1) I changed my relationship with social media
In January 2019, I took the entire month off from social media and doing so completely changed my relationship with it, and with the world. I reconnected with ‘real life’, I read a lot of books, I enjoyed in-person connections, even with strangers. I stopped reading the news every day and suddenly, I found myself very much at peace and very happy. Not in the oblivious way, but in a way that I could now prioritize and focus on my concerns and interests a lot more. I lost interest in complaining or indulging in complaints online. I found myself drawn to people who didn’t constantly talk about politics. I connected with scientists who were also generous enough to help me identify critters and shared in my excitement whenever I’d find something new. I found scientists and artists are very preoccupied with politics these days – and that’s fine, but I’ve found that it’s not for me. I think that some people need to focus on the flip side of things, on sharing curiosity and hope and excitement. I’m not a mover and shaker anymore; I’m more of an explorer and that’s a role I’m much more comfortable with in this modern online world.
2) The world is much bigger than I thought – and now, I’m not scared of dying
I bought a microscope on a whim this year, while reading a book by Rob Dunn called Never Home Alone. I thought I’d just look at dust and bacteria, but I ended up taking a sample from a pond in the arboretum and that changed everything. All of a sudden, I was confronted with a little ecosystem that fit in one small drop of water. Since then, I spend about six hours or more a night with my microscope and when you spend that much time looking at petri dishes full of micro-creatures, you become confronted with life and death. You see death happen right before your eyes, on a regular basis. It’s unavoidable. But, you also see life. You see things being born, you see tardigrades carrying eggs, you see rotifers coming to life. Over time, you see the evolution of life and it’s because of that that I’m no longer scared of dying. Life carries on. And it’s made me far more optimistic about the planet itself. The planet isn’t ours and many of us behave more like parasites than caretakers, but I have no desire to lecture anyone. If anything, observing this tiny world has made me far more environmentally-conscious than ever, and sharing this joy of the micro-world has made people more aware that it exists. Perspective is everything.
3) I need a change of career
Late in 2019, I had to lay off one of my best employees. I’ve always loved working in software quality assurance, and I’ve especially enjoyed being a manager. It’s been a perfect fit for me, for my curiosity and my creativity. But, the industry is changing. Automation is taking over and the field is moving from one that’s creatively-driven to one that’s more programmer-oriented. Engineers are taking over QA as software testers are being replaced by automation suites. Do I want to be an engineer? I don’t think so. I can be, I’m good at it, and I’ve already transitioned to doing it now. But over the long-term, I’d be miserable. It’s a completely different mindset, a completely different application and to be blunt, I don’t consider it fun. So, I have to transition to something new. I don’t know what the timeframe would be, but I’m starting to prepare now. What will I be transitioning to? Marketing, advertising, copywriting, and communications. I’ll be exploring all of it until I find the right specialization for me. It’s a natural fit, it’s work that I can do remotely, it’s work that is challenging and creative and most of all, it’s a whole lot of fun. Plus, unlike QA, I wouldn’t have to convince anyone of the value of marketing. Companies see the value in selling, but few see the value in selling a high quality product. It’s a dying profession and what I’ve learned is that it’s time to move on to something new. That being said, my experience in QA will really help me choose who I want to work for, or what clients I want to work with in the future. I don’t want to take on any old job – the last thing I’d want to do is market something that’s complete crap.
4) Start your project now, and refine later
I’m getting better at this one – in just starting something even if I don’t have the right equipment or the right people or the right anything. I’ve learned that it’s best to just start it anyway and refine it later. Because, by doing so, you end up learning so much more about the process. And, more importantly, you end up learning a whole lot about the reality of what you’ve undertaken. Sometimes, that means a financial reality that you hadn’t anticipated (ex: a need for space or a need for talent). Sometimes, it allows you to refine your approach (ex: the kinds of questions you ask on a podcast). And sometimes, it just gives you time to learn so that you can slowly apply what you’re learning (ex: learning more about SEO while you manage a website). Most of all, I find that starting now allows you to just get it out there instead of delaying it because you have this need for it to be perfect. It doesn’t need to be perfect. In fact, it may never be perfect. But, with time, you can make it unique to you. And that’s what I’ve learned – that if I didn’t start now, I might never start it at all.
5) If you can’t have what you want, pivot.
One the big reasons why I stopped photographing was simply because I didn’t feel that I had the same kind of network to play with in Ottawa as I did when I lived in Montreal. The mentality for experimentation, movement, for artistic expression simply isn’t the same here. In 2019, I finally just decided to let it go. It’s not worth getting frustrated over it, and I didn’t have the energy to grow things that wouldn’t bear fruit in the end. So, I pivoted and asked myself if there was any other way to be creative without the need for collaboration with like-minded people. Snowflakes. Snowflakes were the answer – or, at the very least, they were a catalyst to explore that question even more. Photographing snowflakes has brought me a tremendous amount of joy. No, it’s not the same as leading a creative shoot. It’s not the same as working with other artists. It’s not the same. But, that’s the whole point. What stays the same is that my heart is full again. In the end, that’s all that matters. Sometimes, you have to pivot, just like in boxing. Except, instead of getting out of the way, you’re pivoting towards something new. Even if you don’t know what it is yet. You just gotta look around. You’ll find it.