Well hello there, dear reader. It’s time to wrap up another year. 2023 was a good, hard year. During last year’s review, I landed on a few points that I wanted to pursue more this year. 2022 was more regimented and semester-like with it’s quarterly projects. That led me to wish for a 2023 that was a bit less online and involved creative non-computer-y things with fewer artificial deadlines and restrictions.
This year doesn’t have a theme, but maybe I could find one if I searched hard enough. There were several big events though. A family member passed away. I started therapy. I joined a community workspace and made new friends. I rode my bike a lot, did less artistic stuff, less programming, and volunteered and joined in on community things more.
Biggest Quality of Life Improvements
By far, the biggest quality of life improvements for me were 1) joining a community workspace, 2) volunteering more and 3) continuing to exercise.
Joining the workspace has led to new friendships, collaborations, and lots of fun. It was only when I started having this in my life did I realize how much I wanted for it. The pandemic taught me to enjoy my own company and to find comfort in regimented creativity. I went so far down that road that I sort of forgot how extroverted I am and how much energy I gain from being around enthused, creative people.
The volunteering I did was with two separate organizations — both bike-oriented. Both have led to meeting some lovely people (as well as my original finding of the workspace I joined). I’m grateful to live in a city where things like this are happening. I’m not as optimistic I would find opportunities like these in smaller cities (although where there are fewer opportunities, I suppose you have to make things happen yourself if you want it enough).
Without having exercised, however, I’m not sure the above would have happened. Of course, there’s no 1-to-1 correlation, but working out has probably helped me make the most positive changes in other areas of my life. It increased my confidence, appreciation for myself, and physical and mental stability, which I think have all helped me believe in myself and what I want. It’s a sort of day-to-day strength, it seems.
Specifically, I have maintained going to the gym three times a week, and have recently added two bouts of climbing a week, usually. I won’t be able to keep up this level of fitness forever, but I’m very grateful that I could do it this year. I feel like it has changed my brain.
The biggest drains
In contrast to quality of life improvements, let’s talk about what dragged me down. I was my own biggest drain on my energy. I think the pressure and expectations I put on myself were what drained me. At times this year, I remember feeling paralyzed by what I hoped I could/should do with my time. When I have mentioned this to people they have said things like that’s a good problem to have or they have given me a look that I probably interpreted as wow, what a type-a overachiever.
It’s a bizarre experience to describe. Some might describe the experience as feeling empowered by my interests, but I’m not sure that’s it. What I see it as is a desperate scrambling to try and find what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, which leads to frantically trying new things, giving them a strong, dedicated attempt, and then giving up shortly after. This mostly occurs with projects and hobbies.
But I am slowly learning that there is only so much time in a day, a week, a month. Picking how I spend my time is hard for me, and I easily pile on too many things. On top of all that, self-imposed pressure is not healthy.
As I wrote up at the end of 2022, I still wish to better embrace what I feel like doing rather than what I feel I should be doing. This realization (plus help from therapy) has led me to think a lot about authenticity. I see that it’s a drag to not be yourself and to not trust your intuition. That’s a keyword.
Things I let go of in 2023
Despite some of the pressure I’ve felt, I have been able to let go of a few different things this year and it felt good. I stopped learning french—I realized it was time to move on. I spent three years learning, and I’m glad I did it. But the time came to put it on hiatus. You can read more about that here.
I also relaxed my desire for programming my own productivity and organization tools. I wrote a little about that here. I think that has freed up some more time for a different creativity that I want to pursue. In general, I stopped looking for programming projects to do for the sake of programming.
I also changed my attitude about the kind of website I want to run. This was thanks to the writing I did on a trip — I realized that digital-garden-type sites didn’t work for me, and a blog/time-based site made more sense. So, I let go of having a mish-mashed wiki of pages to thinking more about posting over time. I’m glad I migrated to Ghost in mid-october, and so far I’m writing more than I have in a long time.
Things that gave energy in 2023
There were a couple instances of doing things that scare you in 2023. Those ended up giving me some of the most energy. I volunteered to cook at the bike shop I volunteer at. Cooking for 10+ people was nerve-wracking. Now it’s challenging and exciting. We went on a trip to Japan, which was another big one. But it ended up catapulting me into a place where suddenly I felt like writing a lot more.
I got fairly into doing linocut in the second half of the year, and had a lot of fun with that. Tinkering with the design of this site remains a relaxing and fun thing to do. Toward the end of the year, I also got into mapping with QGIS, as well as a bit of design, which was a fun change of pace.
Looking to 2024
A few months ago I found this video on setting a theme for your year. I think that’s the plan. I think mine will be my year of intuition. I want less doubting myself. If it’s my year of intuition, and in three weeks I feel like writing a short story, I’ll do it. I won’t sit around wondering is that what I want to do? or is this what I should be doing?. If I feel that I want to make dinner for a friend, I’m not going to stop and say are we good enough friends for that, yet? Would that be weird?. Nah, I’ll just do it. That’s the hope.
When it comes to creating things, I suspect that publishing something and stamping it as "done" remains a scary place. It’s the next do things that scare you, sort of thing. I’ve made some huge leaps and bounds by publishing online more (while not completely related—thank you, therapy) on this site. But publishing finished works seems to take courage and whole-heartedness that I’ve lost, to some degree. I think leaning into intuition will help resolve some of that as well.
Let’s cool off with the self-reflection with some picks for the year, shall we? My favourite new album was Limousine’s L’été Suivant…. My favourite book was probably tied between Piranesi and The Dispossessed. I hardly watched any movies this year, but we saw Suzume in theatres and we loved it.
Outside of those favourites, I continue to listen to an abundance of ambient music and have been going deeper into some subgenres of jazz.
That’s it for now (and for this year). Thank you for reading and I’ll write you in the new year.