‘Diver’ is my word for my 30th year

The joy of the free-diver, the peace of the loon, the patience of the turtle, and a touch of the ingenuity and panache of the great sea explorers (a Jacques Cousteau or a Captain Nemo).

Tending my depths, plunging into seas uncharted, dipping into mysterious pools and emerging to share the treasures and tales I find there (and perhaps hiding a few treasure maps of my own).



It’s always been natural for me to dive in to curiosities and challenges. I feel a spark to explore and learn in a new direction and I’m soon in over my head with rapt focus.

In other areas (major decisions about life changes, choosing a direction among seemingly infinite options, embracing an exciting but scary possibility) I’ve tended to be a tip-toer, a delayer, inching tiny bit by tiny bit into the shallow end and not quite making it all the way into the deep.

This is the first time I’ve chosen a word for a year, but if I had chosen words in the previous decade, I might have chosen words like Knight, Monk, or Artificer. My 20s saw me setting off on a series of expeditions of self-discovery. I went on energetic quests, designed great castles, and learned valuable wisdom and skills from my adventures. I was guided by the hope of finding my personal “mission” and the belief that I had found it (several times).

Each time, I was surprised to find that the purpose I devoted myself to was meaningful and thrilling but somewhat fleeting. I learned that the energetic drive of “mission” wasn’t the final solution I expected it to be, and it didn’t always take me to the destination I expected. Often the single-minded quest for the mission led to imbalance and instability through the self-sabotage of over-commitment and burnout. In many cases, I created wonderful things with wonderful party members, but the seasons often led to disillusionment, burnout, and depletion, leaving me feeling more distant from myself and my idealized “mission” than before.

At the beginning of the first chapter of my fourth decade, I feel a reflective peace emerging, a self-assurance and wider awareness from the experiences of the last decade. I feel a tentative balance between the extremes of overwork and isolation. And I feel a draw toward both adventurous dives into new experiences and moments of calm and reflection on familiar shores.

As a kid, sea creatures and seascapes were a fascination, one that I didn’t fully embrace because I didn’t feel confident as a swimmer. In the Year of the Diver, I hope to reclaim this childhood treasure, embracing both my tendency to immerse deeply and to drift at my own pace, and developing a stronger awareness of when to pull back from the siren song of “mission” and when to take a deeper leap than I might normally brave. I hope to find “enjoyable usefulness” in creative dives in a way that both deepens my sense of peace and uncomfortably disorients me into “un-knowing.” And I hope to do so with a lively sense of style and conviviality shared with a crew of fellow seasoaked companions.

Mobilis in mobili


Enjoy un-knowing. To let go of the weight of mission; to embrace improvisation and the unknown.

In the past few years, I feel I’ve placed undue pressure on single “dives” or projects, expecting them to carry the weight of a “life purpose”. In the Year of the Diver, rather than heavy expectations and calcified opinions about where a direction might lead, I hope to develop a mindset of improvisation, enjoyable usefulness, and staying in the tension of not knowing.

Dip, dive, emerge. To organize in cycles of immersion and emergence. Mobilis in mobili.

I’ll continue the pattern of deep dives into new interests, and experiment to develop better awareness of which dives might only be a short dip, and which ones I might revisit to explore deeper than I may have previously. By thinking in terms of “dips and dives”, I’ll give each dive its own time and space, allowing it to capture my focus and evolve in its own direction, while keeping my awareness on the overall cycle of immersion and emergence, taking time after the dive to reflect and recompose myself. The approach of my expeditions is not plunder and extraction, but deepening the well and leaving the depths richer than I found them, not depleted. I hope this approach will lead to both more meaningful dives and a healthier, more sustainable overall cycle of creativity—a stance of intermittent continuing, freedom, flow, and peace.

Correspondence and crew. To join a party of kindred explorers; to participate in camaraderie around tales and treasures.

In the past few months I’ve felt a pull toward withdrawal and isolation, a hibernation that superficially seems like a path deeper into myself. In the past I’ve felt the pull of the other extreme, the need to lead, to be a Knight in the spotlight in order to find kindred spirits and establish community. My intention is to find a path forward that balances the need for solitude with the need for connection to a community. In the Year of the Diver, I hope to recalibrate these extremes in how I “show up in the world”, tending toward a stance of convivial co-creation, conspiratory correspondence, light-hearted participation, and a healthy dose of sociable “aplomb.”

Diving gear


On a day-to-day scale, the Year of the Diver is visible in simple habits for maintaining a healthy flow in creative, social, and personal energy.

In the personal dimension, this means more improvisatory and fluid behavior that matches my natural cycle of physical energy—things like free running sleep and naps (!), and light enjoyable fitness activities focused on breathing and balance (In the Year of the Diver I am quite literally going to take adult swimming lessons at the local gym). The “goal” of these patterns, if they have one, isn’t to reach a productivity peak or numeric measurement, but to get to know my own energy better and learn more about how it can be directed in different ways.

It also means enjoying activities that feel like home, things I know from many years of experience bring deep satisfaction and enjoyment and put me into a mindset of meaningful reflection but that are the first to fade when I fall into self-sabotaging overwork and overcommitment—playing games, reading curious texts, daily journalling. These habits will be my primary warning buoys if I’m veering too far off course back into the siren song of overwork.

In the social dimension, I shall seek a medium between isolation and the bombastic broadcasts of social media and “networking.” This means a cycle of restorative retreat, correspondence with close colleagues and small groups (in person and online, both in casual conversation and longer form writing and simmering conversation) and occasional broadcasting to the wider world (social media). In general, I shall seek to be part of a convivial scene, and a lot more turtle-y.

In the creative dimension, it means regular and frequent creative “dips”—small daily practices in a similar stance as daily journalling. Sketches, short writing, small pieces of code. Reducing self-shame in starting and stopping and increasing intermittent continuing, to create a landscape of creative moments and ease the pressure off of any one project or direction.

Flying fish


A few projects have already started to materialize this year. As I mentioned, I’ll be taking a swimming class in a few weeks which will be a project that may grow into a pattern.

Somewhat unexpectedly, I’ve started streaming on Twitch when I’m working on web development projects. I’m not sure where this project might lead, but it’s a fun experiment and it’s given me a new dimension of motivation to explore a number of software side projects, both previous projects I didn’t complete and new ideas starting to emerge.

Overall, I have a sense of wanting to polish and wrap up a few lingering projects I never quite got to the finish line over the past few years. Part of my cautious avoidance of the deep end is the self-sabotage of not finishing, and I’d like to revisit a couple of the most relevant projects and give them the gallery lighting they deserve.

In the Rickshaw, I’ve joined in on a group blog which has been a lot of fun. I hope to do more projects like this.

Alex and I have a laundry list of projects we’d like to focus some time on this year, from some apartment updates to vacations and perhaps something new when the summer is closer…

Beyond that, I feel quite directionless, which is part of the happy disorientation I expect to feel in the weightlessness of diving. I’m curious to see what projects will emerge after a few deep immersions…


Year of the Diver Style Guide

One way of embodying a word is “enclothed cognition.” As part of my own fashion cognition, I created a Year of the Diver style guide, which I will apply to my personal website and other online “clothes” across social media and other online presences. Perhaps this will also evolve into calling cards… stationary for chatty letters… we’ll see! This /word page is the first application of the style.

Clarendon Type Sample

Chapter 1: A Shifting Reef

The year 1866 was signalized by a remarkable incident, a mysterious and inexplicable phenomenon, which doubtless no one has yet forgotten. Not to mention rumors which agitated the maritime population, and excited the public mind, even in the interior of continents, seafaring men were particularly excited. Merchants, common sailors, captains of vessels, skippers, both of Europe and America, naval officers of all countries, and the Governments of several states on the two continents, were deeply interested in the matter.

Learning to swim

How you can help

My biggest pattern of self-sabotage is over-commitment and overwork. It’s very likely that I could dive in to too much at once, or focus too much on the dive and not enough on the beach. Asking me about the book I’m reading, or the game I’m playing, or how my last swim went are all helpful because that reminds me about the patterns that keep me on course.

Also, since I mentioned the fact that I’m not adept at diving into big life changes and decisions, I fully expect to be faced with at least one this year. So, when it happens, the best way to help me would be to sit me down with a cup of tea and let me talk myself through it, and check if I’m not too busy running around to hear my own intuition.

What’s your word?

I chose my word with the wise guidance of the Choose One Word program by Dr. Jason Fox. I’m deeply grateful for the rich insights I found in this video series, and for the charming, caring, and generous space Jason created for self-knowledge, self-development, and self-actualization. I highly recommend trying it yourself, and if you use my affiliate link Jason will send me an enchanted wizard pin and a commission. If you do, let me know what your word is!

Submarine device