Weak hot chocolate. Numb fingers. Arriving at a wood-fired pub, dripping mud across the floor. I have some amazing memories of going hill-walking in Wales back around my Uni days. I’m grateful to that core group of people who organised the trips and led groups of a dozen or more of us up into the clouds, across snow-frozen fields, and through our own sense of mortality.
One of the strongest set of memories is the times that we would stop, unsure which direction to go amid the encroaching clouds and the mists suddenly swirling around us. Certain flattened peaks tend to look alike in that bland ambience, the contour lines set into Ordnance Survey maps translating badly into the array of undulating slopes all around. Take the wrong ridge, and hours – if not lives – are in the balance.
I’ve been making my own maps ever since. I’m not someone which inherently knows "what they want to do in life", which means I tend to move – professionally, educationally, emotionally – somewhat sporadically. That’s fine when opportunities arise of their own, but can also leave me with a sense of being lost when there is no obvious clear direction. Kind of like now, I think.
A few weeks ago, a note to myself reflected this:
Walking. Relaxing. Thinking. Am I ready for the next chapter now? I think I am. But in that case, what was the last chapter?
I can see myself trying to explain myself to myself. The chapters of a story narrative are, effectively, the same as a journey among the hills – this note could be rephrased as "Where’s the next path? Which path have I just come from?" I’m fascinated by the notion that I don’t know where I’ve come from, but will leave that aside for now. Or maybe it’s vital, I’m not sure.
I started January with some sense of enthusiasm, coming out of a busy December. Too busy, in fact – over Christmas, I resolved to focus my energies more. I’ve stepped down as a charity trustee, and finished up some front-end web development for which I had a few days pencilled in. That felt good – delivering value to people that appreciate it, and clearing the decks to get back to whatever I was doing, or thinking of doing.
That ’emptying’ is a double-edged sword, though, and I find there is something of a Force of Will to be comfortable in that ‘space of nothingness’. It’s probably why people are bad at planning generally – when you stop Doing, the void in front of you is pure potential, and without clear objectives or principles or someone-telling-you-what-to-do, choice is a scary thing.
So I guess I’ve been emotionally bouncing between the excitement of Anything Is Possible, and the harsh reality that Things Require Commitment. Where "Things" is complex and unclear. And, as I write this, I’m realising that this bouncing, looping pattern is probably structured by my own expectations about myself: What am I capable of? What should I be achieving? And, really importantly, when should I see results?
That timescale thing is, for me, a bigger weight than I want to acknowledge. I still think that results should come quickly, either because I’m feeling some pressure to earn money or "be me" or be "successful" or something. All the articles saying "this is how you do X" and "top tips for achieving Y" – it’s easy to read stuff like that, understand things, and feel that’s the job done. But reading and understanding is just the clickbait.
Maybe, conversely, I’ve also got used to thinking about things in yearlong timescales, and actually need to adjust that. A business owner noted to me that "things are pretty month-by-month" and maybe I need to think smaller to get back to that "early stages" thinking again. Not rushed, like I’m worried about above. Just realistic timescales that are more than a week, less than 6 months.
It’s been a wild week though, and I’m not complaining.
- Monday: Found a new tai chi class, conveniently just out of town at a car park / cafe where I’ve been visiting to get out of the house. 90 minutes of emptying and strengthening the body felt good again.
- Tuesday: Cleared out browser tabs and emails – feeling the need to get everything clear… Dug a bit into "web3" fundamentals in order to understand it better (I have opinions on tech, but am less opinionated than most, and above all want to understand why and how any tech works.) And caught up on some potential funding for Writing Our Legacy, returning to an idea for tracking and archiving organisations’ histories.
- Wednesday: Did some more Roblox coding – I’m rapidly becoming disillusioned with Roblox as a company, but the tools and tech are interesting and good practice. Then an old friend needed help with a WordPress site, so I spent some fun hours digging into why it was so slow. I should blog about these things separately, but it made me realise how much I like optimising code. I’ve done this with a few WordPress sites now too, and have a good feel for what I’m doing now.
- Thursday: A bit more optimising, and thinking through how to sell optimisation services to web developers. Returned to looking at how 11ty works via my revised Notebooks site. And I got turned down for a fellowship application, which threw me a bit, but on the positive side it helped me shaped ideas more, and I do need to get things clearer in my head and on paper more.
- Friday: Writing up weeknotes 🙂
So I’m a bit of a heady mix of having a cold, working out how to network, get project ideas together, learn about new tech, support the orgs I’m involved in, family life, and have fun. Yeah, no wonder I’m feeling the need to re-orient myself 😀
12.45: Restate Assumptions.
(Yes, I need to watch Pi again…)
Where have I just come from? What have I learned about what I want? I grabbed a coffee and some paper, shut my eyes, and let feelings surface into thoughts. Here’s what they told me:
People are important. Things are pretty pointless if we’re not connected, collaborating, etc. (Related – I think social media is stressing me out a lot because 90% of it is just strong opinion and no middle ground. I should avoid it.)
You don’t have to be famous, just useful and friendly. Never mind "web3", we’re still trying to get to grips with "Web 2.0" and the (fairly bullshit) identity/reputation/attention economy that exploded outwards from the MTV generation into the Youtube generation.
Keep learning. Learn openly. I really want to blog more about what I’m looking into, but just need to decide where to post things. Reverting to a single blog might help?
- Zelda: Oracle of Ages (Gameboy Colour) – always good to have a Zelda game going somewhere, and I still love the retro stuff for its low, low energy use…
- Phasmophobia (Desktop) – getting back into this, a good mix of Most Haunted, evidence-gathering, and hanging out with friends…
- Steamworld Dig (3DS) – I got a Nintendo 3DS a few months back, and finally picked this up during the Christmas sale. A lot more addictive than I was expecting…
Usual link to Nintendo, Steam and other gaming social codes – feel free to add me.
- Around the World in 80 days (BBC) – this is actually something the whole family will watch, as well as…
- The Wheel (BBC) – love it.
- Lucifer graphic novel Vol 3, by Mike Carey – well recommended, especially if you’ve read through Sandman.
Going it Unalone – Tracy Barnett blogs about their working relationships with others