I don’t know many people that would look at 2020 and say, “Yep, that went as planned.”
“20/20 vision” might have gotten itself banned from our lexicons by association at this point.
I’ve had my ups and downs this year. People sick and people whole. Projects achieved and projects discarded and scattered.
The lingering uncertainty has clouded my usual year-end self inventory. Who I became is not who I anticipated, and what I want from the coming year is not the usual set of goals.
If anything, I’m finding more purpose and value out of the questions behind the questions. The goals behind the goals.
Maybe as I write for my audience of self, you can benefit from stepping backwards from the goals to the intents and hopes behind them.
In no particular order:
Read ## books
I read a lot. Working in a technical field inside another technical field, I have to.
What I don’t always have to do is read books. And year over year I usually wish I had read more books.
Not more API documentation pages. Not more support guides. Not more FAQs. Not more tweets or posts.
So why books? Books represent a different interaction with knowledge.
Books are long-form. Formal. Fixed. Deliberate. No built-in engagement metric or algorithm. Just a patient journey of knowledge with writers who have spent time going before on the same road.
I want to read more books because I want to step back from the rapid-fire vitriol and wandering unintentionally of web surfing and have a more conscious habit of learning and knowing.
So I can’t put a number on it. Never have been able to. But I can affirm the goal of sitting with a topic and giving it focus.
And I can point to the books I want to read as guideposts to understanding what I want to know. They aren’t individual goals and milestones so much as trusted vehicles to a deeper understanding.
On the short list:
Recapturing the Wonder by Mike Cosper. I want to understand wonder in my own soul – the spiritual habits – as well as why the dominant strands of American Christianity seem less spiritually formed and informed than ever before.
Jesus and John Wayne by Kristen Kobes Du Mez. 81%. That’s the magic number. How did 81% of evangelicals vote for Trump, and what are the markers of unhealthy hyper-masculinity, white nationalism, and Christian nationalism that I’ve been ignoring as a dominant-culture consumer of faith?
Teach Us to Pray by Justo Gonzalez. How do we reclaim an ancient faith in a post-(post-)modern world? More than a historical survey, I want to find pieces of proto- and paleo-orthodoxy to cling to in the process of surgically removing baggage from my faith, or surgically removing myself from traditions that are revealing themselves to be more about power than faith.
The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby. More historical survey in evangelical Christianity. The racial motivators and slavery-protecting stories in my faith heritage are too often white-washed and downplayed, and I want to understand them too as I see the divides in American Christianity play out.
Learn that language
I’m under no deadline to learn a new language. I haven’t travelled internationally in almost a decade. But I want to keep learning new languages. Plural too, not just a language, which is a complicating factor.
But what do I see when I step back? I want to participate in other cultures and ways of thinking. Step out of the English-centered world.
So maybe the better and less measurable goal is to be regularly thinking in a different language beyond my native tongue.
Then I’m not prioritizing Latin or Greek or Hebrew or Spanish or Mandarin or Hindi above each other, but I’m seeking to participate regularly in worlds outside my own.
The doors open then beyond rote language learning to more nuanced expressions. Bilingual media. Original language study with commentary. Accumulating new idioms.
Down with the specificity of learn that language, I’d much rather advance my reach into the global past and future.
Write more things
Blog posts. Songs. Tweets. How-to guides. Code. Whatever.
It’s a subset of a bigger desire to make more things. But why? Why more?
It’s perhaps the other side of the read books coin. More meaningful participation in knowledge by contributing instead of just consuming. Less passive and aimless interactivity with the world and more contribution to it.
It’s definitely a belief in possibility. If I have a thousand ideas, certainly a few are good enough to send beyond myself. Give beyond myself. Give back to the mechanisms that gave me, me.
There could be a financial motivation. How can I sell competency and commodity if I’m not shipping, not publishing, not participating? How am I ever anything beyond the work I do today?
But mostly, and lastingly, I want to make things that matter. And that means making things, and making effort to make the things I make the matter-full things.