In which I look back at my life in 2021, pandemic and all.

Year-in-Review 2021

3188 words about life — 06:27 · 28th Dec 2021

If you’re a returning reader and already know the drill. Jump to the first group: self-care.

If this is your first visit here, or your first year-in-review, or you want a refresher of what the fuck this is.

Welcome, get comfortable!

On the first morning of the new year, I sit and wrote down a list for myself, it contains directions to help guide me along the year. It’s less goal-oriented and more waypoints but some of the points can be (and usually are) quite specific. I like this though, it makes them tangible.

I never show anyone this list until you’re reading it now.

As the year draws to its close I then reflect on the list, what I did, what I didn’t do, why I did or didn’t do it. The broad groups have emerged from reviewing the points I made the first time I wrote this list and I now use the groups themselves to guide the process of writing the list.

This year I was intentionally more focused on Self-care and Relationships, letting Learning and Professional be in the backseat of the car that is my analogy. This year is also special in that we’re all still living during a pandemic.

Table of contents

Self-care

Continue to live through pandemic

Let’s be honest, this is only here to serve as a reminder that:

  1. There’s still a pandemic happening
  2. Without harming others, I ought to live when I can

Get vaccinated

I got the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine this year. RECEIVING TRANSMISSION//I LOVE BILL GATE—TAX THE RICH//BLIP BLIP BLOP//

Huh, that was weird.

Anyway, onwards.

Get a therapist again

After last year’s sessions were cut short due to my therapist having a family emergency, I wanted to find someone else.

I made some calls and eventually found a Swedish-speaking therapist based in the Åland Islands, however, their focus is on Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and I’m looking for a broader selection of methods with a focus on filling in my gaps.

In other words, I’m looking again but at least I now have an even clearer idea of what I’m looking for.

Work 4 days per week

If there was one thing I learned from 2019, it’s that self-care Mondays were my favourite days. Year-in-Review 2020

Following this revelation, I said that my long-term intention was to work 4 days per week.

On 7th Feb 2021, I officially moved to a 4-day week and haven’t worked a Monday since.

This left me with enough breathing room to start thinking, “What the fuck do I actually do to take care of myself?”

So far the answers have been; posh coffee and walks in nature, which is a start but I need to continue working on this. I need to expand the tools I have available for taking care of myself.

4-day weeks though? Fucking amazing and I would absolutely recommend that you also hold the Victorians to their promises, if you can.

Decaffeinated beans

Not on my list.

For years, I talked about my coffee explorations until they became part of my everyday life. This year, I finally wrote The Good Coffee Guide—Beije had requested it two years earlier.

What I hadn’t explored—what?—were decaffeinated coffee beans.

Past-Carlos thought, “Why would anyone drink coffee if it didn’t have any caffeine in it?”

As we’ve learned, Past-Carlos is often ignorant and wrong.

Do you want the joy of an afternoon coffee without the horrors of lying awake, tossing and turning with the existential reality of your mortality? I can highly recommend decaffeinated beans.

Your bean options are likely to be more limited but I think it’s worth it.

I’ve added a note on decaffeinated coffee beans to the guide.

Finish the design for the Egyptian sleeve tattoo

Did I work on this? Yes.

Is it finished? 🤣

No.

It will take the time it takes, it isn’t ready yet and I accept that.

I will pause this for a year now.

Get an analogue hobby

I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands so I wanted to come up with an analogue medium I could work in, something I could leave and return to as time permitted.

Judging by the Youtube watching history that followed I considered: knitting, lighter restoration, woodturning, and drawing, before deciding on Warhammer miniatures.

I can’t call this a new hobby because 12-year-old Carlos was already assembling and painting miniatures. So more like an old hobby rekindled.

Lucien and I now have growing armies. We’re loving sitting together, listening to music and talking about the conversions (customising models) we’re making.

With time, we will also paint them and learn how to play.

Sculpting and moulding for resin casting

Not on my list.

Continuing on the theme of analogue mediums and doing things with my hands, Warhammer led to the idea of sculpting my own units. After numerous different concepts, I finally settled on what I called a Terror Snail.

Rough sketches of different monstrous snails with human-teeth and skulls embedded in them.
All tremble before the mighty Terror Snail, Gary.

Although the sculpting itself is fun, I was even more excited about making silicone moulds to cast copies with resin because I’ve never worked with either. I have more ideas to try but next up I really need to paint the first Terror Snail to see how my design looks when painted.

I have loved using my hands to create this year.

Started scrapbooks for Lucien and Jude

Not on my list.

For years I’ve wanted to create a photo album for Lucien—Rebecka made a scrapbook before he was born but it was her story and I’ve wanted to tell mine. I actually bought the albums back in 2018.

But it wasn’t until I had finally gotten back all the photos from my life with Rebecka that I’ve been able to start going through, organising and curating these photos.

This led me to finally start on both their albums, which will be mixed media scrapbooks depicting their lives, as told from my point of view.

I still have a lot of work to do, researching and building a timeline of events for Lucien’s life.

As I’m researching this, I’ve also started creating Jude’s pages as they happened.

Stopped-ish drinking

Not on my list.

I’ve already talked about my dysregulated behaviour in The Boy Who Didn’t Fall Far From the Tree.

In the last 2 years, I have had 8 drinks in total.

For someone who was once rightly sentenced to 1:1 alcohol counselling, that’s not bad.

I don’t know what else to say about this right now but I’m calmer and happier by not drinking. I’ll need to figure out how to socialise again without depending on alcohol though, which is going to be interesting.

Relationships

After last year’s directionlessness, I understood that all the facets of my life need to have some direction, even if that something is that I’m not doing anything.

Cultivate existing relationships with honesty and direction

Rather than starting new relationships this year, I’ve strengthened existing ones, with a focus on, “fewer and better.”

After reading We Should Get Together: The Secret to Cultivating Better Friendships by Kat Vellos back in January 2020, I’ve been thinking about what is a good frequency, proximity, etc for me.

I have more questions than I have answers in this area but I’m also very happy about old acquaintances becoming new friends and I’m looking forward to continuing this work.

Get divorced

After multiple houses and countries we’ve called home, and being married for a decade (2011-2021), I finalised the divorce this year.

For a relationship that was very dramatic and tumultuous, the final application form and its verdict were very not.

I’m now a divorcee.

Or as the French would call it, divorcé.

Conduct life interviews with my grandparents before they die

To give this justice would mean giving it its own blog, something I don’t have any current plans of doing.

Basically, it comes down to this:

As a continuation of my well-being I have been thinking a lot about the well-being of the people around me. This, in turn, has led me to ask the same well-being questions of them but also interview my relatives for a broader understanding of their lives, how it shaped them as people, which in turn shaped how they raised me.

Additionally, I think this might be interesting for future ancestors though that is not something I’m making effort to record.

This is basically transgenerational trauma except not always trauma.

So far, the furthest I’ve traced any lineage is my paternal one, dating back to 1736.

Because of the pandemic, I haven’t been back to Finland. Because my mother’s parents are the only grandparents that are still alive, I would like to record and interview them.

Additionally, to visualise this information in an easier way I’ll need some sort of family tree generator—recommendations welcomed!

Carlos Eriksson as a Disney character, holding a baby and looking himself in the mirror.
Mirror mirror on the wall, which one of us did a poo?

Have a second child

On 1st January, one of the directions simply read, “have a second child (Katy’s first), I hope it will be an opinionated one”.

By then Katy and I have already had the Baby special of our RADAR.

He’s now just over 5 months and I can safely say, he is opinionated.

I’m still getting used to speaking Swedish to Jude—something Rebecka and I never did this with Lucien—and I often find myself switching back and forth men vanan kommer med tiden (but I’ll get into the habit with time).

Learning

I want to grow as a person, to be patient, kinder and more compassionate to my children and the people I meet in life. This year is the first year where I’ve felt like I might be. This is good progress and I will continue this unlearning/learning work.

Read 5 books

I’ve continued with a modest reading goal because Now-Carlos prefers that to the old ways of setting aspirational goals he could never meet.

If I was more sensible I might make this an intrinsic goal such as, “Read a little, most days”. This way, most days that I’m reading I am also being successful in my meeting my goal.

But as my actual goal is growing to be kinder, reading is simply a very pleasurable method to that.

By May I had read 5 books, so I read 41 more.

Find out What I Read in 2021 if you’re interested in how I thought I was reading from a broad perspective of authors and then revealed how I actually wasn’t by making the invisible, very discomfortingly visible.

Sharing the learning

Not on my list.

Halfway through the year I was going through my book piles and taking an honest look at what I hadn’t read.

Despite this, I decided to buy a few of them as ebooks. I then gave away 8 of the books on Instagram.

A month later I gave away another pile, this time 12 books that I had read.

All 20 books—except for the two that are travelling abroad—have found their new homes now and I hope the recipients get as much, or even more joy from them than I did.

Learning to run again

Not on my list.

Running means different things for different people. For me, it’s a form of meditation and self-healing. It’s a way to reconnect with my selves and nature.

After completing the Brighton Marathon 2019 my misaligned patella was fucked. Walking was mostly fine although some days I had flair-ups and walking down the stairs were a painful reminder that it still wasn’t okay.

So I stopped running. Again.

I kept going out for almost-daily walks, waiting for something I wasn’t sure of.

I started reframing my relationship with running and exercise in general. First, I asked myself, “Have I simply replaced my previous addictions with this?”

And, “How is that any better?”

Currently, I think that exercise and running are better but they aren’t good.

Instead, I’m learning that good is a balance. Good is being able to not go for a run and still be okay.

Good is creating a life I don’t ever need to escape.

But mostly I’m learning to be less arrogant.

I’m now asking, “If I never run another event and want to keep running regularly for the next 10-20 years, what should that look like?”

For me, this is: feeling energised and peaceful after my runs, staying 95% injury-free.

I tried High-intensity interval training (HIIT) runs but after 3 trials I decided that it’s not for me.

I’m currently trialling the Bohr Effect and having much better success with this.

I might still do the occasional event but probably only for fun rather than glory and masochism.

Professional

This year, my professional focus was to continue with the Reboot and move on from Studio 24.

Replace Instagram

My original direction was to start by creating a replacement for Instagram, hosted on my own website.

But once I started thinking about why and how I was doing it, and the building blocks that would get me there I realised I had to start with a problem that could be paired back more.

The way I see this is that Instagram is images. Images that are meaningful, and as such ought to be described.

That description comes in the form of text.

Removing the images but keeping their descriptions leaves me with a text-only medium, which is the original premise of Twitter—disregarding its contemporary state for a moment.

I think the text should always come first because it’s the only modality that’s currently transformable.

So, I’ve changed the terms of my relationship with Twitter because that is where I must start.

Looking at this through this lens of modality-compounded-complexity means Instagram comes afterwards, so maybe next year.

If it makes it to my 2022 list.

Move on from Studio 24

By the end of 2020 I was already looking to move on from Studio 24—something I had told Simon, my boss because I wanted to be transparent about it and be able to write about it here.

Forward, because I’ve started looking for the next challenge—I think my time at Studio 24 is coming to an end. Year-in-review 2020

I drew a matrix of priorities before I started so that I could always refer back to it when making decisions. In addition to this, I also made it clear to recruiters and interviewers that I was looking for a 90% remote role and a 4-day workweek.

Job hunting and interviewing during the pandemic has been interesting and it’s clear that many tech companies are still struggling to change to a remote-friendly culture. And that their biased and unstructured hiring process often gets in their own way.

Twice I’ve decided against moving forward with or declining opportunities from Apple.


I am now settling into my new role as Interaction Designer at FutureGov Becoming TPXimpact and one of the first things I’ve started is an Accessibility-centered Community of Practices to make accessibility—in all its forms—more present throughout the organisation by connecting the people already doing great work in this area.

Redesigning the landing page for W3C’s Technical Reports

Not on my list.

Redesigning W3C’s Technical Reports page is an achievement I’m proud of.

W3C’s is the organisation that says that what the web is, and what it isn’t. They write reports which are more like instructions for how people ought to build things. This is the page where you find all those instructions.

It was also a nice way to end my employment at Studio 24.

In Redesigning the landing page for W3C’s Technical Reports, I wrote about the process which included making the case for changing the names the W3C use for their reports. My argument was—and I briefly tested this with other people as well—that few know which is which.

My recommendation essentially boiled down to changing Recommendations to be called Standards instead.

Later, I was informed that the W3C is already in the process of reviewing these words.

I look forward to seeing the new version of the site, the /tr page, and whether the word changes makes it easier to find the instruction you’re looking for.

Dissolved Superdupercritical Ltd

Not on my list.

After 2 and a half years of Superdupercritical Ltd, I’ve dissolved the company. It was an experiment but a badly formed one because I didn’t have a clear hypothesis or a way of testing its success.

Besides, I was getting tired of the extra paperwork to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for a company that didn’t do anything.

I still need to decide what to do with the newsletter portion of Superdupercritical though as:

  1. I had a hypothesis for this and it is successful
  2. I have articles that may need a new home
  3. People are still subscribing

In hindsight

This year has felt like I’ve managed to find something close to balance, to not too much of things, not too little. Balance is something I’ve been looking for for a long time.

Although, some days I grieve for the 16-year-old whose life could have taken a different turn and where he might have ended up instead.

And that’s okay. I get to grieve, I’m giving myself that permission.

But to also move past it, to not let it grow as I grow but instead let life’s joys surround it.

I’m right here today, with every decision I made along the way, balanced and unbalanced ones.

And whilst I still have a lot of work to do towards nurturing myself and my relationships with the people in my life, I am also getting better at both of these things.

And I don’t have to change all this in a day, instead, I will remind myself that, although my time here is limited, all I can ever do, is move through it day by day.

Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still. Chinese Proverb

My four favourite things this year is working 4 day-weeks, Katy and I being silly and laughing together, Lucien and I crafting together, and Jude laughing hysterically.

Balance, right?

In a few days it will be 2022 and I’m going to sit down to write a new list, we’ll see what it contains.

You’ve just read Year-in-Review 2021.

In which, 3 weeks ago, I wrote 3188 words about life and I covered topics, such as: year-in-review.