Keeping #sqlibrium: Looking back on what mattered most this year
It’s the end of the year, and with that comes the usual retrospectives. I count myself fortunate that I can rub shoulders with some of the most prolific, smart, and passionate people in one of the best technical communities around. I got to do some amazing things this year and expand my network beyond my wildest dreams. As much as I did in and around SQL Server, though, those things aren’t what I consider the most fulfilling or important things I did this year. When the technical and community events are over, or the blog posts are written, I still have a full time job to go back to. I have a family, friends, and aspirations that don’t involve keyboards and mice.
Maybe I’m in the minority, but when I’m out hanging with people I care way less about what their technical accomplishments are and I’m more interested in the person and what they like doing outside of work. I love hearing about people’s dogs, kids, hobbies, or personal achievements. The way I figure it, if I’m at a technical conference, I’ll have all the regular sessions to sit and learn about whatever the conference is about. Why not take the time to learn about what people are up to? Plus, when you make technical contributions during the year, those stay out there for a while. If people want to see that content, they can.
I think people should celebrate more than the things that are likely to garner them page views, retweets, and awards. The balancing act, of course, is celebrating these things without giving the appearance of bragging (which I hate doing and seeing). Your hobbies and personal achievements, or those of the ones you love and support, are just as important as your day jobs and technical aptitude. For that, I suggest that everyone take time to celebrate #sqlibrium, or things you do to balance your life and work this year. In the interest of getting things started, here are three things I did “away” from my computer this year that I’m most proud of.
I can’t take credit for that hashtag, though; that goes to Melissa for coming up with it when I asked what this should be called:
Your question made me think about work-life balance; things you do outside of SQL to maintain your equilibrium or #SQLibrium.🤔
Staying healthy, especially in a career where I’m bound to an office chair for 8+ hours a day, is something I take very seriously. A few years ago I found Friendship Crossfit, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I am bad at it, but I try and leave each workout just 1% better than I was yesterday. I’m fortunate that I get to belong to more than a gym, but a community of coaches and athletes that are there to support me and help me achieve my goals. I’ve gotten stronger, yes, but there are just areas of my workouts that I continue to struggle with. One of those areas is mobility and flexibility. In an effort to try and get better, I decided to try and go the extra mile and join a gymnastics program about a year ago.
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The results have been nothing short of tremendous; the work we do there is far and away the most challenging types of movements I have ever done. The payoff, though, has been worth it: for the first time in my life I can do multiple strict pull-ups, kipping work, hand stands, and I’m continuing to close in on the ever elusive muscle-up. There are days I leave class discouraged, but thanks to my coach and my fellow gymnasts, I show up again ready to try. My hands get torn open and there some days it hurts to lift my arms above my head, but these types of challenges are worth the effort. It also helped me realize that not everything is an instant payoff, that you have to work and sweat for results. There’s been a lot of times in my life where I’ve “coasted” on things that I understood or was able to do, but this isn’t like that. It’s forced me to put my pride aside and just put in the work, even if I’m the only one using a band to get my chest to the bar, or I still need to use a box to do a handstand push-up. I know the results will come with effort, and I’ve learned that it’s more about the journey than the result.
Go fly a kite balloon
HASSP might have been a showcase for a new use case SQL Server but I need to come clean: it was never really all about SQL Server. I can’t overstate that where I work I’m supremely happy. I am comfortable yet challenged, and appreciated yet accountable. I thrive in an environment where you can have an idea, and are encouraged to run with it, no matter how crazy it sounds. HASSP was no different: I literally stood up at my desk one day, and said “who wants to put a database on a weather balloon?” Some people laughed (actually a lot of people laughed) but I had more than a handful say they wanted to help.
And help they did. Turns out flying a weather balloon is a very big technical and physical challenge, and everyone I work with wanted to chip in. The project quickly stopped being about SQL Server, and more about team building and camaraderie, something that my employer has as a key value. Throughout the process I started to care less and less about the outcome and become more humbled and excited about watching everyone become engaged and work together. At one point I didn’t even care if we managed to get the balloon off the ground; I was just so happy to see everyone working so hard on something so different than their day jobs. Everyone stepped out of their comfort zones and got to learn something new, like the basics of circuitry, radio communication and tracking, real time video casting, and even something simple yet handy like how to tie different kinds of knots.
That’s the lesson I took away from the project: that you should take the time to appreciate the people you work with and for, and that everyone should strive to find something, anything, to learn together. Flying a weather balloon is just one example.
Community awareness, or “I got handcuffed and enjoyed it”
There’s lots of ways to get involved in your local community, but where I live there was one that really caught my eye: the citizen’s police academy. The City of Dublin has a program where you get an inside view of how a local police department functions. No matter how you feel about local police, it’s eye-opening to see the time and effort and professionalism the people behind the uniform put into their work to keep people safe.
When I signed up for the program, it was no sure thing that I’d be accepted. I count myself fortunate that I was selected. I knew going in, from talking to other people, that there was a lot of “classroom time” where various sworn members of the department would be talking about topics like search and seizure, use of force, and even how traffic stops were conducted. However, also as part of the program we got to see these things first-hand as well: after showing you what an officer does for, say, stopping a speeding motorist, they turn to you and say “okay, now let’s see how you handle it.” You get handed a flashlight and you get to do a mock stop.
Even in a controlled environment like that, it’s extremely nerve-wracking and eye-opening. As an example: when it came time for my turn, I approached the car and even before I got there, the “motorist” (another officer conducting the scenario) jumped out of the car as I was walking up to the door. He darted his hands into his pocket and pulled out his license. In that moment, though, it was crazy to think about how you react. You don’t know what’s going to happen, and anything could happen. I’m just a dude sitting in this class learning about how the police work, but these people have to deal with stuff like this every day.
That’s just one example, and I’d hate to spoil all the content for someone who’s looking at taking a class here in Dublin (or where you live). There’s a lot more to the class too, and you’re also expected to take part in a ride-alone with an officer on patrol and even take turns going over-the-shoulder with a fire and police dispatcher. Even if your locality doesn’t have a program like this, I think it’s important that you look for ways to get to know more about the places you live and work. See if you can do a ride-along, or attend a city council meeting, or see if your city is looking for volunteers.
I was thankful that the city of Dublin had a program like this, and the things I learned here not only help keep me safe, but also helps the city stay safer too now that I am more aware of just what goes on behind the scenes.
Enough about me, now I want to hear about you
Of course that’s not all I did this year, but when I look back on 2017 and think about the stuff that matters, the stuff that really matters, these are the things that pop into my mind. I’m glad that they were things outside of my normal job; by doing these kinds of things I feel that I am enriched as a person and helps define me as an individual. I got more fulfillment out the act of actually doing these things than actually saying I did them, which is an important distinction.
And that’s just me. Like I said above, I’m always infinitely more willing (and wanting) to hear more about stuff that you did this year that people might not know about because it’s outside your normal, day-to-day life. My hope is that, at a minimum, maybe you’ll leave a comment with something cool, or, even better go write your own #sqlibrium post and share with the world the things that you’re passionate about doing or even learning how to do. As always, thanks for reading, and while I look forward to doing and sharing more next year, I’m even more excited to see what you’re going to do!