Jan 124

2023: Shifting seasons

Leaving the ceremony Customary fam shot First dance after surprise outfit change
A few photos from the big day

💒 Tying the knot

Getting married is one of the biggest decisions in life, along with whether to try for kids. As a certified overthinker who finds future commitments a little anxiety-inducing, committing future Fred to a lifelong partnership has not been a decision taken lightly.

I first crossed paths with my wife, Lorna, in the summer of 2020, and started dating in early 2021.

What initially drew me to her was what often draws a man to a woman: beauty, but it was her inner beauty that hit me first. I noticed her warmth, generosity, and kindness almost immediately, and naturally, it didn’t take me long to realise I liked what I saw too.

Many people believe love is primarily about feelings, and only to a lesser extent a matter of commitment and work. I’ve always agreed that both elements are important, but felt that the importance was the wrong way round.

Love to me is primarily a commitment, a choice, a posture. Feelings should be involved, though they inevitably fluctuate as feelings always do. But the choice to humble myself, to build the other up and to proactively work on the relationship should be a more consistent base that the other parts can find a firm foundation to build upon.

I read a quote from James Clear’s newsletter this week that fits with my view of what a long-term relationship looks like:

"You will love whatever you pour your heart into. Passion follows commitment."

I’ve also heard before that when assessing the potential of a relationship, there are three key areas to look for: Chemistry, Character, and Calling.

Chemistry is the stuff we all normally focus on, the feelings we get when we see the other, the ease of jokes flying back and forth, the peace we feel when together.

Character is the deeper, more ingrained aspects of personality, integrity, values, the sort of person someone is when no one’s looking.

Calling, though easily overlooked, refers to the shared passions, compatible life goals, and a similar trajectory.

Many let a strong score on Chemistry blind them to danger signs in other areas. What excites me most about marrying Lorna isn’t that we’ve got it all figured out, or that we’re perfect soulmates who are endlessly, dizzyingly in love, but that our feelings for each other are undergirded by solid, compatible visions on how to live life together, and that as much as any fallible human is, she’s someone with utmost character I can trust.

I’m super excited for our adventures ahead.

🚶🏻‍♂️ Finding my place and the path forwards

I’ve written before about my journey of faith, which is more broadly a journey of groping my way towards a worldview that felt both mine and directionally true.

Life can be seen as a journey from youthful simplicity, to complexity, with the hope of returning to a new form of complex simplicity for those who stay the course.

As someone who tries to live life with integrity, with oneness, it’s been a challenge leaving the safety of the known without knowing what the new looks like.

I’ve had a picture of this journey in my head for a while, but it was only when I read Falling Upward by Richard Rohr earlier this year that I really found someone who could describe how I felt and what I was going through.

Since then I’ve also read Universal Christ, which while I don’t have fixed opinions on, I’ve found his perspective both refreshing and insightful.

On top of this, during the wedding, a close friend shared a picture he had for me that was counterintuitive to him but made perfect sense to me.

These threads pulling together have given me confidence in where I stand now and the steps ahead out into new territory.

Customary fam shot
Lorna & I measuring out the plot last summer

🏡 Buying land

I’ve been working on side projects for almost 15 years. Some made money, others never saw the light of day, but through it all I learnt a ton and really enjoyed the process.

Tinkering away at something day by day and seeing your creation come alive over time is a super satisfying experience.

Recently, I haven't spent much time on techy side projects. The only one I’ve been dabbling on being Blocks. The bigger project has been the goal to build a Furnished Holiday Let (FHL) on a piece of land Lorna & I first spotted towards the end of last year.

Since then, with the help of our planning consultant, we put in a pre-application to the local council which came back positively, agreed a price with the seller, and finally purchased the plot in August after quite a lot of back and forth (read: solicitors' costs). Since then, we’ve appointed an architect to work with in the planning, design, and build phases, should we get that far.

We’re aiming to submit a planning application in the first half of this year, and then the waiting game for the verdict begins.

So far the financial outlay has been relatively minimal, though naturally with each step we take costs continue to accumulate, so gaining clarity on whether the project is a goer is a huge milestone to target.

I plan to share more details on this as we go, but if you're interested and can't wait feel free to drop me a message.

👨🏻‍💻 Work

I started a contract with BlackRock in their AI Labs team towards the end of last year, and that continued into 2023. By the summertime we agreed to continue for another 6 months, though we were both aware that we may wrap up sooner should we get the project into a good stopping place.

By the time late summer came around it was looking like we didn’t have too much left to do, so I spoke to my boss about looking for what’s next as we wrapped things up. Around that time I spotted Lex had raised a $2.75m seed round and were hiring for a React dev.

Naturally the idea excited me, but I had a few reservations about whether it was the right role at the right time for me: joining an early-stage, US-based startup just as we were getting married.

Thankfully my wife is amazing and was just as excited about the possibility and encouraged me to apply.

I reached out to Nathan, who I already knew a little, and we jumped on a call. We spoke candidly about what working together might look like and some of the challenges but agreed to a trial project to see how it felt in reality.

The project was challenging, but it went well, and I was super excited when Nathan messaged to confirm his interest in teaming up.

It’s only been a couple of months, but I’m really enjoying working on an app that I use myself, alongside a great little team distributed around the world.

Soon after joining we had our first team retreat here in London. We turned on paid plans, celebrating our first paying customer outside the historic Shakespeare’s Globe. Now there’s a man who knew a thing or two about the written word.

Workout stats for the year Mood stats for the year Body fat / muscle stats for the year
Some stats for the year from my app, Blocks (workouts and body comp dropped off from the summer, read below for why)

🫀 Health

💪🏼 Physical

The first half of the year went really well on the physical side, with a weekday ~20-minute gym habit and eating a relatively low-calorie, high-protein diet.

I settled on a system of counting calories 5 days a week, with 2 days a little more relaxed while not aiming to go too crazy. My aim is the longer-term, and this felt like a balance I could sustain rather than being too restrictive and falling off the horse altogether.

By the summer, I’d gotten into the best shape of my life and felt really happy with how things were going. Unfortunately, around that time I tweaked a tendon in my elbow, which led me to pause the gym habit and rest. The issue persisted though, so I started back at the gym, initially just training my right side and then gradually starting back up on my left.

I can still feel a sizable pain in my elbow when doing specific movements 6 months on, so my top priority is getting that sorted this year so I can fully engage at the gym again.

At the same time as the workouts falling off I got engaged, planned a wedding, got married, went on honeymoon, and then celebrated Christmas. I consciously chose to relax my diet during this time, knowing that I’d need to get back on the horse in the new year. Now all the distractions are out of the way I’m starting back with the calorie counting, high-protein diet 5 days a week, as well as continuing my weekday gym habit.

🧠 Mental/emotional

Beyond the physical I’ve been working on my inner health the past few years, and I started therapy again in the second half of 2023.

It’s only a short, 15-week program, but I’ve already had some subtle yet important breakthroughs in understanding myself and my behaviour patterns towards others.

After I finish with my current therapist in a few weeks time, I plan to take a break and see what shape my self-understanding journey takes this year. I’m hoping a combination of weekly writing and other close relationships can help bridge the gap. If not, I’ll consider whether to take up therapy again in one form or another.

🌍 Travel

I feel very blessed to be able to get away, see places new and old, and spend time with people I value. This year wasn’t a crazy one, but here are a few spots I managed to get to:

Alleyway in Bideford Boat race in Bideford Narrow road in Bideford
A few shots from the summer trip to Cornwall

🌊 Bideford, Devon

An impromptu long weekend trip to the west coast was the ideal way to start the summer, with walks, chats, ice creams, and hearty meals.

Boat race in Bideford Narrow road in Bideford
Countryside adventures in the Lake District

🏞️ Lake District

My siblings decided a while back to conquer the world, with one of my sisters living in Oz and my brother in Canada. This summer my brother flew back with his family and a bunch of us spent a week up in the Lake District.

Saying goodbye is always hard, but times like these spent together are some of the richest we have, so I’m always grateful when they come around, however fleeting.

Road in Bergen Cycling through Stavanger Northern Lights near Tromsø
Christmassy hotel lobby in Stavanger Cabin by a frozen lake near Tromsø
Some highlights from the honeymoon

🏔️ Norway

Where better to honeymoon than picturesque Norway? Beautiful cities, welcoming people, and stunning nature; we packed our bags for 2 weeks in a country that was new to us both.

From Stavanger to Bergen via an eerily empty early morning 5h ferry ride, up to Tromsø and the surrounding area, we spent many days wandering around cobbled streets and gazing up at celestial shows that danced above our heads.

The day before our arrival, our accommodation for the northern leg of the trip cancelled on us, but we quickly found a better, cheaper replacement. The only compromise was that we needed a car rental. Thankfully, it didn’t take too long to get used to driving in the snow on the other side of the road, and the freedom of being able to jump in the car and head wherever we wanted was the ideal contrast to the city walks we’d done so far.

We hope to visit Oslo, the one place we didn’t get to, on a long weekend in the next few years.

Reading Rest, whilst Watson rests at my feet Watson in the snow New years fireworks
It was a restful time up in Scotland

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Edinburgh

My parents went to Australia for Christmas to see my sister and her family, while my brother stayed in Canada after visiting in the summer. My two other sisters spent the holidays in England, so Lorna and I took the opportunity to head up and spend 10 days with her family in Scotland.

I gave one piece of advice in my wedding speech: pick a woman whose parents you enjoy visiting. Thankfully, Lorna’s parents live in one of the best cities in the UK, so heading up with an overly optimistic collection of books is never a hardship.

This year we’ve been dog sitting for our parents' dog who joined us on our Scottish adventure. It’s been great having him, though Lorna and I have both fallen for the idea of having our own once we’re a bit more settled locationally.

🔢 2023 Scorecard

In 2023, my goals were simple: to work on myself in a few key areas. Here’s how I got on:

❤️ Emotional

🗣 Therapy

I knew I wanted to start therapy again. It took longer than I wanted to find a therapist that I was happy with, but I got there in the end, so I chalk this up as a win, if not a home run.

🧠 Mental

📚 At least one book a month

I wanted to get back into reading in 2023, and I hit my goal of reading at least a book each month. As of yesterday, I’ve read 14 books with 7 more in progress that I’ve been dipping in and out of as I fancy.

My standouts were: Falling Upward by Richard Rohr, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, Number Go Up by Zeke Faux, Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro & The Shack by William P. Young.

💪 Physical

🏃‍♂️ Half marathon

I set myself the goal of running a half marathon in 2021, but injury put paid to that plan. I hoped to pick this up again in 2022, but it never became a priority, so this definitely goes down as a miss.

⚖️ Body fat

I started the year at (supposedly) around 13% body fat and wanted to make progress on trimming that down to 10-11% while increasing muscle mass.

I haven't actually weighed myself properly recently (ignorance is bliss) but I think I’m currently around 15-16% body fat. Definitely a miss on this one and some work to be done (see looking ahead below).

🙏🏼 Spiritual

Here was the goal to continue my journey forwards, which I feel very happy about. As I’ve written above, I’m more at peace with where I stand now and feel like I’ve been taking healthy steps forwards which I hope to continue into 2024.

🎯 Looking ahead to 2024

💪🏼 Fix my elbow & get back into shape

Regaining full use of my body by fixing my elbow is key to my goal of getting back into shape.

I aim to have full pain-free movement in the first half of the year, even if that requires spending some money on treatment. The goal for the second half of the year is to get back to where I was pre-injury this summer just gone, 20 pull-ups and 30 push-ups being a simple gauge of this.

🏃🏻‍♂️ Rebuild running habit

One of the most cliché New Year's resolutions is to run. This often looks like making lots of progress in the short-term before life hits you off balance and the habit falls apart.

Running is a cornerstone habit for me though, affecting my mental health, helping me process whatever is going on in life, helping me see the benefits of stretching and flexibility, as well as being a tool in the arsenal for balancing calorie intake with my goals at the time.

The goal here is simple: go for a run at least once every week, however small.

🧘🏻‍♂️ Improve flexibility

I was diagnosed with a condition in my mid-twenties that can cause stiffness as I age. I’ve been pretty slack doing anything about it, but a chat with the mother-in-law, who has treated people with the same condition, gave me a nice jolt to start building habits that will lead me on a long-term healthy trajectory.

My goal here is quite generic: to simply be noticeably more flexible this time next year than I am now and to build small, sustainable, ideally enjoyable habits that will help lead me towards that.

✍🏻 Write again

I’ve shared before how writing is a habit I hope to keep for life, but with a lot going on this year, it’s been one that’s fallen by the wayside. This past year I only published 4 posts and didn’t draft many more.

Joining Lex in the past couple of months has given me a natural nudge to pick up the habit again. When I mentioned this to Nathan he suggested taking a look at Foster. I’ve since had a great intro call with them and hope to join one of their writing circles in early January.

📚 Continue reading

In 2023, I read 14 books. I've already started another 7, and would like to hit 24 in 2024 (so 2/month). I’ve found a lot of value and enjoyment in reading recently, so I plan to continue to make time for that moving forwards.

⚒️ Submit planning application

Working with our architect, we aim to submit the planning application for our Furnished Holiday Let in the first half of 2024, and are hopeful of having a verdict back before the end of the year, ready to break ground in 2025 should we be successful.

🔳 Iterate on Blocks

As is often the case, the new year and the time off over the holidays brings habits and my habit tracking app, Blocks, back into focus.

I spent a bit of time getting it working again, and I’m in the middle of migrating from JS to TypeScript. The goal is to get that done, then aim to fix some sizeable performance issues. If I can accomplish that then the app will be in a much better place, and I might even be able to iterate on the functionality and add a feature or two.

Once that’s done, it would be nice to promote the app more towards the end of 2024, ready for the New Year's resolution-fueled wave of habit builders for 2025.

🌏 Long distance travel

The wife and I love London, but we are also aware that we have the least commitments in the next 12-18 months to tie us down, so we plan to make the most of that freedom and go see more of the world and the far-flung people we love.

The first half of the year will be here in London as Lorna gets the foundation of her clothing business off the ground, having recently been accepted into the Sustainable Young Makers program here in East London. But once she’s got to grips with that, we plan to put it on pause while we take in the far corners of the earth, with the aim of coming back in 2025 to build a life with our base in London, assuming we don’t fall in love with another spot around the globe.

Fred Rivett's face@fredrivett