I've informally taken stock at the end of the year for awhile now. I try to focus on my personal accomplishments. Not that my family isn't important but I don't want to count the number of dates I've gone on with my wife as an accomplishment.
I don't intend to use this space to reminisce on events that I have no control over. Yes Covid sucks. Yes the virus and the policies around the virus have been detrimental to many of our lives but I can't do anything to affect those things. I'd rather take stock of the things I have personal agency to affect. Looking externally in this regard can lead to despair and cynicism while looking internally can lead to optimism and empowerment.
I've broken down my personal endeavors into major categories of "physical, learning, writing, new experiences" captures what I have accomplished this past year. I thought about doing a 'Career' category but I think I focus on my career indirectly; working on all those other things produce benefits in terms of how effectively I teach.
I have been working on skill based workouts and I think they are mostly effective. I am pretty close to getting a pistol squat down. I had a set back but I think I will be able to do a set of pistol squats by spring of 2022.
Big year on the learning front. I took three graduate classes and learned a ton that has helped me become a better teacher. The education classes have been surprisingly useful. I say surprisingly because they have often been focused on teaching Marxist ideology instead of teaching skills that can improve my teaching.
I took an interesting class this summer on how to learn accents. The class was created by a linguist going for his PhD in the subject. It had a long technical component which felt a bit too in depth but learning the basics of the IPA and how to use that info was extremely useful. I think it will help me nail down accents as I want in a more methodical fashion. I like to think I have developed a decent ear for accents but this helps my accent learning be a bit more formal.
This year I have learned the basics of GIS, Scratch coding and technologies like Flipgrid and Padlet. I think the biggest thing that I have discovered is a real love and willingness to jump into new technologies even though I know it is going to take a lot of time to figure out how to learn. This has helped me tremendously.
I started blogging even though I know I don't know how to do a tenth of what this platform can potentially offer.
I've read something like 30 books. Not a ton for me but I really managed to catch up for missed time in the last couple of months.
The blog has been a big boost to my writing. I've also published three essays. I think I am on the verge of securing a small stipend to do some writing. The money would be nice because I would feel a bit more of an urge to consistently write. I haven't really developed the kind of writing habit that I want - this is probably the area that would enable me to reap the most rewards if I could develop a consistent habit. This and physical work.
I read how authors like James Michener would write for 12-15 hours. Issac Asimov would write every day for a minimum of 12 hours. Even on vacation he would write. He had four typewriters all set up and whenever he got stuck in a book he would "take a break" by writing about another subject. That level of prolific writing is inspiring even if I don't want to emulate him to that level. I would be happy if I could get to 1-2 hours a day.
My art has improved; I think I notice things more and I have managed to improve my ability to draw in three dimensions. My sense of depth and proportions has come a long way too.
I have started making cider and have had a couple of successful batches. I like making cider because it is all about setting up the proper conditions for biological processes to take over. If I provide the yeast, sugar and a place for the yeast to ferment safely then it will all take care of itself.
The coding has been interesting; I haven't become good at it but I now can read it a bit and get what I am trying to do. I also appreciate the iterative nature of coding now. The idea that you can get the basics down and then you just need to keep trying and retrying to get your code right is very appealing. I like the idea that my code doesn't work the way I want it to but it is a bit "closer" today than it was yesterday.
I've also stepped it up in terms of my taking on leadership opportunities within my community. I'm co-president of the PTA at Adam's school. I'm leading the diversity committee at my school. I'm running the food composting program at my school. This all fits in line with my goal of "tending my garden" - taking on responsibility for making my community a tiny bit better because of my actions.
Where am I going?
Not sure yet - but I suspect that my skills are focusing on different ways of telling stories. My interest in data and data visualization is kind of tangentially related to my interest in writing; both are attempting to capture and share some sort of truth with the world. This idea of a journey that can be shared with the world seems very important to me. Maybe this will all converge but maybe not. It's fine if it doesn't. I'm happy that it keeps me engaged and keeps bolstering my ego enough.