2018. What a year!
It’s been a bit of an education. Being a full-time stepdad has been badass. So here’s a report of how it went, plus some aims for 2019.
Working out loud
I’ve written 23 bilingual posts this year, which works out as one a fortnight.
My posts towards the end of the year have had pretty minimal interaction, which is partially down to the fact that my own social media use has dropped off.
I always hope my posts are useful for others, but their main purpose is to help me work through ideas. My posts where I came closest to working out loud were my posts on icebreakers and ground rules from our Associates' Day, which weren’t particularly popular. However I really wanted to capture my work somewhere, and the world wide web seemed as good as anywhere! In looking at my stats, the rule of web 2.0 applies, which Paul Taylor has encapsulated in his post on social media and learning:
"If you don’t share, don’t expect to be shared"
My most insular posts are generally the least read.
Better use of the internet
Whilst I still have a smartphone, it's a lot dumber than it used to be. I now have one news app on my phone, plus Medium. I've deleted the browser from my phone, so it's become a lot easier to get bored. Boredom is a useful prompt - it forces me to do something useful.
Work / life balance
The best thing I've done this year has been outrageously simple - I've been getting the train and cycling to work. The trainline between Exeter and Totnes is stupidly beautiful. I see a beautiful seascape on my way to the office everyday, which makes me feel incredibly lucky.
Exercise is key to my mental health, so cycling for 40 minutes a day by default has been lush. The winter nights have curtailed opportunities to exercise, but I’m taking on two hills a day and going on a 60 odd mile mission around South Devon on a Sunday with some great people as well. At the moment I look like an inverse gym monkey who skips leg day - I’ve got the upper body of Walter the Softy, but I no longer have legs that look like they should be hanging out of a nest.
Getting the train has meant that I've had to leave work at 5:15 everyday. This has kept me focused and productive, because I tend to work to the time that I have available. Most importantly, it's also meant that I've been at home at a reasonable time every night.
And not just that, my time on the train has given me time to blog, access podcasts and reflect. It gave me the time to write my first essay since university on Bullsh*t Jobs for O’r Pedwar Gwynt without impinging on my home life. Writing longform and editing in Welsh was lush too - I was immersed in my mother tongue for about a month, which reinforced to me why it’s so important that I blog bilingually.
Basically my commute has become a force for good. Who knew?
Books I've enjoyed
I've read and loved these books:
‘Purity’ by Jonathan Franzen
He may be somewhat snarky about Twitter, but his dissection of humanity, particularly liberal America is wonderful. His writing is sparse, yet punchy. Freedom is still my favourite of his, but this was brill
‘The Nix’ by Nathan Hill
A massive novel that I just devoured. It charts a family breakdown over 50 years of radical American history, and it is incredibly witty, moving and razor sharp.
‘Llyfr Glas Nebo’ by Manon Steffan Ros
This novel is about a fallout from a nuclear accident and won the Chair in this year's Welsh Eisteddfod….. which was sponsored by a nuclear energy company. In my first year of reading Welsh language novels, this was my pick of the bunch. It had loads of hype, but justifiably so. Such a moving portrayal of a mother's relationship with her family. It was like The Road but without the canibalism.
Records I've loved
Joy Is An Act of Resistance - Idles
It’s been sweeping up album of the year prizes like there’s no tomorrow. Perhaps at its most subversive when being hopeful about the times we find ourselves in. Highlights include takedowns of toxic masculinty (‘Samaritans’) and preaching the benefits of immigration (‘Danny Nedelko’).
Wait for Love - Pianos Become The Teeth
The last two Pianos records are like Marmite to fans - if you liked the heavy stuff, this may seem insipid. But I love the subtlety, I love the contrast between the rolling drums and the lilting vocals. Joyous.
You Can't Stay Here - Iron Chic
Just flat out dark pop punk from a man who sounds like he gargles with gravel. Twisted in the best possible way.
Aims for 2019
My goal to blog every 2-3 weeks in 2018 was reached, but in retrospect it’s not a helpful measure. Quality over quantity!
What this would feel like
I would be putting an emphasis on quality. A weakness of some of my posts is that I’ve linked to other articles without really making it clear why the content is useful in my own posts. I would be explicitly referencing passages in my own work instead of expecting the reader to do the hard work for me.
Do more of the emotional labour
I'll expand more on this in an upcoming post, but being a step-dad means that unless I make a conscious effort, my partner is the go to parent. This isn't about a tick box list of tasks - I do take on half of the household work. But seeing who prepped for what over Christmas has reinforced that there is a separate unspoken division that isn't equal.
What this would feel like
I would be more involved in the background of my stepdaughter's life, pre-emptively ensuring that she has everything she needs.
Be more networked
My current role is more of a back office role, which means that I'm not actively facilitating networks like in my previous roles. I miss this and I would like to learn more from others involved in public service improvement in the South West.
What this would feel like
I would be having discussions with others around making the world better, developing my own ideas and understanding, while hopefully helping others to do the same.
I hope you all had a great 2018 too, and I hope that 2019 is a stunner! Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year)!