we'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet, for auld lang syne

At the end of each year, there is something fulfilling about taking the time to take a breath for the coming year and set goals, wishes, resolutions, or whatever you will for the coming year. What I really love to do, though is make this a two part thing.  Before ever deciding what I want from the New Year, I really love to reflect on what I got from the previous year. Everything I learned and have to be grateful for, and yes, even the shit that I had to deal with or could do better.

This year has been a truly momentous year, and it really is true what they say. It gets better. After barely making it through the New Year in 2014 before separating from my now ex-husband, the New Year in 2015 mid-divorce, the New Year in 2016 attempting to single handedly herd two headstrong toddlers, the New Year in 2017 in mid-job crisis, I can now fully appreciate spending 2018 with two (relatively) civilised children, the help of an amazing partner, and a job I love.

That's not to say that 2017 hasn't been one of the most intense, personally challenging, rollercoaster years on the books. I took a risk that a lot of people thought was reckless. leaving my job for a notoriously difficult coding bootcamp that has an over 20% fail rate after barely passing the entrance exam, with no real coding experience other than the liking the basic coding tutorial that I completed. Then I was offered a great job in a hybrid role that encompassed all of my previous experience in a tech based role with an up and coming company, and even though my colleagues and manager were amazing, it was the right fit. So after 5 months, I left and am now low developer (wo)man on the totem pole.

So basically, in a year, I have had 3 jobs, sinking ever farther down the food chain, went back to school full-time, and tried not to be a shit mother. I don't doubt a single one of my decisions.

Now, there are absolutely things that I did a shit job at or I could have done better.  I could have yelled less, been more engaged, and fed my children something more nutritionally fulfilling than some variant of pasta 5 nights a week. I could have found a replacement babysitter sooner, or been on time more often.  I could have been more transparent or ethical in negotiations. But all in all, I graduated, did a solid job at work, and even have two pretty awesome kids.

My greatest personal challenge, which has been a real struggle this year, is self-confidence and self-worth. More than once I truly believed, in an incapacitating way, that I wasn’t capable of successfully completing the coding academy or that I didn’t have the “right kind of brain” to figure out the code base at work, so clearly I was going to be fired immediately. Times when I truly believed that I was a terrible mother and role model and that I was failing my children.

A couple weeks ago during one of my periodic, but more subdued, “what if I fail?” freakouts, my partner stopped me and asked me the thing that no partner is ever supposed to ask in those moments 

“what if you fail?”

As an American, being with a Dutch person, has rendered me speechless on more than one occasion in high stress situations. After the first cultural…let’s call it… difference in said situation, he was given a list of appropriate (American) responses, but since this was just a casual dinner conversation, it didn’t quite fall under that umbrella. At least in his mind. Clearly, I was annoyed and let him know as much, since obviously he was supposed to be on my side. So, I asked him to explain himself, and I am grateful that I did.

“What’s the last thing you failed at that really mattered to you? If it’s important to you, you will learn it. And you are the only one who is concerned about you failing. I don’t think you will, but that’s not what matters.”

Damn Dutch pragmatism. But he’s right. My value and confidence, and eventually success, can only be set as high as I permit them. If my focus is on failing and not being good enough, that is what the results will reflect.

So 3 weeks ago when I started my new job and I was paralysed at the thought of failing, I took a few minutes to reflect on everything that I had accomplished and finally allowed myself to feel proud of my achievements. And guess what? That piece of code wasn’t intimidating anymore and I easily found a solution.

Which brings me to the gratitude portion of my yearly wrap up.

I am grateful to have a true partner. Someone who will challenge my thinking, even if it may not be what I want to hear, and will always have my back, even when it involves Bootstrapping code at 2am the day before my final exam is due. Someone who will obliterate any preconceived expectation I had of what family really is.

I am grateful to finally have a job that I love.  Something that requires the use of my brain and creativity. A job that comes with an amazing, nurturing team and the opportunity to grow.

And last, but not least, I am grateful my children have turned into delightful, (mostly) civilised beings that I can have silly conversations with and create things with. I am grateful that even after a weekend where we are all relieved to see Monday roll around, that I know it is only a sometimes thing, now.

I am so grateful that it gets better.


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