2018 In Review
It’s time to look back and ask how the year of simple panned out and what lessons were learnt during 2018.
I wrote a very long version of this.
Over 2000 words.
You don’t want to read that.
I didn’t want to finish it.
Reviewing a year, it’s easy to go into too much detail.
So much happened in 2018.
What was meant to be the year of simple turned out to be so complex.
Like when you try to tidy your clothes.
Only to make a bigger mess than you started with.
Before you find your way to order.
In 2018 I built a house.
A ski cottage, in the Japanese Alps, my own little Bond-villain lair in the snow.
I worked with a Japanese architect, building a modernist house with high raked ceilings and lots of exposed, handcrafted wood.
That’s a big thing.
But I didn’t share the process online.
I didn’t tweet about it, or make videos and photos public, or write out the story of how it was made.
That’s also a big thing.
At least to me.
In part, the year of simple was about making the things I do clearer.
Simple was a way of making choices easier.
Faced with two options, I would go with the simpler one.
But simple was also about mindset.
About not overthinking things.
Which is why I wrote so many articles about creative health during the year.
Simple kept throwing up all these questions.
The biggest one being the balance between IRL and URL; between physical life and online life.
For most of 2018, I struggled with a kind of sadness.
Even as my anxiety seemed to recede.
And I hit personal milestones.
Like offering new products for sale.
And renewing my self-sponsored visa (which is apparently a big deal here in Japan).
I wondered if it was depression.
But it was a very specific kind of melancholy instead.
It was grief.
For more than 20 years, being online was a source of optimism and hope.
URL was a rich and vibrant complement to IRL.
Full of ideas and inspiration.
And also a gateway to human connection.
But the internet of today is something different.
It’s like when your neighbourhood changes.
Or your favourite cafe takes on new owners.
Regardless of whether it is better or worse, it is irrevocably different.
And something is lost.
Faced with a less appealing life URL, I had to face my life IRL more starkly.
Watching my kid prepare to leave to go to university all too soon.
Feeling like my social circle is getting smaller.
And my closest friends and family are so far away.
What else can I say about 2018?
There was so much good music.
Though Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour towered above.
There were so many good films.
Though Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma wasn’t just the best film of the year, it was probably the best film I’ve ever seen.
And there was so much good TV.
Though I have a feeling in 2019 we’ll be asking ourselves how we all got addicted again, after years of cutting the cable and winning back time from the randomness of broadcast TV.
So many of the shows in this “golden age of TV” feel overly long – drawn-out episodes, bloated series – almost as if what matters most is how many hours we are glued to the screen.
IRL v URL again.
What did I learn in 2018?
In the year of simple?
Simple is a way of clarifying what matters.
With all the noise, confusion, falsehood and cynicism, we all want a little clarity.
It’s why minimalism is so appealing.
Why Marie Kondo and her advice have such a passionate audience.
Why everyone wants their life to look like it was designed down to the smallest detail.
Because we want to feel like the life we live reflects our choices.
Like we are living the life we designed for ourselves.
Rather than being manipulated into a life that suits other people’s interests.
Simple is about learning to make decisive choices.
And the right choices mean fewer choices
And fewer bad choices to fix or undo.