Looking Forward by Looking Backward



According to the ancient Romans, Janus is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. For this reason many associate him with January when one year ends and a new one begins.

Now normally I’m not one for ceremony. I don’t typically make New Year’s resolutions because I think January first is just an arbitrary day. You could choose to have “New day’s resolutions” any time of the year – and it might even make more sense – adding new goals whenever it seems appropriate rather than when the calendar tells you to.

That said, one of my Hindi practice partners asked if I would do an exercise with her going over the past year, listing 33 different things you are proud of in 2017. It was more difficult than I expected. After a while, including consulting both this blog and my Google Photos account for the various months of the year I managed to finish.

There was a really unexpected benefit from doing this, though, and that is the insight this gave me as to what makes me happy and thus what I feel I should direct more energy to going forward. As I’m writing this I’m also thinking that in those times where I’m feeling down, I should ask myself what I’m doing in those categories. If the answer is “very little” then the path forward out of my funk is, I think, quite obvious. Here are some of the categories I came up with along with some goals for them going forward.

Seva (सेवा) – Selfless Service: 


This year, as in most years, I have done various types of volunteer work, helping other people where I can. This year it manifested itself by helping with everything from helping people learn English to navigating Canadian forms and paperwork to cooking to dressing up in ridiculous outfits and encouraging people to donate turkeys and other food to a food bank. Helping others has always made me feel good. No matter how bad I might feel on a given day, doing something kind for others can completely turn my mood around.

In 2018 I need to keep this up, more actively searching for organized volunteer opportunities, particularly when on long business trips. One of the best times I had on a business trip last year was when I helped out at a Habitat for Humanity home build.

Physical Activity: 


This is a constant for me and one I never really knew about until I was in my late 30’s. It is really important for me to exercise and do it regularly. It’s also one of the first things to go when I get busy. I have lots of great ways to rationalize not doing it on any given day and those days add up.

2017 was the year I discovered Zwift – a multiplayer virtual cycling game. People from around the world can ride together, train together, and even race together. I haven’t done it in a few weeks but I need to get back in to it.

In 2017 for a number of reasons I didn’t do much running. I did have an injury – some pretty awful shin splints – possibly even stress fractures that kept me from running. I have rested though and am ready to get back to it once the weather improves.

In 2018: More running, more cycling. And also more simplification. Sometimes I try to build too many things in to it. I tried a few times to do some intensive training programs for cycling or an aggressive speed training program for running. The former made it too complicated and I just avoided the bike, the latter probably caused my injury that kept me away from running. Time to get back to simple, no excuses, no complications activity. That said, I really want to run a half marathon this year. I don’t think I can manage the spring one with travel and my dislike of winter running, but October is do-able for sure.

Hindi practice:


I’ve been cruising for a long time in this realm, having one 2 hour class every week or so and doing next to nothing outside of class. Sometimes I would do about 20 minutes of homework before leaving for class but mostly not. Once every few months I might see a Hindi film. I got about as much progress as you might imagine from that. In other words, not much.

For 2018: I have already started some of this, making flash cards for new vocabulary, watching many films and TV shows to practice my listening skills, and working with people online. I need to feel less shy about speaking Hindi also by doing more Skype calls and similar voice chat. I’ve done a little but I need to do more.

Everyday Adventures:


Some of my best times in 2017 were on library trips and other small adventures throughout my city. Those library visits and “Appreciating my own Backyard” visits were incredibly fun and took me places that were as new to me as they were to most of you.

In 2018: I’ve been here almost 14 years now and have seen only a fraction of our city so not only do I  need to keep that up, I need to increase the frequency. I will be putting together a library schedule for the next few weeks to ensure that I get back on schedule. If I keep up at the rate I did it last year it will literally be 20 years before I see all of the libraries.



This is one I get tremendous happiness out of. I love going for long bike rides with Daegan or on my own. But I also make the biggest excuses for not going.  A few weeks before I started this blog, I remember a day where Daegan and I had planned to take a ride of about 100 kilometres up to a small town north of us where we’d found a burger place that had great reviews. And then I woke up that morning and saw there was a 40% chance of rain. My usual response to that is to cancel. This time, though, I decided that I would see how it went. The worst thing was likely that we’d get wet.  We rode all the way there in record time and ate a delicious lunch. As we were finishing lunch, the clouds were starting to pile up. There would be thunderstorms. And so, rather than lingering we decided to make a break for it. It sprinkled a little but it wasn’t bad. And then about 20 minutes later, still a good 2-3 hours from home we saw it: A wall of water coming toward us. The downpour was on the way! We also saw a gas station ahead. And so we pedaled as hard as we could and got there just before the rain arrived.

Daegan made a mad dash in to the gas station to grab coffees for each of us and we stood outside watching the downpour and chatted with people passing through until the storm passed about 20 minutes later. After that we pedaled home with no issues.

Yes, we might have avoided being a little wet had we stayed home but we wouldn’t have had such a great time either. The unexpected excitement of a storm along with the relaxing downtime of drinking coffee and watching the world go by was something I would’ve been sorry to miss.

In 2018 I need to plan more of these short day trips or even an overnight trip or two. Instead of agonizing over finding the perfect destination, just pick something and go. No need to have the perfect trip.

“Pushing through it”

Above all, this theme came up all of my favourite stories of 2017. “I didn’t want to do this potentially uncomfortable thing but I did anyway.”  Stories like the one above, or speaking Hindi loudly in front of people I didn’t know when I visited my Hindi teacher for the last time. Even those cases where the discomfort was even worse than I would’ve imagined, I came out on the other side glad I had gone through the experience.

Takeaway for 2018: Find more ways to face discomfort. I particularly need to when it comes to speaking with people I don’t feel fully comfortable with – whether English or Hindi, people I’ve just met or public speaking, I need to engineer more opportunities to push through that discomfort to get to the point where I feel comfortable. In the new year I’ll be taking improv classes again for the first time in about 5 years. There’s nothing like standing up on stage in front of an audience to feel both uncomfortable but also proud for facing it successfully.

Of course there are other goals for the new year but many of those are in the realm of what I’d call easy things to do.  Yes, I want to travel more but that’s only as difficult as buying tickets and making itineraries. There are work goals as well but those, too, are not things I really need to push myself toward except, perhaps, more finely honing my workflow.

What are you all working on in the new year?

4 thoughts on “Looking Forward by Looking Backward

  1. That’s so awesome that you dressed as a turkey and helped encouraged people to donate food! The costume is so cute, lol.
    I miss the library and “discovering my own backyard” posts! Really looking forward to more of those in 2018!
    I love reading the stories about you and your son, too. 💖 You guys have the dream father-son relationship. The simple biking story where he walked in and got you coffee melted my heart. Most kids would complain through something like that. Aw. 💖
    Happy New Year, Todd!!!

    1. Thanks! It was a good year. And yeah – Daegan’s pretty cool – an awesome travel partner who knows how to make the best of any situation. We were both fondly talking about that trip yesterday after I wrote that. In any difficult situation, I would say that I am 10x more likely to be the complaining one and he’s more likely to be the one who shakes me out of the resulting bad mood.

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