2021: Year in Review

[ reflection  ]

As I was thinking back over this year, I really debated with myself whether to write this. I don’t have a pithy saying to wrap up what this year has been like. There’s no overarching theme or lessons learned that I’m grateful for. It has mostly been a very, very tough year for me. I ended last year’s review post wishing everyone a 2021 filled with warmth and light and optimism and love, and I don’t really feel like that happened for me. I’m generally an optimist, but it was really hard to find that part of myself this year.

I went through a lot of anxiety, which was a new challenge for me. I get anxious about small things, but this was wake up and cry before coffee anxiety. Can’t sleep anxiety. Please don’t make me talk to people today anxiety. If I do write post and publish this post, it will be mostly so other people who felt that way know they weren’t alone in it. That it was okay to have had a hard year and not much to show for it except making it through. Resilience would probably be most accurate for a 2021 word of the year, but I don’t really want it. I want rest. I want comfort. I want calm.

At the beginning of 2021, I was still looking for a job and not having much luck. Many companies promote first-time managers from within, and want to hire in more experienced managers. With less than a year of experience, I wasn’t getting much traction as an external candidate.

I was also still dealing with the after-effects of being fired the previous fall - stress, anxiety, loneliness. Being fired in the pandemic took away a large source of social interaction. I felt isolated. I was sad and angry about feeling lonely, and hurt that some people didn’t really reach out or try to connect.

I continued my pandemic baking, because it felt good to have control over something, and it felt good to be creative. I always hope it tastes good when I’m done, but I really like the experimenting and creativity involved in tinkering with recipes. I also painted and briefly set up an Etsy shop.

In April, I was hired as a QE manager for a company in Austin, which meant we had to relocate. On the one hand, we felt like it might be time for change. On the other, it felt incredibly hard to leave our friends and family in Portland. We had one last week at our favorite spot on the coast, and then we sold our beloved Cyclops house and drove from Oregon to Texas with Frank.

We left Portland at the transition between spring and summer - warm, sunny, gorgeous blue skies. We got to Austin with full southern summer in effect - rainy, humid, mosquitoes. Being employed again? Felt good. Having to move across the country to a new state, with a new job, in a pandemic? Not so great. I hadn’t realized that the loss of familiarity would be so jarring.

One of the bright spots was being part of the Leadership Slack that I joined in 2020. As I got to know more of the people and got more comfortable asking questions, contributing my experience and ideas, it became more and more of a community for me. I asked for feedback on my resume while I was job hunting. I shared my anxiety and was supported. I learned. I offered advice. I just chatted with folks. It was really nice, and it was a place that really helped me get through 2021.

I wrote an article for Lead Dev on having hard conversations. I spoke on a panel about self-care as a leader, and on another panel about whole team quality in Agile teams. I was nominated as a Tester of the Day, which was unexpected and felt really nice.

Three of my cousins got married - I’m so grateful I was able to make it to one of the weddings and see my family, who I missed so much. Another cousin got engaged, and another found out they’re going to be parents.

I wrote a little this year, with blog posts on writing better goals and improving technical assessments. I’ve got a few more that I want to write about interviewing - it’s something that we deal with all the time as hiring managers and candidates, and there are so many interesting aspects to consider.

The company I work at shifted to remote-hybrid instead of requiring everyone to be in Austin (we won’t talk about the timing of that announcement). Now that we have the freedom to choose where we live without having it tied to employment, we’re looking at moving back to the PNW next year. Moving away made us realize just how much it’s home for us - we miss it quite a lot, and we’re relieved to have the option of moving back.

I got back into reading more this year. I read The Meaning of Mariah Carey and The Fixed Stars. I read the first two books in Naomi Novik’s Scholomance series, and almost caught up on Will Wight’s Cradle series. I re-read Dune in preparation for the movie. I just read A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking and think you should, too - it was an excellent book. I read Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth, and quite enjoyed them both.

Like last year, there were good things that happened but I can’t really bring myself to call it a good year. It was a year I got through, and it’s a year that I’m ready to see the end of.

I think I want next year’s word to be appreciation. I want to be more mindful about appreciating the big and small things. Getting to be with family. Sitting outside with the warmth of the sun on my face. Reading a new book. Spending time with Josh in a place we love. Exploring. Seeing my niece and nephew grow up. Making art. Baking. Snuggling with Frank.

Whether 2021 was good or bad for you, I hope next year is better. I hope you are happy. I hope you are able to make time for rest, for relaxing, for care. I hope you have things and people and moments to appreciate.

So long, 2021, and thanks for all the fish.

Written on December 26, 2021