On cupcakes and failures

I realized this weekend that I haven't posted a celebratory cupcake since 2016. It isn't that I've stopped celebrating accomplishments - it's more that frankly, I haven't really felt like I've had a lot to celebrate this year.

As I've blogged about previously, I spent the first half of this year at least being incredibly burnt out, and burnout doesn't lend itself well towards feeling productive or celebratory. I did a bunch of public speaking this year, but that felt more like it was par for the course rather than any new milestones to celebrate. I found and started a new job - I guess I should retroactively have a cupcake for that at some point. None of this is meant to say anything negative about any of the conferences I went to or my new colleagues at all - it's more indicative of my own mental and emotional state.

This year has been the first year in a while that I've felt like I've failed at things. I went up for a promotion that didn't happen. The one big project I was working on never made it into production. It's hard even now to tell if those were causes or effects of burnout; in all likelihood they were both. It's easy to talk publicly about successes and achievements, but talking about failures and struggles is much more difficult. It's tough to talk about the chances we take that don't pay off, especially when we're members of an underrepresented group and have to worry about reactions like this. I think that there's an added pressure for members of those groups to always succeed, to appear perfect lest anyone question (any more than they already do) whether or not we deserve to be here. I feel like I'm finally, over a decade into my career in tech, in a position where I'm safe enough to publicly say that I've failed at things.

Maybe it's time to reassess what things I consider to be worth celebrating. Maybe instead of limiting myself to "new, big career-related milestones", I should expand what I celebrate to be more inclusive of everything that I am as a person. I came out as nonbinary and trans this year! I went on a real vacation! I took some photos that I liked enough to print and frame and hang on my walls! I have somehow managed to keep getting out of bed and existing every day in this hellscape of a year that has been 2017 so far! Seriously, when your country is trying to legislate you out of existence, even just the continued act of living is cause for celebration.

This is not where I go all Pollyanna and say that there's a reason for everything and things always work out in the end because sometimes the reason is "people are terrible" and sometimes things don't turn out alright. Some of my failures this year (and in previous years) led to better things, but some of them just hurt. But I hope that talking about my own failures will help make it easier for other people to talk about theirs, to realize that we don't have to be perfect all the time in this industry, or in this world. Trying and failing is still failing, but it's also still trying, and being able to keep trying, even if all you're succeeding at right now is getting out of bed most days, is how we're able to keep fighting to make things better.

Maybe I'll go have a few cupcakes to celebrate some failures, because as much as they sucked, as much as they hurt, they mean that I haven't given up quite yet.