As 2018 begins, I want to take a moment to reflect on my life in 2017.
If 2016 was about making big, sweeping changes, then 2017 was about making incremental progress, one day at a time. For me, 2017 was a year of learning, training, and showing up to practice.
Rio de Janeiro
Like in 2016, I started off the year in my happy place. Rio is still the best place I know for me to get a lot work done while loving life. I lived in my old neighborhood, worked at my old office, and hung out with my old friends. Going back a second time, I was able to get even closer to the city and its people. This time I even learned how to hold a conversation in Portuguese.
When I left in April, I had what was perhaps one the most emotional goodbyes of my life. I can see Rio becoming a regular part of my life in the future.
In May I fulfilled a dream of mine, which was to live sort of a mini life in Paris. I stayed in an apartment by Canal Saint-Martin and worked at co-working space nearby. Because my client was in New York, the time difference meant I could spend most of the day exploring the city and taking photos. I worked from afternoon to night.
While in Rio and Paris, I worked on two products and completed three design projects, learning a ton in the process.
Learning to code, I rediscovered how much I like being a student and how enjoyable it is to learn new things. As someone with a background in engineering, it was fun to think about mathy problems and build stuff again.
In April, I made a bold move and sent a cold email to Paul Adams, who leads product design at Intercom. I'm a longtime student and admirer of Intercom's approach to product design, so it was big deal for me to reach out. I flew to Dublin and went through the entire interview process. Even though it didn't work out, I'm proud that I went for it and I'm happy to have had the experience.
In August I moved to Toronto to start a new project. Since then I've been working on an iOS app for a new digital-only bank in Canada. In my role I get to design, build, and user test prototypes to validate product concepts and features. I'm working with a great team and I'm loving our build-test-learn approach to product development.
Visiting Berlin, I was reminded of how much location matters to me. Some cities give me energy and others take it away. A city either inspires me or it doesn't.
I get a lot of joy walking around a place I vibe with. I like exploring, taking in the environment, and simply moving around.
Perhaps it's in a city of ~~transients~~ explorers where I feel most at home. I connect with people who've lived in several places and have decided not to take the typical path in life.
Keep showing up
I went into 2017 with a clear picture of what I wanted and how to get it. I made a plan every month and I tracked my progress. Most days I started early and ended late.
Being on my own, part of what kept me going was that I journaled almost every day of the year. To be honest, I spent a lot of time worrying about my future. There were days when things felt kind of hopeless. Free writing helped me resist giving into the negative thoughts and stories my mind would create. Instead, I committed to keep going, to keep showing up, and to keep working at it.
Seeing your thoughts in words, you start to notice patterns. And if you're aware of what's happening, then you get to decide what to allow and what to to reject. You get to choose where to focus your attention. You can tell an empowering story instead of a defeating story. You can ask yourself constructive questions instead of questions that only lead to frustration.
Showing up is damn hard and I don't think the struggle ever ends. Fear and self-doubt are natural feelings to have. Just take it day by day.
Going into 2018, I'm grateful that I've found something I love to do, something that feels right and that's suited to my personality traits and abilities.
There's still so much I want to learn and improve, and I count that as a blessing.
In 2018 I'll keep showing up to practice.