2020 Retrospective and 2021 Goals
For the past few years I've done a retrospective every year, and despite the dumpster fire that was 2020, I figured I'd do this again. It's a good practice to keep up. I'll still be working off of last year's retrospective to look through the goals I set and see how it felt to meet, or sometimes not meet them.
What’s a retrospective?
You may be wondering, silently to yourself, what’s that even mean? A retrospective is a list of questions that help you think through what’s happened.
- What went well
- What could have gone better, or what’s not working
- What you can fix for a better result
Because this year was especially hard, I'm not going to focus too much on what should've gone better, but instead remind myself what I've been able to do.
A recap of 2020
Does anyone really need an overall recap? Probably not. It was a rough year. Everyone in our house got sick with COVID-19 in March. Luckily the family seemed to get better after a couple of weeks, although a couple of us still have some residual symptoms that may or may not be related to the illness. I developed extreme fatigue, breathing problems, tachycardia, food sensitivities, fatigue, dizziness, ongoing asthma, and some weird histamine issue that made it feel like I was slightly choking unless I took allergy medicine. But, luckily, all of my symptoms seem to have finally gone away.
Beyond that, it was a long year at home, learning to sit with the mundane terror of a pandemic.
Last year I said that I wanted to:
- Get more involved in local climate justice work.
- Write more on research, design, and climate change to show that we can bring climate work into our jobs.
- Continue getting better at ceramics and be able to make sets of different things like cups, bowls, mugs, and jars.
- Do dedicated gardening and get my backyard planted so that birds, bees, and butterflies can benefit from it.
- Be more patient and kind to myself, treat myself the way I would treat a friend, and share that patience and kindness with others I meet.
Usually I have a few things each year that I didn't get around to for one reason or another. This year has been the first time I've done basically all the things I wanted to for the year, so that felt good.
I attribute a lot of it to the fact that I finally got a therapist again, the fact that I had a stable income and housing, and that there was nowhere for me to go.
Being more kind to myself
I finally caved in April after a month of being sick because my anxiety was through the roof. One day I was making bread, and at that point I basically had enough energy for one activity a day, so completing just one task was really important to me. I could shower, or I could clean one room, or I could bake one thing... and after I'd completed that one task I typically needed a to nap and lie down for the rest of the day. Anyway, I had finally worked up the energy to make bread and I was so panicked about touching the bread, even though it was just for us, that I ended up sobbing over the sink, washing my hands for the 9th (I'm not kidding) time in about 10 minutes.
I figured that I wouldn't be able to keep on like that so maybe talking to someone might help. And it really has. Part of my anxiety was founded in reality; turns out that ongoing asthma and intermittent heart issues make you feel anxious. But some of it was "just" anxiety. Like the issues with touching stuff and the near obsessive hand washing even though we weren't leaving the house and no one was coming in.
Therapy did help me become more patient with my emotional state and also with my body. There were a few months where I thought that I was only going to get about 85% better and that was just the way it was going to be. So listening to my current physical limitations, and being kind to myself about them, was important.
I've become a lot more conscious of the good things in my life, and learning to be more thankful and gracious about what I have has also made me feel better.
Working on ceramics
I started doing more ceramics in 2020, too. I used to take ceramics classes, but since those stopped, I got a pottery wheel and was able to work on my pottery at home. I also started streaming on Twitch, and saving all my videos to YouTube, which has been really fun, too. I've been working on bowls, bud vases, and planters.
Working on the garden
I did a few rounds of gardening this year, starting with making a butterfly garden. I got sick the day I started planting the garden, but was able to get back to it a few weeks later, and then got a great little garden that the bees loved. I didn't get any butterflies this year, so will have to try again this year.
Then we were able to get our backyard updated, which means that there is one project on the house that is almost done. We just have lighting and the fireplace left to hang up, so that's pretty good.
Write more about research, design, and climate change
I wrote a lot more this year, too, which surprised me. My interest really lies in the intersection between research, design, and nature. I focus a lot of my writing on climate change since, it's the biggest threat to all of our lives and our planet.
I actually really only like writing fantasy, so getting anything.
Get more involved with local climate justice work
I volunteered on one local project at the end of the year that was part of contextualizing data called the Community Trust Project with the Civic Software Foundation. For the past few years I've been talking about the need to contextualize large data sets by actually talking to people.
The group I worked with didn't focus as much on climate justice or climate change, but it felt like a step in the right direction and a step forward.
So, what are my goals for 2021? I have a few things I want to focus on this year, and the goal is to bring more meaning into my life. I feel like I know what it means for me to feel successful, but what does it mean for me to have meaning?
Help people imagine a better relationship with nature.
Two years ago, I went to see an exhibit called Nature: Collaborations in Design. That exhibit legitimately changed my life. I've thought about it almost every day for the last 2 years. I saw ideas there that I'd been thinking about for years like living cemeteries that are actually forests, building materials that are meant to grow plants, and ways of incorporating green roofing into modern buildings. I also saw things I had never considered, like clothing made from recycled plastic found in the ocean. I went to the museum on a recommendation, and planned to go in, look around for an hour or so, then leave. I spent the entire day there, and couldn't get enough.
It's taken me awhile to distill down what I saw and why it impacted me so much. But what I realized it boils down to is imagination. How do we create something better if we can't imagine it? If we can't envision it?
I was profoundly changed by that exhibit because it showed me not just what was possible but what might be possible.
So that's something I want to highlight this year. What we could work toward if we imagined a new way to coincide with nature. A better way. Imaginative, historic, and new ways of existing with nature.
I've put together a weekly newsletter called Design & Nature Reimagined that has articles, ideas, designs, and all sorts of possibilities for better ways of interacting with nature.
Create a community that intersects research, design, and nature
I've been lonely in a way I didn't expect this last year. I have so many conversations I want to have about research, design, and nature but feel like I don't really have anyone that I can talk to. I don't know where people are who would even be interested in having these conversations, so I'm using the communities I'm already a part of to try and create a space for those conversations this year.
I've been thinking about starting a community garden so that I can share that with people, but we will see where the year goes
Continue making, exploring, and playing
One of the things that surprised me this year was that, when I started focusing more on my ceramics and drawing, I was so much happier. I've always known that making things was important to me, but I had no idea how impactful it was. On a day that I don't physically make something or go outside, I notice how much more frustrated and touchy I am.
In the past I've typically shied away from doing something if it didn't feel "productive", but this year as I make things I just want to play and have fun. I want to explore different ways of creating and playing with ideas.
I don't know if I feel particularly hopeful for 2021, but it at least feels with the vaccine, a new administration, and a focus on climate we are moving forward, and that's good enough for today.