reminded of this because the other day, I was in a conversation that felt very stiff as we talked about work matters and making money, but as time moved on we discussed helping others and both of us became less dead inside and more alive.

In a strange turn toward being vulnerable with this near-stranger, we talked about how this is really what we're living for.

I grew up between a nice neighborhood and a not-so-nice neighborhood in the Bay Area in the 90's. I saw what happened to that place once tech came to town. I didn't know any programmers at the time. I did know teachers who had to commute 3-4 hours to work because it wasn't affordable to live there. I did go to protests and city hall meetings and was very active in my community, trying to figure out how to help people who make a decent wage but can no longer afford to live in their homes.

And now I'm a programmer, and I constantly watch other programmers simply not care about their own communities.

The Bay Area is very, very bad. Seattle is getting very bad. When I lived in Seattle seven years ago, I was paying $450 in rent and making about $700-1000 a month working multiple near-minimum wage service industry jobs. It was a tiny little studio, and there were drug addicts and homeless outside. And I still had to commute multiple hours a day to my various jobs because the buses weren't too great. But I could live.

Programmers just don't care.

They work their tech jobs in their bubbles with their rich friends and go home and complain about tech industry politics and national politics and ignore the problems in their own backyards.

I think I'm done with hosting events and workshops in North Seattle. We need to be hosting them in the poorer neighborhoods.

Simply spending time and knowing people who are in these situations is a powerful catalyst for social change.

And I felt healed, suddenly. Just by thinking on this topic. I felt energized, and ready, in a similar way to how I feel when I spend time with someone I care about.

I guess this is because this is another example of saying "No, I'm not spending all my time on work."

"No, I'm not afraid."

"I'm going to spend time with people I care for."

I guess that's because helping my community is spending time with people I care about as well.

It's important to focus on what we can do in our own backyards.

It's... healing.

Love for Math

One Percent Stake