It's been a challenging year, correct?

No matter what has been going on for you and those around you, I assure you that EVERYONE has had some big challenges this year.

Whether it's floods, fire, (famine!), COVID, family health or deaths, wars, caring for others, accidents, never-ending life (and death) admin, data breaches, mental health and physical health issues, trying to keep your head above the chaotic waters, or even the IMPACTS of all of this on our world, just being here to tell the tales seems like enough this year.

Response Ability Responsibility Leigh Chantelle

We are all going through ongoing collective world trauma. How have you gotten through the year? What has been bringing you joy this year?

I've been reflecting a lot at the end of the year (coming up to a lot of firsts with Mum's passing). I've been writing everything down. I feel when looking at the list that there were some really great things that happened. This helped to deal with the challenges.

I definitely know that I am way more resilient than I thought - but do NOT need any other tests of this (thanks, universe!).

My year started badly as Mum unexpectantly passed away after 12 days in ICU. The impact of Mum no longer being here and my dad's health reverberates through my life now whether it's bubbling below the surface or raining down hard.


I was getting a handle on life doing my PhD and (new) family responsibilities until the beginning of May... this was when Mum's birthday (I organised a party for her and those who could not make the funeral), Mother's Day, constant rain, Elon Musk threatened to buy my beloved Twitter (it happened and I'm leaving), and a car accident that took over a month to sort out and which totalled my Mazda 2 Neo all took place. I really could not deal with much more...My mantra for this time was "I release control and surrender to the flow".

I also was sick twice and had COVID once this year - I generally do not get sick and definitely not that many times a year! (Obviously, stress-related!)

However, there were SO many great things that happened too.

Here are some of the great things that happened this year for me. I'd love to hear what YOU are grateful for.

The best thing was my deeper connections with my true friends, reconnecting with family, and heart connections.

I am pleased to say that I have been kicking goals with my full-time PhD studies too. I decided not to get an extension for my 1-year confirmation in February, and was glad to have that milestone ticked off after my presentation. "Perfect is good. Done is better" was my mantra here. In case you do not know, I am looking at the benefits and challenges of the autonomous vehicle (i.e., driverless vehicle) rollout in Australia. I started interviewing people for my focus groups in July and finished at the end of October with 29 focus groups and 82 participants - great numbers for qualitative (i.e., descriptive) research. I'm currently editing and cleaning all these transcripts and will start the analysis in the new year. The next stage is a questionnaire to confirm the themes found from the focus groups in a broader audience.

I continued to tutor at my university part-time. My students had a lot of their challenges this year too. I felt privileged that they shared their lives with me (again). This really helped me with empathising with others and feel I was not alone on my journey of grief. Another mantra that helped me was one (my uni BFF) Lachie used to say continuously throughout Honours, "Everyone is doing their best."

My first research paper was published too! It's from my Honours thesis where I looked at how preschoolers interact with a social robot versus a human instructor. My supervisor, Michelle Neumann, did most of the work for this and we have another one coming soon. Publishing sure takes a long time in academia, especially with COVID and staffing issues (impacting all areas).

In my non-PhD work life, I had many opportunities to share my digital wellness passion and tips. The first was the Bagby Digital Wellness Collaborative Report where I was one of the digital wellness experts interviewed. The second was delivering a Modelling Digital Wellness class for teens who were part of Shine From Within academy. If you haven't seen my Top tips for tech balance and digital wellness poster, see below or click the link to download it

DE Tech Balance Tips web

The one positive thing to come out of my car getting totalled in the accident in May was that I was able to purchase an electric vehicle (EV). It's a Nissan LEAF 2021 ex-demo model. It has a 270 km (listed) driving range and 39 kWh usable battery capacity. I am now also in EV clubs and am totally embracing this new version of myself that goes to EV car meets!

Leigh chantelle Nissan LEAF electric vehicle EV meetup Leigh Chantelles Nissan LEAF 2021

Because of the car, I've gone on a few short road trips in between my PhD focus. Loved going to Crows Nest and Toowoomba to see my mate (since year 6!) Ben and his video art installation, Greetings from Eurasia.

LARGE IMAGE CANNOT BE PROCESSED images/Ben_Tupas_Eurasia_Exhibition_with_Leigh-Chantelle.jpeg

Also went to Mudjimba and Charleville with Renata (in her non-EV car). Another amazing thing that happened was that Renata and me met a miniature pony, Jono, who is now living his best life at Cranky's Farm. It truly was wonderful when we visited him at Cranky's Farm and saw how healed and joyful he was. My heart was full and I was thoroughly obsessed with the joy of Jono for a while.


I've kept up with my swimming, yoga, and Pilates routines and attended a great live DJ yoga recently. I have added running to my repertoire - never would have thought I would be running at least once a week and liking it, but, I am embracing this new version of myself. Another of my favourite spots is the old quarry at Daisy Hill Conservation Park where I run, swim, and meet dogs and their humans.


The water and particularly being near the ocean continues to bring solace. I still love swimming at Palm Beach. Even though there are SO many more people at the Gold Coast now, it's still a great place to be.

I hadn't been to see a live gig since Kae Tempest at QPAC the week before COVID lockdowns (and when I was doing Honours). The best thing to happen to me this year was that my top two Australian bands OF ALL TIME reformed to tour live.

First, Art of Fighting reformed for the 21st anniversary of their Wires album. I saw them in Brisbane and Brunswick (NSW). Spectacular nights made me reflect on who I was when the album was first released - listening to my MiniDisc player on the bus to Indooroopilly to work as manager of a music store and my loves of the time.

Art of Fighting live at Brunswick Picture Theatre 2022 Leigh Chantelle

The day after AOF, I caught up with one of my uni crew, Hugo, and his wife, Bec the day after their wedding. They started dating when we started uni and are the first of our group to wed.


I saw my other all-time favourite Australian band, Bluebottle Kiss in Brisbane. I never thought I would see this formation of the band reunited. What an awesome night! This is the gig where I got COVID, as did my sister Lou and mate Az (half of us who attended the gig together).

Bluebottle Kiss live at The Brightside 2022 Leigh chantelle

I also attended The Black Crowes with Wayne. We were the only people wearing masks in a sold-out arena! Looking forward to seeing soccer mommy and Carly Rae Jepsen live in 2023.

Finally, we had something to celebrate with the Federal elections and a change of government after 9 years! I really rode this wave of change and hope for a while! Great to see the Greens, Climate200, Animal Justice Party, and Independents do so well.

I was really pumped when one of my gal pals, Corinne, graduated with her Naturopathy studies as a single mum with 5-year-old twin girls. I was so proud to be asked to attend her graduation.

I held a party for Mum's birthday in May. A lot of family and friends who could not attend the funeral in January were able to attend. I decided that's it for organising events! It was great to reconnect with a heap of people from the Green Earth Group days.


Later in the year, it was great to reconnect with some of my vegan friends and raise over $3000 for a local farm sanctuary, Farm Animal Rescue, for our friend Helena's 70th birthday.


The Brisbane Lions (my Australian Football League team) played in the preliminary finals against Geelong. We didn't get into the grand final but I live in hope for another mostly positive season in the new year.

Also, Love Island UK and USA once again got me through the Winter.

I spent some quality time with my ex, Pascal D'Bras when he was at the Gold Coast as part of his tattoo tour in Queensland. He designed a train tattoo I have wanted for years. When he told me he was in a tattoo apprenticeship almost four years ago, I knew who I wanted to tattoo me, and it finally happened!

Leigh chantelles train tattoo by Pascal D Bras

A lot of PhD-related milestones are coming up in 2023. I feel as though I am letting go of many things I once revered to make room for the person I am becoming. For example, I am in the process of selling my Viva la Vegan! website that I've been running since 2005. I have vivalavegan.com and veganathletesbook.com also for sale.

I am about to embark on a 10-day digital detox which I do every year over xmas to the new year. I will be focusing on exercise, arts and crafts, catching up on non-PhD reading, and catching up with friends. It will be awesome.

I hope you have some great goals for 2023. It's going to be a great year!

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Leigh-Chantelle is an International Speaker & Consultant; Author, Singer/Songwriter and Blogger.

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