Year-in-Review 2019

In which I look back at the year and reflect on how I’ve learned to be a little kinder to myself.

07:00 · 28th Dec 2019 - 2113 words about life

At the start of this year, just like last year, I sat down and wrote a list of the things I wanted to accomplish in no particular order.

Some of these things were small and achievable in one go whilst others were big, terrifying and unlikely to be finished in 2019—but at least I could get a start on them.

I quite liked the grouping I used last year so will use that again this time. I’ve also included all the things I did that weren’t on my list, as opposed to writing a separate entry for them this time.

Table of contents

Self-care

I’ve gotten a lot better at taking care of myself. but it’s easy to fall back into habits and old self-destructive patterns, especially when things get tough.

It took me towards the end of the year to realise and finally embrace that I need solitude to recharge my batteries and that some people drain them more than others.

Put 10% of my income into savings

Whilst I didn’t manage to start any savings account or put any of my income away, I have gotten a lot better at budgeting and keeping an eye on my cash-flow.

I started reading a book called You Need a Budget, only got to the first chapter, though it was brilliant and then made a spreadsheet and haven’t looked at the book since. The first of its lessons are already working.

I want to finish reading the whole book though.

Skydive for my birthday

For years, I’ve dreamt of skydiving but despite putting it on my list and getting the opportunity to do it this year I decided not to skydive at all.

Making decisions, even when they’re to abstain from something, is empowering.

Maintain a bodyweight of 70 kg

My weight is staying at a steady 74 kg and I’m very happy with this.

Approach failures head-on

“Approach failures head-on, stop shying away, communicate my intentions and purpose,” was the summary of the result of some of the more grating failures of last year.

But really what it boils down to, is that I put my head down in the sand sometimes when things don’t go according to my plan.

I struggle with things, especially when I can’t see the end goal in my head. I’m always at my best when I’m working backwards so need to make that as frequent as possible.

Self-care Mondays

Not on my list.

Later in the year, I struggled more with life and work and as a consequence, everything started falling apart.

Thanks to supportive friends, family and work I finally saw a doctor and asked for help to deal with the traumas from my life.

I only managed to summarise the past year for her, when the doctor stopped me and said it sounded like I had more than plenty and should talk to a professional.

I then used my remaining holiday days to book almost every Monday off and called it my self-care Mondays and it was the best decision I made this year.

I also started smiling with my teeth for the first time. It still feels weird but not in a bad way.

Migraines

Not on the list.

Aside from asking for help, I also saw a doctor about my debilitating migraines. I’m currently trialling some pretty basic medicine at the moment and they seem to be working.

Which, after over 16 years of migraines is pretty fucking incredible and life-changing.

Carlos Eriksson as a Disney character, looking himself in the mirror.
Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the biggest nettle-eater of them all?

Relationships

As always, I take every opportunity available to spend time with Lucien. Soon he’ll be a teenager and won’t want to spend as much time with his farting father but until then I will make all the dad jokes I can as we create shared memories.

Do 12 activities with Lucien

Lucien and I have carried on doing things together, whether that’s seeing the cinematic spectacle that is Avengers: Endgame at the cinema or taking him (and Katy) to their first Comic-Con in London.

We now also have two video game controllers which mean we can play cooperative games, our favourite at the moment being the remastered version of Castle Crashers, a cartoony 2D beat ’em up, the original of which I was playing back when Lucien was born.

Mend things with Rebecka

For a long time, I was convinced that Rebecka and I had to be friends, that we were supposed to be friends. This year I’ve realised that isn’t the case.

Relationship with my mom

Not on the list.

There’s a longer and more complicated story behind why my mom and I didn’t speak as often as we both would have liked but for now, I’m grateful we’re talking more frequently again, and that Lucien and she are as well.

Bought a house with Katy

Not on the list.

One of the biggest changes this year was that Katy and I bought a house together, which has brought with it its own set of challenges, such as when it got colder and the boiler stopped working and we had to start calling around to find someone who could fit us into their busy schedule—it seems our boiler wasn’t the only one that was acting up.

This is how I learned that when you’re house-owner, unlike being a tenant, you don’t have to service the boiler once a year.

No wonder I couldn’t find any gas certificates.

Overall though, it’s been amazing to have the sense of security that comes from house-ownership and being able to decide what colours the walls should be.

Learning

By learning, whether that’s through self-experimentation or the simple act of reading (simple for me anyway), I intend to grow as a person.

Read 5 books

Continuing to give myself the gift of reading this year, I increased last years’ goal from 4 books to 5 and tweaked the criteria for it a little. I wanted to make sure that I never read for the sake of quantity but instead focussed on quality. And I wanted to read from a broader set of perspectives, which means reading more books by minoritised authors.

I read 27 books in total. I’ll talk more about the books themselves in a future entry but a brief look suggests I did a lot better than the year before though I still have work to do.

Travel 3 times

I travelled to Brighton twice, and once to Finland to see my grandmother who had become hospitalised but unfortunately died before I got there.

Despite the sad circumstances, seeing friends and family was as wonderful as it always is.

Run a marathon

From the guy who never ran and thought people who ran for fun were punishing themselves, to completing my first marathon back in April, it’s been a wild three years.

My misaligned patella is still preventing me from running regularly but that didn’t stop me from not training and then completing the Brighton Marathon.

Now, I don’t know what I’m going to do next so I’m open to suggestions.

Object-oriented programming and Laravel

Not on the list.

After months of thinking about what I’ve going to do with my blog, i.e. the one you’re reading now, I’ve decided that I need to be able to write quick notes.

Thoughts which may not be completely formed yet but are important enough for me to keep. Think Twitter but in my ecosystem. I have more ideas and requirements for this which I’ll go more into detail about in a dedicated entry. The main question I’m asking myself is this; Can I create systems which let me to own my data and empower a broader perspective on my life?

A few of my developer friends have been recommending Laravel for some time now so it seemed like a good framework to review and see if it met my needs.

Two days later I have already built a rough proof-of-concept with a login area, the ability to write short notes (which are saved in a database) and integrated my existing Markdown journal entries without having to migrate them—last time it took me a couple of years to migrate all my entries and I didn’t want to have to do that again this time.

I’m enjoying learning Laravel though there are a lot of concepts to get my head around.

It’s been six years since I embraced the restrictions that come with a static site generator hosted on Github Pages and I’ve enjoyed every moment of focussed writing.

But the time has come to move and, especially given Github’s association with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which have been taking children away from their parents and locking them up in the cages.

Professional

The intention was to share more of the incredible things I’ve learned through my career as a designer and developer focusing on accessibility.

Finish supercritical learning course

When Skillshare contacted me to work together I had already been planning an accessibility course for some time so it seemed like a mutually beneficial idea. And whilst the shape of the original idea has changed over time, its final form is something I’m incredibly proud of.

How to Design Inclusive User Experiences (Ux) for People is a 20-minute, straight-to-the-point class to help you start designing user experiences that work for people, instead of against them.

I’m currently looking for feedback on how I can improve my teachings. If you have watched my class please feel free to get in touch and tell me how I could make it better for you.

Prep pitch and call to speakers for 24 conferences

I’m going to retire this idea for now.

I sent out exactly one speaker proposal and that was last week (and it didn’t get accepted). I love sharing knowledge and educating people but I’m not convinced that public speaking is the right avenue for me. I think I prefer writing.

BIMA’s Champions for Change

Not on the list.

I was honoured and humbled to be selected as one of the many amazing people who are shaping the future of Britain’s digital and technology industry when BIMA inducted me as one of their Champions for Change.

Or as I’d like to think of it: I went from regular pain-in-the-ass to award-winning pain-in-the-ass.

Other BIMA alumni include Stephen Fry, Sir Jonathan Ive, Professor Sue Black OBE, and the inventor of the World Wide Web himself, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Superdupercritical Ltd

Not on the list.

I started my own company. It’s still early days but for now, it gives me an entity to which I can attach my endeavours.

Inclusive by Design

Not on the list.

Continuing from the momentum created by my Skillshare class I finally started the newsletter I had been thinking about for three years.

In Inclusive by Design I send out an article every other Tuesday morning, where you’ll get a decade of knowledge and experience packed into a 5-minute piece of thoughtful and actionable advice on accessible and inclusive practices.

The feedback so far has been fantastic and my average open rate is 74.4%—which is how I’m measuring its success. I’m looking forward to writing more in 2020 and seeing where this new adventure goes.

In hindsight

Looking back, this year has been an eventful one professionally whilst also being a year with a lot of personal calmness—despite the late-year blip. I often get stressed and feel like I need to accomplish more and faster because I’m acutely aware of how precious life can be. In the past year, I’ve returned to this quote to remind me that it’s okay to slow down.

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

It helps me to focus on what I can achieve in five years rather than one.

In my previous circumstances, I wasn’t left with any energy to deal with things so it’s hard coming from a perpetual state of emergency to think that far ahead but it’s something I practise every morning and it’s getting easier.

Meanwhile, as the new year dawns, I’m going to sit down to write a new list for 2020.

How was your year?