Amy’s Kapers

2017 - A Retrospective

So the last month or so I’ve been reflecting a little on how this past year has gone and I’ve come to one conclusion. 2017 sucked. This past year I’ve been through some of the hardest things I’ve ever had to face. But I’ve also had some of the most amazing times this year, discovered the most amazing people and have had the best year of my life.

To say that 2017 didn’t get off to a great start would be putting it lightly. New Years Eve I’d, gone to bed early with a headache, got woken up at midnight (still with a headache) when my neighbours all turned their music up, and spent New Years day binging on Netflix and whatever food I could find in the house (I was still reeling from a break-up just before Christmas).

Thankfully my year improved, as a couple of days later I received a phone call from my parents. My grandparents had been meant to visit me (and see the tennis) but my grandma had recently had surgery and didn’t feel up to travelling across the country. Several phone calls with the airline later, I’d managed to get the tickets transferred and my parents had less than 24 hours before taking off to come and visit me in Perth (I’d been in Perth for 5 years and they hadn’t been to visit before so this was a nice surprise).

This was a great surprise, and I was able to show my parents the city I live in and the life I have here. We explored the city, had lunch at Kings Park, breakfast at the markets, did the beach at Fremantle and spent the day on Rottnest Island. To be able to show them everything I had here and why I love living in Perth was amazing, although true to their form I remembered how I can’t take my parents anywhere in public.

The first couple of months were quite an adjustment for me, I’d just started a new job and moved house at the end of January to the other side of the city. For the first time in 4 years, I was no longer working with my best friends (although I was getting to know my new co-workers) and wasn’t able to see them as often as I was now living closer and my new job had me working longer hours.

But as part of my new year, I’d also started volunteering as a co-organiser with Fenders (a local community group of front end web developers) and this was keeping me busy as I started to learn my way around running a community group. No longer was I able to just stand in the corner at an event, or stick with people I knew; I now had to step out of my comfort zone, greet new people, and talk to people I’d never met before. This was insanely scary at first but also incredibly amazing when I realised how much more comfortable I was in unknown social situations. Because of this, I was also able to meet and get to know so many amazing and interesting new people, which have made my life so much better this year.

This year I started getting involved with more community groups in Perth (as an attendee as well as an organiser). This was the first time I’d started to feel like I’d really found my place in Perth and it felt good. Thanks to Fenders, I got to do a bit more travelling of WA when we spent a weekend in Cervantes “Glamping” (ok, so we had an airconditioned cabin with 30/30Mbps wifi and Netflix, it wasn’t even Glamping), relaxing and playing board games. It was great to get out of the city, and see some more of the wonderful state (and country) that I live in.

Perth is a very small place (and coming from a country girl, that means something) and the people you know can be a great asset. The World Wide Web Conference was in Perth this year and thanks to my new networks, I got the chance to speak on a panel at the conference. This was an ethipot on ‘Are Four-Year University ICT degrees ethical in the face of fast start-up times and global technology change and disruption?’ and at this point I’d just left my university course to prioritise my job so I was a little passionate about the topic. This was an amazing experience to be able to talk on a panel at a conference like www2017 and I was so glad that I was able to do it. If nothing else, I was able to get a bunch of ducks from the expo hall (which frightened my dog a little).

This year I also started spending more time on my health and well-being. This wasn’t a new years resolution (those never work), but I realised about halfway through the year that I was now exercising more regularly than I have my entire life.

I joined a group of friends who were working out in the park on Wednesday mornings and found that this was a great way to get through hump day (it also provided entertainment for my colleagues as I was usually unable to move for the day). Through this same group I also started rock climbing regularly and despite my fear of heights I loved it. I found rock climbing was a great way to relax and burn off any frustrations from work, and is a great form of exercise to help combat the effects of sitting at a desk all day. For the same reasons, I also started organising a weekly yoga class through Fenders to help relax, switch off and stretch out the muscles we often cramp up when sitting at a computer all day.

Not just wanting to focus on body, I was spurred on by several friends who shared stories of their recent mental health issues and started prioritising my mind as well. I made sure that I had time out for myself, spent more time catching up with friends or doing something outside of work, and even helped coordinate Fenders events for Geek Mental Help Week in October.

Several years ago I managed to burn myself out and this year I came very close again. Thankfully I was able to recognise the signs in time and took the time out to recover (and even started talking to a psychologist as well). This was a step that is often difficult to take, but am so glad that I was able to do it. I’ve also tried to be open about my experiences and hopefully make others feel more comfortable taking steps of their own when needed. Getting to organise events for Geek Mental Help week was also great to get more people talking about mental health in our community. It also led to one of our most successful events yet when we ran ‘Coding with Cats’ to GSD and chill out at the same time.

To further my efforts to focus more on my mental health, I also made more of an effort to spend time with my friends this year. Rather than just saying ‘we should catch up sometime’, I made sure to actually make plans and stick to them. Whether it was a movie date, a homemade meal, a coffee catchup, taking the dogs to the park, going rock climbing or playing board games, this year I managed to get back in touch with friends I haven’t spoken to in far too long, get to know new friends and catch up with existing ones.

This hasn’t been all sunshine and roses though. This year I’ve struggled with adjusting to a lot of new things in my life, learnt so many new things it’s almost scary and been through several rough moments. I had a good friend get a new job and move to Canada, I had a housemate disappear to Germany on me with no notice, and I got made redundant. There were times this year that it got really hard, and I struggled to get through it.

Thankfully, this year I discovered how amazing the people in my life are. I discovered that I have friends who are there for me at a moments notice (depending on traffic), friends you are there for me when I need a helping hand, a shoulder, or a distraction. This year I’ve been pleasantly surprised people who’ve gotten a thoughtful gift, or brought me flowers when I’ve had a bad day, or have been there to offer me support with any of the challenges I’ve faced.

This year, I got the chance to hear the wonderful Kris Howard speak several times, and her talk at DDD Perth (The Campsite Rule), which discussed the different types of mentors was one which has stuck with me. She discussed the different types of mentors we have (inspirational, formal, career, tech, champion, peer, etc) and it brought me to tears when I realised how many of them that I already had in my life. This last year I’ve done a lot in my career and most of that wouldn’t have been possible without the people who are mentors in my life. Some of them have inspired me to be like them, some have supported me through doing something different, and some of them have simply been there to encourage me along the way.

For 2017, I also decided to stop saying ‘we should go to that’, and just do it. When I saw a show that I wanted to see, I bought 2 tickets and found someone to go with me later. I’ve found that most of the time people need someone to organise things for them and never had any issues in finding someone to join me. Because of this, I’ve been to see an amazing set of performances this year, ranging from orchestra to jazz, ballet to Shakespeare and comedy to local theatre. I’ve discovered the wonder of live music, seen amazing traditional Shakespeare and ended a long week by laughing until my entire body hurt. This was an initiative that I’m glad I took, and one I definitely want to continue in the future.

In 2016, I also discovered the wonder of conferences, and this year I got the chance to go to several. I believe that conferences are a great learning tool, and worth it to go along. This year I got to go to YOW West, DDD Perth and YOW Brisbane and each and every one of them was amazing. I got the chance to listen to a heap of amazing people speak, on topics that I never would have thought I’d enjoy and each and every time it reminded me why I love the industry I work in. And it’s not just about the speakers, it’s at events like conferences (and meetups) that I’ve gotten to meet some amazing people from all over the world and find out more about what they do. Building connections like these are amazing, and it’s given me the chance to meet people from all over the world who are doing some amazing things in their field.

This year I learnt more about the web than I have in the last 4 years (information overload much?) and although it’s incredibly scary it’s also been an amazing experience and I’ve fallen more and more in love with the web with every new discovery (except anything that involves IE).

When I found out that I lost my job, I decided to take advantage of the situation and use it as a kick up the butt to get started on my business. I’ve been working as a freelancer on the side for 4 years and the intention was always to move into my business full time so I decided to do it today, rather than waiting for tomorrow. This was incredibly nerve-wracking and still terrifies me but also gives me an amazing feeling to know that I’m doing something that I love, and something that I’ve built. It’s involved a lot of self-discipline (which at times is hard), but has also meant that I have a lot more flexibility, and am able to work from wherever I like. It’s meant that I’m able to work anywhere (as long as I have wifi), and when I want. This means that I’m able to start early (which I love doing in summer), work for a few hours and take my dog to the beach before lunch. I’m still very much working out the kinks with working for myself, but it’s been an amazing feeling to take a leap and do something I’ve been planning for a while.

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This year, I also got the chance to give my first talk at a meetup event. In December, The Junior Dev group in Perth ran a night around Failure and took the chance to give my first presentation. I’ve done public speaking before, but this was the first time I got up and spoke about myself and my experiences so I was freaking out a little (ok, a lot). It was great to get the chance to share my story and my experiences with others in my industry, and hopefully even to make other junior devs feel a little better about their own journeys. It made me realise that speaking at events was something I really enjoy doing and definitely want to do more of in 2018.

This year I also started my blog, wrote a couple of things on it and rebuilt my website, not once but twice. Writing for my blog was a great chance to get into the hang of writing articles, and also gave me an outlet to share a little about myself, my life and the things I’d done (kinda like I’m doing now). I still have a long way to go and should probably get someone to have a look at the grammer and style side of things but it’s been great to just have a couple of people read what I’d written and get something out of it. It was also great to get my website rebuilt (it had been 3 years) and even better to use something new I’d learnt when I rebuilt it the second time.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it, this year has been rough. But it’s also been incredible, amazing and life changing. This year I’ve taken chances, tried new things, met new people and discovered more about myself than I ever knew. Although I want to keep a little credit for myself, most of this has been down to the incredible people I have in my life, for making this year what it was. My life is scary but I’ve always got someone there when I need them and that is something that I never thought I would have. But even better than everything they’ve done for me this year, I know they’ll also be here to make 2018 even better!