Looking back through the annual updates I’ve been written on my birthday since 2007 (that one is in Swedish, the first one in English is from 2008), it’s apparent that I take these annual updates fairly seriously. In my everyday life, I’m usually content focusing on the present and whatever I’m doing at the moment. Sometimes I plan what I will do in the near future or (very rarely) make long-term plans. But I almost never look back.
Except for these annual summaries of my life, that is. I think it’s important to take a step back occasionally, to review where I am now, summarise what I have been doing and also detail some expectations for the coming year. It also serves as a summary for people who don’t read all my articles. I’m sure that if you only read these birthday updates, you’ll get a pretty good grasp of what I’ve been up to during the past five years.
This time I will focus on the previous year, so let’s see what has happened since the day I turned 27. As usual, I will separate this post into several parts.
Last time I wrote, there was a huge difference from the previous year; not so this time. I feel that even though important things have happened, there hasn’t been any major changes or developments that I consider important enough to write about here. That isn’t the same as saying that nothing has happened, but rather that the changes aren’t big. I keep on tweaking myself and my life; so far it seems to be going quite well. Since this would be a fairly bad report otherwise, I will include some things that I consider important.
Starting in early January, I have used a new system to keep track of productivity. This could be related to both studying and creativity, too, but since I consider it to be part of the solution to the personal problem of self-discipline, I’ve chosen to talk about it here. It’s nothing terribly fancy, just a well-designed system to keep track of what I want to do and how much, and then use a physical (as in analogue, non-digital) system to count progress. It’s been working well for more than a month now, which is more than I can say about most previous attempts at designing such a system. As you might imagine, I will write more about this shortly. The important thing is that I feel that I’m actually doing what I want to do at the moment, both in a long-term and short-term perspective.
A related topic is food and nutrition. Two weeks ago (February 14th) I decided to quit cookies (and I included anything else that might serve the exact same purpose as cookies, such as candy or snacks). This is not an attempt to lose weight (I don’t need to do that), neither is it the manifestation of a wish to live more healthily (even though that’s of course a bonus). Instead, it’s the same old disciplinary problem I’ve always found so interesting. I don’t like that I seem to be the kind of person who’s mind is easily bent by something as insignificant as cookies. I’m also tired of negotiating with myself whether or not to buy cookies and if so, how much. Better then to skip them altogether, so cookies no more. Perhaps I will loosen the restriction later when I’ve learnt moderation.
Apart from this, I have also written a few personal articles. Previous years, I’ve had to select the most important articles, but this year, there are only important articles (I’ve significantly raised the threshold for writing articles):
I’m happy to report that most of what I talked about last spring have turned out well. I now only need to finish my thesis to graduate. Since I have already done most of the empirical work for the thesis, what remains now is simply a matter of putting everything together in a neatly written report. The reason I say “simply” is that this shouldn’t take too long and the only reason it hasn’t been done already is that I’ve had other things to think about recently. Two of the more important ones will make up most of the rest of this part of the post: Hacking Chinese and my plans to go back to Taiwan for a master’s degree in teaching Chinese.
Hacking Chinese was launched last summer and has been received much more favourably than I hoped. I don’t want to talk about exact numbers, but let it suffice to say that I passed the 5000 unique visitors/month last year, roughly six months after launching the website and that numbers are still climbing rapidly. It feels good to know that I’m not the only one who thinks I have good ideas about studying. I have spent quite a lot of time on the project and intend to spend even more in the near future. This time will be spent on maintaining the website (articles, social media, reading) as well as expanding and writing an e-book. Please see this post for some more ideas about the future of Hacking Chinese.
The second thing that has kept me busy recently is my plan to go back to Taiwan for a master’s degree. This involves applying for universities in Taiwan, as well as a scholarship from the Taiwanese Ministry of Education (yes, the same institution that granted me financial support to go to Taiwan the first time). Providing my applications are successful, I will leave Sweden for Taiwan in August or September this year. I want a master’s degree in what’s called 華語文教學 (commonly translated as Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language). This is a program mostly for native speakers, so it will probably require a lot of effort, but I think something like this is essential both for my own sake and if I want to teach Chinese properly.
I have made fairly detailed plans for how to prepare myself as much as I can, see this post for more details. I have been studying according to this plan for a month now and a report will be published within a few days. Stay tuned!
When it comes to creativity, there is one event that eclipses everything else: the publication of Magneter och mirakel last spring. This is the final product of many, many years of work, and even though most of the creative part of the work was done much earlier, this is still an important milestone. If you want to support me by voting for the game as best game of the year, see this post for more information both about the voting and the game itself.
Apart from this, I’m very close to finishing a draft of a novel I’ve been working on for quite some time. The problem is that creative writing is not part of my daily routine, so I tend to get huge amounts of writing done in very limited amounts of time, and then stop completely for months. Last time I had such a burst of creative output was last summer, so nothing has been happening recently. It would take perhaps 10 hours to finish the draft and then perhaps 20 hours to go through it, but even so, I’m still much closer to something finished than I’ve ever been before. My goal is to at least finish the draft before the end of the summer, although a final version will probably have to wait much longer than that.
I have realised that new projects isn’t really what I need, though. Sure, we are working on a new version of Nostalgia but even if it’s awesome, it doesn’t really count as a new project. This game will also be finished, at least as far as content goes, before I leave Sweden. I have lots of ideas and plans, but I doubt that I will start anything serious in the coming year. I want to finish what I’ve started and anything else related to creativity will have to be completely guilt-free and easy, such as casual role-playing with friends. The project closest to hand is a novel about my stay in Taiwan, but I’m not sure how to deal with that. I will certainly not be able to write it before I leave, so perhaps I’d better leave it for now. On the other hand, that almost certainly means that I will never write the book. Tricky.
This is the general category where I put anything else that have happened, but which doesn’t count as either personal life, education or creativity. I’ll do this chronologically, so first out is The Wall concert in Stockholm 2011. I’ve always loved Pink Floyd and seeing The Wall live is without doubt my best live performance memory ever.
I’ve also spent some time writing about gymnastics and strength training. This isn’t new, but I feel that I gradually find better and better ways to improve and that my routines are fairly solid. Even though I don’t follow what I’ve written in these posts, the following is still a summary of what I’ve written recently. I’ve sorted them in order of importance.
Onwards, towards a brighter future
I remain as optimistic as ever. I feel that I’m doing what I want to do and that my life is developing in the direction I want it to. I feel confident that I will be able to write something similar next year and I hope that my next birthday will be spent in Taiwan. I feel motivated to keep on learning Chinese, but I hope that I will still have time to be creative and generally awesome in other areas as well.
So, happy birthday to me!