Friday 14 September 2018

My 2017 10Q answers

There's no mistake, I smell that smell, it's that time of year again when I share what I was thinking about this time last year. I've done this every year since 2010. As the leaves glow in the last of the summer warmth, it's a good time to reflect back on growth and stagnation, beauty and falls; and look into the haze of what is to come. If you want to do it yourself this year, there's still time to sign up at, where you will be prompted to answer a question each day for 11 days. We're already on day 6 and I need to catch up!

Here are my answers from 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. And this was on my mind a year ago in September 2017:

Day 1:

Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

My answer:

Nothing really springs to mind, but something did happen yesterday that took me by surprise. I had a call with one of my long-term freelance clients, for whom I'm building a new website to promote their holiday cottage. This work was commissioned in May, but I'm only just getting round to finishing it in September. I've had a busy summer and my free time is quite limited living with Fran because I want to spend quality time with her. I had very few free weekends and I don't always have the time or energy in the evenings after work.

I was expecting this call to be an opportunity to demonstrate the progress I've made and get the site ready to go live. I was quite shocked when my client, Chris Goodall, said he wanted to abandon the project. He's not happy with the site. He couldn't get the booking system to work. It seemed incomplete. I tried to make my case that we weren't that far off being finished, but his mind seemed made up. He's still going to pay me, but it seems such a waste to quit now.

This seemed out of character. I wonder what else might be going on in his life to have provoked this. Or is he really just disappointed in me? Have I let him down? I do feel guilty for taking so long and the WordPress theme I chose is a bit botched together with a slightly crappy user interface and documentation, but I was starting to feel happy with what I'd done.

I may try to give it another go by email in the next few days when I send him the invoice. I'd like the opportunity to do a face-to-face demo. Some of his feedback seemed irrational, like the fact that the menus were in the wrong order - such an easy thing to fix!

It knocked my confidence a bit. Talking it through with Fran helped me vent. But I've managed to recover my pep today with a good day working from home on my real job.

Day 2:

Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you're especially proud of from this past year?

My answer:

I tend not to have too many regrets nowadays. There are times when I could have done things better at work; but I am quite influenced by my mood sometimes and I'm impatient with people. I also get really frustrated when I'm interrupted and I can't get into the flow and if there's too much noise and too many distractions around me.

I am quite proud of how much my JavaScript knowledge has improved. It has become really useful in Google Tag Manager tracking. I feel like I understand it so much more and I love solving problems with JavaScript. I’m proud of the possibilities it has opened up for me.

Day 3:

Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?

My answer:

I think my sister Laura had another baby, Brock. I've kind of lost count and haven't met the last couple: Ena and Brock. It hasn't really affected me at all. I was really interested when her first, Rebe, was born, but now they've kind of all merged into one and we're not in touch very much anymore. She has five children now: Rebe, Bennie, Joa, Ena and Brock. It was always a family joke how many children my Aunt Beth had (six), but now Laura has almost equalled her.

Day 4:

Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

My answer:

Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. I listened to a lot of podcasts about the election all year from before the primaries all the way through until the Inauguration: the Five Thirty-Eight elections podcast and The Ringer's "Keepin' it 1600". It was entertaining as they made fun of Trump and the fucked up Republican Party - until Trump actually won. So many elections have gone against me recently. I feel like I'm always on the losing side. We've also stopped listening to the news in the morning on Radio 4, so I don't really know what's going on in the world anymore. I don't like listening to the 6 o'clock news on Radio 4 because it depresses me on the way home from work; and I prefer to listen to podcasts in the car. I always feel like these things don't really change my life that much. Sometimes they just feel like interesting stories that you can get really involved in but they never actually change your way of life - except that they depress and exasperate you.

Day 5:

Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? "Spiritual" can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

My answer:

It's happened at Notting Hill Carnival before and it happened again this year. It was the Saturday of carnival weekend and I was rehearsing with Baque do Axé in Richmond with Rumenig and Pai Jara from Maracatu Nação do Porto Rico. We were playing a basic rhythm while standing in a big circle with Rumenig in the middle. He starts playing virado and it sounds AMAZING! It's effortless and elegant and cool and awesome. (Bit of context: Rumenig takes the history and culture of maracatu really seriously. I went to a workshop in Oxford at Sol Samba and he spent about two thirds of the time talking and only a tiny bit teaching us how to drum. It's really important to him that we understand where the music comes from and respect his ancestors and their proud culture and traditions.) Anyway, he's playing this amazing rhythm over the top and I swear I can hear his ancestors screaming and crying out over the music. I was genuinely moved and amazed by what I was hearing. I couldn't figure out where the noise was coming from.

Later that weekend, I realized it was his ancestors I was hearing; just a more recent ancestor: his uncle Pai Jara, who was in the room and screamed with a kind of joy and exhilaration! I really felt it, though. It was pretty special.

Day 6:

Describe one thing you'd like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?

My answer:

I'd like to speak to my outlaws: Fran's parents, Tom and Ros, and ask for their permission and blessing to ask Fran to marry me. By writing this now, I'm kind of setting the clock ticking, aren't I? I've been thinking about it quite a lot recently. At Vicky and Lee's wedding, during the speeches, Vicky's dad explained how he was touched that Lee would do such an old-fashioned thing as to ask her parents for their daughter's hand in marriage. I wouldn't put it quite in such a way, but I do like the idea of being respectful. I think I know what their answer would be - they may even laugh at the fact that I'm asking - but I think they would enjoy being asked. But I also want to ask my own parents, too, for their blessing and permission. The tricky thing is keeping it secret from Fran and managing to do it in the right order and soon enough. Fran's parents first, I think. And it has to be in person; not over the phone or by email! I also want it to be in person with my parents. The problem is getting that time alone together and allowing the outlaws enough time to recover from it so that they don't give the game away when Fran comes back. I can't just do it when she's out of the room. It's also weird to think that Fran would be the fifth person to hear of my intention to marry her. Maybe I need to think this through a bit more…

Day 7:

How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?

My answer:

I always want to get more stuff done. I still haven't unpacked my DVDs and CDs and I've been living in this house for over a year. I guess this means they're not that important to me. I've been thinking about just selling them on Music Magpie or giving them away to charity and treating myself to a Spotify subscription or allowing myself to share Fran's. I don't listen to music that much. One of the blockers that's stopping me is I want to digitize my music collection (rip my CDs to MP3) before selling them. I don't have anywhere to put them and I like the idea of getting rid of clutter and making a bit of money out of it. But I just never have the time or energy to get around to it. I'd rather be doing other things.

I'd also like to continue losing a bit of weight. I'm about 6kg less than I was at my heaviest living alone in Kidlington. But I'm still a bit podgy and overweight. The problem is we really enjoy our food and I don't want to deny myself the pleasure!

I was thinking that I might regret the decisions and lifestyle I'm leading now later in life. But I'm not willing enough to change it at the moment.

I have also been entertaining the idea of leaving Torchbox or moving to Bristol (partly because Fran is applying for a job at Bristol University at the moment and has been offered a second interview).

I'm pretty happy with life on the whole at the moment.

I can't really think of some wise counsel that anyone has given me. I do like the concept of learning how not to give a fuck and being much more protective of your fuck budget and choosing how to spend your fucks. For example, I don't give a fuck about Sol Samba at the moment and haven't wanted to go back to rehearsals. I think this idea was starting to sprout this time last year, but I hadn't watched the TED talk about it yet. The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck. Fran and I use this in conversation when we're debating whether we want to do something. Right now, for example, I don't really have enough fucks to give to go to the Torchbox pub quiz night. I'd rather stay at home and do my own thing.

Day 8:

Is there something (a person, a cause, an idea) that you want to investigate more fully in the coming year?

My answer:

Fran's dad, Tom, bought me a second-hand WWII book about the fall of France that's been sitting on my bedside table for a few weeks (months?). We got into a really interesting discussion shortly after we saw "Dunkirk" at the cinema. I'd love to have the time and energy to read about that kind of stuff. I remember my uncle Trev was really into his military history. He used to read these massive hardback books really quickly. I'm jealous of fast readers. But I also think they sometimes cheat and don't read every word; don't read things properly. I know Fran's like this.

I also want to interrogate the idea of getting married to Fran. There are times when I feel like it; and times when I don't feel like it. When you live with someone and spend a lot of time together, you realize that there are parts of them - behaviours, attitudes, opinions - that aren't attractive; you also realize these things in yourself and feel bad about them. Your weaknesses and flaws are reflected back at you when you see the effect they can have on another person.

I'm not fussed about getting married, really. I can see organizing the wedding would be a hassle and would lead to stressful disagreements. But I've also really enjoyed parts of other people's weddings and really like that they are a celebration of two people's lives - both together and before they knew each other. I love the speeches at weddings because you get to learn more about the person from their family's perspective. But all the expense and waste! I don't want to be drawn into something that doesn't express who I am and who we are. Plus there's also Clare and Rob's wedding and christening coming up sometime in the next year. I don't want to be the second London bus.

Day 9:

What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?

My answer:

I'm afraid of the prospect of having children. To be honest, I don't really want them. At the moment. I'm open-minded about this. I realize my feelings may change. Other people my age are getting married and having children. I don't feel the pressure. But I do wonder if that will ever be me; if I ever want it to be me. I'm too selfish for children at the moment. It's hard enough to make the compromises living with one other person, let alone two or more. The problem with children is that, once you have them, there's no going back to the way things were before.

I'm not sure if this has limited me. We all get there in our own sweet time; or decide to wander down a different path. I guess it makes me more reluctant to ask Fran to marry me because there might be a pressure lurking there somewhere to start thinking about children. I guess we really need to talk about this to find out how we both feel about it.

When we were on holiday in Kefalonia this year, we went through the 36 questions we used at the beginning of our relationship to get to know each other a little bit. I had read something that claimed these questions could help any two people fall in love. It kinda worked! Anyway, these questions would be a way to have some serious conversations about our life together. There was one question, towards the end, that we weren't able or willing to answer: "If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?" What I was thinking about, but never actually said because it didn't feel like the right time, was that I was thinking about asking Fran to marry me. Not then and there; but sometime in the future. I'd want her to know that I was at least thinking about it if I was going to die.

She also had something she was going to say, but she decided against saying it. I wonder if it was about marriage or kids. Or something else entirely. I haven't really pressed her on this since. I could tell she was uncomfortable and conflicted about it and less willing to talk unless I opened up about what I was thinking, too.

How do I plan on overcoming this fear, this reticence? I guess we'll talk about it again when the time feels right. But the time will probably never feel right. It's probably just one of those things you have to force yourself to do; and then when you do it, you'll wonder what all the fuss was about.

I fear it could be the beginning of the end of our relationship if Fran wants kids and I don't. It came up very early on when the stakes were low. I know Fran wants children; but she is also exasperated, like I am, with other people's kids. I'm happy with cats for now. I wonder if she's more ready than I am.

Day 10:

When September 2018 rolls around and you receive your answers to your 10Q questions, how do you think you'll feel? What do you think/hope might be different about your life and where you're at as a result of thinking about and answering these questions?

My answer:

I think I'll be glad I did it again, logging another chapter in my life. This time next year I will either have done something about asking Fran to marry or feel awkward about why I haven't done anything yet. I hope Fran will be happier in her job. Perhaps she will be in a new job or her boss will have left. I hope we're still living in Oxford. I don't know how much of an impact 10Q this year will have had on me. As usual, it has come at a busy time of year. I haven't been able to answer the questions each day. I've done them in batches and these last couple of answers are done shortly before the vault closes.

I feel a bit pestered by having a lack of time at the moment. Maybe it's because I spend so much of it watching the NFL! But I've felt a bit under pressure from Chris Goodall and Charlotte Brewer to do my freelance work for them. Maybe I will have decided not to take on any more freelance work. I don't seem to have the same enthusiasm or energy for it lately.

Day 11:

What are your predictions for the coming year?

My answer:

Will I ask her the question?


Record your own answers this year at