Friday 23 September 2022

My 2021 10Q answers

Every year since 2010, I've taken part in 10Q, a Jewish-inspired process of self-reflection.

Here are my answers from 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. These are my answers from 2021:

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 left my job at Torchbox after 10.5 years. I'd been building up to this for a while. I had been unhappy at work for some time - sometimes seriously unhappy: crying inexplicably at my desk unhappy, not wanting to get out of bed unhappy, being followed around by a black dog unhappy. As I wrote about in 10Q last year, I had two mental health days and started counselling. Furlough was a blessed relief, but it also opened a wound wider and gave me time to reflect on my situation in life. Work was the main thing making me unhappy. I had some protected conversations with people at work, where we agreed not to share what was said, so I'm somewhat limited in what I can write here, knowing that I will share this in a year's time. But what I can say is that, over a series of conversations over a few months, I agreed with my employer that the best thing for me to do was to leave my job. I didn't have anything else to go to. I never did hear back from Conversion Rate Experts, the company I applied to in June 2020, had a sort-of interview with, and then never heard back from - apart from that I wasn't a good fit for their immediate recruiting need of researcher. They didn't give me a no, but they also just left me hanging. That whole process of applying for another job helped me to visualize life beyond Torchbox and got me excited.

It has been a great relief to leave my full-time job. I am burned out and still recovering. I've been fortunate that freelance work has come to find me. I'm earning enough to keep paying my way without having to work 8 hours a day.

Supplemental question:

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, what do you find yourself reassessing in terms of the future? (For example: personal relationships, your relationship with money, with work, with technology, the media, body image, with your kids, family members.)

My supplemental answer:

My relationship with work is definitely changing. I'm a little worried that furlough has broken me. It's very rare that I now work a full day. Furlough broke the habit of getting up, commuting for 45 minutes each way, and working 09:00-17:30. I subscribe to Bertrand Russell's idea of working 4-hour days ("In Praise of Idleness"). That was pretty much the amount of useful (billable) work I was able to do anyway. So now that I've reassessed that as my target, I can do an hour or two before lunch and two to three hours after lunch and that's enough. If I don't want to work in the morning, I don't have to.

I'm also facing the prospect of working from home for the foreseeable future. This gives me an extra 90 minutes in my day because I'm not commuting.

The anxiety and stress of the news has also caused me to stay off social media for the most part and only occasionally check in with the news headlines. I'm much more detached from what's going on. I don't really miss social media.

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 proud that I've cleaned out the mouldy shelves from the garden shed and garage. They caused me heartache every time I saw them from last October onwards. I got new MDF shelves and painted them two coats on each side, 25 shelves, 100 sides. Both the garage and shed are now much nicer places to be. I'm currently trying to find a contractor to improve the ventilation in the garage. I'm worried that when the cold and wet weather returns, so will the mould. The garage is single-skin and not designed for storage. My house builder doesn't accept that there's a possible leak from the roof.

I'm really proud of how much I've read this year. I've been trying to read a book a week since the beginning of January. So far I've read 48 books and we're in week 37. A lot of those books have been audiobooks on Audible. I've therefore listened to podcasts a lot less, but I don't miss them that much. Books feel like more of an achievement. I hope I continue that pace because it does feel like my mind is developing. I hope it sticks as a habit. I've learned a lot about feminism and The Chimp Paradox has really resonated with me.

Day 3:

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

My answer:

I went to visit my big brother, Gregory, in hospital last weekend. He's been in and out quite a lot since his kidney transplant last August. His mental health has declined, making it much harder to manage both conditions. At times I've lost hope and was starting to come to terms with the fact that he might not survive for much longer. I was relieved that he made it to Christmas. He knows himself that he lives too hard and doesn't take proper care of himself, or is not capable of taking proper care of himself, or doesn't want to take proper care of himself.

I was apprehensive about going to visit him. I hadn't seen him since my wedding in February 2019. I was nervous that he might attack me verbally or be angry about me and the rest of the family. But that didn't happen. I was actually quite hopeful after seeing him that he might have a brighter future ahead. Maybe it's because I set my expectations so low.

I feel more at peace with it now. I was able to hug him twice (at his insistence) and tell him that I love him. Hugging is supposedly verboten in NHS hospitals at the moment, where social distancing is still required. I wouldn't have hugged him had he not wanted it. And once he offered, I couldn't refuse.

Day 4:

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

My answer:

I find this one difficult to answer because I'm so shut off from the news. I'm aware that things have kicked off in Afghanistan but I've only seen a few headlines. I'm not that surprised that things collapsed. I guess Biden winning the US presidential election was quite a big thing. It's nice to know that Trump is no longer in power, that the news cycle will no longer be led by what some guy wrote on Twitter. Things seem to be mostly back to normal. But how would I know? I don't follow the news.

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've been to live music again. Last weekend I went to see The Norfolk Broads sing in an outdoor amphitheatre in Bristol. I've been wanting to see them live for so long. One of the band members, Anna Cornish, used to sing with The Longest Johns. I think that's how I discovered The Norfolk Broads. She has since left TLJ to focus on the Broads. I've been listening to their new album a lot since the gig. I love the stories in folk music, how they can transport you to another time and place, keep alive the voices and memories of past lives. It was special being part of a crowd again - a crowd of hipsters and hippies, which I guess must be my people, even though I feel a bit separate from them. But it was a very safe crowd. I love how folk songs and melodies can stick in your head, even after only hearing them once.

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 feel fully settled in the house, having finished all the little jobs: sort out the second bedroom (Fran's study); tidy the cables around our desks; improve the ventilation in the garage and garden shed; put up bedside shelves; hang the final few pictures (we've made a lot of progress on this over the past few weeks); finish my filing; sell some stuff on eBay; work through my pile of to-dos; take stuff to the tip. We're not far away from being done. I know there will always be little jobs on the horizon. But I hope we can get the rest of the defects fixed by our house builder so that we can relax and just enjoy living here without the stress and uncertainty. The main remaining defects are the rainwater harvesting not working; the paintwork on the French doors and window frames; a missing completion certificate; some damp damage under and around the kitchen sink; and the wooden cladding, which I think needs a ventilation gap at the top. It's really satisfying to tick off these jobs. It makes the house much nice to live in, even more of a home.

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'd like to get into the habit of working again. I've really slipped out of it since taking some holiday at the end of July and early August. I don't seem to have the urgency or motivation, unless one of my clients asks for something specific. I'm still happy to aim for 4 hours a day. That's enough to live off. I need the habit and the routine. I'm definitely still in the holiday habit. There are no consequences if I want to stay in bed a bit longer and take yet another day off work. I guess if I continue to diminish my savings, I will eventually be motivated by the need to earn more. But I'm also just listening to my body and mind, which still feels like it's recuperating from burnout. In some ways, I'm enjoying part of my retirement now. I'd also like to resume paying into my pension, which I haven't done since my last payslip at the end of October / early November. I've probably got enough in savings to make up the lost contributions, but I'm somewhat reluctant to lock that money away in case I need it.

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 investigate if freelancing is going to be my long-term future. It has worked for me so far for the past 10 months, but I have also been leaning a little on my savings. I know I need to do a bit more work to replenish my savings, save for my tax return, pay into my pension, and still pay my way each month. Maybe I just need to accept that I should take the whole of August off. This was my most unproductive month so far this year. I probably also need a spend a bit more time with my Navigator workbook. I was using this last year before Christmas to help me think through some of my options. But then the freelance work took over and I stopped reflecting as much and just started working away at a few projects. I know in myself that I could have delivered some of these projects faster. I really do take my time. Maybe the nature of the work I'm doing isn't challenging me or inspiring me enough. But work life has certainly been easier since I left full-time employment. It has felt like less of a grind. It would be nice to have a bit more perspective and more of a plan than just coping month-to-month and seeing how things go. I'm not particularly proud of my recent record. I often don't have much to say when Fran's parents ask me about work on our weekly calls. But maybe that's just a reflection that there's more to life than work. I've looked at a few job descriptions but haven't really wanted to apply anywhere because I'm not sure I'm ready to be someone's employee. I like (and need) the freedom of being in charge of my time. Or maybe I've just become too lazy. Anyway, I'd be surprised if things weren't a bit clearer by this time next year.

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 think I've faced most of my fears. I've left my unhappy job. I went to visit Gregory in hospital. I've spoken to Fran about having children (we're still leaning no, for the time being, but are both open-minded). Am I afraid of working? I'm definitely experiencing some kind of mental block towards it. Maybe I'm just reluctant to leave my comfort zone.

Day 10:

When September 2022 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 probably be slightly ashamed about how lazy I was towards work. I'm not sure if "lazy" is the right word. Is this me being mean to myself? I'll probably feel that this was a transition year, that I was starting to figure things out, that I'd been through a lot and was somewhat coasting. I've found it harder to get into 10Q this year and find the time for it. I've written most of my answers on day 10 (apart from day 1, which I did start on time). It sometimes feels like a bit of a chore to write these, but I'm always glad that I did. It's hard not to let your current preoccupations cloud your view of the whole year. Also, reading last year's answers makes it harder to define when "this year" started.

I think there's less of a revelation or ticking time bomb in this year's answers. I haven't set myself any huge challenges, like proposing to Fran or leaving my job.

I hope that I'll feel more settled and sure about the direction my life is going in. I also hope home will feel more complete and less of a work in progress. Having all this time off has certainly helped me make progress there. Working full-time and having a busy social life (e.g. drumming most weekends) really limits the amount of time and energy I've got. It's been great to have had more time over the past year and I'm not sure I want to go back to the way we were.

Day 11:

What are your predictions for the coming year?

My answer:

House sorted, freelance situation is clearer.

Monday 20 June 2022

"The Conquest of Happiness" by Bertrand Russell - audiobook review

I didn't like the narrator's voice. He has an American accent and didn't fully hold my attention. There is much wisdom in this book. It feels more modern than it really is. My favourite part was a quotation about accepting the end of life:

I warmed both hands before the fire;
It sinks, and I am ready to depart.

Saturday 18 June 2022

"The Communist Manifesto" by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx - audiobook review

As other reviewers have mentioned, there is a very long introduction for what is essentially quite a short primary text. I found the audio levels much lower than some other Audible titles and therefore found it hard to hear over some background noise. The pronunciation is a bit squiffy at times. The introduction is quite dry and academic but does put the work in its intellectual context. It didn't exactly make me want to storm the barricades, although I did advocate for better pay and conditions for Deliveroo drivers while reading it!

Tuesday 29 March 2022

"Unfuck Your Brain: Using Science to Get Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-Outs, and Triggers" by Faith G. Harper - audiobook review

This audiobook is mostly annoying, which is a shame because the author has some useful experience and insights to share. The first thing that struck me is how unprofessionally it is recorded. There's constant background noise like a computer fan or air conditioning unit. You really notice the difference comparing it to something that is recorded properly in a studio. The editing is also noticeable in places and the chapters and sections run into each other without enough of a pause to let the conclusion sink in. I also found the swearing grating and mostly unnecessary. I can understand why it's written that way and the book title certainly caught my attention when I was browsing the Plus Catalogue, but I wish I'd read the other reviews and saved myself the bother by not listening to this book. The swearing and informal tone undermined the seriousness of the subject matter and made me less trusting of the author. I'm a completist, so I persisted with this book even though I wasn't enjoying it. The second half of it is a bit more serious, with less swearing. I think you could learn some of the same things in another book that is better written, for example, The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness.

Friday 18 March 2022

"The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life" by Andy Miller - audiobook review

Thank you, Andy Miller. What a wonderful, inspiring book about reading that makes me want to read more. It's funny and profound, wistful and sarcastic, admirable and tear-jerking. I'm now going to check how many books are on the front cover. I hope it's 42.

Saturday 5 March 2022

"Real Oxford" by Patrick McGuinness - book review

What a wonderful book! I've loved Oxford ever since my first visit; but this book makes me appreciate my city even more - connecting its neighbourhoods and histories, ghosts and people. For anyone who has any connection to Oxford, I can't recommend this book highly enough.

Thursday 20 January 2022

How to fix the Kia UVO iPhone app error: "The vehicle does not respond to the service you requested" (Kia e-Niro 4 UK 2020 registration)

When trying to refresh the status of my Kia e-Niro 4 in the UVO iPhone app (AKA Kia Connect), I kept getting the error: "The vehicle does not respond to the service you requested." See screenshot below:

Kia UVO iPhone app error: "The vehicle does not respond to the service you requested."
Kia UVO iPhone app error.

The way to fix it, as recommended by the users ClementsJ and NGee on the Speak EV electric car forum, is to reset of infotainment system by pressing the small button on the right of the audio on/off volume control, as pictured below:

Kia e-Niro 4 infotainment system reset button to the right of the audio on/off volume control.
Kia e-Niro 4 infotainment system reset button to the right of the audio on/off volume control.

I used a Parker jotter mechanical pencil to depress the reset button next to the volume control.
I used a Parker jotter mechanical pencil to press the reset button next to the volume control. You could also use a paperclip.

Look for the UVO reception at the top right of the screen.
Look for the UVO reception at the top right of the screen.

Please note that this is just the classic IT trick of turning it off and on again. It doesn't do a factory reset, so I don't think you will need to repeat any setup steps.