One of the more common day-to-day struggles of my life, as someone who is both autistic and invisibly disabled, involves coping with my very tiny pool of executive function. This is a fancy phrase to describe a mundane problem: I find it extremely hard to do things.
In order to continue surviving, let alone actually having any kind of life, I've needed to learn how to deal with this. Fortunately, even though "accomplishing things" is often a struggle for me, thinking about things is a skill I essentially cannot turn off. So, true to form, I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to cope with not being able to do things. This is a collection of some of those thoughts.
In the textbook sense, executive function pertains to things like breaking down problems into steps, making plans, prioritization, and remembering goals. But I usually don't experience my struggles so abstractly.
To me, there is a consistent sensation to when my executive function is gone. When I'm having trouble with these things, I have an emotional surge, a feeling of being stuck or lost, while the "task" I'm trying to finish feels like it has spiraled out of control. Executive function is often considered to be a "cognitive" thing - i.e. something that goes on in our brains; I notice mine has gone off the rails when my heart begins to protest that something is going wrong.
This can affect literally anything I try to do, from the tiny and inconsequential, to figuring out how to do things that literally require multiple years of effort. Sometimes I simply cannot figure out how to get out of bed in the morning; no matter how many times I've done so before, it's like my capacity to just do the thing has utterly vanished.
It can also affect things like making sure I'm staying fed and hydrated. There are moments where I literally cannot figure out how to eat, because it has been too long since I've eaten anything - a very real and very terrifying thing to face alone.
I cannot overemphasize the panic, anxiety, and distress of trying to do something when I literally cannot do the thing. I've lost count of the number of times in my life when I have become so overwhelmed by trying to "push through" these moments - big or small - that I've literally made myself sick and collapsed in exhaustion. Sometimes that has meant falling asleep on the floor for a few hours. Sometimes it's turned into years-long health issues.
Needless to say, figuring out how to handle this "executive function" stuff has been a massively important theme of my own personal healing and growth in recent years.
For some of the smaller challenges, I've learned to avoid the collapse with some relatively basic things. They still sound kind of trite to me, even though I've witnessed them working for me quite well - and with increasing frequency and reliability - in the past couple of years. But I want to share them anyways, because they really do make a difference, no matter how much I feel like I've been taught my whole life that things just don't work that way.
The Small Stuff
I define "small" here as "a thing that can be reasonably resolved in less than a couple of hours." Some things in life just can't get taken care of without many hours, days, or weeks of effort; I'll get to those later.
The small things add up, though, and I've personally found that if I don't have a smooth way to deal with the small stuff (or even the "tiny" stuff - that only takes a minute or two), the minor stresses add up and disrupt everything else in my life. I think of it kind of like sitting on a fist-sized rock: maybe we can ignore the discomfort for a little while, but if we need to endure that obnoxious "little" thing for hours or days or years on end, it can really start to mess with us.
So I don't ignore "small" things just because they don't seem "big" - often, they're the most important place to start. Cleaning up lots of tiny obstacles can free up a shocking amount of energy for bigger things.
Some things I simply can't negotiate around. I have a very rapid metabolism, and if I don't maintain my intake carefully, I will fall apart very quickly. Unfortunately, I also have minimal interoception, which means I can't actually tell if I'm hungry until after I've basically already collapsed. I have more experiences than I care to count where I've found myself mystified by why I'm so exhausted, moody, and weak - only to realize it's simply been too long since my last meal.
To deal with these things, I've learned to just make habits. I eat five times a day, whether I feel hungry or not. Usually, just a couple of bites are enough to help me figure out how much to eat (and what - I am a huge proponent of intuitive eating). Sometimes I don't eat more than just those bites, but the check-in is still a thing I consider important, and I do not neglect the habit if at all possible. It's a small price to pay - and I remind myself of that every time it seems annoying, by thinking of all the times I've saved myself a nasty collapse by remembering to eat.
However, I've also found that not all "executive function" issues - like staying fed - are amenable to rigid solutions. In fact, a very large part of my ability to deal with "small" executive function stress comes down to just being stubbornly flexible. In other words, whenever I possibly can, I leave myself room to just… not do the thing.
Basic bodily needs I do not compromise on. Everything else? It gets done when it gets done.
The more staunchly I've protected this capacity, for myself, the better my quality of life has become. I refuse to get tangled up with people who cannot respect that I am almost never able to predict when I'll do a thing. I am not predictable, but I am very reliable - the results will come, and they'll be good, but I have to be given a chance (and time) to do them my way.
Over time, by carefully nurturing my ability to trust myself, I've been able to learn to trust that I will, in fact, get the thing done. Eventually. The right mix of ingredients will align, and I'll overcome the executive function limits and lack of spoons or whatever else is in the way, and stuff gets handled. But it's still often scary, and my anxiety likes to try to gobble up a lot of time and energy worrying that maybe the thing won't get done at all. Soothing and calming that anxiety remains an ongoing challenge for me, but it is getting profoundly easier with practice.
Another area I find difficult is pressure. As soon as something feels like I "have to" do it, it becomes dramatically harder. (This is a fairly common autistic thing; I don't experience it to an extreme, personally, but there is an entire neurotype where this "autonomy drive" is so powerful that people can actually completely lose executive function and energy when faced with obligations and demands - even if they come from within!)
To get around this, I never make myself deadlines. I try very hard not to make "promises" or "commitments" to myself about things I want to do in the future, because the sense of pressure can actually backfire severely for me.
Instead, I prefer to reinforce things that are already happening: if I find myself starting to poke at a thing that I know I need to do, it's like I go into full-on cheerleader mode in my head. The result is that I wind up feeling good about the things I'm doing anyways, instead of losing time and energy feeling bad about the stuff I'm not doing.
There will always be an infinite number of things in the universe that I am not doing at any given moment. I can get lost in that list very, very easily; so whenever I feel like I'm not doing enough, I try to redirect my focus to what is instead of what isn't.
All of these things are helpful for minor day-to-day tasks and necessities. They work best for tasks that don't require anyone else to be involved, or where flexibility from others is easy to get. But when things get larger, need more time, involve more people… it can get rough.
The Big Stuff
Anything that takes more than a day can feel "big" to me, given that I live with a very small supply of spoons. Unfortunately, most things wind up in this category, beyond merely existing from one day into the next. I've had to learn a lot of skills for dealing with such challenges.
I've been able to identify three major ways where I can end up feeling lost or stuck, in larger efforts. Sometimes, more than one - or even all - of these will happen at the same time, which makes it even trickier. Each one takes slightly different things for me to resolve.
The goal I started with keeps changing and evolving. Eventually, I'm not even sure what I'm trying to do anymore, or why. This gets very demoralizing and exhausting for me quickly. I'm not even sure what "success" means.
I know the goal, but only vaguely or in a very abstract way. Trying to get there involves a bunch of details, and the details themselves feel like they are overwhelming. Just getting "the next step" done doesn't feel like it can possibly result in getting to the goal itself. This is also demoralizing and exhausting, because success feels out of reach.
The goal makes sense to me, but no matter how much I try to think about the path "from here to there," I can't quite seem to find a route. I look at what I know I can do, and what I want to do, but they just don't meet in the middle. This variant actually usually feels frustrating to me, because I have this sort of stubborn intuitive sense that I can get to what I want, but I can't figure out how.
When I feel stuck on something, I generally tend to tackle these possible sticking-points in order. Even if one layer isn't the direct problem right now, I've found that I can regain momentum more easily by reconnecting to what already feels solid. By building up my confidence in the first layers, I often find it possible to have a breakthrough that helps me move forward solving the later ones.
Ultimately, what I'm looking for - when I feel stuck or lost - is a sense of clarity and motivation. And touching on a principle I am very fond of, all things grow outward from what is already healthy and alive - so in order to grow my clarity and motivation, I have to find what's there, and reinforce it… no matter how small the scraps feel at the time.
One of my personal brain quirks is that I genuinely cannot engage with things without knowing why. If I don't have at least a basic concept of the motivation behind a goal, or a task, or a rule, or whatever, I probably won't even remember that it is there.
This got me into a lot of trouble in formal educational systems, and also in the corporate world. Turns out many people, especially people with authority, really get quite offended by questions like "why are we doing this?"
I really disliked math for many years, because it was always given to me as a list of things to memorize - "just follow the rules." Trying to recall things like this literally caused me physical pain and distress as a kid. Once I discovered that there was a system behind it - actual reasons for why things were done - I fell in love with mathematics in a way that has lasted well into my adulthood. (Yes, I'm one of those people who uses my calculus skills literally every day, and not because I need to for the things I do - I just like the way of thinking.)
So when I have a thing I need to do, and it's taking several days (or months), losing track of the why is incredibly damaging for me.
For things I choose to do, like write essays or develop radical new computer programming paradigms, I don't really have to do much to remember my "why." The reasons - the context - are almost always emotional for me. Everything I write has an emotional context and motivation, as does all the music I play, the code I create, and the things I draw.
This is an important distinction for me personally, because executive function is a brain thing. Emotions are a heart thing. When my brain feels stuck or lost on getting something done, I can use my feelings to get back on track.
Touching back in with my emotional context is my number one tool for getting unstuck on a task that takes a long time. Just getting back in touch with the feeling that prompted me to do something is often enough to redirect my brain towards what to do next.
Often, taking this step back to "why" also helps me realize where I might just need to try something slightly different in order to keep making progress - or even allows me to accept adjusting the goal itself based on what I've learned and experienced along the way. As long as I'm still moving towards the reason for the goal or project, it's easier to handle the details of the project evolving.
Sometimes, though, just getting the feeling back isn't enough. Maybe I still really care about the goal, but I can't quite find the energy to keep pushing. At this point, I draw on one of my other skills from smaller-scale things: it gets done when it gets done.
I find it easier to trust that I will, eventually, come back to working on my goal, because I know the goal still matters to me. It helps me give myself permission to rest, and maybe just go do other stuff, until I can make more progress.
This anti-pacing strategy can get tricky when I have externally-imposed pressures and expectations. If I'm only doing a thing because someone else wanted me to do it, or if they want a result in a specific amount of time, it can be very hard to get back to the "context of why," and it may not even really be an option to say "I'll do it when I do it." (I have literally been threatened with things like eviction and getting fired for trying that stance.)
In such cases, I might try to find a slightly more abstract motivation that helps me invent a context that works for me. For example, if I care about the person who asked me to do the thing, I can remind myself to do it for the sake of our relationship, and so on.
Whenever possible, I try to handle things like bills using automatic payments (I've been known to intentionally pay more for a thing because I can do it automatically instead of having to remember every month). For externally-imposed deadlines, I tend to just stretch my time estimates a lot, to make sure I have room to deal with my own unpredictable timings. As a made up example, I can't guarantee I'll do the thing this week, but I can be fairly sure it won't take more than three weeks, so that's the estimate I try to give, whenever I can.
Removing these pressures, as much as I can, gives me the flexibility I need to rest and recover or just plain do other things until I'm able to come back to the goal itself. It is sometimes very hard for me to insist on these things for myself, but every time I can do it, it makes life a lot better for me.
In the worst case scenario, I just give myself extra time to heal up after the goal is done, because I know a collapse is very likely. I do my absolute best to avoid this situation, but I also know I can get out the other side if it does happen. I go to great lengths to not open myself up to the risk of more than one or two of these things going on in my life at once, so I always have room for recovery.
If I find that someone is moving the goalposts on me, and does not immediately stop doing that when I confront the issue, I make immediate steps to never interact with them again. This may sound harsh (and I certainly struggled to do it for a long time) but I've found, over and over again, that if I do not take a hard stance on this, I just end up getting jerked around, exploited, and used - and I also end up being the one who pays for it in my overall wellbeing.
Drowning in the Details
Even when I know what I'm trying to do - and why - I often find myself surprised and overwhelmed by the sheer efforted needed to get it done. At first, the excitement and motivation about the goal can be enough to generate a lot of energy. I might throw a ton of effort at The Thing for a while. But sooner or later, the details of how big the thing is start to feel like too much.
Something I've learned over the years is that this is almost inevitable, in anything that takes more than a few days. Once the shininess wears off, keeping the momentum can be extremely hard, even if I emotionally still want the results - I just don't want to keep doing the tedium of making them happen.
A key realization, for me, is that this happens even when I know ahead of time that the task itself may take weeks or years! I have enough energy to get excited about it and start working, even knowing that it will take a long time. So why does that stop being "enough" to motivate me after a while? Why do I always end up in this spot where I knew it would take a while but it's still taking too long?
I struggled for many years in my life with this pattern. I felt like I was a failure, that I had a "problem" with serial flash-in-the-pan interests, that I was constantly taking on stuff to do and then giving up too soon. I felt like I couldn't ever "follow through" and most of the things I got excited about ended up abandoned and neglected only a fraction of the way to completion.
It wasn't until I learned that there is more than one way to be motivated that I realized that I'm not broken at all; I just don't do things the way the society around me thinks I should. Instead of pushing through a thing until it's done, I have very short "bursts" of interest and motivation; and if I can trust myself to just swap between interesting things, do them until they stop being interesting, and come back later… I actually get a huge range of stuff done!
Part of this comes down to just resting. Sometimes I truly just need to step away from a project for a bit before I can do more on it. But that doesn't always fix it, and it isn't always even a viable option.
The thing that really drove all this home for me actually started in early 2019. I had begun to confront something I knew about myself - and had known my entire life, but buried deep inside for my own safety and protection from hate and bigotry. I knew then that, sooner or later, I'd need to reveal the truth about myself to the world around me - and that coming out as trans would set off a cascade of an incredible number of things I had to get done.
Being out as a trans person meant I had to deal with literally thousands of changes - some big and some small. Each one was a stressful project by itself. As I tried to grapple with the intense pile of executive-function stresses, in the summer of 2019, it seemed like it would never be possible to get it all done.
I knew the why - I couldn't keep running from the truth about myself anymore, nor did I want to. But for years, the actual details felt incomprehensibly overwhelming. Even today, four years later, there's still stuff on that "to do list" that I haven't finished.
I couldn't avoid all that work, but I couldn't get it done in a finite, predictable amount of time either. I needed a way to resolve being lost in the details.
Some days, it felt like I had to run a marathon just to check off one thing on the giant list of tasks - one tiny, almost insignificant detail I had to change in the process of rebuilding my entire world. And as soon as that marathon was over, instead of being able to stop and celebrate, I would just realize that that marathon was actually just a single stride in a larger, nested marathon. And once the bigger marathon was over, it would dissolve into an even bigger one.
I nicknamed this recursive marathons-within-marathons experience "the fractathlon" - a sort of fractal, infinite gauntlet of doing incredibly hard things, just so I could realize there was an endless-feeling sequence of other things still to come.
I liked the math pun, and I also liked the way it reminded me of the infamous paradoxes of Zeno of Elea. Zeno described getting halfway to a goal, and then going half of the remaining distance, and then half of that, and so on; on one level, and indeed to the minds of the mathematicians of his day, this seemed like it could never possibly add up to getting to the destination at all.
My heart certainly felt like I'd never get out of the endless fractathlon of details.
And yet, we get to our physical destinations all the time, Zeno be damned; just as integral calculus gave mathematicians a way to dispel his paradoxes, the "fractathlon" concept reminded me that the changes do actually add up to progress, and completion can actually happen, even if we think the details are too small to matter.
It took time, and practice - and no small amount of stress, anxiety, and exhaustion, along with a hefty dose of the "error" portion of "trial and error." But I learned how to deal with it all.
After that experience, I've found it much easier to deal with getting lost in the details of other things I want to do with my life.
Sometimes I do have to take a step back, though, and realize that maybe the details I'm focusing on aren't important - or maybe aren't important right now. Otherwise it actually is easy for me to get bogged down chasing things that don't matter, burning energy and time that won't actually help get to the goal.
In those moments, I find it incredibly useful to stop for a bit, and go back to the why. Getting back in touch with the context helps me understand what details are worth ignoring entirely, where I can take something that's not perfect and accept it as good enough, and where I'm actually just… plowing ahead on getting the whole thing done, even though it feels tedious.
I also have a habit of tracking progress in various ways. I don't like dry-erase boards for my tasks. Instead, I like to keep permanent records of what I've done. When I'm finished with a thing, I don't obliterate the reminder of the work - I enshrine it.
Sometimes, when I write long essays, I'll put specific ideas and even sentences onto physical sticky notes. I use them to remind me what I want to say. I do similar things with all of my big projects - including my "fractathlon" of rebuilding my life to be authentic to my trans self. I even use a mood tracking app on my phone to track the things I do during the day - which was actually one of the things I did to help survive the worst of 2019 and 2020's turmoil and stress in my personal life.
Even if it doesn't seem immediately useful, I like to regularly take time to make records of what I've been doing, big and small. I keep those records in special places where I know I can find them easily. Instead of "deadlines" that create pressure for me to get stuff done by a certain date or time, I try to create "lifelines" - notes from every day, or even every few hours, that remind me that I am, after all, still moving forward… in one way or another.
When I feel like I'm not getting enough done, or like a goal is taking too long, I go back and look at my historical artifacts.
And almost every time, I find a profound reminder that I feel way less effective than I really am. I find proof that I'm still moving forward, in the form of a dozen different activities in my mood tracker, on days when I felt like I just sat around all day; of a dozen sticky notes in a tidy pile, that became a 10,000 word essay, weeks after I scribbled down the first note's idea; lists of changes, highlighted in green, memories of the thousands of things I've done to recreate my own world to fit who I truly am.
What felt like infinite, inescapable futility and exhaustion suddenly feels like the opposite. It makes sense to me why I'm tired, why I'm feeling overwhelmed - not because of what's left, but because I've used so much energy getting all this stuff done. And it helps me give myself permission to just rest until I have energy to put a few more things on that ever-growing pile of shit I've accomplished.
The Unreachable Destination
I've talked about how I deal with losing track of what I'm trying to do, as well as how I deal with feeling like the effort itself is just too large. But there's a third category of "lost and stuck" that also happens - and it is often the hardest one for me to handle.
It's the sensation of "I really want to get there, but I just can't see how."
It's when I feel like no matter how many ways I try to combine the resources and skills I've got available to me, they just don't ever quite add up to the result I want.
Sometimes, I get a similar feeling, and I realize that I should just set the goal aside; but that's not what I'm talking about here. To me, realizing I can't do the thing at all is very easy to accept: if my goal is to fly like a bird, I can very quickly realize that it ain't going to happen, and let go of the goal itself.
Where things get sticky is when I really want the goal, and I feel somehow like I should be able to get there… but it still seems impossible. Letting go isn't an option (I am far too headstrong for that shit anyways!) but trying to continue doesn't seem feasible.
Part of what makes this tricky for me is that it often gets worse if I spend too much time looking at my motivation (the feeling that "I should be able to get there" just gets more intense) or even at my list of accomplishments (because that just deepens the despair - even with "all this" under my belt, I can't see it adding up to the result I'm going for).
At this point, my best response is actually just to quit using my brain about it.
This is where I have to remind myself to not think about it. When I get into this particular flavor of lost-and-stuck, no amount of cognitive effort is going to fix it. The problem is that, in order to see the way forward, I need executive function… but I'm out of executive function!
For these situations, the most important thing I can do is just walk away for a while. The nice thing is, this experience usually comes with a lot of energy - of feeling frustrated, locked in place, maybe even stymied. So instead of just sitting still and trying to forget about the thing I care about, I move that energy someplace else.
This has a couple of useful effects. First, it helps me get my mind off the first thing and engage with something, without just stewing in the stuck-feeling. If I lean into the alternative task hard enough, I'll get tired, and then rest; and this helps me recover some executive function. I might go take a vigorous walk, and then a nap, and find that I no longer am feeling stuck, and can gladly just do other things until a different day; after all, it gets done when it gets done.
In short term cases, this can help, but it's rare for me to get unstuck from a really bad case by just changing gears for a day or two. For really bad cases of lost-and-stuck, maybe I just pick up a different project or hobby for a while, until I come back to the original project a few weeks later.
This requires a lot of patience and trust with myself, and to be completely honest, it's still not always easy for me. I spent a lot of years completely freaked out by this notion, believing that if I set something down, I would never pick it up again, and that would make me a failure. I've had to gently work on proving that wrong, so I can build up the confidence to just walk away from things for now when I need time to get unstuck.
The benefit of doing other things for a while is that I often end up finding something that helps me get unstuck when I do go back to the project I was stuck on. Sometimes it's just an idea or a bit of inspiration I get, from something unrelated. Sometimes, if I wait long enough, I learn entire new skills before going back to the original project… and suddenly I find that those new skills make it really easy to get unstuck.
A lot of this only works for smaller-scale "gaps" though. After all, I got stuck because I was staring at the "empty space" between "where I can reach" and "where I want to get." Depending on how big the empty space seems to be, just taking breaks - even for months, and learning multiple things in that time - can't quite add up to enough to cover the distance.
For this, I do a slightly tricky two-part process. First, I take the break anyways. If I find that I can't get the "gap" out of my head - because I care too much, or there's pressure to make progress, or whatever - I stubbornly ignore the gap for a while. I make myself try to pay attention to other things, even if it's just reading a book or watching shows.
Eventually, this gives my brain enough of a break to recover some executive function. At that point, if I can't let go for longer, I make myself a deal.
Once I can think strategically, even a tiny bit, I like to try to split the empty space in half. Maybe I can't get all the way to the goal itself, but perhaps I can think of something that's still progress.
Even if that "progress" is very limited, or abstract, I try to write it down. I make a note of what I thought of and keep it safe. I remind myself that having a tiny bit of a plan, even if it's just one step, counts as progress. This means that, by inventing a "mid way" goal, I've made progress. I can then allow myself to take a bigger break.
If I find that I'm still feeling stuck when I come back to the project, I just do this process again - except instead of trying to find my way to the end goal, I split the distance to my invented part-way goal.
After a few times of doing this, I find myself basically inventing what feels like a "tiny fractathlon" - lots of small, mostly arbitrary objectives that will eventually move towards what I want… even if they don't get me there directly.
I am, after all, comfortable with fractathlons nowadays.
Even if the made-up goals don't seem like they would help me reach my destination at all, I remind myself that they will keep me moving. As long as I keep moving, I'll learn something along the way, that will help me get unstuck and move more directly towards my original goal.
This is how I turn the empty expanse of "I can't get there" into familiar territory. The larger problem melts into things I know I can solve, and I can draw on my experience, my records of things that prove I can handle the challenges, and rebuild my confidence.
From there, I can rebuild clarity about what I'm doing and where I'm going. I can start to recognize similarities between this challenge and times, in the past, when I've found unexpected solutions and progress, even when I least expected it. And as I remember how many times I've gotten stuff done before, I can reclaim my energy and motivation to keep going.
This Entire Blog is an Actual Example of All This
I started writing this particular piece in response to a conversation I was having with a very good friend of mine, who felt stuck in a project of her own. As I thought about how I wanted to help her get unstuck, I realized I actually have a lot of thought put into this subject, and I actually know a fair number of people who might be interested in how I handle these things.
If I had started out by saying "I'm going to spend four hours writing a 6300 word essay about executive function" this never would have happened. The pressure and timetable would have immediately shut down my executive function and I would have felt stressed and anxious all afternoon… and probably not written anything. I may have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what to say in the first place.
But I wanted to help my friend, and maybe some other people, too; and this helped me focus on what to say, and how to say it. I knew my goals.
There were several moments when I felt this was spiraling out of control. After all, it started as a few texts back and forth with a friend; I could have answered her questions in a half-dozen sentences. I managed to write 6300 words in one sitting, without getting overwhelmed or lost in the details of the things I wanted to share. I kept typing instead of giving up and trying to be brief, or removing sections. I can do this because I know what it feels like to make tiny progress, and watch it add up: one phrase, one sentence, one section at a time, periodically checking with my emotional context to keep it all on track and avoid getting lost in side-stories.
I don't know if this entry will help my friend get unstuck herself. I am not sure if it answers her questions, or offers ideas she hasn't already had. But instead of getting hung up on worrying about whether or not to write all this out, I chose to do it anyways - because if nothing else, it helps me get my ideas out of my head, and we can talk about it later. Even if this essay doesn't directly help her get unstuck, it helps the two of us work together to make that happen.
But even this entry isn't alone, in representing my stories of dealing with feeling lost and stuck. I started Starship Gender with a journal entry in April of 2019, which I wrote to remind myself of who I am and why I was committing to the years of struggle ahead of me, in actualizing my own real identity and life. And I've kept adding to it, sometimes in rivers, sometimes in barely a trickle, for almost four entire years now.
I learned how to survive - and even enjoy - the fractathlon experience, in the time I've been writing this blog.
When I set out on my newest chapter of life, to explore Disability-Driven Development, I did it again: writing a piece that would help me keep track of why, so in all the moments when the task of changing the entire world of digital technology seems a bit too big (ha!), I can remember what got me interested in the first place.
And I continue to add to the blog posts here, over time - each one meaningful to me in its own way, and each one adding yet another chunk of data that I will someday look back on, to remind myself that, even if, right now, I feel stuck or lost.… I can, in fact, get shit done.