This article is two combined brain dumps that percolated for a couple months as I fell out of love with Silicon Valley, moved across the country, and started exercising as one of many ways to come out of depression.
Everything is always happening right now in the tech world, and everything is important. I follow some tech news on Twitter, from TechCrunch to Pando and Recode to The Verge, and they often craft their headlines to grab attention. This is nothing new, nor something to outright condemn — it’s certainly no worse than Upworthy and its peers, who based their entire identity on exclamatory clickbait headlines. But the one practice I wish they all would stop is sprinkling the word Just before every past-tense verb.
It creates an artificial immediacy for things that will not matter in a week and probably don’t even matter that much right now. This was the era of FarmVille invitations, remember. And if the littlest things demand your attention so that you know what Just happened, the more important things have to be treated with even more importance, and it all cascades until everything is cartoonishly relevant. In these later years of more established social media practices, when tweets are reposted later in the day for those who missed it, the Just no longer applies and the tweets are either laughably outdated, or rewritten to be more sensibly timeless and how they should have been in the first place.
That’s the first Just that bothered me in tech. The other Just usually came from within, though I saw it in other people. The first Just was about establishing immediacy and importance; the second was about diminishing those! More and more frequently, I heard myself couching all my contributions in meetings, or requests for work or collaboration in emails, with a Just. “I was just wondering if you could take a look at the API keys under this account?” “Just my opinion, but this policy is kinda dumb.” And so on.
Perhaps feeling bombarded by the first Just led to me adopting the second Just too much: if everything out there is important, maybe what I have to offer isn’t. Of course, for that pathway to be there, there already has to be something inside me worth working out in therapy (which I eventually did), but once I realized I didn’t like it, I began to realize I didn’t like much of where I was and what I was doing. So I left, in an abrupt way.
Do It Again
I moved from the Bay Area to South Florida; from behind a screen and a desk to forcing myself to be outside as much as possible. To this day, I maintain it’s the healthiest I’ve ever been in my adult life. I cooked for myself (whether this was always healthy is debatable), I saw a therapist, and went through a couch-to-10k program I found online.
The first couple days were brutal. It was early autumn in Florida, still high heat and humidity, and I was truly starting from a couch level of fitness. On that first day, which was laughably easy looking back, I was short of breath and a puddle of sweat. I wasn’t wearing any kind of specialized clothing (and not that you have to, but it sure helps), and I threw away the soaked Target-brand boxers as soon as I returned home.
By the end of the third week, I was committed. I wouldn’t say hooked, because I still needed to motivate myself to do it, but I was in deep enough that I didn’t want to quit. (Sunk cost fallacy!) So I created structures and rewards: after every run, I would go to the community pool with my new Kindle, cool down, read for pleasure, and nap in the sun. The running turned into an extended period of outside time, which always left me feeling better. The promise of this, waiting for me at the end, was enough to get me out there and started every day.
Then there was the issue of getting a mile or so into the run, starting to feel tired, and wanting to give up. Maybe it would be especially hot or humid, or maybe there’d be a headwind that sapped all forward momentum, or maybe it was the itty-bitty hill (seriously, 10 feet high?) at the half-mile marker. Around week three, a mile was more or less halfway through the daily distance. And so I started telling myself, I’ve done that much already, I just need to do it again.
I know this isn’t a novel idea. On a two mile run, I hit one mile, and I say just do that again. I hit 1.5 miles, I say just do that half mile again. I hit 1.75 miles, I say just do that quarter mile again. There were only signs every quarter mile on that track, otherwise I’d probably keep doing it to infinity. But at some point it hit me: the second Just, where this thing I’m about to suggest isn’t that important, had redeemed itself.