This week at work, we launched our new Australian Aid Tracker website. I was pretty nervous about it– I had built the site myself, it was the most technical/feature-rich site I had cobbled together so far, and I had also done a lot of the content (my awesome colleague Terence collaborated on the site too and did a lot of work as well, particularly on the commitments section, and our Director went over the content with a fine toothed comb and made suggestions too–team effort). I was kind of worried that the site would crash on launch, that the foreign aid nerds out there would tell me everything was wrong, or that people wouldn’t like the design. I thought that the visualisations might make the site load too slowly, and that people would grumble about it. I worried about there being too much extra white space under some of the charts that I couldn’t get rid of. Or how the headlines displayed on mobile phone screens.
In other words, I was my usual perfectionist, anxious self.
But the response has been amazing. Positive tweets and comments, really nice emails, people popping into my office to say well done, journalists calling it “beautiful” in interviews. Happy emails from donors. Love from the university and sharing and promotion at the highest level. And some good, constructive feedback and ideas from some people about what we could do next to grow the site. And lots of questions about how we did it.
I’ve been completely floored by all of this, and really touched and happy. I may have even got a bit happy-teary about it on the launch day, because it actually meant a huge amount for me to be able to pull this off.
As anyone who reads my blog knows, I’ve been sick for 18 months with what is currently diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome (though I’m about to endure another barrage of tests to check for more weird and rare illnesses), and I have had to cut back to part-time work.
For someone who likes being busy and doing well and doing lots of things and never saying no to opportunities, it has been really hard. Around the middle of last year when my boss first said he wanted me to do this, I was quite depressed and having problems with anxiety– all caused from being so overtired and sick all the time, having all this uncertainty about my illness (which was causing other uncertainties too, like financial ones), and missing out on things I had really wanted to do, like travel (… and let’s be real, the Canberra winter also never helps anything).
I was frequently thinking about how much I was letting everyone down, and how I’d probably have to quit my job and move back to my hometown and totally mooch off my parents, and how the only reason I hadn’t been fired was because everyone I work with was too nice to do it, etc. Basically, a lot of beating myself up. It felt like all of my confidence was completely gone.
But here I was being asked to build a new website, funded by our major donors, even though I have no training in doing this. And with very little instruction about what we needed to do beyond a few lines in a grant proposal that had been written by someone else a year earlier. But my colleagues had faith that I could pull this off, while balancing my usual (now reduced to part-time) work and my illness. So I just started doing it.
And, it worked out. Having a big project to chip away at (which could be done from bed if I really needed) actually helped me by distracting me when I was just feeling so overwhelmed, useless and totally stuck from being ill. Their faith in what I could do helped me get back a bit more of my own confidence. Getting the chance to be creative with the design was something that I enjoyed. As I would show new bits of it to my colleagues along they way they were supportive and encouraging. I learned more skills in Excel, how to make visualisations and infographics, and more ways to use WordPress as a CMS. And it (along with getting a bit of help on the other troubles I was facing) helped me to feel like I was still able to make a good contribution, still able to achieve something beyond the usual day-to-day, even though I couldn’t do as much as I could do before. I still have bad days and it is still hard, and unfortunately the ME/CFS itself still hasn’t improved yet, but I am feeling like I am at least coping with things a bit better now.
So I owe a huge thank you to my colleagues who worked with me on this or the others who are just lovely every day (especially my boss who has been a great support through my whole illness saga), and a huge thank you to everyone who has so positively responded to the site.
I am really, really glad that so many of you seem to like it.
I keep finding things I want to fix or improve or do better, but I like it too.