Okay, let’s skip the whole “gee, it’s been a whole year, huh? this time last year I was…” and get into it.

What worked

So, all the good stuff first:

  1. I started writing poetry again. This is, honestly, the best: I forgot how much I needed a creative outlet, and how much sanity and satisfaction it affords me.
  2. I started running seriously! I ran my first 10K (and then broke my PR a half dozen times, and am now addicted to middle-distance running.) . I am not a fast runner, nor a particularly graceful one, but crossing finish lines is consistently the happiest I’ve ever felt.
  3. I started the best job in my life. 1 . Working at Stripe has put me in close proximity with more friendly, earnest, and talented folks than ever before, and I find myself learning and building awesome things.
  4. I read the most I’ve read since graduating, a feat which necessitated (fortunately and unfortunately) becoming a big ol’ audiobook nerd. (More about that later.)
  5. Buttondown continues to grow. It’s crossed the vaunted four-digit MRR mark, and it sends hundreds of thousands of emails every month. Neat! And terrifying!
  6. I finally became a morning person and have some actual morning and evening routines. (It only took me being out of college for…five years.) . As I wrote in an email recently, my routine sounds like a parody of “here’s what you need to do to be successful” puff pieces on Business Insider, but getting my emails and my workout and my various administrative obligations done by 8am every day has been a game-changer.
  7. The blasé but earnest capper: I continue to be surrounded by loving friends and loving family, who have all stayed universally healthy.

What didn’t

  1. It is hard for me to remember the first three or so months of 2018, but it wasn’t great 2. I remember playing a lot of Persona 4: Golden, and lifting, and learning how to navigate a new personal space (being single for the first time in a while). I gained like twenty pounds. It was kinda rough, and I consciously knew I needed a change.
  2. I still haven’t really figured out the work-life balance thing, though I keep on trying. Starting in around April, Buttondown took off to the extent that it became a net-negative on my well-being in terms of how much stress it brought me versus how much joy it brought me. It’s right around that midpoint again (thanks to an emphasis on nuking tech debt, improving operational efficiency, and just taking some time off) but I want to get it back to a positive place.
  3. I didn’t watch that many movies! I wanted to, but didn’t. This sounds trivial, but it feels vaguely symbolic for me: I think the fact that I was consistently unable to take two hours out of my evening and go to the theatre is a failure case.

Books

I read a lot of stuff I loved this year. My absolute favorites:

  1. Emily Wilson’s The Odyssey, a striking and modern translation.
  2. Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, a verse novel about myth, pain and perspective.
  3. Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler, a beautiful and often hilarious postmodern treatise on the act of reading and succumbing to fiction.
  4. Emily Ruskovich’s Idaho, a lyric narrative about memory, loss, and absence.

On my completely arbitrary reduce-all-artistic-merit-to-a-five-point-scale rubric that I’ve been using since ~2010, all of these are are fives. And I’ve only have ten fives in the past ten years. I think explaining why I find a given book life-changing is fairly arbitrary, but all four of these deal fairly closely with how we define ourselves in relation to our environment and our art which I think is neat!

The other stuff I read, in roughly descending order of how much I liked it (excluding poetry, of which I read a blessed forty-seven books this year):

  • Invisible Cities
  • The Iliad
  • Sapiens
  • Kitchen Confidential
  • Circe
  • Hard-Boiled Wonderland
  • Sense & Sensibility
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice
  • A Gentleman in Moscow
  • London Fields
  • Little Labors
  • The Fire Next Time
  • I, Claudius
  • The Checklist Manifesto
  • Convenience Store Woman
  • Flash Boys
  • The Aeneid
  • Transit
  • Rabbit, Run
  • The Beautiful Struggle
  • The Coming Storm
  • Last Words from Montmartre
  • The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories
  • The Little Book of Hygge
  • Debt: The First 5000 Years
  • Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

Even More Content!

I focused more on books than, uh, anything else this year, but the five non-book things that I truly loved:

  1. Gris, a game for the Nintendo Switch about loss and growth. If you own a Switch, buy and play this game: it is like fifteen dollars and four hours long and very beautiful.
  2. Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past. I think this is one of the few remaining games from my childhood that Adult Justin owed it to Child Justin to beat. It was lovely! (Though not as lovely as Link’s Awakening in terms of nostalgia and childlike-sense-of-wonder.)
  3. Phantom Thread. This was in 2018? Wow. Still my favorite movie I saw this year, though.
  4. DAYTONA. The greatest workout album of… all time?
  5. Anne. My favorite album of the year.

(Honorable mentions go to the new 1975 record, ‌Le Monde d’Edena, and What Work Is.)

Next Year

I’ve got some resolutions. I love resolutions. I never stick to them, but they’re fun anyway.

  1. Spend two weeks in Japan. I didn’t travel outside the country in 2018 which was a huge bummer. I want to be a stereotypical white tech dude who visits (and falls in love with) Tokyo so badly. This is gonna be the year.
  2. Read War and Peace. Twelve hundred and twenty five pages of Tsarist angst. This will probably take me…. three months, at a conservative twenty pages per day?
  3. Score 200 on the APFT. This is probably my easiest resolution; I think I could handle it now if you give me an entire gram of caffeine and earphones playing DAYTONA at an adequately loud volume. Fifty pushups (in two minutes), sixty pushups (in two minutes), and a 15:00 two-mile time should do it.
  4. Run a half-marathon. This one is much more terrifying!
  5. Get Spoonbill breakeven. This is my only technology/career/hustle-related resolution, and it’s less out of ambition and more out of, uh, financial prudence. Spoonbill has gotten me a couple nice write-ups and some lovely email exchanges but it’s also been costing me around ~$150 a month for the past year, which threatens to double as the database grows. I want it merely at breakeven, which might be as simple as imploring some of the VCs who use it to donate to a Patreon or find some AWS credits or something.
  6. Publish poetry under my own name. AHHHH THIS IS TERRIFYING

Thanks

It is easy, I think, to look at the slow whirlpool of global chaos and disparage 2018 (or perhaps all of the present time) as the year in which many bad things happened. But I am happy and better for having lived through of it, which is a privilege for which I’m thankful.

Salud! See y’all in 2019. (I’ll try and write more, as always.)

  1. We’re hiring. 

  2. I have terrible middle-term memory. Well, and short- and long-term memory, too. 

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