N

Nicholas Sabin

Privacy. Philosophy. Pmusic. PGP: a626c77211c5718959f4c9b06c8c41c7aa1b13f9

2021-02-02: Pandemic Fine

Pandemic Fine — noun — A state of being in which you are employed and healthy during a pandemic but you're also tired and depressed and feel like trash all the time.
(Hat tip to @sarahesmith23 on Twitter.)

I'm really tired of feeling pandemic fine. I'd be okay with it if there was an end point, even a distant one.

There isn't one. I don't even know when the vaccine will be available.

In moments like these, I remind myself that I have much to be grateful for. I have a home, a job, and a pantry with plenty of food.

In moments like these, I find it important to acknowledge when things suck. In this moment, things suck.

It won't always be like this. Things will get better, even if we don't know when.

Until then, please, I'm begging you -- wear your mask.

2021-02-01: Bookworms

When I was a child, I was a voracious reader. The scourge of the local library. My parents could scarcely keep me in books. Heaven was when they'd send me to school book fairs with a blank check and tell me to get what I wanted. It was a generous, impactful gift.

Now, it's harder to make time to read. There's work (reading emails) and school (reading textbooks). Today, I found a small, ten-minute gap to read from Michael Lopp's The Art of Leadership, and the subtle shift it made in my day was significant. I may take that up as a new practice.

2021-01-31: Writing Poorly

Writing when you don’t want to write is hard. Lately, I haven’t been feeling it.

I feel like there’s a cyclical relationship between reading and writing. Read more, write better. Write better, read more. I read some this weekend. I could have read more.

Again, it’s a matter of showing up. This isn't good writing, and it isn't interesting writing, but it's effort. That's worth something, right?

I write on a mechanical keyboard: a Razer Blackwidow, to be specific. Mechanical keyboards feel amazing on my fingers. The tactile sensation is remarkable. They aren't for everyone, and they're loud, but for me, they're a joy.

2021-01-30: Fall Down Six, Stand Up Seven

I forgot to post last night.

Oops.

I was a precocious kid. Solving problems came easily to me until it didn't. And when it didn't, I crumpled. I didn't know how to try again. It's an underrated skill. I wish I'd been better at it, back then.

Failure is not properly rated in America. We look at it as a bad thing and miss its potential. I wonder if we look at failure on the appropriate timeline. I don't think we do. The Red Sox lost the first three games to the Yankees in the ALCS ... and then won the next four, and the World Series.

2021-01-28: Magical Bean Juice

I started drinking coffee a few years ago. On a friend's recommendation, I bought a french press, and ground my beans each day. It makes a big difference.

There's a ritual to it: heat the water, grind the beans, fill the french press. Wait four minutes. Pour the coffee, stir in the half-and-half, let it cool for a few minutes. Drink. Try to drink only one cup each day.

Rituals like that are valuable to me. Same with listening to vinyl. I savor things that help me focus. It takes anxiety and noise out of my day, and replaces it with calm and routine.

2021-01-27: The Sad That You Feel

In 2015, I started seeing a therapist. Six years later, I'm still seeing the same therapist. Biweekly, though it went up to weekly when my dad got really sick, and for as long as I could afford it afterward. Thanks to my therapist, my psychiatrist, my meds, and some amazing friends and family, I don't recognize the guy who showed up for therapy in 2015 anymore. I know I *was* him, but I don't think like him anymore.

I have no plan to quit therapy. It's priceless to me. There's help if you need it, and there's nothing wrong with getting it.

2021-01-26: Hard Mode

Sometimes, I check in with myself to see how difficult things are. Everything is hard for everyone, especially these days. We're all running our own race. I'm a perfectionist, even in a pandemic, and I sometimes forget that it's okay to pause, catch my breath, show myself some compassion. It helps.

My therapist once advised me to talk to myself as if I was talking to my best friend. It sounds a little weird, but it's helpful. There are plenty of reasons to feel anxious and sad, and plenty of people who want to profit off those feelings. Be your own best friend.

2021-01-25: Coulda Been A Contendah

When I was young, my dad and I visited the local arcade - Funspot, in Concord. One of our favorite games to play together was Punch-Out!!. Since we couldn't take the game home, we'd play pretend.

Without boxing gloves, I used my baby brother's diapers. I'd pound away at my dad's fists, pretending he was Bald Bull. I was 5 or 6. He would have been 30. I'm 39 now. I still remember it vividly.

He's gone now, my dad. I love imagining him back then. Fake-boxing with his oldest son. Working hard. Providing for his family.

I miss you so much, Dad. Thank you.

2021-01-24: Privacy

I think about privacy often. While I post here (and on Twitter) using my given name, I assert the right to choose what I make public, and what I make private.

The argument of "you don't need privacy if you're doing nothing wrong" is bullshit. It assumes a baseline of right and wrong that elides a nuanced definition of ethics. You need privacy to be yourself.

Furthermore, especially where social media is concerned, privacy is a health concern. Privacy of identity protects against the kind of dangers that make doxxing dangerous. It protects against the kind of influence that makes advertising valuable. Protect yourself.

2021-01-23: The Mad That You Feel

I wish I'd listened to Mister Rogers more when I was younger.

When I get angry, it is a full-body experience. I work hard to be rational and reasonable, and that gets easily short-circuited when I'm upset. I feel like it's a common affliction for boys and men. We're told to be strong, and stoic. We're criticized for showing emotion, or for crying. (As an aside: Crying is so damn healthy.)

If I could tell my adolescent self anything, it would be this: Get comfortable being upset. Make friends with the experience. Learn from it. Speak comfortably and openly about difficult feelings. It will be alright.

2021-01-22: The Law of Large Numbers

I remember a conversation I once had with a business owner who was surprised by the success of their business. I suggested that their success came not from doing infrequent big things, but by consistency in doing the small things right. I think about that a lot.

I believe in the Law of Large Numbers. Mistakes are inevitable, but if the net value of my actions on any given day is even 1% better than the average value of actions I could take that day, I will make good progress over time. Consistency, rather than spiking big results. Singles, not home runs.

2021-01-21: Music is Magic

My favorite comic book series is Phonogram. The premise of the series is that music is magic. Not that Magic. I listen to music daily, and the premise is credible. Music casts spells. Today, for example: I started off listening to some Andrew Bird, and I felt upbeat and cheerful afterward.

The middle of the day was flat, so I didn't play any music. Had I thought to play something, I would have chosen something with energy. Maybe Sleater-Kinney's One Beat.

It's now 21:30, and I'm playing Chastity Belt's excellent album I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone.  It feels like an aural hug. Not too loud, not too dissonant.

2021-01-20: Inauguration Day

By the time President Biden was sworn in, I was choked up. "It's finally over," I said to nobody in particular. Trump now lives in Mar-a-Lago. Good riddance. I struggle to explain the relief of knowing things will be different now. Never before had I felt that a President's administration was something to survive.

President Biden is not a savior. I voted for him, but he was not my first pick for President. (That would be Elizabeth Warren.) Still, he knows there's plenty of work to be done, and he's rolled up his sleeves. We all have plenty of work to do. Time to make America good for once.

Therapy

My therapist is a friendly person, though they never flinch at my fondness for swearing in my sessions. Oftentimes, they'll swear along with me. I wonder sometimes if they do it to alleviate my self-consciousness, or to establish a better connection. Either way, I don't mind. It helps.

I've been seeing my therapist for almost six years now. They've been with me through my divorce, and through my father's death. They listen really well, and they indulge my stubborn assertions that I am, in fact, a robot and not a human being. I've suggested that they could become the first android therapist, and I think they'd corner the market if ever there was one. I credit my therapist with helping me stay alive when I really didn't want to be alive, and with helping me develop a stronger vocabulary for identifying and understanding my difficult feelings.

If you think to need to see a therapist, I urge you to see one. Seeing a therapist is playing in Hard Mode. You may not find the right therapist on the first try, or on the second try, or even on the third try. Keep trying. Seeing a therapist doesn't just help you understand your problems. It helps you become better prepared to handle the problems you haven't encountered yet. It's a gift to your future self, and if there's any gift worth giving, isn't it that one?

Arguing Well

When I was a younger version of myself, I studied philosophy. My original plan had been to graduate college with a philosophy degree, and then transfer to a law school. While I'm grateful that things didn't turn out that way, the years I spent studying philosophy were priceless in how they affected the way I think about things. I learned to be specific, clear, and brief. I learned to assume that my audience was lazy, stupid, and mean. Above all else, I learned that attacking an argument is perfectly appropriate, while attacking the person making the argument is not. I think about that a lot.

When I think about the din and the discord of social media, and the way that people communicate with one another, I think of how cruel we can be to those who disagree with us. This affliction is not unique to one political ideology. Rather, it is endemic of citizens of the Internet. I'm no better than anybody else where this is concerned. When I'm feeling frustrated or angry about something, the catharsis of dunking on someone else helps for about thirty seconds. Then I just feel awkward and embarrassed.

In America, the citizens are remarkably polarized. I sometimes fear that we'll see another Civil War. We just might, if we don't do better. If we learn to become better listeners. Slower to anger and offense. In pursuit of common ground and agreement. I wonder what that kind of discourse would be like.