Last week I was away at the CMJ Conference, I had the pleasure of joining them to take photos of the event, post to social media throughout it on their accounts, and to hear some excellent bible teaching in the process. It lasted from Friday afternoon to late Sunday afternoon, and by the time I got home I was absolutely exhausted. I spent most of the week recovering whilst trying to work and, thankfully, have spent most of this weekend doing some serious introverting at home.
Last Saturday afternoon while I was sat on the sofa reading and watching Le Tour, it struck me that we are nearly at the end of July. We’re over halfway through the year and it seemed like a good time to review some of the goals I set out with at the start of the year.
For those who don’t know, I laid them out in my now page at the start of the year, which saw an update in April. Whilst I didn’t make a post here about those updates, a mid year review of those aims seems like a good thing to make note of.
Health & Personal
One of my aims at the start of the year was to take better care of myself than I’ve done in previous years. I bought a Fitbit and set out to hit the 10,000 steps per day goal. That aim is going reasonably well. I’m hitting an average of 9,219 steps per day, which isn’t quite the 10,000 I’m aiming for. However when you consider that I’ve spent a total of 2 weeks taken out by illness (thanks former housemates for sharing your bugs) or my wisdom tooth operation when I barely hit 1000 steps a day, I’ll take it.
In terms of exercise, I was playing football most weeks until it stopped for the summer, although I wasn’t enjoying it quite as much as I had done. The couch to 5K plan hasn’t really happened either, running is something I do not enjoy, I find it frustrating and boring so easily become demotivated to do it. I have however been doing a Fitstar work out most weeks since May, although I confess that June/July has not been great on this front I’ve started that up again this weekend.
I’m pleased to say that I am still working through the 5 Day Reading Plan. I’ve gotten behind a few times but never more than a week, and what’s more, I don’t find myself reading out of obligation but out of desire to keep reading The Word of The Lord.
My use of the Prayer Mate app has also continued although much more spottily. I go through phases of using it everyday and then phases of only using it here and there. That’s ok though, it’s a tool after all and not an obligation or the only way to pray. The times I’ve used it well it’s been beneficial, but so have the times when I have not used it as much.
When it comes to the memorisation of scripture, I’ve not been quite so good. The Verses app is still on my iPhone, but I haven’t used it as much as I hoped. I plan to be more intentional over the second half of the year to make use of this app.
I’m still continuing to do this, and in fact the last couple of months have been busy and very enjoyable. Please do recommend me or get in touch if you know anyone who might need some design work.
I am posting to this site more regularly, although the majority of the posts are small status type posts I have been able to post a few more considered posts. One thing I’ve noticed it that I am posting less links which means that more of the content here is original and not pointing to somewhere else. One thing I have decided to do is put less pressure on myself to post, it’s my site after all and so why should there be a pressure to put something here if I’m not feeling creative in that way.
I have also started another side project, and I can’t decide whether to dual post here as well as there. In the mean time it will remain where it is and on Medium as a publication.
My Goodreads Reading Challenge is on track. Of the 25 books I pledged to read I’ve read 13 so far and am a good chunk through 2 more. Once again the number of fiction books are outweighing the non-fiction ones, which is understandable as I read at the end of each day to help me relax, it is something I would like to be more even over the next half of the year.
On reflection it’s been a pretty good first half of the year, both in terms of the goals I set out to accomplish and in some of the things that happen in life. My prayer is that the second will continue in this vein, perhaps with a bit more progress on the healthier living side of things than I’ve had so far.
I’ve noticed over the last few weeks a distinct correlation between my ability to spend time on side projects and the amount of design work I have going on. Juggling a part time job in the Coffee House alongside running my design business makes for a distinct lack of energy to keep my side/personal projects going when things get busy. I find my motivation drops as my energy gets used up juggling the two, and it’s a source of disappointment since I know the importance of doing my own creative things on the side.
It seems to be a matter of margin or focus, I’m yet to work out which, but my gut (which is usually right) tells my it’s about focus. When I become invested in a project it dominates my mind. It becomes what I think about when I’m not really thinking and I’ve certainly become aware that this is what has been happening of late. It’s the reason I’ve started yet another side project that will operate on a schedule and is on a topic completely unrelated to any of my other side projects.
Whilst having a project sit at the top of my mind is helpful for work, it’s not always helpful for me mentally. I need to be able to create things just for the sake of creating them. It brings me a joy and satisfaction that creating for a client doesn’t always bring. Eric Liddell once said
I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.
I’ve never thought about it in that way but I can certainly relate to it. Like Liddell I believe God made me for a purpose, but I know He also gave me a gift of creativity and a passion for design. When I use my gift, especially just for the sake of it and not just for my work, I feel His pleasure.
God created the world because he wanted to, because it gave him satisfaction and joy to do it (Genesis 1 v 31). He enjoyed walking in his creation and meeting with the people he created, which we learn from Genesis 3 v 9 when God goes looking for Adam & Eve. When I create something because I want to, I feel God’s pleasure because in some way I am mirroring Him and that is an incredible thing.
My God is the God of creation and He has given me the gift of creativity. When I use that gift to create I feel His pleasure and that’s why I need to firm my resolve to create for the sake of creating something because I want to create it.
Back in January 2015 when I realised I was ill, and consequently started a course of antidepressants, many people encouraged me to exercise. I had been a keen cyclist and they encouraged me to keep at it and get out on my bike as much as I could. I was told, and in fact read many times, that exercise was a great way of countering some of the symptoms of depression. My issue was that the thought of going out on my bike caused me anxiety and stress, both things which I was trying to avoid and so I dismissed the notion as not for me. Nearly two and a half years later I’m starting to understand a little of what the mysterious they were talking about.
About a month ago I moved into a new flat, one which I’m living in on my own, it’s great to have my own space again. As a consequence of that move I’ve been doing a lot more walking. It’s located in such a place that I can walk to pretty much everywhere I need to go on a regular basis. I can walk to my shifts at the coffee house, my church, a couple of supermarkets, as well as the centre of town, and I’ve been doing that as much as is practically possible. It’s become a time that I enjoy, an opportunity to pop my headphones in and listen to some music or catch up on a few podcasts.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve begun to notice something, when I don’t get my daily walks in my mood suffers. The realisation has come home to roost this bank holiday weekend. On Saturday and Monday I didn’t really go out. I stayed home in my flat tinkering on my websites, making a few adjustments, watching some TV shows, what most people call relaxing. And it has been just that, but today I noticed the heaviness creeping in, it made me realise what effect going out for a walk has on me.
It’s not just the small amount of exercise that a brisk walk provides that I’ve missed today, it’s the intentionality of going for a walk. Instead of the day just passing by, the act of walking to work is intentional and provides an element of structure to my day. I need to schedule in the time for my walk to work otherwise I won’t get there on time letting people down. It helps that my walk to work is a pleasant one down an old railway line, that’s what’s in the photo at the top of this post, for a moment I can be lost in the wonder of looking at the trees and greenery as I walk. It provides a chance to look at God’s creation and see how the same place changes from day to day. It’s a chance to walk and listen to some new music or the latest podcasts, in my own little world that’s outside in the wider world. It’s a chance to pop the headphones out and walk listening to the birds and rustling of the trees. When the sun’s out it’s especially enjoyable, but even on a rainy day I look forward to my walk to work.
Almost by accident I’ve discovered that the act of walking to work provides me with a moment of calm. In that walk there is nothing I can do for my design business, nothing I need to do for my coffee house shift, no tweets or Instagram photos to catch up on (unless I want to walk into my fellow walkers or be run over by the many cyclists), I can just enjoy the simple act of walking.
I created my first blog back in 2005 while I was at university. I had come across a number of blogs that I enjoyed reading and looking at the design of them. I wanted in on the game, a means of having my own piece of the internet, a way of learning about web design, and a place to write. It became a bit of a hobby, one which I enjoyed and one which I have battled with trying to regain over recent years.
The last few months have been interesting on the internet. There has been an increasing awareness that the large social networks create a bit of a cauldron. A boiling pot of likeness. The ability of sites like Facebook and Twitter to learn what kind of things you are interested in means they continually surface things that you like and are interested in. It’s a logical behaviour, but it’s one which lacks the ability to show you what people outside of your bubble are actually thinking and saying. They create controlled environments that perpetuate similar trains of thought.
Services like Medium also serve similar purposes, they want you to use their website and app as your only source of finding new content on the internet. It uses similar techniques to the bigger social networks and it presents it in a largely homogenised appearance to make it all look the same and give it the same visual voice. It takes ownership of your content and with it adds your voice to that bubbling pot of likeness.
There’s a big danger to that boiling pot. Each person ends up with their own, fed by similarity and linked to other similar pots by the content that fits them both. It takes away discourse. It takes away reason. It takes away the ability to have conversation and the ability to disagree well. It leads to a world where different opinions are denounced as bigotry, especially when they are contrary to the popular culture of the time. It’s something I am beginning to see more and more of, and something which I am beginning to feel influence my own thinking. That’s why I’m starting to see a fresh how important it is that we keep the web open. That we keep the ability to post to our own corners of the web and share it with those we know and in public domains that are easy to find. It’s why we need bloggers.
The problem is, that many people don’t see themselves as bloggers. It’s a geeky past time, that’s seen as old hat and no longer the done thing. What’s most interesting is that anyone who uses sites like Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram, are bloggers. Posting a tweet is a blog post. It’s a small one granted, but at it’s essence that’s what it is. Likewise with Facebook, any status posts, notes or whatever other myriad of things you can post originally to the site, are at their essence blog posts. We are all bloggers, whether we are aware of it or not. The difficulty is that we need to find ways of encouraging people to post these things to their own sites first, to take ownership of their thoughts and opinions, no matter how long they are. This is why I’m so excited by services like Micro.blog which encourage you to start your own Twitter-like personal site, which you own and can direct to other places. I’m not just excited by the idea of encouraging people to own their own posts, but by the fact that it could, like it is doing to me, get people interested in the idea of sharing their own thoughts and opinions in longer form as well. That’s what the web was built on. It’s what the web needs.