I was talking with a friend Wednesday evening, grumbling a bit about how short life is and how many things I'll never get to. He asked me, "Well, what do you like doing?" It's a good question for a rainy Friday, so here's my list (and the reasons I'm not actually doing the ones I'm not doing):
  1. Writing fiction. I've wanted to be an author ever since I was a little kid, and the three or four times I've been able to arrange my life so that I can really get into it—get two or three half-day sessions every week for months at a time—have been tremendously rewarding. My circumstances haven't permitted that for many years, though, and probably won't for many more years to come; without that feeling of flow, it's actually more frustrating than fun to write.
  2. Explaining things. Teaching and writing non-fiction are almost as rewarding, so I've done a lot of both, and expect to do more. Teaching inside a large, slow-moving institution whose primary focus is something else didn't work out for me, but I'm still hopeful that I can find other avenues. The catch, of course, is that in order for it to be sustainable, someone has to pay me, and I have to find a way to combine it with learning new things myself so that what I'm teaching doesn't go stale.
  3. Programming. I enjoy making something out of nothing, and few shapeable things are as close to nothing as software. On the other hand, I'm slowing down: I don't enjoy the feeling of being lost that I get when I'm faced with Git, Javascript, and other shiny newness. On the other, other hand, it keeps my teaching honest: having taught the web programming course at the University of Toronto a couple of times, I'm finally learning how to actually do it in my job at Side Effects
  4. Playing music. Doesn't pay, and I was never particularly good, but I've always loved it. I've tried to pick up my sax again a couple of times in the last year, but as with writing, I haven't been able to do it steadily enough to satisfy myself. Perhaps when Maddie is a bit older...
  5. Playing games. Whether it's Ultimate frisbee or Homeworld, I like the combination of "with" and "against"—really, I play so that we have something to talk to people about afterward :-). This is a big part of music for me too—I don't enjoy playing on my own nearly as much as playing with people. Time, though... always time...
  6. Working out. I was surprised to discover that I actually enjoyed this, back when I had to be in the gym three times a week for physio exercises—I was about as unathletic a kid as you could imagine. At the risk of repeating myself, making time is the obstacle: if it's a choice between an hour with my daughter or an hour pushing weights around, it's no choice at all.
I haven't listed "spending time with family" or "spending time with friends" because I think they're too big (or too deep, or too something) to fit into a list like this. They're the base for everything else, though; as I said last week, we're all looking for running partners, and I think the reason I'm not making time for writing or music or exercise is that they'd take time away from the two people I love spending time with most. It's frustrating, like all either/or choices are frustrating, but if publishing another children's book really was more important to me, I'd be doing that rather than making tea for Sadie when she has a cold or getting the kitchen floor wet doing "experiments" with Madeleine. So yeah, I grumble, but honestly? Given that there are only 24 hours in a day, and that nobody else can do my sleeping for me, I think I'm doing pretty much what I actually want to be doing.