2018 Year in Review

Like clockwork, it’s New Years Eve and time once again for me to work on my 2018 year in review. This year was a big year in many ways, but for the most part, much of it was good. I didn’t blog as much in 2018, and that was intentional. I had been doing a daily blog post for 3 years straight, and I simply needed a break. It was a great mental exercise, and sometimes I miss it, but I was happy to have less pressure to create content on a daily basis. My plan for 2019 is to move towards a more scheduled, and regular, approach to posts, but it won’t be daily again in 2019.

My lack of blogging, and a very busy weekend, meant that I still need to do my yearly running and biking review. Despite being 2019 tomorrow, I think I’ll post those in the coming days as a reflection of the past year. I’ve got some big news to share in my running one in particular.

2018 was a year of changes and self-discovery for me. As my kids have gotten older I’ve found myself questioning more and more what I want to do with the second half of my life. I’ve mused about this on multiple occasions on this blog, but still don’t have any solid answers. However, I’m feeling more secure that I’m on a journey that will soon find some enlightenment.

At the end of 2017 I wrote the following words:

My job is still a job. I struggle with being interested in corporate IT anymore, but it pays the bills, and I’m actually a really good manager, which gives me some satisfaction. There are days that I want to just get rid of it all and buy and RV and live on the road, but then other days I look at my paycheck and realize that giving that up is harder than you’d think.

Those words are even truer this year than last. I changed jobs in 2018, making a lateral position move to a place where I assumed there would be less stress and more opportunity. However, just the opposite has happened. My final months of 2018 have been some of the worst times I’ve ever had in my IT career, and I’m more and more determined to make some kind of change in the coming year.

This year I also had the milestone of celebrating my oldest son’s graduation from high school. Although he’s not quite on the college path that we had assumed he would be on, he’s making progress and is learning more and more what it means to be an adult. He’s a smart kid and I have no doubt that he’ll work it all out in time.

We managed some travel this year with our annual trip to Vegas in the winter, a bunch of trips for races, and a nice camping journey in the Porkies. I also took my oldest with me to Milwaukee where I got some new tattoo’s and we got to spend some father-son time together. Despite these trips, we didn’t get the camper out as much as we had hoped, and next year we need to spend more time relaxing in natural places.

One other exciting part of 2018 is that my wife and I started a small company to put on trail races, and our first race is coming up in January 2019. The St Croix 40 Winter Ultra is a winter-survivalist race, overnight in the cold. It’s meant to be a training ground for tougher races like the Tuscobia 80/160 or the Arrowhead 135. It’s also meant to be a place for Lisa and I to start developing our chops and hopefully expand to other events in the future.

I continued for another year as the President of the Board for the Upper Midwest Trail Runners Association, and plan on keeping that up for a bit longer. I love giving back to a wonderful community, and feel proud every thing this group has been able to accomplish in 2018. I’ve found that I love being a part of vibrant communities that bring joy to people.

A few other notable items from 2018 in no particular order

  • Got back to brewing some beer for the first time in a while
  • Visited dozens of taprooms and had lots of fun brewery trips
  • Got an awesome portrait lens for my camera which has been amazingly fun
  • Went to lots of MN United FC games and am really stoked about the new stadium next season
  • Read more books than I have in a long time

Finally, I did end up finishing the year with a tougher bout of anxiety than I’ve had in a long time. It came with all kinds of strange new symptoms, but from all my medical tests (and I’ve had a lot of them), I’m mostly healthy. I’m hoping that like in the past things will slowly calm back down and I’ll be able to return to a more normal feeling body. I know a lot of my issues relate to my sense of identity and purpose in my life, so perhaps as my job/career situation gets more settled things will get easier.

Here’s to wishing all of you a happy new year, and a happy 2019. Thank you for everyone that’s shared this journey of 2018 with me, and I look forward to more adventures to come.

 

Quick Review: Ant-Man and The Wasp

The wife and I finally had some time tonight to sit down and watch a movie together. Lately it’s been hard to invest in anything other than TV shows or YouTube videos. However, as luck would have it, the holidays mean that we’ve got some time without a lot of commitments. On tonight’s agenda was Ant-Man and The Wasp.

We enjoyed the first movie when we saw it many years ago, and a bit part of that was due to the quirky humor of Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang. Having a character with such a fun approach to life is a breath of fresh air for such serious super hero action films. That same humor was on display again in the sequel, although at times I felt like Scott Lang was a sidelined character. This movie was most certainly not about him.

This movie is about Hank Pym and his quest to find his wife, lost in the quantum realm. But more than that, I felt like this movie was a way to show us that Hank really isn’t a great guy. Many of the problems of his life were his fault, including pushing people away, and using people to get what he wanted. This film doesn’t change that image of him, which left me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. You want him to win, but at the same time, you kinda wish someone would just smack him around a bit and burst his ego.

Despite Hank, I enjoyed many of the characters in the film. I actually really liked the Burch side-plot, and loved how it allowed the X-Con gang to get more involved. It gave the movie a certain human element that showed that not all superheroes have super suits or powers. Sometimes, the ordinary guy can actually be a part of something good.

As usual the effects were top notch, and the production was typical Marvel style. Lots of big images and CGI effect scenes, that were done incredibly well. It’s almost to the point now that if a Marvel movie has only “adequate” CGI it’s considered bad. They’ve raised the bar for themselves over and over again to a point where everything they produce has to be excellent.

I won’t give much of the story away, but suffice it to say I mostly enjoyed the plot. There were a couple glaring plot holes that bugged me to no end, but I was able to suspend disbelief enough to enjoy what I was being fed. In the end I still enjoyed the film quite a bit.

Obviously, there were a couple mid and post credit scenes that flow into Infinity War, and we’re all ready for that ship to finally sail. I’m a little concerned on where they might be taking the next Avenger’s movie, but hopefully it’ll be done well. Overall, Ant-Man and The Wasp is a fun addition to the Marvel Universe. Just like the first film, it proves that you can have a lot of fun action, and quirky humor, but still be a super hero movie that can fly with the best that Marvel offers.

Some time with the wife

One of my favorite things that has happened this year is that I’ve gotten to spend a lot more time running with my wife. Part way through the year I decided to spend some of my training run time with her, despite the fact that her pace is quite a bit slower than mine. This has had a couple of really positive effects. The first is that I’ve stayed much healthier this year, with almost no injuries or “niggles” to speak of. Secondly, it means we’ve gotten to spend a lot more time together.

One of the benefits of this is that we have some really great conversations. Sometimes we hash out difficult issues that we need to work through. Sometimes we talk of nothing of substance. Then there are nights like tonight where we work through big mental hurdles that are causing one of us issues. For me, tonight, this was about my job and career (duh, of course it was).

I had already had a conversation with my friend Michael over lunch, and it spawned into a much deeper dive with my wife on our run. We really dug in to some of the core issues that I’m feeling about what I’m doing day in and day out. What really triggered an epiphany for me was realizing that I need to come home from work feeling like I actually did something. When you’re a manager, often your day is filled with keeping the team on task, putting out fires, acting as an intermediary, and so on. I’m not getting to scratch my itch to actually accomplish something, and feel like I’ve done something fulfilling in my day.

In practical terms, what this means is that I need to stop thinking that the typical career path of climbing the organizational ladder is where I should be headed. Part of the reason that I got out of the Enterprise Architecture business was because I thought I needed to move into higher level roles, and I was told quite directly that I needed to show more people leading experience on my resume. That spurred me to move in to management, and as much as I like developing people, I really want to be a leader more than a manager. I want to get back to getting my hands a little bit dirtier than they get now, and end my day feeling like I accomplished something worthwhile.

Therefore, my new focus is going to be to start looking for something that’s more hands-on, and has more of a creative and deliverable outcome to it. It might be back in the architecture world, or it might be something different. However, it’s incredibly freeing to have a direction to point towards.

I’m glad I ran with my wife tonight.

Some things never change

Today on Facebook it kindly reminded me of memories from years gone by (as it does every day). Sometimes I’ll click past the first one it shows me and scroll down the page to see what else happened.

fbmemory

That’s right. I’ve been in career/job/life angst for 10 solid years now. It’s a bit of a slap in the face to realize that I’ve been struggling with this for a solid decade. You’d think that, by now, I’d have something figured out. Granted this specific post was more about money than career angst (I don’t think I was that disenchanted quite yet), but it was probably the start.

As I’ve thought more on my history, my happiest times were actually back just before this post. It was around this time that I moved into higher level roles, and started taking my hands off the keyboard a lot more. Since 2011 I haven’t done any real hands-on engineering work for my career. Part of the reason for that was that I was getting older and not keeping up with all the newest and greatest tech out there. I’m sure the fact that I spent so much of the time between 2002-2008 going to Seminary to train to be a pastor, didn’t help either.

Anyway, that’s an aside. The point of this post is that it’s been 10 years of trying to figure myself out. Knowing that fact makes me even more determined to make something positive happen now. Still not sure what it will be, but the motivation is getting stronger to end the cycle, while at the same time accepting of what may be the final answer, even if it’s not the dream I had thought of.

Thanksgiving 2019!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I realize that this year hasn’t nearly been as active as other years on the blog, but after three years of daily blogging, I needed a bit of a mental break. I don’t know that I’ll go back to daily blogging in 2019, but I might set up a specific schedule to start to move back towards more regular posting.

However, despite all of this, I still didn’t want to miss posting an annual Thanksgiving post. It’s easy for me to be thankful, because I was lucky enough to be born in a situation where, with hard work, I am able to achieve success in life. As we look at the situation around the world with refugees, and the rise of homelessness at home, it’s easy to forget just how lucky many of us are. I would encourage everyone who reads this to continue to be generous with charities that are trying to make a difference in your neighborhood and around the world.

I’m also very thankful this year for my friends and family who put up with my constant angst over my job and purpose in life. I’m truly blessed to have so many great people in my life that are willing to give me a safe space to process things, as well as bits of advice along the way. I don’t know what the future will hold, but I’m grateful for the support around me (especially my wife!).

Finally, I’m thankful for the wonderful communities that I’m a part of. Specifically the wonderful trail running communities here in Minnesota. The people I’ve met through this community have been amazing, and many of them have become close friends. They are some of the most supportive and encouraging people I know, and getting to reciprocate has been a true blessing.

So from Lisa and I, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and may you have a blessed holiday season!