Christopher T. Miller

Reflections After Pycon 2019


I came into Pycon emotionally and physically exhausted. The last three years have been very difficult for my family, and sustaining the level of stress we’ve been subjected to takes a toll. Lately, my anxiety and depression have gotten bad enough that panic attacks and deep black periods of emotional numbness have become more common than I like to admit. (Fear not, good reader, I am seeing professionals for this.) I have been looking for some anchors to help me boost my engagement with life, something beyond merely waking, going to work, coming home, and dealing with the various crises that have been ruling our lives of late.

Over the past two months, I have been shaking the rust off my coding skills. Several years as a manager have meant that I have not been coding the way I used to. I found myself craving actually MAKING something, not just the endless shuffle of resource management and political silliness that comes with working in management.

It’s been seven years since I attended a Pycon, and being there made me smile. It’s the community, you see. It’s just so positive and welcoming. I saw a large group of people who embrace the same values of inclusion and support that I try to model in my own life, often in seeming isolation at times. I saw real joy this weekend, and it made my heart glad. Watching those values come to life was refreshing. In my day-to-day life, I spend a lot of time in an organization who professes certain values but usually act contrarily. That dissonance leads to a sense of defeat and fear that permeates my work life. Being at Pycon was a potent reminder that people can take joy in their craft and one another and that there is a way to work in this industry that does not eat your soul.

I found that I miss being part of a community. Back in 2005, I was part of the initial wave of podcasters as that medium began to take shape. I remember the feeling of belonging that came with being there. I loved those people, and thankfully, many of them are still in my life. I had a similar experience at my previous employer, where I worked with some of the most gifted and generous people I have ever met. In both cases, life upheavals caused me to isolate myself, and I cut myself off from those communities.

Being at Pycon woke a yearning to be a part of things once more. It was a reminder that isolating myself as a survival mechanism does more harm than good. It was also a reminder that I do not have to let the troubles of my career life or my personal life drown the bonds of friendship that I have; rather, when the waters rise I need to pull on those bonds more than ever, because my friends help keep me afloat.

I can see a road ahead for myself that didn’t really exist before Pycon. I’m glad for that. I’m still tired, but not exhausted. I have some hope. It’s enough for now. I can work with this.