Two thousand fourteen

I’m not sad to say good­bye to 2013. There were some accom­plish­ments, but also many dif­fi­cul­ties that I would rather not have to revis­it. Though many of the dif­fi­cul­ties won’t mag­i­cal­ly dis­ap­pear with the turn­ing of a cal­en­dar’s page, the arrival of the new year nev­er­the­less does seem to come with a sense that there could be a fresh start, that per­haps some of the pre­vi­ous year’s fail­ures and dis­as­ters can be left behind.

Of course, not all of them can be. But it’s a good time to take stock and start the work of clean­ing up the mess­es. There’s noth­ing spe­cial about the first day of Jan­u­ary that makes it so, but come on: it’s not like there’s a bad time to have the mess­es of the past cleaned up.

In 2013 I got my book start­ed. Though I did not make my word count goal in Novem­ber, I have a total of 62,000 words writ­ten on the project. This is a small frac­tion of the sto­ry but it is a sub­stan­tial enough chunk that the project itself has a cer­tain iner­tia. I’ve done too much to quit.

I’ve become involved with cryp­to­graph­ic projects that hope­ful­ly will lead to oth­er sim­i­lar projects. My Bit­coin min­ing project has taught me not just about cryp­tocur­ren­cies, but has expand­ed my knowl­edge of eco­nom­ics and mar­kets in ways I had­n’t antic­i­pat­ed. And I’ve been able to help oth­ers get set up with per­son­al encryp­tion for their own email. This is part of set­ting the foun­da­tion for what I believe will ulti­mate­ly free the world of oppression.

Not imme­di­ate­ly, of course. We have a roller-coast­er ride ahead of us. No impor­tant change is with­out painful adjust­ment. But between the adop­tion of encryp­tion to keep our per­son­al infor­ma­tion safe and decen­tral­ized cryp­to­graph­ic cur­ren­cies like Bit­coin a rev­o­lu­tion has begun that inex­orably leads the world to free­dom. At one point we reject­ed the idea of pri­vate banks con­trol­ling the mon­ey sup­ply because mon­ey was too impor­tant to be con­trolled by a few indi­vid­u­als; now we begin the next stage: mon­ey is too impor­tant to be con­trolled by governments.

These things have been accom­plished despite crip­pling iso­la­tion and depres­sion. This year I lost my cat Ozzy, who did­n’t quite fin­ish out his nine­teenth year. You can’t ask for a bet­ter way to lose a friend than old age, but it’s impos­si­ble not to feel the impact of the loss of a friend who has been liv­ing with me since before I moved back to San Fran­cis­co, since before I quit drink­ing and even before I quit smok­ing. Roman­tic rela­tion­ships, friends, jobs, and pres­i­den­tial admin­is­tra­tions have all come and go but that gray stripey cat was with me for all that time.

It’s impos­si­ble to over­state the effect that my lack of finan­cial well-being has had on me in 2013. At every turn I’ve been scrap­ing even to keep myself fed. I went for two weeks with­out elec­tric­i­ty in my apart­ment, and at anoth­er time went for more than a week with­out phone or Inter­net because the bills had­n’t been paid. I don’t need to tell any­one how tough it can be to earn mon­ey build­ing web­sites with­out elec­tric­i­ty. I gave up hav­ing a cell­phone and don’t know when I’ll have one again.

More dam­ag­ing­ly, the mon­ey trou­bles com­bined with the geo­graph­ic removal from San Fran­cis­co have led to being cut off from friends. I’ve always been tem­pera­men­tal­ly intro­vert­ed so it is easy to let iso­la­tion go too far. It does­n’t mean I don’t need my friends — to the con­trary, they are that much more impor­tant to me. With­out mon­ey for an occa­sion­al movie or din­ner date, my social con­nec­tions have large­ly withered.

But prob­a­bly the worst of 2013 was the neglect of my med­ical needs. Because of my fail­ure to earn I’ve stopped tak­ing most of my med­ica­tions. I know that some peo­ple will applaud my going with­out drugs but lack in this area has com­pound­ed the dif­fi­cul­ties in every area of my life. Suf­fer­ing from crip­pling depres­sion and anx­i­ety months after stop­ping anti­de­pres­sants and antianx­i­ety med­ica­tions sug­gests that these med­ica­tions had ther­a­peu­tic effects beyond what might come from with­draw­al. I have been for­tu­nate that I haven’t had a full-blown migraine since I ran out of that med­i­cine as well, but I am hav­ing headaches more fre­quent­ly. And with­out my asth­ma med­ica­tion I’m reliant on the tem­po­rary relief of my albuterol inhalers, which for­tu­nate­ly last a long time. Even so, breath­ing is such an impor­tant part of dai­ly health that I know that it affects oth­er aspects of my well-being.

Through­out 2013 I’ve been fre­quent­ly beset by doubt and self-pity. But right now, less than three hours in to 2014 I have so much hope and pride. The things I’ve accom­plished are less than I wish they were, and they are accom­pa­nied by some spec­tac­u­lar fail­ures, but what was accom­plished was accom­plished in the face of adver­si­ty. Per­haps I can’t afford to give myself slack for that adver­si­ty — no one gets bonus points for life — but I can and must treat each step for­ward as a victory.

And of course I’m not doing this alone. I’ve received far more sup­port of var­i­ous kinds than I could ask for. What­ev­er I’ve said about iso­la­tion, it should be not­ed that’s a rel­a­tive thing. I would­n’t be breath­ing with­out friends and fam­i­ly that have car­ried me along at times dur­ing this past year.

What’s com­ing in 2014? Who knows? But the lyric from a Killing Joke song come to mind: sur­vival is my vic­to­ry. What­ev­er hap­pens next I have real­ly just one bot­tom-line test: I have to make it.

There will be changes. Some of those changes have start­ed already. Despite some false starts and hic­cups it appears that I will have health insur­ance in 2014. That ought to help with some of the med­ical issues, which in turn will help every­thing else. Am I pleased that thou­sands of dol­lars is being fun­neled from oth­er peo­ple’s high­er pre­mi­ums so that I can have a low­er pre­mi­um? No, and I fear that over time the changes we’ve made to the health care sys­tem will hurt. But in my spe­cif­ic case I’m hap­py to take advan­tage of it and will hope that I’m wrong.

The real changes though, those have to come from liv­ing my life unafraid. Adver­si­ty is a giv­en; fear is a warn­ing bell. I can’t let that bell ring in my ears. I have to hear it and then turn it off and take the next action. When I stum­ble I will have to get up, and when I lose my focus I will have to find it again.

The turn­ing of the cal­en­dar page does­n’t have any intrin­sic mean­ing but it has what­ev­er mean­ing we give to it. Arbi­trary though it may be, I’m hang­ing this mean­ing onto this day: it is the reboot, the fresh start. It all starts now.

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