Time goes by very quickly lately. I suspect it's a combination of growing older and the pandemic lifestyle of hardly ever going out. New things are less and less new, and there are less and less new things. At the beginning of last week I wanted to do a little 'end of year review' kind of post, but found it difficult to get into the mindset of writing again, so I ended up putting it off over and over again, and now it's 2022. That said, I've not felt this write-y for years, and I'd like to write a little bit about why.
Let's start with a question: why even bother writing on a public blog at all? I've been wondering this for about five years now. This blog doesn't get a lot of hits. I googled for 'colorfulwolf' the other day and found that my site had been removed from the search results entirely. Couldn't even find it on page 10. It seems to be back now though. Side note: DuckDuckGo is a lot better, I started using this more and more lately. Google search results have been terrible for a long time, but I digress.
Writing on the internet is a risk. More so than ever. Opinions are saturated and extreme, and even if you write something that you think is perfectly nuanced the internet mob could still come after you and 'cancel' you. I consider myself a pretty 'uncancellable' personality since I'm not in politics and I'm not showing my face on Youtube, but what I write here does reflect on companies that employ me or might potentially employ me, and that has kept me from writing here in the stream-of-consciousness style I used to write in back when I was living in Japan. I consider myself very moderate in everything, but you never know what could be misinterpreted in the future, "so why take the risk". The pros of writing in public need to outweigh the cons.
Though I don't write in public much any more, I do write in a private 'log book' of sorts. The same thoughts I used to shout out publicly I still write for myself, so I don't censor myself internally, though as you can see from this blog it does mean there's less content here. I don't feel particularly bad about that because that is in line with my life goals. It is not my life goal to be a contraversial opinion on anything on the internet. I just want to write about my life. But as a result I think my writing quality has gone down. It's the difference between programming something quick and dirty for internal use versus publishing something for all the world to see. It's just different quality standards. I would like to come back to all those private writings at some point and publish them here. That's definitely not going to happen any time soon though.
I write for myself and for those who know me in person, but not for strangers. I believe walled gardens like Facebook are fine for casual thought-sharing, but one should assume that all the information will eventually just disappear. Platforms like Wordpress or Medium are not bad, but I'd rather abstract away that layer and own my own domain. Walled gardens require maintenance and presence, which is why I prefer this content to be available to anyone. Certainly some people in my family would be annoyed if they had to log in to something in order to read this. Open data is good.
"Why bother writing anywhere at all, even in private"? For me there are two reasons. One: I obtain value from reading back things that I wrote years ago. My memory is far from perfect, and those log books help me remember what kind of person I was in years past, and how I used to think about things. It gives me a sense of continuity and identity. Two: it's therapeutic. Processing life events by writing about them has great value for me. Whenever I write something I feel like I'm offloading it from my brain so I don't have to think about it any more. The reverse also holds true: if I don't write about something it feels like it's something I have to remember, and it weighs me down.
The last thing I wanted to write about is: why have I not felt like writing in the past few years? There's an easy answer to that, but one that's difficult for me to write down here in public: I was burned out. I will not go into details here, but I consciously chose to be in a situation where I felt stressed out and miserable for a long time in order to gain in other areas of my life. It was a situation I rationally felt I should not escape from, because the pros outweighed the cons. When that situation finally came to an end this year I thought that my life would be better instantly; that I could just wake up the next day and feel good about myself again. Instead I continued to feel miserable for two weeks until I finally started to feel a little bit like myself again for the first time in years. I do not regret where I was or where it took me, and I do not blame anyone but myself for any negative feelings, but I sure am glad that's over. Issendai has a gripping article about Sick Systems that resonated very strongly with me.
I don't want to dwell on those experiences too deeply, but one thing I did find interesting was that I repeatedly thought "X is the cause of my feeling bad", and "if I do Y I will suddenly feel good again", and I repeatedly proved myself wrong. One example of this was suddenly being able to work from home when the pandemic hit. I suddenly had way more time on my hands, and I thought "life will be better now", but it quickly became the new normal again and I felt how I usually felt. It's easy to blame external causes for this, but I had made a habit out of not looking within myself for the cause. If there's one 'lesson' I learned this year, it would be to look within more. The Dokkōdō continues to be a source of inspiration for me.
This may sound weird after writing all that, but 2021 has been an amazing year for me. I am getting closer to where I want to be in life, and things are looking up for the future. My (very middle-aged) highlights of the year were:
- We got a cat! He requires a lot of attention but he is absolutely awesome.
- I bought a smart exercise bike. It was crazy expensive but I use it a lot.
- Finally did a '1.0' of Legobot. It's fully functional and about the size I wanted it to be. My stretch goal was to clean up and publish all the code on GitHub, but I continue to procrastinate on that. That's probably a good thing because the code is several years old by now..
- Built and published a UK Retirement Calculator (and unlike Legobot the code for this is on GitHub).
- Finally had the utility room of our apartment re-tiled. For introverts like us this is a major accomplishment.
- Enjoyed some excellent holidays: we went driving in Scotland, hiking in Wales and did scuba diving in Bonaire.
- Bought and sold a VR headset. I previously owned the Oculus dev kit back in 2013 but was not happy with it. I thought that a higher resolution would make VR everything I ever wanted and that I would use it all the time, but instead it turned out to be just the occasional gimmick and I quickly lost interest. Beat Saber and Google Earth VR were cool though.
The new year has already begun. Let's make the most of it.
(maybe I'll finally get around to re-implementing commenting functionality on this blog... YOU NEVER KNOW)