GreenReaper (greenreaper) wrote,

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Five year retrospective, and plans for the future

Since I am 25 now, I guess it's time to look back on the past, as well as think about the future.

Here's some of the highlights of my last five years, in no particular order:
* Got a first-class honours CompSci degree from the University of Bath (one of my first concrete long-term goals, set around 10)
* Obtained and kept a good job in the USA at Stardock
* Learnt how to create, run and promote a community wiki, and presented a paper on the topic at Wikimania 2006
* Founded and led successful community wikis on Creatures and furry fandom.
* Got a driving license in the UK (hard) and the USA (very easy after that)
* Established credit in the USA (like many things, this is still not generally portable internationally; I had trouble getting any kind of card at all, even with a regular salary. Now I have a 3% Amazon rewards card which I pay off each month.)
* Saved the maximum possible into tax-advantaged retirement savings (excluding annuities) for this year and the last
* Wrote several Wikinews articles and made heavy contributions to various Wikipedia pages covering elements of the furry fandom.
* Developed and released TweakVista (I've done other things at Stardock, but this is probably the most popular public-facing one to date)

Overall, I feel I've been very lucky. I did work hard for a lot of these things, but no harder than some do just to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads - and sitting at a computer is not exactly arduous. I am fortunate to rent from someone who can give me a lift to work and charges little more for space than I paid at university; this helps me save a lot of money for transport, utilities and the like. I make my own entertainment, or find it online, rather than paying for it. And I greatly enjoy programming - an area that is currently in demand (why I was able to come to the US in the first place).

Some plans for the next few years, also in no order:
* Learn the clarinet. I've got a good starting position: a nice-quality second-hand wood B♭ instrument, and a pre-existing knowledge of the recorder. I got several good books for my birthday (though I think I might need to get this one as well). I need to practice. Probably won't be able to get to more than adequate without a teacher, but I'd settle for that - it's just for fun.
* Get fitter. I'm 190 pounds right now - no giant mushroom, but too much of that is fat. I've bought some scales, grabbed a copy of the "Free" FlowFit DVD, and I'll see if I can actually get myself to do some of the things it describes. Cutting out non-diet sodas and having parfaits rather than sundaes will probably help, too.
* Acquire the skills and tools necessary to be an amateur photojournalist/documentary photographer/videographer. Made a start on this, both in the photography and the writing side, but I've a long way to go. I've got the equipment necessary for video, but I will need to buy a new camera for photos at some point - probably the Digital Rebel XTi or a successor, with a good zoom lens (or this, but it's a tad expensive), and maybe a good prime as well. This will also take practice.
* Get to the point where my retirement savings will be sufficient for the rest of my life. To be reasonably sure of this I will need to fully fund my retirement accounts until around 45. At that point I can lighten up on the work or spend the extra money in some other way. However, the most important years are right now. If I stopped at 30 I would still be relatively secure; I'd just have to work until 60.
* Save sufficient funds for a masters or doctoral degree. I want to have that option, even if I never decide to use it. If I don't, it is reasonably likely that someone will be able to use those funds, at some point. I've made a start on this, and will probably have $5,000 invested by the end of the year.
* Get a green card (become a lawful permanent resident of the US - as opposed to citizenship, which takes five years after that, or three if married to a citizen). The paperwork is in preparation as I type, though it'll literally take years to work its way through the system.
* Become a better developer. A fuzzy goal, but probably just knuckling down and writing more code would be a good start. Reading's all very good, but writing is the key.
* Create a donor-advised charitable fund which I can use to make gifts to charitable organizations of my choice, receiving a tax benefit on the initial contribution (but not the gift itself). When this happens depends on specific circumstances - I might (for example) get a big bonus at work one year, which I could divert to such a fund along with some appreciated taxable stock (in this situation, nobody has to pay the capital-gains or income tax).

Undoubtedly some of the things I look back on in five year's time will not be in this list. For example, I had never heard of wikis in 2002, nor was I heavily involved in the furry fandom. Both of these are things in which I have have invested large amounts of my time (in return, they have been the source of large amounts of enjoyment for me). But I'm sure I will be happy wherever I end up, as long as I continue to enjoy learning new things . . . and force myself to actually do stuff now and again. :-)
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