Annual Review, 2017

It’s somewhat comical looking back on the last year of posts knowing that I made a total of three articles live throughout that time. While it may be laughable, it’s also an honest reflection of where I find myself within this space.

Early 2017 proved to be immensely difficult for me. At this same time last year I was looking into the eyes of my pup, Rally, seeing something I didn’t want to see in her health. There wasn’t any time to wish those things away, though, because by January 3rd we were already saying goodbye.

I remember reading and re-reading my final letter to her a hundred times. I was laughing one minute and sobbing the next. When I pull up that post today, I still cry. It was the first time I’d faced loss in my core family unit—actually being present when life moves to another level of existence. I’ve seen loss before, like the passing of my grandparents when I was younger, but those instances somehow felt faintly distant because I hadn’t gotten to know them as an adult.

(Essentially) from the moment I left college to 11+ years later, Rally evolved into a buddy that did most things with me. She was a sidekick in the best and worst of times.

Scanning personal journals I wrote just about one year ago, I came across the following note as she was declining in health:

Who are we doing this for? I cringe at the question. Are we doing this for Rally to keep her “happy” for a while longer? Are we doing this for us, because we don’t want to say goodbye?

It sums up what I assume many must face when riding the line as the decision of life and death isn’t one that can be ignored.

Looking Back

My previous annual reviews have been a little more bulleted and straight forward, but somehow that didn’t make as much sense this year. While I have a few things to tick off, there’s been a specific theme that can’t be ignored.

Annual Review, 2016Link
Annual Review, 2015 – Link
Annual Review, 2014 – Link

Holding Rally as she passed on triggered within the notion of mortality in a way that it hasn’t been before. I started thinking about my own childhood much more, and started paying attention to my parents’ every ache, pain, and comment about their own age-related woes and worries.

In fact, a sense of melancholy has been a big topic over much of the year. I’ve had random dreams about high school and college friends. I’ve felt sadness about my parents—and myself, frankly—getting older. I ponder past relationships and replay my own part in their successes and failures.

At certain junctures I think to myself, “Is this normal? How much energy am I expending on replaying these thoughts and emotions in my head?”

There’s a scene in The Office, during the series finale, when Andy says that he wishes he knew he was in the good old days when they were actually happening. His ponder and somber face reflect the thought tangents I’ve encountered this year.

Because the truth is, for me, I rarely “know” until those times are suddenly past. Is this the good old days right now? I was fully aware once—my senior year of college—but I’ve realized I need to refocus the lens so it has a better chance of sinking in.

The Internet Effect

This year also marked 20 years since I started pecking around on the Internet. It’s also been a little more than a decade since Facebook became a household name. In many ways, the Internet defines many in my generation, and certainly the generation that has come after.

Everyone wants to put a bow on their story to make it the most perfect and attention-grabbing image they can. But if we take just two steps back, it’s easy to see how we’ve lost an immense amount of reality through these platforms.

Real conversations and real relationships are found and lost as quickly as they were first found. Terms like ghosting become an ingredient for the next token meme, and TV shows that highlight the modern communication vacuum gain in popularity. But all jokes aside, they represent a lost people group who can’t find comfort in the most basic of conversations.

I’m not alone in feeling that we need a better way forward. I know friends that have lost any cadence with their social media platforms, and yet, grind on because they think they need to. The technology has them trapped and they want to find a way back to themselves—and others.

It’s all left me wondering: What are we doing as a people? Why are we still posting photos of food when friends and family are literally three feet away at the same table? Do we need the praise of total strangers that badly?

On to the year in review…

What went well this year?

The positive stuff of life even if there’s some hesitation to be “preachy” about things. That’s ok! We all have things we’re happy about.

  • The men’s group this year has gone tremendously well. I’m so thankful for space to share with a great group of men, to talk about life, love, and other obstacles. This sentiment seems to be echoed by all involved which has been very neat to see.
  • Our web design and technology company transitioned into the urban space and away from a catch-all agency. We decided to align with municipalities, public/private projects, and commercial real estate ventures. In a nutshell, building progressive design and technology solutions within the urban space to better our communities.
  • She’s awesomely humble about it, but Sarah’s been growing into more and more impressive projects with her photography business. She also joined up with a Japanese company this year that holds a lot of promise for her ongoing connection to the island country.
  • Cycling has remained a fun outlet in addition to the crossfit community we have in the area. I tackled some fun rides, including another Guanella Pass ascent (this time solo) before a short camping trip this summer.
  • Our family had a great trip into Glacier National Park this summer. We spent time in and around Whitefish, MT hiking, relaxing, and enjoying time together like our summer vacations as kids.

What did not go well this year?

The difficult areas of the last year represented in a nutshell. We all have struggles to face.

  • As the context above has indicated, this year has been big in the reflection department. I’ve struggled with mortality and melancholy. I’ve also observed an increasing feeling of the Internet’s negative and addictive effects on people which may align, in part, with my lack of engagement on this website.
  • My first mentee in Minds Matter decided to leave after a full year of classwork and summer programs. Agh! After my own year of weekly commitment, anticipation, and excitement, it was hard to let a feeling of failure pass. We had no control over his life situation and support at home, but it was still a big let down. Starting fresh this season felt slightly overwhelming.

Looking to the Year Ahead

I’m choosing to make 2018 the year of Family.

Reconnecting with my own family in various ways, while further harvesting my new family with Sarah, feels very important to me at this point. If 2017 has taught me anything, it’s that those closest to us are temporary—especially the family that is often relied upon the most.

The past 12 months marked the first year of our young marriage, too. I can confidently say it’s been both amazing and a huge learning experience.

Never have I been with someone who challenges me like Sarah. She pushes me to reflect on how I handle myself—reactions, emotions, neurosis—which honestly, I can’t stand at times! But when it comes down to it, she’s been critical in that continuous growth. I feel fortunate to walk with someone who’s very much all-in just as much as I am.

With that being said, I could get into a list about what harvesting and growing closer with my family will mean—and what boxes I want to check off this year—but truthfully, there’s a part of me that thinks checking boxes isn’t always the best thing.

Whatever your goals over the next year, I encourage you to find the pillars and use them as guiding lights.

Make lists (they can be great, no doubt) but try not to get lost in the checking off of those boxes. I know I can be guilty of focusing on the tick marks more than what it took to get there.

If my reflections of late have any validity, thought, it’s the process of getting there that makes up the good old days anyway.

Photo: A stop at my dad’s old house in Butte, MT during a summer road trip.

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