Time for something new.
Ask me a decade ago and I probably would have told you that I could write. And I did, a lot. I had a blog! I ran corporate blogs. I wrote about technology and learning and frivolous things all day long. Fast forward to 2018, and I seem to have misplaced how to do it for my own sneaky, self-satisfying pleasure. I stopped writing because “I didn’t have time.”
But after an ultra exhausting year of too much time spent working and not enough time spent indulging in learning and being creative, I’ve had enough. As we cruise into the new shiny calendars that lie ahead, I thought I would start trying to re-embrace the version of myself who wrote because she could, and share it here, because, accountability.
A friend who gave a talk at a recent creative mornings event on reinvention reminded me that “I don’t have time” isn’t an excuse. It’s a choice. So, no more “excuses”. I’m committing to a year of writing like this, here, about the week that was. 2019 has lots of exciting things in store so this should be fun.
The things that happened
Since I’m starting this at the end of the year and on the back of a week of lounging around drinking scotch, assembling puzzles and making dumplings, I’m going to cheat a bit and reflect on this year that was instead. This was a big, complicated year.
(one) after years of people telling me I was a product person (and years of talking people out of hiring me for product jobs because I was too scared to admit it to myself), a serendipitous moment landed me right smack in the middle of managing the delivery of a handful of digital products last January. Many moments since have been full of self-doubt, second guessing, a million if-this-then-that diagrams, making decisions on the fly with my fingers crossed, and the subtle recognition that you were all right, I am good at this kind of work after all. And now, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Everyone who believed in me before I did….thank you (and I’m sorry I ignored you for so long).
(two) a friend and former colleague was featured in a short student film on burnout this past month, which he shared. It was a good reminder that A: burnout is horrible, and I should stop choosing to pursue it, even accidentally, and B: how nice it is to reconnect with people who have shaped the path you’ve chosen. There is something special about the relationships you build with those who have lived with you in the deep weeds of a project or a company. You become a strange sort of adopted family, even if you don’t always remain quite as close. In my good dreams, we all continue to build some amazing products together. In reality, I’m so grateful our paths crossed for that moment in time. May they cross again.
(three) this year was probably the most trying one personally in a very long time. In the spring, we sold our beautiful Hintonburg house so we could move on to the next thing. The summer that followed was an extended ugly cry of disaster as our perfect new home fell apart, piece by piece. This experience pushed me beyond what I thought possible, and as someone who is generally pretty measured when it comes to challenges, my post-house-disaster PTSD was a pretty shocking experience (full on panic attacks and anxiety, no joke). I am forever grateful to our contractor who didn’t run away screaming, to my dad, whose first instinct was to get in his car and drive to Ontario to make it better, to my colleagues who just rolled with my never ending “and then another thing happened”, and to my two year old who greeted every return trip home with a joyful “hellooooo, new house!!” when it only made me want to weep and filled me full of dread. We persevered. We fixed it (and then some!). We survived.
(four) a big task this year was building better relationships between some of the teams that are moving towards the finish line of a big project with me. After a few years of freelancing, I had forgotten what it was like to help create a connection between teams that were kind of their own silos before – freelance relationships don’t always have that same sort of equilibrium since (in my case, at least) you’re often filling a gap intended to get a particular thing done, not build something long term. Finding the middle ground between teams that speak different languages and bridging that gap is such a core communications problem – teams don’t want to have friction, but they don’t always understand each other without some effort or interpretation. It’s not easy to make that connection but boy it’s rewarding when it feels like you are all somehow on the same team, thinking the same things. It is perfect? nope. but are we partners? You bet. Finishing the year out feeling more like that than when we started feels pretty great.
What I’m reading
I recently tried to explain my approach to solving complex problems to someone and I couldn’t find the right words. But then I read this and it turns out that someone wrote the words already so I didn’t have to. A critical lesson we could all (me included) think about more often:
Do not try to solve one big problem. You will cry.
Break it into smaller and smaller pieces until some part feels easy and start there.
We are drawn to shiny things in the same wild way our ancestors were overcome by a compulsion to forage for honey.
Who doesn’t love glitter, the ultimate shiny thing? There is something both magical and infuriating about it, yet we can’t resist. This New York Times article might be the most interesting thing I’ve read recently on a topic I didn’t even know I wanted to learn more about. A long read but worth it.
What lies ahead
The remaining days of my holiday break are all about relaxing and putting my head back on straight as I jump in to what I expect to be a hectic 2019. My current project will end in May and I’m already plotting ahead to future adventures. I’m also celebrating a big personal milestone – a new year, a new decade – and am feeling decidedly ok about it. 2019 will be a year of big changes, new habits (more writing!), and good adventures.
Cheers to what comes next.