5 Things I learnt in 2021

With 2020 quickly coming to an end, I wanted to share five 👀 life lessons I learnt in 2020 2021. This is the sixth year I wrote a “lessons learnt” post, check out 2016’s lessons , 2017’s lessons , 2018’s lessons, 2019’s lessons and 2020’s lessons – it’s always cool to see how I view things have changed over time!

Resting and recovering at home ⛰

1. Therapy helps, you don’t have to suffer alone 🙏🏼

After being quite hesitant about taking on therapy, I finally started going for a few months with MyOnlineTherapy, which has easily been the most accessible way to access it. I connected with my therapist almost immediately and have been super grateful for her support.

It’s strange sharing that I need therapy – perhaps because the stigma still exists today. Not only that but the fact that I am someone who is quite a public person, it can be pretty tricky to “admit” that you’ve struggled when on the outside, it looks like everything has been going great.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m so grateful for everything, and for the most part, I’ve had such a great year. But I learnt that I’ve still got a lot of traumas – past and present – to work through. I could have gone another year of brushing it under the rug, but I could see that my personal life had taken a hit and my head slowly became an unwelcoming, chaotic place.

Finally, taking the step to ask for help rather than suffering from the anxiety and chaos in my head alone was tough, but something I’m so glad that I did.

2. You gotta filter out the noise to stay sane 🙉

Working in tech is a wild ride – for those on Tech Twitter, doom scroll a few minutes, and you’ll get what I mean. It’s easy to get swept away by “the next big thing” in tech and trying to jump on every wagon that you think will go to the moon.

A significant learning for me in 2021 has been to filter out the noise and keep focused on what is important. Is web 3 the next thing you want to learn? Or is it just because you saw it on your Twitter feed one day? Is getting an NFT something you want? Or is it because you saw a headline of someone making money off it?

It can be overwhelming in tech because everything moves so quickly. Sometimes it feels as if there’s a force that pressures you to learn it all, be part of it all, lead it all. Not only is this impossible and unsustainable, but it also can get you sidetracked on what is important to you.

My career focus this year has been to become an established Developer Advocate, be a better Community Leader and learn more about developer tooling (especially the developer experience side of it) and the cloud-native ecosystem to get even better at my job.

I would’ve been more frazzled than focused if I kept jumping on the next big thing. After a long year, is frazzled really the state of mind you want to be in?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not anti web 3 or crypto, I don’t know much about it but keeping an open mind to learn in detail… at some point. Just not right now. I’ve got to focus 🤷🏻‍♀️

I’ve primarily talked about tech Twitter here, but this can totally be applied elsewhere. In fact, I took a step back from Instagram for the exact same reason: to quieten down the noise.

3. Working remotely is life-changing, but setting boundaries is difficult

We’ve all primarily been working remotely since March 2020, but let’s be honest: working for a company that was forced to work remotely compared to a company that is remote from the offset is extremely different.

My colleague George gave a talk at GitLab Commit about collaborating in a remote environment. I highly recommend you check it out!

I want to work from anywhere so that I can spend more free time on a beach like this. 🏝 Photo from our 2021 trip to the Canary Islands.

Working with a fully distributed, remote team has been an incredible experience. I still don’t think I’ve made the most of it yet because of personal circumstances and the ongoing pandemic ruining my plans, but I will make the most of it in the years to come.

It’s funny because Matt and I have discussed this lifestyle since 2017. We had dreamed that together, one day, we’d somehow go fully remote so that we could chase the sun around the world. Today, we’re already a step closer to that!

While working remotely, I’ve learnt a lot about best practices: asynchronous communication, time/energy management for flow state (i.e. scheduling your work based on energy highs and lows) and how to optimise my tiny space for work.

However, I am trying to improve on setting better boundaries! It’s tough when you live and work in the same space, and although I try to break out my day sometimes with regular fresh air, set alarms to tell me to stop working, it’s still tricky! Especially when you love what you do.

I’m still figuring it out.

Matt and I are hoping to move to our first home next year, which will hopefully give us a bigger space to allow physical separation between work and life. Owning our first property would also make us feel less guilty when travelling — yay, no more rent!

I’m excited for this change in our lifestyle 🌍

4. Everyone deserves to feel safe and to be themselves at work

It’s strange even amid a pandemic, I felt the freest at work in more ways than just the remote nature of my job.

I’ve been 100% myself at work for the first time in my career. I don’t say that lightly. It means so much. 🙏🏼

My previous workplaces weren’t bad per se, but I felt like I brought a more filtered version of myself to work. Now, this is fine, especially for folks that like to have “a work self” and a “personal life self”. But in my experience, that filtered version of me was incredibly filtered to the point I was walking on eggshells around specific folks. Long-term, it was just exhausting to keep up with.

A tweet by @loujaybee that reads: "After ~8 weeks, I can now validate that @paulienuh's original statement is 100% correct"
Original tweet

Now can you imagine working where you don’t feel that at all? Instead, you can show up with your ideas and thoughts and do your job the best that you can. Free to be you.

It’s honestly refreshing and has made working so much better — which is what you want when you’re spending lots of time at work. Everyone deserves this feeling! They exist! 🙏🏼

Kudos to the leadership team at Gitpod for cultivating such an inclusive and welcoming culture. 🧡

A tweet by Pauline that reads: "I'm listening to our 
@Gitpod
 All-Hands right now and beaming with pride because of this. I've never worked for a place that is proactively trying to make it a better place for *everyone*; none of this wishy-washy inclusion stuff, but genuine action. So proud to be a Gitpodder."
Original tweet

5. Finding your inner child and just playing is good for your soul

I’ve been creating this career path for myself since 2016. It’s been a long journey of figuring out what I want, finding the opportunities to position myself in the right place and executing my plans! Being so career-driven has led me to incredible places. I’m who I am today because of my focus and work ethic these past few years.

I’ve experienced most days of feeling uninspired in 2021. Was it the pandemic? Was it my intense focus on work? Was it not getting out as much as I used? Maybe it was a bit of everything.

Since the pandemic began, I learnt a hard lesson: it’s not always about getting stuck into business. Sometimes, it’s OK to do something that has no value to your work life, but at least you get to play, explore and be a kid.

Rediscovering my inner child and her curiosities have been a fun adventure! I’ve done things from exploring fun hairstyles, trying on different make-up, wearing different clothes, re-playing old favourite games, and just letting my mind play and explore. Rather than forcing it to “get into the grind” mode all the time, I’ve been able to lighten the load on my shoulders, gain inspiration by playing and generally keep myself happy.

Right now, that is all 25-year-old me needs 💜

6. Life is short, tell the important people that you love them

Surprise! Here’s an extra one for you. After all, this is 2020 Part 2.

“What Is Grief, If Not Love Persevering?”

These past two years carved this lesson into me, but more so this year than ever. This is your reminder: tell the important people in your life that you love and care about them. Trust me, you’re never too busy. Just let them know. Carve out the time to express it. It is the most important thing – don’t forget it.

Grandma G
Remembering Grandma G 💜

What are the five things you’ve learnt this year? Comment below or link me to your blog posts!

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season!

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