In which I look back at living during a pandemic.

Year-in-Review 2020

2404 words about life — 15:00 · 21st Dec 2020

On the first day of the year, I sat and wrote down my directions—think waypoints instead of goals—for this year.

After that, regardless of their size or complexity, I often forget them on a day-to-day basis but because I have reflected on their purpose and written them down, they guide my decision-making along the year.

I’m often working backwards from these directions to my present, this way it becomes more about the progress towards something than the achieving of it.

In a surprising twist of composure, I only had 10 things on my list this year.

Because one thing which will be different this year is that everything that I have and haven’t done, will be reflected through the lens of living during a pandemic.

Table of contents

Self-care

This year has really tested my ability to take care of myself—and everyone else’s for that matter—and whilst I’ve actually managed quite well, I did use the first half of the year spending more energy than I had, which impacted the entire rest of the year and meant I’ve been more withdrawn since June.

Work 4 days per week

If there was one thing I learned from 2019, it’s that self-care Mondays were my favourite days.

Being privileged enough to be able to do this, I decided to continue with my self-care day concept for an entire year.

I often spend those days with no TV, no music, no distractions. Just absolute silence and my fucked-up thoughts.

Long term, the intention is to work 4 days per week.

This year, I’ve had 30 Mondays off and only worked 13 full 5-day weeks—that includes Sick-days as well—which is spectacular progress in the right direction.

Pay of debt from life with Rebecka

Last year I had a Want of putting 10% of my income into savings. I didn’t end up doing this at all, in fact, until recently I only ever had one bank account.

The idea of not seeing my money still terrifies me, so putting things into a separate savings account—as far as my mental model is concerned—is simply money that is now gone, forever!

I need to unlearn this and replace it with a better mental model, one where I still have a buffer even if I can’t see in front of me at all times.

However, living frugally generally and during a pandemic meant that this year’s expenses decreased considerably without much effort from me—Katy and I were already meal-planning and doing shopping weekly even before the first lockdown.

Meal-planning is a luxury—though it ought to be a basic essential—I never thought I’d have.

The result of this unaccounted-for money is that on the 9th of November, I managed to pay off my last debt, making me debt-free for the first time since I was 16-years-old.

Weight. Shoulders. Gone.

Get Egyptian sleeve tattoo

Truthfully, my next sleeve tattoo is nowhere near ready but I’ve made good progress on it.

I still haven’t decided how to address the fact that I already have a small sleeve tattoo where it’s meant to go. I’ve always said that once a tattoo is finished, I never return to it to fix anything, my ignorance paired with their imperfections and mistakes become as much of the design as anything else.

A time-capsule of who I was then and a reminder to keep growing.

Currently, my preference is to add annotations to it describing why I would make a different choice today.

Writing new songs

Not on my list.

The last song I finished writing was “Swansong” back in 2016.

I have an upcoming entry about my singing and songwriting so I won’t go into details here but clearly, sitting in silence unravels a lot on Things in need of processing. And I do some of my rawest processing in the form of songwriting.

I now have 2 new songs which need polishing, and at least 8 more in progress, and I can’t wait to let you listen to all of them.

Got a therapist again

Not on my list.

Yay.

But then they had a family crisis which made them unavailable for the rest of the year so now I’m back to looking for someone, again.

Sad face.

Becoming settled in the UK

Not on my list.

Ever since Brexit, I’ve made my opinions about UK politics pretty clear.

In protest and despite a lot of resulting anxiety, I refused to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, instead biding my time to see what concrete negotiation plans, if any, they would come up with.

Unsurprisingly, it’s been nothing but a shit-show of privileged poshos deciding how to best capitalise from everyone else.

Last month, however, requiring Parliament security clearance and to ease my mind surrounding the UK leaving EU, I finally applied to become settled in the UK.

You have been granted Indefinite Leave in the United Kingdom under Appendix EU to the Immigration Rules.

Weight. Shoulders. Gone.

Also, tax the rich, and feed the children, for fucks sake.

Got a bunch of plants

Not on my list.

My grandmother was a florist, my mom was a florist and my first job was working in my grandmother’s floral shop. Needless to say, that, and growing up in a hamlet in the middle of fucking nowhere, I’ve always been surrounded by nature.

But after killing a Weeping fig (Ficus Benjamina) back in our previous home, I was apprehensive about getting any new plants until I had a plan of how to take care of them.

A later conversation with my mom revealed that even she doesn’t bother with Weeping figs, as they are, “too fickle and too much work.”

Spending more time at home this year meant it made sense to get plants again and they are already bringing a lot of joy. And they’re still alive!

Carlos Eriksson as a Disney character, wearing a mask, looking himself in the mirror.
Mirror mirror on the wall, who shaves their head on Instagram?

Relationships

This was the first year where I had no direction to my relationships. In hindsight, it shows, and I ought to do better and be more mindful and intentional with my relationships.

As I continue to learn about healthy relationships, this year I learned that a good one isn’t necessarily a healthy one, and vice versa.

And that, up until recently I haven’t been in one that was both.

I deserve to be in good and healthy relationships. But so does the person I’m in a relationship with.

I have to be able to contribute my part towards that with honesty, humility, and respect, and I don’t think I’ve done that this year.

I’m sorry.

Learning

By learning, whether that’s through self-experimentation or the act of reading, I intend to grow as a person, to become more kind and compassionate—as far as I’m concerned, the world can never have enough of that.

Read 5 books

Because I used to read whilst commuting to work, my allocated reading-time became non-existent in March as I decided to work remotely even before the UK went into its first lockdown.

So whilst I’ve only read 6 books this year, I’m quite happy with their variety.

Holiday with Katy in South Korea

Back when Katy and I booked a holiday to South Korea there were no cases of COVID-19.

By early February, on the day of our departure, that had changed with 17,491 confirmed cases worldwide and 15 in South Korea.

After a few lengthy discussions, we decided to still go ahead with our holiday, fully expecting to self-isolate on our return.

I’m incredibly thankful for being able to travel and go on my first holiday and getting to get into the habit of wearing a mask, something which proved useful for the entire year—and probably the rest of my life.

I want to research and learn more about South Korea and its history before I write a dedicated entry to it, so in the meantime, enjoy a photo of one of my many favourite experiences during our stay in South Korea.

The distant city of Seoul peeking through the trees, high up from the Bukhansan National Park.
The spectacular view in the Bukhansan National Park (북한산국립공원) in Seoul, South Korea.

Professional

This year, my focus was two-fold, on my newsletter and my website reboot. One of those has gone well.

Build MVP of Tombstone

Setting myself a challenge of seeing if I could move 300+ markdown files to become part of a larger Laravel-based architecture, I built the prototype over the course of a weekend (Dec, 2019).

Whilst the website project itself is called a reboot, the whole project is called Tombstone. Because my focus here is on something that may end up continuing beyond my biological substrate.

Or to put it differently, what if I’m a digital archivist whose only subject-matter is Carlos Eriksson? What then?

I think the closest analogy to what I’m building, is a digital museum to all things me.

As for the reboot, so far I’ve written 20 entries about it and only just gotten to typography. So, steady and slow progress.

Hear Tatiana Mac speak at a conference

Ever since reading Canary in a Coal Mine: How Tech Provides Platforms for Hate by Tatiana Mac, an American engineer who speaks on the intersection of technology and ethics, I’ve been following their work.

So when back in January, I had the opportunity to attend the New Adventures conference in Nottingham, and see Tatina speak live, I was thrilled.

In her talk, Our Banal Binary, Tatiana explores a new model of building products and services that don’t rely on reductionist Boolean thinking, and I highly recommend it to everyone who contributes to technology.

Write ~20 articles for my newsletter

By May I had written and sent out 9 newsletter articles but by then, I had also lost all momentum and will to write.

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for? Andrea del Sarto by Robert Browning

Whilst I have enough ideas and rough drafts to see me through another year and a half, the pandemic took a lot of my energy and I decided to pause the newsletter.

I want to resume it but I have some obstacles that I need to address first:

I’m having to learn how to use an email marketing platform, in this case, Mailchimp, and I hated every minute of it because it isn’t what I want to do. I want to write, not learn about another platform that gives me no value. To me, the value comes from educating people on accessibility practices and the dialogues that follow, not the having of someone’s email.

Secondly, I also despise the hustle-energy surrounding starting ones own newsletters and/or podcasts.

Still, 9 articles aren’t too bad. You need to stop being so hard on yourself Carlos.

Grow newsletter, from 22 to 72 subscribers

From despising hustle-energy to talking about growth—an apt and ironic segue.

It’s hard to grow something you’re not putting any energy into. Or so one might think, at least I did.

Which is why I’ve been surprised to see the number of subscribers increasing at a constant rate ever since I launched Inclusive by Design.

And despite only sending out 9 articles this year, and doing—let’s be honest—no promotions, the newsletter has grown to 62 subscribers.

I hope each of them has found the few articles that I’ve sent out this year, useful.

I love writing, hate marketing, so having “growth” as a direction, doesn’t suit me. For the future, I need something else, something that aligns with my values.

Working with W3C

Not on the list. Though on a different list.

Alongside Aardman Animations, getting to work with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has always been on my wishlist of clients, so when Studio 24 were in the top-3 shortlist to partner with W3C on their redesign, I was excited—I’m Finnish, that’s as excited as we get.

Finland, a perennial chart-topper on global rankings of well-being and prosperity, has just been named the world’s happiest country in the World Happiness Report. Finns are not happy about the news.

What can I say, we’re a stoic bunch.

But then, when we were selected to partner with W3C and words that I had written were quoted and my name was in the press release, well, I don’t have a vocabulary to express how fucking thrilled I was.

And whilst their redesign is far from complete, Marie’s and my work have already managed to make accessibility a requirement for the content management system (CMS), forcing the industry to pay attention.

Time will tell if other CMS vendors will take the opportunity to make theirs better as well.

I’m looking at you Automattic, purveyors of WordPress.

In hindsight

I will keep reminding myself of this quote:

People tend to overestimate what can be done in one year and to underestimate what can be done in five or ten years.

I often get impatient with the glacial pace by which systemic things change. Focusing on accessibility as I have means a lot of my work becomes activism in the context of the status quo.

My want is for it to one day, not be.

If this year has taught me anything, it’s that a lot of people who weren’t paying attention before are paying attention now.

And whilst I’m looking back at the year that felt like a decade but went by in seconds, I’m also looking forward.

Forward, because we have so much to build anew.

Forward, because I’ve started looking for the next challenge—I think my time at Studio 24 is coming to an end.

Forward, because that’s were my waypoints are leading.

I won’t ask you how you are but I’ll tell you this, I’m so fucking happy you’re still here.


You’ve just read Year-in-Review 2020.

In which, 1 month ago, I wrote 2404 words about life and I covered topics, such as: year-in-review.