Happy New Year. As arbitrary Gregorian boundary conditions go, I've been really looking forward to the end of 2017. And as I've done in the past I'm posting a few thoughts from the year. (Previously: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2011.)
Though I know the machinations of U.S. politics and culture are not a primary concern for many people in the world, it felt like a year where I could not get out from under the dark cloud of the current presidential administration and the things we are naming and learning about ourselves as a society. I'm someone who usually follows news and politics closely, so it was tough to balance awareness, engagement, activism and appropriate amounts of anger with self-care, long-term thinking and finding any kind of focus or calm. I don't think I did very well with that process, and I've watched it take a toll on me, people I love and communities that I care about.
On top of that I spent a lot of time and energy this year accompanying my mom through her cancer treatment and related medical adventures; it was a source of always-present, low-level (and sometimes high-level) stress that was never too far in the background. I was of course always honored to bring care and support where it was needed, but it was hard watching her be consistently miserable while wondering when or how things could get better.
It was a year of incredible growth for our daughter, going from a barely walking toddler with a relatively small vocabulary to a whirlwind of a kid who runs through the house asking us hard questions, telling stories and expressing strong opinions. A day doesn't go by that I don't look at her in amazement, or that my wife and I aren't asking to each other, "did you know that she can do that??" Witnessing and participating in literal child-like wonder has been a special bit of grace in these times.
Oh yeah, and I turned 40.
All in all, it felt like my ability to focus and be fully present to much of anything was severely limited throughout the year. I hope 2018 is better and am taking some steps to make it so.
Continue reading 2017 Year in Review
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A month ago I deactivated my Facebook account and I haven't used it since.
In the larger scheme of things this is a relatively inconsequential decision, and one that I may even eventually reverse. But for the benefit of my future self, and for anyone else who's interested, I thought I'd inventory my thinking behind this change:
1. My time spent on Facebook was minimal, especially since I deleted the app from my phone a few years ago. But it was almost entirely time I was not spending on things that actually matter to me. Any effort I put in to keeping up with my feed felt like it was actively distorting my understanding of how the real world works, how people are actually doing and what they're actually thinking and feeling. Even as distractions from the real world go, it was often more unsatisfactory and harmful than helpful.
2. I continue to be uncomfortable with Facebook's "walled garden" model of connecting people, content and conversations. I've nothing against the company or the people who work there, and actually admire their technical innovation, scale and impact on the world. But as someone who genuinely wants to see people truly own and control their online presence, I can't in good faith spend time contributing to something that undermines the open web. When I tried being just a casual observer without engaging, it didn't work. Which brings me to:
Continue reading Leaving Facebook
I turned 40 years old this week.
Friends have been kind to say that "you don't look forty" (whatever that looks like) and thankfully I don't feel "old," even if I don't often feel young any more.
I do notice the occasional sign of what might be aging.
I find myself increasing the font size on my various devices and apps, and at an appointment this week my eye doctor used the language of "you can't outrun it forever" instead of the past variations on "you're young, no worries."
A few weeks ago I butt-dialed two different people over two days.
The distance across which I can walk to retrieve or do something without forgetting why I started walking in the first place is decreasing. If it involves going to a different floor of the house, forget about it.
My hair has more strands of grey than ever before.
And my ability to sleep through the night without needing a visit to the restroom is all but gone.
Continue reading Forty
What will I leave behind when I'm gone? What will be my legacy?
I'm not sure what is a "normal" amount to think about such things, but I do think about them.
Perhaps losing my father at a young age and then attending his funeral initiated some premature awareness that people could die and that there might be some variability in how they are thought of and remembered. As I came to terms with the existence of my own mortality, I more than occasionally wondered what might be said of me at my funeral, and how I would be known from that point on.
Of course it's an incredible privilege to even think about legacy, and dwelling too long on it can bring out the worst impulses of ego and self-importance. To have had incredible opportunities and access to resources over the course of my life and then still try to control how the world works even after I die...well, that would be crazy.
So I try to use any "legacy thinking" as a way to keep me focused, especially on the important things I want to do in life and the kinds of relationships I want to have, instead of as a vehicle for self-inflation or unnatural self-preservation. I also use it to keep perspective:
On a geologic time scale, I won't really have any personal legacy. I will be one of many billions of people who lived in a time when humans inflicted substantial, mostly harmful changes across the planet, killing off many other forms of life while altering the climate, poisoning the water, bringing up oil and putting down trash and toxic chemicals, and just generally making a mess of things while we wait for the sun to implode and swallow the Earth.
Hopefully I also live in a time where a shift in human attitudes about the planet we occupy eventually leads to some reversal of those trends, and maybe our descendants will despise us slightly less than they could have otherwise. But as much as I want to believe that I personally can make a difference in reducing this harm, I don't currently hold out hope that my lifestyle choices will be worth much when measured across the millennia.
Continue reading Legacy: what will I leave behind?
Starting next week, I'll be shifting my focus at Automattic and joining our "WordPress Concierge" team.
It's a small group of talented folks who build custom WordPress sites for influential people and organizations across a bunch of different industries. I'll be creating and supporting the sites we work on while also helping to help the team scale up its internal tools and processes. I'm excited to flex a different mix of skills and ship some new kinds of things.
It's hard to believe that it's already been more than three years since I joined Automattic and began working with the VIP team, where I'm wrapping up my time this week. That role has been full of its own interesting and rewarding adventures that have taken me deep into the heart of the systems and tools that power the modern open web.
Continue reading My new team at Automattic
My mom is pretty smart. Here's what she wrote in a card that she gave me as I graduated from college:
Keep your curiosity alive and continue to explore.
Reflect on your journey.
Take joy in simple things.
When all else fails use duct tape.
It's worked pretty well so far.