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What 2020 taught me

I’m a massive introvert. I have never felt so recharged in my adult life as during this period where I was asked to stay home, within the environment I curated for myself, with largely my own company. I know that many other people are suffering from not having new stimulus, and likely that what they’re feeling is a lack of energy because they aren’t being renewed from time spent around other humans, so I try not to take this for granted. That said, if I were remotely working pretty much forever, I think I’d be A-OK.

I value collaboration itself more than the outcomes. Do you know what this means for me? FREEDOM. Freedom from having to love every project I take on, so long as the process itself addresses my need to co-create with other artists. While I didn’t do too much with this revelation in 2020, I’m intending for my 2021 goals to reflect this. It should be more about the process, not the outcome, when I go hunting for new projects.

The leadership trait I identify most with is “activation.” I became a people manager at work this year, a huge shift from my individual contributor role (which I’d been in for almost 8 years!). It made me realize that what I love most about being a leader, what gives me the most energy, is helping people find where passion and opportunity meet to become a catalyst for them to do their best work. Whether I’m doing this with my direct report through official work channels, or dipping into a conversation in my Discord creative community, I get really energized by seeing people light up with excitement, fueled by possibility. It’s the best. Speaking of superlatives…

Social media is the worst. I guess I kind of already knew this but, beyond all of the horrible cultural and psychological impacts of social media platforms, 2020 made it far clearer just how much work I was doing for companies like Twitter and Facebook, for free. Investing any of that time in myself, my own endeavors — whether in acts of creation or building my own channels for promotion — pays back tenfold compared to brainlessly scrolling through a feed curated in part by an algorithm that wants me to spend more time and money on its host. That’s just too parasitic for me.

I still need validation from other humans. I want them to like my food, my art, my goofy selfies. So, if I’m off social media, where do I get that validation? I’ve been making a concerted effort to build private channels curated to share specific types of content — such as a Teams chat with my colleagues to show off our latest culinary creations (and recipes!), or reaching out directly to friends who I know will appreciate my photos and “isms” — and it feels a lot better than flailing into the void and hoping strangers will click that Like button.

I don’t need my job to be my validation. This one’s been a tough pill to swallow, but… also very healthy. I got myself a therapist this year, and one of the things she talked me through was untangling the social and internal validations I receive because of how my job is from the job itself. In other words, it’s wonderful to feel like I get to collaborate with creative, intelligent people because of where I work, but if I’m not getting that from my day job on any given week, month, or year, I don’t have to throw my day job out the window; I can seek that kind of interaction elsewhere in my life. Good stuff, and helps me focus my limited energy on what really matters.

I. Love. Animation. I started watching a lot of anime in quarantine, and I’ve really come to appreciate Eastern animation as a storytelling art form that, at its finest, is very compatible with my own storytelling style, especially where I found my preferred topics, themes, and devices to be somewhat incompatible with what a Western audience expects. I have a new dream now: to open and lead an animation studio that produces the same kind of dramatic, meaningful animated shows for adults that the anime industry has been churning out for decades.

Are there more lessons? Probably. Should I let some of them become their own posts so I don’t burn out all of my blogging energy on this one article? Oh, yes, absolutely.

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

Published inPersonal thoughts