For the past several years, I have set New Years Goals and reviewed them. The magic number recently has been three goals, so let’s see how they went.
Play “Happy Birthday” on Ukulele every day
At the end of 2021, I started learning to play the ukulele because I wanted share music with my daughter. It’s gone very well.
I didn’t play “Happy Birthday” every day. My true goal was to just play any ukulele every day, so I didn’t bust out “Happy Birthday” when I had played something else. As such, it never became a firm habit.
Beyond just ukulele, I have learned a few things about my musical ability.
First, my knowledge of music theory is all in muscle memory. I would struggle to recite the notes in a scale by rote. However, I can walk through the tuba fingerings for all major (and some minor) scales, then recite what notes those fingerings correspond to.
Second, coordinating multiple hands and singing is hard. Tuba only requires pressing valves with the right hand, and the blowing is coordinated with those fingerings. Ukulele separately requires fingerings on the left hand, strumming a pattern on the right, and singing the words all at the same time. I struggled to mentally separate those.
Third, ukulele is much easier than tuba, at least to get to a presentable level. It took years of playing tuba to not sound offensive. Within a few weeks, I could passably play the chords on ukulele for a variety of popular songs.
In my adult life, I stayed away from learning new instruments because I didn’t think it would be worth it. However, it certainly wasn’t too late, and I’m glad I committed to it.
Find balance in my media consumption
In 2021, I set a goal to “Do one thing at a time.” Life became very quiet when I stopped listening to podcasts while washing dishes. I stopped checking reddit randomly. It left me in a nice zen state when I realized the world would keep spinning even if I wasn’t up-to-date on the latest political news. However, I also became much more boring because I didn’t have anything to talk about. I still wanted some mass or social media. I just couldn’t find something that I liked.
At some point, I realized that most media is performative. Today, everyone is vying for attention. Hopefully it’s honestly benevolent for informing consumers, but it can always seem self-serving at best.
With global access on the internet, it seems like the best content creators and media outlets should get the most attention. Why shouldn’t we get the news from the best journalists or recipes from professional chefs?
However, in real life, we often get and trust information from less than the best. I learned how to cook and bake from my mom, who is not a professional chef. I get book recommendations from friends and coworkers. And I tend to believe that it often is better because of it.
The difference is the audience. Even with the best effort by companies today, social media and mass media can never be targeted as well as a conversation with another human. The magic of a tutor, personal trainer, mentor, parent, or friend is that their words are tailored for the recipient.
This realization left me in a lurch to find the same thing online.
And that led me to Discord.
I joined one very active book club server. The members love books, and we do talk a lot about that. However, we also talk about video games and cooking and parenting.
The members aren’t the influencers and world movers on Twitter. They aren’t regularly sharing the most important and impactful goings-on. They aren’t journalists who should fact-check everything. They are just being real people who want to share how they felt about a book or about a tough day at work.
I get a spattering of news from there, and I see lots of funny memes. It’s not nearly as efficient for getting those as looking at the front page of reddit. However, it is a real conversation.
See friends in real life regularly
Despite having just spent several paragraphs on how to engage with people on the internet, I really would rather see friends in-person. Between the pandemic and navigating early parenting, I didn’t get out much in 2021. We tried to be careful through 2022, but it was a huge relief when my daughter got the COVID vaccine over the summer. Since then, we have been getting out more.
Our routines are constantly changing, but weekdays still feel like a lost cause. I’m sprinting every morning to get out the door. After I get home from work, it’s another show getting from there to bedtime. However, I have enjoyed a full office and lunch with coworkers again.
We are seeing more people on weekends. For awhile, it was only park playdates, which is still child-centered, but we did make friends with other parents. And we started going down the list of friends we hadn’t seen in years to arrange for dinner parties and such.
The world is back.
This set of goals was very interesting for me to reflect on. In the past, I often set goals about hobbies to develop or skills to learn, and my reflection on that was a matter of accomplishment. I could write plenty about them, but it was about what I did.
When I look at this set of goals, I can see how my life has changed. 2021 flew by, but 2022 was a real, full year. I struggled to get back into the 2021 mindset that brought about these goals. And that feels like progress.