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Journal of Kake (3534)

Monday September 10, 2007
11:18 AM

YAPC Europe

[ #34406 ]

So I figured I should probably write something here about why I didn't go to YAPC::Europe this year, even though I was supposed to go and moderate a hackathon.

The problem was that I was supposed to moderate a hackathon.

For various reasons, there are some things that I find very very difficult, even though my skills and experience mean that I should be quite capable of them. Doing things in person at specific times comes under this. I'm not going to go into details, but I don't mean reasons like "is too disorganised to prepare a presentation in time", or "doesn't feel like getting out of bed in the morning" — it's more systemic and less easy to overcome than that.

The thing is that because I should be quite capable of things like running a training session, giving a live demonstration, moderating a hackathon, or indeed working full-time, it's very hard for other people to understand that these things are more difficult for me than they would be for most other people with my skills and motivation. This means that when I say "no, I can't do that", other people hear "I'm scared to do that", or "I need you to talk me into doing that", and hence they proceed to try to talk me into doing it. Because I am a nice person, and I like to oblige, this sometimes leads to me agreeing to do something that I really shouldn't.

(I do want to say here that I'm absolutely not saying anything against the people who encouraged me to propose the OpenGuides hackathon at YAPC. With most people, what you did would have been absolutely the right thing to do. The reason I'm writing this now is that I recognise that my situation is unusual enough to require documentation.)

So, when I found myself at the point where the situation had been affecting my work and personal life for months, and I was seriously contemplating cutting up my passport (and perhaps more) so nobody could make me go to Vienna, I realised that I had to pull out. So I did.

Some people have wondered why I didn't just cancel the hackathon and go to the conference anyway. Because of the way I am, I have spent far too much of my life apologising for dropping out of things. I've had people call me rude, lazy, stupid, inconsiderate, and unprofessional, and I'm sure there are a number of people in the Perl community who consider me unemployable. So I hope people can understand why I didn't want to go to Vienna that week, in that context, as a failure, again.

This postscript is for the people who are going to pop up and suggest that I try therapy or drugs or NLP or something to "fix" myself.

Over the many many years that this has been the case, I have indeed put a lot of effort into trying to "fix" the "problem", but with time I've realised that this effort could be better spent somewhere else — for example, in doing things that I actually can accomplish well and efficiently. And in this, I am mostly succeeding. The work that remains to be done lies not in wasting more energy trying to change myself into a "normal" person, but in getting better at saying "no" and sticking to it.

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