Category Archives: yearly

Looking back at life as a 27-year-old

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.

Yearly review: 2010

What a year for major life changes!

image imageMy cat Neko and I officially moved to Canada this year when I got my permanent residency in January. After wrestling my unhappy and rather pointy cat into the soft-shell carrier, I stowed her under the seat in front of me. Not a single meow or yowl  out of her during the long flight, although there was a moment in airport security when I had a cat on my head.

imageNeko seems to to be getting along quite fine. She has discovered all the warm spots in the house, and has claimed the top cat position at home even though Luke and Leia are both twice her size.

imageMe, I think I’ve figured out the secret to dealing with winter, too. Flannel pajamas, soft and warm sheets, plenty of thermals, and the renaming of winter to "baking season".   Good thing we biked a lot during the warm months.

I got a promotion and a new manager at work. I’m doing a lot of Drupal development again, which is tons of fun. I’m starting to get the hang of this, I think. There are topics that I feel comfortable being "the expert" on in workshops, although really it’s more like doing the background research and being ready to brainstorm and ask questions.

J-’s in grade 7. The alternative school she’s going to now is interesting because the subjects are integrated, so she’s learning about, say, world hunger in mathematics and geography and all her other subjects. She’s hitting that growth spurt, too. Her feet are bigger than mine, and she’ll grow into them soon enough.

image We picked up and deepened a few interests, too. We all learned woodworking this year, building our own Adirondack chairs. (Yes, even J- built one, with our help!) I’m still amazed that I can have a chair that actually fits me, as most lounge chairs are a bit too long.
The chairs were a great vantage point for viewing our garden, which has  imageyielded lots of ampalaya (bitter melon) for pinakbet, plenty of herbs for pasta sauce, and peas and cherry tomatoes for snacking. We’re looking forward to growing even more fruits, vegetables and herbs in next year’s garden! 

image W- and I got married in Toronto City Hall. To keep things sane and introvert-friendly, we celebrated with just family and a few practically-family friends. Everyone flew in, and it was fantastic having family gathered around the kitchen table. The poor photographer was probably intimidated by all these people with better cameras and tons of photography
experience, but he survived. Tita Gay was a force of nature, practically bringing along a wedding in a suitcase. She surprised us with bubbles and image wedding favours. She and my sister Kathy catered the whole thing, and they conspired with Ching and John to spring a wedding
cake on us. We ate pretty much constantly during the week my family spent in Canada, and really good food too. We just finished the very last lumpia from our stash from Tita Gay and are looking forward to making more.

image Inspired by how my mom and dad built these great friendships over time and distance, we’ve been working on being more social: giving home-made kitchen gifts, writing Christmas cards and letters (hi!), and going to and organizing get-togethers. It’s surprisingly fun! We’re looking forward to learning more about building relationships over time.

What a year!

imageimage 2011 promises to be amazing. We’re looking forward to celebrating Kathy and John’s wedding in the Netherlands and the Philippines. We’re also looking  forward to learning more about woodworking and getting even more out of our garden. Me, I can’t wait to do more writing, drawing, and programming, and I’m excited about opportunities to develop my communication and consulting skills.

Please help us with our project of building relationships. =) How was your year? What are you looking forward to in the next one? What are your stories? You can find our past yearly updates at http://sachachua.com/blog/category/yearly . Looking forward to hearing from you!


Updates from last year:

In last year’s learning plan, I said that my key priorities were:

  1. Share as much as I can at work and in life. I want to share as much as possible so that other people can build on that foundation. At work, this means creating enablement material, blogging, organizing the shared content, and helping communities and individuals.
  2. Learn more about drawing, animation, and video. I want to get even better at thinking things through and communicating what I’m learning. The better I get at sharing, the more I can help people learn.
  3. Continue living an awesome life! I can’t wait to explore the experiment opportunities that are sure to come up. I’m looking forward to further building my relationships with W- and J-, family, friends, communities, and the world, too. And I’m definitely looking forward to bringing my cat to Canada as I complete the permanent residency process. I miss her! =)

Although I didn’t get as much into animation and video as I hoped to, I’ve had fun learning about everything else, and I think I’ll continue to focus on writing, drawing, sharing, and connecting in 2011. =)


Links:

Twenty-seven; life as a twenty-six year old

UPDATE: Fixed PDF.

I turned 27 years old this week. If life as a 25-year-old was about taking small steps to build a wonderful life, life as a 26-year-old was about flourishing. Reviewing the past year’s blog posts to get a sense of how I’ve grown, I realized that life had gotten much deeper and richer. Work gave me plenty of opportunities to learn, share, and make a difference. W- and I have worked out our long-term plans and will be getting married in October. I learned a lot from friends, mentors, and proteges, and I shared tons of thoughts and ideas in blogs, presentations, conversations, and notes.

It’s been a great life. Fewer storms than movies or books had me believe, and plenty of wonderful memories and realizations on which to build a future. On the cusp between the mid-twenties and the late twenties, the most unexpected discovery has been that of unconditional serenity. Now I have more to share, and more to discover along with other people.

I’ve selected my favourite blog posts for Aug 2009-2010 and put them into a PDF so that I can archive them in a three-ring binder. If you’d like to review it too, see sachachua-26.pdf. (184 pages, 353k) Thanks for sharing this year with me!

Here’s how the year stacked up against the goals I shared in last year’s recap:

I’m looking forward to learning even more about my passions and interests, people, and life. When I turn 27, I hope to be able to look back and say that I:

  • [X] created another year’s worth of experiences, memories, and dreams – it feels like more than a year’s worth, even!
  • [X] helped build innovation networks and shared what I’ve learned with others – we’ve not only scaled up our Idea Labs (virtual brainstorming discussions), I’ve also helped other groups and organizations use the technique to engage people around the world
  • [X] helped build Drupal skills within the company – Drupal is well-established in our toolkit, and we’re looking forward to doing even more
  • [-] wore something I made every day – I’ve been making more of my clothes and accessories, but I’ve also calculated the my time value of money and decided that some things like technical clothing are well worth the cost.
  • [X] enjoyed home cooking and explored new recipes – This was excellent!
  • [-] relaxed in improvised situations – I haven’t signed up for further improv classes (low sign-ups for the class I want to take), but I’m looking forward to doing this again
  • [-] saved half of my income and donated a tenth – Saved about half, shifting to investing and then donating when that appreciates
  • [X] got to the point of having a place for everything, and everything in its place – Progress! After thinking about what gets misplaced and where clutter accumulates, I tried a few tweaks (beltbag, etc.). Haven’t misplaced important things in a while.
  • [X] built and deepened more friendships – I’ve been mentoring more people and hosting tea parties, and I really enjoy doing both
  • [X] figured out what I know, what I want to learn, and how to share both of those – I’ve been writing and blogging even more, and scaling back on my presentations has given me more time to think and share. Good stuff!
  • [X] shared my happiness and enthusiasm with even more people – =)

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.

Learning plan for 2010

Here are my priorities for 2010:

  1. Share as much as I can at work and in life. I want to share as much as possible so that other people can build on that foundation. At work, this means creating enablement material, blogging, organizing the shared content, and helping communities and individuals.
  2. Learn more about drawing, animation, and video. I want to get even better at thinking things through and communicating what I’m learning. The better I get at sharing, the more I can help people learn.
  3. Continue living an awesome life! I can’t wait to explore the experiment opportunities that are sure to come up. I’m looking forward to further building my relationships with W- and J-, family, friends, communities, and the world, too. And I’m definitely looking forward to bringing my cat to Canada as I complete the permanent residency process. I miss her! =)

What do I want to learn to support that, and how can I go about learning?

1) Share as much as I can at work and in life.

I want to share patterns for social software use, organizational knowledge (connecting the dots), skills I’ve picked up, and ideas and insights I’ve collected along the way. I can learn through:

  • Practice: Adding content to blogs, wikis, communities, and other repositories will move me towards this goal and help me develop the skills I need to do it even more effectively
  • Community, mentors: People’s comments and questions teach me what to share and what’s missing.
  • Inspiration: I can get ideas from e-books, presentations, wikis, and other resources.

2) Learn more about drawing, animation, and video.

I want to communicate better. Visual skills complement written skills and can be quite engaging. I can learn through:

  • Practice: I can use drawing, animation and video to share what I’m learning.
  • Community, mentors: People’s feedback will help me learn how to communicate more effectively.
  • Reading: There are a few good resources coming out soon – looking forward to reading them!
  • Inspiration: I can get ideas from presentations, images, and videocasts.
  • Coaches: I can work with editors and illustrators to get feedback and improve the output.

3) Continue living an awesome life!

I can explore this further through:

  • Practice: Particularly experiments! =)
  • Reflection: What am I doing well? How can we do even better?
  • Reading: Lots of books and blog posts about life, yay!
  • Community, mentors: Learning from people’s comments, questions, and advice really helps
  • Inspiration: Looking for examples and picking up ideas from them = awesome

Lessons from 2009 and plans for 2010

There is something incredibly powerful in being able to look back and see how much you’ve grown in a year. You can’t help but wonder what adventures the next year will bring.

It seems that every year of my life must be the best year yet. 2009 was no exception. It was the year of experiments that paid off and crazy ideas that turned out awesomely.

Here are my long-term goals:

  • I want people to be able to learn, work together, and lead from anywhere. That’s why I’m passionate about helping people connect and collaborate.
  • I want to continue to live a happy and fulfilling life, and I want to share that experience as much as I can. That’s why I’m passionate about exploration and sharing.

Here are some of the things I learned in 2009:

  • Sharing means being able to do more. I’m glad I blogged so much about Drupal. Helping new teams learn Drupal was easy and fun. Teaching what I’d learned freed me up to work on other interesting challenges, which led to learning and sharing even more.
  • Sharing opportunities pays off, too. I’ve switched to passing along as many opportunities as I can, coaching people when needed, and accepting only the opportunities that no one else can do. Result: stronger communities and networks, and better use of time.
  • Experience is awesome. I’ve been working at IBM for two years now. What I do has changed a lot over the past two years, and I’m continually challenged to grow (yay!). I’m surprised to find that I have answers to people’s questions, though, and have even started giving people career advice. ;) This is fun! Imagine what life will be like with decades of experience… =)
  • Speaking in person is overrated. ;) I realized that I can make even more of an impact online, and I can reach more people too. So I experimented with reducing my in-person speeches and focusing the time/energy on sharing more on-line instead. Result: I’m happier, I reach more people, and I have deeper discussions. Win!
  • There’s so much to learn about great communication. Yay! I learned how to facilitate with drawings and do good video on a low budget. I’m looking forward to learning even more through practice and professional editing.
  • Expertise is worth the investment. Many talented people want to earn extra money. Hiring them to teach you or to do something you can’t do easily is a great way to grow your capabilities. For example, some of the illustrators and editors I’ve worked with have saved me time and shown me what “better” looks like.
  • Delegation can help you improve processes and save energy. Outsourcing routine tasks made me reflect on how I do things and write step-by-step instructions. Not only did I learn more about what I do and how to explain it to others, I appreciated being able to delegate things that took me a lot of energy so that I could focus on things I enjoy.
  • Little things can make all the difference in life. Microfleece blankets, handmade hooded bathrobes, and home-baked apple pie make autumn and winter so much more agreeable. Little things like those count.
  • It’s fun to make or grow things for yourself. Sewing means being able to make the clothes, organizers, and home decorations I have in mind. Growing a garden means I can harvest whatever I want. Learning how to can and preserve means being able to enjoy apricot syrup, blueberry jam, and jalapeno jelly. Mmm!
  • Biking helps you get around and build exercise into your routine. Toronto seems so much smaller now that I’m comfortable on my bicycle. I can get to places easily, and I don’t have to rely on public transit. I also like knowing that the exercise is just part of the way I get around. Good stuff!
  • Household routines and investments save time and money. The chest freezer means we can buy more things on sale. We prepare large batches of lunches and dinners for extra convenience. This was definitely worth the extra money. Other household tweaks, like more shelves near the door, go a long way towards streamlining our processes.
  • Staycations are super. The two-week staycation we enjoyed in August was the most relaxing and most productive vacation I’ve ever had. We explored new interests and prepared the foundation for an even better life. Definitely a good idea!

How can 2010 be even better? Here’s what I’m planning to do:

  • Learn more about drawing, animation, and video. I want to get even better at thinking things through and communicating what I’m learning. The better I get at sharing, the more I can help people learn.
  • Share as much as I can at work and in life. I want to share as much as possible so that other people can build on that foundation. At work, this means creating enablement material, blogging, organizing the shared content, and helping communities and individuals.
  • Continue living an awesome life! I can’t wait to explore the experiment opportunities that are sure to come up. I’m looking forward to further building my relationships with W- and J-, family, friends, communities, and the world, too. And I’m definitely looking forward to bringing my cat to Canada as I complete the permanent residency process. I miss her! =)

What have you learned from 2009, and what are you looking forward to in 2010? Please share! =)

Life as a 25-year-old

It’s great to be able to look back and really look back–to be able to review a year’s worth of blog posts, to remember, to see how much I’ve changed and how much I’m still the same.

Here were the goals I set for myself last year:

By August 2009, I’d like to be able to look back and say that I’ve:
  • completed a book on Emacs (whether published by No Starch Press or self-published)
  • increased my reach and responsibilities at and outside work
  • completed my paperwork for the permanent residency application (Canadian experience class?)
  • continued to donate 10% of my income
  • continued to save at least 50% of my income
  • developed another income source aside from salary, interest, and index growth
  • learned how to cook at least 20 new recipes



The book on Emacs fell by the wayside as I started doing more and more Drupal development at work. I turned the project over to Ian Eure, another Emacs blogger whom I greatly admire. At work, I became a Drupal guru, and I spoke at DrupalCon on the deployment processes. I submitted my paperwork for the Canadian Experience Class skilled worker permanent residency. I have a fair amount of money in circulation on Kiva.org and earmarked for the Toronto Public Library, although less than the 10% I’d targeted. I’ve been able to save 52% of my income, building a healthy retirement fund, an investment fund, and a dream fund.  I haven’t developed another major income source, although I’ve identified a number of opportunities that I could turn into income someday. As for recipes–I’ve had lots of fun cooking, and I’m sure I’m well past that number.

Compared to my 24th year, my life as a 25-year-old wasn’t about major changes. It’s hard to top all the shifts that happened in 2007-2008: graduating, starting at IBM, getting used to the idea of being in Canada… 2008-2009 was much calmer. I discovered my inner domestic goddess as we acquired two cats (both adopted from the shelter), a sewing machine, a garden, a canner, numerous pictures and frames, a number of camera lenses, and a love for making and photographing things. I built on existing skills such as drawing and presenting, and I branched into new hobbies such as improv and playing the piano. I’m still as much in love with both my partner and my work as I was a year ago, which is absolutely wonderful. My in-jokes with W- are deeper and richer, thanks to another year of shared experiences. At work, I became the go-to person for Drupal because of my development skills–and then I switched hats and took a consulting/networking role created for me. I’ve started experimenting with ways to make life even better: trying out delegation, exploring crafts, creating experiences… Life is amazing!

My favourite posts:

I’m looking forward to learning even more about my passions and interests, people, and life. When I turn 27, I hope to be able to look back and say that I:

  • created another year’s worth of experiences, memories, and dreams
  • helped build innovation networks and shared what I’ve learned with others
  • helped build Drupal skills within the company
  • wore something I made every day
  • enjoyed home cooking and explored new recipes
  • relaxed in improvised situations
  • saved half of my income and donated a tenth
  • got to the point of having a place for everything, and everything in its place
  • built and deepened more friendships
  • figured out what I know, what I want to learn, and how to share both of those
  • shared my happiness and enthusiasm with even more people

Thanks for sharing an amazing year with me. =) Looking forward to future adventures!