Still here.

Jan. 1st, 2014 11:46 pm
morsla: (Default)
It's not much of an epitaph for 2013, but it's appropriate enough: in most regards, it feels like virtually nothing has changed since I sat here last year (and didn't end up writing anything back then...). One thing I've learned this year is that some kind of writing is better than nothing at all, so here I am again - this time, putting some thoughts onto the screen for the benefit of some future self to take a look at.

In 2013 I made only a few changes to my life, but the effects of those have shaped everything I've done.

I resigned from a job that I had loved and then grown to hate. In doing so, I left a job with a stable income at a time when [livejournal.com profile] aeliel was planning to be out of the workforce for at least a year. Financial stress over that decision was crippling me, but I made the right choice: I'd lost all sense of value for myself, my skills and my time. I felt as though I was constantly failing to be smart enough, work hard enough, or work long enough, and walked away from the job loathing myself. That took some time to move on from.

For most of the year, I've worked on various part-time and casual jobs: trading stability for flexibility, and balancing uncertainty over my jobs with far more agency over my life. That has made a huge difference to my state of mind: feeling back in control of who I am, and far more capable at negotiating the demands and expectations that others have of me. It also gave me the opportunity to put my family first, finding work that fits around the time that I want to spend figuring out how to be a Dad. That time has been priceless.

Jobs come and go. Money comes and goes. If my choices meant that I missed out on a "perfect" job, I reasoned that a truly perfect job would still be around in a few years from now. Spending time watching Ariadne grow up though... that is something that I know I would regret missing out on. She has changed so quickly over the year that I feel as though the rest of my life may as well have stood still. As luck would have it I did end up finding work with a company that I have enormous respect for, and that has family-friendly working arrangements at its core. Work and money have still been extremely tight at a few points this year (a family and a mortgage on half an income has led to plenty of stress on that front), but I don't regret the year that I have had.

Of course, the other factor dominating my year (and the years before it) has been my PhD, and that really did look like it had stalled - or at least slowed to a glacial pace. On that front I'm in essentially the same position as I've sat in for the past two years: close to the end, and trying to get it finished. Each time I sit down to write, I think I manage to halve the remaining distance between me and the submission day. There's some faint light at the end of that particular tunnel though - the slightest glow of something approaching, still hazy and indistinct. It might be dawn finally breaking out there in the wider world; it might be the headlight of an oncoming train. Either way there's a change on the way. I gave an 80,000 word thesis draft to my supervisor just before Christmas, and have a few weeks to finish writing before the university gives up on me entirely.

So: few outward changes in 2013, but an important time to make hard decisions about the type of life I want to have with my family. In 2014, it's time to finish this PhD before it kills me, and then move on to all the rest of my life - some new challenges, and some things that have been put on hold for the last few years. I've stayed here long enough to know that I want to go somewhere else: the coming year will be a time to embrace the changes, big and small, that will help me to get there.
morsla: (lain)
It's 2012. Actually, it's now well into 2012, but I've spent such a languid week that the realisation of arriving in a new year has taken a few days to make it from my synapses to my typing fingers, so I'm only just getting around to writing about it.

This is generally the time when I look back on the last year, decide that it would be a good idea to look forwards at some stage, and then the year starts up in earnest - and the forward planning never happens. At least, that's the way that things have gone in most of the last ten years, now that I can check up on that kind of thing.

It's time for a change of pace, though. I've been in much the same place in my life for a few years now: an odd kind of limbo, filled with enough to keep me happily distracted, but without any tangible sense of progress to anything. I could stay here forever without really doing anything, and that should be warning enough. It's time to start packing up and moving on.

Some things are good. I live in a great part of the city, surrounded by friends. In 2011 I travelled overseas and met people who are doing some fascinating work. I remembered how much I love cooking for friends, and how much I dislike being a hermit. There have been two major problems, though.

My PhD has become a huge part of my life, overshadowing everything else. That's understandable - if it didn't, I don't see how I could still do it. It's now been almost three years though, and it's time to get it finished. That will involve a lot of work over the next seven months. Some of that work involves writing the thesis, but I think the harder job will be breaking bad habits that I've taken ten years to refine: getting used to writing more, spending less time chasing up details, and letting other people read my work. That last one is particularly hard, but will be vital.

The other bugbear I've fought over the years is my health, which has caused problems since I began this journal. Two years ago I was very unfit and unhappy about it. In 2010 I joined a local gym, but it never really became part of a routine. It did get my confidence up though, and helped me return to Kung Fu in January 2011. I've been training ever since, and feel like I've returned home again.

Injuries, health problems and excuses have been disrupting my training for eight years. Last year, I beat the bastards, and got back to doing something that I love.

My PhD has only had three years to build up a backlog of jobs that need to be done by July. It's one hell of a pile of work, but it's time to finish it - I want to find out what comes next.
morsla: (Dawn1)
2008 was a big year. I have a feeling that 2009 will be even bigger, but looking forward is for another post.

It was the first "real" year of running a business - something that I'd dabbled in during '07, and then launched into fully at the beginning of January. It's been incredibly rewarding in some respects, full of things to learn. It's also been incredibly draining, placing lots of pressure on my time and finances. I have a lot more to learn, and some bad habits to kick - I have a tendency to undercharge for work, which has cost me dozens of unpaid hours to finish things off. Fortunately, I won't be able to do nearly as much painting next year, so I won't need to worry as much about turning jobs down. That means I can focus on the jobs that are actually worth the time required to finish them properly...

On September 24th, I lost my father to liver cancer. He was diagnosed on August 6th, days after being given a clean bill of health from his liver specialist. The initial shock has faded, though I know I'll still feel his passing for years to come. He will be close by over the next year, while [livejournal.com profile] aeliel and I live in the house and garden that he helped to build. I'll always admire his strength, compassion, and the peace he found in his final months.

Louise and I got married on November 8th. We spent the day in the company of a small group of wonderful friends - people who are as much a part of our family as any blood relative. In particular, [livejournal.com profile] fetnas, [livejournal.com profile] miss_rynn and [livejournal.com profile] umbra_mentis helped to make the day everything we had hoped it would be.

We saw out the last hours of the year in the company of friends, before quietly closing the book on a year that has had much larger consequences than we'd anticipated twelve months ago. Next year [livejournal.com profile] aeliel and I will be moving house and starting postgrad courses, navigating all sorts of unexpected lifestyle changes, and continuing to live in interesting times. We couldn't have come this far without the support of all our friends, so I hope you'll stick with us for the coming year.

Now, bring me that horizon!
morsla: (Default)
In 2007, I:

Trekked around Kosiuszko National Park. Quit my last formal job. Went back to Cradle Mountain. Proposed to [livejournal.com profile] aeliel. Started setting up a business, following a fractal plan. Travelled up to New South Wales, and then left the country for only the third time in my life. Won a painting trophy at GenCon Indianapolis, and visited Games Day UK. Met old and new friends in Chicago, Toronto, Dublin, Edinburgh and Oxford. Wandered the Irish coast on my birthday. Visited London, Perpignan, Barcelona and Paris. Did lots and lots of painting.

Now that I think about it, it turned out to be a fairly busy year after all. I wonder what the next one will bring?
morsla: (troll)
Lately, I've been making a conscious effort to push myself a bit harder when painting. I hadn't really made any improvements in about a year, though not for lack of trying. A plateau is a good thing to aim for from the ground, but it's a little boring if you can't get off it.

Well, that's not strictly true. My hands hadn't made many improvements, but my eyes had... At the Gencon painter's panel discussion, Amy mentioned that your hands and eyes tend to leapfrog each other. I'm getting a lot more critical of figure painting, as I have a better understanding of what to look for - Geologists and microscopists will be familiar with that learning period of "getting your eye in," where you learn to recognise important details. The problem with painting is that recognising a technique, and being able to replicate it, are two very different problems...

It can become a bit demoralising, too. If your eyes are ahead of your hands, you percieve your work as going backwards - at least, until you look at an older model. Sometimes you lose the motivation to paint for a while, which only worsens the problem as lack of practice won't help your technique. Eventually, though, the cycle turns around and your painting starts improving at a faster rate.

Since painting the Gencon bodger models, I've finally started to move on from where I've spent the last year. It's a nice feeling, finally getting some traction. It plays merry hell with any attempt to keep the new models consistent in quality with what I painted six months ago, but I like being able to finish each piece and know that I learned something from it.

The problem now is that I'm sitting at an "in-betweenie" point. Wargamers paint models to get them on the table for a game. Showcase painters work on single models, often for competitions. Wargaming painters marvel at the flawless techniques of the showcase models, while showcase painters wonder how the hell wargamers paint models so damn fast. Whichever group you currently sit in, feedback is an important mechanism for getting better at what you do.

Which is the tricky part. Posting work on most wargaming forums these days rarely gets comments beyond "that's cool," which (while a confidence boost) don't give me much to work on. Posting on painting forums rarely gets any feedback at all, as I'm light years away from the quality of work being diplayed there. I'd like to shorten that gap, as I'd love to paint like this. Right now, I'm not exactly sure how to go about doing that, though.

September 2014

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