celebrating a milestone in Madrid
I’m writing this on my phone because my laptop has forsaken me. My previously indestructible machine chose an otherwise unspectacular evening to kick the bucket. One minute, I was watching a YouTube video, the next I was performing CPR, repeatedly pressing Touch ID, hoping my Mac would breathe again.
Writing on a phone feels off. Maybe it’s the Millennial in me that thinks every important document needs to be opened on a laptop. There’s no feedback from the buttons. The screen’s too tiny. It’s too hard to add hyperlinks. Formatting is a pain. And I can’t leave my distracting phone in the other room…if I’m writing on my phone.
I weaved through sleet and sun on the packed streets of Madrid as I carried my ghost Mac to the Apple Store in Puerta Del Sol. Inside, Swedish Filip tried to resuscitate my companion and when he failed, pronounced my laptop “worthless to us”. Ouch.
Sure, it’s a little annoying that I had AppleCare+ on my phone but somehow not on my laptop. Of course, it’s the unprotected device that breaks down.
Yes, it’s frustrating that this perfectly working machine went from thriving to worthless in a few hours without incident. I had noticed a small suspicious crack but heard no fall, then tried to update to OS Ventura. My Mac didn’t like that idea and refused to wake up.
It’s pretty wild that I have to wait ten to fourteen days to get a MacBook Air with an English keyboard. For a moment, I considered the Spanish one but the colon and enter keys were in all the wrong places for my brain. The ñ key would be cute but off putting.
But in the grand scheme of things, I’m incredibly fortunate that this is a solvable problem. Last week, my friend visiting from Paris lost her passport and seemed to become even more bubbly after the fact. So much so that I thought she was joking about it being lost.
“What can you do? C’est la vie”
She’s right. For two euros, I bought a chocolate cannoli for my pain and ordered a new laptop. She got an emergency passport and rebooked a flight. After two successive three minute rants into the void, life proceeded to go on.
When I left my job in November, I made a deal with myself. I wanted to write more consistently but wasn’t sure how often to publish. Feeling burned out, the last thing I wanted was a personal OKR breathing heavily and stepping on my neck. I settled for a reasonable and challenging number: I’d publish ten good essays. For context, I had published maybe ten essays over the previous eighteen months. Maybe one or two I considered good. Several that I now cringe at. So ten good essays wouldn’t be easy. I didn’t set a deadline.
To my surprise, the writing gods have found favor upon me. Dousing me with sprinkles of that special sauce all word alchemists need. Rough tidbits of essay ideas break in uninvited and nestle themselves in my head, sometimes wrecking my sleep or showers. When I think I have time to detach and relax, the subconscious laughs at me and plants little nuggets of ideas. “What if you wrote about X?” “Really dude? Last night, I was begging you to come clutch and you were absent. Now, you want to be all creative?” I’m forced to scribble in Apple Notes fearing that this idea would never return. Luckily, my fingers have obliged, finding the rhythm and cadence to distill those crude thoughts into refined essays that you seem to enjoy.
Last week, I published the tenth good essay. To celebrate the milestone, I’m braising a pound of Iberian carrillada tomorrow. The plan is to whip up a fiercely fragrant, aromatic base that teases and oppresses the neighbors. I want the walls to taste like an umami bomb. The whole house enveloped in a warm, seductive aroma. Passers-by should consider risking it all for a taste. Red wine lending its soul to the pot. Strands of collagen slowly broken down into buttery, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. A sauce so divine you proudly lose your dignity to lick the plate.
Since we haven’t figured out how to send food over the internet, I’m leaving you with a recap of those ten good essays. Especially for those of you who subscribed recently:
Unshackling myself from golden handcuffs: how I managed to leave my high paying job for a sabbatical despite the sweet, tempting appeal of promotions, bonuses and stocks.
I found out my friend died on my Instagram: a deeply raw and tender story about tragically losing a dear friend. Took me a year to write this.
So you’re a writer now: figuring out a new reply to “what do you do?” now that I’m no longer a practicing engineer. Dealing with the weight of the writer label.
The stories we tell ourselves about work: announcing the sabbatical and asking why most of my friends are unfulfilled at work
Permission to wander: a call for us to release the tight grip on life and introduce more wander and exploration in our lives
Wandering the grey: rebranding my newsletter from tech ethics to a “vulnerably unpacking stories in life, work and play”
Sober sabbatical: scene one, take one: a reflection on my sabbatical at the one month mark.
231 readers and counting: celebrating having enough readers to fit a small, packed theatre. We’re at 315 now and I’m grateful for all of you.
The stories that hold us back: how self-doubt and limiting beliefs stop us from doing new things
A love letter to the beautiful game: explaining my lifelong obsession to football (soccer, if you must)
Dear reader, which essay(s) resonated with you the most? Please tell me in the comments. This will help me figure out what to write about in the future!