In which I reflect on 2022, pandemic, job changes and everything else.

Carlos Wrapped, 2022

3055 words about life — 18:20 · 27th Dec 2022

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, and get comfortable!

On the first morning of the new year, I sit and wrote down a list for myself. This is not an exercise in perpetuating hustle culture because I have no fucking patience for that. Instead, the list contains directions to help guide me along the year—and to remind me of what’s important to me.

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, and 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. I now use the groups themselves to guide the process of writing the list.

Table of contents

Self-care

Living in a pandemic is a very stark reminder that, I cannot self-care out of systemic mental health crises. No matter how hard I try.

However, as a man, I still need more methods for self-care than I currently have. And despite not having a lot of self-care things on the list, I did many self-care-y things this year anyway.

Got Covid

Not on my list.

No one ever intends to get Covid, do they?

After avoiding it for two years, I finally got Covid when I attended the belated TXP Impact formerly FutureGov Christmas party.

Although I got to hang out with some lovely people there, overall, the party sucked. It was too loud, the food was shit and the venue wasn’t big enough to cope with the number of people we were.

I left early and got a decent night’s sleep instead and I don’t regret that decision at all.

Bought new bed set

Not on my list.

One positive outcome of the TPXmas party was that I stayed at a Premier Inn. Usually, I never sleep well in new places. New sounds, textures, smells, and everything else that my brain thinks it needs to catalogue before it can relax. This is before we even get to the ruminations and night terrors.

Sleeping well is not something that’s ever been easy for me.

So I was surprised when I slept decently at a random Premier Inn in London.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that I had the duvet to thank—at least in part—for it.

Turns out, their bedding had gone viral on Tik Tok in early 2021 for being good. I guess that’s what I get for not keeping up to date with newer social media platforms.

So, I bought myself a Premier Inn bedding set and I’ve been enjoying it every night since.

Run a 10k injury-free

Last year, I slowly started building back my stamina after the marathon. But then I got Covid, which really set me back and it wasn’t until 6 months later that I tried going for a run again, and even then I struggled and felt out of breath.

So with only 1 run this year, the recovery journey is proving to be as long and tedious as I thought it would be. Which is okay, I’m accepting this.

It doesn’t help either, that I’ve been sick for 37 days this year compared to last year’s total of 9 days.

31 of these days are attributed to Jude starting nursery and bringing back everything from Hand, foot and mouth disease to norovirus.

The Poop Diary

Not on my list.

Of all the strange experiments I’ve subjected myself to over the years, weighing myself naked before and after shitting, isn’t even in the top five.

If anything, in hindsight, I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to conduct this particular experiment.

What did I learn though?

Well, I learned that my first shit is around 6 am and weighs 350 grams. I take 2-3 shits per day and 80 per cent of them are Bristol Type 3 (but with fewer cracks). It takes me an average of 1 minute and 50 seconds to shit.

Fun fact; The biggest shit measured during this one-week experiment, weighed 1.3 kg but I suspect that this includes some piss-weight—it was a whopper though.

And that is probably more than you ever wanted to know about my bowel movements.

Clearing away all the boxes at my moms

Not on my list.

Whilst spending a month in Finland I decided to finally go through the boxes and boxes worth of stuff that Rebecka and I left behind when we moved to the UK.

My mom had been graciously storing them for a decade—nine years too many to be honest.

Rebecka’s things got repacked into fewer boxes and delivered to her mom making it their problem instead of ours. Meanwhile, I packed one box of things I still wanted to keep whilst taking photos of everything that had meaning, even if I didn’t want to keep it anymore.

This was such an emotionally heavy and cathartic exercise but I’m really glad that I’ve done it because there’s also a burden which has been lifted now.

Took photos of “artefacts”

Not on my list.

Part of the thematic reason for doing the Reboot of Forever, is to create a living museum of myself.

Realising I could take photos of artefacts I no longer wanted to own but that had been important at one point in my life then became the missing piece of this historian-type work.

I now have a method for archiving things and ~150 artefacts recorded, which will serve as a good foundation in the coming few years and for the work that remains.

Also, there’s something quite weirdly satisfying about taking a photo of some random piece of crap, that happens to be a meaningful piece of crap to me and treating it with the respect of a museum artefact.

Learning new painting techniques

Not on my list.

Ever since I started painting miniatures again I wanted to learn new painting techniques, refine old ones and experiment with materials because the idea alone, excited me so much.

Turns out the reality is even more fun as I’ve sat for hours—time permitting—thinking and testing different chipping techniques, layering colours on top of each other, scraping away, mixing marginally different hues of white to figure out just how I want my army to look.

I even decided that I didn’t like the first basing style I went for, so stripped it all away and started again and I’m now really happy with my dishevelled-urban-dystopia look.

Wrote new songs

Not on my list.

I’ve played the guitar and written songs for over twenty years now but it took me until December this year to realise that I’m a folk singer—because I only have angry and sad songs.

Thank you Grace Petrie for making me realise this as you warmed up for Hannah Gadsby.

This year, I’ve been focusing on fundamentals and finishing existing songs which means that I’ve mostly started writing new songs because finishing songs is hard!

Every time I pick up the guitar or even listen to music, I’m reminded of how much it impacts my mood and well-being and how much I can steer that mood with the “right” kind of song.

Seriously, any advice on finishing songs though would be greatly appreciated!

Carlos Eriksson as a Disney character, holding hands with a toddler and looking themselves in the mirror.
Mirror mirror on the wall, look who’s growing tall!

Relationships

I’ve continued to think a lot about the cadence of my relationships and reflect on how relaxed and authentic I can be in some relationships and how not I am in others.

Learn and play our first match of Warhammer 40k

We have just about everything we need to play our first match.

Neither of our armies is completely painted but we’ve decided that doesn’t matter because we’re both excited to play and see what the experience is like.

Realistically, we might not get around to this before New Year’s Eve but it matters more that we do this than when.

Spend a month in Finland

This was the first time a bullet point on the list came with an asterisk, that read, “don’t start drinking again”.

And I’m happy to say that I didn’t.

Instead, Katy, Jude, and I had a lovely month in Finland, where my family got to meet Jude, the latest addition to the Eriksson-Blows family, and we all got to hang out after not seeing each other since December 2019—when I flew back briefly to see my dying grandmother (fammo).

Interview grandparents

For a couple of years now I had been planning to interview my grandparents. Partly to save recordings of what they’re like but also to help unravel their past traumas and to see how this may, or may not, have impacted me and my life.

My grandmother (mommo) was already a few steps ahead of me and had a few years earlier commissioned a book retelling the story of their lives.

Rather than having them sit through hours of interviewing I thought I would start by transcribing the printed book and then return with questions to fill any gaps that I feel have been left behind.

Lucien and I go to Finland for a week

Not on my list.

When Lucien wasn’t able to join our summer month in Finland I promised to take just him and me on a trip of our own to Finland.

He had been looking forward to seeing his grandmother (my mom) and cousins for years. My brother Christian had just had his first child, so Lucien and I would get to meet the latest nephew, Caspian, who was only a couple of months old at the time.

The week went by as quickly as weeks do and I’m already looking forward to planning the next Father and Son trip—maybe we could even go somewhere new?

Friends and lovers alike

Not on my list.

I want deep and meaningful relationships with people, whether they’re friends or lovers, or something in-between—there’s actually an even broader range but I’m simplifying it for the sake of keeping it brief.

This year I’ve definitely been more intentional with whom I’m spending time, and how I’m spending that time.

But rather than pick a specific memorable moment, I want to think about how I can help create the conditions for more moments to happen in the future, as the last couple of years have made me realise that I’m quite social albeit not in a typical way.

The return of cupcakes

Not on my list.

Back when I was obsessively designing cupcake recipes there was always an idea of returning to the recipes later, to tweak and polish them to what I would consider perfection.

This year, I returned to the first recipe and started updating the Butterscotch-filled Swedish-style Gingerbread Cupcakes with Blue Cream Cheese Frosting.

I’ve created a spreadsheet for scaling the recipe so that I can create smaller test batches and that’s been proving to work really well—making me realise I should have done that originally instead of baking multiple full batches—oh well, one learns.

Message me if you want to see the entire cupcake list and get in on future batches being tested.

Learning

The work of becoming the human I want to continue to be: I want to grow as a person, to be patient, kinder and more compassionate to my children and the people I meet in life.

Read 4 diverse books

I try to read a little, most days.

Judging by my Daylio statistics, I read just about every other day this year which isn’t “most,” but it’s a very decent amount nonetheless.

After last year’s deep dive into what I actually read, I’ve continued to focus on the representation of what I’m reading this year.

I’m planning on reviewing my reading again, whilst also reviewing how meaningful the methods of disaggregation are.

I also ventured into horror graphic novels, and have been enjoying The Nice House on the Lake.

Try 20 different kinds of tea

As you might know, I’m a passionate coffee drinker who never understood the fascination with tea.

“Dried leaves in hot water? No thanks.”

So, naturally, I looked to challenge that attitude this year by getting tea recommendations from people who enjoy their teas and by exploring the wide range of different tea options that are out there.

Yet, somehow, by February I had already stopped, having only tried Oolong.

I already have a nice selection of black teas which I haven’t even tried yet—shame on you Past Carlos.

Christmas break will be spent with face shoved into mugs of tea!

A decade in the UK

Not on my list.

After saying “thanks for the fish”, ten years had suddenly passed in the UK and life has changed dramatically—as life tends to do when viewed far enough away.

I have learned so much by moving to another country and the more I think about it, the more I think everyone would benefit from being an immigrant for a while.

The idea of normalcy is really just whatever surroundings you’re used to.

I’m currently thinking about whether I should naturalise or not.

Professional

This year, my professional focus was to continue with the Reboot by changing the terms of my relationship with Instagram and becoming Interim Head of Accessibility at TPXimpact. As you’re about to find out, I did neither.

Finish office room (incl. wall art)

Despite my plans of becoming a remote worker even before the pandemic, it took me until this year to decorate a space worthy of spending time in by getting up some lovely art on the wall—one painting is from Lucien and I love it.

But then I ended up spending very little time working in this lovely space.

This tells me it isn’t working as intended. I will need to reflect on why that is, and if I’m selfishly dominating a room I don’t use often enough.

Become Interim Head of Accessibility

When Past Carlos wrote this on 1st January 2021, he was already struggling with the lack of clarity on how work happened at FutureGov Becoming TPXimpact.

By February it was already a shitshow ending with me getting Covid.

I had been noting orange and red flags since Day 1 of joining as an Interaction Designer and by March I started looking for options.

As a result, instead of being an Interaction Designer looking to become an Interim Head of Accessibility at FutureGov Becoming TPXimpact—I know, I know, so confusing—I moved on.

Joined Redgate as a Product Designer

Not on my list.

When Ellie presented me with the opportunity to work together again—after I had confided in her about the issues I was having at TPX—I was very excited.

Multiple interviews and a portfolio deep-dive later, Redgate offered me a role as one of their Product Designers.

I’m still evaluating if Redgate is the right fit for me as someone who needs direct, literal and detailed communication.

Replace Instagram

“Replacing Instagram” did make it to my 2022 list.

And I’ve begun the work by scoping out what I need it to be in The Terms of My Engagements, and I’ve almost finished working my way through the preparatory work.

I’ve prototyped some of the UI for uploading images so should be in a good place to continue that work in 2023.

I never said this would be a quick “redesign”.

Learn C# and Unity

Not on my list.

Since watching Yahtzee’s Dev Diary and Tom Francis’ Make A Game In Unity With No Experience, I’ve been itching to design and build another game.

But I promised myself—in the past, I’ve jumped straight into graphics and details too soon—that I would not start this time until I had a solid idea for a core gameplay loop.

And I kept my promise.

And then I had an idea that kept growing and I kept writing down all the things about it that kept coming back in my mind.

After some research, I decided Unity seemed like the best option for me as I knew I would have to learn C# as well—a new language for me.

So that is exactly what I did.

Rather than trying to explain anymore, here’s a rough prototype where I’m trying the core gameplay.

It’s basically all my favourite parts of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag.

In hindsight

As I continued to look for balance last year I also reminded myself to, “let life’s joys surround it.”

I don’t always know how to let life’s joys surround my grief. But I’m learning.

In some ways, this was just another fucking year. It happened. We’re done with it now, why reflect at all? How much were you even present for Carlos?

Quite a bit of it, actually.

The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves—say rather, loved in spite of ourselves. Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

I’m incredibly grateful for where I am today.

I’m still figuring out how to socialise without alcohol—who the fuck am I if I’m not drunk?

I’m still trying my best to be better than my father. And to make that “best” better than it was yesterday.

I’m trying and will continue to try, to stop getting in the way of my own moments of happiness.

Some days, that’ll have to be enough.

You’ve just read Carlos Wrapped, 2022.

In which, 1 month ago, I wrote 3055 words about life and I covered topics, such as: year-in-review.