Juha-Matti Santala
Community Builder. Dreamer. Adventurer.

A few core memories

This blog post is my participation in this month’s Indie Web Carnival. It’s also my first time participating as I learned about the whole thing at the end of 2023. This month’s carnival is hosted by https://foreverliketh.is/ who chose positive internalization as this month’s theme:

Your entry for this month’s carnival will have you intentionally seek out positive memories. Memories that remind you of the good parts of yourself; the facets of your being that you want to see more of, that you wish to nurture and grow. By reliving them and seeing yourself in that positive light, you help to internalize a healthier, and more accurate, self-perception.

It’s important to note that effective internalization is about emotions. It’s not enough to think that your memory is positive, it has to FEEL positive. If you sincerely want the benefits, then this is not something you can “logic” your way out of. Don’t listen to your brain, listen to your heart.

Not an easy task for me

When I read the introduction post the first time, I felt this was an interesting topic. And don’t get me wrong, it absolutely is. But it’s hard. I had to really really think and dig deep to find "Memories that remind you of the good parts of yourself. That maybe tells a lot about me. And even harder was writing about those things openly.

I have no trouble writing about the negative parts and the struggles. My mental health, difficulty in finding my place and all that. But to write about “the good parts of myself”, yikes. To do that means I have to claim I’m good at something or that there are good parts of me.

I have a lot of good memories but I don’t associate any of them with myself but rather they were good memories because of other people.

Last summer, I went through a decade worth of photos, covering most of my adult life and I did find some positive moments there.

A core memory #1: my first talk in PyCon CZ stage

One of my dearest memories from the recent times is from June of 2019 when I got an opportunity to travel to Ostrava, Czechia to speak in PyCon CZ. I had just gotten my first Developer Advocate position in my then-current job and this talk was my first international conference talk.

Juhis on a stage taking a selfie with a few hundred people audience in the background. Everyone in the picture are hugging the air.

The talk, titled I teach, therefore I learn, went well. It was hot as heck though. The temperature in the conference hall pictured above was around 30C and the only company swag I had with me was a hoodie so I put it on for the talk and after 30 minutes on the stage was sweating so much.

The presentation culminated in a Friday Hug from the stage and I love this picture so much. There are many people in that picture who still, in 2023, are a part of my life in a very positive way. Every time I get to visit Czechia, I feel so warm and welcomed by all my old and future friends I meet there.

And this talk was the kick off to my new career in developer relations and it launched my journey as a public speaker.

A core memory #2: hitchhiking around the country

I’m normally a very shy, reserved and introverted guy. It takes a lot for me to spark a discussion with a stranger.

But a wonderful thing happens when I get a backpack on my back and I’m out for an adventure. I become a wholly different person. Around 2009-2010, I spent a couple of summers traveling around Finland, hitchhiking my way between cities.

The summer of 2009 was the main trip. I took a train to the northern part of Finland for an university exam and spent 3 weeks traveling back south (via the eastern boarder and southern highways) by only travelling by hitchhiking and staying with friends.

The longest waits were around few hours and I once encountered a bear but luckily it didn’t see me. I was so scared though. Mind you, this was the time before smart phones or anything like that so I didn’t have access to any maps or social media channels during the trip.

One thing I absolutely loved about those trips was meeting new people I would otherwise never meet and hear their stories. At best (or worst, depending on how you look at it), I spent 12-14 hours per day to travel distances that otherwise would have taken 3-4 hours. I saw parts of the country I had never seen before and will never see again.

There’s something incredibly freeing about hitchhiking. It’s so random and you’re at the complete mercy of other people’s hospitality that you can’t make any real plans for your trip. You’ll end up somewhere and it might be where you were heading or it might be watching NHL Stanley Cup finals in the middle of the night in a living room of someone you met at a bar in a city you’ve never been before because that’s where your night ended and you didn’t have a plan forward.

I guess that’s why I loved doing it back then. Normally I’m very organized and an over-thinker but when you’re on the road depending on the kindness of others, you can’t be any of that. You just gotta take what’s coming and improvise and figure stuff out.

I was extremely lucky that I never ran into any problems. The near bear encounter was the closest one to anything negative - otherwise every encounter with people was so nice.

I feel like during those days of me travelling, I was the kind of person I’d like to be every day. More open, more social, more excited about stuff, more positive. I love the Traveller Me.

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