2018 tried really hard to destroy me

How I was less productive but found new ways to enjoy my life.

A rough start

One year ago I tweeted how excited I was for the possibilities of the new year and being an independent tool maker. We had been through a lot and I had been struggling with stress and depression for a year but I had finally reached a point where I was feeling healthy again.

  • $5000/month preventative medicine that was lowering her white blood cell count making her sick for weeks at a time. She really needed to switch to the alternative of ↓
  • $70,000 preventative infusion every six months

Depression

This shit is real. Like a lot of art people, I go through a low wave after a burst of extreme creative energy. But recently, I experienced real depression for about a year after being on the other side of the country from family and friends with a partner who could barely walk. I started to come out of it then got plunged into another 8 months of it when the rug got pulled out from under us.

Finding balance

For me, picking up a hobby has always meant drawing or starting personal design projects or learning new software. I’ve always just used my free time to do more work. This can be really valuable when you’re trying to increase your skill set in order to actually get the job you want. After many years in this business, I find an important part of being an artist or designer is having a perspective on life. In order to have a perspective, you have to do things that aren’t on a computer.

If you do what you love you n̶e̶v̶e̶r̶ ̶w̶o̶r̶k̶ ̶a̶ ̶d̶a̶y̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶r̶ ̶l̶i̶f̶e̶ will never ever be happy and you will make the people around you miserable because of your weirdo obsessions

2018 was the first year I actually started doing things for myself that were not related to design work or making money.

Music

Back when I used to play in awful metal bands, I was the guy with the synthesizers. I’ve always liked the mix of electronics, technology, and sound. I had a bunch of cheap gear up into the mid-2000s but sold it all to make space in my life for design (I was also pretty bad). This year I set out to explore music simply for the fun of it. Since I stare at screens all day, doing everything away from a computer was really important. I bought a Moog Mother 32, then a few months later a Moog Grandmother. I had every intention of staying away from eurorack and just patching with these but after attending a local modular meet-up, I sold my soul to the control voltages.

Reading

I bought a subscription to Audible. While I do enjoy reading books with my eyes, but I find it difficult to make enough time to become hooked by a book. I do have a lot of wasted time folding laundry or picking up after a 5-year-old though. I find the practice of active listening has helped me learn to retain more when speaking with people. I’m on a bit of a Stephen King kick right now. This year I read:

Language

Me riding on a dolphin

Exercise

I struggle with this one on consistency –mainly because of the Atlanta heat and cold. Once I get over the initial discomfort of it, I actually enjoy running. Joe Donaldson is the champ at this and I hope to be near his level one day, but he has encouraged me to think about it as an actual meditation than a task to be completed. Making time for exercise means carving out time from something else, but there is something magical about making your blood move around that actually helps you work and live better.

Social media

I removed the Twitter app from my phone. I am grateful for the active and encouraging community of designers and animators online but wished to engage with it in a more focused way –rather than allowing a feed to become a reactive time killer. The idea is to keep apps on my phone that are about learning and creation but the goal is the reduce the amount of time I look at a screen overall.

Family

I get this question a lot (especially from people who received email responses from her at Battle Axe), my wife Ashley is doing a lot better since her diagnosis in 2016. She is more mobile and adjusting to how her body wants to work differently with a disease that affects her spinal cord. It can be really tough sometimes and she definitely has bad days/weeks (even months), but she is unbelievably tough and keeps going.

Meditation

This is probably the biggest thing that has helped me overcome depression this year. I’m no mindfulness guru or anything but after a few months of daily practice, I find that when I allow myself to feel my feelings and let them exist as they are, I become more relaxed and able to connect with those around me. Headspace is what I use and it’s really simple to get started (plus the animations are super cute).

2019 and moving forward

My goals for 2019 are flexible and more about a direction than things that can actually be attained. Rather than “record X number of songs,” I’m making the goal for myself to enjoy playing music. I would rather do it less than risk turning a happiness activity into an obligation. Instead of a goal like “meditated every day” or “run 3 times a week” I’m trying to be more aware of my mental state. Maybe that means stopping down work to be quiet for 5 minutes or that could mean running more or less as my hierarchy of priorities allows. At this phase of my life, it’s more about small daily progress than big projects.

Disclaimer

I have no idea what I’m doing. I work full time for a great company, I run a business, I help take care of a small child, and I do my best to support a beautiful woman who’s had a disease thrown at her, I’m trying really hard to add the elements to my life that allow me to be happy enough to make the people I interact with feel loved. Nobody’s life is like mine and I am not a model of how to live.

Animation tool developer for battleaxe.co and Google. RubberHose, Overlord, ButtCapper, AEUX

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