A New Year

My goals hold true through the last few years but perhaps just reordered in priority over time:

  1. Sustain/improve family happiness
  2. Sustain/improve health
  3. Obtain Financial Freedom
  4. Achieve Japanese fluency

Living abroad and in a good spot, I take most opportunities to see family on both sides for BBQs and Christmas/New Year’s. Aside from these events I make a point to contact or call one family member every 2 weeks or so. What we do affects everyone in our lives and causes ripple effects (thanks Jordan Peterson). After calling family over the years, they help through the hard times and want the best for me but ultimately want to hear good news. It makes me want to do well for them to keep the good news flowing, and good ripples rippling.

I find health has been a relatively easy one but could be improved. My diet is well controlled and I keep up exercise habits with the ones that I like doing. It’s just the minor injuries that have slowed these down lately but should be ready to be picked up again soon.

Financial freedom and early retirement; the most grey goal that feels like a fantasy most times. I have probably spent the most time thinking of this goal and working on it over the last few years. Fuck you money is more of an occasional moonshot like the New Year’s lottery for which I won ¥300, like most other people.


Otherwise, the more practical avenue is financial freedom where your income(s) meets and ideally exceeds your expenses. I only discovered this concept last summer, and it got me poking around Japan for all of the advantages that I can utilize like the iDeCo, NISA, and Furusato Nosei. Any excess is put into a regular brokerage where I have a multi-pronged approach: part portfolio, part speculation, part tuition to learn to trade. This is where most of my time has been spent. I liken financial freedom to a key that enables the more time for health pursuits and full-time Japanese study among other things.

Expenses are part of the equation but I feel I have pushed these down to a level that I am comfortable with already. Each year, I had typically went on a mini-shopping spree for myself around Christmas because I had to shop for other people anyway. But after going through my clothes last year I found that I had no need to get anymore clothes. And everything else that I have can just be maintained and only replaced if broken. The odd book or trinket won’t hurt.

And finally, Japanese studies. I changed my habits in 2019 by joining a weekly class held by a volunteer group in my town. The class helps with structuring studies and keeping the pace of learning no matter how much effort I put in week to week. On top of that I finally quit flashcards due to a post on Reddit. Someone ranted hard about how flashcards were a waste of time and don’t help to learn natural speech. I pretty much agreed with this after using them daily for the last few years. One site had fully incorporated all features of Anki with sound clips, links, and grammar sentences but I found that there were multiple unknown words in the sentences so I had to learn 2-3 words per card! This was a wall or topping-out usage of the flashcard method. Aside from these tougher cards were the usual daily accumulating waves of single word cards that felt like drowning in Japanese rather than enjoying it. It felt liberating to quit the flashcard grind and opt for natural learning with plain-old textbooks to read and NHK News Easy using the Manabi Reader app to quickly lookup definitions with one touch.

And then there is everything else. I could classify them as either distractions, or future interests to be pursued on retirement. Things that devour time at the cost of the aforementioned goals. I gave up playing guitar 3 years ago, for example. I have always had an interest in space and recently became interested in all things Florence after visiting last year. Movies will continue to appease these appetites.

I gave up on keeping up with politics as well. What a time suck! I admittedly caught the virus with symptoms of devouring news, impatience, emotional outbursts, and spontaneous debating. These days, nobody is convincing anyone of anything and there is little to gain for the time spent. You vote with your 1 vote per ~4 years and vote with your feet; if you don’t like the direction things are going, move. The rest of your time can be spent not telling others what to do, and instead used to improve yourself and take responsibility.

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