It’s Been a Minute, or Vibes

Time flies when you’re having a good time, right? You might be thinking that I’ve been working on some magnum opus post since I’ve been “away” for so long, but I assure you nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact is, I’ve just not had the spark hit at the right time for nearly 3 weeks. And now I’m out of the habit of writing whatever mismatched verbiage I can string together just to keep writing. So basically I fell off the wagon. Here’s me getting back on.

Last week was our third (!?!) Covid-affected Thanksgiving holiday and, I will admit that apart from a couple folks in the family deciding to travel for the holiday, this one felt nearly normal, as far as the pandemic is concerned. I took the entire week off of work, which I don’t think I’ve ever done before, and got to have extra time pre-making desserts and playing games with the nephews to give my mom/their grandma a break.

I wouldn’t say the holiday was like it used to be, though… it was actually better. I know I feel like I have turned some kind of corner emotionally lately and it is bringing around more positive interactions, fewer communication snafus and greater depth to my familial relationships. My sister and I spent MULTIPLE days together and didn’t argue or fight about anything. I may be able to start letting my guard down a bit, which has ALWAYS come back to bite me in the past… but I’m hopeful. Whether she realizes it or not, she has changed… emotionally. She is allowing herself to be more emotionally accessible, less detached, judgmental, demanding and hostile, all of which I have felt as “vibes” coming from her in the past.

As an aside, I think the TYPE of empathy known best to #ActuallyAutistic folks may make it easier for us to see/feel/experience “the vibes.” Folks are talking about the “vibes election,” vibes this and that. Like sensing the temperature of the room, and I absolutely have that gift. When someone enters a space, I feel the trajectory of the vibes; is that person a “vibe addition,” or a “vibe suck.” I have never understood why others didn’t also have this intuition when I was a kid, or even a young adult. I had almost this supernatural way of telling when the vibe was shifting and I would slip out of a place or situation when things just felt off. I’ve had multiple instances in college and in my 20s when friends would tell me about something happening (a fight breaking out, for example) shortly after I left the party. Honestly, I’m not sure why this never earned me a greater following, but whatever. I’ve never sought followers. Partners in capers, now that’s another thing… 😁

But I digress. My point was I really had an excellent week with family and it was, well, priceless. It didn’t even occur to me to write a post on LinkedIn or an essay here; I was just present, where I was, in a really good place, and that hasn’t happened for a while. I could not be more grateful for my family and the friends who did reach out to me. And to all who I may have glossed over: you have not been forgotten. You will all have a personalized message when I have the time, energy and presence that you so rightly deserve.

And then I went back to work. First thing I start scanning emails and the Teams feed to see if I missed anything of note and was immediately drawn into a conversation that I should have known would go badly/sideways/off-the-rails. Without going into too much detail or personal identifying information, I am part of a rather large team of people working through what is supposed to be one of the later stages of a software development project. User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is generally performed when a project, tool or application has been built, gone through QA (quality assurance) and then gets a final pass by those who would generally be the people who will be the end users. This has been a multi-year project and everyone is a bit frazzled, to the extent that they are personally attached to their work. Each of us has invested a lot.

The problem I had was reading up on a conversation that was had last week about a bug found where tool functionality vanishes when the screen resolution or browser zoom settings are increased. For absolute non-techy folks, imagine zooming in on your phone screen because you can’t see something and then not being able to hit “back” or “home.” The button disappears. To me, this is a problem.

As you may know, I have been visually impaired my entire life; I was born with congenital cataracts in both eyes. For the most part, this has not prevented me from doing most anything any other typical adult does. Apart from wearing my glasses every waking second of the day, which is quite the expense every time my prescription changes I might add, nobody would really know that I have this disability. My vision never has been and never will be correctable to 20/20, but I’ll always have a cool party trick to show off when I meet new folks and the conversation hits a lull.

I have also worked at this company for over 18 years, and with the leader of this development team in our sister office for 10 years. Do I go around talking about my vision, or lack thereof, all the time? Of course not; I cope, create workarounds, accommodate MYSELF before I would dream of making my disability something other people had to acknowledge. But one would think that the FIRST step in producing a new tool for a company would be to understand your end users’ goals, needs, etc, well before the UAT phase of the process.

So I respond to the days-old conversation with what I thought was a politely-worded statement to share that due to visual-impairment, it would be important for ME to do MY job with this tool in the future, that it be functional while zoomed, and since others in my department aren’t getting any younger, I may be the first to bring this up, but I likely won’t be the last.

Well, howdy! Did that kick up a can of worms?!? I got asked by multiple people about my screen settings, my monitor setup, whether I have asked the department head to buy me some new/better equipment, multiple links to “Black Friday” sales on EXTRA LARGE displays… all trying to solve a problem I DO NOT HAVE. Rather, it is apparently SOOOOO much easier to fix what is WRONG WITH ME, rather than making this web-based (meaning it operates within a browser, like Google Chrome) function like every other modern website know to man, and like our office’s last web-based tool developed nearly 15 years ago.

I have a small desk with 2 computer setups on it, with a whole second desk/workspace for my husband on the other side of the office, which is our converted 9’x10′ bedroom in our overstuffed little 912sf home… none of which has any bearing on the tool bug. I think my shit is wired. I’ve been working here 100% of the time for 32 months; we good.

But this tool, still in development since clearly, they skipped the whole step at the beginning where the end users were involved in the product plan and requirements definition MIGHT not be able to be zoomed in beyond 125% or buttons will be missing? Stop and think about what that says about our dev process. How is it possible to create something without information from your customer about what they want it for or how they think it should work?

The truth is, certain people didn’t ask us because they all did what is called our job 10-20 years ago so they firmly believe they already have all the info they need. That and we’re the lowest people on the totem pole, the “replaceable” ones, the ones who “only enter data.” Some people in the upper echelons of my company believe they could train ANYONE to do our job. Strong “disdain vibes” floating around.

So, I get the promise of a personal meeting request with a UX (user experience) designer I’ve never met and she’s gonna invite the head guy who suggested a get to Best Buy for a new monitor or two earlier. I’m so looking forward to this… NOT!!!

Needless to say, this was only the latest in a long list of reminders for me to find a new way of supporting myself and my family. I simply cannot be myself here; I cannot be whole, and my whole self kicks ass. I am like a rainbow of fruit flavors and getting a little bit better every damn day, if I do say so myself.

The moral of this story is that we should all try to be a little better every day and if we fall off, try to be a little better the next day. Follow your intuition and the people with the good vibes. Things will get better in ways you cannot anticipate. But you have to move, even very slightly toward the good vibes or away from the bad vibes. You will start to see the path forward eventually, but it doesn’t need to be clear at first. It’s probably gonna look like nothing, actually. Just make a shift and before long, you won’t even recognize your life.

Just by following the vibes. 😉

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