Happy New Year, friends! 🎉
Over the last two years, I’ve been debating if I should even write a wrap-up of my year given that these days, you can do it with a 60-second Instagram Reel (guilty 🙋🏻♀️.) Plus, in the world of ChatGPT and AI writing blog posts, I wonder if anyone is even reading my long-winded, straight-from-my-brain posts?
Data suggests though that 4.5K of you around the world have been reading for the last 12 months. And, recently I reconnected with someone who had followed my online presence for the last 6-7 years. They watched me go from a Biomedical Science student overly enthusiastic about the tech industry to working in it in various roles and companies. Our interaction deeply moved me, grateful for them reaching out for coffee as we ended up in the same city accidentally and also, re-inspired me when I needed it most.
For a small personal blog with a little 5’5 me just being one of the billions of humans, it’s not bad and I appreciate every single one of you for reading, sending me messages and sharing words that resonate with you.
When I began debating if I should continue to publish my various attempts of straightening out my thoughts publicly or sunset my whole blog because everyone is on TikTok and Substack, I opened up Bear and started writing.
Here’s my annual post looking back at the year that has been and what I’m working on this year.
Rewind to 2023
I laughed a little bit re-reading last year’s blog post, “Square 242” where I wrote:
…and proceeded to have one of the simultaneously best and worst years of my life, whilst quickly losing myself in the process. In case you are curious about the rougher days last year along with the tough lessons, I looked directly in the mirror in my annual “5 things I learnt” post.
I grew into a pessimistic person last year.
There were many times I caught myself going into worst-case scenario mode and seeing the bad in every moment, which just wasn’t me or at least who I wanted to be.
In an attempt to be more optimistic, and not dwell on the bad last year, I wanted to share some of my 2023 highlights:
1. I travelled a lot. I went to 🇩🇪 Munich, 🇩🇪 Berlin, 🇦🇹 Lofer, 🇦🇹 Salzburg, 🇳🇱 Amsterdam, 🇫🇷 Paris, 🇺🇸 San Francisco, 🇬🇷 Athens, 🇬🇷 Aegina Island, 🇬🇷 Crete, 🇬🇷 Naxos, 🇬🇷 Delphi, 🇬🇷 Meteroa, 🇬🇷 Hydra, 🇪🇸 Bilbao, 🇬🇧 Sheffield, 🇬🇧 Manchester, 🇬🇧 Leeds and 🇬🇧 London.
2. Highlights from travelling? I liked the coffee in Munich, company in Berlin, landscapes in Austria, contactless everything in Amsterdam, the Parisian poshness, being at the centre of tech in San Francisco, falling in love in Greece, clean streets of Bilbao and familiarity with the UK.
3. I spent 70%~ of the year in climates that never went below 15 degrees. Win.
4. I connected with Gitpod’s developer and wider tech communities at our 15+ community meet-ups and conferences (KubeCon and CDE Universe.) Total selfies are unknown, but quite a lot according to my Google Photos albums.
5. I spoke in front of an audience 9 times, mostly at MCing meet-ups but also, giving an ad-hoc talk about my top 5 worst dates. The latter? Better you don’t ask questions, but it inspired me to do stand-up comedy one day soon.
6. 12 friends and family came to visit me in Greece where I showed them around like a local tour guide. Pauline in Athens style, a 5/5 host rating. ⭐️
7. I exercised for 1 hour and 31 minutes (avg) every day, mostly continuing with strength training, yoga and running but also tried out Pilates for the first time. I don’t enjoy it as much as other workouts though.
8. I added to my favourite shelf a new book: “The Defining Decade” by Meg Jay. Recommend it to everybody.
9. I returned to being an Individual Contributor (IC) at work, which I realised was where I am most effective. Say hello to your new friendly, neighbourhood Developer Advocate! 😁
10. I published 11 blog posts on my personal blog and created a bunch of content (mostly videos and livestreams) for Gitpod’s YouTube Channel which is always fun.
11. I created a Bluesky and Threads account but kept returning to Twitter (it’s an emotional attachment for the last 14 years.) Surprisingly, my Twitter grew to 11.3K followers despite not having much of a strategy apart from dumping random thoughts on topics I care about… which is what it’s originally for, anyway.
12. I attempted to learn Greek, and failed. But can order a coffee which is something.
13. Taylor Swift was unsurprisingly my top artist on Spotify.
14. I cut 12” of my hair off, which honestly is the big change I needed.
Despite the low lows in 2023, the ups were pretty awesome. Super grateful I got to live through fun, happy days with people that I love.
Intentions in 2024
I haven’t written down any goals for the past two years in an attempt to get away from my unhealthy, “I MUST ACHIEVE ALL OF THESE OTHERWISE I’M A FAILURE” mindset.
Although I’ve enjoyed a sense of freedom, I think I swung too far to the other side last year which caused some destructive habits. I’d like to bring somewhat of a structure or at least guiding themes to keep me afloat on the chaotic days. When I was brainstorming these, I was led by my heart so as cheesy as it sounds, these are what my heart wants.
To fall in love
Over the holidays, I finished reading Dr Nicole LePera’s book, “How to be the love you seek”. She’s become one of my favourite authors and a person to follow on social media for insights on healing our inner child. I also recommend another book of hers, “How to Do the Work”.
These books inspired this intention of falling in love, but not necessarily with someone rather improving my relationship with myself by becoming the love that I seek. After all, our relationship with ourselves is the one that we have for the rest of our lives, guaranteed. If it’s not a safe, unconditional loving relationship, then how can this be extended to others?
Encompassed in this intention is also falling in love with life again and being open to changes and opportunities – after going to quite a low place last year, I need this reminder.
To embrace natural beauty
It was after my shocking experiences with racism in Greece last year that prompted me to write this one down. I found myself trying my best to get away from my natural face by changing my hair and exaggerating my make-up, to try and hide who I am. I felt so much shame.
What took me out of this mindset, was actually in a beauty salon in Crete where I asked for the thickest, heaviest eyelash extensions and the technician kindly said, “Girl, if you keep doing this you’ll have no eyelashes left. Your natural lashes are all destroyed from the glue.”
Now, this usually happens when you don’t go to good eyelash technicians which I didn’t I guess because I failed to do research and so went to random ones around the world. She handed me some castor oil treatment and told me to take a break from getting extensions, commenting on the fact that I don’t need them because I’m beautiful naturally anyway.
I remember crying about this because I didn’t feel beautiful at that moment.
When I returned to the UK for a month to visit family and friends, I also had a eureka moment (or you could say, an epiphany 🤭) I felt like they loved me, no matter what. I didn’t need to change any part of who I am to be accepted. They loved me for me. Why couldn’t I do the same?
If you’re wondering, writing this right now is making me tear up a bit because of the deep wounds of hating myself. In my early twenties, I worked on some “self-love” strategies which helped a lot and I guess, I feel disappointed that it all went out of the window after a handful of small-minded people opened some old wounds.
And so it begins, the journey to accepting who I am. Although I do mean embracing my natural curls (which I haven’t had in over 10 years) and enhancing features I’m born with rather than hiding away, I also know that this requires some deep internal work on acceptance of myself.
To be her (Pauline fucking Narvas)
Now, to bring it all together. My final intention is to be her: Pauline fucking Narvas.
Who is the best version of Pauline Narvas? I picture her as someone confident, calm, patient and kind in whatever scenario she’s in.
Although I know that in public, I can look put together in intense scenarios; I know that inside my nervous system is triggered and I scream like ah-ha-ha (IYKYK.)
This intention is also a reminder to myself to never skip out on my good habits to be able to operate as the best me that there is in life and work. I cannot work towards my wildest dreams if my foundations have cracks and I don’t have a steady hand.
It’s finally time to fall so in love with myself, embrace and accept who I am and become the version of me that I’m proud of.
Thanks for reading!
I’m looking forward to writing more of my epiphanies this year. Some planned and some inspired by the waves created by life. See you there? 😊
Fun fact: January 6th, the day this post is published is the day of Epiphany (θεοφάνεια), a national holiday celebrated in Greece.