Category Archives: birthday

Turning 31

What a year! Life just keeps getting better and better.

2013-09-26 Goals for 31 #plans #year

2013-09-26 Goals for 31 #plans #year

I like looking forward by looking back: imagining myself in the future and seeing what changed. Last August, I wrote: “When I look back at this year on the eve of turning 31, I’d like to say…” So here’s how all that worked out.

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 slowed down in terms of work, scaling back my consulting hours to about two days a week and using the freed-up time for reading, cooking, spending time with family, and working on other projects/experiments like Emacs and sketchnoting. That worked out really well.

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’m comfortable taking on bigger and bigger challenges. I’m comfortable with research and can generally find some background information quickly. I have fun sketching out different scenarios and finding my way. This is working nicely too.

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 added a few useful business-related skills and improved a number of my existing skills. Yay! This is definitely fun, and I’m looking forward to figuring out what the next year will bring.

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).

Philosophy turned out to be a good addition to the things I’m learning and thinking about. By immersing myself in the conversations of book authors throughout the ages, I can learn from all these very smart people who have thought about things. =)

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.

My base expenses were actually a little bit lower than they were the previous year. Neat! The stock market has been doing pretty well (aside from the current dip), and I’ve been saving most of the income from consulting too. I’m going to figure out dividends next year, so then I’ll be able to move more money from savings into investments.

Where did the year go?

August 2013 Lots of drawing, making sketchnote lessons
September Emacs, writing, sketchnotes, learning tips
October More drawing, reflecting on my experiment
November Google Helpouts, Emacs chats
December Trip to the Philippines!
January Lots of learning tips
February Writing about blogging; making that no-excuses guide to blogging
March Frugal Fire podcast experiment
April More Emacs Chats and Frugal Fire podcasts; Raspberry Pi
May Even more Emacs Chats
June Read Lisp, Tweak Emacs
July Philosophy

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

  • I’m healthier. I like these new exercise habits (running to build up endurance, the Hacker’s Diet exercise ladder for very gradually building up strength). We’ve been eating even better too.
  • I did a lot of cool front-end work on my consulting engagement. I picked up new skill: Jive app/add-on development. Improved existing skills, too: Javascript, analytics, etc.
  • I spent a lot less time working, networking, and socializing (reduced by 263, 333, and 324 hours respectively!), and more time working on Emacs, gardening, reading, and sleeping. I spent about as much time writing as I did last year. I shifted most of my socialization to Hacklab, since I like the way it fits me.
  • I had good experiments with self-publishing. I published my 2013 collection of sketchnotes, a no-excuses guide to blogging and a beginner’s guide to learning Emacs Lisp. I checked out Createspace for making a print version of my sketchnotes collection, and that actually worked out nicely. I did the Emacs Lisp guide as an e-mail course, too.
  • I drew more. I thought I drew less, but actually, my time records and my files say that I drew a lot more. It just didn’t feel that way because I’ve been writing so many text-based blog posts lately. (Hah! Recency bias.)
  • I learned more about podcasting by doing short series of shows with live sketchnotes, followed up with transcripts (Emacs Chats, Helpers Help Out, Frugal Fire Show). I might not get into it long-term, but it was interesting to try out.
  • I’m more comfortable with talking to people and helping them online. I experimented with the Google Helpouts platform, helping people learn more about note-taking, learning, building on introvert strengths, and Emacs. That worked out well (tons of 5-star reviews!), although I scaled my availability down so that I could focus on other things.
  • I’m more comfortable with philosophy, and with the humanities in general. I’ve been reading a lot lately, and I find philosophy to be useful and interesting. I’m getting better at not worrying about things and at writing about what I’m thinking. Yay!
  • I’m more involved in family life. I spend more time on family-related things, and I’ve been helping W- more too.
  • I’ve learned a little more about gardening. Watering regularly makes a difference, but I’m still constrained by environmental factors.

Next year, I’ll turn 32. (Nice round number!) When I do my annual review then, what would I like to be able to say about life as a 31-year-old?

  • I have excellent health-related habits I have the strength, flexibility, and endurance to do what I want to do.
  • Our home life is wonderful. We enjoy yummy food, good projects, a tidy house, simple lives, great relationships, and other things.
  • I helped my consulting client make successful transitions. Upgrades, training, time away… I did my work well, and they’re in a great position to continue doing awesome things in the future.
  • I’ve broadened my business a little bit more. I might go deeper into writing/drawing/publishing, or I might look into product development. This reduces the risk of being classified as a personal services business, and it may lead to other interesting skills and opportunities. In terms of development, I like web-based stuff more than mobile, so maybe I’ll focus on that.

Life is good. Looking forward to seeing how this year turns out!

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. =)

Thinking about how to celebrate my 30th birthday

image

I’m looking forward to my thirties – a third of the way to my goal of being a totally awesome 90-year-old! I’m almost done with reviewing the past ten years and updating my collection of blog highlights, and I’m looking forward to getting some clarity on what’s coming up next too.

Birthday celebrations are an excellent excuse to get together with people. I feel a little weird inviting people to come and spend a few hours with me and a bunch of other people I know. I tend to get stressed out by the process of getting other people gifts (or guiltily donating things people have given me), so I’d rather not receive gifts. But I’ve been part of wonderful parties before, so I can think about what made those parties awesome, and what I can learn to have even better parties.

My favourite parties were the ones I had with my closest friends back home. We never needed an excuse. Sometimes I’d invite people over to hang out, or to watch a movie, or to play a game. I really liked those because my friends were all good friends with each other, so there were lots of crazy conversations and in-jokes. Even after I moved to Canada, I loved how they’d sometimes have ice cream parties and other get-togethers, patching me in through Skype. I miss them a lot.

When I lived at Graduate House, I often invited people over for a barbecue. There was a large outdoor party area with plenty of seats. Since many of my friends were also in graduate school, we had relaxed conversations under the stars. Graduate House was really convenient because most of the people I knew lived there or close by, and it was a short walk from a downtown subway stop.

I moved to my first apartment and celebrated my 24th birthday there. I didn’t have chairs and the bare walls echoed the noise, but people sat on cushions on the floor and we had a lot of fun.

After I moved in with W-, it took me a while to get around to having parties. Still, I had the occasional tea party – a casual, conversation-filled open house that was usually my excuse to bake far too many goodies. I had one of these every 2-3 months, which felt pretty infrequent (but it’s still more often than people invite me over, so I guess that counts for something). My favourite of these was when the conversation gelled and I got to learn all sorts of interesting things about my new friends.

I’ve had larger parties here as well. I remember scrambling to wash extra saucers! =) We set out mats and cushions on the deck, and people hung out there as well as in the kitchen.

Our home has more space than my first apartment. (The kitchen’s about the size of the main living area I had back then!) We have two bathrooms. So why am I not having more people over? Let me think about my excuses and how to work around them.

  • It’s cluttered. Having people over is a good excuse to declutter and clean up, and people are fine with a lived-in home. Besides, moving things around can work wonders for opening up space. Maybe we can move the kitchen table outside, for example? That requires disassembly, but it might be worth it. People can stand around in the kitchen or hang out on the deck.
  • There’s not enough seating. In a pinch, we manage to fit ten people around the kitchen table. Now that we’ve rebuilt the deck stairs (I helped!), we can put a few more chairs on the deck as well. Maybe we can get extra chairs and store them in the shed when they’re not in use.
  • The cats might get in the way. You’d expect the cats to hide with unfamiliar company – except Luke loves attention and Neko’s curious (but still tetchy, so guests sometimes get nipped if they get too close to her). And then cat hair! We’ve thought about keeping them in the basement with some food and water during parties, although some of our guests like playing with the cats, so maybe they can join us at the end.
  • Food. I like cooking, although sometimes it’s hit-or-miss, and I’m never quite sure about inflicting my experiments on people. (Although I guess that’s how you know who your friends are! Winking smile ) Since I don’t get firm RSVPs, I tend to prepare things that we can enjoy throughout the week even if no one shows up. I should stop worrying about filling everyone up. I’ve gone to fun parties that had mostly chips to snack on. People are used to pot luck or barbecue. I can always pick up party platters or order in.
  • Drink. Neither W- nor I drink alcohol (or intend to any time soon), so I’m pretty clueless about something that a lot of people enjoy or expect at parties. BYOB can help, I guess, especially if we can get someone to take stuff home afterwards. (Alternatively, we could cook with the remaining alcohol, I guess…) I rarely drink anything other than water, so I don’t have a good handle on
  • Frugality on behalf of others. I keep projecting my frugality onto other people, especially as other people might be in more difficult situations. =) It’s much cheaper to cook rather than to eat out, so I don’t want to organize a party at a restaurant where everyone will be eating out – I’d rather cook for everyone, or have a potluck dinner.
  • Timing. I asked a friend for advice, and he said many good parties run until 2 AM or something like that. I’m usually in bed by midnight. So… maybe I’m an afternoon or dinner party sort of person, even if it means not being able to join the deep discussions that often happen late at night.
  • Don’t want to accidentally offend someone. Sleeping Beauty’s problem? Her parents forgot to invite one fairy, who then threw a fit. While I don’t think anyone’s going to be quite that vindictive (or magical), I still worry about forgetting to invite someone and accidentally sending the wrong message.

A good number of excuses… I have to remember that even though I regularly feel insecure about hosting, I still have get-togethers pretty frequently, and people come. (Even though I’m usually semi-anxiously twiddling my thumbs at 1pm – maybe I should move to a 2pm start time?) I live ten minutes from the subway station, even if it’s a subway station a bit far from downtown.

I think it will help to reflect on why I want to bring people together in the first place. What are my reasons for having birthday parties and other get-togethers?

  • To thank people. People are awesome and helpful and inspiring. Feeding them and sharing what I’ve learned from them are small things I can do to say thanks. I don’t have one-on-one lunches or coffees with people nearly enough because I don’t want to impose on their schedule (although maybe that’s something else I should practise), but an open house is voluntary. I’m working on a big gratitude map thanking people for various ways they’ve helped me over the past ten years, and I’m looking forward to having that printed at a large scale. =) (That’ll also answer the “How do you know Sacha?” question!)
  • To hear from people. People don’t blog nearly as often as I do, so if I want to find out what’s going on in their lives, I have to ask, or I have to give them an opportunity to tell me. Sometimes I can help out, sometimes I learn things, sometimes it’s just interesting to find out what’s going on with other people.
  • To bring awesome people together, and to learn from their conversations. Maybe it’s weird, but I’m usually the quiet one at my own parties. =) I like listening, especially as people bring out aspects in other people that I might never come across myself. I sometimes prompt people with questions if I know they know something that other people might find useful.
  • To pick people’s brains for ideas and next steps. It’s good to let people know what you’re planning, since they’ll often have great ideas and tips. =)
  • To celebrate with lots of good food. Salads! Fruits! Baked yummies! Things that people would probably not make for themselves (or things I might not make on my own)! Many of my friends are single, so cooking can be difficult, but we enjoy cooking and are set up well for it. If there’s anything left over, I can always pack it up and stash it in the freezer.

What would it look like if I could get better at having parties?

  • I have a flexible plan for having parties. I know where the table and chairs go, where I’m going to put food, where to put drinks and snacks so that conversations flow, what some go-to snacks are so that I can get that sorted out easily. I have checklists so that I don’t forget things in the scramble. (Must remember to get ice next time…)
  • I have parties more regularly. Maybe once every two months, and maybe with a core group that also hosts during the other times?
  • I trust people more. I don’t have to worry too much about keeping conversations balanced or food flowing. I trust that people will adapt, taking care of newcomers and bringing them in without pushing them too hard.
  • We have a few more seats available, and can sustain conversation in another seating area – maybe on the deck, with the deck chairs that we built. We tend to crowd the kitchen because the living room is too dark, although maybe we can sort that out with better lighting (must replace the bare light that’s in that room).

I want to have virtual parties too, like the ones we had back then… I wonder what that would be like, especially with something like Google Hangout.

So, party. =) I don’t know what life will quite be like in the next couple of weeks, but maybe if I’m ambitious, I could try having an in-person party near my birthday. More conservatively, I could have it closer to the end of the month. Summer, so we can snack on plenty of fruits, and the barbecue will be handy too.

Thoughts? Tips? Does everyone else just Get It when it comes to parties, and am I the only one geekily trying to figure stuff out? =)

Twenty-nine; life as a 28-year-old

Today I turned twenty-nine years old! This is fantastic. I’m making good progress towards my goal of becoming a little old lady living an awesome life. =) Here’s the bird’s-eye view, with links to annual reviews whenever I remembered to write them:

  • 19 years old: Finished university, got into open source development
    20 years old: Enjoyed teaching
  • 21 years old: Getting started with graduate school in Canada
  • 22 years old: Settling into Toronto, dealing with homesickness
  • 23 years old: Thesis, writing
  • 24 years old: Moved from the academe into the industry, started a relationship with W-, decided to be in Canada for a while
  • 25 years old: Settling in, developing skills, taking small steps
  • 26 years old: Flourishing
  • 27 years old: Getting married, improving our household routines, preparing for the next step

Life as a 27-year-old was about preparing, and life as a 28-year-old was about taking more risks based on those preparations. With the stability of a warm and loving marriage to support me, the savings from a job I excelled at, and a deeper understanding of how I invest my time and money thanks to the self-tracking I’d been doing, I felt ready to take on the risk of starting a new business in order to explore the possibilities of more family-friendly work. That’s been going tremendously well, and I think we’re in as good a place as anyone could be for the next step.

I invested some of my earnings into new tools, and I’ve been teaching myself more about drawing and Android development. I have a tidy collection of sketchnotes, and people sometimes talk to me about my notes during meetups. I’ve also learned more about electronics, building myself a handy USB foot pedal using the Arduino and then converting it to a Teensy. I’m learning new ways to create value, and it’s great. Sometimes I’m intimidated by the skills of people who’ve been practising these things for much longer, but all things come with time and experience, so I keep practising and learning.

I’ve been working on being more social, and it’s getting easier and easier. We helped J- and her friends with math study groups, and we spent some time volunteering at Free Geek Toronto as well. We celebrated my sister’s wedding in the Philippines, and it was great to see everyone again. She and her husband are expecting their firstborn a few months from now – my parents’ first grandchild, so we’re all excited. I’ve also been reaching out to friends, going to picnics, and just spending time hanging out. This is good.

The more I experiment, the less I know what the next year might look like, and the more confident I am that things will be wonderful anyway.

Living an awesome life as a 27-year-old: a year in blog posts

Happy birthday to me! =) I’m celebrating my 28th birthday today. Here’s the year in blog posts (August 2010 – July 2011): http://sachachua.com/notebook/files/sacha-chua-27.pdf .

Blogging as a 27-year-old: 391 published posts, 382 pages long, more than 190,000 words. If you’re curious, you can see what I was blogging as a 26-year-old and as a 25-year-old.

The short version: my birthday wrap-up. It’s been a great year, and I’m looking forward to learning and sharing even more!

Monthly chunks: August 2010, September 2010, October 2010, November 2010, December 2010, January 2011, February 2011, March 2011, April 2011, May 2011, June 2011, July 2011

My birthday wish: tell me what your life was like when you were 28 what you wish you knew when you were 28, or what I can improve on to make life as a 28-year-old totally awesome. =) Younger than I am? Tell me who you’re planning to grow into when you’re 28!

(Happy birthday to my parents, too. After all, they did all the hard work.)

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.