For this post, I’m going to look back on the awesome things that happened this year. My inspiration behind all of it was reading one person’s blog. My hope is that, not to my own credit, you will find inspiration to have a more meaningful and intentional life.
I started a Blog
Here we are, experiencing a shared thought via the power of the internet. I started this blog because I was tired of keeping views to myself or trying to concisely express them on Twitter. Writing has been a cool challenge for me. It’s harder than it looks! It’s also more fun (and time consuming) that I expected.
You can see all of my posts on the Archive page. Here are my favorite posts from this year:
Looking ahead, I definitely intend to keep my blog going. Counting this post, I have written 19 blog posts in 2018. I averaged two posts a month starting in April. I’d like to at least maintain my two-per-month average. I’m also considering posting more frequently with more concise writing. I have a habit of making >1000 word posts that I enjoy writing, but don’t read as well.
One of the reasons I started and want to continue the blog is that it’s a creative outlet. It’s satisfying to express myself and have a finished product of my labor. On a related note, I plan to spend more time making music also. Having creative expression is one of the markers of a good day for me.
Career and Money
I’m a programmer in my day job. This year an opportunity arose to move from a programming position in our implementation department into a software development (automation) position in our product team. I wasn’t looking for a new job/role, but I was ready for a change of pace. The new role has been great: I’m learning a lot and being challenged more. I’m very thankful and satisfied with my new position.
In the personal finance world, my wife and I started scrutinizing our monthly fixed expenses. By making some sacrifices and optimizations we’ve been able to shave off over $300 of our fixed monthly bills. A few examples of how we did this: switched phone plans and got cheaper phones; eliminated one car (see next section); reduced utility bills by keeping A/C and heat less active; reduced grocery spending (see below); started buying food and household consumables in bulk from Costco.
My wife, Kelsee, entered her last year of grad school this fall. She’s always worked part time throughout her program. This semester she had an opportunity to fill an extended leave and has been working full time hours. The unexpected increase in household income has allowed us to aggressively pay down our car loan. Our Christmas present to ourselves was paying off the car completely!
Speaking of cars, we only have one! I sold my car after it needed some expensive repairs and have been completely bike dependent since July. I also purchased a new bike to prepare for the winter as I ride through the cold season. Bike commuting is super fun in the good weather. In the harsh, it’s a challenge that is extremely satisfying to overcome. It’s a small way I can reduce my environmental impact as well.
Did you know that the biggest way to reduce your environmental impact is to eat a vegan diet? I was shocked to find out that the change in diet makes an even larger dent in environmental impact than driving an electric vehicle. This isn’t the main reason why I made this change, however. It’s just a nice segue!
Many of the exciting things I did this year were related to spending less money and being more frugal. Imagine my surprise when I realized we were spending over $800 for food between the two of us per month! When we discovered this was drastically more than we could justify, we started looking at the obvious areas we could cut costs.
That search led us to two areas: eating out and meat consumption. We had a meat-free month and stopped eating out. It forced us to learn how to cook more efficiently and how to make better tasting meals. One thing led to another and we realized that there were countless reasons to go vegan. After five months, we’re down to <$500/month food costs eating a whole foods, plant-based diet with a lot of organically grown produce. We feel great, love cooking even more, and find peace knowing we don’t harm animals to feed ourselves.
And yes, we do still eat out from time to time. There are some great vegan restaurants in town. Many of the restaurants we have always liked also have options for us now.
We started climbing in the summer of 2017. After about six months of gym climbing we set our sights on the real thing. In May of this year we took a trip to Red River Gorge and had a blast climbing in one of the best sport climbing crags in the world. One month later we returned and had a less than satisfying trip due to a health scare and bad weather (a story for another time).
A perfect storm of burn out, the sour trip to RRG, Kelsee’s school schedule ramping up, getting rid of my car, wanting to save money, and the summer heat left us with no psych to climb. We cancelled our memberships to the gym and have a peace about taking a break from rock climbing. It was an amazing adventure and the first hobby Kelsee and I have ever started together in the seven years of our relationship. We know we’ll climb again in the future.
I’ll preface this section by saying neither my wife or I consider ourselves minimalists by name. If you haven’t, watch the documentary with the same name (it’s on Netflix). After watching it, I realized I aligned with many of the concepts they share in the film: I keep a narrow and functional wardrobe; I don’t desire many material things; I care about adding value to my life both through the things I own and the experiences and relationships I have.
The way this has played out in our lives is pretty funny. For at least ten weekends this year (I am not exaggerating) we began every Saturday morning by eating a pancake breakfast followed by hours spent going through our large collection of stuff and sorting it to be sold, given away, or trashed. We’ve downsized our material possessions enough that we are looking at downsizing our apartment because we simply can’t justify paying for the unused space.
Kelsee and I celebrated two years of marriage this year. We also celebrated seven years since our dating relationship began. Above everything else listed thus far, the growth and joy that has come in our marriage has been the richest part of my life. We’ve experienced so much of this wild year together that I have to ask myself what in the world we were doing together all the years prior. I’m so blessed to have a wife that hears my harebrained schemes and encourages and supports (or even joins) me for the ride. She also keeps me grounded to reality, which I highly value.
At the beginning of this year I realized I hadn’t fully read every book of the Bible. I decided I would do a Bible-in-a-year plan. I read it chronologically as the events took place. I’m wrapping it up in the next two days. It’s been especially cool to learn about the pieces of the overarching story from the Old Testament that I hadn’t read or previously understood.
Ultimately I don’t know that I can recommend this plan to anyone. It was a bit slow and hard to stay motivated in. I found myself doing the readings just to check off a box. It was also tough being in the Old Testament for the large majority of the year. The underlying problem was that I let this plan be my primary source of Bible reading in my daily routine. I’m planning to address the issue by making more short term, targeted reading plans for the coming year. Time in the Word is still a greatly important thing, and I’ve seen the fruit from this year’s daily reading. Onward and upward!
I also had the humbling opportunity on two occasions to lead worship at my church for our Sunday morning services. I can see God’s provision in mentoring me with other worship leaders throughout my faith life and giving me the joy of leading worship for two years in my college ministry. Those parts of my past helped prepare me well for leading. It was a wonderful feeling to use the gifts and skills I’ve been blessed with to lead God’s people in worship to Him.
Not All Fun And Games
A common problem with our interconnected, social-media-driven world is only seeing a polished version of other people. Seeing and perceiving others at their very best without spot or blemish. I’m no exception to this trend.
All of these awesome things happened in spite of the pains of my life. There have been some deep struggles this year for my personal life, marriage, family, and friendships. I want to acknowledge both the highs and lows in order to be grateful and transparent. Don’t let the presence of trials and tribulations prevent you from dreaming big and taking action.
I hope that my year of radical and experimental growth will embolden you to embark on a new challenge or finally get around to making a change you’ve been putting off. The 2018 year has been the most meaningful and intentional season of my life so far. I intend to say the same for 2019. Maybe you will, too.
From my mind to yours,