Category Archives: Thoughts

The Internet’s Own Boy

Aaron Swartz was a phenomenal person. Watching The Internet’s Own Boy recently reminded me of that fact.

The film is, to me, a fantastic reminder that the internet needs to remain open, that access to public information should always be free and open.

Some of my early activism was based on this. I was once involved in a project that was very similar to Swartz’s efforts with PACER. We never made any progress (given what happened to Swartz, maybe I should be thankful) but I still fundamentally believe in the principle that in order to comply with the law, we have to know what that law is. Similarly, I believe that publicly-funded research should be freely and openly available to the public.

So I consider Swartz, who was just 20 months younger than me, an inspiration.

Huel

Last year I started using Huel.

I prefer to eat my own food, I avoid ready meals (although, I have to make exceptions for pie and pizza!) but I find cooking to be incredibly boring. I just have better things to do with my life (like binge-watch Star Trek)!

Trying to get a balanced diet also isn’t that easy – or at least, I can’t be arsed because, well, life’s too short and I have better things to do (like drink beer).

So when I found out about Huel I was very interested. The name is a concatenation of “Human Fuel”. They call it “nutritionally complete human food” because it contains all of the nutrients your body needs.

Huel makes it ridiculously easy to get all the right nutrients your body needs, and it’s quick. Instead of spending hours chopping up vegetables and slaving over the stove I can just pour some water and powder into a bottle and drink. Simple, easy and quick.

Unlike some people I don’t live off Huel completely. I have Huel for breakfast, which sets me up great for the day because I’m really bad at breakfast. Then I eat a good lunch and optionally top up with extra Huel in the evening if I need it.

Cooking, when I do it, is more pleasurable because I don’t have to do it so often. I can get on with the things I want to do, safe in the knowledge that I’m getting the things I need in my diet.

You should blog

It’s not like I use Twitter anymore, so I’ve only experienced “Tweetstorms” via colleagues sharing stuff through Slack. Still, like Chris, I can’t help feeling that sharing in this way isn’t a great use of Twitter.

That said, I’m pretty sure WordPress isn’t really the right tool either. Even though WordPress.com is quick to set up, it doesn’t really cater for this kind of sharing. I’m not even sure it should!

Maybe Tweetstorms are just a fad anyway…

31

30

Another interesting year.

Much of it, disappointingly (and to their detriment), was spent fighting yet again for my two children to be granted the relationship with me they deserve.

That costs money, so while I kept my job, my other plan – buying a house to give the three of us a more permanent home – didn’t get further than the mortgage offer I received.

Keeping my job was a much more achievable aim, and I did that with bells on. I’ve done so much in the last year, learnt an enormous amount, worked on projects that have made me super proud and built on my confidence.

My 32nd year? Spending more time with my magnificent little girl, building on our already blossoming relationship 🙂

Now I can spend some time on myself too. I’ll be focusing on my career for a bit – taking advantage of the huge opportunities I have.

People

During my pursuit of happyness I’ve been thinking a lot about what actually makes me happy. When I feel good, I’ve been taking note and it’s made it very clear what makes me happy.

People.

In 2015 I spent a huge amount of time with other people. Lots of existing friends, but I also met new people and made new friends.

I made 3 significant trips last year that brought me together with lots of people.

In March I spent a week in New Orleans with the team I work with at Automattic. Being people I work with everyday it was great to spend a few days in close proximity getting to know each other better. When I got back home I missed them but it made our online interaction so much richer, and that goes a long way.

Fast forward to October and another great work meetup. This time it was the grand meetup. A well deserved name. With over 400 people now working at Automattic, this year’s GM was full of new people to get to know. By the end of the meetup I’d met 25% of those 400 Automatticians – that’s a whole bunch of great conversations/karting/drinking/Resistance/dancing with exciting and fun people.

In early December I returned to the US, to Philadelphia, for WordCamp US. With over 50 Automatticians there, I got to meet even more of my co-workers which was of course awesome. I also had the opportunity to meet with developers at agencies and companies I work with every day, including some folks I’ve not seen in a while.

Back home I made a conscious effort to spend more time with my closest friends – even if it’s just the odd pint down the pub – and I’ve spent more time with family. Just this weekend, I spent the weekend with my Mom, sisters and their families (which was noisy, given my 6 nieces and nephews!).

What I’ve noticed while spending time with all these people, and meeting so many new people is how fantastic I feel during and after. I’ve never been a social butterfly, and used to often struggle to be sociable, but the feeling I get from being surrounded by others, finding out about them, sharing in experiences and making new memories lifts me up no end.

I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to spend time with so many great people and form new relationships. There are two more people that I love spending time with, and that’s my children. While I’m having to fight again to see my youngest, my times with my little man are the most wonderful and happiest times. We have such a close and wonderful relationship, and he never fails to make me feel on top of the world.

The Pursuit of Happyness, and helping yourself

This has nothing to do with the film, I just thought it was an appropriate title 🙂 (although, it is one of my favourite films, mostly for this genuinely inspiring bit).

I’m happy. Really happy. Which is a stark contrast to 7 months ago.

At the beginning of this month I also stopped taking anti-depressants (don’t worry, doctor-approved).

Those drugs certainly did help, and I was already feeling up to coming off them before the new year, but what I’ve realised I needed most was to help myself out of it.

For two years I was essentially stuck in a relationship that had the love and trust sucked out of it but I was paralysed with fear that if I left I’d have my son taken away from me.

At first my son was taken from me, justifying my fear. Because I’d spent 20 months in a relationship I didn’t want to be in, I no longer had any emotional strength. I couldn’t cope. I recognised I needed help and got that help.

But since my son and I were allowed the time together that we both deserve, and the court battle guaranteed us that time, I’ve finally been able to build on our relationship, and I’m no longer fearful.

Not only that, but the emotional stress that I was putting myself under by staying in that relationship has completely disappeared, and all my emotional strength (of which there’s quite a lot, I’ve realised) are focused on the kids. I’m constantly thinking about what’s coming up with them – looking forward to our family holidays, teaching the little man to ride a bike, teaching the little lady* to roll over, hold things, crawl, walk and all that good fun.

All of that could have happened so much sooner if I’d have helped myself and left that relationship. I wouldn’t go back and change it if I could, because the way things have worked out is great for various reasons, but it’s a good lesson to learn.

No matter how bad things may seem, there is always another option. That’s very, very, very, very hard to see when you’re in the grips of depression but it’s there and reminding oneself about that constantly (especially when well) is important to help keep depression at bay.

One final caveat: my depression has always been fairly mild. I have never had to struggle with it day after day, as some people (including friends) do. I’ve had it relatively easy, all told, and I’m very thankful of that.

* not sure I like the “little lady” nickname really… still deciding…

It’s always #TimeToTalk

We shouldn’t need an excuse to talk about mental health but why pass up the opportunity. Any time is a good time to talk about mental health.

I’m depressed right now (sort of). I’m on anti-depressants to help me cope with a very difficult situation. This is the first time I’ve had medical help with depression, but not the first time I’ve suffered.

Only now am I receiving treatment because a few months ago I was ready to kill myself, and realised I needed help to survive.

I have an amazing little boy and, at the time, was expecting to be a father again, I have great friends, a great job and a loving family. You might wonder why the hell I could even contemplate suicide in those circumstances. But that’s one of the most misunderstood aspects of depression – it defies logic.

Many times in the last two years I’ve been in the same position and I kept it to myself. I told no-one until recently. Looking back I’m amazed I survived and at the moment, I mostly feel great.

I feel great because I’ve told those around me. I’ve been completely open with family and friends, including telling them about my past depression. As a result I’ve had an outpouring of selfless support and help.

Without that support and help I’m not sure I would be coping as well as I am now.

I am better because I talked about it.

It’s always a good time to talk.

Update: I wanted to share this post from James Smith that highlights really well some of the effects of depression. You may well have experienced some but without thinking of it as depression. But as James says, it’s a bug in the system, not you failing.