Reflections on a year of sedentary life
Neal O’Grady – @NealOGrady

Reflections on a year of sedentary life

50 weeks ago I got home from over 3 years of nomadic living, and nearly 5 years of moving every 4-5 months.

I’ve been living in the same apartment since mid January. I have furniture. Plants. Gadgets. Art. Random knick knacks. A whole lotta shit!

My life no longer fits into carry-on luggage. I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

And now I’m about to return to the same place where I ended my nomadic streak (Australia) and bomb around for 2 months while working remote.

Last time I was there I was exploring moving to Melbourne, a city I absolutely adore. But I was so tired of moving around. Packing. Unpacking. So tired of needing to try for a social life. So tired of battling timezones with work. I missed friends. I craved familiarity. I needed to recharge.

So I returned home to Vancouver to do so.

And I figure now is a good time to review what this first year of sedentary life in Vancouver has been to me. As you’ll read it has been a very productive/eventful year in self development, whether it brought out these changes or it helped me finally notice changes that travelling brought out in me.

It’s time to review it all in no particular order. The good and the bad. And be unashamedly public about it.

Prepare to learn a lot more about me in.

Self

  • I got an apartment to myself. The first time ever. After years of crashing on couches, spare rooms, hostel beds, airport benches, insect-infested guest houses, and passing out on various modes of transportation, I finally had my own space. It was eerily quiet and void of life (I now have plant friends). The space felt foreign, empty, and weird at first. After a couple of months I got bored of it and the neighbourhood. But now it feels like a real home. A thing I’ve lacked for years.
  • I did a men’s retreat over my birthday (thanks Allan). It was intense. It shattered me emotionally. But it rebuilt me into a better version of myself. It helped me deal with some deep-seated inner demons and instantly changed how I present myself to the world. Even to my best friends. I’ve become far more of an open book and strive for candour in all situations—as this post hopefully illustrates.
  • Traveling for so long brought me out of my shell and helped me become far more extroverted, adventurous, and easygoing. I learned how to meet people and connect quickly at a reasonably deep level. But doing it for so long formed a bad habit of running away when things became hard, uncomfortable, or simply not amazing. Being sedentary has forced me to sit in my problems and work on developing consistent and deeper bonds with people, even when things aren’t always perfect.
  • For the first few weeks being back I kept having the realization that I could see people more than once. I wasn’t saying goodbye at the same time as saying hello. The interactions weren’t tinged with sadness. I could see and talk to them again any time I wanted. It was weird. I grew so used to having to wait until the next time the stars aligned and we were in the same place again.
  • I’ve noticed that I’m far better at slamming my friends together and actively reaching out and keeping connections going. I was inspired by friends who are masters of it (thanks Chris and Allan). I guess in the past I lacked the confidence in myself to think that my friends value my judgment of character enough to like my other friends. It seems stupid to me now.
  • And thanks to various incredibly loving and touch-oriented friends, I’ve been working on breaking down my reservations for physical touch. I’ve always loved it, and become very physical when the barrier is knocked down, but I’ve always worried about encroaching on other people’s personal space, so it’s made me incredibly uncomfortable to do so. Obviously it’s a balance and I’m getting closer to finding it.
  • But most of all I’ve become a much more weird version of myself. Or rather I’ve been allowing the vastly weird parts of myself to surface more often and in stronger force. And I fucking love it.
  • In the process I’ve realized some of the value that I provide to people and realized that there are many people out there that want me to keep providing that value. I’m not just a passing oddity.
  • Which all goes to say that I reconnected with and met some amazing people. A lot of unique characters that are near impossible to describe. I’m incredibly lucky to have so many beautifully weird friends here and abroad. I look forward to all the amazing things planned for this coming year and everything unplanned into the future. And all the new weird characters that will cross my path.

Dating

  • Shortly into the year I read a book about “attachment theory” that absolutely broke me (thanks Allan!). It perfectly summarized my biggest failings in romantic relationships. I felt like a broken human. I wondered if therapy was the answer, but I settled on casual dating and lots of self reflection, climbing, and friend therapy (thanks everyone).
  • Then I met someone while casually dating. I wasn’t prepared for how much I would end up liking her. Neither of us were looking for something but had unexpectedly found it anyway, despite it being a bad time. Long story short, for mature/complicated reasons we’re no longer together—after only a few, but eventful, months.
  • As a stoic person, I don’t experience strong emotions often. Most things slide off me. So I definitely wasn’t prepared for how hard the break up would be to deal with. But battling these emotions and errant thought loops has been an incredibly interesting and valuable experience to me. I continuously try to understand myself and my emotions, and this has been great for helping me slowly patch up my frayed emotional edges and battle harden my stoicism. And not having constant novelty of traveling to distract me really forced me to fucking deal with it.
  • Regardless, because it was so comfortable and easy, the relationship helped put me back together after reading the attachment book, and gave me a huge boost in confidence. It was immensely valuable in my self improvement over the year and I’d do it all over again.
  • Dating other people afterwards has had far fewer of my previous failings. And it’s been great for learning about different kinds of people and working on myself. It has helped me identify different faults in my behaviour and work towards fixing them. Forming these intimate connections really forces you to peer inwards and question your behaviour, and seeing how different people deal with them differently is immensely valuable.
  • It’s also helped me appreciate that the primary reason I’m not in a relationship is because I choose to. Not because I’m unwanted or unattractive as I may have told myself in the past. In fact, over the year I turned down several opportunities at turning casual relationships into more serious ones. I just wasn’t feeling it. I have absolutely no problem being single. And there are plenty of other cool people to meet and learn from in the quest for someone who does make me feel it.
  • And on this quest, I did a tantra speed dating event (thanks Hanna). Before I even got there my candour was tested when Facebook announced my plan to go. I had people asking about it and mentioning it for two weeks. Even my mom asked about it. I found the whole thing absolutely hilarious. Not at all embarrassing like I would have in the past.
  • The tantra speed dating itself was incredibly interesting. It didn’t lead to any dates in the end, but I loved the experience and raved about it for weeks afterwards. It was akin to the men’s retreat in that it pushed me towards connection, candour, and self reflection. I plan to explore tantra more, and use some of the exercises in developing deeper bonds with any future partner!
  • And I learned that I've mostly overcome my fears of expressing my interest in people and asking them out. I have a long history of never acting on my feelings because I was afraid of both encroaching on their right to not be harassed and hit on, and of the rejection. It's frustrated me and left many potential great opportunities fade into nothing. But I'll generally act if I'm interested now.

Health/Fitness

  • After years of wanting to yet letting fear talk myself out of it, I finally tried skiing and climbing for the first time.
  • Skiing was a challenge. I fell loads. I ached all over. The lack of control as you fly down a hill and have no idea what you’re doing is extremely terrifying. And I really enjoyed it. But climbing took over my desire to ski.
  • Climbing has become an addiction that I’ve fed ~3 times per week since March. It calms me. It tires me. It challenges me. It hurts me. It frustrates me. And I fucking love it. It’s one of the one sports that’s really taken me over.
  • I’ve gotten back into a consistent yoga routine and found a teacher that I really love. A burner and ex-pro snowboarder in his 50’s who’s in better shape than me even after his recent hip replacement. His classes have been huge for improving my terrible flexibility.
  • And in saying that, I’m stronger, fitter, and more flexible than I ever have been. For the first time ever (despite lots of activity in the past) I have muscle definition in my arms, a strong core, and somewhat normal flexibility.
  • I’ve also seemed to have fixed my chronic coldness due to my low blood pressure. Perhaps all I needed was some body muscle.

Misc

  • I started learning the Irish language. Something I’ve been meaning to do for years but never had the motivation to do so. Dating an Irish person helped deliver the kick in the ass for me to start, and I just never stopped. It’s been slow going but I’ll get there.
  • But I’ve also restarted Hungarian recently due to an impending trip with my mom to her motherland next year.
  • I started using social media again. This of course is a double edged sword. I’m loving that Instagram is forcing me to go through my old photos, look at them, and relive the experience. I really enjoy editing the photos and making them look even better. I also love sharing my constant weird findings via stories. I‘ve also grown accustom to using Facebook as a public journal to explore thoughts—much like this. But I strongly dislike how as a result I end up checking social media more—something I need to work on.
  • I learned a valuable lesson about hugs from a unicorn (thanks Hanna). Head nuzzles are absolutely key. And I know that a great hug is a good way to get someone to like you.
  • I went sailing in a 4 person boat for a weekend with 5 other absolute weirdos (thanks Alex and crew). We piled our bags and camp mats up in the middle to turn the boat into one giant cuddle puddle bed. Fucking incredible.
  • I went to a music festival with ~30 people (thanks Tight Loose!), and probably knew at least another 30 more. I basked in the silliness. I revelled in the weird. I had an absolute blast, even if I had to escape to an inflatable life raft at one point.
  • I’m also getting back into meditation (thanks Allan) which has always helped me remain calm and analyze my thoughts and actions.
  • And I’ve been lucky enough to escape to one of my favourite places in the world, Salt Spring Island a few times with some of favourite people. It makes me appreciate the simpler life outside of cities and in tune with nature. I don’t look at my phone or computer the whole time. Something I wish to bring into my life more often.
  • Lastly, my family has officially folded some of my friends into the family. There hasn’t been a holiday all year without some of my friends being there :)

Work

  • My business hit its first million in revenue shortly after its first year anniversary. Which boggles my mind.
  • The team expanded to 7 and they’re all people I love. I burst out laughing at my desk every day. I trust them all deeply.
  • We’ve been responsible for millions in revenue for our clients and we manage hundreds of thousands of dollars per month on their behalf.
  • I learned how to be a manager, both of a team, projects, and clients. It’s been an absolute wild ride filled with failures and lessons.
  • I got flown to Amsterdam by a client for my first and only legit business trip. It was a blur of meetings, dinners, and jet lag.
  • After over a year of constant hustling, little time off, and crazy stress, we’ve finally managed to reduce workloads and stress across the team. Days off and regular work hours are even a thing!!!
  • We started our training program, finished the first cohort, and have had a ton of applications for future ones!

Goals for 2019

I turn 30 this year. I don’t care about getting older. In fact in many ways I’m way happier at 29 than I ever was at 20. Or 25. Or even 27. Getting older so far is fucking great. So this isn’t me lamenting about getting old.

But approaching 30 is making me realize that it’s coming time for me to move on from Vancouver. I rang in my 20’s here. I’ve moved back here 3 times. In total I’ve given this city about 8 years of my life.

Now don’t get me wrong, every time I’ve come back I’ve had it immensely change and improve me. I’ve loved being here. I know an absurd number of incredible people who call it home. But I feel I just can’t give my 30’s to the same place that I did my 20’s. There’s too many weird experiences to be had elsewhere that can grow me in unexpected ways. Perhaps it’ll be time I take advantage of my Irish passport and pick a place in Europe and call it home for a while. Be mostly settled, but use Europe’s compactness to incorporate travel into my normal life. Or maybe 2019 will take me somewhere I hadn’t thought of.

So as a pledge to myself, I’m going to come back after Australia and stick around to ring in my 30’s with some of the people I care most about. I’ll spend the summer season hiking and outdoor climbing, and to hit up either Burning Man or Shambhala. Then it’s time for me to move on—wherever that may be.

With that in mind, here are my goals and plans for when I get back as they stand. Let’s see if Australia can change them:

  • Keep climbing and doing yoga every week
  • Take advantage of Vancouver and get into outdoor climbing and overnight hiking trips
  • Learn Hungarian to a conversational level
  • Travel to Europe and Peru
  • Meditate daily
  • Get back into eating vegetarian more often
  • Go to Burning Man or Shambhala
  • Work a 4 day work week and scale further down overtime
  • Make it so almost all of my work can be done asynchronously
  • Reduce absentminded checking of social media
  • Legitimately learn photography and my camera
  • Move somewhere else around this time next year

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