My year in three cliches
2017 was a weird year for me professionally.
The biggest thing that happened was the release of TumbleSeed in May. I spent the first 5 months of the year continuing to crunch on the project (crunch started ~October of 2016).
After release I spent June-August recovering. Luckily summers fill up quickly with visiting family, weddings, and weekend trips with friends. I spent a lot of time re-learning algebra, reading, walking, and thinking.
After the summer I started more seriously trying to figure out a new project. I worked on a bunch of small experiments and eventually ended up focusing on web programming. I hadn’t really made a web page since middle school, and it’s been a blast seeing how much everything has changed. I realized a lot of my project ideas are web ideas, and I’ve always felt unable to execute on them. I’m currently working on a Twitter client that I’m hoping to soft-launch in January.
It’s been hard trying to sum up 2017 in some succinct way. It’s been a huge year in many ways, but everything I wrote trying to describe my feelings on it ended up boiling down into some cliche phrase. So I’m saying screw it and leaning into it: here’s my 2017 in three trite phrases.
When people say life is very short, there’s some truth to it
TumbleSeed took 3 years. It sort of pushed me from the “I recently graduated college so it’s okay to mess up!” period to my “oh god I’m almost 30” period.
If I work until I’m 90 (I’m being optimistic) I have about 20 TumbleSeeds left in me. I know, that’s still a lot, but, 20 is a number that easily fits in your mind. “Well hopefully I’ve got 62 years left!” is very hard to quantify. You’re forced to mentally group it under “boy that’s a lot of years!” On the other hand, picturing 20 three-year projects — after having experienced one three-year project — really does not feel like much at all!
It’s the difference between a Saturday morning where you feel like you’ve got the whole day ahead of you, and a Saturday where you run one errand in the morning and realize “crap, I’m not going to be able to get to everything today.”
It’s the sort of realization you have when you emerge from a multi-year project like I did in 2017. Or, more tragically, it’s a realization you have when you hit some age and realize all the doors that have closed behind you without you noticing. I’m very thankful I experienced mostly the former rather than the latter. It’s a deeply valuable feeling, and one I can sense I’m carrying forward with me.
When people say you can do anything you set your mind to, it’s kinda true
I never thought I’d be lucky enough to work with the people I did, whom I consider some of the best in the world at what they do. I never thought I’d get to release a video game on a Nintendo console. I never thought tens of thousands of people would pay for and play a game I made. I never thought I’d be able to have my own business for over 4 years.
The realization that things that seemed unachievable actually happened is very strange. There’s a certain excitement to it that makes you feel like “hey if I did that I wonder what else I can do!”
Very few things matter
The other side of that confidence gained from doing the impossible is how empty it can feel. If anything seems like it should fulfill you, it’s doing something you dreamed of and thought you weren’t capable of. You literally transcended your self-perception and still feel blah about it 99% of the time (lol).
The upside of experiencing this feeling is that you start to shift your value system. If achieving a personal goal feels kinda empty, just imagine how bad it’d feel to achieve someone else’s goal (😂).
The upside, though, is this: I’m accidentally becoming much more ruthless about how I spend my time.
For example, this is the first year where I poked around in way more books (~50) than I actually finished (~12).
Perhaps even more impressively I’ve gotten good at getting through my Instapaper! I just skim stuff and feel zero guilt for archiving it if it doesn’t seem interesting. As someone who has struggled to do this for years, it’s very weird!
One last example: I like watching football. But sometimes when I turn on a game I’m supposed to care about I just don’t care! Previously I would’ve forced myself to sit there. “Come on man this is your hobby, it’s what you do for fun! You should watch this!” I had created an inflexible category of activities that I supposedly enjoyed at all times. I’d somehow imprisoned myself in my own tastes. I still love football, but now when I’m not feeling it I just turn it off and sit there until I figure out what it is that I’d rather do.
I almost feel stupid describing this phenomenon, but, maybe you can relate. It’s very bizarre and I’m very thankful that somehow 2017 has triggered this shift in me.
It’s beginning to feel like a large portion of life is figuring out what you actually like (or more often, what you dislike). And it feels good to get ever-so-slightly better at it.
I’ll leave 2017 at that — hope this wasn’t too corny for you. I hope you had a great year, take a few days off in the next week, and I’ll see you in 2018!! I can’t wait to dig in.