News and Notes from the New Year

So obviously I've been really really slack about keeping up the blog since Christmas, my apologies for the long pause between posts. It's been a busy time, with one of our best mates from Australia visiting and several days of relentless partying over NYE, followed by the inevitable recovery period. Good times, but poor commitment to this blog. Anyway, I'm back. As mentioned above NYE was a ball. In the days before and after NYE I was surprised by how many people mentioned to me that they didn't have any special plans for NYE, and that NYE was always "over-hyped" and they never had a terribly good time anyway. How could this be? As with any party you mostly have the time you choose to have, and NYE is the ultimate excuse to have a really, really, good time - it's the one day when the whole world (seemingly) is letting loose and having fun. It's when people usually give themselves a few days to do something nice, whether that is getting away to a cabin in the woods with close friends or rocking out at a big commercial party or something in between. I have had fantastically fun NYE's every year of my adult life, and this one was no exception.

What did make this NYE a little different was that I attended a house party for the first time in, I think, 8 years. Last year I was at a warehouse party in Montreal, the year before that on a houseboat in a river north of Sydney (with 30 friends spread over five boats, with two sound systems - perhaps the best NYE ever) and then for five years before that I attended outdoor festivals and parties. I really feel being outdoors is the way to celebrate NYE, but that clearly doesn't work in the northern hemisphere winter. So, a house party it was, and a lot of fun was had. The house had a lovely basement dance floor area and I DJed from 3-6am. I'll get the set online later this week if I can work out how.

NYE is also a wonderful time to reflect on the year that was and goals and aspirations for the year ahead. I have a card in my wallet which I created to remind myself of my goals for the second half of 2009. Here's how I did:

  • Exercise more, improve fitness - 7/10 - I bought a bike and started riding to work (although I haven't since injuring my back in September followed by it becoming horribly cold and icy), joined a gym and usually go 2 or 3 times/week.
  • Go to bed earlier, get to work earlier - 1/10 - Abject failure. Something I want to focus on this year.
  • Write more, experiment with video - 8/10 - A decent success I think. I started to blog to help with the writing goal and despite somewhat fluctuating commitment I write much more than I was previously. I also created three little films this year, a completely new medium for me.
  • Be proactive looking for additional opportunities - 4/10 - I got involved in a few things and was part of setting up the monthly #4Change chats on Twitter. This didn't go as far as I'd like though, and is something I'd like to focus on in 2010.

So, overall a passing grade, although with clear areas to work on. All these aspirations remain relevant to me.

My resolution this year is to be better at time. I want to sleep more and get to work earlier. I want to be more punctual in general and get things done on-time.  I've never been very good at time, it's always been a bit mysterious and difficult to manage, but I know that getting better at this will help me achieve everything else I want to do.

Goals for 2010:

  • Learn more. I want to seek out some professional development and skill-building opportunities this year, I feel I let that slip last year. To kick things off I've signed up for a speed reading class.
  • Explore more. Last year Kate and I visited several cities on the East Coast, as well as the week we spend in Nevada for Burning Man, but beyond that we didn't really explore the United States at all. This year I want to see much more of America, visit cities like New Orleans and Miami, and also get to nearby destinations like the Carribean and Europe. We won't be here forever and we should use it as a base of operations to explore this part of the world, keeping a travellers mindset even as we focus on our day-to-day jobs.
  • Create more. Stay aspirational at Ashoka; look for other professional opportunities (I'd love to do more speaking, facilitation and consulting); be creative and have fun (do more video, continue to write, collaborate with others). Build an amazing camp at Burning Man, and bring some of my favourite people from Australia over to share it. Support K in her creative pursuits.

I'm excited about 2010, and not just for the futuristic quality of the date (but seriously, 2010! Who would have thought we'd come this far?). Our visa's expire in August and we have some big decisions to make - do we stay in America? (Probably yes). If so do we stay in DC? (Probably no). If not where do we go next? (San Francisco?). And what do we do there? A year for pushing ourselves personally and professionally, looking for new opportunities to learn and grow and contribute. For new friends and the deepening of existing friendships. For adventures large and small, little steps on a big planet.

The journey itself is the thing, and we will see where it leads us, and be grateful for all that we experience along the way.

Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream.

-Paula Coehlo

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.


Ghosts and goblins and dress-ups

My first-ever pumpkin! This weekend I experienced my second Halloween, or my third if you count accompanying my host-sisters as they went trick-or-treating when I was on exchange in Spokane, Washington, when I was 16. And,  indeed, until moving here last year that was what I thought Halloween was: kids systematically hitting strangers up for candy, in violation of the rule we're all taught when we're young.

But it turns out it's much, much more than that. In fact, it's possibly the biggest party night of the year, up there with New Years Eve. And it's certainly not just kids - big kids of all ages get dressed up and boogie down. You see superheros and fairies and Spartans and ninja's and computers walking down the street, or rocking out on the dance floor at every bar in town. An entire country attending one big costume party.

Now admitedly my perspective might be skewered here by the fact that the two Halloweens I've been here have fallen on Friday and Saturday. If I'm here in a year or two I'll be able to see how much of the manic energy carried into Sunday and Monday nights, or transfers to the nearest weekend night. But there's something adorable and exciting about so many adults dressing up; it creates a sense of fun and play which is very immersive.

The Burning Man community figured this out a long time ago of course, so I find myself dressing thematically on an unusually-common basis currently. The weekend was a kaleidoscopic blur of people, colour, music and movement, filled with smiling faces and, of course, a spectacular variety of outfits. It was, as they say, a good time, with an energy in the air way beyond an average weekend, a sense of performative abandon which is perhaps only possible when you are wearing a costume.

You can see photos from TechArts: A Spooky Union, the party we attended on Saturday night, here.