In the fall of 1995, when I enrolled at the University of Washington, I was issued a “telnet account” which empowered me to use UW developed Pine to check my email account. This was my first brush with the Internet, and at pecking obscure commands into a black terminal window, and having information come streaming back to me.
I clearly remember when I was first able to send and receive attachments via Pine too. That was amazing. Later in my university career, I wrote some rudimentary webpages for professors – one would allow you to calculate interest arbitrage. It was janky, but I earned credits for it. And thus my long journey with the Internet and programming began.
Nearly 25 years later, I’m still here. I don’t use Pine anymore, and instead of pecking away at the keyboard for college credits, I do it with a group of amazing people from around the world, working on projects that help millions around the world everyday.
Between here and there, the ‘net has been a constant presence in my life. Even when volunteering as a ranger in Yosemite National Park in 1999, I sought out and used dial-up connections from a variety of parts of the park. Always checking that email, getting my fix. It has been the backbone of an amazing career path that has taken me from Microsoft, to ski resorts, to startups, and finally to where I am today. The open web has been great to me, and I’m a staunch believer in the positive things it can and has brought to our world.
But after today, I’m ready to log off for a bit. Pull off at a scenic viewpoint on the Information Superhighway… or perhaps find an outlet of the tubes, and remove myself from the plumbing for a bit. I’ll be offline mostly, Gone Till November – well October 30th to be exact, but there is no song with that date in the title.
You see my current employer offers a fantastic benefit of a three month sabbatical after five years of employment. My fifth anniversary was on May 15, and today marks my final day before starting my sabbatical. I’ve been counting down to this day for a few months now, and have been dreaming of what to do with my time off.
The main goal for me is to unplug from the web as much as possible. 25 years is a long time, and I’m ready to focus on IRL more. Replace Slack texts and messaging apps with writing random notes via snailmail. Maybe use my phone to make phone calls. Hang out with friends in person, not on social media. You know, live analog.
“Unplugging” felt a bit too vague though, so I decided to set out some rules – some precepts to guide me along over the next 90 days.
in a particular place. existing or occurring now.
I like to call this one “live like my dog” – which is totally an over simplification of being present, but my buddy Sampson the bearded dog is such a shining example of this. He is stoked for the now, what is happening at that moment.
I want to not stare at screens ( large or small ) – this prevents me from being in the now, from being in a place fully. Be present for my family, for my friends, for my dogs. I realize it might be quite difficult to fully not use a phone to do things like pay my bills, or navigate a new town, but my new phone has no fluff. No ‘gram, no games. Just the barebones things to get by, snap some pics. It is a tool. It is not a lens in which I will view life the next 90 days.
Instead of screens I want to read more books. Look at my kids. Look at the world.
Oddly enough, I started implementing this change over the past month. I uninstalled Slack on my phone, and stopped using Instagram daily – and have been amazed with the positive impact that has already made. Also I think this is a fine precept to apply when I do arrive back at work…. avoid the trap of multi-tasking. Close programs when in meetings. Be present with those in meetings, or be present with the task at hand.
make (something) simpler or easier to do or understand.
Over the same 25 year span, life has gotten cluttered. Physically and mentally, but most definitely just stuff everywhere. Being a good American, I consume too much. This has resulted in so much stuff in drawers, closets, and in my mind. I plan on cleansing these places over the next few months. Let go of the things that I don’t need, and be happier with what I already have.
I took a step in this direction a few weekends back by doing a deep clean and changing the layout of my home office. The reduction of clutter and furniture in the space had an immediate impact on how I feel when I walk into the space everyday. I’m eager to replicate that feeling across other spaces in my physical and mental life.
Likewise I want to consume less, and be more mindful when I do consume physical goods. Reducing my, and my families consumption, while small, will result in a tiny change to the ever-growing carbon footprint of humans.
Again this is another precept that works wonderfully in my work-life too. As engineers we often are quick to abstract a solution prematurely, or develop solutions for “edge cases” when not needed. This creates clutter in our code, and just like entering a messy office, when revisiting that code later, it just doesn’t feel right.
situated or moving beyond the boundaries or confines of.
My final precept is Outside. Obviously I’m a lover of all things outdoors as you can see on this very blog – so yes this literally means get outside as much as possible. I want to sleep under the stars, visit new alpine lakes, put my feet in new streams, and wander down countless miles of trails.
I yearn to reconnect with places outside from my past, and share them with my family. I want to visit these places, and leave them better than I found them.
But outside for me is also a challenge to step out of my comfort zone. Challenge myself to try new things, explore side trails, linger longer and be present in those spaces. The past year for me at work has included a number of moments where I have had to step outside of the known areas, some of these times have been challenging… but all of them have led to growth.
Indeed I have some metrics around outside things. I have some goals and personal challenges in this space and the other precepts. Maybe I’ll share more about them in a few months 🙂
So that is the scoop my friends! That is the plan. I’m thrilled to start on the adventure – the first stop is hoping on a plane with my family and heading to Alaska tomorrow. I can’t wait to be there with them in a town I was last in 20 years ago, with the simplest of things packed, and explore the outdoors together.