Some parts of the Internet don’t seem to age. My website is not one of them. This was DavidCharles.info in June 2010 (courtesy of the Wayback Machine):
There’s something unmistakeably 2010 about this image. It’s hosted on Blogspot, for one. ‘Follow me on Facebook’ and ‘My Flickr PhotoStream’ – I haven’t used these services for six years or more.
I have no idea what ‘The Knowledge’ was. Presumably not a record of my attempt to learn all 25,000 streets within a six mile radius of Charing Cross. And the less said about this ‘powerful tool’, the better.
On the other hand, there are some corners of the Internet that don’t date. This ridiculous Gnarls Barkley cover was recorded by Don Ross in 2010 and still sounds as fresh as ever.
This man is 10 years older now and, until a couple of days ago, I’d never heard of him. The Internet, sometimes, is cool. The work we do, sometimes, is timeless.
At the start of the last decade, I made the decision to apply for an internship at Amnesty International, and to apply for a place at a housing cooperative in London. I was accepted for both and set off on a course that directed my daily life for most of the next six years, and that still tides the general wash of my existence today, ten years later.
Amnesty didn’t really work out. I get strangely paranoid in large office environments and end up feeling stifled and powerless – even when the work is meaningful.
The International Secretariat remains the last open-plan, filing cabinet-filled, water cooler and canteen office I have worked in.
But Amnesty showed me what I did want work to look like: creativity and the outdoors. In 2010, I wrote my first books, including a tale about hitch-hiking to Scotland, The Soles of My Shoes, which is still on sale.
The 2010s was, for me, a decade of exploration. Sanford housing cooperative gave me that formative freedom to write books, start a theatre company, study English teaching, volunteer with refugees in Calais, and cycle around the country.
It wasn’t always healthy living situation, but a housing cooperative is run for the benefit of its members, not for the profit of its landlord. Everyone had a secure tenancy and a vote on how the cooperative was run, including rent-setting.
At the time, it was one of the few places in London where you could actually cover rent with a part-time job or with housing benefit. The rest of the week, then, was ours – to study, volunteer, travel, or create. It sounds like dream fairyland, but it could be the way we organise all our housing in this country.
I’m glad I left Sanford, though. What my soul needs at the end of 2019 is not the same as it craved when the decade began.
In a 2015 paper published in Psychological Science, researchers found evidence for the instinctual notion that ‘temporal landmarks’ that signal new beginnings – such as the turning of a year – strengthen our motivation to achieve our goals.
Hence New Year’s Resolutions.
But the researchers also found that the bigger the sense of a fresh start, the bigger the motivation. A fresh start puts distance between our present and our past, imperfect, selves. The fresher the start, the greater the psychological distance, and the greater optimism we feel that we can finally overwhelm our ambition.
In a couple of days, we all have the opportunity to ‘spur goal initiation’ on a scale not seen the noughties clicked over into the teens. This gives a surprising weight to these few days that can otherwise slip between the cracks in the festivities of Christmas and New Year.
Turn-of-the-decade decisions echo long in the body, mind and spirit. Those two decisions that I took in early 2010 – Amnesty and Sanford – put me on a path that I was still exploring six years later and which have given me the life I lead today.
A great wave of momentum is coming, bringing with it the freshest of fresh starts – not merely of a new year, but of a whole new decade.
So, in among the minced pies and the turkey soup leftovers, I’m going to clear some time to make a couple of decisions that will set a new course and help me ride that wave long into the twenties.
What life choices will I look back on in 2029? What can I do today to increase the probability that someone, somewhere will find my work in 2029, surprised that it’s ten years old already?
What fresh start will you make in the twenties?