Tag Archives: unravel your year

2020 in review

Susannah Conway’s Unravel Your Year 2021 workbook asks you to describe the year just gone by in three words. It’s left open to you how you interpret this: you could, I imagine, choose three words that describe the year from a global perspective, from a personal perspective or anywhere in between. There’s one word I’ve heard more often than I care to remember that has been used to describe 2020 that I never want to hear again and I have no intention of using it. It starts with unp . . . .

And that is the last I will say about that word.

I’ve chosen three words to describe the year from my own isolated perspective from the bottom of an island at the bottom of the world. They are:

  • Unexpected
  • Inconsistent
  • Introspective

Unexpected because I didn’t in my wildest dreams imagine that the world would be thrust into a pandemic that shut everything down, took so many lives, and shook everything up, leaving people jobless and causing so much worldwide despair, uncertainty and confusion. On a personal note, I didn’t expect the issues I was having in my workplace with noise to be (temporarily) resolved by having to work from home. There were other unexpected things too, not all good, and not all for this blog.

Inconsistent because, while I made a lot of progress in some areas I wanted to work on and I achieved a lot, I didn’t do as much as I’d hoped in other areas. I completed my uni course, and I had some good results at work but, there were other areas I was less successful in developing (no judgement here, just stating a fact) and they continue to haunt me. A lot of that is connected to me not being able to stop procrastinating and giving into distractions. And not getting into an exercise routine that works for me.

I struggled to find a third word but I chose Introspective because I started to work on some long standing personal issues in my head that are preventing me from being the person I want to be. It was hard work but rewarding, and I think I am starting to discover small chinks in the façade I’m trying to break down.

I would also add interesting to the mix . . .

I started the year with beautiful sunny Sunday morning photo expeditions, a couple of times with a good friend and other days by myself. It seems like so long ago now . . .

Sunday morning explorations with my camera

A major focus of my year was my uni program, of which I had three units to complete. The first one was intense, involving a lot of self examination and analysis, which left me feeling drained but also with some very clear ideas of what areas of my life I specifically needed to work on. I finished the course in October and received my qualification in December and am very glad that’s over but also grateful for the opportunity to have done it and learned so much.

I managed to keep reasonably healthy in 2020, not least because I have now gone for nine months without drinking alcohol and, as a formerly very regular moderate drinker, I’m particularly proud of my efforts to do this. I read the book The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace, and it totally changed the way I looked at alcohol. I’m not saying I will never drink again but for now I’m very comfortable with my decision not to.

This book changed my life

I had a potential issue with my eyesight that I had to have checked out a couple of times during the year but it all seems to be okay for now and the professionals are monitoring it. I got a hearing test at the start of the year, which revealed I have a low noise tolerance, which makes sense of all the issues I’ve been having at work and in other situations. I’m not sure what we do about this but a retest later in the year showed that my sensitivity had increased and I still don’t really know how to manage it. I kept up with my dental checks and my physio visits to resolve long-standing neck, back and posture issues.

I’m grateful there was never a time during the lockdown that I wasn’t able to go out on my regular morning walks. That would have made it a lot more unbearable.

Morning beach walks, muwinina Country

I started riding my bike to work, which became a whole lot easier when everyone had to stay home because of the pandemic and, as I said at the time, while I didn’t love riding in the traffic, I didn’t necessarily want the roads to be clear because no one was allowed outside. I stopped doing it as much (at all) as the weather got colder, the buses stopped charging fares and, eventually, when I was working from home full-time. It’s something I will start to pick up again when I go back to work after the holidays.

Bike riding to work

Another habit that I actually stuck with was reading, and there were a couple of things that made this possible. First, my goal was to develop the habit, rather than to set a number of books I wanted to read, which the pressure to read a certain amount off and allowed me to just focus on doing it. Second, keeping my no alcohol month going the whole of the year led to me going to bed earlier, which meant I could read in bed before I went to sleep. As of today, I have finished 34 books, which is 13 more than in 2019 when I set myself a target of only 12 books to read and never really stuck with it after I’d finished the 12th book.

The most powerful book I read in 2020, Truganini by Cassandra Pybus

I didn’t do as much work on learning Photoshop as I had intended at the start of the year when I signed up for a bunch of courses. Even though my uni work took up a lot of time, I still had a lot of free time that I could have done this work and I’m not sure what was stopping me. It’s not like I have to do the courses all at once or that there’s a time limit. I can do them in my own time, and maybe that’s the problem. I’ve worked well to deadlines where there is a clear assignment to complete but with these courses there are no assignments, just instruction and it’s up to you to play around with what you’re shown and see what you come up with. This is one of the areas I’m disappointed that I didn’t achieve very much in, and I want to do more in 2021.

I completed the major photography project I wanted to do this year, which was to spend 50 days making a photo a day with my 50mm lens. I’m really pleased with that project and it’s made me appreciate and understand that lens a lot better. I certainly won’t be keeping that one stashed in the bag again!

50mm photo of the Aurora Australis, the day before she left Hobart for the finial time

I had a couple of exciting moments in my photography in 2020 too. In January, one of my photos was published in Australian Photography magazine.

My first photo published in a national publication

I was equally chuffed when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court asked if the court could use one of my photos of the court in their Christmas cards this year.

Supreme Court 2019

And just before Christmas, I found out that one of the photos I had taken of the Hobart Magistrates Court at the Open House Hobart weekend had been chosen as a winner of their photo competition, which was a lovely way to end the year. I’ve really enjoyed my photography this year.

Hobart Magistrates Court 2020

I was lucky to be able to get away for a couple of short breaks during the year. We had a trip to Bridport in the July school holidays. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid and couldn’t remember it at all, so it was great to be able to explore a part of Tasmania I wasn’t familiar with.

Old pier at Bridport on pyemmairrener Country

In October we had a night at Port Arthur, a place I am always somewhat reluctant to visit because of the many sad layers of history held by the area. And then, as a reward for finishing my uni course, I took myself off to Launceston for a photography retreat and I had a wonderful time photographing some of my favourite buildings and walking all day.

Tessellated Pavement near Eaglehawk Neck on paredareme Country

Kramstable adapted really well to online school and I was impressed with his commitment to his work, his ability to self-direct and to manage his workload. The schools did a huge amount of work to ensure that kids could continue learning during the lockdown and I have nothing but admiration for them for what they achieved. Thank you seems like such a lame things to say to convey how grateful I am for what they did. It has been wonderful watching Kramstable learn and grow this year, and for it to start to become more obvious what his strengths are and where his passions lie. The high point of his film work was his nomination as a finalist in one of the categories of this year’s My State Film Festival. It’s also exciting to watch his work and interests develop outside of school. Seeing his dedication sometimes makes me wonder how my life might have been different if I’d had such a passion as a teenager and had been supported to pursue it in the same way I hope I’m supporting him.

Sadly, Bethany the Australorp chicken and Rex the rabbit died earlier in the year. Two new chickens joined the flock in November, Dorothy and Shirley, who are black copper Marans and are very cute. After a month in a cage in the chook yard, they are now finding their feet with the big girls, some of whom are none too pleased to have them there.

The new chickens

Aside from the working from home, covid didn’t have a massive impact on my life. I don’t like going out much, I detest shopping, I don’t play or attend sport and I don’t enjoy being around large gatherings of people. I spend a lot of time at home anyway, and I love it. So I pretty much did what I always did, it’s just that I didn’t have a choice any more. Regular Friday night dinners at the bowls club were replaced with trying out various takeaway and home delivery options from local restaurants and pubs. I actually reversed my no caffeine strategy and started getting takeaway coffees from my local cafe (I am sorry for the plastic, but they weren’t allowed to use keep cups). I’m not sure why. One day I felt like a coffee and it was a valid reason to get out of the house and one day tuned into a couple of times a week, turned into every day. And when they were allowed to reopen, it because my go-to place to write. And a place to work when I needed a change of scenery.

Monthly review at the coffee shop

I realise that I am incredibly lucky that this was my experience when so many others suffered greatly and many continue to do so. I am so grateful for having the job I have and that the Tasmanian Government did what it needed to do to keep our state safe. I haven’t stopped being grateful for being in the position that I’m in this year.

It was, indeed, an unexpected year.

A weed is just a plant growing in a place someone doesn’t want it to grow in

Unravel Your Year asks you to consider what the gifts of 2020 were. I know for many, this would be difficult. I offer the following.

2020 brought me the gift of afternoon walks. Instead of being at work all afternoon, packing up and catching the bus home, I packed up my home office and went for a walk every day. I watched the afternoon light dance on trees, rocks, water and the opposite shore, and I made photos of what I saw. I would never have been able to do this if I hadn’t been working at home.

2020 brought me intense self reflection and the deep inner work that I need to do to start to heal myself.

2020 brought me a confidence boost that tells me maybe I do have an artistic side.

2020 brought me a brain that is no longer befuddled by alcohol, and the clarity and health benefits that go along with this.

2020 brought me respite from a work environment that was becoming increasingly stressful and difficult for me to cope with. My stress and anxiety levels are lower than they have been for a long time as a result.

A friend recently posted that we all need a little more yellow in our lives. I agree. You can never have too much yellow!

Goodbye, 2020.

You were not the year I expected you to be. I know the challenges you have presented, both on a global level and to me personally, are not going to disappear when the clock ticks over to 2021. In reality, the date on the calendar is just an arbitrary thing anyway. The sun is going to come up tomorrow, covid is still going to be here and I’m going to have the same struggles I have today. The climate emergency hasn’t gone away and there’s a lot of work to do. However, the end of the year is a good time to have a bit of a reset, to re-examine my priorities and goals, and make sure the course I’m on is still the one I need to be on.

Thank you, 2020, for the gifts and the opportunities you have offered me. I ticked 18 things off my 20 for 2020 list. I haven’t made the most of everything, but I think I’ve made some progress and I have learned a lot. I intend to continue to learn in 2021.

One thing I know, 2020, is that I won’t forget you in a hurry.


20 for 2020: week 27

Week of 29 June

My 20 for 2020 list.

I had two things on my mind this week. My uni assignment, which was due on Sunday, and getting a work project to a point where I could hand it over to my boss before I went on leave. Yes, next week is school holidays, and I’m having a week off. It’s perfect timing with the assignment so I can have a break without anything looming on my mind.

20200703 Hinsby Beach 2

Breathe time

That was the idea, anyway. I had planned to sit down and work on the work project for pretty much the whole week and I was excited about getting stuck into it and turning it into something that I could circulate to others for sanity checking. Unfortunately, work had other ideas, and I spent much of the week in reactive mode. Such is the way of my job at the moment. It’s not my ideal way of working by a long shot, but it’s what I have to do right now, and I just have to get on with it. I got all of that work done by Friday afternoon, but the project was still one big mess when I sent it to my boss. At least we still have time to work on it and I think I have all the ideas in there, even if they aren’t executed very well at this point.

I went back to the office on Thursday as part of the staged return to the workplace now that the Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted. Different people are coming in on different days so everyone isn’t jammed into the open-plan office all at once. It’s kind of funny because three years ago they were working out how to cram as many people in there as possible, and now we all have to stay away from each other.

While I’d be perfectly happy to never set foot in there again, that’s not going to be possible and I’ve got the next best thing, which is one day a week at the office and four days at home. I can live with that.

One of the things that I hope is going to keep me sane and settled going back into that space is my daily mindfulness practice, which I’ve been learning while I’ve been at home and have been building up over the last few weeks. On Thursday I reached the 100 consecutive days milestone on Insight Timer, which is the app I’ve been using to keep track of my progress. I posted on Instagram that I thought the day I went back to a workplace that isn’t good for me was a good day to reach this milestone. Building up to 30 minutes practice a day (twice most days) and learning to apply this to real life rather than it just being something that I tick off a to-do list is very challenging and very new to me, but I hope it will benefit me as I start to emerge from my isolation cocoon.

20200701 100 days milestone

100 days mindfulness

As I said last week, I went into the office last weekend to work on my assignment and came back from those two days feeling more confused than ever. At the start of this week, I felt like I was never going to get it done because I couldn’t make sense of it at all. It was beginning to remind me of a work project I struggled with several years ago that seemed simple on the surface but that I just couldn’t get my head around. I emerged from that project with my confidence severely dented and, in some respects, I don’t think I’ve ever really recovered.

I knew I had to get the assignment done because of the Sunday deadline and there was no option to get an extension because of my holiday, so I was feeling really frantic about it and had no idea how I was going to do it. Half of me knew I was going to hand something in because I just would, but the other half was freaking how about how exactly this was going to happen.

I emailed one of my classmates during the week to see how she was going. She hadn’t done much but she had an outline and she had some notes on how she was going to apply her work situation to the assignment. She had not, as I had, got caught up on trying to set up the big picture and then been unable to apply the actual problem to this. As soon as I saw her work I realised what I’d been doing that was causing my frustration, and I ripped everything up I’d done and started again. Yes, everything I had done on the weekend was pretty much a wasted effort. Through I had done some flow charts that I decided I was going to include, no matter what, because I had put too much work into them to leave them out.

20200701 Working on my assignment 3 edit

Slightly freaking out

Once I’d pressed reset, the work finally started to come together and for the first time, by Thursday night, I felt that I would have something to hand in that vaguely resembled the topic. I remarked to someone who had done the same course last year that there was bound to be one assignment that ended up being more difficult than all the others put together, and that for me it was this one. He said I’d be fine. I hoped he was right.

My weekend to-do list was to do the assignment. Nothing else really mattered, and that’s what I did. I had a semi-polished piece by Saturday night that I thought if I’d been hit by a bus on my walk on Sunday morning walk, someone could have handed in and I’d probably have passed the unit posthumously. (Yeah, I was in a good place mentally, wasn’t I?!) I didn’t have the days that I would normally like to take to refine it and cut it into something close to the word limit. I had one day, and I did the best I could. By 10pm, I was exhausted and I knew that if I kept looking at it I’d start to doubt myself and try to rewrite sections, which would end up turning something that was relatively coherent into a big mess. I knew it wasn’t perfect and that I hadn’t explained some things as well as I’d have liked to, but there was no way I was physically or mentally capable of changing anything in the two hours I had left, so I handed it in and collapsed into bed.

I expected to feel relief after handing it in but I felt completely drained. A break away would be just what I needed.

(I did make some time to work on two of my other things this week. I spent a bit of time one night when my brain was exhausted playing with my graphics tablet (thing 17) and I took an hour to sit in the coffee shop one morning to start my monthly review for June (thing 22), which I intended to finish after I’d handed the assignment in.)

20200705 Monthly review at the Picnic Basket

Monthly review time

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 10 (1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 14, 15, 16, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 3 (8, 17, 22)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 3 (7, 11, 13)
  • Things not started: 6 (2, 9, 12, 19, 20, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit: 0
  • Days I read a book: 6
  • Days I did yoga stretches: 5

20 for 2020: week 18

My 20 for 2020 list.

20200501 Hinsby Beach 6

Afternoon walk

I signed up for a new Photoshop course during the week. It’s by one of the instructors of the other course I’m doing (thing 7) and when I got the email advertising the course at a massive discount I thought for ages about whether I should sign up for another course when I hadn’t made much progress with the one I was already doing (and not making much progress on). But the special deal and super discounted price were sweet and I am a sucker for signing up to pushy emails that try to sell me courses, so here I am.

I did do a bit of research and I asked them about whether there would be much overlap between this course and the one I’m already doing. There isn’t, and their answer is what really convinced me to do it, which is that this is more of a Photoshop course and it covers a lot of the basic elements of the app that I don’t know much about and have been using with only a vague idea of what I’m doing and get frustrated when they don’t work properly. I think this course will give me more of what I need right now and it will give me some of the foundations I need to do the course I was originally planning on doing, which covers some elements of photography as well as Photoshop. I’ve started work on the first module and have learned (and applied) a lot already. One of the first lessons was about setting up a graphics tablet and I learned a couple of new things about my tablet (thing 17), which was a bonus.

20200430 Lavender on my walk 4

Collecting ideas on my walk

As a result of starting this course, I decided to change my 20 for 2020 list slightly and make this new course thing 7 on my list. Of course, there’s no reason why I can’t complete both of them this year, and that would be brilliant. But looking at the uni work (thing 8) for the next two and a bit months, and then the final unit after that, I can’t see me having a lot of time to devote to these courses until the middle of October when uni finishes. So I am just aiming to get one course done, or as much of it as I can, this year. I think this will require some better time management and scheduling than I currently have, and I will need to go back and finish the Indistractable work (thing 13) so that I can become more focused.

Unit 3 of my uni course officially started on Monday and the first assignment is due in two weeks. No pressure! After a full-on unit last time and with all the odd things going on at the moment, I’m finding it really hard to muster any enthusiasm for it at all. I’ve been enjoying the extra free time to work on my creative projects and I feel like I’m making progress there. So I need to get my head around this. It does seem like it will be relevant to my work and will have things we can apply at work throughout the unit but the thought of starting a new unit, with new materials and a big reading pile, is not filling me with joy right now and I’ve only started one of the readings.

I continued to work on the journalling for the wellbeing course (thing 3) and am finding the overlaps between this and some of my personal development work from the previous uni module really useful. Some of it also links to the Indistractable work.

20200430 Tree at Taroona beach 4

Same tree as last week, slightly different light

I’ve been reading in bed every night (thing 14). I never used to like to read in bed so I didn’t think this was a good time to do it but now I’m going to bed earlier than I used to, I’m not quite as tired and reading puts me more in the mood to sleep than before, when I’d just crash as soon as I got into bed.

Sunday was my allocated day for doing my monthly review of my Unravel Your Year workbook (thing 22). Sitting at home in my room with a takeaway coffee isn’t quite the same as sitting in my local coffee shop first thing in the morning, but these are the times I’m living in and I’m glad the coffee shop is close enough for me to be able to do this. It was still nice to reflect on what I learned last month and to clarify what I want to focus on this month. Now I just have to get myself to work on that uni assignment!

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 8 (1, 4, 5, 6, 10, 15, 16, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 6 (3, 7, 8, 14, 17, 22)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 2 (11, 13)
  • Things not started: 6 (2, 9, 12, 19, 20, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit this week: 7
  • Days I read a book: 7