“My home office has a full refrigerator, no commute, and a loving dog, yet this place has all of you.” — Pause 2022 attendee

A few weeks ago, I spent time in the North Georgia mountains with over a hundred daring developers and intrepid techies at the tenth annual PauseOnError conference. Brave because the event takes place outdoors in mid-October at a high enough elevation for nights to grow cold and rainy days, some years, to soak clothes through and through. Boundary pushing because it’s not what people expect from a tech event.

This year the sun shone on participants from more than 68 cities across six countries, representing big and small companies alike.

The name PauseOnError comes from a developers’ debugging option in Claris Pro (FileMaker) that pauses when a script runs into an error. Our busy lives follow that same pattern. Better to take a moment (or four days) to pause before f*ing something upperhaps our code, or more likely our health, perspective, and maybe patience with our kids. And if we’re going to pause, let’s make it last.

In 1929, Coca-Cola marketed its new soft drink as, “The Pause that Refreshes.” I prefer time in the woods, amid trees changing colors, people catching up with old friends, and strangers discovering a mutual love for creating systems that can track a violin company’s inventory, a cabinet maker’s special requests, or a university’s students and their grades. I bathed in the conversations and felt a new, more grounded pace echo through the hills. This Pause was less a conference and more a revelatory retreat.

The Buddhist monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh, captured the feeling in his book Being Peace: “We do so much, we run so quickly, the situation is difficult, and many people say, ‘Don’t just sit there, do something.’ But doing more things may make the situation worse. So you should say, ‘Don’t just do something, sit there.’ Sit there, stop, be yourself first, and begin from there.”

From an opening meet-n-greet to late-night bonfires and sing-alongs, we were encouraged to choose our own adventure, so we did. We were amongst people who believe in the power of doing things differently and consistently taught us we’re never alone.

In the closing session, huddled together in a wide open amphitheater, we were reminded that we brought our whole selves to Pause, shared our hearts with others, and would head home reenergized. We reflected on how precious time together feels now, in a world we all saw shut down, and know we’ll never take togetherness for granted again.

At Pause, where the birds cooed, and the trees transformed before us, my head cleared and my mind remembered it could saunter. I found a new peace the inside world doesn’t offer, at least not often enough. This Pause refreshed.

I’ll be back next year. Consider joining me.

Marcia Conner is a former software executive who serves as an advisor to the Proof+Geist leadership team. Find her on the distributed social media platform Mastodon (marciamarcia@follow.proofgeist.com) or wherever you tend to browse.