The peak end rule suggests we remember experiences based on how we felt both at its peak (good or bad) and at its end.
In the context of reflecting on 2019, an otherwise OK year will always be remembered as one of sadness and death. Two deaths within 2 weeks of each other in December have made me, my wife and my family pause for thought and look at life a bit differently than before. We are so thankful for everything we have. Worrying about small or materially-unimportant matters suddenly feels ridiculous.
A friend of ours who passed away suddenly was a family friend. He left behind a wife (who is best friends with my wife) and two young boys, the same age as my daughters. It’s unimaginable what his family are going through, and the remaining days of December felt numb and somewhat detached. My wife’s aunt also passed, albeit more expectedly but no less sad and a great loss.
I’ve been relatively ‘free’ from death and its consequences since I was a kid. Two students at our high school died, and I vividly remember one of the funerals as it was a wake. Since then I’ve not had any direct contact, until now. Funeral services are both lovely and incredibly sad at the same time. They celebrate the life lived and the person loved, but all the same one thing is painfully clear: they’re not coming back.
At both funeral services I asked myself (and presumably everyone does the same when faced with mortality): what would my funeral be like? Who would be there? What would my loved ones say? What would be my highlights?
Inevitably I have my doubts. The beauty of our friend, though tragically lost too early, is that he lived a full life. He had amazing adventures and travels. He crammed so much into a relatively small stint on this planet. And through his kids, he’ll make a dent in the universe. His memory will live on through two young boys who will inevitably be scarred by his loss, but be stronger, and with eyes more open than I ever had at that age. It’s unfair that tragedy needs to be the trigger for realising how lucky we are to be here and healthy, but it’s better than nothing.
I've realised that being present, with your family and telling them you love them is what's important. Making memories together, enjoying life together and remembering we’re not here actually for that long. Every day counts and waiting for tomorrow is too late.
Life is just travelling down a river, from its source to the great open and infinite sea. Make the journey worth it.
The rest of 2019
Reflecting on the professional side my year was interesting to say the least. In a quest to try something new I returned to my old stomping ground Clearleft to turn my hand at a new role, of New Business Director (contract).
As a designer I’ve always loved speaking to people about their design challenges and situations. Devising approaches for solving those problems through design felt an appropriate avenue for me, hence the new role.
It’s gone well, but not without its challenges. Throughout the year I’ve gained valuable experience in the dark magic that is ‘selling design’, often considered the ugly side of agency life (but without it there’d be no work). I’ll write a longer post about my experiences soon, but for now it’s been an interesting ride.
At the very least, the experiment proved useful: paired with my digital design background, I feel like I’m adding more strings to my proverbial career experience bow. However I don’t think I’ll be continuing in New Business as a career path.
Not at work
Outside of work life is good (politics and the UK notwithstanding).
I am lucky to have a fantastic marathon-running and ridiculously talented wife who loves me. I have two wonderful daughters who I am so proud of every single day. Secondary school looms, which is terrifying, mainly because I don’t feel old enough to have a daughter old enough to go to secondary school. After a few health scares (further contributing to the end of 2019 being a bit shit) we are healthy. Further to that, I want to cycle even more, and will do so in 2020, with my eye on a few large events. All in all I have a lot to be happy with, and so much to be thankful for.
I’m not really a fan of new year's resolutions. I just want to make the most of 2020, and make sure it counts. I want to remain fit and active, I want my family to be happy and provided for, and make decisions that will only improve our situation, not worsen it. Bring it on, 2020.
January 3rd, 2020