2019 Retrospective: Wins, Woes and Lessons Learned

Dear Universe. 2019 was pretty epic. Can you send just as much change and adventure in 2020?  Signed Becky.

2019 changed me. Am I “100% that bitch” who takes bold actions? I hope. Author Simon Sinek has this quote that I love. “Words may inspire us but only action creates change.” This year’s adventures changed me.

In 2018’s retrospective, I patted myself on the back for leaving a comfortable job and venturing elsewhere. This year, I completely one-upped myself when I quit my job, took a sabbatical, and leaned into working for myself.  I also developed this philosophy that I want to fill my life with adventures worthy of sharing like karaoke and taking an improv class.

In this post, I’ll cover some of this year’s highs and lows.  First, let’s cover some metrics:

Category Count Notes
Hours Meditated ~14hrs 80 consecutive days of meditation as of 12/29
Books Read 9 GoodReads
Blog Posts Published 45 2018 = 7
Certifications 0 Failed AWS Solutions Architect Associate exam.
Conferences Attended 4 2018 = 1
NetApp Insight, Pure Accelerate, VMworld, Grace Hopper Celebration
Community Events 3 2018 = 3
Storage Field Day #18, NetApp ETL, HopperX1NYC

Last year’s Becky wasn’t a tracker, but, hey, she’s evolved. Scan my journal, and you’ll see pages and pages of me tracking things like meditation and affirmations. Tracking helps with accountability, and god knows I benefit from that.

Next, we’ll review some of my wins and woes.

Wins

  • Community Goodness. The Tech Community is filled with kind souls who inspire me. Let me shout out a few empowered women who empowered me this year: Mercedes Adams, MJ Schmitt, Sam Moulton, Cecelia Taylor, Paula Silva, and NetApp WIT as a whole. After some encouragement and a lot of guidance,  I submitted my first speaker proposal for the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC). After my CFP was rejected and I was unable to secure a general admission ticket, I resigned myself to being unable to attend GHC. At that point, I was gifted an elusive ticket for GHC, which I’ll forever be grateful. As incredible of an experience as attending GHC was, finding my tribe of #WomeninTech was priceless.
  • Meditation. For the past few years, I’ve told myself that I should meditate.  It’s what all of the high achievers do. However, I was never able to be consistent for more than a couple of days. StrengthsFinder even ranked consistency in my bottom five.  Somehow, I’ve been able to meditate for 80+ days in a row. It’s funny what happens when what you believe is possible changes. On trains, in cars, and crowded public spaces, I’ve meditated. Tracking my streak plus seeing positive effects of meditation (like being more present and less anxious) has kept me on the path.
  • Write Stuff.  Me? A Writer? 2019 was the year that I found my voice and the also self-confidence to use the writer label to describe myself.  Here’s the -thing, I spent almost my entire life believing that I didn’t have any special talents. Whenever anyone asked me to write, I hesitated because I thought I wasn’t good enough or that I couldn’t write-on-demand.  When I agreed to write some posts for SolarWinds, it all changed.  Since that time, I’ve written five more blog posts and two tech briefs, all paid.  To further solidify that I’m a writer, I also created the site: BeckyElliottWrites.com. As 2019 ends, freelance writing is my job.

Woes

  • RIP Aunt Dorothy. My aunt, 62, died this year from health complications related to obesity, poor diet, and exercise choices.  My mother and I were able to take a trip to Columbus, OH, to see her in the hospital. At the time, it seemed like my aunt made a full recovery, but a month later, she was on life support, and someone had to make the call to pull the plug. At the time, I declared that while my aunt wasn’t able to turn around her food and diet choices, I was. After three months of giving up added sugar, I backslid into the familiar.  I know that this sounds really dysfunctional, but I had built up my identity around limiting beliefs that I was fat, unable to be long-term consistent, and lasting change was untenable. This extra fat has been both warm blanket and invisibility cloak protecting me (in prison-y kinda way) and reinforcing that childhood-era limiting belief that maybe I don’t want to be seen or heard. It’s a work in progress, and righting this ship is a key part of my 2020 goals.
  • Burnout. While springtime is usually a time of renewal, mine was spent exhausted, overwhelmed, and burnt out. A long commute was partly to blame for my burn out. But another part was the sense of futility about my job and the work that I was doing.  I reached a “fuck the money” point, convinced my husband to support me taking a break, started counting down days, and gave my employer a month’s notice that August 17th would be my last day. Bank account aside, things have only gotten better since then.
  • Watch-less. And now for the most shallow of my woes. The death of my Apple Watch.  I loved that thing, it tracked my sleep, monitored my heartbeat, and honestly, it kept me off of my phone.  However, once the screen cracked and the display went black, it became a symbol of what I’m willing to sacrifice for having freedom over my schedule. Everywhere I go, I see Apple Watches. A six-figure salary at a 9 to 5 would easily fund this discretionary tech spending. However, is that the life I even want?  It’s not, and how could I justify spending 25% of my monthly income on a watch?  Will 2020 be the year I replace my broken Apple Watch? Or the year that I chose to spend my money on adventures and experience instead of things? Or is there even a right answer?

This year gifted me with time and space for introspection.  I also found a life coach who offers me another perspective for some of my challenges.  While I’ve had some serious insights this year, I want to wrap up this post listing some of the more powerful lessons learned.

Lessons Learned

  • See where your negative feelings lead you. Conflict makes me uncomfortable, and by default, I keep emotions bottled up.  Occasionally, though, I lose my shit about something that should be inconsequential.  For example, someone canceled my Toastmasters’ speech for the second time, and I was overcome by anger and ready to rage quit.  In the past, I would have taken as a personal slight and probably held a grudge against this person.  However, observer Becky questioned, “WTF is all of this about? Why does this feel so personal when you know it isn’t?”  I thought about the “why” for my feelings a lot, not the particulars of the situation that awakened my ire. Here’s what I discovered. My anger was related to some limiting beliefs that I have around being seen and heard.  If you stop and explore the “why,” your Irrationally negative feelings are smoke signals to emotional issues and needed internal work. Don’t ignore them.
  • Embrace what is. The good, the bad, and the ugly.  But wait, is anything actually good or bad? In Eminem’s “Believe”, he has this riff where he raps about “turn[ing] handicaps into assets.” Sounds like alchemy, right? But it isn’t. A big part of whether we label things as a strength or weakness centers around the stories that you tell yourself.  Does assigning value judgment labels help you create narratives that propel you forward? It doesn’t help me, but accepting what is (without judgment) does.
  • Overthinking is clarity-repellant.  If only I mull the decision a little longer, than I’ll make the perfect decision.  Bullsh*t. Clarity comes from action. Pick something and go with it.  If it doesn’t work out, pick something else. You will learn on the way. I know that this is easier said than done. The majority of the decisions we make aren’t immutable.  When deciding whether to leave my job, if I selected the wrong option, it doesn’t matter.  I can always go and get another job. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day drama and lose sight of the fact that tomorrow is NOT promised. Is ruminating on decisions how you want to spend your precious time on earth?

Woah, what a year! Mindsets and beliefs have shifted. What’s possible has expanded. Opportunities have opened up.  Now that I’ve shared some of my wins and struggles, how was your year?  What lessons have you learned along the way?