I recently had a birthday – and next year will be one of the big “Star-Oh” birthdays, you know, 20, 30, 40, 50… I try to reflect back every year, and project forward, something like a retrospective you might encounter after completing a project at work. During this look-around, I think about the lessons I learned over the year, any highlights, and any lowlights. Last week, I talked about lessons learned over my past year, and this time I’d like to talk in very general terms about some highlights and lowlights, and end with a bonus: some things I’m grateful for.

Lowlights

Because I’m the person I am (I want to be an optimist, even though I often approach the world with a slightly-negative bias) I will start with the lowlights so we end on a high note!

  • I tried to put on a strong face for a job, and muddled the job badly by being inauthentic, or only partially-authentic. I regret a lot about using the facade I chose to use, and how badly it fit me
  • I over-booked my money, and therefore I made some rash choices to respond, and kept my living costs artificially, unusually, painfully low for about a year so that I could actually pay my bills on-time. I miss things like travel, new clothes, restaurant meals, and gym activities (partially offset by the fact that many of those things aren’t really available during covid, but still painful nonetheless)
  • I haven’t visited family in the Midwest all year! I usually visit at least one person, one time a year…

Highlights

I am more fond of sharing my highlights, because of the optimistic face I like to direct toward the world, and also because I feel like focusing on negative thoughts makes me a negative person.

  • I’ve gotten such good feedback on these posts here. I could wish I got more, but the few responses I have had on the blog and online leave me with some serious warm-fuzzies
  • I bought a house! I didn’t know that last year would be the year I bought a home, but I closed on the birthday before this one, and have enjoyed doing projects and making things happen around the hosue, since then
  • I’ve managed to make new friends even despite the global pandemic. I worried that I would go hermit and lose all my friends, but instead I’ve managed to uphold my most important relationships, despite the distance, and even carve out one or two good new ones, somehow

Thanks

I hear that being grateful is good for your mental health and well-being, and I can guarantee you that this is true. Whenever I’m struggling a bit, I add in a daily gratitude list to my routine, where I express how thankful I am for 3 things (which vary day-to-day). Here are three things I’ve been grateful for consistently, this last year.

  • I am very thankful for my friends, old and new
  • I’m very thankful for the many gifts my hard work and a decent amount of luck have brought me
  • I am grateful for my supportive and interesting family members who bring me joy with every phone call (and someday in-person, again!)

Celeste posing under twinkle lights
Celeste, acting cute, standing under trees that have yellow leaves and twinkle lights.

Several friends of mine have reached out at varying times, somehow especially after I posted the image at the top of this post, and told me that I seem to be “happy” lately. I love it! Like all of us probably believe, this year has been … interesting. I started the year out in January with a heck of a personal struggle, for sure, so I’m glad that I’ve been past that for a couple of months now, and my friends have even noticed that I’m doing so much better. I work for AWS Security now, which has been a longtime dream, and I’ve set myself up for career and life success. One thing that’s helped get me through the tough times and which makes the good times even better is cultivating a sense of gratitude. Perhaps this will inspire you too, but here come ten things I’m grateful for:

  1. Long walks around Seattle, exploring parts of the city I’ve never seen, and photographing them to share with you on my Instagram
  2. Staying touch with my live-in partner, my two friends in my quaranteam, my virtual/socially-distanced & masked Lady Game Night crew, and my other friends who I manage to stay in touch with, mostly via SMS & Discord or Google Hangouts video chat
  3. My mom and her side of the family, who finally learned what a global pandemic was and how to socially distance to keep themselves safe
  4. My dad and his side of the family, who honestly lives far enough away that they could keep themselves safe by definition, but I get a weekly call with dad to stay in touch
  5. Working for AWS Security … I have always wanted to work in security, and in August 2020 I got my first “it’s in the title!” security gig
  6. Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service, which has fed me so many enjoyable quarantine reads. I’m currently reading Edward Snowden’s Permanent Record
  7. Askamanager.org, which has also been a source of enjoyable quarantine reads, as well as advice on how to improve my skills as a people manager
  8. Baking. I had to give up climbing and BJJ in March, as those activities are both just … challenging to do without getting bacteria & viruses EVERYWHERE. In the absence of my usual time-sinks (seriously, I would spend 4-8 hours at the climbing gym alone every week) I need something to do, and obviously I’ve been reading a lot, but there’s many hours in the day, and I am not spending them at the office (my other great love)
  9. Yoga and other exercise videos on YouTube. (See above, need I say more?) I enjoy Yoga with Adriene, Redefining Strength, Nerd Fitness, Jeff Nippard, Rockentry Movement for Climbers, Face Yoga Method, and many others that I don’t subscribe to, but I had to keep this list down to something manageable, so there it is
  10. This blog. It’s been fun coming here roughly every week to say hi and share a little bit of what I think about work, with you. I think about work a lot, probably more than anyone would call “work-life balanced” but I’m happy, so I will keep on keeping on with my “work life harmony”