In which I reflect on 2023 with all of its ups, downs, and sideways.

Year-in-Review 2023

4641 words about life — 12:16 · 23rd Dec 2023

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 cosy with a beverage, you’re gonna be here for about 20 minutes.

Since 2018 I’ve been writing myself yearly directions on the first morning of the year.

There are no attempts at hustling because I have no fucking tolerance for that capitalist bullshit, instead, my list contains directions to help guide me along the year—and to remind me of what’s important to me.

I never showed 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 in the table of contents have emerged from looking at the recurring themes in my direction. In turn, the groups themselves now guide the process of writing the list to make sure I don’t accidentally miss, for example, working on relationships.

Sometimes I end up doing things that weren’t on the list. I will still mention them as Not on my list, because I also want to invite the universe unfolding as time goes by.

Table of contents

Self-care

Right.

Pandemic, third year now, let’s do this.

By, “this,” I of course mean, “remind ourselves that we cannot self-care out of systemic mental and physical health crises.” No matter how hard we try.

But as I’ll talk about a bit later, it helps a little when your employer gives you a well-being budget—even though it’s also grossly paternalistic.

Start fixing my fucked up face by seeing a dentist

I dread dentists.

Long before I ever fucked up my skull and face.

Wanna guess the last time I went to a dentist?

It wasn’t until we took Jude for his first checkup—his teeth were great—that I also decided to book myself an appointment, despite really really not wanting to.

I’ve had my first consultation, there’s—unsurprisingly—quite a few things which should and can be fixed without us even getting the really fucked-up shit, so that’s where we’ll start.

Getting an NHS dentist was practically impossible at the time—because they were either too far away or not accepting new patients—so I’ve gone privately for now and I’ve managed to find a dental practice which seems a bit more equipped to handle my sensory and traumatic issues.

It also means I can get oral sedation for the more invasive work. I’ve had it before, it works and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than intravenous sedation which I would struggle to afford.

The first fix is scheduled for early next year and to be honest, I’m mostly trying to not think about it for now.

Knit the thing from Ellie

Back when Katy and I had to self-isolate in February 2020, having just returned from South Korea, Ellie sent a macrame kit that she had designed with instructions and everything.

It’s lovely.

More than three years later and despite putting it on my list this year, I still haven’t knitted macraméd myself the hanging basket.

But I know I will. Some things just don’t happen right away.

More on this a bit later in this entry where I also talk about a Lino printing kit.

Book 2 nights at a cabin somewhere

I often see a Facebook image with a desolate cabin and the following text underneath it:

Would you live in this remote cabin, with no phone or internet for a year for a million dollars?

I’m never quite sure who this image is designed to provoke an appeal or disgust in, but for me, it’s what I dream about.

Despite that, I didn’t manage to book myself in a cabin anywhere.

I bought a nice pair of hiking boots and I even broke them in. I need to get over the feelings of guilt about leaving Katy to parent on her own for two nights. She’s said she’ll be fine, she’s parented on her own before, I really should trust that everything will be fine.

Finish 1 song

After struggling to finish songs I had already started, I decided to spend a chunky two months’ worth of time and effort to finish at least 1 song this year.

Yes, two months for 1 song —I was being realistic, okay?

It paid off.

Because I managed to finish 23 songs.

I also increased my total of unfinished songs to 62, but we’ll worry less about that and take the win.

Moving forward I want to record some rough demos so I bought myself a Røde NT-USB.

Beyond that, if Aerosmith can record “Sweet Emotion” with a fucking sugar packet then I don’t think I need much—although, I’m no Steven Fucking Tyler either.

I said I want to record an album one day, now that’s beginning to feel a lot closer than ever before.

Finish a Terror Snail

After rearranging the bedroom (see below), and leaving my IKEA adjustable standing desk in what became Katy’s room, Lucien and I have had a long break from miniature painting.

A lot of our armies are still waiting to be painted, some are even waiting to be assembled.

As for the mighty Terror Snail Gary, well, he’s also still waiting to be painted.

Maybe next year we’ll resume our painting sessions.

Sick a lot

Not on my list.

I don’t imagine anyone ever plans or wants to be sick. And as I mentioned in The End of The Vitruvian Man, I have been sick a lot more this and last year than any years before that—at least of the recorded years.

Today’s count stands at 49 sick days (excluding migraine days). Almost half of February (12 days) was spent being sick, ending with me gasping for air and then getting two different kinds of antibiotics.

The result is that I’ve had a lot of time stolen from me this year.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this trend as much as I want to be hopeful that it’s anomalous and not a new normal for me.

Persistent pests

Not on my list. Duh.

I honestly considered not writing about this at all because it’s not that interesting. We live in the countryside, in a converted maltings, so getting rats isn’t surprising.

Starting the year with rats and ending it with rats is, well, not fun.

They chewed through our dishwasher drain hose and it gushed water everywhere 7 hours before we had to leave for our flight. So much stress.

But having to deal with the fucking useless property management company Joscelyne Chase, now that is infuriating.

With their excuses and remarkable ineptitude, it’s glaringly obvious that they’re feckless money-grabbers who couldn’t give a shit about doing their jobs. Would not and will not recommend them.

Professional haircut

Not on my list.

November 2019 was the last time I went to a hairdresser’s and got a professional cut.

Between then and a couple of months ago, I shaved my head with a cheap hair clipper.

During this time I learned two things:

  1. my hair grows irritatingly fast
  2. I don’t look horrible in a tennis-ball-buzzcut

But, it felt amazing getting a professional haircut cut and I’m really happy with having more stylable hair that’s still very low maintenance. Harry at Scruffs did a great at managing my double crown.

Homeward

Not on my list.

I moved away from home at 16-years-old. Since then I’ve moved around a lot, usually only staying a year, maybe two in the same place. I’ve lived across twenty or so addresses so far.

On 12 October 2023, with a duration of 4 years and 3 months, the house Katy and I are sharing became the second longest home and address I’ve ever had.

It’s bewildering and I love it.

Honest with myself

Not on my list.

This year, more than any other, I’ve been working on being more honest with myself. And from that honesty, a new sense of self is emerging.

I’m not entirely sure what they’re going to look like once they’re out completely but we’ll find out eventually.

I had a frank conversation with my 15-year-old self. I spoke about my chronic pain.

I even concluded the data collection for whether I could change my character, charming or not—come back for the results of that five-year experiment early next year.

Relationships

The theme this year has been to double down on my existing relationships, making sure to nurture those that are deep and meaningful.

The fool sleeps as if he were already dead, but the master is awake and he lives forever. He watches. He is clear. Buddha

Strengthen my relationships

I want deep and meaningful relationships with people: friends, lovers, and everyone in between.

This year, I’ve focused a lot of energy on strengthening my existing relationships rather than pursuing any new ones—although, as life has a habit of throwing curveballs I’ve ended up making a couple of new ones anyway.

I’m happy with both of these things unfolding but I’m especially happy about being able to express how much I value the relationships I’m having and not worrying quite as much about being “too much”.

One person’s “too much”, is another one’s “more please”.

I’m also learning to articulate boundaries that I should have expressed years ago and finding out that some people preferred it when I didn’t. I suspect I’m better off having these less of people in my life.

Spend another summer month in Finland

After a lovely month in Finland last year, we were eager to repeat it.

But after realising that we really wanted Lucien to be able to join us this time—the school holidays aren’t as generous here as in Finland—we instead decided to spend Christmas in Finland.

We’re here now and I’m looking forward to introducing Jude to proper amounts of snow, we’ll see what he thinks—Lucien already loves it.

Take Katy out for 2 date nights (maybe 1 in Helsinki)

I know how important it is to spend uninterrupted time together as partners, which is why Katy and I have been taking turns asking each other out on date nights.

Katy took me to The Fitzwilliam Museum to see the Black Atlantic: Power, People, Resistance exhibit, which was really interesting when you realise that the museum itself owes its very existence to the generational wealth it hoarded through the Transatlantic slave trade.

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend visiting the exhibit which is running until 7 January 2024.

For my turn, I took Katy to see Daði Freyr, the æðislegur Icelandic musician who was due to represent Iceland, as frontman of Daði & Gagnamagnið, in the cancelled Eurovision Song Contest 2020.

In the end, I had misunderstood the time of the event so by the time Daði was due to perform I was already too tired—insert old man joke here—and we instead headed home, picking up McFlurries on the way.

Whilst not the date night I had planned, we both had a lovely time.

Katy also took me out for a birthday lunch date, and next week I’m taking her to HEJM.

Dates with other people

Not on my list.

Now, I want to start by going on the record as I dislike first dates.

Second dates are where it’s interesting because neither of you is as worried that the other person is a secret axe murderer —maybe this says more about me than anything else?

For the first two years after Jude was born, I’ve been too busy parenting to think about dating but this year I made an effort to meet some new people.

At one of my dates this year, I finally got to use the Lino printing kit I bought back in 2018— remember what I said about things not happening right away? In the end, we were looking for different things, so no second date.

Another was very lovely but also in need of healing from a recent breakup and wasn’t ready for non-monogamy.

Cancer

Definitely not on my fucking list.

End of last year, Katy found out her dad had been diagnosed with kidney cancer and was going in for an operation early the following year.

The operation was successful but he has still had to undergo chemotherapy throughout the year and I’ve been supporting Katy.

If all goes well, he’s only got two more chemotherapy sessions left, so fingers crossed.

Play another Warhammer 40k match with Lucien

We didn’t. We didn’t even paint anything this year.

As I already mentioned, some of our armies are even waiting to be assembled.

I sometimes watch Youtubers speedpaint their way through an entire army in 24 hours and I wonder, “Why? WHY?! That doesn’t look like fun at all.”

Meanwhile, we’re taking our sweet-ass time, and I’ve only painted 1 box of Plaguebearers of Nurgle and almost painted 1 box of Death Guard Plague Marines.

And unlike those Youtubers, it’s taken me 3 years.

Although, I suppose no one is going to click on a video titled, “I slow painted 17 Warhammer minis in 26,280 hours (3 years).”

We did, however, spend quality time together by returning to the cinema after a three-year hiatus, to see Five Nights at Freddy’s.

Lucien is a big fan and absolutely loved it and all its easter eggs and references.

I thought it was quite shit.

But, because I suspect the screenplay is to blame for a lot of my issues with the film, I’ve decided to read Five Nights at Freddy’s: Fazbear Frights #1: Into the Pit, the first in the anthology series from Scott Cawthon (and various authors), to see how similar its pacing and character arcs are.

Carlos Eriksson as a Disney character, standing with a toddler and a teenager representing their children, looking themselves in the mirror.
Poop jokes aren’t my favourite jokes. But they’re a solid #2.

Getting spaces of our own

Not on my list.

Last year I reflected on not having used the office room much, despite getting it all furnished and decorated.

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. Carlos, Wrapped 2022

After a brief chat with Katy, the conclusion was a simple, “Yes.”

And we decided the office room would instead become her official bedroom, to do with as she pleased.

We now have our own spaces where we can withdraw when we need to rest, relax, or recharge.

This also means that my room can be in a perpetual state of crafting chaos without stressing Katy—our brains work very differently and I need to constantly see ongoing projects to remember that they even exist.

We both love having our own spaces.

Gave myself food poisoning by eating raw prawn juice

Who would put this on a list? Just no.

“What’s the worst that could happen,” I said as I knowingly spooned the uncooked prawn juice on top of my rice, thinking I would just get extra flavour. Num-num.

But no, instead I got diarrhoea.

Lots of diarrhoea.

24 fucking hours of fucking diarrhoea Carlos. You idiot.

Lesson learned.

Gym

Not on my list.

Since I began working out at home (Push Ups, Planks and Puking), over eight years ago, I rarely wanted to go to the gym.

Partly because I could do most things at home, and partly because I couldn’t really justify the cost of a monthly gym membership.

This year, inspired by the well-being budget we all get from the company where I work, I decided to change that.

Aside from fixing any imbalances I assumed I had—both in terms of my form but also just muscle groups I had missed with my own training—I wanted to focus on building a bit more muscle and functional strength.

Oh, and I also want to be able to do pull-ups.

In 1.5 months I’ve managed to go from 1ish pull-up to 3 + 3 assisted, which might not seem like much but it’s progress and I’m really happy with it.

Let’s see where I’m at in another year.

We’re hiring if you’re interested in getting your own wellbeing budget and working alongside me. Tell Redgate I sent you. 😉

Learning

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

Read 4 diverse books

Read a little, most days.

I already held myself accountable to my intentions when I looked at What I Read in 2021, and when I posted the summarised results 2022 on Instagram.

It’s never about quantity but whose voices I’m inviting to influence my thinking.

And soon I’ll be looking at my reading habits by analysing what I read in 2023.

Judging by the fact that I didn’t read at all in August and still managed to read 261 out of 348 days (75%), it looks like I at least read “most days”.

Set up a greenhouse, grow stuff through an entire season

After basically killing all the indoor plants, I wanted to try having a greenhouse this year—I used to grow herbs very successfully as a child in my mom’s greenhouse.

Unfortunately, I quickly killed the first batch of seeds and plants.

Then Ellie was kind enough to give me more plants.

Which I then also murdered.

In the end, I admitted defeat, took the whole greenhouse down and haven’t looked back since.

Perhaps a Future Carlos will return to his green-fingered ways but for now, it seems Carlos 2023 only has brown fingers.

New artwork and style

Not on my list.

Suddenly, about halfway through the year, inspiration struck.

I say suddenly but really I was looking for something for my idle hands to do (read: masturbate) when I stumbled on Kali Sudra, a queer brown femme who writes, directs and performs.

Excited—is that the right word here Carlos?—to find porn that focuses on inclusive eroticism for all genders rather than the stereotypical porn.

Hand-drawn with a cheap watercolour brush pen on Matte 300gsm, measuring 420 x 594 mm, I’ve titled it “3 AM” and intend to put it up on my new and improved gallery wall.

And even though I originally envisioned this as a one-off, I’ve already started sketching the next erotic piece, highlighting another performer.

Speaking Swedish with Jude

Not on my list.

When Jude was born Katy and I had already agreed that I would (try) to speak Swedish with him.

As a Finland-Swede, I come from a minority in Finland who speak Swedish as their first language.

There are about 260,000 (~5% of the population) of us on mainland Finland.

But I’ve grown up with Pippi Långstrump (Pippi Longstocking) and other amazing exports from Sweden because we had SVT, the Swedish national public television broadcaster.

So the Swedish I speak is asymmetrically intelligible —I understand Sweden-Swedes easily, they often struggle with my archaic dialect—and mine isn’t even the worst of the dialects.

For a while, I spoke only Swedish to Jude. In fact, I spoke only Swedish to everyone in our household.

Which meant Katy struggled to understand me. And Lucien’s eyes glazed over when I spoke to him. Belonging and being understood is such an important social need.

And I’ll be honest, it was really challenging for me to keep it to Swedish anyway. I haven’t spoken Swedish exclusively since I was about 10.

I learned, that it’s really hard when you’re the only one speaking a language in a household.

I would welcome and appreciate it if anyone’s got any practical tips for what to do.

Learn British Sign Language (BSL)

Not on my list.

After failing to keep it Swedish I remembered a different language dream I had once had—which was to learn sign language.

At Jude’s nursery, they use Makaton to support language development, so the first thing I did was research what the fuck Makaton is.

Makaton signs are used together with speech at all times and follow the same grammatical word order as English. A registered trademark of the Makaton Charity originating in 1979, it smells a lot like some white people thought they knew better than the Deaf community.

A community that created British Sign Language (BSL), a language with its own grammar and syntax and whose existence goes as far back as the 15th century.

Meanwhile, the official Makaton website itself says:

Most people start using Makaton as children then naturally stop using the signs and symbols as they no longer need them.

So, I decided if I was going to try to learn sign language to augment Jude’s and my communication, then I was going to learn and teach him British Sign Language.

Fun fact, the UK Government did a consultation for a General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) in British Sign Language and plan on teaching BSL in schools from September 2025.

Learn C# and Unity

Not on my list.

Last year I had basically prototyped most of my favourite parts of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, plus some other bits.

After spending a couple of more months on it, I now have another rough prototype.

Turn up the volume if you want the rough sound effects.

“Are you just making Sea of Thieves, Carlos?”

Good question random internet stranger. No, this actually won’t have any multiplayer at all.

I have something similar to a design document where I’m keeping all my notes and what I think this game could be, should be, and most importantly won’t be, not that it couldn’t, but because I have no interest in, for example, making a multiplayer game.

Right now, that document is much too ambitious because I don’t know how to do any of it, but… but, the core idea, makes me really excited and I wish it was a game. But it isn’t, so maybe I need to make it, to scratch my own massive itch.

Wanna join forces?

Professional

This year, my professional focus was to build more on the Reboot and stay as a Product Designer at Redgate.

Stay at Redgate

Last year I joined Redgate so recently that I was still evaluating if they were the right fit for someone who needs direct, literal and detailed communication.

Now, 18 months later I can safely say that some Redgaters are absolutely amazing and I love working alongside them.

Others, especially my former (they’ve now left Redgate) line manager, [REDACTED] is a donkey turd who remained wilfully ignorant or maliciously compliant with vague and unaccountable communication from the very first day we met.

I kept daily notes from the first three months, and day 1 reads: “I think [REDACTED] is my line manager but they’re not very communicative so far.”

This impression would not change dramatically as time went by.

I remember a run-through for a quarterly research reading where my brain just ground to a halt—as it sometimes does—to the point where I stopped speaking and apologised for being unable to continue with the presentation, and whilst coworkers checked in on me, my donkey turd did not.

Run “The Accessibility Clinic” workshop

Not on my list.

When it suggested that I share some of my 15 years of accessibility experience at Redgate’s internal Tech 2023 Level Up Conference, I was hesitant at first.

It’s been a while since I’ve done any public speaking and I think I’ve gotten quite rusty since.

I also tend to prepare a lot, and it’s not always practical to spend as much time as I do for someone who isn’t getting paid to speak—although this being an internal learning conference I just realised I suppose technically I was being paid to be there—winning!

After some convincing from other coworkers, I decided to give it a go.

Rather than a talk, I decided to hold The Accessibility Clinic, a practical, Bring Your Own Barriers (BYOB) workshop, where we inspect a piece of your current work (words, design or laptop with code) and address all of its accessibility barriers.

Really well-put-together material, I think the depth of knowledge there is better than we might currently have or that I have seen in accessibility discussions. […] I strongly suggest that you share the presentation more widely. Tushita Gupta, Head of Product Design at Redgate

There are already things I would do differently but I’m also grateful that people suggested I do it in the first place and it reminded me that I like speaking at conferences, even though they’re very high-energy-demanding events.

Build Photos and Books

In a misguided attempt to be ambitious, instead of reducing the scope for the Reboot of Forever, I added more shit to it.

Big mistake.

I’ve not done much at all on the Reboot this year, as evidenced by the lack of entries beginning with “Reboot:”.

It will take time, I always knew that. Did I think I’d be further along at this point? Yeah, probably. Am I disappointed in myself that I haven’t? Nah.

The process is as much the work as the result.

In hindsight

This year I’ve thought a lot about discipline. Katy kept talking about how disciplined I am and it made me think, “Am I?”

But I’m not sure I agree.

I’m not sure how much it is that I am disciplined, as it is that I owe a great debt and responsibility to Future Carlos. He’s relying on Present Carlos to make different and better choices.

I’m all he’s got.

The totality of my life can be summed up in how I choose to live this moment. And then the next moment when that unfolds.

You must be disciplined in thought, word, and deed. Consciously train yourself to do those things that are good for you. Iyanla Vanzant

And put into that perspective, some hard choices become obvious choices.

Maybe that looks like discipline sometimes.

Aside for that, I’m still working on finding joy, inviting it in when it shows up and just generally letting life’s joys surround my life, not just my grief.

Meanwhile, when it comes to languages, be it spoken, signed or as I’m whispering with rocks, I’m learning that I always need a practical use and daily context in which to practice.

What was your year like?

You’ve just read Year-in-Review 2023.

In which, 1 month ago, I wrote 4641 words about life and I covered topics, such as: year-in-review .