I had an idea about half-way through last year that doing an annual review was a pretty good idea. I also had the idea that it would be nice to anchor it to my birthday which is at the end of January. Dates are mostly meaningless, but that one would be memorable to me and unconventional.
I think the best structure for me to do this regularly and keep the reviews a reasonable length and in-line with my mission for the site is pretty simple: I’ll decide three themes for the year, and throw as much as I think relevant and interesting into them. The themes will probably change with time as my interests and the parts of my life in need of reform change. This 27th-year wrap-up is the first I’m writing, but I don’t think it’ll be my last.
In this area, I took a small step back for the promise of a big step forward. In my 27th year I left the low-paid but dependable job I’d held since I was 22 and struck out on my own. With Fred, the business partner with whom I started Medivate, I’m now making a living as a web consultant through Press Up.
A lot of things motivated this change: a strong sense of my capabilities — for which I owe Fred a debt of gratitude — and the knowledge that I’ll likely not have a better time to take such a risk. It’s a bit of a cliche, but the young are much freer than the old. It’s not universally true, but as a romantically unattached 20-somthing I owe little to anyone and maintain a relatively low cost of living. If I was going to jump, now was the time, so I did.
It’s been quite a learning process, being independent consultants. Marketing has never been my strong suit, and so that’s been the area where I’ve learned the most. There’s more to starting a business and helping other businesses to succeed on the web than marketing — logistics and systems and code are all really important — but marketing has always been hardest of them for me. In experimenting with it, we’ve bought a site for WordPress enthusiasts, maintain a regularly updated blog about making things on the internet, and started a little site with advice for using WordPress in your business. If any of those are interesting to you, I’d love for you to follow along. (See, I almost did that with effortless ease.)
This was probably my second biggest focus area for the year. As I’ve mentioned on the site a few times, for much of my life I was unhealthily overweight. I’d been heading downward for a few years, but as I headed into my 27th I’d stalled out in the vicinity of 208 pounds. This was a big improvement — my personal max was something like 275 (125 kg to most of the rest of the world, 20 stone to the British) — but it still was not what most medical professionals would consider a healthy weight.
I’d set the direction that I wanted to change this, and I succeeded. I admit I put it on hold for a while — the themes above and below dominated my time for the first half of this year — but by the middle I was sick of the stagnation and ready to change. I started logging calories, and I started measuring my fitness with RunKeeper to really get the most out of it. I wrote up what value I got from RunKeeper a bit more extensively on the Medivate blog, but suffice it say that counting miles and calories really works well for my system-seeing mind.
Paired with calorie control, I managed to exercise my way to a roughly pound-per-week loss through the second half of the year. I ended the year in line with a goal I set at its outset: to be at or below 180 pounds. I’ve stalled a bit in the winter and holidays, but I’m so far keeping active and under that weight. I feel great, and I really have learned to enjoy exercise. I love to bike, I love to run, and I love to walk. The last one’s not new, but the other two are things that I’m not sure I’d have believed if you’d told me I’d write them a few years ago.
For the first time I feel like I know at a high level what my priorities are and how I will continue to find ways to spend ever more time on them.
I spent much of my life as a bit of drifter. I would steadfastly refuse to have strong opinions and mostly just went along. I was also a bit or a layabout, and had a lot of “potential” but not a strong ability to use it. I got rather good grades in school but that just made me “smart”, and actually made it harder for me to understand the value of hard work in a specific direction. So I drifted. A lot.
I spent most of my twenties, as I suggested above, employed at an embarrassingly low wage doing rather low-skill work for a large company I’ll not name. I’d gone to a good university, and even graduated with a BA and honors, but that didn’t mean I had a clue how the world worked or how one survives in it. I was somewhat amazingly and stubbornly standing apart from the fact that I even needed to engage with those issues. But I learned: five years working for too little money will do that to you.
As I said, I owe my business partner Fred a debt of gratitude for helping me along, but slowly I learned that I had some real marketable strengths that could be put to much better use than my employer was. He managed to show me that not only was a reasonably good programmer, but a really economically useful one. And through our work together, I’ve learned I’ve got a lot more skills too. (Data analysis, strategic thinking, systems analysis…)
That’s all really made me feel ever more aware of my ability to pursue my interests and invite good things as a result. It’s not easy — this blog, Link Banana, a quote site I’ve been working on in downtime for a few years, and more are all still very small scale — but they’re all starting to show signs of life, and I’m more committed and able than ever to spend time on them and succeed with them or other ideas I pursue.
Being out on your own, having to find projects and collaborators and problems you can solve isn’t for everyone, but I’m so glad I’ve found my way into it. It really seems to suit me, and it makes it far easier and more plausible to pursue my own thing than working forty hours a week at BigCorp ever would. I feel a sense of energy and excitement I haven’t in years, if ever, and I’m so grateful to have it; few people are so lucky.
My 27th year was perhaps the most important and interesting of my life so far. I have no idea if that will make it unique in my life, or just the thing I’ll find myself saying every year when I reflect. In either case, I’m so glad to be able to write this, and I can’t wait for more.