Saturday 12 October 2019

My 2018 10Q answers

Here we are again. A little later than previous years because it's been so hectic. I've only just binge-answered my questions for this year. But here's what I was thinking this time last year - a year that set me up for the biggest year of my life so far. This year I got married, bought an eco house and went on my honeymoon. This is what came before.

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, and you're reading this before 23:59 on Sunday 13 October 2019, there's still time to sign up at, where you will be prompted to answer a question each day for 11 days (or 11 questions in one session if you're rushing to beat the vault slamming shut tomorrow night).

Here are my answers from 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. And this was on my mind a year ago in September 2018:

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:

I proposed to my girlfriend, Fran, in the sea off the west coast of Wales and she said yes! I'd been thinking about it for a while, not least during 10Q last year, when I started the clock ticking by writing about it. I thought about how I wanted to do it. I decided that I wouldn't wait to ask our parents for their blessing first because I wanted Fran to be the first to know. But we had a number of lovely phone calls with our parents when we got back to the bungalow in the evening. It made everything special for a while. It still is, but we've got used to the idea. It has made us both happier than we were. I think we both knew we wanted it. I'm relieved she said yes, but I never really doubted she would. I'm inspired because I think our wedding next February will be special and will hopefully reflect the people that we were before we met, are together, and have become.

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'm quite proud that I've held my ground at work. Things haven't always been happy, particularly with my line manager. I've persevered through the difficult times rather than quitting and finding another job, which has been tempting. In the past week I've received some really nice feedback from four different clients. It's always nice to know that my work is appreciated.

Day 3:

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

My answer:

Fran's sister, Clare, got married to Rob in April. I wanted to wait until after their wedding before proposing to Fran. I did it the following weekend! I didn't want to detract from their special time, so I was happy to wait. Being involved in their wedding also gave us some ideas about what we do and don't want to do on our wedding day.

Day 4:

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

My answer:

I feel like every year the outside world has less impact on me. I now consume very little news, most of it passive. There have been times, such as when I was in sixth form, when I read the paper every day. Now I just occasionally do the crossword and the weekend quiz. I don't listen to Radio 4 when I wake up in the mornings or in the car on the way to work. I don't watch TV news. My news comes secondhand and in headlines I see on social media. But also in more depth and at greater distance in podcasts. I do this for self-protection because I know the news can have a negative impact on my mental health.

GDPR has had the biggest impact at work, but I'm glad to be working for an agency rather than have to be responsible for it in-house. A lot of the reaction seems silly to me and over-cautious. I'm glad I don't have to make those decisions. There was that crazy week leading up to 25 May when any organisation who ever collected my email address emailed me to inform me about their new privacy policy. Some of my favourite sites, such as Instapaper, have also been unavailable for a while until they get their house in order. It seems against the fucking point of the internet to shut down your operations in a country for regulatory reasons. I'm also not precious about my personal data as long as I'm able to opt out easily.

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:

I was driving home from work yesterday, two turns from my road. A girl cycled past. She was young, perhaps 12 or 13, and reminded me of "Ladybird". She had a blissful look on her face, as if she was singing along to music that may have been playing through her headphones. There was promise in her eyes and excitement about what was to come. She still seemed to be discovering and creating who she was. As I rounded the corner, I realized that Fran and I have already become the people we're going to become. You are who your record says you are. We are who we thought we were. We're not going to change that much. We've fulfilled our potential, reached adulthood. We're close to buying a house together, for goodness' sake. I felt OK with this. I'm mostly happy with who I am. There are a few things I will continue to try to tweak, but I'm comfortable in my skin. I'm not going to play rugby for Scotland; I'm not going to be a journalist and a writer of books (well, maybe one day…); I'm not going to have a DPhil; I'm no longer a card-carrying Joycean (although I still carry it in my heart); I'm not a referee; I'm not a member of Sol Samba. I've quit a lot of things. I'm honing myself down rather than adding more layers. So this was spiritual in the sense of passing another young soul and realizing that my soul is settled, has found a home, a partner, a comfort. A very gentle revelation, but a revelation, a realization nonetheless.

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 buy a house. There. I've said it. Another milestone on the way to boring adulthood. I never thought I'd buy a house. I couldn't afford it. But Fran's parents gave us a very generous gift at the end of last year, which has changed our thinking about the possibilities. We now realize that we're in a very fortunate position. We're a lot better off than others - although the part of the country we live in means our money doesn't go as a far as it would do elsewhere. We joke when watching "Location, Location, Location" that we could buy two or three houses for that price. We also joke that even if we won the Premium Bonds, we still couldn't afford to buy a house in our street. We've been looking in earnest since the beginning of the year. I put the brakes on to make sure we'd spent enough time looking to see what's out there; mentally testing what it would be like to live elsewhere, in the country, or in another town or another part of town. We're quite close to buying something. We've got an appointment on Sunday to be financially approved for a new housing development called Elmsbrook in north-west Bicester. We saw this early in the year, and probably could have bought then, but I wanted to wait a bit. I'm glad we did. Things could start to move very quickly over the next few weeks. But we won't actually complete until Q2 next year, which suits us perfectly: coming after the wedding and after the break clause in our current tenancy. To be honest, I'd be quite happy to continue living where we are; but there is an appeal to owning something new and shiny and making it our own, starting a new chapter in life, perhaps making a community around us. Living by example. I've lived in Oxford for half my life. It's part of my identity. So I am somewhat reluctant to leave.

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 know I should eat less salt, fewer salty snacks and treats, exercise more, read more, spend less time playing fucking "New Star Soccer" or whatever my latest mild addiction is on my phone. I don't have the willpower. Or I know things aren't serious enough yet. But I'll probably regret it one day. But why not enjoy life? Why feel guilty? It's an ongoing thing that I've probably written about in previous years. I should get more sleep. Phone my parents more often. Is it getting boring yet? It's a tradition that I bang on about the same old things until eventually I realize that I've changed. It's worked in other parts of my life, so why not this one?

Day 8:

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

My answer:

I want to see if I can influence the culture of my company, Torchbox, to be more like the philosophy in "Making Websites Win". I found it incredibly inspiring to read this book. I wanted to work for an organization that thinks and works like that. I could take the easy route and quit my job and go to work for Conversion Rate Experts. But I want to try this first. I know there are some people who agree with me, who will be equally inspired. This might mean speaking about the book in a Short Sharing Session (on my to-do list); or overseeing a project that follows these principles. My line manager is supportive; as are Tom and Olly, the directors (I think); and Will, our salesman, is interested. We just need to find the right clients and the right team and way of working. I'm sure I'll find it frustrating and disappointing and underwhelming. But I'm prepared to give it a go.

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 having children. I'm not planning to let it go or overcome it in the coming year. I don't feel ready for it yet. We were just saying over dinner this evening that we're glad we're not young and that we don't want to be responsible for brining a new person into a world that has to deal with all the shite that young people face on the internet and in life. I'm sure there's a whole part of my brain and personality that isn't be exercised by my child phobia, but I'm happy for it to be dormant for the time being. Its time will come if it's meant to be. Everything will be alright in the end, and if it's not alright, it's not the end.

Day 10:

When September 2019 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 feel the same as I usually do: glad I did it, not particularly surprised by anything; pleased to see some development, even if at a glacial pace. Even the big moments in life, like proposing to Fran, are taken in stride. I wonder if I will feel any different about the children thing. That's a recurring theme from previous years. Will being married make me feel any different? I'm not looking forward to all the sly (and not-so-sly) hints about it, particularly on our wedding day. I got really upset when someone said that during the speeches at Dave Harris's wedding. You may be family, but it's none of your fucking business. I may have to put my very gently 'booted foot down and make it known that that kind of comment is not welcome.

Day 11:

What are your predictions for the coming year?

My answer:

Brazil, wedding, house, honeymoon, love, joy.


Record your own answers this year at