Be The River

These last few weeks have been quite a roller coaster for me.  I’ve had some very fun moments, but also some very stressful moments, long drives, battling extreme cold, being sick, snowstorms, and coming home from a short vacation to my basement flooded because of a burst pipe (caused by my boiler not working, so add to the cleanup efforts that my house has a lack of heat).  Looking back, I wouldn’t give my performance anything better than a B-minus, but I realize the one thing that kept me from utterly failing was my ability to be the river.

I work in technology, so the “stream” metaphor can start to grate on me and get old quickly, but I’m not talking about social streams, streaming media, or buffer streams, I’m talking about an actual river.  Flowing water which has a source, a path, and a destination.  What is amazing about water – and rivers in particular – is that they unmistakable despite being extremely dangerous in some areas and completely still in others.

If a river runs into something that stops it’s progress, it simply slows down and becomes calm.  It enjoys the break, while slowly working away at the tiniest of cracks until it can break through the obstacle.  It never gets frustrated, angry, it just remains calm and looks for the path of least resistance around the obstacle.  When the land is steep, the river rages quickly to get to the bottom, splashing, zigging, and zagging around rocks and other little obstacles letting almost nothing get in it’s way.

When times got crazy – like coming home and finding a burst pipe – the only thing that mattered was getting the cause found, the water shut off, then begin the emergency cleanup.  Like the raging river, I kept moving and getting things done.

As the week went on, and things calmed down, I started to look back and think back to this river metaphor.  I realize that it fits my philosophy on learning, education, programming, life, etc.  “Go with the flow,” some may say.  It also has become a great way for me to shrug off stress.  Not to say specific moments aren’t stressful, but, I can recognize that stress as a signal that this is time where the river will be fierce and full of rapids, and I need to change my priorities and work through this part as quickly and safely as possible until things calm down.  By doing this, when things do calm down, I don’t need to hold any of that stress.

I pushed myself to see if this metaphor held through with programming and it seemed to also hold true.  There are times where I can write 100+ lines of code in a day, and knock out tons of features.  Much of it has to do with the difficulty.  Not all programming problems are the same, just as math problems have different levels of difficulty.  But, sometimes I get stuck on a single line of code (or small bit of functionality) that will take me hours, sometimes days to complete.

So, next time things get crazy, remember that it is OK.  Speed your way through, be the river, and know that calm is ahead.  When things are calm, enjoy the peace.

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