Year in review: Life as a 29-year-old

imageThe interesting thing about blogging is that you have a public record of how your life matches or diverges from the goals that you set. Here’s what I wrote at the beginning of my 29th year, imagining what I’d like to be true on the eve of my thirtieth birthday. I’ve included updates below each item.

I have even more wonderful relationships with family and friends.
I’m a little more distant than I used to be. Early retirement and a growing dislike of travel have certainly put a crimp in visits home. I’m also reluctant to make schedule commitments, although maybe that will relax in a few years. That said, Hacklab turned out to be a totally awesome choice and I’m glad I’m hanging out there.
I regularly stay in touch, and have good notes on what people are interested in and are up to.
I tend to respond when people reach out to me, although I don’t feel guilty about not reaching out first.
I survived my first business tax return, yay! I’m now investing in building skills while giving back to the community, eventually turning that into income from mobile apps, illustration/animation, and other ways to create value.
I did my own taxes, and I only had to amend my returns twice. Winking smile I’m looking forward to my second fiscal year end, which is coming soon! I ended up shelving mobile apps, but illustration, sketchnoting, and writing look like great ways to create engaging content.
I’ve got lots of sketchnotes of meetups, books, and product reviews. I’ve organized them into a blog and an e-book. My sketchnotes have colour and depth and interesting layouts. =) I help people find out about useful stuff and good get-togethers.
I published a collection of my 2012 sketchnotes on a free/pay-what-you-want basis, and people have actually bought it (for more than I would’ve asked for, yay!). I still don’t do fancy things with colour, depth, or layout, but I’m okay with that. =) Instead, I’ve been focusing on building resources to help people learn.
I’ve updated my Stories from my Twenties e-book with what I’ve learned from my 29th year, and I’ve shared the updates with the people who bought the book and sent me their receipts.
Done! See sachachua.com/blog/twenties . If I haven’t sent you the update because I misplaced your receipt or you didn’t send it to me, e-mail me and I’ll send you the new one.
I’ve gone through Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata, and I understand it. =) I’m also picking up Cantonese.
No progress on either Latin or Cantonese, although I’ve been learning Japanese instead.
I’ve been having fun gardening. We’re growing more greens and have actually gotten into the habit of eating them. (I know!)
Cherry tomatoes and blueberries, mostly. =) I’m growing some more lettuce, although haven’t gotten around to making salad with them yet!
My finances are on track for my 5-year experiment; this might even be extended at least a few more years.
Yup! Business was unexpectedly good, and my expenses have stayed within my budgeting parameters.
I’m ready to rock my thirties!
Looks like it!

What were the highlights this year?

  • August: Switched to a phone with a data plan, which actually does make a difference in my looking-up-stuff-and-finding-my-way-around capabilities.
  • September: Attended Quantified Self conference in the US. Spent time with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law.
  • October: Filed corporate taxes!
  • November: Lots of sketchnoting.
  • December: Came up with a name and logo for my company: Experivis.
  • January: Sketched different business ideas.
  • February: Played with more sketchnoting and art.
  • March: Went to the Emacs conference in London.
  • April: Sketched more conferences.
  • May: Posted “How to Learn Emacs.”
  • June: Experimented with Google Hangouts, started working on Quantified Awesome some more, helped work on the patio.
  • July: Made some resources for learning more about sketchnoting; lots of coding and consulting. Oh, and I fixed a rice cooker! =D

Hmm. All this time I’ve been feeling conflicted because I just want to stay home and not travel. It turns out I’d travelled twice in the past year, which could be why I’ve got a slowly-rebuilding travel budget (… and the high fees for replacing a lost passport certainly didn’t help!). Righto. Funny, the things you forget when you’re looking at life day to day.

So, how am I different from the person I was last year?

  • I draw more for myself than for events or presentations. I make little guides like “How to Learn Emacs” or the tutorials I’ve been putting together for sketchnotes. It can be more fun and less frustrating than working on other people’s content, although working on other people’s content is simpler. I like drawing stuff for my own explanations, and I look forward to doing more of that next year. On a related note:
  • I’m more hesitant to make commitments. Scheduling appointments with people? Maaaybe. Committing to professional gigs months in advance? Not if I can find someone else to refer the work to. Committing to cook next week’s open house meal at HackLab? No, although I’m happy to assist. I’ll accept the occasional invitation to sketchnote a pro-bono event, but I make it clear that I might not go depending on whatever comes up. =) It’s partly due to semi-retirement (I’m starting to get addicted to this ability to follow my interest!) and partly because of some other things I want to plan around. I anticipate being even more commitment-avoidant in the near future. Which is all right – people managed to hang out in college and other unstructured environments before, so we can probably figure out how to do so now.
  • I write longer posts more frequently, and I illustrate them. I decided to take all of August off from consulting (month-long staycation for my birthday gift to me!). I’m not using the time for more event sketchnoting or business experiments. Instead, I’ve been using it to write and learn, which is fantastic – more time to think and research. Since I’m still keeping a one-post-a-day-unless-I-get-super-excited-and-want-to-publish-something-NOW limit, this means I’ve written practically all of this month already, and I’ve been shuffling posts around to see what I can postpone to September. It’s fun to doodle on my blog posts, too.
  • I spend more time with W- or with the HackLab people than with other friends. I naturally spend lots of time with W-, and I try to make it out to HackLab once or twice a week. I see HackLab people more often than I see my other friends. I have to admit: it’s temptingly easier to hang out with people who are used to hanging out with each other. I don’t have to set up individual plans or worry about holding up my end of the conversation. The drop-in structure of HackLab means I don’t have to commit to being there at a specific time – I can just show up (usually after checking the door bot) and see who’s around.
  • I live an even simpler life. We’ve given away things that we haven’t been using. We’ve passed up movie theatres in favour of watching DVDs from the library. We repair things as much as possible instead of throwing them away.

Hmm. Let me think about what I’d like my thirties to be like. This is pretty cool, actually, because “thirties” has slightly more credibility (if slightly less gee-whiz potential) than “twenties” does, so I should use it well. Sure, I probably won’t make it to a list of “30 under 30” within the next couple of days, but that’s all right. (They don’t really make lists like “90 over 90”, do they, although they should…)

When I look back at this year on the eve of turning 31, I’d like to say:

  • I’ve learned and shared a lot. This next year will probably be a year of intense learning in terms of life and work and Making Things Happen. As tempting as it always is to go full speed ahead, I think the result will be even better if I slow down and take notes along the way.
  • I’ve gotten very good at making decisions under lots of uncertainty. The outcomes might not always be good, but at least the processes will be well-reasoned and I’ll have notes to help me (and other people) learn more.
  • I’ve expanded my freedom and abilities in this 5-year experiment. I’ve focused on building up skills, knowledge, and relationships out of curiosity (“What if?” “How can we make this better?”) instead of fear (“Will I be able to hit the ground running if I decide to go back to the workforce?”). I find creative ways to deal with constraints, and those ideas help others. Writing, drawing, and coding continue to be a large part of my life.
  • I’ve gotten better at asking questions. This is tough, because I tend to want to dig into things myself, Google+books+experiments give me so much information, and advice can get a little weird if you don’t take it. Maybe if I start asking people questions through this blog, I might elicit interesting perspectives or encourage people to teach something (especially if they don’t have blogs of their own).
  • I live a simple and frugal life. Lifestyle inflation is the enemy. If I can keep my wants and needs the same–or even reduce them–then that helps us be even more free.
  • I think this will be a lot of fun. =)
  • Shylock

    Clear and cool. It’s wonderful that a simple and frugal life really renders you more freedom.

    • http://sachachua.com sachac

      I met lots of people who earned way more than I did, but who felt handcuffed by their lifestyles. That’s why I want to experiment with this other way. =) So far, it seems to be all right. Sometimes I consider scenarios where things Go Wrong – I get sick, we have large mandatory expenses, etc. – and I try my best to plan for them, so that I don’t have to worry about those possibilities as much.