Lessons Learned…

A Year of Lessons Learned – some at great cost – in no particular order:

  1. Doubts not dealt with at inception are unlikely to go away of their own accord, they are more likely to fester and then lead to a cataclysmic event;
  2. It is almost never ever about you alone, people can (and probably will) get hurt by the fallout of your (in)decisions;
  3. The health, quality and colour of the grass across the fence are notoriously difficult to predict, one is perhaps best minded to live by the dictum ‘a bird in hand is worth two in the bush’ ;
  4. Mutuality – another notoriously difficult thing to predict – is everything;
  5. There is nothing to be gained from overthinking things;
  6. Time is perhaps the greatest contributor to clarity and healing;
  7. God does still come through, only He does have a peculiar sense of timing.

For 2016?

To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, To gain all while you give, To roam the roads of lands remote; To run wild, love strong, live free… And keep enough pipes rusting to fund all that 

Hans Christian Anderson | For King and Country | TheRustGeek

2015 in Three (Money) Charts

01 FYSpend 02 FYSpend - Plan v Actual03 Networth

Notes

  • 3% reduction in overall networth vs YE 2014; driven mainly by the impact of the crash in the value of the Nigerian Naira on my Nigeria domicilled bits and bobs
  • Full Year (FY) spend was 96% of net earnings (v. 104% for FY 2014); non-charity spend at 71% of net earnings (v.74% for FY 2014). Unsustainable in the long run but headed in the right direction I believe.
  • FY spend ~12% above plan, main driver being expenditures related to my decision to live alone from May (and outfit my house)
  • Main exposure is ~£4k in outstanding loans; not including the £1.5k I wrote off at YE 2014.

Key 2016 Actions

  • Retrieve outstanding loans; minimise exposures going forward by instituting strong controls around loaning friends and family money;
  • Identify options to reclaim stranded EM (Nigeria) pension funds
  • Explore more aggressive investment options (funds, forex trading)
  • Deliver on 2016 stretch targets (equivalent to a 19% reduction in FY spend) focus areas will be purchases and loans.

Recapping that ‘perfect’ year

That perfect year?

  1. In Work: Did finally get offered a staff position somewhere that ticked all the boxes I deeply desired at the beginning of the year (O&G operator, strong technical focus and scope to evolve my role). As a bonus, the official job title is now half a sentence 🙂
  2. In Women: The G ‘problem’ ended being resolved in dissolution. Sucked but we were clearly headed no where. I suspect it was me tearing things up instead of dealing with them, again. 😦
  3. In Faith and Worldview: Not a lot of progress, very easily my worst year faith wise.
  4. In Weight: 1 kg net loss, give or take, I do have the excuse of a broken foot in Q3 to blame here though 🙂
  5. In (Net) Worth:  Stalled again, slight decrease from 2014 actually – not helped by the Naira tanking and wiping out a shed load of my Nigerian savings and investments.:(

F0r 2016? Wash, Rinse, Repeat I guess – but with a lot more fight.

The Year in Reading 2015

Trying to get a lot more structured with reading – 25 books in total spread across 5 categories – Christian Classics, Literary Classics, Popular Fiction, Modern Christian Writing and Productivity, Personal Development & Non-fiction.

Completed:

  1. Moonwalking with Einstein – Joshua Foer
  2. The Pioneer Detectives -Konstantin Kakaes
  3. The Best American Essays 2014 – JJ Sullivan (ed)
  4. The Land of Steady Habits – Ted Thompson
  5. Sexual Detox – Tim Challies
  6. NW – Zadie Smith
  7. Crafting the Personal Essay – Dinty W Moore
  8. What’s so Amazing About Grace – Phillip Yancey
  9. How To Be Alone – Jonathan Franzen
  10. The Best American Essays 2013 – Cheryl Strayed (ed)
  11. The Seven Good Years – Etgar Keret
  12. Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez – Richard Rodriguez
  13. The Children Act – Ian McEwan
  14. The Things They Carried – Tim O’Brien
  15. Something to Answer For – P.H. Newby

The Writer Is….

…Neither saint nor Tzadik nor prophet standing at the gate; he’s just another sinner who has somewhat sharper awareness and uses slightly more precise language to describe inconceivable reality of our world. He doesn’t invent a single feeling or thought – all of them existed long before him… He’s here, at our side, buried up to his neck in mud and filth.

The Seven Good Years: A Memoir, Etgar Keret

 

Human, Too

404

In his seminal essay Why I Blog, Andrew Sullivan reflects on the subject of blogging; it’s similarity to – and shared etymology with – a ship’s log, its rise in step with the proliferation of the web technologies which have made it possible, and the unique niche it fills in the online space. Its overarching and enduring quality, he surmises, is due in part to two things; the informal, almost instantaneous nature of blogging as a reaction to news and events, and the intense, if sometimes unforgiving, interaction between blogger and reader that blogs enable. The conclusions he reaches are from considering a specific form of a blog, the sort that lies at the intersection of personal reflection and journalism, much like his (now retired blog) Daily Dish. Overall the numbers are mind boggling. Back in 2005, Technorati estimated that a blog was born every second, with 14.2m blogs being tracked by them back then (For some context, Tumblr which didn’t exist back in 2005 was home to 261 million blogs as of the 1st of November this year). The vast majority of this blogosphere is made up of blogs that are far less serious in nature and content than the ones Sullivan’s comments concern primarily, however his conclusions apply, perhaps more-so in this personal, less formal space.

The personal blog appeals to us as readers, that much cannot be disputed with any degree of conviction. The why is far more nuanced, stemming in part from the humanising effect the vulnerability implicit in a personal blog generates. Paulo Coelho puts this most succinctly when he compares writing to being publicly naked.  Sharing, in this space is a given; where the lines blur is around what is acceptable vulnerability and where over-sharing begins. This potential for over-sharing may be one of the reasons these sorts of blogs attract us, sating our inner desires to be in the know. There is an obvious downside to all this sharing; we as readers can get sucked into a comparison game – juxtaposing the realities of our hum-drum, quotidian lives with what are ostensibly the highlight reels from others’ lives.

Anonymous personal blogs – by decoupling real world connections from the stories that we share – go further, enabling engaged, diverse conversations around what might otherwise be taboo, stigma tainted subjects; living with HIV and/or rape being two examples which spring to mind quickly. This is interaction at its purest – a mental, mind-to-mind connection – unsullied by considerations of shape, sex, beauty or other physical characteristic.

For the reader, a personal blog – particularly where it veers off the beaten path into non-traditional quirks, likes and behaviours – also provides relief and validation. The joys of finding out that one’s curious fascination with cats acting like humans is as normal as can be reassures one that his/her humanity is not seriously in doubt. One is like the guy or girl next door, if next door can be expanded to include the unknown person behind a screen.

Somewhere between discovering a blog and becoming a captive reader lies a progression much akin to the development of a love affair. The first heady heights of being attracted to a mind  – either by a unique turn of phrase, a shared quirky interest or whatever else grabs one – eventually gets replaced by a commitment to returning, and for some people, we return again and again. Our desire for connection is obliged when the blogger returns repeatedly, sharing more and more, sometimes with a regularity that allows us build anticipation and sometimes associate happiness and joy with reading. Sometimes, we end up extending our follower-ship to other platforms across the internet, progressing from conversations on the blog to connections across the social media domain.

Blogs and bloggers do not last forever, regardless of what our expectations as readers are. We hope that once posted, what we read and what we like will remain stored in the ether, the URLs we collect in our favourites and the text we save all becoming a time capsule that bottles up for future retrieval the sense of time, space and emotion created when we first read and resonate with someone else’s words. When blogs and bloggers disappear, the only reminders that they were once here are the 404 pages  we get when we try to reassess our favourite content. This is very much the equivalent of being ghosted. As with all bad breakups, we seek palliatives. Google Reader, until retired by Google was perfect for this, storing a rich text version of whatever blog post the blogs one subscribed to had pushed via RSS. The Internet Archive WayBack machine, hit-or-miss as it could be, was another such resource, allowing me re-read archived versions of Teju Cole’s blog which became the source material for his novella Every Day Is For The Thief.

The years between 2008 and 2011 are ones I consider as a golden age of sorts for the Nigerian blogosphere, at least in my little corner of it. Thanks to quitting my mind-numbing job and returning to Grad school, I had far more time on my hands at the back end of 2008 than I had had in the preceding five years. I am no longer sure which was the first blog I stumbled on but over time I had the pleasure of getting to know a number of the people behind my favourites from that era; Doug, Dante, Olu Simeon, NoLimit, CaramelD, MissFab, Original Mgbeke, AfroGeek Chic and Tatababe to name a few. There were other favourites from that era I never got to be the ultimate fan boy with but whose writing still resonates with me – Nigerian Drama Queen, Adebola Rayo, Jaja, Light Her Lamp, Good Naija Girl, Atutupoyoyo, Zena, Miss Opeke, Confessions of a London Gal, La Reine and the Parakeet to name a few.

The vast majority of this lot have either vanished off the blogosphere, significantly downsized their blogs or reinvented themselves completely. It has been a source of great joy to see the likes of Jaja and Atutupoyoyo take their craft from blogsville to the real world of publishing – perhaps for the hope it gives the rest of us that one’s craft might yet be honed sufficiently by blogging.

There is certainly the sense that the Nigerian blogosphere is different in all sorts of ways, not least younger and interested in different subjects from the ones the old crowd were. From time to time, when I catch up with the members of the old guard I am close friends with in real life, we blame Twitter for being the disruptive influence at the centre of things. Truth be told, change was bound to happen, and if my own personal life is anything to go by, real life and its pressures are difficult things to manage. Twitter has given me the opportunity to know a few of the new crowd, and I must admit I am a big fan of quite a number of them – YossiePaul, Naija Rookie, Ifeoluwa, SingleNigerian, Naija Husband (and Wife)  and the folk behind Nik-Nak  come to mind most readily,

On a slow day I sometimes wonder what some of the oldies I never got to speak to are up to these days. NDQ dragged us through finding peace in heartbreak,  before shooting off to Paris for the joys of quotidian things and then surreptitiously deleting a bunch of blog posts. Jaja was there one day, living it up in England, losing his wallet and battling malaria and then he was not (he’s turned up as a published author – bless him). Baroque turned up in a different guise on Twitter. UK Naija surfaced post the London Olympics, and may or may not be the essayist behind a truly compelling piece on depression in Nigeria.

I’d like to think this has not been a moan. I will agree that it is a reflection – laced with nostalgia – of a past time and a past life. But then would I be human if I didn’t conflate time and space into a muddled memory, reinventing reality as I went along? For a title I have stolen a line from a poem written by the aforementioned Nigerian Drama Queen, one which lives on the edge of my consciousness on most days but from time to time raises its head above the parapet. It, like all truly important blogger time capsules, no longer exists on the internet, a 404 page the only testament that a living, breathing, succinct haiku once lived there. I will however share the fragment that lives in my head.

Sometimes I bleed blood,
cry tears, bruise flesh. Remember:
I am human, too…