4 min read

Finding Sunshine

Finding Sunshine
Photo by Sean Oulashin / Unsplash

Sometimes the world feels really bleak. Despite our best efforts, everything feels difficult and terrible, and we just want to throw ourselves one big pity party.

When I'm going through one of these periods, I find myself having trouble sleeping and enjoying the time I spend with my partner and friends, because I'm too busy ruminating on my anxious thoughts. A lot of my anxiety is often work-related. I have a tendency to fixate on negative interactions and my own shortcomings. Venting to my friends is sometimes comforting, but it can also perpetuate a cycle of negativity, particularly if they are in a bad mood themselves.

Back in January 2021, my partner James and I temporarily moved to Hawaii. We spent 2020 living together in a studio apartment in NYC. It was the first year of the pandemic, and we didn't want to spend another year stuck inside a tiny, overpriced apartment, particularly as winter was coming, so we moved to Hawaii with a few friends.

Initially, we were a little scared to sell all of our things, pack up 2 suitcases, and fly across the country. We weren't sure how working east coast hours would work out (we had to be up and ready by 3am every morning), and we weren't sure how long we would be staying. We ended spending ~5 months traveling around the Hawaiian Islands, a month living on the Las Vegas Strip, and the rest of the year bouncing around other places in the US. Waking up at 3am and being done by noon to hit the beach turned out to be an ideal schedule for us. We can't wait to one day go back.

Moving to Hawaii was one of the best decisions we ever made. Looking back, it has also shifted my approach to life. I learned that even in seemingly dark times, there is always a place to find sunshine.

These days I find sunshine in prioritizing self-care, creating communities, and setting boundaries that feel honest and clear. I choose to stop for those 5-minute hallway conversations, even if it means running late to a meeting. I choose to eat lunch with my coworkers, instead of at my desk. I choose to create moments of laughter and joy and share silly jokes and stories, even if it is just to make myself laugh. Finding those pockets of sunshine while working through my work issues or personal frustrations, helps make them feel more surmountable.

I also choose to celebrate victories, big or small. I celebrate the small even more, when things are going poorly. After what felt like a frustrating past week, I decided to write an extensive celebration list for this week’s check-out:

  • I ate two lunches on Thursday, one with my team, and one with my partner team. Someone told a really funny joke at my team lunch, and I laughed about it for two days.
  • I started mentoring 2 people on my team, and we had a really fun session. We chatted about their hopes and dreams and the importance of being proud of yourself.
  • I was invited to give a keynote at a big conference, completely out of the blue!
  • I had a 1:1 with my mentor, and our conversation was a really nice way to end my Friday.
  • A new manager started on my team. I absolutely love working with her and she makes my life so much easier.
  • A new technical program manager started on my team. I love working with her too!
  • I successfully had no meetings this Wednesday!
  • I delegated a bunch of things that I think will have a positive impact on our engineering culture, and it is cool to see progress being made on them.

I am choosing to celebrate all of the personal stuff too, like:

  • James and I finally learned the entire choreography to our first dance, and we are really happy with it! 3 big lifts are coming on our big day.
  • I have the most supportive wedding planning crew. I could not be more grateful for the work my friends have put into this wedding, and I can't wait to celebrate with them in just a couple of weeks!
  • I went out of my friend's birthday dinner last night, and we had a really nice time. The food was great, the conversations were wonderful, and now they are now all subscribers to the View from JQ!
  • My friend made this awesome restaurants website and now I know where to look when I am looking for a place to eat.
  • I made it to the gym 3 times last week, even though I really didn't want to. I also ran my fastest hill sprint yesterday at ~5.6s.
  • I finally took care of some home errands, and returned a bunch of stuff that had been sitting around for months. Now I have some gift cards to spend!
  • I was consistently reading at the start of this month, and finished 4 books. I stopped for a bit, but restarted this week with Your Money or Your Life.

I know that being positive can't solve every problem. However, it helps me combat my negativity bias towards seeing a more positive reality.

Not everything is going to go my way. Some days, I want to stop caring and throw myself a big pity party. I let myself do that for as long as I need to. When I am done, I look around, to see where I can find some sunshine.