2021 Theme: The Year of Discourse

Resolutions are dumb. They're unsustainable and you can fail at them. Humans are just awful at long-term behaviour or thought-pattern change. Instead, I like themes: broad ideas that only try to guide you, not dictate. They're not a single thing, they're like a north star, or a prompt for conversation and reflection when you pause for it. CGP Grey condensed his thoughts on them into a neat little six-minute video. If you're more into it, or like podcasts, here's an episode of Cortex to listen to.

A brief eulogy for 2020

Coming into 2020 I was hopeful. It was going to be the Year of Making Space, where I was going to trim away as many of the routines and commitments I had put myself in, to see what would happen. To see where my brain would go with this new time and opportunity.

I had handed in my notice at a job I liked but didn't love any more, I was going to go freelance for a little while, and I was going to use this as a chance to find the things that I loved. I was in a contemporary dance company and we were actively producing a piece to be performed in May. I had the entire of February off, for a proper rest. I was maybe thinking about planning another long-distance cycle tour, after getting (most of the way) across France last year.

I'll save the quips and the suspense - none of those things happened.

2020 pt.2: Year of Survival

Between March and April of 2020 there was a bloodbath. It's a vivid and morbid word to use. People were dying, and we were all scared. Large parts of the economy went into free-fall. Budgets were cut, people let go, customers canceled orders and subscriptions. Nothing felt safe or exempt. It was every person and every company trying to figure out how, or if, they could survive for the next one-to-six months. It was a bloodbath.

It was a bad time to be the newest freelancer on a team. I don't want to talk about the specifics of the lessons I learned during this time, but I would summarise them as "good to know, but over-priced".

My burning mental image from this year is one of trying very hard to keep my head above the water. It turned into the Year of Survival. I had to draw a card then play it immediately, and I'm grateful that I made it through.

Things eventually worked out, as they are want to do. I found employment at a company with a great team and vision, I moved house, I got a haircut, I did a lot of Zoom Happy Hours, made bread, and I neglected some plants until they died. Pretty standard 2020 things. Now, it means I can come into 2021 with a few more liquid assets in my attention economy.

2021: Year of Discourse

I have decided that 2021 is the Year of Discourse. I am currently thinking about this in two parts:

  1. How do I present and communicate?
  2. What do I do with ideas presented by others?

I would like to consider how I present myself, my work, hobbies, thoughts, ideas, affections... I would like to think about how the things I feel and know on the inside are shown on the outside.

I want to balance this focus on self with a focus on others. While I don't feel I have ever struggled with accepting or facilitating feedback or information, I want to focus more on doing something with that it.

I initially started with the Year of Presentation, which focused only on the first of these points, but the idea didn't fit. It felt too selfish. It also sounded a little synonymous with the Year of PowerPoint & Keynote, which I'm not ruling out.[^1]

[^1]: Shoutout to Prezi, who I'm surprised to learn have adapted pretty well to the death of Flash.

Why ?

During this summer I was interviewing for new jobs. I ended up getting the one I really wanted, but one of the other companies rejected me on the basis that I did not have good self-knowledge or self-awareness.

I was surprised by this feedback. I think it's the first time someone's levelled that criticism. In fact I've often heard the opposite: too self-critical and under confident. I try to keep a good tab on my shortcomings and this isn't one of them. I spoke this through with a few close friends and they agreed that it seemed a little out of character. Despite this, a group of people I did not know met me, interacted with me, and together agreed that this was appropriate feedback, so I do not want to dismiss it.

They met the professional version of myself, who is wholly more confident and opinionated than my actual self. For the sides of my personality which I showcased, their feedback was probably accurate. I can't let my ego stop me from hearing valid criticism. I don't want to dismiss this feedback by justifying it or explaining it away - because that isn't going to lead to meaningful change.

This is what gave me the initial idea for thinking about presentation and interactions, i.e. Discourse.

Cynical Everything (™️)

I am worried this could be the moment in my career where I turn into the Cynical Developer (™️). That person on the team who hates everything they don't like (or know). Who's not open to change or different ways of doing things, and who only has one moral framework (their own).

I don't want my opinion to become inflexible, and I don't want that reputation. Nor do I want this to be the precedent that I set myself on the pathway to mastery of something. I don't want to be a Cynical Anything: cook, fitness person, artist, creative, friend, whatever.

I want to remain open-minded and engaging, and obviously in love with the things I chose to do with my time. And if I don't love it, or care about it - don't hold opinions about it too tightly. Let parts of it go. The Year of Discourse is about opening that journey up, to share it and show it in an inviting and collaborative way.

Season #1: Winter 2021

I bloody love seasons. I fell in love first by eating with them, and then the Covid-19 pandemic made me fall in love with simply watching them. Time passes, the rhythms flow, and everything has its time.

I want to spend the Winter of The Year of Discourse working on the implicit beliefs I have: recognising them and putting them into words. I'm hoping this will help me realise how differently I could be doing things, and potentially some of the things which are guiding my actions or decisions. I'm also hoping it will let me cut away anything which is holding me back.

Some of this is going to look like writing, which could be public or private, professional presentations, and conversations with friends. I think the process of discovering these things and then refining them is the valuable part of the work. I do not think the product will have much value for others. I don't want to rush through everything with the intention of producing something sharable, or wrap-up-able.

Hopefully I'll keep you updated 🤷‍♀️