Reflection on 2014

I recently created a Facebook Year In Review for 2014. I called it Millimeters By Intravenous, or MMXIV as an acronym, which is also 2014 written as roman numerals. Facebook could only create a review based on what I posted to Facebook. There were definitely gaps in the narrative from when I was deliberately offline. My offline times were my most transformative, and it felt strange to get on Facebook and write about what happened while offline. I don’t think the Facebook Year In Review was the right place to share what happened. In fact, quite a bit of hullabaloo came about when terrible life events were framed as celebratory in the Facebook Year In Review for others. I’ll avoid adding to that discussion. Instead, I’ll focus below on details of my own life, especially ones where I think my blog is a better medium.

Note that this entry touches on parts of my life I may not have revealed on this blog thus far. As I continue writing in 2015, I want my blog to be my primary outlet to the world, so expect additional personal entries like this one. It would be difficult for me to write about learning without sharing what went into my own learning, struggles and all.

The format of this entry is going to be a retrospective, or retro, format. As I’ve learned from my new and current employer, Detroit Labs, a retro typically covers three categories:

  1. What went well?
  2. What didn’t go so well?
  3. What needs to change?

I’m going to keep the details fairly short on each item, only elaborating where it affects the scope of the year as a whole. I’m sure I’ll write more entries about specific items, and I’ll hyperlink to those entries with future edits of this entry.

What Went Well?
I read a book called Self-Parenting, where I learned about psychographic profiles that most of us have called the Inner Parent and the Inner Child. I learned that most of my inner conflicts can be acted out as dialogue between the Inner Child and Inner Parent. When I found ways to keep the dialogue civil and constructive, I was better able to work out my inner disputes.

I started regularly running again, and this time all on my own. I hadn’t run seriously since 2012. Back in 2012 I lived around Dallas, TX, and I had trained with my friends for the 2012 Chicago Marathon. I ran only some of the recommended training runs (and yes, I did finish the marathon with this inadequate training, but that’s another story), and only with my friends and never on my own. Turns out I love to able to run on my own for my own health and peace of mind and not for a race or any other goal.

I took journaling to the next level. I had been carrying a journal with me to most places since 2012, and I had used the journal to record little thoughts and observations at random intervals. This year I instead used my journal to write three pages of whatever comes to mind in the morning. This is Julia Cameron’s idea of the “morning pages“. Writing this amount has helped me see further into what’s really on my mind. A journal is a cheap therapist.

I went on a major road trip through North America’s northwest. I haven’t typed up my collected experience of this road trip yet, so I’m not sure if it will take multiple entries to explain. Essentially, the trip started in Seattle, WA where I hung out with friends for a few days. I then drove my rental Jeep Compass through the deserts of Washington, past the sapphire Ceour d’Alene over the Continental Divide of the Americas, in a Y shape around Montana that I loved and will visit again, across the green prairie of Alberta to Calgary’s metropolis, through the mountains and lakes of Banff and then British Columbia back down to Seattle. I followed a course similar to the one in the map below.
Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 16.53.44

I wrote out a vision of where I want to be in five years, and I have defined my life’s mission statement. I worked on these while on my road trip. When I type out the final versions of these, I’ll make them pages on this blog.

I saw some of my favorite acts live in concert. Throwing Muses is one of my favorite bands, and I caught their act in Seattle during my road trip. They haven’t played together in a very long time. I saw Tacocat at a block party concert by Calgary’s Luke’s Drug Mart (also a stop on the road trip), and they were kind enough to chat and take a photo with me after their set. I saw Sharon Van Etten at The Loving Touch in Ferndale, MI, and also chatted with her after the show. There were a few other great acts, but that’s for another post.

I officiated the wedding of one of my best friends and her husband. That’s right, I’m ordained.

I left my job in medical devices for an apprenticeship in mobile application development at Detroit Labs. For three months I learned about Java and Android in downtown Detroit with a handful of other apprentices of all different backgrounds (no computer science majors). It was the most supportive and simultaneously most challenging education experience I’ve been through. There’s plenty more to write about this experience, another time.

I graduated the apprenticeship at Detroit Labs. I’m now working as full-time developer, making Android apps for clients. I never thought I would write that.

I started taking habit tracking seriously. I use an app on my iPhone called Habit List, where I can record how many days a week I kept to a habit I want to build. Among the habits tracked: getting more sleep, meditating, running, journaling, and eating well. My final project of my Detroit Labs apprenticeship was an Android app I made called HabiTrack that helps the user keep up chains of good habits following Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret.

What Didn’t Go So Well?
My visit to Canada this summer as a whole. I enjoyed seeing Tacocat live in Calgary, and it was gorgeous to drive through Banff, but I did not do the right amount of planning for the rest of my stay. I’ll spare the details for now, but I’ll just advise against not having a data plan in Canada and driving through British Columbia in one sitting.

Sleeping in a Jeep Compass without good blankets or coats. There’s nothing wrong with a Jeep Compass—I actually really liked driving it. I just don’t recommend sleeping in one. On cold nights, without my coat or blankets, I wrapped myself in trash bags, to wake up to dew coating my legs. Sleeping in the back of the Compass is worse than sleeping in the seat. I would wake up with a sharp pain from my neck to my feat, almost wishing I hadn’t slept at all.

Finances. I won’t divulge numbers here, but I have not been staying within my budget this year. I leave this year in the black, but there’s a lot to do to improve saving.

I lost my grandfather. He was very important to me throughout my entire life. He’s the reason I ever started liking math, wordplay, and comics. He believed in my creativity and nourished it. I miss him. When he died, I vowed I would live a life as great as his.

What Needs To Change?
I can call Discover and Verizon before I do any international travel to enjoy my stay more.

I can save up more for travel and stay in more hotels or motels on future road trips. A bed is worth it.

I can get serious about systems for saving money. One trick I learned this year is to save $5 bills instead of spending them. It stacks up faster than I thought it would. To take this further, I plan on working out an envelope system of saving, where every dollar is allocated to something, even flex room. I can also create a habit to spend time on finances on a consistent basis.


There’s plenty more to work on in 2015, but I’m glad I made it through 2014. Discomfort and loss were major emotional tones this year, but I think I was in a better place to work through them. I have a job I really like and I’ve got the momentum of the habit changes and hard work I’ve done this year.

2015, let’s do this.

To the future,
Arthur Hovinc

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