August 1, 2011

Looking back at life as a 27-year-old

August 1, 2011 - Categories: review, yearly

I’ll be celebrating my 28th birthday this August. Hooray!

I spent part of the Civic Holiday reviewing my blog posts and memories. It’s been a wonderful year. In August 2010, I wrote:

What will life as a 27-year-old look like? I’m excited about long-term growth: marriage, work, friendships, interests. I’m looking forward to small, constant improvements in the way we live. I want to get even better at learning and sharing. When I turn 28, I hope to be able to look back and say that I:

  • helped build an excellent foundation for a loving partnership
  • made a difference at work and grew in my career
  • experimented with ways of living better and shared my results
  • shared lots of ideas, questions, and insights with people
  • lived another year of an awesome life.

… and looking back, I can say that and more.

Life as a 27 year old was mainly about preparation. W- and I got married in October in a ceremony as small as we could get away with – just us, immediate family, and practically-family friends. I’m glad we did. The paperwork helps us make our long-term plans more solid, and it feels great to namedrop “my husband.” We celebrated my middle sister’s wedding in May, too. I’m curious how married life will influence the way my sisters and I interact.

We learned a lot about communication while planning our wedding, mostly inspired by Jay Heinrich’s excellent book Thank You for Arguing and our decision to keep both our names. I’m sure those skills will come in handy in the future as well. We’ve also been developing our teaching skills while helping J- and her friends learn more about math and other subjects. It’s worth investing the time into making things understandable and enjoyable.

At work, I’ve been developing some very useful skills: gathering requirements; scoping and estimating projects; working with Drupal, Ruby on Rails, and Websphere (not all together, fortunately!); working with other companies and teams. It’s been a bit more stressful because I’ve taken on more responsibilities, but it’s good preparation for many possible next steps: consulting and development in IBM, or perhaps a startup if a business opportunity seizes my imagination. The richness of my extracurricular life means I’ve cut back a little on non-project work – the presentations I used to do, the communities I used to help out with – but I’ve still been able to help make many things happen.

Lots of preparations outside work as well. We’ve been tweaking our household routines – simplifying the kitchen, improving the entrance flow, reorganizing the living room. We’ve added more vegetables to our life thanks to a community-supported agriculture program with the stereotypical abundance of zucchini. I’m getting better at gardening. We got more vegetables and fruits out of the garden this year, although bitter melons were a non-starter.  Oh yes, this was the year we disassembled a washing machine and a dryer in order to get the 27” machines down a 26” staircase. I hadn’t seen that coming at all, but it was a wonderful experience.

Lots of reflection and analysis this year, too. With a few exceptions, I’ve been able to share at least one blog post a day for the past year, and that’s been really helpful for reconstructing and remembering. The Quantified Self meetups in Toronto have been inspiring me to measure, analyze my decisions, and review them afterwards. Printing out my blog and flipping through the stories has helped, too. It’s interesting reading things I’ve somewhat forgotten writing. There are my reflections on routinely waking up at 5 AM – did I, before? But it sounds like me, so I must have. Perhaps I’ll try that again.

I’m getting better at drawing. I’m starting to feel more comfortable playing with colors and sketching ideas, relying less on the ability to nudge drawings into the right shape and more on the ability to repeat sketches until they feel right. I take informal sketchnotes at the events I go to, and I’m starting to develop note-taking and presentation workflows that fit me well.

I levelled up in terms of personal finance by opening a discount brokerage account and investing in index funds. The market has been up, down, and sideways, but I’m going to keep investing anyway. It’s reassuring to see that nest egg grow, even though it grows slowly. While the returns are nowhere near the breathless rates I read about in personal finance books written before the financial crisis, they’re okay. Updating my books makes me feel a little more grown-up, even though I don’t go for anything more complicated than passive growth.

My interests shifted, unsurprisingly. I haven’t sewed as much as I thought I would; other hobbies keep me busy. Working at home means I’ve been biking less than I used to. I haven’t fired up our woodworking tools even once this summer. But there are new and renewed interests that fill my hours: writing, drawing, piano, learning Latin with W- and delighting in unexpected discoveries. For example, I learned cras is Latin for tomorrow, which made me think about the word “procrastinate” – ah, “for tomorrow”,  doesn’t that make perfect sense now…

I think the year ahead of me – life as a 28-year-old – will be a year of slowing down, polishing, and finishing. It will be interesting. Drawings, links, and plans to follow.