As lousy as 2020 was, I’ve been very fortunate in that I was minimally affected by the pandemic and the stay-at-home order(s). Apart from having to spend the holidays apart from my family for the first time in my life, the rest has actually been a much-appreciated chance to reset. Since I’ve been forced out of my daily routine, I’ve also been forced to think about what I actually want to be doing.
I don’t really believe in yearly resolutions, but as the start of a new decade, it seems like a good opportunity to set an overall course for myself. Over the last seven years — measured from the end of my last contract as a freelancer — have resulted in me becoming more insular, anxious, forgoing social engagement with the online substitute, and devoting most of my time to the familiar. A new decade seems like a good opportunity to make a change.
So here’s a list of things I’m hoping to do at some point during the upcoming decade:
Visit Edinburgh for Hogmanay
I hadn’t heard of Hogmanay before seeing these videos of drone presentations around Edinburgh.1Technically, around the Highlands and then superimposed on footage of Edinburgh, but it’s still a good effect. Scottish YouTuber Shaun has a video talking about the various celebrations that take place around the city in non-pandemic years, and while looking at huge crowds of celebrants in Times Square or Bourbon Street always make me think Never in a million years would I want to be in the middle of that, seeing it in Edinburgh actually seems like a lot of fun.
We spent a few days in Edinburgh a few years ago, as part of a wedding vacation to the UK and to visit some friends who lived there at the time. It seemed like a fantastic city, and I’d love to spend more time there. Since it’s unlikely I’ll be able to move there outright, seeing it during a distinctly Scottish celebration (and that’s not the Fringe festival) might be a great alternative.
See the Northern Lights
This has been on my list for as long as I can remember, as soon as I heard that the northern lights were even a thing. The issue is that I’m not a “wilderness” traveler in the slightest, and I don’t like the cold, so being way up north and away from light pollution is unlikely. At some point, I’ve got to see it, because it’s nature’s own laser show.
Visit More of Europe
At this point, I’ve been in the UK, Ireland, Paris, Italy, and one night in Belgium. I’d like to see the major cities of Germany and Spain at least, along with Amsterdam. It never seems to be reasonable, though, since there’s still a lot of the US I haven’t seen.
Spend a Night in Yosemite
Speaking of which: I’ve lived in California about 25 years now, and I’ve still never been to Yosemite, or seen the larger redwoods. It was only a few weeks ago that was the first time I’d been to Big Sur. Camping in Yosemite is always crazy booked, so it seems impossible to make a casual visit. But possibly with some planning I can actually see it in person.
Write a Book
I always just assumed I’d write a book at some point, both because my mother was a writer, and because it always seemed like the thing that people do at some point in their lives.
I’ve failed at the NaNoWriMo a couple of times, but I can’t get all that upset about it since November is the worst possible month for it. In the past few years, whenever I’ve tried to write prose, I only get a few pages in before I think that it would be a lot more interesting as interactive fiction. But I’ve got no patience for interactive fiction these days, so I start to think I should make it an 80 Days-style graphic adventure, which means I need an artist, which turns into yet another reason to procrastinate.
There’s one idea that I’ve had for so long that what had been a contemporary magical realist story would now be a “period piece.” Another way that I’ve been able to procrastinate is that I’ve become completely convinced that nobody needs to hear what I want to say, that I’m not an under-represented voice, and there are so many people more qualified to have their stories published. I think I need to get back to the arrogance I had in my 30s, and I need to remember that writing a book would be a big achievement for me, even if it doesn’t get published.
Build and Animate a 3D Character
In a perfect world, this would be “Finish a video game.” But I’ve been working on a fairly straightforward, low-fi game forever, and it’s just an unimaginable amount of never-ending work.
Instead, I’m setting a more realistic goal for myself: design a character, model it, rig it, and animate it for a short project to be determined later. It would have to be a simple one, since I’m no artist. But I’ve learned something important this year: learning how to use Blender is so much fun that I don’t have to be good at it to enjoy doing it.
Learn At Least One Song on At Least One Instrument
Related to that: I’ve now got four musical instruments and zero excuses for not being able to play any of them. I tend to get too frustrated at my lack of improvement that I quickly give up on practicing. Also, I keep forgetting how much my fingers hurt after trying to play the guitar or banjo. If I develop callouses on my fingers, will that affect my livelihood as a computer typist?
For a long time, my goal was to be able to play “Manic Depression” on a banjo, but that was before I’d heard “Everyone’s a VIP to Someone” by the Go! Team. Obviously, there’s also “Rainbow Connection,” but I can rarely make it through listening to that song without crying.
Make a Board Game
I’ve got a few ideas for board games floating around, as well. I have good friends who are professional game designers, and I know a few former co-workers who’ve had some success getting their designs published. So I know that it’s possible, even though it’s not easy.
One issue is that I tend to overcomplicate things when I’m trying to come up with a prototype. But I think I’ve got a plan that will let me kill three birds with the same stone: make a tablet-compatible prototype, learn Unity while doing it, and end up with the base for a potential tablet version of the board game when I’m finished. What could go wrong?
Get a Better Handle on Social Media
I’ve cut out or cut back where I could, but I still end up wasting too much time checking into Twitter and coming out of it in a bad mood. Or still treating Instagram as if it were a friendly social platform, instead of a marketing tool for tools who work in marketing.
One side effect of Too Much Internet is the loss of my good, old-fashioned arrogance that I mentioned earlier. I used to be obliviously happy to make stuff, tell dumb jokes, draw amateurish cartoons, take uninspired photos, and write pointless observations. But over the years, I’ve been taught that there are so many people more knowledgeable than I am and better than I am at practically everything, and everyone’s already seen it all before, and anything that I could possibly have to contribute comes from a place of privilege, so really why should I even bother?
If there is any positive aspect to going back to Twitter, it’s seeing the Internet laid bare and being shown that there is literally nothing in the world that’s so good or so well-made that somebody somewhere won’t find a way to complain about it. I used to believe that it was possible to make something that was near-universally beloved, but I realized instead that I just never surveyed the entire universe.
I think ultimately the best course of action is to say and do and make the stuff that makes you happy, instead of trying to please anyone else. If it finds an audience, great. If not, then it’s not a failure as long as you’ve been honest with yourself and made something you’re proud of.