I’m currently wrapping up a week in Malmö, Sweden/Copenhagen, Denmark to give talks at At the Frontend and Øredev, and I’ve been thinking lately about the fact that it’s almost exactly three years since I first started speaking at tech conferences. In three years, I’ve spoken at thirty-five events. I’ve had opportunities to travel and meet people and learn new things, and it’s been one of the defining roles of my life. And I’m ready to take a break from it.
I’m not going to stop speaking altogether, but, in the coming year, I’m going to cut back significantly. It’s a privilege to be able to feel comfortable enough in my career and reputation as a speaker to be able to take a break, and it’s one I know I’ve earned. After three years of paying out of pocket in some way for almost every talk I’ve given, whether in travel costs or childcare costs or health costs, or all three, I’m finally successful enough to prioritize my own personal balance. It seems that it would be a shame to achieve that and not enjoy it.
I enjoy speaking so much. I like talking to people and I’ve discovered that I’m good at it. I love being able to put new ideas and perspectives in front of others and encourage everyone to explore. I love making new ideas and perspectives accessible in ways or to audiences they weren’t accessible before. I look forward to doing it in some respect as long as I can.
But, as I grow older, my constant refrain is creating sustainability. I have learned, painfully in some cases, that hard work has diminishing returns if it is not accompanied by enough self-care so that one can continue to work as well as possible. I have learned that if you are on your own and have no one to take care of you, you had better figure out how to take care of yourself.
In pursuit of this new goal, I’ve made many changes in my life over the past year and I’m making still more. It’s strange time of fluctuating factors, uncertain outcomes and the mild regret that comes with new wisdom. But that’s how it all works.
In folk tales and legends, crossroads are magical. Where roads and directions intersect, so do potential futures, potential successes and potential mistakes. Potential energy is dangerous. Crossroads are in between worlds, outside of the law, a land not owned by anyone. They involve risk. They involve possibility. If you venture anywhere at all, you’ll one day be at one. It doesn’t matter so much which path you pick, specifically, only that you pick one and press ahead with courage and willingness to learn. And that you don’t look back.