Where did the last year go?

We’re just over a week into 2021 and I’ve been back at work (from home) for five days after a lovely two week, very relaxing break. The lockdown order was probably the best thing for me mentally as it completely removed all of the normal pressures of the Holidays. There were no long drives to family and finding someone to look after the cats while we were away, no rushing to fit in the trips to Santa or pantomimes. no panicking that we needed things in just in case we had visitors, and no injuries this year1. It was two weeks of pure, uninterrupted relaxation. I do miss my friends and family, but I am one of those people who just doesn’t stop and the only way I do is when I literally can’t do anything else.

I watched all of the Marvel films from phase 2 onwards for the first time2 and built my Lego Millennium Falcon (review will come!), and I slept (a lot). The few weeks leading up to the break were some long days and I was more exhausted than I realised. This was also the first year in the past seven that I hadn’t spent the break trying to catch up on any of my OU maths! Not doing any study with the OU is feeling strange, I’m still deciding what to study next.

This time last year I wrote a post looking back at 2019 and my plans for 2020:

I will finish M347 and my OU Maths degree (which I’m doing for fun remember!) in June. I will get the AI book written by Easter. Most importantly, I will limit both the number of speaking engagements I do and the topics I’m prepared to cover. I’m not sure what this limit is yet. but there is a sensible mid point between none and one a week ? The academic paper on NLP algorithms is a stretch goal right now. I’d love to do it, but as I don’t work for a research institute, I can’t pivot my day to day tasks to follow this hunch.

Jan, 2020

Well, I did finish M347 and the Maths degree, getting a first. I haven’t had an official graduation ceremony, but I have my degree certificate and it’s the only one I have on display in my study. I pretty proud of it3.

The AI book…. that was never going to happen. I had planned to get that written early in the year so that I could use my talk at MCubed to publicise it. While I have the outline and made a start, I didn’t want to rush out something that wouldn’t be of interest to the community. I’d still like to get this done, and I had decided that I’d use the time I would otherwise have spent on my OU maths to do the research and writing from October, but this also hasn’t happened. I’m not going to punish myself for changing priorities.

Limiting speaking events and topics. While I’ll never know how many events I may have attended without there being a lock down (to be fair it was starting to look as if it might be a lot!) I only attended two in person and a further seven online, plus interviews and training sessions, only one of these was a new talk. I’ve already done an Ask Me Anything session a few days ago, which was a huge amount of fun, and have my eyes on (what I hope will be) an in person conference later in the year.

The NLP paper was always a stretch goal and there just wasn’t the bandwidth to really give this the focus I wanted. My new company has far more emphasis on NLP and links to universities so this might still be a prospect for this year. Having said that, my husband sparked another interesting project idea this morning so there are lots of things I could do… it’s just a question of making time.

While we have a vaccine program here in the UK, it’s going to be a few months before there is even an easing of lockdown, but it could be several more after that until all the restrictions are lifted, so I have lots of “at home” time to get things done and I don’t have an imposing Lego box taunting me any more!

Let’s see how 2021 goes.

  1. Last year I slipped while rushing around and really hurt my back
  2. Yes I was that behind 🙂
  3. To be fair, my other degree certificates are “safe” in a box somewhere and I’m not sure where else they would also be on the wall 😉

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Dr Janet is a Molecular Biochemistry graduate from Oxford University with a doctorate in Computational Neuroscience from Sussex. I’m currently studying for a third degree in Mathematics with Open University. During the day, and sometimes out of hours, I work as a Chief Science Officer. You can read all about that on my LinkedIn page.