I have to say, this annual exercise of looking back at life has actually been really useful to me. There is therapeutic value immediately, and a chance to look back to compare. As I believe more than ever that self-awareness has a lot to do with happiness, that's a good thing.
If I had to characterize 2015 in one sentence, it would be with the knowledge that I had one W-2 and one address for an entire year. Whoa.
I noticed that I didn't write as much about parenting this year, and part of that is because the nature of the work is a lot different than it was. On one hand, it's a pretty great world where you no longer have to wipe your child's ass or bathe them, but on the other, they don't need you in the same ways, and that's kind of sad. Particularly after he started kindergarten in the fall, I found myself a lot more willing to just chill out with him and sit any time he wants to. It won't be all that long before he wants none of that.
With the challenges that turned out to be ASD, we had Simon in some flavor of school starting at age 2, so it feels like a natural progression to see him start kindergarten. There were a lot of questions in our minds about whether or not he could start on time, but by this time last year, half-way through pre-K, it was clear to me at least that he would be fine there. It's also clear that having him in one program or another, and in therapy, made a world of difference.
Academically, he's where he needs to be on average, getting way, way ahead in terms of reading ability, but math is more of a mixed bag. The writing is finally coming along, but it hasn't been easy. He makes close friends with some kids, but struggles to find broader acceptance, perhaps because kids find him a little "weird." The things that don't come easy to him upset him. Overall though, he's largely successful. The social challenge does concern me, if only because it reminds me of my own childhood.
The biggest developmental challenge still seems like his extreme sensory needs. He's so rough with us and other kids (which I'm sure won't help his popularity), because he needs that input. It's presumably because his brain still needs that input to learn how his body works. I know that at least one expert felt that this may be dyspraxia, but that condition typically includes some amount of cognitive impairment, which I don't really see in him.
One thing that's consistently fun about him, when he isn't challenging our authority, is his personality. He's a funny kid, often without trying. The things he does pick up are delivered in a hilarious way, and somehow he's managed to mostly not use any f-bombs, which is a miracle.
This is the first year in our (relatively) short marriage that I've noticed our roles evolve in some ways. Most notably, Diana works part-time now, and that changes our dynamic a little. It's not so much a financial thing as it is a minor redistribution of responsibility. I'll be honest, the bulk of the hard parenting work has been all Diana for most of Simon's life, but now with more evenings and weekends where it's just me and the boy, I take on a little more in the day-to-day. I think a lot about what that means, and what I should be doing with Simon, beyond just looking for stuff to do.
Not that things were broken before, but it feels like we're a little more deliberate in the way we communicate now. It's hard to explain other than to say we're more effective at being couple, even though Simon makes it difficult to at times to have couple time.
As I said, I've been at a single job all year, which is definitely a change for me. I read somewhere that software people tend to spend about 18 months at a job if they're salary, and rarely more than 6 months if they're contract. I spent a good year at SeaWorld Parks as a contractor before I landed at AgileThought full-time last year. I've been with AT for 18 months now, which is crazy to think about.
This year wasn't quite as satisfying as the previous year, in part because I spent a lot of time working on stuff solo. While I can certainly be successful in that, it's more fun for me to be a part of something more broad, given my personality type of "directing motivator." In the context of this job, that's typically running a development team for a specific product. Fortunately, the company is sensitive to wants and needs, so I'll be getting back to that soon. What I'm really excited about is that I'm part of an effort to mentor new people, and people we've promoted to positions similar to mine, and I love that kind of work.
Work is a funny thing. I often equate it to relationships. Sometimes you hate to commit to it because it hurt you before. My earliest jobs were like that. The jobs meant the world to me, and when I got laidoff, it was like divorce (not quite like that, but definitely not happy times). By the time I was in my late 20's, I started to feel indifferent to work and my employers, and that left me in a rut. Between SeaWorld and AT though, I've really enjoyed the work, and the people, and when you get invested like that, you care more. When you care more, you're more likely to get stressed. It's like I'm learning to love again, but having to keep in mind that employment is still based on mutually beneficial agreement. I guess this is my roundabout way of saying that it's nice to work for people who really get it and run a good company.
Another highlight of my year involved the speaking gigs, which is something I still want to do more of. It's not directly related to work, but it's important to me in the same way that mentoring is. I feel strongly about the problem our industry has in terms of the low volume of top-notch people, and I believe the solution to that is education.
In a few more months, we will have lived in our house for two years. Simon will turn 6, while his residence count will remain at 5. That's a nice change of pace.
It's funny (not in a hilarious way, but in an odd way), because early in the year we were walking through some models near us, in what's going to be a very neat little "town center" area, similar to where we lived in Snoqualmie. The idea that we could potentially walk to the grocery store, restaurants and even a movie theater, seemed crazy exciting. These units were called "urban cottages" because they were like big, non-connected townhomes, with a detached garage. We very briefly toyed with the idea of moving into one, but we came to our senses.
KB Home sucks. It's not that we don't like the house, it's that for the issues we did have, it was like going to battle to get them fixed. At the end of our first year, we went to mount some shelves in the living room, only to find that the wall wasn't flat. It took getting some regional guy in the hierarchy to cut through all of the bullshit and get it fixed. Stories like this can be found up and down our street. What a bunch of asshats.
But as I said, in the bigger picture, we're happy with the house. We still haven't painted it everywhere, and we're still missing window treatments, but it's definitely our place. It's cozy. Considering that I work from home 60% of the time, that's doubly important. We're very fortunate to have a lot of great neighbors on our street, too.
For a non-car guy who generally doesn't think much about status or prestige, nice cars have never been important. I have a long history of Corollas and Prii in my life. But last year, the electric bug bit me when we started leasing the Nissan Leaf, and we just couldn't wait a few more years for Tesla to deliver the less expensive Model 3.
The Tesla Model S is a ridiculous splurge, to be sure. Even with the cost though, it wouldn't feel as ridiculous if it wasn't so powerful and beautiful. That's the thing that held me back as long as it did... because powerful and beautiful cars, to me, have the stigma of being purchased by people obsessed with status. That's not me. But this one... the Model S is for science. Beautiful, powerful science. I'm sticking with that.
Electric cars are totally doable. Mind you, we already knew that with the Leaf. I'm sure we're typical that we drive each car a thousand miles a month, and 98% of that driving is local. The Leaf has no issues with that, despite a typical range just under 100 miles. People always ask about public charging, which we rarely need to use, and how long it takes to charge, which we don't know because we do it at home.
The Tesla addresses the other 2% of driving scenarios because it has a range over 200 miles. We can drive to Tampa or Canaveral round trip, no problem. For the 0.5% of driving that goes further, the company has been good enough to build very fast chargers less than 150 miles apart from each other, for "free" (in quotes because it's obviously subsidized by the cost of the car). We took ours round-trip to Waynesville, NC, without issue, and no significant extra time stopping more than we would have otherwise.
While the cars are expensive, because they only build 500 a week and they're currently targeted as luxury vehicles, Tesla does prove out how realistic electric cars are. They've solved the problem. The cost of the energy is a fraction of what it costs for gas, even with sub-$2 gas prices. It's a lot cleaner, too. Sure, most of our electricity is produced by fossil fuels, but economy of scale means the emissions per mile driven are a fraction of what they are compared to a gasoline car. I'm not sure the world realizes how transformative this is. We're very excited to be a part of it.
Last year was a neutral year for me in terms of fitness, and regrettably, so was this year. I didn't gain any weight or anything, but I didn't stay active in a consistent fashion. As usual, I let my brain fill up with other things that made it harder to stay in a routine. While I didn't gain any weight, there were periods where I didn't feel particularly good, and that's problematic.
On the plus side, my eating volume is a lot lower than it used to be, and that's probably the reason I didn't gain any weight. At some point I stopped drinking Coke (not sure if I'm better or worse for the lack of caffeine) and replaced it with Sprite. I drink a lot less of it, presumably because it's not as addictive. I also don't eat nearly as much bread, and less potatoes as sides. When I eat out, I'm more likely to leave stuff behind, which is a change from life-long habits. The diversity of food that I eat still sucks, but I seem to be averaging 1,600 calories per day when I'm inactive.
My brain is full a lot of the time, and that's my real hang up. It's not an excuse, it's just how my brain prioritizes. I need to work on that and keep the activity consistent. It only gets harder with age.
One of my complaints is that we're not as socially engaged as we should be, partly because we don't initiate the contact as much as we should. Our neighborhood helps with this, since Simon rides the bus with neighbor kids, so we see neighbors frequently. I work with one of my neighbors, too. I wish we all got together more, but I suppose that's on me to say, "Hey, bring something to grill, we'll hang out."
With Diana working, her circles (and by extension my own) are larger. Ditto for my work sphere, since the Orlando employee base is growing. If that weren't enough, friends from up north keep moving here, and that's fantastic. We've got a nice thing going down here!
We did three cruises this year, the last of which was with my friend (and former girlfriend 9 years ago) and her darling little family. Cruising is definitely more fun with other people. While I don't want another of my own, it sure was fun to hold a baby again. It's kind of cool how the Disney Dream feels so familiar to us, and we're lucky that it's so convenient to do those three-night weekend sailings. We'll finally break the routing this year doing a four-night on the Magic with my brother-in-law's family, and we'll be doing a week on the Wonder out of Vancouver to Alaska. I'm so stoked for that!
We did a long weekend at Cedar Point again this year, and without water main breaks, it was a partial success. Simon ended up spiking a fever, but with the newly renovated Breakers Hotel, it was hardly the worst place to be! Our primary reason for being there was of course for Coasting For Kids to benefit GKTW, and the event was again a big success. Not sure what this year will bring, since Cedar Fair isn't going to do Coasting For Kids with us.
I went to Holiday World twice, after a pretty long absence. The first time I went, it was for the media event for Thunderbird, where I shot a little mini-doc on the people who made it happen. They're such good people up there. The second time, we did an event at the park, which had kind of mediocre attendance, but fortunately the park handled virtually everything. The highlight there was hanging out with our Chicago friends and their girls. It bothers me that we only get to see them once a year, because we have a great time with them every time. I'm trying to talk them into another cruise, of course.
We also did our first road trip in the EV up to my in-laws place in North Carolina, which was a surprisingly relaxing drive since we split it up into two days (we did it in one day, both directions last year, and it was brutal). There were also some nice overnight stays at Legoland Florida and one in Clearwater for my company holiday party.
I made it a point this year to be less concerned with the problems of the world. Politics in America are at a lifetime low right now. There is no intelligent discourse or talk of policy, just fear-mongering and third grade bullshit. As such, it's not that I don't have opinions, I just don't engage with people as much as I used to. Life is too full to spend some portion of it on the nonsense.
There is a realization that I've been coming to for a few years, and it goes like this: The world has a lot of problems, large and small, and the truth is that the really big ones are generally too large in scope to have meaningful impact on. That's not defeatist, it's just perspective. As is the case with work, often times your potential to create impact may be in a smaller scope. That doesn't make it less important. If you can raise money or volunteer for a local charity, the results are visible and obvious. Why chase unicorns when you can make meaningful change right in front of you?
In the general sense, I would absolutely characterize this as a happy year, though there were some brief periods where I felt like things were less than ideal. The work related stress got to me a bit, and there were periods where I felt like I couldn't get anything right with Simon. Every year can't be a charmed experience, but it was still mostly right. Again, looking at the world right in front of me, right now, goes a long way toward being consistently happy.
I don't like resolutions, but I do want to come out of next year being a slightly better parent and husband. I want to further develop the "soft skills" at work. And I want to figure out how to be more consistently active. They're all pretty straight forward goals. Mostly though, I want to enjoy the moments I can never get back. My boy isn't getting younger, and neither am I!