Happy new year 2018 — reflections and resolutions

View over Balquhidder

Happy new year to you all.

Looking back on 2017, there have been some major milestones. On reflection, 2017 is a year that showed that I have a lot to be grateful for.

Early in the year, Alex and I both had big career news. In February, Alex officially became an architect, after 9 years of hard study and work.

At around the same time, I got a new job at the University of Edinburgh working with the Website and Communications team. I was delighted to be given the opportunity. Everything that has happened there so far has been a demonstration of how important it was for me to find a role where I could learn and grow once again.

In March we traveled to New York and Iceland. Those locations are not cheap at the best of times. With us both in celebratory mood, our bank balance took a big hit. But it was the best holiday of my lifetime.

It was also my first time outside Europe. In fact, in the space of a few months I traveled further in all four directions of the compass than I ever have done before.

Bread in Krakow

I haven’t written about it here (yet), but I went on a superb stag party in Krakow. It was my first time in Poland, a country on my bucket list, even if a stag do isn’t necessarily the most effective way to take in the sights.

We also went on a trip to Lundy, the remote island in the Bristol channel. I haven’t had the chance to write about it yet, but I definitely will do because it was a superb holiday. Keep your eyes peeled here in the coming weeks for the stories and photos from there.

In the autumn we also took a long overdue long weekend trip to London.

Alex and me waiting for Radiohead to start

I saw my favourite band, Radiohead.

Me with my Pedal for Scotland medal

The summer was occupied by my training for Pedal for Scotland. I found myself getting fit the fun way, on two wheels, and exploring some amazing cycle routes around Edinburgh. Best of all, I completed the 45 mile Pedal for Scotland route feeling great.

Me and Alex showing off her ring

Towards the end of the year, a brilliant 2017 was rounded off by getting engaged to Alex.

Aims for 2018

I generally don’t do new year’s resolutions. That’s just setting yourself up to fail. If you are really serious about doing something, you should be motivated do it whether it’s the new year or not.

However, I definitely have some aspirations for how I would like 2018 to be an improvement over the past. This Christmas period has in face helped make these clear to me. So I am setting myself three broad goals.

Regain focus

Even though 2017 has been a good year, it has also been a very busy and overwhelming year in many ways. I know am not getting the best out of myself right now.

I’m struggling to keep on top of everything, my thinking isn’t as clear as it should be, and I am apparently becoming forgetful. Perhaps this is simply a function of getting older, but I think there is something I can do to improve the situation.

In 2018 I will be more diligent about carving out more time for myself. I want to find ways to clear my head, to rest effectively, and think more clearly — with the aim of getting stuff done better.

I’m not yet sure how I will go about this. But that is the broad aim, and I will explore my first few ideas in the coming weeks.

Keep keeping fit

The past few years I have been running and cycling on and off. Keeping fit in this way is something I would never have considered five years ago. But as my age has crept upwards, I have begun to feel the need to keep an eye on my fitness.

I have succeeded in running and cycling, and have felt fitter and healthier as a result. However, I have stopped doing it regularly.

Alex has noted that with these sorts of things I have a tendency to reach my goal, and then I completely stop. So predictably, after Pedal for Scotland was complete, I lost motivation to continue cycling.

But when I have been regularly running or cycling, I have always felt so much better. So there is no real reason for me to stop. I will build running and/or cycling back into my routine.

Ditch social media, and focus on building my personal website

I have written a few times over the past few months about how damaging I think social media is becoming. At the beginning of October, I wrote about why it’s time to reclaim our digital lives.

My social media usage is declining naturally. Surprisingly, I am still finding some value in using Twitter. But at the moment I am getting less and less out of spending time using Facebook and Instagram.

I have begun to make a more active effort to stop using Facebook products. This includes Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. I won’t completely stop using them yet, but I intend to stop allowing Facebook to control my life.

At some point, this will probably mean uninstalling apps and limiting the amount of time I spend using Facebook products.

If you would like to contact me, the best way would be to email me.

My email address is contact@duncanstephen.net.

Over the past three months, I have been experimenting with blogging more often, in different ways. Success has been mixed. So I will continue to tinker and experiment. I will do so in the spirit of the original intentions of the web, to democratise publishing and facilitate self-expression.

It is heartening to see that others are coming to the same realisation. I have noticed some other people demonstrating a renewed interest in blogging and maintaining their own personal web presence.

A few people have been participating in #newwwyear over Christmas. The idea, promoted by Jen Simmons, has been to work on improving your personal web presence in preparation for 2018. I haven’t had the chance to do that at all this holiday, but I fully intend to actively develop my website and blog in the coming weeks, months and beyond.

Ideally, I would like to participate in a blogging community, like the one there was more than 10 years ago. It is maybe wishful thinking. But I want a return to the vibrancy of blogging.

Blogging is a way for people to explore new ideas and connect with each other on their own terms. In contrast, social media is where you go to see a truckload of clickbait and noise.

I have begun actively looking for more blogs to follow. I have started by looking through the profiles of each of the Twitter accounts I follow, finding the personal websites of those people, and subscribing to the RSS feeds. If I’m following these people on Twitter, I ought to subscribe to their blogs as well.

From time to time I look through the archives of my old blogs, and I see the vibrant comments sections underneath. I find it such a great shame that we have collectively allowed ourselves to lose this valuable form of connecting with each other, in favour of the truly damaging Facebook.

So in 2018 I will try to engage more meaningfully with other bloggers, in the hope of contributing to a resurgence of independent publishing.

Do you know of any good blogs for me to follow? Please let me know in the comments.

I hope 2017 has been as good for you as it has been for me, and that you have had a good time over the festive period. What are your plans for 2018?

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