Here we are,
1/4th of our way through
the year: 2023.
Last week was
International Worker’s Day,
or beginning of Q2
if you’re more into
business business business
(like I am).
all get rich through exploitation,
and then shoot ourselves into space,
to achieve our post-human potential
through exponential utilitarian value-unit simulations on Mars –
like self-proclaimed gods selfless and reasonable altruists!)
It was May Day when I started writing this. The second time. The first draft was way back on New Years Day. Who knows when I’ll hit publish. Could be any day now, all possible deadlines are behind us. I’m several months late for a 2022 ‘year in review’, or a ‘new years resolution’ for 2023. I’m even late for the intro I wrote a few days ago.
That’s ok. This is my website, not my side hustle. Anyway: 2022 kinda sucked, and I don’t usually align my resolve with the arbitrary Gregorian boundary condition (to borrow a phrase). Every day is the right day to make changes.
2022 kinda sucked
I spent most of the year working too much, and struggling with depression. I’ve been kinda depressed for the last few years. I know I’m not alone in that. It’s the hip thing to, while surviving a pandemic.
There was one major highlight for me in 2022: writing and performing a new show, Pity+Fear. I’ve spent most of my theater career behind the scenes – writing, designing, producing, and directing. I always wanted to enjoy acting, but the reality let me down. I was too self-conscious to let a story carry me on stage.
This time was different. I had fun. I loved it. Transition means I only have to play one role, instead of two. I’m more comfortable in my own skin, and able to take on another. I imagine my web-related speaking has also given me confidence on stage.
But that high point was also a low point. The collaboration went poorly, and lead to a falling-out with a close friend & collaborator. My first show in several years, and it felt like a personal failure. By the fall I was having regular panic attacks. Then Twitter imploded, and I started front-end.social, and the panic attacks got worse.
I don’t like it when people rely on me. Oops. (We’re getting through it, things have been pretty chill so far)
Let us be (un)resolved
A mentor once encouraged me to set priorities rather than goals – not individual targets that will succeed or fail, but a reason to keep pushing through from one project to the next, and a criteria for choosing which projects should get my attention.
I’ve never written them down before, but my priorities have always been fairly clear to me – and they haven’t really changed over the years:
- I enjoy imagining and then building things
- I enjoy collaborating with people I admire
- I enjoy exploring new media, learning new skills that expand my creative toolkit
- I want to feel ownership over how I spend my time, and the projects that I work on (I don’t do well with external motivation)
- I want to keep making art at a professional level (even if that’s not my main source of income)
Building websites and writing specs aren’t really on the list, but they fit in there pretty well. I never set out to have a career in tech, but found myself exploring a new medium, learning new skills, collaborating with people that I admire, building things we imagine online. And we were able to turn that into an Odd little agency where we have autonomy and ownership over our work – and control over our own (part-time) schedules.
We started when this was a much smaller field, and every company needed a new website. We put in a lot of work, but we also got lucky – riding several waves of growing demand for our specific skills.
And all throughout, I was able to maintain a split-focus double-career in the arts. It’s not a side-hustle, or a hobby – but another aspect of my work as a self-employed cross-media artist. Blah blah blah, whatever. They’re both hobbies. Neither one is a hobby. Who cares.
very clear that I have ADHD,
and this is one way that I manage it.
So I’ve been careful
to maintain that balance,
and insist on following my priorities
over any more reasonable ‘career goals’
or ‘health benefits’ or ‘stability’.
And then there was a global pandemic. (you may have noticed)
Everything else in my life shut down – socializing, theater, music, poetry readings – but the web just kept on going. By the end of 2022 I realized I was working a single full-time job for the first time in my life – and I was unhappy.
Trying to make art again felt impossible. There wasn’t enough time or energy in my day. There weren’t enough days in a year. Do I even remember how to be creative? How do you make art in a world where you just want to scream about longtermist eugenic billionaires worshipping their fancy auto-complete while your friends suffer from long-COVID and massive layoffs?
Would I ever make art again? Does it even matter? Time felt scarce, and slipping away. Turning 40 – a cliche – it felt like there wouldn’t be enough years in a life.
But the problem isn’t a lack of time. That scarcity, like other capitalist scarcity, is artificial. To quote a play I saw years ago – life isn’t ‘too short’, it’s the longest thing you’re ever going to do. The problem is how I feel trapped in the time I have right now.
There is no joy in seeing time as a limited resource for me to extract more value. I don’t want to spend my life mining time for the sake of productivity goals. I want to cultivate a spacious openness for curiosity and discovery. I want to wallow in the possibilities of all this time that I have.
It’s maddening that this feels like a luxurious demand – something I’m lucky to have, and should feel grateful for.
Q1 OKR KPI ROI (a report, with data)
I started the new year with some updated priorities:
- I want to have so much time that I’m not scared to ‘waste’ it
- I want the process of making theater/music/art back at the center of my routine
- I want to get outside and be more active
I didn’t think of these as resolutions exactly. But I did buy an unnecessary habit-tracking wall-calendar from Simone Giertz because I like how it looks.
Then I went into my work calendar and blocked off every weekday afternoon. It’s not a strict cut-off. If I need to get on a zoom call some evenings, that’s fine. If I want to work on a model of Boba Fett’s starfighter after breakfast, so be it.
I’m not going to time-block the details either. Spaciousness is the goal, an invitation for other creative projects to grow.
The goal isn’t to impose hard rules on myself, but to reset my default expectations. After several months now, both mornings and afternoons (and evenings!) feel somehow reclaimed. A mental reset, reminding me that the time is there, and I will use it how I want.
A walk after lunch, a new pottery class on Tuesdays, writing group Wednesday, band sessions on Thursday, and plenty of time for theater, knitting, reading, and model-making. Maybe I’ll take up clock/watch repair? I need to buy a loupe, and some very small screw drivers. I’ve started designing a clock, but haven’t found great resources to guide the process. Hit me up if you have leads.
Meanwhile, the theater company (Grapefruit Lab) just closed a new original piece – Strange Bird, Queer Bird – which was an excellent success both in terms of collaboration and audience. We’re applying for 501c3 status, and raising funds to make it more financially viable. Now we’ve scheduled three more shows over the next year.
The band (Teacup Gorilla) wrote and performed original music for that show, and we’re back to weekly sessions – working towards another theater score in November, planning two separate albums, and talking about a 2024 tour.
I took an acting gig at Curious Theatre in January as part of their Curious New Voices, and I’m keeping my eye out for more of those opportunities. I also have some leads on light design gigs around town. (Before web design, that was my most lucrative skill and expected ‘day job’)
That all has me out of the house and moving more. But still, for the sake of my new habit-tracker, I added the phrase ‘every day’ to the final priority – to get outside, and be more active every day. It took some experimentation to get that new habit worked into my schedule: morning walks didn’t work out – who wants to wake up that early? – but a walk after lunch doubles as a transition in my day. Sometimes I only make it around the block, and other days I’ll go 2-3 miles. I’ve started listening to podcasts, which is new for me.
2023 is going well so far, according to the data. The days on my calendar are all lit up. And empty future dates are handy for writing Erin little pixelated love notes, or marking a big deadline on the horizon.
I expected to spend more time posting on this site, but my attention has been drawn mostly offline instead. How am I going to set up space in my small apartment for ceramics and also clock repair? I expect those day-to-day projects will continue to shift, and shift again, and I’ll write more when it feels right. Today, at least, this seemed like a fun project.
Not everything I’ve tried has gone well, or felt like the right choice. I still have my share of bad days, depressed or working too much. Setting unreasonable standards, and falling short in my mind. Trying something, and failing. Writing and re-writing a single post for months.
Shorter hours will mean a tighter budget, but I’ve lived on less, and I know I can make it work. I hope. Life is unpredictable, so I’m making adjustments as I go.
I guess I’m here to report a successful first quarter of 2023, and a positive outlook for the remaining months. Hopefully the investors are satisfied with my personal growth. This is the direction I want to be moving. Let it be written down for all to witness.
(Ok, it’s time for a walk, and then… who knows.)