Last year, I took the time to have a personal retrospective and it really helped me to celebrate what I’d accomplished, think about what I didn’t accomplish, and set goals for what I wanted to achieve in 2019. It was very satisfying and encouraging, so I am doing it again this year!
This was another travel-heavy year, but I got a lot better at it. It was much easier to pack light and stay focused on what I wanted to accomplish for each trip. I gave seven talks in 2019, and it was really good for me to get out there and talk about digital accessibility in Ember.js.
When I thought back over this year in the grander scheme of things, there was a single theme that stuck out to me- 2019 was mostly about coping with failure.
I failed to get accessible routing implemented in Ember. I struggled to find my flow at my new job. I failed to make my dream job successful, and it turned into something else as a result (I still have the job but the role is different than the one I signed up for). I failed to ship the Ember website re-design. I failed to write down the governance policies that I’d been so passionate about making a reality. I’d keep going but you get the idea. I tried a lot of new, bigger things in 2019- and failed at most of them.
Of course, we’re told that we’re supposed to be comfortable with failure. Celebrate our failures, even. While I don’t know about either of those things (they just don’t make much sense in my mind), I do know that I have a process for failing, a process for doing better next time. I did that a lot this past year. I trusted my process. When you don’t know what to do next, go back to your process. Your process will tell you what to do next. So I did. And you know what? It really worked.
In looking at a failure, my process is this:
- examine the original goal and think about a different way to achieve it
- consider whether or not the original goal was too vague (even now, it still happens at times) and think about how it can be clarified to be more concrete
- examine the reason an effort failed and consider why- was it a personal failing? Did it fail for reasons beyond me?
I have the answers to most of the things I failed at in 2019. In some cases, I let other people hijack my work because I was too accommodating. In others, I failed because I did not set clear boundaries and expectations. In yet others, I needed to recognize that there are some things that I simply cannot change- because I cannot change other people. I must find another way. And no matter what anyone says, life has taught me that there is always another way.
By the end of the calendar, I did find a better flow at my new job. Sure, my dream job turned out to be just that—a dream — but the job I do have is still really great. It accomplishes my primary goals, to provide for myself and my family on my own and move digital accessibility forward. So for that, I am deeply grateful. I can keep calm, and carry on.
I admit that I still feel a bit lost in open-source land, and wondering if it’s the right place for me. Some have told me that if I fail, then I only have myself to blame; my years of experience have reminded me that they are not correct. If leadership vision and goals are not aligned, then something is bound to fail, that is simply the way things are. I am determined to try for a bit longer, though- a bad year is only that. It’s only one of the many years I have. I have had them before, and I will probably have them again. C’est la vie.
I think part of what is heartbreaking about my efforts is that I really desire to close the gap between the different types of front-end developers, to demonstrate that we are all essential pieces of the puzzle. But by the end of the year, the developers “on the front end of the front-end” were still hating on frameworks, and framework developers were still mostly ignoring semantic HTML and accessibility. That felt really rough, because as a person who is in the in-between, I feel strongly that both are equally as important. Perhaps my messaging is still off, or my efforts are not strong enough. Or maybe this is simply an area where I will never be able to effect change, and I need to find a way to accept it.
While not solely indicative of worth, it’s still one metric I care about – My overall contributions for the year (measured via GitHub) more than doubled.
I also had a decent work/life balance in 2019- it was the year I learned how to take time off. Now, considering that 2019 was a bit of a failure as far as my career goes, I may have to re-think this approach in 2020. Of course, correlation is not causation, so I will have to spend some time thinking about this some more. I did get to unwind with my husband in Europe for a little bit, and that was a first for us. I am definitely up for more of that.
There is a chance that some reading this may comment that this is not my usual unfailing optimism. I think, however, that it is very honest, and in that it is optimistic. It is okay to try, it is okay to fail, it is okay to try again. It would be a falsehood to pretend I was successful when I was not; it would be untrue to my nature to spin it as a success when that is not how I feel.
We must be strong enough to fail and try again. It is that strength that gives me the necessary fortitude to keep going, to keep trying, to keep leading. And I intend to keep doing just that.