I suppose it’s just that time of the year, isn’t it.

I don’t know that 2018 was a particularly bad year for me. I don’t know that I’ll look back super fondly on it, either. About this time last year, I got my JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) N5 exam results. N5 is the most basic level, and I barely passed. I had been self-studying for about 2 years at that point. The results didn’t exactly surprise me, and it was probably good for me to ground myself and actually measure my ability in some meaningful and objective manner. After getting my results, I decided to take a break from Trying Japanese and focus on Trying Sysadmin, since that was my role at the time and I felt like I was really getting into a good state with it.

A short few months later, and some of the team I worked with on a regular basis had left, including a colleague and former sysadmin and his manager. Both of their absences were felt, and it left me questioning my own career choices. Certainly I enjoyed being the sysadmin for a large, profit-positive legacy product, but having been a people manager in the past, I sincerely wanted to give it another go. I had this opportunity in front of me and was angling for it, when providence dropped something else directly into my world. I was offered the chance to Try Director at a small telecommunications firm. I would have 2 direct reports and was promised the chance to really help shape the future of the organization. I was forced to make exactly no wrong choice, between a company and team I understood and cherished, and a significant title and chance to grow and shape a small organization.

I chose to Try Director, and I lasted approximately four months before making a strategic retreat (giving up) and was welcomed back into my previous organization in the role I had agonizingly turned down. It has been approximately two and one-half months, and though the ground under my feet is once again feeling stable, I have yet to determine if this vector is any more or less correct. I believe it’s the right choice, or it was at the time, and I don’t know that, for now, there’s much to consider beyond just that.

And so, I am thinking about Trying. I’m a poor goal-setter. I operate much on gut feeling and I tend to live in the moment. Ambiguity and uncertainty can leave me with a sense of unease. What is a manager but someone who must operate in ambiguity? And, not solely a manager of others, but of one’s self as well? The things below, they aren’t goals. They are things I look forward to Trying in 2019.

I’m trying to visit Japan.  It’s been, what, three years or so since I started really digging in to Japanese culture, learning the language, making friends, cooking the cuisine, and of course, falling in love with the music. My super-mega-hyper goal would be to take the JLPT N3 while in Japan, but that is…a lofty goal. More simply, I would die happy to see SHISHAMO live while visiting, but even more attainable would be to just get over myself and go. 2019 seems like either the best or worst time for a first visit, with the 2020 Olympic games happening in Tokyo. At any rate, I’m renewing my passport in January.

I’m trying to be a better manager.  And, this I do mean as a manager of others. I am not brave. I am not always confident. I have trouble interrupting and even making sure I am actively listening is a real struggle sometimes. But I cherish being in a support role. I do not want to be the star of the show, I want to make sure the world can see the stars shining. I do not want the credit, I want to make sure the ones involved are properly credited.

Juston got me an absolutely spectacular gift this year.

This morning, as Juston and I sat talking, I said it’d be so nice to just have technology as a hobby instead of a job. I don’t think, especially as a manager of engineers, I will ever be able to truly become exclusively a manager, but this role I am in now is as close as I could expect to come. Truthfully, I haven’t SSH’d to a production box in some time, and even if I did, I wouldn’t have anything to do. I have to understand what the team is doing to some extent, but I am more likely to bring juice boxes and PB&J’s than any particularly useful technical skills. Much like learning kanji, if you don’t stay on top of things, you will certainly fall behind.

I’m trying to read.  In junior high, I would spend much of my free time in the library. As with many kids, by the time I hit high school, we had so much reading assigned that it just wasn’t as fun. That bleeds into college and then into adulthood, where I found myself reading technical documents, man pages, RFCs, ATIS docs, and FCC legislation. There was reading, but not much of it was for fun or direct benefit of myself outside of the professional realm. I’ve dug in to a handful of managerial books, but I’m really trying to just read more in general. I think it’s more than possible to finish a novel per week, and I already have a stack of tsundoku to dig into, both paper and digital. There’s no shortage of stuff you were once certainly interested in, lying just within arm’s reach.

I’m trying to be conscious of my health. At a recent doctor’s visit, I was warned of prehypertension. Most likely a combination of the usual suspects - poor diet and lack of real exercise. In our basement sits a rarely-used elliptical trainer and stationary bike. Though I prefer actual biking, especially in much colder weather (a post for another time), the stationary is great for training and enjoying YouTube or Crunchyroll while working out. Then, the diet. I mean. I like cooking. Sometimes I even like picking out ingredients. I also work downtown, and within a short walk of some amazingly (un)healthy options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks. There is a balance to be made here, but as I see my parents, friends, and family aging, I can start to feel the effects for myself. I remember waking up and nothing hurt. It’s not as though I wake up with aches and pains, but it definitely takes more work to get out of bed. My knees really aren’t what they used to be. Hell, I should be starting every morning with a small dose of yoga and a healthy breakfast…I can try and maintain this for a bit but it’s a difficult habit to build and an even more difficult lifestyle to shift to. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says it well, “If we don’t have time to be sick, we have to make time to be healthy.”

I maintain a checkbox-style list in Google Keep, titled  Things I might like to do regularly.  Checkbox-style lists are, of course, the best way to get things done. Though, these aren’t really things to get done. I suppose I’m always Trying to do these things, too:

  • Work out in the morning
  • Yoga
  • Cook ahead of time
  • Ride my bike
  • 日本語の勉強 (study Japanese)
  • Work out w/ bae
  • Domestic tidiness (keeping the house clean)
  • Shop
  • Write

None of these are particularly lofty goals. But, they take time, and they take willpower. I suppose I have one more thing…

I am trying to harness my willpower.  It’s a finite resource, we’ve all seen the YouTube videos and used it as an excuse to slack off. I think I’d like to try the opposite, and harness my willpower and excuse myself into improvement. It is easy to blow things off (like yoga, or cooking, or whatever) and dive into work, or a story, or video games, or whatever else instead. So maybe I can excuse myself from other, less-wholesome or less-fulfilling activities. Isn’t that always the stretch goal?

So, that’s kind of a good start. That’s what I’d like to Try in 2019. There’s certainly smaller things, like moving this blog away from the tumblr platform, or biking to work a few times a week, but those aren’t the lofty, overarching kinds of vectors I wanted to dig into.

I hope your 2018 was lovely, and I hope for a 2019 we all appreciate.

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April Elizabeth

Sometimes writer, always hungry.

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