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Looking forward to 2024

The word 2024 made out of balloons

Let’s get this out of the way first: 2024 is going to be a hard year across the board. Mass layoffs, another hottest year on record, escalating conflicts with enormous human tolls and flagrant human rights violations in Gaza and Ukraine, not just a declining media but a declining democracy, an oligarchic class that appears to actively reject any policies that might help the vulnerable communities they profit from, and a US general election with wide ramifications that nobody is looking forward to. On a macro level, the time from 2016 to now has felt like hard year after hard year, and I don’t believe it’s going to let up.

I don’t think you can make personal resolutions (or talk about tech or anything else) without acknowledging that context. Sorry to be a downer: 2023 was a difficult year, and 2024 will be too.

I like to make strong resolutions, loosely held. Life comes at you fast, and it’s better to adapt and take care of yourself in the moment than to adhere to a rigid set of intentions. But even if they end up being ultimately unfulfilled (and I always hope they won’t be), they serve as a good North Star for venturing forth into the new year. I won’t be grading myself based on whether I succeed at the end of the year; the exercise of thinking about them is valuable enough.

This last year, I bit off a little more than I could chew, particularly with respect to time management. I really value having clear, unstructured, creative time, and I didn’t leave enough space for that. So I want to pare down my expectations while trying to get healthier and focusing on the things I really care about.

So, here’s how I’m thinking about getting through 2024.

Health

In 2024 I want to increase my fitness and reduce my overall body mass.

For the first half of 2021, I managed to get myself to a point where I was running a 5K almost every day. For some runners, that’s small potatoes; for me, it was enormous. Then my mother died and I stopped caring. (She stopped telling me to go and exercise, too, which is something she did frequently.)

Running is tied up with some complicated feelings for me. I vividly remember running around my high school track on sports day, coming in near-last, my audience of fellow teenagers laughing at the “SPAM” t-shirt I’d chosen from the top of my to-wear pile. To this day, almost thirty years later, I’m scared of running outside. My 5Ks were all undertaken on a treadmill that we no longer own. (A rowing machine makes more sense for this space, so that’s what I have.)

For most of my life, I’ve been a walker: back in Oxford and Edinburgh, I would wander the city after dinner, sometimes for hours. It’s far harder, these days. Life is more complicated, and a baby at home means I can’t go out and wander with impunity. I’m not complaining — but life is different now, and does demand a different approach to exercise.

Finally, my food intake has been fairly poor for the last few years. In San Francisco, I ate out far too often. Here in Elkins Park, I tend to over-eat: having seconds, indulging in snacks, and so on. Let’s just say that the physical results have been unsurprising.

So in 2024, I want to do three things:

  1. When I’m home and not sick, I want to spend at least 30 minutes on the rowing machine every day.
  2. When it’s feasible, I want to spend at least 90 minutes walking every day (including the hour I spend walking to and from daycare every day).
  3. I’ve had great results from the Whole30 diet in the past. I want to spend at least one 30-day period strictly following it. But then I also want to be more careful: no sweet or junk snacks, no seconds, only drinking alcohol rarely.

Stretch goal: I want to try and get comfortable running around the neighborhood (as an acceptable replacement for walking).

The overall intention is to optimize for feeling good in my body, and for improving my body’s longevity. I will not set a weight loss goal or a strict exercise target.

Reading and Learning

In 2024 I just want to keep reading and learning. Putting a number on it is utterly arbitrary but helps me remember that this is something I want to make time for.

In 2021 I read 43 books, mostly because I had a great book-or-two-a-week pace before my mother’s death. I read some books in 2022 but didn’t set a goal. Then, this year, I set a goal of 26 and read 19.

Next year I’m going to go for two books a month. 24 books. It’s a much lower goal than I might have set a few years ago, but, again: life is more complicated now. That’s totally fine and expected, but my goals should be attainable in that light.

As for learning: this last year I participated in Stanford’s Ethics, Technology + Public Policy for Practitioners course. It was transformational, and I can highly recommend it to everyone (it also comes with an enduring community of alumni). I also continued to subscribe to The Novelry, a private course for aspiring novelists that provides 1:1 feedback and coaching as well as a full audit of a completed manuscript on top of its curriculum. Again, I’ve found it to be useful and motivational.

I’ll keep up The Novelry (until I finish this book) but I’m probably not going to take another course, in the name of keeping my time sane.

Writing

I’m going to finish the damn book. And I’m going to do that by prioritizing it rather than leaving it as a thing that happens if I have enough time. It gets an hour a day until it’s done — end of story (until the story has ended).

Work

For the last few years the focus of my work has been to build empathetic, inclusive technology teams that can serve a well-defined mission. It’s been rewarding, but I’ve realized that I’m hungering for a little bit more, and for the impact of this work to be more outward-facing than inward-facing.

Building great team cultures is important, but it’s inward-looking by nature. The impact is on the happiness of the team, the way the team works, and how it relates to the rest of the organization it sits inside. I don’t want to give up doing that — I think it’s a prerequisite for doing good work, and I love supporting engineers. But I also want to renew my focus on being externally impactful.

Back in the Elgg days, I’d often discover that a non-profit was using the platform to share resources, or that someone had used it to create a site that allowed people with a social mission to accelerate what they were doing. We also got to push the web forward in important ways, for example by prototyping the first open format for data exchange between social networks. That was, frankly, exhilarating. Even now, I still learn from time to time about organizations or social movements that were able to use Elgg to become more efficient or help themselves organize or learn. Quite selfishly, I want to have that sort of impact again.

I don’t know what that looks like yet. I think it involves publishing more code, stories, and case studies at a bare minimum. But it’s enough for me to know that this is something I want to do.

Authenticity and Accountability

I haven’t always lived up to my own expectations or ideals. Sitting with that knowledge is uncomfortable. In particular, in a period of around a year after my mother’s death, I sometimes behaved in a way that makes me shudder today.

It’s all complicated, but owning that I made those decisions, without pathologizing or diminishing their effects, is important and is work that is only partially done. I need to be able to move on from that part of my life, which means completing that work, and doing it based on my own sense of ethics and equity.

And with that: I’m a people-pleaser, sometimes to the point of codependency, and it’s only been recently that I’ve understood why that is harmful. So I need to work on that, too.

All of those things will allow me to share more freely, show up better in all of my communities as myself rather than the person I think people want me to be, and move forward with real purpose.

The World

As I mentioned, it’s going to be a difficult year. In this kind of context, I think one of the imperatives is to loudly advocate for the world you actually want to inhabit.

That means being clear and uncompromising about what my values and positions actually are, and living in a way that is true to those values.

I will not support platforms that financially support Nazis or white supremacy. I’ve already cleared my newsletter from Substack and discontinued my X/Twitter account; I will watch carefully to see if other platforms I use contravene this principle.

I will not support colonial or nationalist policies or the people who espouse them. For example, I am clear that I do not support Israel’s ongoing actions in Gaza (and that it is not anti-semitic for me to say so). I am clear that I am not interested in “American interests”; instead, I am interested in global well-being.

I will always support peace over war.

I will continue to advocate for social infrastructure like socialized healthcare, integrated public transit, and welfare, and speak out against libertarianism and conservatism that seeks to undermine those needs.

I will continue to support and amplify diversity, inclusion, and distributed equity.

I will continue to support the right to vote, and democracy itself, as a fundamental human right.

I will be mindful of the environment in the midst of what is not just climate change but a climate crisis.

I will always advocate for community over individualism and care for vulnerable people over a person’s selfish interests. But I will also always advocate for individual self-expression, the ability to be an entrepreneur, and the opportunity to financially (or otherwise) succeed, as long as community and care obligations are met, and as long as opportunities are equal and equitable.

And not only is there nothing wrong with loudly saying so, not loudly proclaiming what you believe is acquiescence to the status quo.

In summary

I want to:

  1. Be physically and mentally healthier
  2. Be more externally impactful in my work
  3. Finish my book
  4. Show up more authentically in my communities
  5. Stand up for what I believe in

What are your goals for 2024?

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