Family & Friends,  Inspiration,  Professional

A brief look back onto 2021

I’m not one to do year review blog posts often, but I am feeling drawn to look back onto 2021 because it has been transformative in many ways…many unexpected ways.

A year ago, at the end of 2020, I finished the year completely burnt out. The pandemic had left it’s mark, I worked myself into the ground, and even had a complete breakdown in a meeting one day in the last week of the year. The year-end office closure break came, and on the 1st day of the break I was called into work by a client for an “emergency”. I continued being busy working for that entire week, on-site, in the midst of a 2nd wave of Covid that was rapidly working itself through the population. It was not ideal, and after just a few days off I started the working year off frustrated and still exhausted. To top it all, someone from the client team, whom I was very close to, succumbed to Covid. Exhaustion and frustration, topped off with dealing with immense grief, in the midst of rolling out a new project with crazy deadlines and unrelenting pressure…it was sending me into a downward spiral faster than I could even think about what to do about it.

I knew that I had to do something about my mental and physical state. It was challenging to keep my wellbeing top of mind throughout the year, but I tried hard to strike some kind of balance and chase after the few goals that I had. My main goal for the year professionally, was to get my PMP (Project Management Professional) credential as I had been long procrastinating starting the process and writing the exam. Now, at the end of the year, I can proudly say that I had achieved that and SO much more that I had not even planned on initially.

Some of the professional highlights were:

  • I applied to give a speech at the Project Management Institute’s national summit in March. I was accepted as one of 3 storytellers whose speeches would frame the flow of the day for the summit. I presented one of the projects we had been working on to assist with the pandemic from a transport perspective, and it was incredibly well received.
  • One of the expert speakers on the panel after my slot invited me to give the same talk to her Project Management Masters students, with some breakaway interaction and group-work after, which I did. I enjoyed it thoroughly and so did the students.
  • I gave a keynote address at both the Enlit Africa Conference and the Energy & Human Habitat Conference, speaking on the link between Energy and Transport in a South African context. Link is further down if you’d like to hear it.
  • I passed my PMP exam in September and have already done all the professional development units that I need to complete over the next 3 years.
  • I attended the virtual course at Oxford University – Global Challenges in Transport, part of the Oxford Leadership Programme.
  • I was approached by a publisher in the U.S. to submit a story on one of my projects for an international textbook which is based on the new PMBOK 7 (Project Management Body of Knowledge 7). The story has been submitted and accepted and Rogeema Kenny, PMP will be a published author in the professional field of project management.
  • I won the InspiringFifty award for my work in the non-profit sector developing underserved groups in the STEM fields.

If you’d like to watch my keynote address from the Enlit Africa conference (it’s about 28min) you can view the talk here (the full video is the whole session but clicking on the link takes you straight to my section).

In terms of rest and recovery from the state of burnout that I started the year off in, as challenging as it was to do… I prioritised time for myself and took a few rejuvenating local mini breaks throughout the year, each very different in its own right, but each one incredibly fulfilling in terms of the stimulation that it brought me. My mini breaks were:

  • A Rest & Thrive retreat to Bliss & Stars in the Cederberg in March. It was a transformative time of deep healing, and solid connections with the earth, fine dining, and incredible people. Bliss and Stars is an oasis of pure love, and I will most definitely be returning in future. It touched my soul in a way that was very unexpected but so needed.
  • Doing the Otter Trail with my sister and 3 cousins in September. It was special to us all not just because of the beauty of the trail, but because of the immense challenges that each of us had to face, each different, each personal, and each making that finish (without incident) so much sweeter.
  • My 1st time attending the Mensa annual gathering in October (even though I have been a member for many years). It was at an awesome game lodge in Pretoria. It was the most incredible time spent having loads of fun, mental stimulation, and solid experiences. I still cannot believe how deeply I connected with people whom I had mostly met for the 1st time.
  • Supporting at Ironman in November. I had made a last-minute decision to go through to Gqeberha as a spectator, as it would be the first Ironman taking place since I did it in 2019, and a few of my friends were doing the race. It was a brutal day for the athletes, with of the worst conditions in history, and one of the highest DNF rates ever. All of my friends finished. I am so proud of them, and it was just the motivation I needed to take my training up a notch and get back into triathlon training seriously again. The trip was a solid return on investment and also very good for my soul.

Please prioritise your self-care. It doesn’t have to look like mine does, and doesn’t even have to include going away. But you do need time to do things for only yourself and nobody else.

In terms of fitness, looking back on the year without full perspective had me thinking it was pretty much a write-off in that area. But then a few weeks back I did a cycle race and cycled my fastest 90km ever. Not long after that I started getting an unexplained notch up in my cycling pace on general training rides. Looking back on my Strava Elevate stats, I noticed that 2021 has actually been the year that I did the most mileage ever across sports, even more than I did at the height of my Ironman and ultramarathon training periods. I had never done more than 3,000km in a year before. So that’s where my pace was coming from…I was base training all year! Even though the intensity was not quite what I would see as amazing, the consistency paid off. Turns out the year was not a write-off after all. Perspective is so critical!

Elevate stats of mileage across all sports compared across years

I am grateful that 2021 has brought us the opportunity to have more physical interaction than 2020, with everyone in SA now having had the opportunity to fully vaccinate and the world slowly opening up to travel again. I have lost family and friends to Covid this year as well, and it has been hard to deal with…some harder than others. I am trusting that it is all part of a bigger plan and that things will make sense one day when we look back at this time.

I have been so inspired watching some of my friends pull off incredible feats of sporting prowess…triathlons, marathons, ultra trail races, big cycle races, Robben Island swims…and the list goes on. These have all played a part in getting me back into training, and being on a training programme has helped me immensely to deal with the mental battles I’ve had to get through. Part of that has also been the social interaction that comes with it, it just feels incredible and life seems normal for those moments in time when we are just hanging out.

And last but certainly not least… #RoggietheTriathlete is back, so watch this space in 2022!

Thanks for the shot Gert!

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