Whilst he's not writing articles or running and speaking at conferences, he runs his own development and training company in Brighton called Left Logic. And he built these too: jsbin.com, html5demos.com, remote-tilt.com, responsivepx.com, nodemon, mit-license.org, snapbird.org, 5 minute fork and jsconsole.com.
This makes my final post on The Pastry Box. Though it’s only been six posts, it’s felt like something different. Indeed early on I realised it was somewhere different that I could experiment with content.
Due to what was going on in my life at the time, the posts quickly became very personal, and I felt comfortable enough to share some of my darker thoughts. That hasn’t gone away, and people have been remarkably kind in their response. I hope to be strong enough to bring this directly to my own blog (though of course all my content is cross posted to my own blog).
For my final post I wanted to end on something I’ve been wanting to write about for years. In fact, I started writing a version of this post in 2008, but the text was long lost.
I wanted to acknowledge my wife, best friend, mother of my children and partner in all things: Julie.
We have a few anniversaries that we keep, but today, the 6th December would mark the day that we started “going out”, dating, courting, whatever you’d like to call it, 18 years ago.
18 years marks a special year too, we’ve now been together longer in our lives than the time that we’ve not been together. Our halfway mark. I’m pretty damn proud to be her husband.
Julie’s responsible for all kinds of huge things throughout my life, and has even positively impacted the web community that I work inside of.
Let me indulge in some history
We got together back in 6th form (when we were just 18 in 1996), and both failed to get into our first choice universities. We had expected to separate our fledgling romance when we headed off, but as fate would have it, we were to go to the same university: Kingston upon Thames.
We’d spend the next few years joined at the hip. Spending all hours of the days together – often me bunking off my classes to hang out with her.
Then it all changed when I landed a sandwich year work placement – we went from spending 247 together, to me spending pretty much 9 'til 9 with my boss and very little time with Julie.
That didn’t stop us. Julie supported me, in amazing ways. It was pretty much a long distance relationship whilst living together.
But it wasn’t all work. We’d spend uncountable nights getting drunk and being silly together. Watching movies together and staying up late to watch just one more episode of 24.
Of course I wanted to marry my best friend. I proposed, at a carefully planned sunset on the beach on a chilly January back in 2001. Her words (in an urgent unknowing): “Urm, uh, uh, I don’t know...um...yes? I guess?!”.
We’d marry in 2004. We’d spend 3 months in Whistler on sabbatical together. We’d move to Brighton. We’d do regular bank holiday super-epic pub crawls. We’d buy a house.
We’d go through the most terrible thing, and we’d survive. Together.
And now we have Ellis and Seren, and somehow our family is complete in spite of losing Tia, she’s part of that family too.
For some reason I was lucky enough to find the person that makes me whole from such a young age, and some 18 years later Julie’s still my best friend and the person whose life I always want to share.
To Julie: I love you. Always. From the days that we were kids to the days when we’re old and grey.
The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.
Behind the screen, behind the internet, I’m generally a bit of a depressive chap. I have been for many, many years. Going back to early childhood. I’ve not talked about it online before, and I’m not sure how much I will in the future.
When I realise that I’m in a slump of depression, it’s like a weight on my back and around my neck. I imagine Superman with a cloak of Kryptonite.
It’s shit. It’s really shit. I know how I want to feel, I want to feel happy, grateful, I want to laugh and feel loved, yet I can’t get there. It’s shit that I can’t.
I can see myself wanting to be alone, retreating and wanting to hide from everything.
That’s when I need motivation. This is new for me. I’ve found motivation to move forward. To take what my depression has to give and tell myself (out loud) over and over that I will make it out of this feeling.
I’ve recently found motivation from a few very specific things I’ve read and heard.
The first was the quote from the start of this post. I heard two things in this speech (from Rocky Balboa no less):
- How my children are the world to me, and I’m there to help them get through the world and I have to be a strong model for them.
- Thanks to Julie (my wife), realising that this speech applies to me and my wife. Losing our daughter to stillbirth, we managed, somehow, to survive, and to stay strong.
The second I came across after Robin Williams on 11-August 2014 took his own life:
I’d never thought of it like that, but it does. I can be doing nothing, and a thought just pops into my head like: "...the reason you were hated at college was...". But if I tell myself "depression lies", I realise that thought is utter bullshit. I’ve no idea what motivates my brain to produce real thoughts like that, but if I tell myself, out loud, "depression lies", I’m able to take a breath and brush the nastiness off.
Finally, I watched Emma Watson’s address to the UN. It fired something up inside of me. Something that I identified with and believe in. I intend to show my son and daughter the video when they’re old enough to pay attention (currently 3 years and 5 months respectively, so they’re a way off).
I can’t quite articulate what it is that makes me motivated to move forward in Watson's address, but I implore you watch the video. It's 13 minutes. Incredibly inspiring and something I think all young and old should watch, boys in particular.
For me, I need something to reach into my slump and lend it’s hand to pull me up. These three things are helping me do that for me right now. I love my family so much, and I want them to feel loved by me.
This post is first and foremost for me. When I feel shit again, I’ll find this post again, read it, and remember that I can stand tall, and say: depression lies. Fuck you, depression.
My Velveteen Rabbit
This is the Velveteen Rabbit. The same picture hangs in my house.
I’ve never bought any artwork in my life previously. I’ve never really “got it”.
I walked passed the picture in a shop window most days back from the gym, and something kept reaching out to me. I’d stop and just look at the picture for several minutes before continuing my journey.
One time I even passed the picture, then turned back to spend a few idle minutes contemplating what it was that I drawn to.
My wife, Julie, eventually told me if something was pulling me so strongly, I should buy it. So now it hangs in my house.
I realised quickly what it was.
We lost our daughter, Tia to stillbirth on August 31 2010. My wife, after 9 months was finally in labour, and between the hours of labour and getting to hospital, she was lost. She never came home with us.
I have no proof that she exists. There were no baby clothes, no balloons, no happy photos.
It was like she didn’t exist at all, and that somehow her existence was invalid.
I struggled with this a lot. I still do at times.
But I see the picture of Velveteen Rabbit. He stands there, upright and proud. Standing against the wind, feeling it on his fur and blowing his ears back. Defiant with love. “I shall exist”.
In that moment, that tiny moment, the Velveteen Rabbit does exist, against all odds. He’s loved, and seen.
I always think of Tia when I look at that picture. She’s not here any more. She doesn’t exist in my world today. But she’s always with me. She has left a mark. In my heart. I think of her and miss her. Other people can’t see that, but she is here, with me.
A person doesn’t have to be with you for you to love them. Just remember them. And love them. And they’ll live on, with you.
Time doesn’t heal
My wife and I lost our daughter at full term in the last throes of labour to stillbirth. It was the darkest time of my life.
Over the coming months we’d hear the phrase “time heals”. It doesn’t.
How would it? We lost our daughter. She’ll be 4 this year. I still miss her. My heart still yearns for her. I still cry for her.
Time won’t ever heal this hole in our lives. It shouldn’t either.
Time can heal cuts and pains, so those cuts go away and you don’t think of them again. But the loss of our daughter? Time will remind us over and over again that she’s not here. Her first Christmas, first birthday, the birth of our son, our family coming together for a group photo, when she was supposed to join school. Over and over and over.
Time gave us room to grow stronger. And not quickly, in that “you’re so strong” way. But slowly. Over many many months and many years.
As time goes on, I started to accept this hole in my life as part of my life.
Time didn’t heal me, but I was able to begin to bear the weight of her loss. Just like going to the gym and lifting weights, I’d gained the strength, but it’s taken a long, long time. And I’m not healed. I never will be. I’m just able to carry more.
You just get stronger. You have to.
It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt anymore. It does. I’m just able to carry that pain and make it mine and part of me, because I’ve learnt how to.
Time doesn’t heal. It just looks that way from the outside in.
Personally, when I read these epic, super-deep or super-wide, lengthy, intelligent, well written posts I sometimes think to myself: shit, I can’t write anything half as epic as that.
So I walk away. I procrastinate. I tell myself I don’t have anything to share or they already know it or I find another reason why I shouldn’t write.
But sometimes, it’s just worth crapping out a short post, just to remind myself, even if it’s brief, that it’s good for me to keep the ball rolling on blogging and posting. It makes me better at written skills and my communication. It’s a skill that I should keep trying at. Even if the post doesn’t get retweeted or favourited or reshared or remediumeded or re-what-the-fuck-have-you.
So here’s my post. Short and sweet...ish. A reminder to myself that sometimes simple is good enough. Where’s yours?
Hack failing: cheat
It’s January and it’s likely you’ve got a New Year’s resolution burning away. Forming new habits takes 66 days. Whether it’s a diet change, lifestyle change, starting a podcast, diary, blog, photo journal or some other goal. 66 days is a long time to do something that is different from your normal routine.
So the secret I’ve discovered, if you couldn't guess, is to cheat. It’s the secret to all success. And there's logic behind this, so stick with me.
Success is rather binary, so the moment that you fail to post your weekly podcast is the first big failure. You’ve let your audience down. The second time you miss it, you’re pretty much dead and you may well have already considered “what’s the point in continuing?”. I’ve certainly felt the same when I said I’d stop drinking, or the previous times I’ve “started” going to the gym.
There’re two things to consider:
- Make the goal extremely easy.
- Plan to fail.
Making the goal easy allows you to build up later. If you aim to publish every two months instead of every month. Or even less, maybe once a quarter. Then if you’re feeling ambitious you either record and bank a podcast for another date, or release a special episode.
The same with the gym. Aim low, and keep it simple. If once a week is a change to your life, start there, don’t start with 5 times a week.
Planning to fail is incredibly easy and equally powerful. I’ll do this in general conversation where, ahead of explaining something I’m not confident of, I’ll pre-emptively apologise for mistakes. I’ve planned for failing to explain something.
If your goal is a new diet or to quit drinking or quit smoking (or quit anything), plan to fall off the wagon. Because when you don’t plan to fail, when you fail, you’ve failed, and that’s it, you might as well not bother. But if you do plan to fail, when you fail, it’s no big deal, it was part of the plan. It was your intention to fail. So you’re still on track, and you’re still making positive progress.
Don’t make it hard to achieve, make it hard to give up.
Plan to fail. Plan to cheat.