Twenty twenty two annual report and twenty twenty three goals29 Dec 2022
Hi. Back for another one of these (the ninth on this weblog, in fact!).
I can’t say this year was great. But let’s see what we’ve got.
Great partner, happy home, lovely friends, beautiful cats, exciting city, steady salary, ability to eat well, no major health concerns, and some light safe travel. I can reflect on all of this and think, yes, an overall good year. However, this annual report leans professional-goals oriented and that’s where things get a bit glum.
Made a book
(researched, wrote, illustrated, designed, cover designed, assembled, built cute and thorough website, made a business, made a publishing company, registered with government entities, promoted, and so on)
This was a pretty big thing. I think I’m in a mood right now where it doesn’t feel like a big accomplishment just because I have some other follow-up accomplishments that I haven’t also finished, which is not a great way to look at things but it’s where I’m at right now. In addition to the two other books I’m looking to assemble, there’s a lot of writing and reflecting and data-gathering/sharing and communication that I just didn’t do (yet?).
I know that’s a bullshit way to feel, though!!!
I’ve sold over 400 copies of this book, which is amazing considering my goal was 300, I’ve done very little promotion, and 90 of those were “buy one, get one” which I guess could really bring the number to around 500. I’ve given away around 50 (from any extra funds that people put forward in the BOGO sale on ko-fi).
Nearly forgot to link! You can see all the illustrations/data at Archives of Tomorrow.
I haven’t gotten a tattoo yet but it’s on my TODO list. Booking good-quality tattoo artists and haircut appointments without having an Instagram account is getting increasingly difficult these day and I resent that.
Adopted a cat
My partner and I found a cute lil kitten and named them Sprite. They are sweet, fiery, and love chasing plastic springs, passing out, and giving/receiving little kisses on the face. So sweetie.
Aura reader for two
I wanted to build on the concept of my initial aura reader by making it into a cooperative game-experience thing. I wrote about it here and you can check it out here (but you’ll need a friend or at least another browser tab).
I’ve been very burnt out and overall have gotten better at managing this, especially with the physical pain aspect. It’s all still a big problem, but I feel more in control. I went to therapy and got on an SSRI. I guess this was good, but mostly it was really fucking expensive, I didn’t get that much out of it, and I’m not going/taking anymore. My therapist broke up with me because I needed more advanced therapy than she was able to provide. Instead of seeking that strong recommendation, I spent 2 months tapering off Lexapro and resenting the American health care system. I don’t feel better or worse. But I’m giving myself a pat on the back for going in the first place.
Oh! I’ve also been involved with Myriad’s “Maintenance Culture” project, which has been fun and enriching. They are also using THROTTLED as an example of a simple complex-artwork, which makes me feel warm’n’fuzzy.
Overall, this year was good, but also, overall, this year was really bad. I’m generally miserable because everything hurts all the time and my brain feels like an empty bowl of mush. If you told me I had long COVID, I’d be like, oh yeah, that checks out, because I feel like a sad foggy mess. I don’t think I’ve had COVID though, and I do think I’m just burnt all the way out. The start of the year was okay, but I’ve been falling deeper into a burnout hole and every time I think it can’t get worse, it does. I think I hit the rock bottom point, but I’m not sure.
Like I said, therapy was okay but it sort of felt like someone trying to make scoliosis adjustments when one of my arms had been cut off. My therapist just wanted to point everything to my childhood relationship with my parents, especially my dead dad. I’m sure that has value at a broad level (hated my dad), but it’s not what I actually need right now. I think I learned more ways to be reflective and move forward through my feelings via TikToks than spending $250 per hour with someone trying to get me to feel anger in my body about something that happened 25 years ago. It helped me track down potential root causes around why I’ve felt worthless for my entire life, but I have more urgent concerns at the moment (not to mention much more complex and truly traumatic things in my more recent history that I haven’t recovered from) and this kind of just muddied things up.
I started off the year with an exciting job that invigorated me without exhausting me, great colleagues, and a good sense of direction. Things move fast at startups, though. I’ve had bad luck at pretty much every job I’ve ever had where things are going great and then a poorly-qualified dude is put in a position of power over me (either directly, skip-level or just adjacent) and they make it impossible for me to do my job.
I’m joking when I say it’s bad luck – I think it’s a very familiar experience for nearly every “woman in STEM.” How can such a lucrative skillset be so poorly managed? (This isn’t directed at one place in particular, by the way, all of this has been building up for at least a decade)
Anyway, I think having to deal with big red-flag deal-breaker behavior 4x in a short time period made me, a person already deep in a burnout phase, fall so much deeper than I thought was possible. I fully, fully burned out. After a long while of trying to work with this, I recently took a severance package and have been moving towards recovery over the holiday season. I will continue to focus on that into January before I start letting myself think about what’s next. If I start thinking about it now, it gets really dark really fast.
So I’ve just been a big depresso blob lately. It’s been emotionally challenging not having any drive to do anything. It’s annoying that even something as small as me wanting to tell someone “thank you” feels like an insurmountable task. It sucks that everything that used to bring me joy now just makes me feel pain (like literally, the neck/shoulder tension issue has pretty much scared me off of using a computer or watching movies or reading comfortably for any amount of time these days). I have endless guilt about not being able to keep up with friends. But mostly it’s just been boring. I’m so fffucking bored of feeling this way.
This isn’t so bad, though. In some ways, it feels like it’s the only path forward and I just have to get through it at a pace that cannot be accelerated. This feels akin to the mesetas section of the Camino de Santiago, the part of the journey that can be the most dreaded and the most boring, but also the most enlightening. I don’t feel trapped like I did before (panicky, doomed), just quietly and slowly moving towards the next thing.
I’ve been running on anxiety for… well, forever. Actually forever. Something that I spent time dwelling on this year is how I’ve spent my entire life running away from shitty situations. I’ve never been able to take a break even when every part of me is telling me that I need to because I haven’t felt safe enough to stop. That’s not sustainable! So going through a depressed phase seems like it’s an inevitable part of the journey out of the panic-anxiety-running-nonstop phase of my life (which, yeah, happens to have been my entire life).
I heard this is not uncommon with burnout recovery, that there’s a big time period where my body and brain just have to actually rest. I haven’t had downtime before, and I get why – it’s so! fucking! boring!
I have some glimmers of feeling like my normal self again sometimes, like I see things at a distance and think wow, it must be nice to care about something and maybe one day that will be me again. I’m in a good and safe position to spend time grieving and wallowing in it, and that’s what I’m going to be doing.
So I’m not feeling super thrilled for 2023, as we barrel-roll into the apocalypse. For January, my goal is to not think about work at all and only focus on getting healthy again. I’ve also been a bit of a Sporty Spice recently (which just means I’ve been using a treadmill and yoga mat more) so I am going to focus on that.
I have a few normal goals:
don’t buy anything
I have all of my caveats written down elsewhere (e.g. fine to replace things). I’m not a big spender in general, but I want to push this a bit harder and evaluate my relationship with things more deeply (and use up a lot of mini shampoo bottles and eyeshadow).
publish media formats books 2 and 3 (audio and film), perhaps beyond
I have some big ideas related to this, I’m just having trouble accessing them right now. I feel really out of touch with the Ashley that had these big ideas earlier this year but I think we’ll meet again in 2023. At the minimum, the audio book is already in good shape and nearly ready for review and the film one should go smoothly.
And my one existential big goal:
find a job
I want to spend the right amount of time on this and find a job that can really be sustainable long-term, a place where I will be able to grow and help others grow, do work that I find meaningful, and be appropriately compensated. I don’t know that this can exist but I want to intentionally seek it out. This may end up being working for myself or for a place, I don’t know. I won’t be thinking about this until February at the earliest.
Along with this, I need to address the pitfalls of people-pleasing behavior. I need to figure out what is going to make me happy instead of what is going to be the most useful to people around me. I’m good at a lot of things, but what is the most fulfilling? What is actually capable of keeping me energized, long-term?
Or, to more directly address the underlying issue, how can I find the right organizational structure that will let me actually do good work? I think me being burnt out has had less to do with me working too much (I’m actually not terrible at setting work-life balance boundaries), but it stems from trying to work under impossible and rapidly shifting circumstances, and situations where my personal success is unattainable due to a total lack of direction from people who control the overall project/product/process vision. Why is this so hard?
TWENTY TWENTY THREE
WISH ME LUCK AS I WISH YOU LUCK