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Life

2019 – highlights and lowlights

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions but I do like to look back across a year, if only from the learnings that such a thought exercise brings. If you want to be a better person, review your past and use that to better yourself in the future.

However, I think Helen boils it down ever more succinctly…

Physical health

Back in May I started going to WW. Since then I’ve lost nearly 3.5 stones, representing 18% of my body weight. I’m not far off my target weight (albeit that was just a number that didn’t actually represent anything other than, at the time, a far-off dream).

To hit my BMI I’d have to lose another 3 stone, which is madness. I suspect my bones and organs would weigh more than that. Also, at my age, I’d look like my skin has been casually, but untidily, draped over my body. Needless to say, that’s not my end goal – I’ll probably continue until around Easter time (probably best to wait until after Easter, so the chocolate temptation is out of the way) and then reign it back, trying to find a nice balance where my weight remains steady.

With regard to any other physical health issues, it’s been pretty good – I think the loss in weight has helped, but also the change in diet (I’d previously found that reducing bread had helped and I’m on just the right diet for this). I went to the company meetup, ate rich food at odd times and never felt unwell – this is a first for me since working at Automattic.

Mental health

It’s been an average year for my mental wellbeing. It’s been the usual ups and downs but I have a great support network at Automattic.

I’ve continued to learn – all those “oddities” that I assumed were “probably just me”, I’ve gone out of my way to explore, research and blog about…

Ok, that second one is related to physical health but I believe learning more about how how you “tick” is essential to better mental wellbeing – I can better control whatever it is (and, let’s be honest, worry less about it too) the more I know.

Reading

In 2018 I read 21 books, so I set myself a target of 25 in 2019. I read 29 in the end.

Sadly no one book stood out during the year as a favourite – I read a combination of short graphic novels and long, serious non-fiction books. What I’ve learnt is that, particularly as I mainly read at bedtime, is that the latter can be a real struggle to get through unless I’m really, really engaged with it. So, for 2020 I’m going to try and find shorter, easier to read, more engaging books. And maybe at least one that really stands out.

Singing

Walking out of Hair I learnt a lot and, as I mentioned at the time, I decided to concentrate on singing. I’ve had lots of lessons and, I believe, am coming on nicely.

Sadly, great opportunities have turned up and then fallen through. I desperately wanted to be Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar, but wasn’t happy with the way they wanted the character to be played. Then, I found a local group were doing Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, something I’d donate a limb to perform in. Only to find that it’s on stage during the one week of 2020 that I definitely can’t do (it’s during the annual company meetup).

I’m sure other opportunities will come up. In the meantime, shows are taking a backseat whilst I work specifically on my singing. After learning some Italian arias and other more “classical” pieces, I’m pushing towards songs that are more contemporary and are ones that I personally enjoy singing.

Confidence is my big issue, still, though and I was still unable to do karaoke at the company meetup in 2019.

Travel

I travelled 5 times for work last year, which is actually quite low, and those early trips feel like an age now.

WordCamps & speaking

Since speaking, for the first time, at WordCamp Edinburgh in 2018, I’m a lot more interested in going to WordCamps to do this. I submitted a few applications last year but didn’t get accept to any – the closest was as a backup speaker for WordCamp London.

As a white male, I understand that getting to speak at a WordCamp is going to be quite hard – they are trying to remain inclusive, which means that when 95% of applications are white males, you’ve got a much, much better chance of getting to speak if you’re not. So, I spent a lot of time in 2019 adding to my collection of possible talks (I now have 8 and many of them can be full-length or lightning talks) and used the collective experience of my colleagues (some of who have run WordCamps and have had to help chose speakers) to hone the applications.

Apart from WordCamp US, I’m limited to applying within Europe but I’ve already submitted to 5 WordCamps in the first few months of 2020 and have my eyes on, at least, a dozen more during the year. My hope is to maybe get a couple of opportunities to speak from them.

Otherwise, I’ll definitely be at WordCamp Europe and London (if I’m not a speaker I’ll put myself forward as a volunteer). I didn’t get a chance to go to WCUS last year so I’m hoping I can in 2020.

I’m also planning to volunteer at WC London to be an MC – I’ve not done this before but I hope my stage experience will mean I’ll be quite good at it.

WordPress Development

It’s been a year of ups-and-downs with regard to development.

I finally pulled my finger out and learnt how to use SVN properly, which was good. I’ve also been contributing to core – however, it’s been via translations and core code suggestions. What I’ve not done is actually made any code changes myself, which is something I want to do in 2020.

Finally, my plugins… yeah. Not had a chance to do much, other than get some rather nifty, matching icons made up.

There’s a lot more to be done here. What I want do this year is to maybe make a change a day (not necessarily a deployment to go with it, but if I can make, say, one fix a day to a plugin, I can push 5 changes out by the end of the week).

Also, I spoke with my colleague Jack Lenox last year about his sustainable WordPress theme, Susty. It’s my intention to build a child theme as well as a matching plugin to help push forward these efforts further. More details to come but for now, and to give myself a kick towards moving this further, I’ve reached out to WP Tavern to see if this is something they’d write about.

I also have another plugin on the back-burner that I’d like to move forward to (a more powerful follow-up to “Tidy My Menus”). I have the whole thing down on paper – I just need to get it coded!

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