Welcome to 2018! It’s hard to believe half of January is gone already. Today I’m enjoying the day alone (MLK Jr. Day off) and taking advantage of the focus and freedom before the barren wasteland of no-holiday-Spring kicks into gear. After some cleaning, gaming, organizing, and bike riding, I figured today would be a swell day to write about the status of my 2017 goals and some thoughts on what I’d like to accomplish in 2018.
2017 Goals in Review
Budget Update: Budgeting and general money-stuffs went pretty well in 2017. I started direct-depositing most of my non-essential earnings into savings (check) and ended up saving quite a bit more than I did the year prior (double-check). In general, auto-hiding that money even though it was only a quick transfer away helped me focus on the amount I was budgeting for spending. Saving is awesome, and I’d highly recommend prioritizing it more if you can manage it.
Vacations: Planning vacations for the year ahead was killer and it completely worked for us. Those plans gave us something to look forward to no matter the time of year, and they all turned out much, much better having been planned in advance. We were able to chart out more mid-trip destinations, score better deals on lodging, and budget time off much more effectively. Traveling constantly, even if the destinations were just a couple hours away, also really made the year feel jam-packed with adventure and fulfilling exploration. I thought the constant travel might feel overwhelming (we even tried to plan to only go out every other weekend) but it ended up being so motivating that I wanted to go out most weekends. It helped tremendously to have a checklist of destinations (more on that below). Some years will be less predictable than others, but planning in advance paid off more than I was expecting.
Shaking Things Up at Work: My position at work changed a lot in 2017: I started the year as a team lead / programmer hybrid and ended as a dedicated Product Owner for a small Scrum team. I had the opportunity early in the year to co-chair a working group that brought together developers from all over campus and helped iron out the details of what a centralized group would look like. Those suggestions pivoted into actual reporting and role changes in early fall, and I’ve since been managing a shared backlog of work across ~30 products for a team of three developers (and trying to set up basic foundational Agile practices along the way). I’ve really been enjoying the work of staying organized and watching our collective efforts pay off. The campus environment as a whole is still in the toilet, but it’s been good to know I could stomach (maybe even thrive in) a career out of project management if I wanted to.
Blogging Once a Week: I definitely didn’t post once a week, but I wrote a lot more than I did any year prior! I learned pretty quickly that forcing myself to write when I didn’t really have my thoughts collected (or didn’t want to) never paid off; it often left me frustrated, both for my inability to focus and for the time I could have better spent on something else. Instead, I starting writing only when I was inspired or motivated. I still wish I could focus a bit more on writing regularly, but at some point I have to be realistic about my attention span and availability amidst the rest of life. I’ll continue to work on it in 2018 (and might dabble in fiction for a change of pace). Thanks for reading!
LASIK: I was screened and pre-qualified for LASIK in earli 2017 but I’ve mostly backed out of the idea for now. I’m not entirely sold on the safety and long-term effects of the procedure, and I think I’ve found some peace with the whole glasses business. I’ll probably waffle on this in the coming years, but for now I’m content being four-eyed.
Interviewing My Grandpa: Despite having the idea for years, I finally interviewed my grandpa about his life, memories, advice, and everything else I could think of. It was a really special time, and although it was hard to explain—I don’t know what else to say other than “I’m interested”—it came out really well. I have yet to figure out exactly what to do with all of the recordings, but that will be a goal for this new year.
Visiting Florida’s State Parks: It’s hard to believe that we have a stamp on every page of Florida’s State Park Passport book, but they’re all there (some better than others). What started as a way to see more of Florida before moving on turned into a checklist that motivated us to get out as often as possible to see not only Florida’s parks but its culture, landscapes, roads, bridges, waters, and sometimes its cheap motels. I’ll be doing a separate post on that adventure soon. Stay tuned!
PSN Level 20: Success! Achieving this earlier in the year has given me a nice, contented excuse to ignore (most) achievements and trophies in gaming these days (a wonderful feeling). My next objective: find a way to not feel horrible about stopping games without finishing them.
LAN Party: Unfortunately I never found the time. Turns out it’s not as easy as I thought linking up older systems for Halo and Perfect Dark, and it doesn’t help that basically all of my assumptions about how system link code works on the Xbox 360 was wrong. Once I get it all figured out (and Microsoft releases its promised patch for Master Chief Collection) I’ll find a weekend to carve out for some good old-fashioned late-night CTF and proximity mines.
Nintendo Switch: It’s hard to believe the Switch came out less than a year ago. This year included the joys of both The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, two of the best games I’ve ever played. Whether it’s suppressing my anxiety on plane rides, motivating me to get in bed on time, or bringing together friends around a library of fun multiplayer games, the Switch is as close to a perfect system as I have experienced in my adult life. And thanks to the gift of blue Joy-cons for Christmas, I can rock it in style! I can’t wait for the system to mature even more in 2018.
Xbox One X: While it may not be a game-changer, the Xbox One X is a much better Xbox (which is still pretty awesome). It gave me an excuse to play through the excellent Quantum Break (finally) and as I’m writing this, the Forza Horizon 3 4K patch is being distributed (and I’m dying to get home to install it). It’s probably not the best way to get into the Xbox family (the One S is so cheap these days its a steal), but it’s going to have me set for multi-platform games for a few years.
Other 2017 Highlights
Budget and Goals Meetings: Rob and I successfully held dinner “meetings” on the first week of each new month last year to discuss budgets, recently-completed goals, status on forming good habits, and any upcoming tasks for vacations or trips. Unsurprisingly, using an Agile-like approach paid great dividends in our ability to stay focused and accomplish a lot of what we set out to do. It also helped us to constantly evaluate and re-prioritize our list of tasks and to change our methods if need be, and the month-long cycle kept us motivated so we’d be able to report good findings each meeting. It was a win all the way around and we have no plans of stopping in 2018 (or likely ever).
Weight Loss: As of yesterday I’m solidly down to 185 pounds, somehow making it through the food-heavy holidays without putting on any weight. I’m still trying to lose between 0.5 and 1 pound a week this year, but if I stayed at 185 for the rest of my life I’d still be pretty happy. One of these days I’ll find some time to write about the journey from 250 to 185, but until then: try counting calories!
Weathered a Hurricane: Hurricanes used to be exciting displays of massive power; once I bought a house, they turned into nail-biting, anxiety-ridden affairs. The house was licked by one in 2016 and we rode through Irma together in 2017. I wrote a post about that earlier this year and I’m hoping to avoid needing to do so in 2018.
A New Set: Mixing music has been an on-again-off-again hobby since I was just out of high school. I was motivated this year by some friends to do it again, and I had a blast both mixing the tracks and performing the set in suit at Halloween. Check it out here!
Re-Played Myst: In an attempt to overcome whatever mental block I have in place to avoid Myst 4 and 5, I replayed Myst 1-3 and made videos about my love of Myst and Riven. Myst 3: Exile was better than I remembered but not good enough to warrant the retrospective treatment. Check out my Myst Retro and Riven Retro if you’re interested!
Relocate: I’ve found a kind of peace with Florida. I could stay forever if I wanted and would probably enjoy it (and you probably could to!). Despite the media caricature, Florida is full of interesting things to do and beautiful places to visit (even if most of them are outside of the cities). However, 30+ years of Florida is probably enough for now. There are so many other interesting places to see and worlds to find that I’d like to pick a new home base for exploration.
It’s been pretty hard to find a location that balances the presence of friends, good jobs, low traffic, and proximity to remote nature. My short list only contains Charlotte and Denver right now, but a major goal of 2018 will be to expand that list, visit as many as I can, and (if I can pick one) sell the house and move. It’s a daunting goal (and one that will likely cloud out other travel opportunities), but it’s worth tackling.
Grow at Work: This year, I’d like to grow more into my role as a Product Owner and learn/practice more Agile/Scrum principles. This goal is more about fighting complacency than anything, and it should combo well with the above goal in being more marketable (hopefully).
Start Exercising Regularly: Despite all the weight loss in the past couple of years, I have yet to crack the exercise puzzle. I’d like to this year though! Whether it’s light running, a morning core-strengthening routine, or building and using a DDR machine (or all of those), I’d like to find a way to add some exercise into my life.
Plan Nights and Weekends: We had a lot of success planning vacations and goals, so why not try something like that on a smaller scale? In the name of continuous improvement, my household now has two new Trello boards: one for weekends (a list per weekend) and one for weeknights (a list per activity category). The ‘weekend’ board will, theoretically, help us plan activities easily and give us a nice unified place to log them for the near future as soon as we think about them. The ‘weeknight’ board, in contrast, will help us keep mundane after-work nights fresh and focused, with the three of us each having a night to decide on an activity we’ve all previously shown interest in (a requirement of an item being added to the board). At the risk of budgeting too much of my life to organization, it’s an exciting experiment that I’m eager to see play out.
Play Myst 4, 5, and Obduction: Having just replayed Myst 1-3, I really want to push through (and hopefully enjoy) Myst 4 and 5 to complete the series. I’m not sure what kind of content I’ll produce after playing them, but I’ll likely write or record something with my thoughts. If I can make it through all of that, I’ll still have the highly praised Obduction (an adventure game from the creators of Myst, Cyan) waiting for me on PS4. Here’s hoping the PSVR patch will be out by then!
Read More Books: While the perception is that we all read less, I think we tend to read a ton in small bursts on websites, blogs, social media, and work email. However, before 2017, I couldn’t remember the last time I sat down and just read a book, fiction or nonfiction. I made a small commitment last year to try reading a little bit more (and I did!); trying out a Kindle helped me get through a couple nonfiction, work/self-help selections. This year I’d like to clear out my backlog of books that stacked up over 2017, nab the ones on my wish list for 2018, and see if I can improve my reading experience with less multi-tasking and more devoted time to chilling and just reading.
Finish / Publish Oral History: I recorded all this fantastic conversation with my grandpa in 2017, and this year I’m going to create something with it. I’m not sure if it’s going to be something as basic as a Google Drive folder with edited clips or something as elaborate as a website with photos and videos, but it’ll be something worthy of the experience.
Publish Springs Photo Book: From 2006 to around 2012, I spent a lot of time traveling to all of the Florida freshwater springs I could locate. I photographed them, wrote about them, and even tried to make a comprehensive web guide to them (using Drupal 6, sadly). I’d always hoped to use the photos as the basis of some media project, likely a photo book of the best shots with some spring summaries and facts alongside. While it’s not high on my priority list, it’s something I’d really like to finally put together this year.
Get (a Little) into Investing: I’ve done pretty well with saving, but I’ve never really dabbled in investing. I’d like to check out my options with an adviser and do some online research, and I think a large component of this experiment will involve leveraging some of these newer automated investment options (Wealthfront, etc.).
Clear (Some) Game Backlog: I’ve had the opportunity to play hundreds of video games in my life so far, but there are some significant games on my backlog that, like Myst, I’ve put off for far too long. This year, I’d like to finally tackle Metroid Prime 2 and 3 (in preparation for 4 this or next year), finish off the Sly series with Sly 4, visit Final Fantasy IX and XII in their new HD PS4 versions, and tag a handful more classics if I have the time.
That’s it for now. I have less of a direction for this year than I did the last, but a handful of new goals is better than none at all. Good luck on your own 2018 goals and resolutions, and keep me accountable to my own!