Umbrella for a Rainy Day

A while ago, my friend Andrew and I were talking about how you fend off against unfair feedback that really gets under your skin or words that makes you feel like maybe you don’t know what the hell you are doing or why any of it matters. I mentioned to him that I have a rainy day folder. Andrew thought it was a good idea worth sharing, so I’m finally making the time to do that.

I've had this folder for years, though I don’t remember who exactly gave me the idea to start one. Generally, the idea is that sometimes we let the negative words stick a lot harder than the positive ones and that attitude can be unhealthy. It's good to remind yourself of the positive triumphs that you might not remember as strongly as a negative experience.

Inside, there are thank you notes from students for helping to send them to conferences, giving pep talks, or doing mock interviews. I have messages from people that I’ve worked with that I helped solve a conflict, get a job, or a find a new way to approach a problem. It’s not all tech-related: I have notes from past mentors or teachers as well.

This is what the folder looks like. It's from an old art class.

Because it’s 2018, there is a digital folder, too. I don’t actually print emails or notes to have them in the physical folder. There’s a Google Drive folder that has mostly nice emails and thank-yous I get at work for going above and beyond. It’s especially nice to have that at my fingertips when I’m not near the physical folder.

I’ve talked about being grateful and giving recognition before, and a big reason I advocate for it is because I run on it, too. While I would love to say that I require absolutely no external validation, it’s simply not true. I appreciate gratitude as much as the next person, and it’s nice to have evidence that what I do matters to someone other than me for days where I might not believe that.

So when someone- I don’t know- writes a memo that says women are “naturally” less qualified for tech or wants to imply I was hired to fill a mythical quota, the folder becomes my umbrella for a rainy day, a small defense to not let me slip into believing the people saying terrible and untrue things.

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