A New Year

The last New Year's resolution I made (and the only one I remember keeping) was to never make another New Year's resolution again. Instead, I have tried to do better at setting achievable goals throughout the year and to not beat myself up too harshly if I have failed to achieve them. This year should be no different.

In an attempt to keep myself on track, I thought it would be a positive act if I publicly listed here some of my immediate and longer term goals for the next few months, as well as some general changes I will be making (or trying to make).

1. Write more

I quite enjoy writing and made it a goal late last year to blog once a week, every Monday. I was reasonably successful but somehow slipped since the New Year1. However, just as with my recent slip back into smoking and the ongoing climb back out, I will have to learn from it and forge on.

Clearly, writing more often is not as important as resisting the nicotine siren song, but it is important to me, so I intend to get back on track, posting a blog once a week (perhaps twice, if I can find enough interesting things on which to blog). I would also like to get back into creative writing with some short stories, songs and more.

2. Record more

Two years ago I had grand plans of recording an album. I still have those plans although after initial success with Holding On, I let it slide as a priority. I would like to get back on this and see if I can make Nothing Left To Take before the year is out. This is a big challenge for me as I find the process of recording both exhausting and stressful. Realising that the whole album feels like a lofty goal to me right now, I will settle for at least getting a couple of songs done.

3. Experience more

My wife, Chrissy, and I made a vow last year to prioritise experiences over things. A big part of that has been to travel more. This year I intend to visit my family and friends in England. It has been two years since I was last there and even longer since I saw some of my friends.

Besides England, I would like to see more of the US (some upcoming weddings should help a little with that) and perhaps travel further afield (anyone looking for guests?). I will also be looking to experience new things and challenge my anxieties.

4. Exercise more

My weight and I have a long, arduous relationship. From visiting a dietitian with my mum when I was just 11 or 12, to running in 5Ks, and a lot of good and bad places in between, I have battled the scales. I have recently been losing that battle, especially with the revived hand-to-mouth habit thanks to a brief return to the smokes. With that in mind, I am serious about making exercise a part of my routine and tapping my willpower when pizza comes calling.

5. Read more

Last year I managed to use reading to get myself back into the gym. I discovered that with the help of a decent book, I could zone out and tolerate an hour of exercise. I will continue that trend and look for other opportunities to read. To that end, I have bought myself a Kindle (it arrives today) and will be returning to my childhood ways, losing hours and hours to an entertaining read. Not only will this help me in my creative writing, but I think it will also help in finding new experiences, new conversations, and new friends.

6. Listen more

I talk a lot. It is one of two things that have been said to me more than any other thing that I can recall in my entire life. I am tall and I talk a lot2. Telling me about either changes neither, but I understand why people continue to feel the need to share their observations on these characteristics.

Contrary to what others may perceive, I do try very hard to curb my talking (curbing my height is much more difficult so I don't try), but there is always more to be done. The biggest issue with talking a lot (a side effect of having a mind that never wants to stop) is that I often don't give others the opportunity to talk and share, which means I listen less and learn less. I have made huge strides in this over the years and I will continue to do what I can to get better at this.

7. Appreciate more

Two years ago I started my own gratitude project, posting daily the things for which I was grateful. It started on Twitter and Facebook, migrated to my blog, and then sort of ended as I failed to find the right place to express it. Showing gratitude is important and I want to continue to do so. However, I found that arbitrarily finding things for which to be grateful turned into a burden, especially on days when "coffee" was one of the items.

More recently, I decided that if I was to express gratitude it would be for specific people and their actions, rather than objects and events. Last year as part of this shift in focus, I intended to start a different take on the gratitude project, but I did not follow through with the execution. This year, I will.

8. Contribute more

The flip-side to gratitude (at least for me) is contribution; doing things for others. Whether this is through my efforts at work, in the developer community, or among my family and friends, I want to do more to give to others and contribute to the well-being of others.

And in conlusion…

I am sure I could come up with more things but this feels like a lot to me. I have no idea if I will be able to live up to the ambition, but at least I have a point of focus, a rough outline to guide me as I make mistakes and share success.

Thank you all for taking the time to read my blog. I realise it is not always relevant to you, but I hope that it continues to be interesting. Please share your thoughts in the comments and perhaps share what 2015 has in store for you.

 


  1. I'm writing this on Tuesday, for example 

  2. a third in recent years is that I have an accent – something that I share with everyone else who talks 

This Week's Music

When I'm in the zone working I tend to like some music to listen to, but the radio stations aren't always playing what I want and auto-generated radio stations on Spotify or Pandora or some other service aren't varied enough for me. So, I build my own playlist on Spotify for each day. Because picking songs for a playlist can be time consuming if you just try to think of songs, I build the playlist by chaining them via the "Related Artists" tab for each song's artist. To start, I usually have a song or two leftover from the previous day, so I use the artists related to that song's artist. I pick a band or singer from the list and then choose one of their songs as the next in the playlist and then use their related artists to pick the next song and so on and so forth until I've built enough songs for the day. I usually avoid repeating an artist or song just to keep things eclectic and I don't always pick songs I know. This is a little more time consuming than just sticking on a radio station, but I think it's worth the effort. I get a varied range of music and artists while having some level of continuity between the songs.

Since I have a playlist for each day I've done this, I thought I'd share them here on my blog1). I won't post my old ones, you can go to my Spotify profile for those, but here are the playlists for this week2.

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday


  1. I also share these on Twitter each day, although they are subject to change during that day and the next as I tend to add more tracks if I work longer and remove them if I didn't get chance to listen to them that day (I carry them over to the next day's playlist as a starting point 

  2. I'm posting this on Friday, so don't be surprised if that playlist changes 

Nothing Left To Take, Track 11, Holding On

Some of you may already know from my page on Facebook that I have started recording again. Not only that, but I have finished one song, Holding On, and it is now on SoundCloud for you to hear it. Thanks to my friends and family for the encouragement and support over the years. I am sorry that it has taken me so long to get back into this. It takes a lot of time and effort and I have so much to learn. I hope you enjoy the results.

Holding On is the first song off my current project, an album entitled Nothing Left To Take. Please take a listen and leave your comments on what you do or do not like, perhaps even share it with your friends.

Nothing Left To Take is somewhat of a concept album in that there's a theme to the songs and the order of the songs. As I complete a song, I will add it to the set on SoundCloud so you can see it take shape. The theme will become pretty apparent I think although I am considering the idea of writing a short story to accompany the finished album.

Here is the Nothing Left To Take playlist.

Forgiveness

This is a long time coming. I have thought about writing this for as long as I have thought about having a blog. I have tried writing it in stories, lyrics and poems. All have fallen short somehow and I have similar expectations for this, but I need it. I need to find a way to reach myself and let myself know it is okay.

When I was a kid, I was confident. I was funny. I was naive. I was sensitive. I believed that people were kind and forgiving and that the world was safe…not such terrible things and perhaps a starting point for every child. I wasn't perfect, obviously. I was mean sometimes, I talked too much. I was snarky and loud. To those that know me, this may sound familiar. I'm still that person. Turns out you can't much help being who you are and that is just how it should be. You should be you. As Alan H. Stevens said at KalamazooX, "you don't need anyone's permission to be you". As a kid I inherently seemed to know this, but as I grew older I began desperately needing someone's permission to just be me, so much so that I lost sight of who I was because I so desperately just wanted to be liked. No, to be loved.

It all changed because I was bullied. I was beaten, called names, and ostracised by my peers and others. I was even made to think that my suffering was not worthy of help because others suffered worse than me. I don't know when it started but I have distinct and painful memories that are as strong now as they have ever been. Like when painting at nursery school and being very publicly derided by a supervisor for painting the wrong part. I am sure I messed up and I was probably not being at all graceful about it, but I was three or four, I had things to learn. And then there was the time at primary school when, after a particularly vicious break where even my friend had been participating in the name calling, he approached me and said something like, "I'm sorry, but I have to join in or they'll start on me. You understand, right?" I dutifully agreed, grateful to have a friend at all and feeling my friend's dilemma. And then there was high school, the church choir and my first job at the local pub where I was gay, smelly or the reason my sister wouldn't date someone1; I was bullied in many ways by many people for a long time, so many incidents that I could write more than just a single blog about them. Still, I do not want you to think that I am removing myself from any responsibility here. There are things I could have done to not be such an easy target (oh how I hated that phrase, "don't be such an easy target!"). I was a fat kid with a smart mouth; quick witted, cutting, but too damn slow to run away. I was certainly not street smart enough to realise the correlation and keep my mouth shut. Yet just because I perhaps did some things that enticed bullying, because I liked being the centre of attention, does not mean I am responsible for the actions of others.

I doubt my experience is unique. Many kids are bullied. Like me, they may not look for help for fear of being passed off with advice like "avoid them", "don't be an easy target", and "fight back", or because of threatened retribution by their abusers. Seeking help can be incredibly daunting, but reaching out will help and it will get better (there are links below where you can find numbers to call or email addresses)2. Eventually, we get to leave behind the petty-mindedness and surround ourselves with those who value us for who we are.

For me, that started at university. I had been there for two years and had made some good friends, but I was still lacking confidence or a sense of who I was when I decided to take a year out to get some work experience. There, I met some new people and got a chance to “reset” who I was. By the time I got back to university, I found the confidence to join a band, get on stage and sing. It was amazing and before long I had my first proper girlfriend where I didn't flinch at every moment of physical contact. I wasn't fixed, but I felt more myself than I ever had before.

You are worthy of being loved. You are worthy of being you. You are not responsible for the actions of others.

Repeat that to yourself as often as you can. I still need to repeat it to myself because even though I know it to be true, I still struggle with accepting it. I still feel responsible. I had a smart mouth. I talked back. I used words where others used fists (and still do). I was fat. I challenged. I made myself an “easy target” and I struggle to let that go. I am a victim and yet I blame myself for how I was treated more than I blame those who abused me. It makes no sense, but that's their legacy and the only way I can get past it is to face it and forgive them, and you must find a way to do the same.

For most of my life, I did not understand forgiveness. I was too angry. Too angry at myself and the world to realise what it really meant. “How can I forgive them? Look what they did to me. Look what they've done to me!” I was so wrapped up in being a victim, fighting to get my confidence back and fighting to be loved that I couldn't focus on anything else. It was making me bitter, arrogant and nasty. It was making me hate myself. It was making me a bully. In struggling to deal with my own experiences, I let it infect me to the point where I bullied others because I felt worthless and unloved. How could I forgive anyone that had made me feel this way or do these things? But I had forgiveness all wrong. Just a few years ago I learned forgiveness is not about accepting what happened as being justified or okay, forgiveness is about letting go. As I sat with my wife watching Madea Goes To Jail3, forgiveness finally made sense to me:

Forgiveness is not for the other person. It's for you.

The longer you hold on to it, the longer you hold onto the pain and the past and the hurt, the longer you hold yourself back from being free.

– Madea

Forgiveness is hard. I don't know if I am there yet, but I finally understand where I need to be. I refuse to justify my actions because of something someone did when I was kid, when they were hurting, trying to gain control of their own lives. These painful memories will always be a part of me — they are anecdotes when I want to relate, they are lessons when I want to help, and they are inspiration when I want to write, but it is time to stop letting them be shackles that hold me back.

I cried eight or nine times while writing this. If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have said it was because I was bullied, but I suspect the real reason is that I am empathetic. It is just a part of who I am. I am also a funny bastard. A funny bastard with one imaginary kid, two cats (one with opposable thumbs and a smoker's voice) and an amazing wife who sees me as I always was.

If you are struggling with abuse of any kind, reach out. There are people who know what you're going through, there are people who love you and there are people who can help you.

National Bullying Hotline (UK): http://nationalbullyinghelpline.co.uk/

It Gets Better: http://www.itgetsbetter.org/


  1. The real reason was that she had some level of taste. 

  2. Unfortunately, for some kids, it is too much and they give up, an all too familiar and unnecessary story. 

  3. Seriously. In fact, being in an interracial couple means I have to watch Tyler Perry movies or they revoke our marriage license.