2018: A Year in Review

It’s understandable if you had the impression that I had abandoned this blog, mostly because I pretty much have. I think writing a post every day for a year was pretty exhausting, but also because I’ve taken to writing in my personal journal now instead. I think I originally started my blog because I wanted a way to air out my thoughts, and putting them out there meant that I could get feedback. But the person that I was in 2004 is quite different to the person that I am now. I feel like I have a lot more confidence in myself, and my need for feedback has been greatly reduced.

Still, I think reflecting on a year is still a fun exercise, and I enjoy sharing the things that I’ve learned, the ways in which I’ve grown, and just some cool stuff that other people may not know about, so here’s another yearly review blog post.

I seem to have become somewhat notorious for my new year’s resolutions, and even though my original plan was to build up my first aid skills, it actually pivoted to learning how to sing. I’ve always been ashamed of my singing voice, and felt really uncomfortable singing the national anthem, or even Happy Birthday. For the longest time, I believed that singing ability was just something you were born with, but QC insisted that anyone can learn to sing, and I think hearing her say that in the back of my mind over many, many years finally wore me down, and I signed up for lessons. My singing teacher was so lovely, which is probably the main reason why I stuck with it for as long as I did. She’s this adorable nerdy dork, and she clearly loves what she does. I’m still a terrible singer, but I have a lot more confidence than I did before. I even performed on stage twice!

The other big development in my life was meeting Raichu. Before I go into the story, I want to make it clear that I am not in love with this guy. I feel like I have to say this because I’ve talked to a lot of my friends about meeting him, and the response is usually along the lines of, “Should MrFodder be worried?”

Pharmacist invited me and redbeanpork to a guild dinner organised by one of his former SW:ToR / WoW guild leaders, Raichu (obviously not his real name). He had not met me nor redbeanpork before. I didn’t know anyone else there other than Pharmacist and redbeanpork, and when Pharmacist went to talk to some of his friends, and redbeanpork went to get a drink, Raichu came and sat down next to me. He said, “I’ll just sit here until redbeanpork is back. You’re Fodder, right?” While everyone was wearing a name tag, he couldn’t see redbeanpork’s because he wasn’t there, and he couldn’t see mine because it was on the opposite side of where he was sitting, which meant that he remembered both of our names despite only briefly talking to us when we arrived.

It’s been so long, so I don’t remember what we talked about, but he was really engaging and funny. He introduced me to some of the other people sitting at the table, and got us all talking with each other, where previously, we were all doing the stereotypical nerdy thing of sitting awkwardly at the table. After that, he moved onto the next group of people, and did the same thing.

I was in awe with the way that he interacted with others and I tried to watch him as much as I could throughout the dinner. He was the butt of a lot of jokes, but they were all in good-humour, and it was obvious from the way that people spoke to him, and about him, that everyone respected him a lot. The way he moved from conversation to conversation, inserting himself seamlessly and keeping everyone entertained, is something I’ve always wanted to be able to do. He was the ultimate host.

Michael asked me if I prepare topics of conversation before I meet someone. I don’t do it for him, because I feel like we’re close enough now that I don’t need to, but it’s definitely something that I do with people I’m not so comfortable with. When I bump into acquaintances, or friends I’m not so close with, I often have this moment of panic, “I haven’t prepared anything to talk about!” and then try and find a way to get out of the conversation as quickly as I can. Pharmacist said improv classes help with that, so I took a trial class a couple of months ago, and signed up for some classes next year.

And then the Christmas party happened…

When it comes to parties, I’m probably the type of person who wants to be in the kitchen cutting up lemons, or setting the table. Give me a task and I’ll happily do it. I’m not comfortable with extended small talk. I had no problems putting my hand up to help organise the work Christmas party. Until all the politics kicked in. When it was just my team, organising the work Christmas party was easy, we could do what we wanted. This year, our party merged with another team’s party, and it was hours of  meetings, discussions, arguments professional debates, and approvals. It was tiring, but I could handle it.

The day of the party itself, that was a whole different story. I don’t mean to say this like a brag, but I know a lot of people in the department. I had so many people grabbing me for a quick chat. I think I spoke to close to 200 people that day (in groups, not individually!). I found an excuse to duck back into the office, and I remember sitting at my desk thinking, “I don’t want to go back.” But I couldn’t leave my partner in crime, and fellow organiser behind to do all the packing up himself, so I forced myself to go back – after all, the show ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings (the singing lessons have paid off already!).

The other eye-opening thing for me was the Christmas lunch. Every year, I organise a work Christmas lunch with people who I haven’t seen in a while. There was someone who I really wanted to invite, but I was afraid he would say no. So I invited a bunch of people I knew he liked as a way to entice him to come. He accepted my invitation. Unfortunately, one of those people was a firm believer in “the more the merrier”, and my small 6-person lunch turned into a 24-person lunch. Due to the way in which we were seated, I only had the chance to speak to the one person I wanted to see for about 2 minutes as I was leaving.

I’ve learned two things from the Ghost of Christmas Party, and the Ghost of Christmas Lunch (I wonder who the third Christmas ghost was):

  • I’m never going to be Raichu. I’m sure I could bust my ass, and go to improv classes, and toastmaster classes, and maybe even pick-up artist classes in a huge effort to learn the art of charm. But it’s a huge gamble to think that I’d even like it in the end. Based on past experience, I don’t enjoy being the life of the party-type person, and neither my job nor my hobbies require me to be that kind of person. Do I really want to put in so much effort to develop a skill that I hate using?
  • “No” is not a bad answer. There are so many books and classes about “Getting to Yes“, and while that particular book has some good advice (work out what you are and aren’t willing to negotiate on), I don’t always need to get a “yes” out of someone. If that person didn’t want to have lunch with me, that’s OK. It’s not really a personal attack on me – maybe he doesn’t enjoy my company as much as I enjoy his.
    • I definitely feel that way about some people, and it’s not because they’re not great people, it’s just because we don’t click as much as I do with others. There are some people whose company I enjoy across a wide variety of situations, and some people whose company is very situational for me.
    • I could spend a lot of effort trying to get a “yes” out of this person, or I could spend a lot less effort getting a “yes” out of someone who actually wants to spend time with me.
    • That being said, maybe over time I could become better friends with him and it wouldn’t be so hard to get a yes, but I think in my old age, I’ve started to settle on a core group of friends, and I’m OK with that. Life isn’t a popularity contest and your self-worth isn’t measured in the number of friends you have or the number of people who like you.

So all of that was a really roundabout way to cop-out of my super host resolution. I think my resolutions over the past few years have been mostly with the aim to be more “normal”. But I think I’m starting to feel more comfortable being “peculiar”. Part of why I wanted to be normal was because I always felt like the characters I imagined in my head were too weird, and if I ever wrote a book, they would be dismissed for being unrealistic. However, in the last bit of writing I did, none of the feedback I got was about that. I do still feel like my dialogue is too stilted, and I have been paying a lot of attention to conversations lately, but I think I’m ready.

I’ve mentioned this a few times already, and it has gone on the backburner, but I think 2019 is the year I start seriously trying to write a book. Even if it means a mad rush during NaNoWriMo, I’m going to give it a shot!

(As a side tangent, I told someone about signing up for improv classes and his response was, “There are only about 4 people who are good at improv (he listed a bunch of people I don’t remember and Stephen Colbert). Nobody else can get on their level, so there’s no point in even trying.” I didn’t have the courage to say it out loud, but I thought to myself, “Were you even listening to the story about Raichu and wanting to get better at talking to people? And also, you don’t need to be the best at the world in something to want to do it!” I actually thought I would hate improv, but I think it was the first time in my life I tried something new and found I was naturally good at it. Obviously not Colbert-level good, or even performance-ready good, but it felt comfortable, and I didn’t walk out thinking, “Wow, I really suck at this, I’ve got a long way to go.”)

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