So I’ve been having writer’s block lately. There’s a lot to write about. I have been attending tech meetups and mental health support groups throughout the city – seeing new faces and hearing new stories. I start writing about one thing and it spirals into another and becomes an incoherent mess. I save drafts because I don’t want words to go to waste. My writing graveyard is definitely larger than my code graveyard.
The biggest thing I have taken away from being in San Francisco is to not be afraid of approaching new people. I previously wrote about feeling isolated and looking for ways to open up about myself.
During the second week of work, I remember crying at my desk and feeling alienated. The week before I was admitted to a hospital for a third suicide attempt this year. I was in what was barely a room. It was a room filled with other ER patients, closed off from one another with curtains. In a cold hospital gown, I was hounded with questions from a doctor who was in a rush.
It took me back to my teenage years when I was in and out of therapy. It was humiliating and most of all, traumatic. It was enough to silence me for a decade. It took lying about myself to others to make me feel valuable.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year of school did I really think about how we treat one another and how that feeds into our insecurities.
I realized once again that I needed to surround myself with people who could be empathetic to my circumstances and interests. I have written a lot on the subject of empathy from the perspective of a student. As empowering as it is to identify the problems, I feel like I am still not getting “better”.
Getting better for me entails having my OCD and anxiety under control, improving my self-esteem, and also having a support system in all aspects of daily life. Being in a foreign environment has made me realize this more than ever. Although I haven’t been able to receive formal treatment here, attending meetups and support groups have made be feel welcome to share ideas and open up. I have also learned new ways to approach problems.
In contrast, I find it difficult at work, in particular, to start conversations about tech culture issues. Although I’m working on interesting technical problems, I feel like my opinions are not as valued as my work. Workplaces are going out of their way to hire different faces in order to appear inclusive, yet many people still feel undervalued.
You can learn so much from people of different backgrounds who share similar interests and experiences. Diversity isn’t just about having different faces, it’s about sharing and valuing different perspectives.
Schools also have different faces and different perspectives. But these perspectives can converge at some point. Students often try to squeeze into a narrow definition of success. It’s like being in a bubble.
These bubbles are everywhere, at work and at home too. Navigating inside, outside, and between bubbles is hard. At every point in your life, you will need an ally to point you in the right direction.
Critiquing and improving any culture requires immersing yourself in another person’s experiences. If you don’t get to know new people, then they will miss out on you.
This blog originated from Julia Nguyen of http://julianguyen.org. Please visit her site for more of Julia's content.