Reboot: 2016, the year in review
I am back after a little break to usher in the new year here on the blog. As always, it has felt so restorative to take a little time to slow down, to close the notebook which hides all of my to-do lists for the duration of the Christmas holidays, to enjoy precious time with family (especially when you live in another country and can’t see them as often as you’d like), and to let the days huddle along without any pressure, goals or expectations to meet. I’m grateful to have been able to take two weeks off this winter and I returned to the studio this January with a clear mind and a well-rested body.
These last two weeks, I have set to work planning the year ahead thoroughly, because if there’s one thing that 2016 taught me, it’s that devising a strategy early on and coming up with a rational plan to accomplish the projects ahead little by little is key to not being overwhelmed as the months go by. As is inevitable every January, I’ve also had many conversations with friends which touched on the highs and lows that the last year brought and I know this has not been an easy one to navigate for many. Overall, 2016 was a year marked by a lot of changes for me, challenges certainly, but also a lot of happiness, travel, and growth. In case you’re curious, here is a snapshot:
Last year was off to a bitter start as my grandfather passed away just after the Christmas holidays. I had barely got back to London. We couldn’t have expected it and we felt robbed. In hindsight though, I think this was a big wake up call for me and that it pushed me to address some of the things that I really wanted to change in my life. And I did.
In February I left a job I had really enjoyed for three years, but in which I wasn’t growing anymore, and where perhaps, I was starting to feel unappreciated. It was a leap of faith as I had not found another position yet, but it was the right time to move forward and strangely, I felt confident things would work out. That month, Rob and I also went to spend a long weekend in Bristol, one of the places we had been seriously considering moving to when we might leave London and another surprise here, neither of us felt love at first sight. It’s a great city but in our guts, we didn’t feel like it would be our home. This was an adjustment and it spurned many conversations about what we wanted for the future, where we could be happy, and how to get there.
As if by magic, March brought with it some great opportunities for me, I started freelancing with some of the brands I had worked with on the blog, and I had a glimpse of what that path could be like. I had been good at building up savings in 2015 so I considered giving myself four months to test out working for myself. That month we also celebrated four years together with Rob, which was a milestone for both of us. I don’t know how this is possible but after all that time, our love seems to grow everyday and we are happy together effortlessly, it’s something that I’m incredibly grateful for.
In April, I got offered a position with one of the brands I had been meeting with in March, a design and typography studio based in Brixton and called Dalton Maag. This was a newly created role to lead all of their brand communications projects, from their website to their print assets, video, events and conferences etc. It was a great opportunity but I was in no doubt that it would be a serious challenge too, with a steep learning curve, and transversal management of designers, writers, and creatives across disciplines internally and externally. But I bit the bullet and threw myself in.
May was marked by a whirlwind of projects that came in thick and fast at the studio, with a pace and a complexity that meant a lot of overtime for me, a lot of stress, and building trust and understanding with forty new co-workers from whom I needed buy-in on many initiatives I was catching up on and setting up for the future. My mom and my sister visited that month, and to be honest, I barely saw them.
By June, I was still working like a madwoman but starting to be better at managing my new work/life balance, and growing more confident in my new role. One of my best friends, Micha, came to stay with us for a long weekend and we woke up on the morning of the referendum in utter disbelief, sadness, and incomprehension at the results. The UK was on course to leave Europe, and for the first time in five years, I felt like I was unwelcome here. London had been my home for a long time, and I had no choice but to contemplate where else I could build a future. Some of the people I’ve talked to have totally downplayed what Brexit means, especially British-born citizens, including in Rob’s family, who tell me to not worry, that we’ll “see what happens’. Well personally, I don’t want to wait two years, five years, ten years, to find out what’s what, to discover whether my rights to residence, healthcare, citizenship, and retirement will be infringed upon because there’s been a change of heart in England, a move towards protectionism and isolation. I found it so unfair to realise that I have been working here for five years, giving 20% of my earnings to this country and taking nothing in exchange, and to feel that at the end of the day, there are people out there who consider their hardships and potentially their shortcomings as a direct result of me (among others being here). I feel like Europe is a scapegoat and that the English don’t realise that it’s their own government, their own apathy, and their reluctance or unwillingness to adapt that has led them where they are. Is the EU responsible for the NHS being in shambles? Or is it privatisation, corporate interests, and austerity? Is the race to shop cheaper, despite the quality, ethics, or provenance of the goods the reason behind globalisation, job losses, automation, or is it that European workers are here and contributing to the economy? Is the EU functioning too much money (that they largely give back) from British citizens or is the bigger problem that corporate and shareholder interests run wildly unfettered here? That there are bosses who make as much as 2,000x times per hour as a worker on minimum wage. And let’s not even go into tax evasion, zero working hours contracts, and the very poor social care and welfare available to the most impoverished in this country. Anyway as you can tell, Brexit has been quite hard for me to stomach and I’ve been appalled to discover a side to this country’s culture that I didn’t know was there at all. I know they’re not the only ones to grapple with a surge in populism, fear of the other, and intolerance. I was in the US for the presidential election, and I’ve seen the slow but steady rise of the Front National in my home country. I hope we will be wiser at the polls in May.
In July, a break away from all this turmoil was well-timed. Rob and I escaped for a week in Sicily and abandoned ourselves to the sun, the sea, and the flawless local cuisine. This was a much needed holiday and we came back refreshed. You can take a peek at our photo-diaries of Palermo and Cefalù.
August marked the start of another couple of months of hard work with ambitious projects I was tackling at the studio, and I just tried to keep my head above water. We had a little weekend getaway to Paris to see my sister and her boyfriend Gabriel, which was short but sweet. It was nice to discover the city as a local, instead of just whizzing by, hopping from one train station to the next on my way to the South.
In September I spent a week in Warsaw, Poland to attend ATypI, a design and type conference. This was the first time I was sent on a business trip and it was great fun. I fell in love with lettering and wrote about it here.
That month was a busy one: my grandmother came to spend a long weekend in London and she gave me a run for my money. She was so full of energy and enthusiasm, and we played tourist all over town. It felt so good to see her in a good place, happy and at peace, learning to live without my grandfather and to challenge herself to new experiences. At the end of the month I flew to San Diego for another great business trip with the studio, to attend Adobe MAX, the design and creativity conference. It was just, amazing, the speakers included Zac Posen and Quentin Tarantino and plenty of super inspiring creative pros. The closing party bash was unreal.
When my team flew back to London I stayed behind, and hopped on a plane from San Diego to San Francisco to meet Rob at the airport. We had two weeks ahead of us and wild plans to celebrate us both turning 30 in 2016 (Rob in April and me in November). We fell madly in love with the city, the architecture, the food, the art, the shops, the cafes, the neighborhoods, the activism, the weather, the parks, the museums, the gigs, the tramways, the views… We ate out for two weeks, tried a hundred cocktails, ate the best tacos, the best ice cream, the best craft beers. It was an amazing holiday and we still talk about it all the time. 10/10 would do again. We left feeling like we had barely scratched the surface, and we know we’ll be back.
This December was marked by a general slowdown which was a great way to wrap up the year. I worked for two weeks and then spent the best part of the next two between the South of France with my family, as well as with Rob’s in Wales.
An eventful year, there’s no doubt about that. There were definitely some tough times, many instances where I had to push myself, to pick myself up and to move forward despite not always knowing the best way to get there. But it feels really encouraging to look back and to realise that I have found a lot of strength and a lot of confidence in myself this year. That I have grown up, felt appeased with where I am and the woman I’ve grown into. I can also say that after talking at lengths with Rob about what we each want our future to be like, I feel relieved that we are both on the same page for many of our desires and our goals, as well as what we don’t want.
You might remember that I had picked “kindness” as my intention word for 2016, and for the year ahead, I have been thinking about “adventure” and “fearless.” I don’t doubt there will be many more leaps of faith in store for us so watch out 2017! What about you, have you been thinking about a word that would guide you this year ahead? Have you done a review of sorts of the year just past?
Thank you for reading!