The easiest way to start this reflection is by reviewing the intentions for the year I laid out in January.
Read 70 books including a conscious “to be read” pile.
In my first full year legitimately free from education, I hit my seventy book goal in September. After that, I didn’t read for a few weeks, which utterly shocked me. Rather I was reading, but not finishing, books. Having a reading goal is a toss-up; on one hand it’s pushing myself to keep reading and be conscious of what I read, and on the other it can favor finishing books over savoring longer or more difficult reads. It is a challenge, but is it the right kind of challenge? I have my doubts, but I like doing it. I increased my goal to one hundred books and immediately began reading at my usual pace. Weird. As of this writing I’m at ninety-seven, I have a whole stack of books and one cross-country flight planned, so one hundred is inevitable.
2020: Add more structure to the reading challenge, specifying types of books.
Continue to listen.
Whenever I have to share something I’m good at, I always say listening. It’s part of what makes me an excellent user researcher. I can listen to someone talk about their issues, distill that information, and provide meaningful recommendations. Or not! I read an article about listening ages ago that has stuck with me. In it, the author shared an anecdote about a friend whose family member passed away. The author, in an effort to relate to their friend, talked about how their father passed away at a young age and how they dealt with it. Their friend become angry, accusing them of winning the “depression olympics.” The point of the story is that so often we try to relate to others through our own experiences, but when someone is sharing they don’t want to hear about you. They might not want a solution. They just want to talk, and be heard.
This intention was a bit of a doozy, as I wasn’t going to suddenly unlearn everything I know about meaningful communication. I was committing to maintaining this practice in times when that would be challenged. I think I did.
2020: How can this be challenged? How can I maintain a commitment to listening in the face of these challenges?
Learn more about prison abolition and seek opportunities to ethically support the struggle.
I learned some more about abolitionism, but mostly through following people like Mariame Kaba on Twitter, which isn’t the type of dedication I envisioned when writing this intention.
One thing that held me back from learning more about the subject was uncertainty over “how to ethically support the struggle.” In the latter half of 2019 I started applying for jobs, and several of them were in newsrooms. (Well, actually just one…FiveThirtyEight. But I planned to apply to more.) I have a lot of anxiety about conflicts of interest, and I let that fear be an excuse for not learning about difficult subjects that I didn’t know how to support in my current circumstances. I’ve thought about pitching stories about incarceration in the US, but haven’t laid out concrete steps to make that happen.
2020: How can this topic be explored in a data-driven, educational manner?
Refocus who and what I want to advocate for, and which resources I will invest in that.
This is somewhat related to the above. I’m highly empathetic, and can become overwhelmed when learning about injustices; I can despair over how I can(not) help. My prior chief method of fiscally supporting organizations deeply engaged with combating certain issues is no longer something I’m comfortable with. I’ve had to assess the tools in my possession—which are myriad and powerful when I can harness them—and determine how best I can personally combat injustices. As a journalist this means sharing stories that are overlooked, finding answers to difficult questions, and explaining complex processes in an accessible manner. As a developer, journalist, writer, democratizing information is my discipline. And I’m good at it.
2020: Accept that terrible things are happening everywhere, and I can’t fix all of them. I do have some power, and I need to learn how to wield that in an ethical way.
Continue to prioritize my loved ones, but not over myself.
This declaration was so vague. It had the energy of something you’d see in script on an Instagram post, but the follow-through was less clear. Now I have to ask myself, what does prioritization look like? What does choosing myself over someone I love look like? What boundaries am I going to put in place?
2020: What do these boundaries look like? How do they continue to evolve?
These thoughts are going to percolate while I think about my 2019 success list and goals for 2020. While writing, I had to hold myself back from analyzing what I’m going to do differently. I want to take time to read this over and come back to it before I jump into ways I can set more effective intentions. Update coming soon. ✨