I'm not really one to make resolutions for a new year. I am constantly evaluating my life and my choices to some extent, trying to figure out what works for me and what doesn't so I can get through my limited time on this planet in the most enjoyable way possible and, perhaps, leave a lasting mark somewhere. I have discovered as I age, especially in the past year, that I am far more productive and enjoy being so by tasking out everything I want or need to do and, when those tasks are large, breaking those down into subtasks with defined deadlines. I have a tendency to get overwhelmed and do nothing at all when there is "too much" to do. Taking some time to break things down into bite-sized chunks makes monumental tasks much more enjoyable.
All of this relates to my efforts over the past year, and perhaps even longer, to figure out the work/life balance that works best for me. I think I have made great advances on that front, and the transition to a new year is a convenient point in time to figure out what I have done, and what I will do differently going forward.
My County Big Year effort in 2015 was a bit of a failure. I stand currently at 255 species, having had no real time in the second half of the year to chase rarities. I am changing my focus going forward, with the following goals:
- Become the expert in my "patch". A birder's patch is the area, usually close to them, that they can bird frequently and become the expert on. For me, that is mostly Elyria Canyon Park (which my property abuts) and Rio de Los Angeles State Park, as well as a few pocket parks in my Mt. Washington neighborhood and closer portions of the Los Angeles River.
- Expand on the Los Angeles County and state of California life lists. This means spending some time chasing new species that I have never seen within the county, as well as within the state when I am traveling.
If you're not new to this site you know I am a trail runner. I have had some issues on this front in the past year, which I won't rehash as they are discussed here. My goals for 2016 include the following:
- Get my weight down. I was almost 200 pounds at the Angeles Crest 100 last year, which is completely unacceptable. I am now down to 183, but need to go down farther. I do not lose weight by dieting, as I've never believed that dieting works. These are lifestyle choices. I just need to make smarter ones. I have been, and will continue to do so. My lowest race weight, which not coincidentally was when I was running the best, was 175. I am determined to get there or lower again. My doctor believes that lower than that is healthy for me given what I do.
- Take my athleticism more seriously. No, I will never stand on a podium as I am not a good enough natural runner, but I do OK when I have been at the better end of my fitness spectrum.
- Finish the Angeles Crest 100.
- Keep in mind, when training gets tiresome, that failing at races does bother me. Badly. Success doesn't come by sitting on your couch drinking beer, as relaxing as that may be.
- Additional motivation: the San Gabriel Trails Project.
Over the past year, I have established my art website at http://art.mcengland.com. I have been working hard at getting current examples of my work completed, and getting them onto products where I can generate income from my work. Over the coming year I would like to:
- Complete my representative examples of pen and ink work for all major wildlife species groups, as well as some plants. I think this is important, as pen and ink is my strong suit.
- Complete more graphite pencil work. I can do photorealism in graphite, and graphite pieces are much faster than pen and ink.
- Begin working more in color, as color is more easily marketed.
- Begin marketing myself more fully as an artist and gain my first illustration contract.
Follow my friend Howie Stern's advice and get real camera equipment. I know what I am doing. I just need the right equipment.
I have two primary goals with my writing in 2016:
- Publish at least one peer-reviewed paper.
- Publish at least one popular article.
A bonus would be to complete one of the several book-length pieces I started in various genres.
I also have two primary goals in ecotourism:
- Finalize the itinerary and successfully market and operate the planned two week Belize birding tour with Lee Jones. That is well underway and information about that will be listed here and elsewhere soon.
- Gain my first contract as a birding ecotourism consultant for an underutilized lodge somewhere, probably in Latin America.
The past year has been difficult. Consulting is my primary field, and the industry can--at times--be exceedingly stressful. I am as expert as it gets at maneuvering through legal issues related to biological resources. That also takes it toll, however, when you really became a biologist because you love to be outside all day. My first vacation since 2012 helped a lot to clear my head, and I feel refreshed and ready push Bloom Biological toward new growth over the coming year. The key for me has been getting out of the mindset of feeling tied to a desk for a large number of hours every day, managing my tasks better, and finding better ways to get work completed while also doing the other things I've discussed so far in this post.
Cuba. Before the influx of Americans screws it up.
Really, the point of all of this is getting away from consulting being all that I am. I got where I am in my career by being extremely involved in the environmental and scientific communities; taking a lot of risk in working in very personally rewarding (but not financially rewarding) places; being involved in environmental public outreach through tourism, art, and writing; and networking well with my peers. Consulting, while financially rewarding and a rewarding career if you manage it correctly, completely sucked me in and I dropped everything else from my life. I had a personal brand as a birder, biologist, and naturalist--enough so that I was frequently interviewed in newspapers, on radio, and have been on several television documentaries (and was asked to consult on a proposed television show by a studio when I first moved to Los Angeles). I even had two book contracts. I lost all of that, and I loved all of that. I will regain it. It's all about balance.