Teenage Suicide

My dad found an old folder of mine with poems and drawings from when I was young. The oldest poem is from when I was eleven! I didn’t remember how young I was when I started to write poetry. It was so inspiring to read them (some of them are actually pretty good) and reminded me once again, how passionate I am about writing (and maybe I should pursue my drawing passion as well?).

I was a very sensitive, introverted child. As I progressed into the teenage years, my emotions became stronger and heavier so that sometimes I was on the verge of suffocating. I was diagnosed with depression when I was 16. Shortly after, before the medicine started to work, I made a suicide attempt and ended up in the hospital after eating all kinds of pills. This happened shortly after I started to smoke cannabis and immediately became hooked on. I believe the cannabis triggered my depression and ever since I’ve always become depressed after I smoke it a few times. The last time, four and a half years ago, I was so far down I was afraid for my own life. I’ve been sober since and worked a lot on myself and have now been medicine free for over 2 years and “broke up” with my dear psychiatrists a year ago.

Before I was diagnosed with depression I thought it was completely normal to contemplate on a regular basis on how you would commit suicide. To those who relate to this, I wanna tell you that it is not normal and you can get help to live a happy life. There is always a solution for getting better, even though it might take some time. You just have to push through, one day at a time.

Here’s one of the poems from that folder (probably thought as a song lyric as all of my English poems at the time) which describes how I felt pretty well. Fortunately, I never went further than making that attempt.

Teenage Suicide

Wakes up in the morning.
Wondering why.
Eats her breakfast.
Wondering when.
Walks to the bus stop.
She’s waiting.

Get’s through her workday.
Wondering how.
Rides the bus back home.
These faces all around.
She wants to be just like them,
shine like a star.

Only one little wish,
one little wish.
To be like them,
perfect.

Wakes up in the morning.
Wondering why.
Throws away her breakfast.
Reads a magazine.
These faces all around.
She wants so be just like them,
shine like a star.

Calls in sick at work.
Wondering what she should write.
Walks into the bathroom
from which she never returns.
Lies down in the bathtub.
She’s bleeding.

Only one little wish,
one little wish.
To be like them,
perfect.

It’s all she wants,
all she wants.
Just one little wish.
Just to be perfect like a star.
It’s all she wants,
all she wants.

Only one little wish,
one little wish.
To be like them,
perfect.
Perfect.


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To be, not to be seen – Inspiration from AgileEE

Last week I went to speak at the Agile Eastern Europe conference in Kiev, Ukraine. My talk was about the Impostor Syndrome with a focus on the importance of a humane work culture and how agile processes can support people with being themselves.

The first thing that struck me about Kiev is its enormous size. Officially there live 3,5 million people in the city, unofficially (whatever that means), 5 million. On the way to the hotel from the airport, I drove past what felt like endless large apartment complexes, each one housing more people than my entire neighbourhood in Iceland.

Ukrainians are very hospitable which was apparent in the atmosphere at the conference which was very friendly and inviting. The theme was To be, rather than to seem which fits my talk perfectly. I dutifully attended talks on the first day but started to feel I wasn’t getting much new out of them, although I agreed with what was being said. Agile (with a capital A) has started to focus more on management and to stick to predefined processes instead of focusing on agility. A culture where people have the freedom to control what they do and at the same time take responsibility for it, where people feel safe and are able to communicate with honesty is much more important than following some certified instructions. I’m not sure if this is a new realisation to people in Eastern Europe or just in the Agile community itself but this is something I have been thinking of for some years now. Anyways, I’m glad to hear that people are coming to this realisation. I’ve worked in strict Scrum where the team didn’t see any benefits of some processes, like estimating story points, and it was the cause of so much frustration and wasted a lot of time. When we finally realised that being agile meant iterate and improve the processes as well as the product, everything started to work so much better. And more importantly, everyone started to feel much better.

That being said, I heard some inspiring talks and was reminded of how strongly I feel about having a humane working culture and that you need to nurture it. When writing this article I also realised that I gained more from the conference than I realised at first. Then I had many inspiring conversations with amazing people from all over the world, which is priceless.

 
Invitational organisational growth

The conference started with a keynote from Michael Sahota where he talked about agile being for teams, not for organisations. The agile community is failing by trying to force changes on an organisational level instead of focusing on creating a good culture within a team. Teams should be in their culture bubble, don’t advertise it and people who find it interesting will come. Then remember to communicate with people outside the bubble in ways they are used to. “They want a Gantt chart, give them a Gantt chart”.

I agree that Agile shouldn’t be forced in an arrogant way to an entire organisation, but there are many problems as well with being in a cultural bubble within an organisation. There is always communications between departments, and it can cause a lot of problems when people are working in very different ways. At Kolibri, we often experience that culture clash when we are working in an agile team within a waterfall organisation. This makes you often feel that the rest of the organisation is working against you and you are forced to work in ways that go against your better senses. I would never make anyone a useless Gantt chart, I’d rather initiate a conversation about the reasons for it and the expected outcome. But it always needs to be a conversation, and that can be an exhausting task because it takes time. But how to present agile and your culture to others without being arrogant and work out a solution for both parties is something I’m very curious to know more about, so I was hoping to get more actions or broader insight from this talk than I did. During the talk, I was also trying to get over my slide fetish and ignore the comic sans that appeared every now and then between almost unreadable scribbled notes. The talk ended with encouragement to meditate and figuring out who you are, which I liked because that’s a big part of my life, but it wasn’t presented in a flow with what came before, so I’m not sure how people took that in.

Visualising culture

Next up Philipp Engstler showed an awesome visualisation of the culture from localsearch.ch where he worked as head of engineering. They decided to do this really cool nerdy picture that displays their values and principles. It’s crucial to clarify what elements the company culture consists of so everybody is on the same page on how they want to work together. But it’s worthless unless it’s done in a bottom-up way like Philipp and his team did. We at Kolibri have also made our culture values and working agreements very clear in words, though not in an as cool picturesque way. This is both introduced to new employees, clients we work with and people outside the company. We also take it up every now and then to spark a conversation about if they are still viable and make sure everybody shares the same understanding. One of my favourites from their manifesto is We care about our PRODUCTS not our EGO.

Values in words vs. in hearts or “How to f*ck up with building processes without culture”

When the latest Scrum guide was released with the emphasis on values, instead of having more detailed processes as some people were hoping for, people asked whether Scrum is a framework or religion. Artel Bykovets had a nice talk about this issue and how he asked himself that very question at first, but came to appreciate the values and see that they are actually more important than to have very specific processes. I agree with him and really like these values and think it’s good for all agile teams to talk about what they mean to them.

All work performed in Scrum needs a set of values as the foundation for the team’s processes and interactions. And by embracing these five values, the team makes them even more instrumental to its health and success.

Focus: Because we focus on only a few things at a time, we work well together and produce excellent work. We deliver valuable items sooner.

Courage: Because we work as a team, we feel supported and have more resources at our disposal. This gives us the courage to undertake greater challenges.

Openness: As we work together, we express how we’re doing, what’s in our way, and our concerns so they can be addressed.

Commitment: Because we have great control over our own destiny, we are more committed to success.

Respect: As we work together, sharing successes and failures, we come to respect each other and to help each other become worthy of respect.

Rethinking agile leadership

Andrea Provaglio’s talk about rethinking agile leadership was well carried off and in line with the culture change theme, talking decentralised decision making. There were many good points there from Seth Godin’s book Tribes which I read recently and has many good points though it’s not the best I’ve read by him. Seth puts it very nicely with saying Leadership is about creating the change you believe in. In a self-organising team, there shouldn’t be a specific leader, but leaders should emerge from different people when they are needed. It’s important to have a non-self mindset and not just know how to lead, but also to know how to follow.

In old fashioned management, people were referred to as resources but let’s not do that, people are human beings and must be treated like so, in words and in action. Andrea also had a great point about how good communication is important and how it’s impossible not to communicate since we do that with body language and our every act. Not talking is not the same as not communicating since that can also send a message. Then he talked about the Responsibility Process which shows how all people mentally process thoughts about avoiding or taking responsibility. This is really useful to have in mind when you are processing your feelings when something fails and helps you not to get stuck in the first five emotions before you can take responsibility.

Scaling is on aggregation — How to reach the “C” level

Despite the cryptic name of Dave Snowden’s talk, it was the one that wowed me the most. He started with criticising the whole certification fascination that is present in the Agile community. I agree with him wholeheartedly, though I do feel that in Iceland agile coaches can have too little training at all, but people have to start somewhere I guess. The ability to understand how people are feeling and help them communicate is more valuable for an agile coach than a certification of knowing Scrum.

Snowden mentioned how people flock to where the money is, as in agile certifications, even where there is no real value there. This can lead to the Cobra effect. At the time of British rule in colonial India, the government was worried of the multitude of venomous cobra snakes. Their solution was to offer rewards for dead cobras to get people to kill them off. This lead to people starting to breed cobras to get the money until the government realised this and stopped the reward program. The bred cobras were released and the end result was an even worse situation. The point is that by getting more certified agile coaches, agile might get worse by being stuck in processes.

Snowden then made some points which I’m still pondering over. I feel they are very true, but the question is how best to address them.

  • Retros are determined by the present so they might reflect accurately what actually happened.
  • In light of the Hawthorne effect, single stories of change that improved the situation don’t really tell us anything.

But what was Snowden’s talk really about? It was about the Cynefin framework he’s developing, which can be used to help managers and others reach decisions. The Cynefin framework shows organisational complexity in different domains, so you can better know how to handle things when you’ve specced out in which domain the problem is. As cool as it sounds, it is complex and I’m not sure how to use it in my daily work. What stuck with me from his description of it is a method they use to collect data from people. They go to 10% of the people and hear out their stories by asking, what story would you tell your friend about your workplace? From this, they mathically (magically with math) draw up landscape models that show you where problems lie. This will have more realistic data than from surveys for example. People tend to answer surveys like they feel they are supposed to. This sounds really cool, but again, I’m not sure how to make use of it.

There are other practical things as well I took away from this talk, like having in mind that creativity only happens when people feel safe and can think freely. Total transparency will hinder innovation. Then instead of teaching how things work out perfectly, teach how failure happens. That’s when people actually learn.

Take back the space

The conference ended with a well fitting keynote from Tobias Mayer where he encouraged the makers to take back the space from managers. It reminded us again to develop with agility instead of “Agile”, referring to Dave Thomas article, Agile is dead, long live agility where he states the basic steps:

  • Find out where you are
  • Take a small step towards your goal
  • Adjust your understanding based on what you learned
  • Repeat

Finally…

Other talks worth mentioning is Gil Zilberfeld’s talk about agile DevOps and Roland Flemm’s talk about remote team facilitation. I was so exhausted in the end of the first day that I missed Olaf Lewitz’s keynote about surprisability which I heard was very good. There was also a talk about Holacracy I would have wanted to go to since Kolibri uses that organisational structure, but it was unfortunately in Russian. Then there was a surprise talk about Teal organisations I‘m also very interested in (I’m currently reading Reinventing organisations), but I didn’t know about it until afterwards. The second day I decided to take people over processes to heart and connected with people instead of attending talks. I got great questions and feedback from my talk which were very useful and will help me make my talk even better. My next talk will be at NextBuild in the Netherlands 20th May.

I could write more about the culture in Kiev, Finland, Israel, South Africa, Netherlands, Russia and Spain from all the great conversations I had, but that must wait another time. Going to AgileEE was a great experience that pushed me back to really think about improving communications and how people work together, so they love to come to work and grow from it. It’s so easy to forget that on a day-to-day basis where there never seems to be enough time. Even though Kolibri is on the forefront with running the company with agility, there are things we can still improve on. It’s good to take a step back like this and get insights from others to be able to focus again on what really matters.

The 100 day project

Update: Sooooo, I managed to stay in the challenge for 12 days. Then life happened with all its excitements. I went to Kiev with my Impostor Syndrome talk and am currently writing a book on the subject so my focus is there for now. This was still a fun challenge and showed me I can create cool stuff whenever I set my mind to it.


I’m challenging myself to participate in #the100DayProject, creating something each day for 100 days! I chose to write short short stories or short proses and am gonna add them here as well as on my Facebook page. (English versions pending).

#12 Rauður tannbursti

Nýkeypti rauði tannburstinn þinn úr plasti
fer við hliðiná mínum græna og bláa
sem er með skiptanlegum haus
og bambushárum.

Við horfumst í augu í speglinum
og skiptumst þar á brosum
sem eru annars falin undir
tannkremsfroðunni.

Spegilmyndin starir einmanalega á mig
meðan ég þríf maskararákirnar
og nota seinustu orkuna til að
tannbursta mig og reyni að sofna.

Ég sé rautt og er að bilast
af reiði og vanmætti
svo ég tek tannburstann þinn
brýt hann í tvennt og kveiki í honum.

A Red Toothbrush

Your newly bought red plastic toothbrush
goes beside my green and blue one
that has an exchangeable head
and bamboo bristles.

Our eyes meet in the mirror
and exchange smiles
which are otherwise hidden
under the toothpaste foam.

The lonely reflection stares at me
while I clean the bleeding mascara
and use my last energy
to brush my teeth and go to sleep.

I see red and feel like bursting
from anger and powerlessness
so I take your toothbrush
break it and light it on fire.

# 11

Rewrote Still feeling like a fake? Living post-impostor syndrome.

#10

Wrote about the Impostor Syndrome for an article in Fréttablaðið, will add link when it’s published.

#9 Að stíga tilfinningaöldur

Ég stíg tilfinningaöldurnar og held jafnvægi. Alda einmanaleika, alda vonbrigða, alda sorgar, alda reiði. Ég stíg tilfinningaöldurnar, eina af annarri og sjórinn kyrrist á ný. Áður reyndi ég að sigla fram hjá en þá gleyptu þær mig og kaffærðu svo ég næstum drukknaði. Ég stíg tilfinningaöldurnar meðan sólin rís og tunglið vex, meðan vorið fer og sumarið líður hjá. Alda kærleiks, alda þakklætis, alda ástar, alda gleði. Ég stíg tilfinningaöldurnar og nýt saltbragðsins á vörunum.

#8 Geirþrúður bókasafnsfræðingur

Geirþrúður er rúmlega fertugur bókasafnsfræðingur. Henni er mjög mikið í mun að fólki líki vel við sig og það hefur til dæmis leitt til þess að hún hefur fengið ávítur í starfi fyrir að gefa fólki bókasafnskort án þess að rukka þau fyrir. Geirþrúður á bara mjög erfitt með að neita fólki ef það biður um eitthvað. Einn daginn kom Helgi Björns til hennar með bækur sem hann hafði ekki getað tekið sjálfur í sjálfsafgreiðsluvélinni því skírtenið hans var útrunnið. Geirþrúður fer í að endurnýja það svo Helgi geti nú lesið Arnaldinn sinn en þegar hún segir honum að þetta kosti 1800 krónur hallar Helgi sér að henni og segir í hálfum hljóðum “Ég er Helgi fokking Björns, ég þarf ekki að borga fyrir þetta” og starir á hana sjálfsöruggu augnaráði. Geirþrúður fer í kerfi og umlar bara nei nei og klárar að afgreiða hann. Eftir á líður henni ömurlega að hafa verið svona óákveðin og undirlát við þennan hrokagikk. Svo kom þetta auðvitað í ljós í uppgjörinu um kvöldið og yfirmaður hennar horfði á hana eins og hann trúði henni ekki þegar hún stamaði þessari afsökun út úr sér. Geirþrúður vildi oft óska sér að hún væri persóna í einhverri af þessum skáldsögum á safninu, einhver sem hefði alltaf svör á reiðum höndum, einhver sem væri örugg með sjálfa sig og til í að takast á við hvað sem lífið myndi henda í hana.

# 7 Opinberun

Eitt miðvikudagskvöldið er eins og eldingu lýsti niður í mig og ég geri mér grein fyrir því að ég hef eytt hverju einasta miðvikudagskvöldi í 6 ár í að horfa á Americas Next Top Model. Lífið hlýtur að eiga að að snúast um meira en það. Ég er hætt að horfa á raunveruleikaþætti.

#6 Fyrsti AA-fundurinn

  • Hæ, ég heiti Sólrún og er alkóhólisti.
  • Hæ Sólrún!
  • Ég er ný hérna, eða sko, ég er búin að vera edrú núna í 2 vikur og þetta er minn fyrsti AA fundur…
  • Velkomin!
  • Takk, uu, sko, ég veit ekki hvar ég á að byrja en mér hefur eiginlega bara aldrei dottið í hug að hætta að drekka, hélt aldrei að það væri vandamál hjá mér, en þúst, var bent af sálfræðingi að ég væri líklegast alkóhólisti, samt veit hún ekki einu sinni um allt. Kannski er það bara svona augljóst. Ég veit ekki… Mér var semsé farið að líða mjög illa og var búin að greina mig með þunglyndi og ætlaði bara að fá pillur og fara til sálfræðings og batna… En svo er þetta víst meira mál en það, úff… Hvað gerir fólk eiginlega um helgar sem drekkur ekki? En einmitt þessi spurning og það hvernig ég er búin að vera bregðast við tilhugsuninni að hætta að drekka er soldið að segja mér að þetta sé kannski vandamál. Ég er búin að vera rosa týnd síðan ég var krakki og mjög leitandi. Leitandi í hvað nákvæmlega veit ég ekki, en það er alveg nýtt fyrir mér að hugsa að áfengið sé kannski að hamla mér í að líða vel. Kannski er ekki eðlilegt að fyllast óeirð í matarboðum þar sem er boðið upp á vín því ég vil bara meira og fara að djamma. Ég vil nánast sleppa því frekar að drekka en að fá mér bara eitt glas. Kannski er ekki eðlilegt að grobba sig af því að hafa drukkið í 14 daga í röð. Kannski er ekki eðlilegt að eiga alltaf sterkt áfengi heima til að skella í sig glasi ef konu skyldi líða illa… Kannski… En já, ég hef ekki meira að segja í bili, ég er spennt fyrir að halda áfram að læra svona mikið um sjálfa mig en er samt líka mjög hrædd og stressuð… Takk.
  • Takk og gangi þér vel!

#5 Misskilningurinn við að fullorðnast

Góðan dag, góðan dag, glens og grín það er mitt fag, hopp og hí, trallalí upp á nefið nú ég sný!

Mér fannst ég loks vera orðin fullorðin þegar ég heyrði lítil börn segja frasann “Na-na-na-bú-bú” og ég vissi ekkert hvað það þýddi. Hvað var að gamla góða “Ligga-ligga-lái”? En ég vil ekki verða eins og sumt gamalt fólk sem fannst allt best eins og það var í gamla daga. Svo það er kannski bara betra að hafa fleiri orð og frasa. Það er eitt af merkjunum um að Ísland er að breytast frá því að vera fábreytt sveitalubbaþjóð yfir í að vera fjölmenningarlegt og víðsýnt samfélag. Það er til dæmis ótrúlega stutt síðan einu ávextirnir sem fólk hér á landi fékk voru epli og appelsínur um jólin. Pabbi er nýbúinn að læra hvað mangó og avókadó er. Amma mín myndi aldrei fara á almenningsklósett eftir að svartur maður hefur verið þar inni. Kynslóðabilin í dag eru orðin ansi djúp. Ekki að tala um tölvuvæðingu og allt sem fylgir nýrri tækni. Mér finnst samt gaman hvað mikið af sömu bröndurum, gátum og sögum virðast eiga eilíft líf. Tómatabrandarinn er alltaf fyrsti brandari sem börn læra, frasar eins og “Bara er ekkert svar” og “Ha-ni”.

Þegar ég var barn voru foreldrar mínir Guðir, fólkið sem réð og var ákveðið. En eftir að ég varð foreldri er ég sífellt að upplifa að vera alls ekki viss um að vera gera rétt í uppeldinu og hvort ég sé að skaða barnið eða hjálpa því til lengri tíma litið. Mér líður alls ekki eins og Guði. Smátt og smátt hefur runnið upp fyrir mér ljós að foreldrar mínir voru líklegast líka bara að spila af fingrum fram. Ekki nóg með það heldur er mér farið að finnast ég stundum þurfa að hafa vit fyrir foreldrum mínum, segja þeim að láta ekki bjóða sér hvað sem er á vinnumarkaðinum, að hreyfa sig og hætta að reykja, finnast ég vera tilfinningagreindari en þau. Það er allt saman töluvert sjokk. En áður en ég er að melti þetta allt saman stelst ég í nammiskápinn þegar strákurinn minn er sofnaður eftir að hafa neitað honum um nammi fyrr um kvöldið og fer að kenna mömmu að sækja um vinnur.

Góða nótt og sofðu rótt í alla nótt.

#4 Sund

Ég sting mér í vatnið og ég er komin aftur í móðurkviðinn. Vatnið umlykur mig, ég fyllist öryggi og finnst ég vera komin heim. Að læra bringusund er eins og að læra að hjóla, það gleymist aldrei. En skriðsundið er erfiðara. Hvernig eiga hendurnar að hreyfa sig? Hversu hratt eiga fæturnir að buslast? Öndunin gerir á endanum alltaf útaf við mig. Ef mér fipast aðeins í henni missi ég taktinn og verð að grípa aftur í bringusundið. Baksund er líka ótrúlega næs. Ég geri það alltaf í lokin til að slaka á. Þegar eyrun eru ofaní vatninu er eins og maður sé í sínum eigin heimi og ekkert geti truflað mann. Þar til ég klessi á línuna sem aðskilur sundbrautina (hvað sem það apparat kallast), eða á manneskjuna fyrir framan mig. Ég syndi ósjálfrátt alltaf á ská í baksundi. Í bringubaksundi syndi ég alltaf til hægri, en í skriðbaksundi syndi ég alltaf til vinstri. Bringubaksund getur varla heitið það samt þegar ég spái í því, í bringusundi er synt á bringunni, en öfugt bringusund er kannski bara kallað baksund.

Það er alltaf hægt að spotta strax útlendingana sem sitja fyrir framan vatnsnuddið án þess að nota það eða synda löturhægt á sundbrautunum. Það eru svo margar óskráðar reglur í sundi. Sumar brjóta nú samt sjálfumglaðir Íslendingar, eins og að ýta ekki oftar en tvisvar á takkann í vatnsnuddinu þegar það er mikið af fólki til að hleypa öðrum að. Svo eru aðrar skráðar reglur sem þarf að passa að útlendingarnir fylgi, eins og að fara í sturtu og sápa sig, og þurrka sér áður en þau ganga inn í búningsklefann. Sumar brjóta nú líka unglingar og fólk með snjallsímafíkn.

Ég er farin að vera eins og gamla fólkið, með mína sundrútínu sem má helst ekkert breyta út af. Bringu-, skrið-, bringu og bak. Lyfta sér upp á stökkpallinum, fara í vatnsnudd, slaka á í heita, setjast í kalda, fara í gufu og teygja á, fara svo upp úr. Eftir sundið er ég endurfædd, endurræst, tilbúin að takast á við lífið.

#3 Krumlur Hversdagsleika

Myrkar hugsanir eru í endalausum eltingaleik í hausnum á mér.
– Klukk! Þú ert hann! Nú átt þú að hugsast þar til hún getur ekki meir.
Ein er grá, önnur svört, ein hvít en sú litast strax af myrkrinu og dökknar. og dökknar. Leikurinn færist í aukana og hugsanirnar brjótast út og taka yfir raunveruleikann.

Hversdagsleiki er með krumlurnar á hálsinum mínum og er við það að kæfa mig. Ábyrgð stendur hjá okkur og hlær. Hlær að mér því ég er aumingi og mun aldrei getað tekið hana.

Rúm er besti vinur minn. Það tekur mér hlýjum örmum og vefur mér inn í sængurvængi sína. Það huggar mig og ver mig fyrir Áreiti. Rúm sér mig líka fyrir besta meðalinu. Í skiptum fyrir tár færir það mér Svefn og þá verður allt allt í lagi.

Ég er laus við að komast til gangs.
Ég er til í að ganga laus.
Ég geng tillitslaus.

#2 Hversdagur

Einar kom þreyttur heim eftir erfiðan vinnudag og rétt náði að taka af sér skóna áður en hann hlammaði sér í sófann.
– Ég er kominn heim elskan.
María, konan hans, svaraði óræðu svari til hans innan úr eldhúsinu. Einar hafði þurft að díla við einstaklega erfiða tappa í fyrirtækjaþjónustunni í bankanum í dag. Sumir gaurar halda að þeir geti allt og að heimurinn vilji gera allt fyrir þá líka. Það hafði tekið á að halda kúlinu og vera vingjarnlegur og reyna að gera vel við þá þrátt fyrir fáránlega tilætlunarsemi af þeirra hálfu ofan á hvað þeir voru miklar gufur. Einar var feginn að vera kominn heim og hlakkaði til að horfa á nýja Game of Thrones þáttinn á eftir með Maríu. Svínið þeirra, Síta, rumdi og labbaði til hans til að fá hann til að klóra sér bakvið eyrun, það var það besta sem hún vissi. Með kröfuharða starfið hans Einars og tímafreka starfið hennar Maríu sem safnstjóri þá höfðu þau ekki gefið sér tíma í að eignast börn þótt þau væru að nálgast fimmtugsaldurinn. Því höfðu þau ákveðið fyrir nokkrum árum að fá sér gæludýr og varð Síta fyrir valinu. Þau voru bæði miklu meiri svínafólk heldur en kinda. Fyndið hvað fólk skiptist upp í svona hópa. Eftir að hafa hvílt sig í dálitla stund stóð Einar upp og gekk á ilminn í eldhúsinu.
– Hvað ertu að elda svona gott í kvöld elskan?
– Þetta er grillaður köttur, franskar og maísstönglar, ég nennti nú ekki að gera eitthvað flóknara en það svona á mánudegi.
– Það hljómar bara mjög vel, komdu hérna og kysstu mig.
Einar greip um Maríu og þau kysstust ástúðlega. Hann hugsaði með sér hversu þakklátur hann var eftir 10 ára sambúð hvað þau voru enn ástfangin af hvort öðru og viðhöfðu góð samskipti. Helmingur vina hans var búinn að skilja og virtust annað hvort vera gengnir í barndóm eða hafa það frekar skítt. Skilnaður gekk greinilega í bylgjum, alveg eins og ólétta og brúðkaup. Eftir matinn kúrðu þau sátt upp í sófa með Sítu við hlið sér og horfðu á sjónvarpið og nutu þess að vera til.

#1 Konan í stigaganginum mínum

Það er kona í stigaganginum mínum sem sér dáið fólk. Hún er mjög næm og getur líka túlkað drauma. Ég er að sjálfsögðu búin að setja hana í kassann “Nett klikkuð en samt gaman að” með fólki eins gaurnum á Esso sem spyr mig alltaf hvort ég hafi séð geimverurnar í Norðurljósunum og systir hennar ömmu sem les í bolla og spáir fyrir öllu fólki að það sé annað hvort alveg að vinna í lottó eða missa vinnuna. Kaffidreggjamynstrin fyrir þessa atburði eru víst áþekk. En aftur að konunni í stigaganginum, ég er í sjálfskipaðri herferð að reyna að endurvekja nágrannavináttu eins og hún var þegar ég var barn, svo ég geri í því að heilsa fólki og spjalla um daginn og veginn og finnst sérstaklega gaman að henni. Hún er oftast nær mjög hress og hefur alltaf frá einhverju skemmtilegu að segja. Það er líka alveg rétt hjá henni að hún er næm, hún finnur alltaf á sér hvernig mér líður, nema ég sé það sem að hún er næm á líðan fólks meðan hún segir að dáinn afi minn sé að segja henni frá hvernig mér líður. En í gær varð ég mjög reið út í hana. Ég segi henni stundum í gamni frá draumunum mínum og sagði henni í gær frá draumi þar sem ég missti tennurnar eina af annarri og var allan drauminn að tína þær upp og reyna að festa þær aftur upp í mig, en þær hrundu bara alltaf úr aftur. Konan varð mjög alvarleg og sagði í ásakandi tón að nú þyrfti ég taka mig taki og hætta að sofa hjá þessum gifta manni því annars myndi sonur hans deyja. Afi minn segði líka það sama. Ég sem hef alltaf verið vingjarnleg við hana og hún dirfist að koma með svona rugl! Hvernig dirfist hún að láta mig fá enn meira samviskubit yfir að vera að sofa hjá honum! Á ég nú að valda dauða sonar hans í þokkabót? Ég verð að komast að því hvernig hún þekkir hann. Ekki hef ég sagt henni frá þessu svo hún hlýtur að hafa séð hann koma í heimsókn til mín, þótt hann kemur vanalega inn bakdyramegin. Nú er hún komin í kassann “Klikkuð og biturt kellingaskass”.

Still feeling like a fake?

This is a follow up on my article about the Impostor Syndrome I wrote this summer. I gave a talk about it a few times, even went on the radio, and got great response from so many people that related to it and hadn’t talked about it before. I suspected that many people had experienced it, but I didn’t anticipate that my talk and article would awake so strong responses. I was riding on my confident bliss of being able to advice others about it and how far along I had matured out of it.

Then it hit me again the other day. It hit me pretty hard.

It helped a lot that I had to been talking about this and going over what could be done to prevent it. But it still took me a few days of getting out of the self-destructive zone the Impostor syndrome drags you to.

This feeling of not being good enough, thinking what the hell you are doing there and how you could have faked your way here, god, it’s awful. I’m a very emotional person and the tears start to bubble up when I get to this state. They tend to squeeze themselves out when I start to talk, so I tend to shut down and withdraw. Which is the worst thing to do because suppressing the problem always makes it bigger than it really is.

I went over all the bits of advice I had given and realised that I had been in this new job, programming in an environment which was new to me, for a few months and I hadn’t got any feedback at all on how I was doing. The syndrome makes me think that if I’m doing a poor job, no one says anything to me when in reality it’s probably the opposite. So I went and requested feedback from my teammates, first informally, then in a formal setting. I ended up getting really good feedback, both on things I had been worried about not doing a good enough job on, and also about other things I didn’t even think about being a positive quality. The demands I was trying to live up to were unrealistic demands I had been setting myself.

So I wanna stress how important it is to receive feedback, both informally and formally. You can’t expect to receive feedback unless you give it yourself, so be mindful of giving others feedback as well. If you and your team are not used to it, it might be best to start with positive feedback, then add giving corrective feedback, because that’s also beneficial. To be able to do that, in a constructive manner, there needs to be trust and respect in your team. At Kolibri, we have a working agreement, based on the Core Protocols and commitments, which purpose is to make sure people can be themselves and respect each other.

  • Practice open and constructive communication. Say what you think and feel and ask for help.
  • Expect the best from people.
  • Practice check-ins, when the team meets regularly and share their feelings; if people are sad, mad, glad or afraid. This creates trust and empathy within the team which is key for good communication and co-operation.
 

I knew that one would probably never be cured of the Impostor Syndrome but still got angry at myself for feeling this way. I’m now accepting that this will probably always come over me every once in a while, and I can’t control it coming, but I can control how I react to it. I’ve noticed the pattern for when this happens to me, it’s when I get stuck on some programming problem and before I know it, it spirals to me thinking I’m not smart enough to figure this out and I should just quit programming and start to work in gardening. To break this spiral of negative thoughts, I get up and take a break when I feel this is approaching. Then if I still make no progress, I either talk to someone about my problem and even ask for help. It’s also best to say out loud how I’m feeling (the sooner the better, then I’ll beat the tears!).

Lastly, I’m working on giving myself positive feedback, so every morning (or you know, most mornings, I am only human) I write down at least one positive quality about myself which keeps the negative thoughts at bay.

So, in short, get feedback from people you trust and break your negative patterns and use positive affirmation to chase the impostor syndrome away.

Social Media addiction

Hi, my name is Berglind and I’m an addict.

As soon as I woke up, I needed my fix. Before I went to sleep, I needed my fix. If I was alone, I needed my fix. If I was with people, I needed my fix. If I was sad, I needed my fix. If I was happy, I needed my fix.

My addiction is needing to be constantly connected, to not miss out on anything happening on social media, to share all of my experiences and thoughts and the longing for positive feedback on it. But this addiction is so normalized that I was in complete denial that I had a problem until recently.

                      The TV series Black Mirror shows the dark side of technology

 

My morning routine began with scrolling down the feeds to the point where I left off before I went to sleep. Still half-conscious so I didn’t even register fully what I was reading. Always feeling the pressure of my limited time against the endless content the Internet has to offer.

If I was out with a friend, the second she left for the bathroom I went mindlessly straight to my phone. It was my shield so I didn’t have to face awkward situations and would never feel alone.

That awful feeling of time wasted and emptiness after being sucked into social media’s Bermuda Triangle. From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram to Snapchat to email…

Having everyone in the world only one click away, but still never felt more alone. Just staring at the bright screen at nights rather than close it and go to bed.

When I posted something I would regularly check who and how many liked it. If it got no likes I felt like I had failed. Oh, then the euphoric feeling when I saw the red dot reporting new notifications. Oh, the disappointment discovering none of them held any importance as I was hoping for.

Constantly hoping for.

Just like with any other addiction, the drug makes you feel good in the beginning but then it fades while other bad feelings increase. But still, you continue to do it, hoping to get the same experience you once had, even though logically you know it’s not doing you any good.

My journey to realising I had a problem started a year ago when I finally burned out after many years of working too much and being very stressed. I found myself exhausted and overwhelmed. I had to take three weeks off work and get professional help to start my recovery. Looking back now, I see it took me many months on top of that to get completely well again. For my recovery, I made sure to exclude all work related tasks and turned off all work related notifications. It was then I realised how sensitive I was to the all notifications on my phone. Each of them took away from me mental energy which I just didn’t have. They distracted me and made me stressed. So I turned all notifications off on my phone for a couple of weeks and then turned them on, one by one, very mindfully. I paid attention to whether they were improving my life or distracting me. I often got more out of them when I opened apps when I actually had time and longing to. After playing around with notification settings in various apps for some time, I found out that I only really valued Messenger notifications since it has replaced sending text messages and I use it a lot to talk with my close friends.

The next breaking point was three months ago when I decided to change jobs which led to me getting a two months vacation in between jobs. I felt I should use this time to save up energy and work on projects that I had been too tired to work on while working. I felt how hard it was to keep away from spending too much time scrolling mindlessly through social media, just without a thought my fingers opened one app after another. For the past year I’ve also been practising mindfulness and making steps to living a slower, simpler life, but my social media addiction was getting in the way and making me unhappy. So when I had to return my smartphone to my former employees and would get another one when I started my new job, I decided to take this opportunity to decrease my mindless social media usage. My own kind of digital sabbatical. A concept I didn’t know existed until just a few days ago.

In addition to having a phone without apps, I decided to go to my aunt in the Westfjords to work on my writing and take five days away from Facebook and Twitter. Snapchat wasn’t an option since I didn’t have a smartphone but I would allow myself to check Messenger, Instagram and my email account on my laptop a couple of times a day.

Five days.

Now when I say it, it sounds like it should be so easy, but when taking this decision it sounded like it was forever. It was a very interesting experiment. I logged out of Facebook and Twitter so I wouldn’t accidentally open them. The first two days were actually very easy and I felt I had gained so much time and freedom.

One of my reasonings for using Facebook and Twitter is that I use it to follow up on current events and interesting stuff. But during these days off social media, I read more news articles than I have done for many years!

But on the third evening, my addiction hit me hard. I started to argue with myself why I was doing this experiment and why I couldn’t just open Facebook again now since I had been doing so great for almost three days. It was exactly the same reasoning as I’ve experienced when fighting other addictions. I couldn’t stop thinking about checking Facebook, but I took it with the one-day-at-a-time mindset and powered through. The next day I felt fine and laughed at my feelings the day before. I did break my experiment tho on the fourth day because I had to find information from a Facebook group. So I quickly dived in, opened the notifications since I saw them, but didn’t click any, went to the group and moved quickly out again. Later I realised this information was also in my email so going to Facebook was unnecessary.

I’m not saying technology is bad or social media is the devil in disguise. I’m a programmer and I love technology and the positive things it can do for us. But social media is a tool we use, and it can be used for bad as well as good. I want to use it mindfully and see it for what it is, a nice add-on to our lives. A nice to have. Not live itself.

So lately I’ve been doing my best to use social media intentionally and make sure I take time without being connected to the Internet. I try to keep my mornings and late evenings computer and mobile free. Recently I heard about having the bed mobile free which sounds like a great idea. I’ve started to declutter my Facebook by un-friending over a 100 people (I still have 500 which is way too many) and I consciously stop Facebook from showing me notifications from groups and events I don’t want. It’s constant work since Facebook is always creating new types of notifications, Facebook is good at keeping people hooked.

There were some things I missed a lot from not having a smartphone; the camera, Spotify, meditation- and podcast apps but only social media apps I have installed on my new phone are Messenger, Instagram and Snapchat. I actually enjoyed viewing the pictures on Instagram on a desktop a lot more and would not have it on my mobile if they would allow uploading on their website. I don’t have these social media apps visible on my home screen so I won’t use them unintentionally. I’m now mindful of the fact I’m not missing out if I don’t see everyone’s stories or pictures every day. All notifications are turned off except Messenger’s, which I’m still contemplating what to do with.

I’m gonna continue to be mindful in my technology usage and do experiments like these and see how they make me feel. I hope my experience can help someone and I would love to continue the conversation about mindful social media usage so please reach out to me those who are interested!

Here are links to some of the articles and podcasts that opened my mind about my problem and what solutions are out there for a happier life.

(This post first appeared on Medium)

The Screen-Free Bedroom Experiment

This summer I wrote a piece about my social media addiction and it’s addictive patterns. I‘m still on my journey to living a slow and mindful life without being dependent on social media and other technologies and wanted to share with you where I am now.

I‘m doing a 30-day screen-free bedroom experiment! I got the inspiration from the Slow Home Podcast where the hosts, Brooke and Ben McAlary, do month long experiments with improving their life. In August they did a screen-free bedroom experiment and reported it had a huge positive impact for them. The purpose of this experiment for me was to prevent mindless mobile usage in bed in the mornings and better quality sleep. Research show that blue light from electronic devices reduces our sleep hormone melatonin production but melatonin is crucial to get quality sleep. The experiment is very simple really, just no screens in the bedroom! Since I don’t have a TV there and rarely take my laptop to bed, for me it meant not taking my mobile phone into the bedroom.

 

I haven’t been using my phone in bed at evenings but I still used it sometimes in the mornings, especially on the weekend (main culprits being Instagram, Snapchat and Medium). What I don’t like about that is I feel my brain isn’t fully turned on so this doesn’t leave much behind and I get the feeling afterwards I had been wasting my time (as I get after mindless Internet surfing). Then hearing about the effect the screen light actually has on our sleep finally convinced me to do try this out.

Now, after exactly three weeks of the experiment, I have to say that I LOVE IT! I can’t see any reason for me to go back, but lots of reasons to continue. The main positive effects I’ve gained are following:

  1. Bye bye snoozing. A pleasant side effect of having my mobile phone, which is my alarm clock, in the living room, is that I’ve pretty much stopped snoozing! Now I have to get up to turn the alarm off. Most of the time I press snooze and go back to bed, but I’m still awake ten minutes later when it goes on again and then I just get up if I haven’t already. I’ve always had this love-hate relationship with snoozing since it is so welcoming in those moments when you are waking up, but the extra sleep with the interruptions makes me more tired than if I would just get up straight away.
  2. No mindless morning surfing. In the weekend I can read my book if I want to linger in bed, but I’ve been feeling rather want to get up and do read in the sofa or by a table with a cup of coffee. This is probably also connected with me being more awake since my alarm clock is in a different room, but I also feel there’s a mental change happening for me. I know I’ll probably be sleepy again if I read in bed, but if I get up I can start making the most of the day.
  3. Better sleep. I feel my sleep has been better. I can’t say for sure it’s related to no screens before bed, but I’m pretty sure it has an impact. Of course, this doesn’t make everything perfect and I have twice woken up tired when my new adorable cat decided to wake my up at 5 AM to get some cuddling. But I’m feeling fresh in the mornings and have more energy the whole day. For example, I’m now on day 4 in  30 days of Yoga with Adriene (also inspired by the Slow Home podcast) doing 20–30 minutes of yoga each morning.
  4. More valuable family time. My 10-year-old son has never been much into television nor had endurance for a long time in front of a computer so me and his dad haven’t really had to set boundaries on his screen time. But last winter that changed swiftly and we have been struggling with setting boundaries, keeping them and knowing what is the best thing to do. That struggle actually made me think about my computer time and if it was unhealthy for me. Which probably had a huge impact on why I started to see my social media usage as an addiction. Now we have an hour of screen-free time before he goes to bed because I want him to get good sleep and I feel less screen time is good for him. This just happened in a nice flow I didn’t think was possible. I think it’s because I’ve been very positive when explaining this to him and very clear on the why of it. So now, instead of watching Friends with him before he goes to sleep, we’ve been playing cards or colouring together. My son likes to spend most of his time now with his friends, and even though the alone time I gain from that is great, it also means that I don’t spend much time with him alone, and these relaxed evening moments give me so much happiness.
                                                    An “Ego Washer” by Biancoshock

 

But I’m not perfect and it has happened twice that I forgot about my experiment. I was at JSConf (JavaScript conference) the other day and installed Twitter on my mobile while it was ongoing. I gave a talk on the second day about the Impostor Syndrome and met a lot of new people, both from Iceland and all over the world, and everyone was using Twitter to communicate. This is btw what I love the most about Twitter, connecting with people in real time during an event. When I got home after that second day I was so mentally tired and found myself in my bed scrolling through Twitter when I suddenly remembered that I “shouldn’t” be using my phone in my bed. I didn’t feel bad or anything, I just laughed, tweeted about it, put my phone in the living room and went to bed for a nap. The other time was last weekend when I went to the Westfjords with my son. Somehow being in a different environment made me forget all about my newly adopted screen-free bedroom living. I took my phone to the bedroom during the nights and used it in bed a couple of times during the day. The funniest thing is that I didn’t realise until a few days later that I had done something I wasn’t gonna do.

Breaking old habits and introducing new ones doesn’t happen in one day. There is gonna be period of transition while you reprogram your brain so there is no need to beat yourself down if you find yourself in your old habit. That’s what I love doing a 30 experiment like this. First of all, going into it as an experiment is completely different than thinking you are gonna change something for life. It’s easier and I go into it with a curiosity and excitement to watch the effects it’s gonna have. Second of all, I think that after 30 days of something, if you really liked it, it’s gonna be very easy to just continue it.

Why not experiment with improving your life? You can always go back to your old self if you don’t like it! 🙂

(This post first appeared on Medium)

Feeling like a fake  – The Impostor Syndrome

This article is based on a talk I gave at a JavaScript meet-up in Reykjavík.

I’ve been an Android programmer for six years but recently felt like making a change so I joined Kolibri doing web development. I’m not gonna talk about my month experience of programming in Javascript though. I’m gonna talk about something else. Something I feel is a taboo, emotions and thoughts. More specifically, the feeling that you are a fake or an impostor in your field. You might think this is not related to Javascript at all, but I am gonna make that connection so just wait for it.

What is the Impostor Syndrome?

Impostor Syndrome is a psychological term brought up in the seventies. It refers to when a person feels like a fraud and the whole world is going to find out that he or she is really just faking it and is really not as competent as everyone thinks. This feeling is in spite of external signs of success which is dismissed as being luck, timing or some other factor than your own skills.

Sound familiar?

Well, that’s completely normal. One study shows that 70% of all people feel like impostors at one point in their life and another estimated that 2/5 successful people consider themselves frauds. If you have experienced the impostor syndrome you’ll be glad to hear that it is particularly common among intelligent successful people and you are in a group with celebrities like Tina Fey, Neil Gaiman, Bill Murray and Emma Watson.

“The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you. It’s Impostor Syndrome, something my wife Amanda christened the Fraud Police.” – Neil Gaiman

This feeling is common among students, which makes sense when learning new things, and I was waiting for this feeling to wear off. But after a few years in the industry I still often felt like I was just faking that I had any real programming skills. When I got stuck on a problem I was often afraid to ask for help because that would reveal that I was only a fraud and didn’t really know what the hell I was doing. Also, I was convinced that everyone else knew what the hell they were doing.

My insecurities might have started because I’m not the stereotypical programmer. I’m female and I did not spend my teenage years programming or disassembling computers. In fact, before I started in university, my programming skills were only a dash of HTML and this one SQL course I accidentally took in college. I didn’t even have all the math courses I really should have had. At my first student society event I attended, this guy asked me what computer games I was playing, and I became terrified of never being able to be a computer scientist because I wasn’t playing any computer games! Later on, I found out that not all programmers play computer games and people that play computer games are not necessarily skilled to be programmers.

I was in the first group at the University of Iceland to study Android programming. This was in 2009. After I graduated the following spring I went to work at gogoyoko where I developed a music streaming Android app and even created another Android app for a mall on the side. A couple of years later I was offered to join Plain Vanilla to create the Android version of QuizUp since I was suddenly one of the most experienced Android programmers in Iceland! Being the most experienced Android programmer in a whole country might sound really cool, but honestly, I felt it was terrifying. I did not feel like it at all! But in spite of my insecurities, I joined Plain Vanilla since it was such an amazing opportunity. Time went by and I still had this reoccurring fear of being found out, even though I was a big part of the huge success of releasing QuizUp worldwide. Even though I worked hard, was very passionate and put everything I got into it. I was always quick to dismiss my success as luck or that anyone else had been able to do it as well. When I was asked to take on more responsibilities I always said yes but there was always this voice in the back of my mind telling me I was deceiving people who thought I was more competent than I really was.

Then I stumbled upon this concept of the Impostor Syndrome a while back. I was so relieved! This wasn’t just me struggling with a low self-esteem but this was actually a thing that had been studied and is common for programmers. Just knowing that I wasn’t alone helped a lot. But what more can one do? Here are some tips that helped me.

Recognise your success

Write down what you have done to get to where you are at today. When did you say yes when you could have said no? That takes courage! Think about problems you have solved, projects you have finished, what new things have you learned. I think you’ll find out that you have a big part in your success.

Recognise your strengths (and weaknesses)

We are all different, for example, some are introverts while others are outspoken, and that’s ok! The one is not better than the other, they’re just different. But we tend to compare ourselves with people that have different qualities than us or people that are exceptional. But comparing us unrealistically isn’t gonna get us anywhere. Rather think about your strengths and how you can improve on them. Also, think about your weaknesses and see if you can work on them.

I’m a single mum and it took me a long time to accept that I can’t spend as much time and energy coding as a programmer who doesn’t have children. This means that I’ll probably not gain as deep knowledge as they will. But I have other strengths. I really care for details, I’m good with people and project managing. My greatest weakness is to not ask for help sooner and I’ve been working on that.

Pair programming

Pair programming can sound scary! There is no way of deceiving others when a person is watching you program, right? That’s what I thought at first at least. But then when I was forced to dive into it, it went much better than I thought. Then when you pair with someone, you get a valuable insight into how other people think and solve problems. You’ll also realise that nobody knows what they’re doing like you thought. All you can do is to do your best. I’m not saying you should pair all the time, there is definitely just a time and place for it, but it’s very healthy every once in a while. And it’s actually quite fun interacting with another person when programming!

Say what you’re thinking

If you don’t understand or know something, just be honest about it. It’s ok to be wrong. Presidents are wrong all the time! It’s said that no question is a stupid question and there is much truth to that. And even if it is, it’s still better than not asking. You’ll never learn anything if you never ask. Don’t let your ego hold you back because it’s afraid to make a fool of itself. And it’s not even just about you. It’s better for everyone around you if you admit when you don’t understand something so a solution can be found quicker.

Feedback

Casual feedback in the moment is very healthy, but it’s even more powerful when it’s given in a formal setting. Have a formal meeting with a person that’s been working closely with you, where both of you have prepared to talk about your strengths and weaknesses. This was extremely beneficial for me but I did this a couple of times at Plain Vanilla and this is also done at Kolibri. If your workplace does not do this I really encourage you to try to get it going.

“The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ “— Tina Fey

The JavaScript Connection

I really stepped out of my comfort zone going from a senior Android position to start as a junior web programmer at Kolibri, working in JavaScript. I really wanted to try something new, but I’m not so sure I would have dared if I still had severe Impostor Syndrome. I knew this meant that I had to be totally honest about my skills and not be afraid to ask for help.

Getting over feeling like a fake is a process. Maybe it will never completely go away. Just the other day I was trying out ReactNative and after having spent total 10 hours on it I was beating myself down for being so slow at it still. Surely someone else would have made a lot more progress than me?! But now I manage to snap out of it quickly and see it realistically. Sometimes I have to stand up and take a break. Meditation always helps and if you don’t have time for that, just taking 3 deep breaths can do the trick. Saying it out loud to someone can also break the spell.

Remember, you are not alone!

(This post first appeared on Medium)