2020: Year in Review

[ reflection  ]

As my old Grandpappy used to say, experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And whew, 2020 has certainly been a year of experience, hasn’t it? There have been good moments, but I can’t quite bring myself to say that it’s been a good year.

Looking Back

My 2020 had a mishmash of ups and downs. There were some happy things, some opportunities for reflection, and yes - some learning experiences. There are things I can look back at and feel good about, things I’m glad to leave in the past, and things I’ll take with me into the new year.

I gave conference talks at TSQA (my only in-person conference before Covid hit), Tech Leadership Congress, and STPCon. I was a guest on Testers’ Island Discs and held an Ask Me Anything with Tristan and the Testim community.

I realized that I like baking and I’m good at it - I like the structure of following a recipe and the creativity of riffing on flavors. In a year with so many things out of my control, baking allowed me to follow a path from start to finish and (usually) know what I was going to end up with.

And I baked many delicious things. My favorite bake, that I actually don’t have a picture of, was Smitten Kitchen’s Mom’s Apple Cake. It was just simple and apple-y and oh so good. I also made the cake that’s been in my head for three years, based on ice cream flavors I had at Fifty Licks - golden chai cake with caramelized honey buttercream.

I read some books, but not as many as I thought I would and not as many as I wanted to. Reading has been a comfort and a happiness for me since I was a kid, but the stresses and distractions of this year actually made it really difficult for me to settle down and read. On the plus side, I got into food memoirs - memoirs generally felt like they allowed for a slower pace and more breaks, and food or cookbook memoirs have the added bonus of recipes!

I watched a lot of Great British Baking Show, which is my go-to comfort show. It’s the television equivalent of bundling up in a thick cozy sweater with a cup of tea and a favorite book.

I’ve kept 8 (eight!!!) plants alive throughout the pandemic, which is something of a triumph for me. Historically I tend to kill off plants within a month or so, other than the pots of mixed succulents that I’ve left on our back porch for the past three years and which have somehow done a great job of surviving on their own.

I learned about being resilient. Getting fired in the middle of a pandemic was shocking and emotionally jarring. It definitely knocked me back, but not down for the count and I’m making my way through it.

I understand my stress patterns better, as I’ve had more time to pay attention to them over the last 9 months. I’m also learning how to better deal with things so they don’t fall into stress patterns in the first place. I’m enjoying books like A Sloth’s Guide to Mindfulness, It’s Okay to Feel Things Deeply, and Do It For Yourself to continue my self-awareness and self-education.

I wrote some blog posts, including my Advice for New Managers series!

I finally figured out a skincare regimen! I’ve got moisturizer. I’ve got acid. I even have a quartz roller! It’s not super involved (because then I wouldn’t do it) but it’s a nice mix of everyday care and specialty things (like a peel-off gold mask!).

I learned that while I don’t fall into the trap of attaching my value to my productivity, I can only take so much of every day feeling like Saturday.

I made more art! I really like loom weaving, which allows me to slow down and relax, but I need to already be in a relaxed, creating mindset to paint. I also realized that there’s a difference between the art that inspires me and the art that I like to create.

I went on vacations! Josh and I took Frank to Mount Hood for a week in August to relax and get a change of scenery, and I took a solo trip to Seaside in October to clear my head and heart after getting fired.

I learned that I’m better at offering help than asking for it - something I’m working on!

This year really proved to me that I’m good at my profession - as a first-time manager, I successfully built a quality engineering department from the ground up, and I’m so proud of the work I put in and the impact I had.

Looking Forward

What will 2021 be like? What should we expect? How much will change from 2020?

I think the first half will be much the same as 2020. We’re all pretty adjusted to life in a pandemic, and that’s not going to change in a hurry just because the calendar has turned over.

But change is on the horizon, and I hope that makes the continued restrictions of a pandemic lifestyle easier to bear. I’m really hoping for a classic February Fakeout - I know we’re only a couple of months into winter at this point, but the beautifully sunny spring and summer this year did a lot to get me through the pandemic isolation.

Some things I’m looking forward to in 2021:

  • A relaxing vacation on the Oregon coast with Josh and Frank
  • The vaccine
  • A professional haircut (while I can cut my own hair and do a decent job of it, I really prefer to let a professional do it - plus I miss the head massage!)
  • Tattoos
  • Seeing my new nephew
  • Travel! I miss exploring new places
  • Seeing family - I fortunately visited my parents in February after I spoke at TSQA, but it’s been hard not to have seen the rest of my family, and I was really sad that I didn’t get to see them at Thanksgiving this year
  • Starting a new job (do you need an awesome quality advocate who leads with compassion and curiosity? I’m on the market!)
  • Putting on an STPCon webinar with Lena & Ashley
  • Making more art
  • Reading more books
  • Continuing to expand my professional knowledge base - I’ve especially enjoyed The Lead Dev’s continuous learning format this year, and I’m looking forward to doing more in 2021
  • Going to restaurants. I miss relaxing in a quiet booth, with a glass of wine or maybe a Manhattan, eating great food that someone else has cooked
  • Baking new things - I have my eye on making macarons and choux buns, and something with puff pastry (suggestion welcome!)

A new calendar year is a somewhat arbitrary milestone, but it’s something that feels new and different. It starts us thinking about possibilities and opportunities for change. It offers a moment for looking forward, for anticipation, for hope.

I hope the end of your 2020 is as relaxing or energized as you need, and I’m wishing all of you a 2021 filled with warmth and light and optimism and love.

Written on December 28, 2020