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Two bright green ring-necked parakeets on a peanut feeder - one is tucking in, and the other is leaning out from the feeder, on the lookout

Reflecting on 2021

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I’ve always really enjoyed reading blog posts from other people on their reflections of their years. So this year, I thought I’d have a go at my own.

For me, it’s been a chaotic year, with a lot happening, and a lot of change. Professionally, I’ve gone from being a mid-level front-end developer who was doing accessibility on the side, to being full-time accessibility lead at a very big organisation. That has been quite a jump, and a challenging one at that - but very rewarding, and something I’ve been aiming for for the past 5 years (thank you Ryan Brooks for being an excellent mentor - that came out of an exercise we did 5 years ago!).

On a personal level, it’s been quite challenging in a different way. I broke up with my partner of 8 years, had my heart broken by someone else (dramatic I know but it was), witnessed a relative pass away after having helped care for them, and had a go at buying a flat, with mixed success and an unclear outcome. I’m not really sure which way is up anymore to be perfectly honest. But, I’m learning to roll with it, and to try to instead focus on who/how I want to be, rather than what.

That's some of the facts of this year. Here’s a couple of list of more subjective reflection on this year.

Professional learnings from 2021

  • Create space for people to come to you if they want help or support. When asking anyone to make changes to anything they’re doing, it’s a lot easier if you create space for them to come to you, rather than you trying to approach them and getting them on the back foot.
  • Ask others for help yourself. I have been very fortunate in that the UK government accessibility network is lovely, and I’ve had lots of support from lots of really kind people, in navigating what has been big career shift.
  • It’s super important to make dedicated calendar time for connections that are wholesome and recharge you. I’ve loved running an accessibility book club, which I’ll blog about separately soon!
  • The importance of using your voice and introducing yourself to set a tone about who you are and want to be to the people in the call. I am naturally very quiet, and tend towards listening rather than speaking. But now I’m in a lead role, and frequently going into conversations with senior leaders and one-off interactions with teams, I’ve learnt I have to do more work to set the scene about who I am, and instill confidence in people that I do know what I’m talking about.
  • Good meeting admin is important - making sure I have found or arranged ways of participating non-verbally, and inputting into agendas upfront. I used to feel really guilty about asking for alternate contribution methods, and worried about ‘taking up too much space’ but by focusing on what my job is and the purpose of it, I’ve started to learn to take that personal doubt and guilt out of it.

Personal learnings

I've separated this one out in case you don't want the oversharing!
  • Nobody is perfect, and the real joy and intimacy in life seems to come from figuring out how to navigate each other’s needs and complexities, rather than trying to be something you’re not.
  • Sometimes people make choices that hurt, and you’ll never get to understand why they made that choice. You just have to assume they did the best they could with the context they had, and move on.
  • Sometimes people just don't like you, and you just don't get on, and you have to let it go and deal with it.
  • Sometimes to move beyond the past, you need to grieve for the things you’ve been trying to ignore happened to you, and it’s painful. But once you’ve done that, things start to feel better, and emotional options and new perspectives open up.
  • Having said that, healing isn't linear, and I think I've still got a ways to go.
  • Having a very good therapist is a very good thing.

Achievements I’m proud of

  • Successfully getting the temporary promotion to accessibility lead role at the Ministry of Justice!
  • Setting up that accessibility book club!
  • Running a UK cross-government event for accessibility specialists. Around 50 attendees were present, and it was very popular and went down very well!
  • Speaking on a panel at the Ministry of Justice for National Inclusion week, alongside deputy directors.
  • Speaking at internal stand-ups, for the Chief Financial Officer and CDIO (audiences of 400+)
  • Speaking at a codebar event on what it means to be an accessibility specialist - a community that is very dear to my heart.
  • Building a new website for Three Rings CIC - another organisation that is very dear to my heart!
  • Becoming a mentor at Accessibility NextGen and getting to meet some lovely people in the process.

Things I’m grateful for in 2021

  • The parakeets in London! I love them to bits. We get quite a lot in our garden, and watching them squabble over the feeders is one of my happy things.
  • Managing to salvage a friendship with my ex-partner. It was hard, and took time, but we get on much better now.
  • Having deepened existing friendships and made great new ones too.
  • Getting to spend more time with family this year, down in the beautiful Kent countryside, in amongst all the family chaos.
  • Bike rides with friends and bus rides in central London - I love people watching.

Things I am aiming for in 2022

  • Settling on where to live. Will I buy a flat in the South, will I move up North, will I stay put in London, who knows at this point - tune in next year to find out!
  • Continuing to find more stability in myself, and being waaaay less harsh on myself.
  • More bullet journalling, now that I’ve set up a new notebook that properly follows the Bullet journal system!
  • Taking more time to reflect, and being braver about requesting space for that from other people.
  • More faith and trust in myself.

Wrapping up

I spent a fair amount of time wondering if this was oversharing, and in the process, maybe a little damaging to share. If maybe the tone was overly peppy. Some of this year has hit me quite hard, in myself. But when I was in my early 20s, with some of the hand I’d had, I didn’t really think I’d make it very far. And I think that was in part because of my perception of what ‘successful’ is.

I’m still fairly messy, and chaotic, but I’ve still managed to navigate a career and been fairly successful at it. So here’s to embracing all parts of me, not just the successful bits, and to being braver about that!

On that note though, one thing I am working on is changing my (fairly negative) perception of myself. So - if you fancy giving me any nice feedback about anything we’ve done together, let me know, and I’ll share nice feedback about you in return! I'm going to start documenting nice things people have said about me in my bullet journal, to re-read whenever imposter syndrome strikes.

Or even if you don’t have anything to share, I’m always happy to say nice things about you, so let me know you'd like some nice feedback and I’ll send you some. The world's a better place with more positivity going around, isn't it. I think so.

Happy New Year!

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