There are lots of reflective bloggers around the place at the moment. After reading others’ reflections on 2011, I was inspired to stop, take stock, and do a bit of serious reflecting myself.
Recently, I was at a friend’s house with a number of other library-types for what is becoming an annual craft and catching up day. Someone asked about what had happened since we all met up the year before. My response was unequivocally negative: 2011 was a year I will be glad to put behind me. When I read a blog post by one of my fellow crafters in the days after our catch up, I was challenged by her philosophy that how we feel about things depends significantly on how we choose to handle them. I was instantly defensive. I *did* have a terrible 2011; it ‘happened to me’ and was not of my making!
But on further reflection, I can see that’s not entirely true. 2011 was a tough year for me personally, but professionally, it was an incredibly successful year. Some of that was down to chance and some of it was about hard work and making things happen. It was a challenging year professionally – and not always in a good way – but on the whole, a very positive year.
So why was my reaction to the question about what had happened in the last 12 months so negative? I guess my overall perception of 2011 is clouded by many things, not the least of which is the fact that I got sick again and again. And again. To the point where I’m sure my Twitter buddies and colleagues think I’m a hypochondriac! It started in January when I was in Sydney for Information Online and it just kept going through the year. A few colds later, I got quite sick again in June and lost my voice for a week; I left to go to the UK before I was completely better and got worse on the way up there; I got sick in Perth in September and took half the attendees of the 5th New Librarians’ Symposium out with me… Basically, I just got sick over and over and over, with some bouts worse than others. I estimate I had about 15 cold/flu things in 2011. And the year’s parting gift was a bout of sinusitis and tonsillitis that started on New Year’s Eve. I am most cranky about starting the new year sick, because 2012 is a year in which I plan to be well.
On a personal level, 2011 saw me adjusting to lots of change and more responsibility. I’m not going to go into all the details, but you can trust me when I say that there is just no positive way to approach some things! I’m not really a negative person. Though I do love a good whinge, when it comes to the crunch, I tend to just make stuff work. But making the best of a bad situation does not always mean you can turn it into a positive – and doing too much ‘making the best’ is really exhausting. Regardless of how I approached what the year threw at me, there was a lot of not-fun stuff to deal with, and much of it was completely outside my control. (And much of it was dealt with while I was sick. Doubly not fun.) Those things sucked. I tried to make them into positives where possible and dealt with the things that couldn’t be turned around.
And it’s those things I was reacting to when I said 2011 had been a crappy year for me.
But amongst all of that, there were many great things about 2011 that I’d essentially written off in my mind – or that I’d forgotten about amongst the not-fun stuff.
So what were those good things? I thought I’d blog about a few of the highlights, to keep myself honest and to document them for myself. Here are a few of the the brightest happenings of 2011:
- In January I watched the social media storm following the Brisbane floods and generated a whole lot of nervous energy doing so, which I put to use by helping a public library in the Lockyer Valley clean up after flooding. My friend Gluten Free Lissy, her husband and sister and I headed out to a friend’s place near Laidley (she had flooded) and from there we went on to the library, spending a day crawling around, cleaning up gross mud, pulling up the carpet, and knocking nails into floorboards. I also baked a few hundred cakes and muffins to take to the SES at Laidley. This was a highlight of the year for me because it allowed me to see people at their most generous: while we were cleaning up the library, people stopped by with food for us – platters of fruit and things, a brick of water bottles – and other people, who had lost everything, pulled together and turned up at the library to help us clean up. It was also a devastating experience. Throughout the region, people had their whole lives packed up and put out on the curb for rubbish collection. And when I hopped in my car to head home, I heard a breaking news story about the death of a family in Grantham. What a crazy time we had at the start of this year. I hope to never witness anything like it again.
- My divine niece and nephew grew from babies to amazing little people… My favourite milestone in the last year was their learning to sing. I love that they love to sing!
- I worked on the Information Online conference committee, which was a fantastic opportunity to see how a big conference runs.
- You know the saying ‘publish or perish’? Well, it definitely wasn’t lack of publishing that threatened my health in 2011 (more the bazillion colds I had!). I spoke around the place, personally presenting at five conferences and a couple of professional events (and co authored papers that others presented elsewhere); wrote a few conference papers; had a couple of articles published in inCite; gave my first keynote at the fifth New Librarians’ Symposium; and co-authored a conceptual article for the Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (EBLIP) journal. If you’re interested, you can see a list of my publications and most of my presentations on my other site, katedavis.info.
- I went to the UK for a couple of weeks. While I’m not the world’s best traveler (I like my creature comforts and I’m a bit of a homebody! – and I was, of course, sick while I was away), I had a great time and appreciate the experiences I had while I was away.
- I presented on behalf of Zaana Howard and myself at the Sixth International Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Conference in Manchester, and we won both the Delegates’ Choice and International Program Committee Choice awards for best presentation.
- While I was in the UK, I had an awesome few days catching up with old friends who would probably now be considered London-locals, so I got to have some insider exclusive experiences!
- Shopping the Harrods sales in June would have to be a highlight of the year too. I bought my favourite pair of shoes ever (Jimmy Choo sandals that I live in – I should have bought more!) and stacks and stacks of kids’ clothes for my niece and nephew… Juicy Couture dresses, insanely cheap Polos, Dolce and Gabbana jeans, Armani tshirts… And most importantly, Fireman Sam paraphernalia that has given my nephew hours of firefighting pleasure… I had to buy a suitcase early in my trip to accommodate my shopping (which I’ve already blogged about here)!
- I collaborated with the aforementioned Zaana Howard on a couple of projects, and working with Zaana was definitely a highlight for me. As was working collaboratively with my fabulous colleagues, including Helen Partridge, Katherine Howard and Christine Yates on various different things.
- In addition to London, Aberdeen and Manchester, I also traveled locally, to Sydney, Canberra and Perth. In Canberra, I saw one of my lovely friends get married in the rose gardens at Old Parliament House in autumn, which is my absolute favourite time of year in Canberra… When I returned later in the year, I got to catch up with my lovely friend and her new husband.
- In April I submitted my Stage 2 research proposal for my PhD and had it approved. First milestone done and dusted!
- I collected data for my PhD pilot project and was reminded of why this topic is right for me.
- By the time I went on my Christmas holidays, I had a solid first draft of my methods chapter for my PhD Confirmation of Candidature. We won’t talk about the literature review I’m yet to write a single word of…
- I worked with amazing students on projects and course work. I had numerous goosebump moments when I saw my students realise their potential. And I got to cheer a number of them on as they crossed the stage at graduation.
- I got to give several of my awesome students references for jobs. This is one of my very favourite parts of teaching.
- I co-chaired the very successful RAILS7 conference in May.
- I worked with a project student to produce a series of YouTube clips to support National and State Libraries Australasia’s LibraryHack initiative, which involved speaking to a bunch of awesome people.
- I wrapped up a collaborative faculty funded teaching and learning project that was designed to develop a framework for blended learning across a whole of course environment. Well, that’s kind of true. I wrapped up the work we were funded to do (and then some) but the research and its application is ongoing – I’m currently working with a project student to survey our students about how our breed of blended experiences works for them.
- I got back to reading fiction! I started the year with an aim of reading the equivalent of a fiction book a week. In the end, I made it to 35, which – considering the year I had! – was no mean feat. I read some fantastic books, particularly young adult novels.
- I did some fun stuff with my teaching, like gamify my unit site for our gamification week and present on my use of social media in teaching and learning at a QUT innovation event.
- I worked with Dr Gill Hallam who delivered one of the units I teach to a cohort of German students studying in Stuttgart. My students were finishing the unit as Gill’s started and they mentored their German peers as they undertook the unit. Half a dozen students, Gill and I coauthored a conference paper on our collaborations, and we’re currently preparing the presentation which will be delivered in Amsterdam at the BOBCATSSS 2012 conference at the end of January.
- I won the Faculty of Science and Technology Teaching Excellence Award (individual). Working on the application for this award was a highlight in itself because I got to revisit all the lovely emails students have sent me and student feedback on the teaching and learning experience survey. Winning the award was an added perk – and not one I expected!
- I also received a Vice Chancellor’s Award for Performance – another lovely surprise!
- I had a fantastic Christmas with my family. It was a casual, lovely day. We opened presents, played with new toys, ate a lunch that should of been lovely (except I was too busy supervising present opening and burned it to cinders!), jumped on the trampoline that Santa brought… It was a great day and a perfect end to the year.
So that’s a big long list of highlights, and there were quite a few more lovely little things that happened, too. And I’m grateful for every one.
A friend of mine posted on Facebook about one thing she was grateful for every day in 2011. It was refreshing and inspiring to read these reflections during the year. Those statements of gratitude and my own reflections on the last year were what made me want to write this post.
Despite still being glad to see the back of 2011, I am grateful for all the challenges and the triumphs. No, I’m not grateful for all the sickness – but I am grateful for the renewed, proactive focus on my health that this has prompted. Am I grateful for some of the challenges in my personal life? No, not really, but I am grateful for being stretched and for having opportunities to grow. I’m grateful to be part of a quirky but amazing little family and willing to work with whatever that brings. And I am decidedly grateful for all the wonderful things that happened in 2011.
Most of all I’m grateful for my amazing supportive friends, fantastic colleagues, and my beautiful family. Both new friends and old, those who are far away and those who are around the corner, have been so important in the last year – more so than ever before. Some have saved my sanity by talking me off the PhD ledge (that’s the ledge of panic and doom where you think you just can’t do it); some have looked after me like surrogate mothers; and others have put up with me being a distant, always preoccupied and constantly unavailable friend with no complaint, amazing patience and an understanding of where I’m at. You all know who you are, and I am grateful for you.
I’m grateful for 2011, but yes, I’m still grateful that it came to an end.