Reflection time again. 2015

It’s a cold Christmas Eve in Berlin and my only plan for today, except for a traditional Kucios dinner with my family, is to write this text. Every year I go back in time and note all the things that I was lucky to encounter around me during the past 12 months. A lot has happened in the 2015:

I co-founded a company—Vai Kai, and it felt like opening a door into unknown, like the biggest adventure of my life. We rented our first office above an illegal techno club, surrounded by DJ studios and broken artists. We have celebrated our moving-in party in a small room filled with balloons, toy prototypes, kids and their parents. One Monday morning we found the hallways painted in skulls, bones and upside down crosses, so we decide it’s time to move our toys to a quieter place. We were very lucky to find a true makers space at the most awesome Lasern.

I went to the biggest toy fair in the world, I saw 70.000 toys and no kids there. Avakai came to life. It’s nothing like the 70.000 toys out there.

We ran a Kickstarter campaign, and it was super-intense. I found out how many dedicated friends I have around the world who backed our campaign with their money and kind words. I felt grateful and exhausted. We almost reached our goal. We continued because we saw how our work inspires kids and parents. We were interviewed by Fast Company, PSFK and Guardian.

Mindfulness, meditation and breathing exercises became my daily tools. I practiced it barely enough for them to become an essential part of my life. My family got used to the video trainer’s voice in the morning when I’m doing my exercise.

Some of my friends had an extremely tough year. I tried to help at least a bit. I continue to learn to take nothing in my life for granted.

There was a lot of ice cream. We celebrated the good times and hard times at work with all possible flavors. I tried all the new best ice cream shops in Berlin and they very very good. The most exotic flavour tasted this year — smoked potato ice cream in Kaunas.

I started swimming more. I watched swimming videos on YouTube, awkwardly trying to imitate the movements in water later. I was proud when I became faster than German grandmas at the city pool. Grandmas have finally asked me to move to the sport-swimmers lanes.

I took my family and our toys to my first MakerFaire. It was awesome, I’ve realised that my older daughter is a super maker! I added a long and complicated password on our iPad so the 8-year-old started to read more. She read all the Harry Potter books this year. Twice. She started learning to play an acoustic guitar, something I never even managed to do myself.

In the summer we traveled to Lithuania again, to a quiet house in the hills of Dzukija. I drove a car for the first time in 18 years. I gathered wild juniper berries, swam in ancient lakes, listened to Ciurlionis and Nick Drake, watching the Milky Way and falling stars in the August sky.

My sister has passed her sommelier exams and has officially joined the world of wine experts. I’m so proud of her.

Most of the books I read this year were really really old and I liked that. I have re-discovered Ovid, Goethe, Montaigne, Machiavelli. I never thought I’m going to enjoy Fellini and Godard so much, even if I know how pretentious it sounds.

I became 40. As a surprise, my friends ‘crowdfunded’ my new bike and I didn’t know how to thank them. My wife took me to Venice for the first time and it looked exactly like in the movies. We woke up at 3am and walked to the St. Marcus square. We were the only people there. I watched November sun rising at Lido.

I got my first glasses. The world looks sharp.

We traveled on a draisine with our kids. It’s probably the strangest and coolest mode of transportation I’ve ever tried.

Our friends started teaching refugee kids to read and count over weekends. Another friend is organising coding courses for the refugees. My wife is helping an old man from Damascus to practice his German. He used to repair sound equipment for the local music scene there. His wife is still in Syria. He can call her when there are no bombings.

I was invited to speak a lot this year. European Commission invited us to Luxembourg to talk about privacy and toys. In Lithuania I met some amazing engineers and inventors, people who build new kinds of biking, nano-satellites and human batteries. And in Istanbul I discovered super talented makers, the most beautiful cafe that also sells amazing plants and a small record shop that has only the rarest vynils I’ve ever seen. I bought a small cactus and brought it to Berlin.

My youngest daughter is not a baby anymore. She’s a very orderly 2-year-old and her favourite word is ‘Nein’.

I’m learning. I’m learning to appreciate, to communicate, to listen. To say no, to hear a ‘no’. To set a price, to set a clear goal. To play more. I’m learning about money, about time and work. About the value of getting the right people at the right time on a right project. About the power of waiting. I’m not good at it yet. But I’m learning.