While I’m not normally one to be a slave to the calendar, I do still find myself to be enjoying the occasional reflective, introspective flight of fancy. So, with that, I’m looking back at the year that was 2009. Some of this may repeat from the look back I did mid-year, but my perspective has changed enough since then that I hope not too much.
I did what was, for me at least, quite a bit of travel this year. From Nepal to New York City, Detroit to Upstate Michigan, I spent more time away from Cleveland this year than any other year of my life.
The big trip of the year was, of course, the Everest Trek. I’m in the middle of re-living the experience through the podcast now, and really enjoying being part of that. Wonderful to talk to the group again every other week, a lot of fun to see how the whole thing is produced and how it all comes together from the beginning of the pipeline all the way to the end, and a real joy to be watching all the footage and remembering all the special moments from the experience.
There were two things that Jon Miller said that are sticking with me more and more as time passes. The first was, in regards to the bad stuff we were experiencing, “You won’t remember any of this stuff, but you’ll never forget it.” As the experience gets further into the past, so many of those struggles are fading away. For example, I had forgotten all about the tingle of Diamox until Jon mentioned it during a recent commentary recording. Diamox is the medication we were prescribed to help deal with the inevitable effects of altitude sickness, and one of it’s side effects is that it would cause a tingling sensation in your extremities for a while after you took a dose. For me, my hands and face would tingle (a feeling much like when a part of your body falls asleep) for an hour or two after taking a fresh dose. It was really annoying at the time, but something I’d already forgotten all about.
The other is “You come for Everest, you come back for the people.” I wrote about this a bit in my initial post upon returning from Nepal, and the reality of it has only sunk in more as time goes on. For all the natural beauty of the place, and all the amazing things I experienced while there, it’s been the people that have stuck in my head the most. The mountain isn’t going anywhere, it’ll be there for me to go back and visit whenever I want. It’s the group of people I shared the experience with, and the others I met during the journey, that made this experience so special, and something to truly remember. When I go back to the region again, I’ll almost certainly have another amazing experience, but it will be a different one. Special in it’s own regards, but there will always be only one Everest Trek 2009.
Stepping back a bit from the trek, it’s reinforced a change in mindset and priorities that’s been happening with me over several years now: Learning to value experiences more than things. Once upon a time I was the guy that always had to buy the latest shiny new gadget that came out, the minute it came out. But I’ve gradually come to value spending my time, energy, and money on getting out into the world and experiencing it. For what I spent on the Everest Trek, I could have bought a Mac Pro, MacBook Pro, Playstation 3, Gaming PC, and a myriad of other gadgets and still had money left over. But I wouldn’t trade the trek for all the gadgets in the world.
Then there was the trip to New York City. Some thought I might have been a little crazy to jet off and spend five days in NYC with someone I’d known for barely more than a month, but I had a good feeling about Laura and went with my gut. My gut was right, I had an amazing time while I was there and the relationship came through that little test with flying colors. I’d been to New York City once before, but barely got to see any of the city outside of the Javits Center. This time I got to really see the sights, aided by a very able tour guide in my new friend Laura.
I got to see Times Square, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, and most of the rest of the touristy places. More interestingly, to me at least, I got to explore around and see all the smaller places that aren’t on the tourist list. The book shops, the restaurants, the bars, the karaoke spots, and whatever else looked interesting. Great little finds like The Himalayan Cafe, where I got to get a little of that Nepali feel back and enjoy some very authentic Nepali cuisine again. A tiny place that we just happened across while walking the various boroughs of NYC.
It was certainly a bumpy ride in 2009 when it came to relationships. Three awesome women, two breakups, and plenty of lessons learned. I certainly can’t complain at how things have turned out, I’ve met someone who I really mesh with and shares all the feelings for me that I have for her. Third time’s the charm? So it would seem.
I’m not going to linger on about the ones that didn’t work out, the reasons were pretty common between both of them. They lived too far away, had too much going on to make time for a relationship, money concerns made doing things together difficult, and so on. But the key thing was that we just weren’t right for each other, it wasn’t meant to be. End of story. They were both awesome, and I enjoyed the time I spent with them, but they weren’t the ones. I have little to no regrets, and I learned things from both of them. But that’s the past, and it’s best left there.
Let’s instead rewind back to the end of August. It’s Friday night, and my friend Andrew’s band, Missle Command, is playing a show. I’ve not seen them before, so of course I head out to check them out. As they began playing, this woman dancing in front of the stage and snapping photos catches my eye. There’s something about her, a confidence and self-assuredness mostly, that totally draws me in. I think I watched her dance more than I watched the band play. (Not to impune the quality of Missle Command’s performance of course. They were awesome, as I’ve come to expect now.)
I mentioned off-hand to my friend Ron afterward that this mysterious girl had caught my eye, and he almost immediately skittered off to investigate more about her. She knew Andrew and the rest of the band, and she was single. And wanted to meet me. Woo hoo! Ron and Andrew conspired to push us together, and we hit it off right away. We ended up staying there that night and talking until the bar closed and they threw us out. We got together again the following Monday, and again spent all night talking until the bar closed and we had to leave. Yeah, there was something here with this one.
Four months later, and things only continue to get better and better. She’s someone I can lay in bed and watch South Park with, and then carry on a debate over which was the best Megadeth lineup with. Someone to go on a long bike ride with, or get lost in the woods with for most of the day. Someone who can smile at me and make me forget about everything else going on in the world. Someone who I’m not afraid to say “I love you” to. She’s strong, and driven, and leaves me in awe of her seemingly endless energy. She makes me laugh, and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I’ve never had someone who makes me feel so at ease with myself, comfortable with being who I truly am all the time. Someone who can make me smile just by being herself. I still get that little skip of a heartbeat every time I use the phrase “This is my girlfriend, Laura.”
The past is the past. She is the present, and my future.
What a mess things were when it came to my career in 2009! Laid off (for the second time from the same company!) in February, I got lucky and found a consulting gig to carry me through until it was time to leave for the Everest Trek. After I got back, things didn’t go quite as well. A handful of very short term consulting gigs (like, a couple days here and there) and a tiny bit of freelance work was about it for most of the second half of the year, until things finally turned around in November.
It’s become a bit of a tradition that I find something just as I’m at or near the bottom of the financial barrel, and this time was no exception. Things were starting to look pretty bleak, plenty of bills were being cut and a very tight budget worked out. Thankfully something came up, and while I’m still working myself out of that hole, I’m making forward progress and getting slowly caught up. They’ve got me budgeted through at least Q1 of 2010, and almost certainly beyond that. With my boss having recently resigned, we’re now a three person team doing the work of a four person team. A four person team that was already somewhat overloaded. So I think I might be secure here for a bit.
I’ve spent more money this year than I ever have before, mostly due to the trek, and didn’t work for a good chunk of the year, but am somehow finishing it up with my head a least partially above water. Rather miraculous, I think. A very expensive year to be sure, but worth every penny of it.
I wish there were more to write about here, but this aspect of my life has been sadly lacking in the latter half of this year. I was doing much better early in the year, in no small part due to being in a cultural center of Buddhism for several weeks, and then dating someone with that shared interest after I returned, but things have really fallen off since.
It’s not that I’ve lost all touch with that aspect of my life, I’m still very much in-tune with mindfulness and many of the other mental and emotional disciplines that I learned, I’m just not actively practicing like I used to. It’s probably been months since the last time I actually meditated, sitting, walking, or otherwise. But the lessons learned are still in my head, and I’m sure I’ll get back to it as my schedule lightens up a bit.
What is there to say about my creativity this year? I’ve added photography to my list of creative outlets, and am really enjoying continuing to learn about it. Hopefully I can get out to another of Chris Marquardt’s workshops soon and continue my growth there. That has been one of the few bright spots in the world that is my right brain this year.
It’s been a slow year for graphic design, mostly due to not having a steady design gig for most of the year. It’s funny, though not unexpected, that my interest in doing design just for fun has waned over the years since I began doing it professionally. More or less, if someone’s not paying me to do it I’m probably not doing it any more.
Musically, I’m dead. One song way back in February, and that’s been it. I’ve worked on some stuff here and there, including contributing some guitar tracks to one of my friend Jimmy’s tracks, but nothing of my own that came to any fruition. I’m not sure where that muse has gone, but if she doesn’t return soon it may be time to bury this aspect of my creativity. I’ve given a lot of thought lately to “retiring” from making music and getting rid of what’s left of my gear, but it’s been such a big part of my life for so long that it’s hard to let go of.
On the flip side, I’ve been on a huge writing binge lately. I’ve got several blog posts on different topics in various states of completion right now, not to mention all the “The Rest Of The Rest Of Everest” posts I’ve started doing every week. Oh yeah, and this monster of an epic post that I’ve been working on for several weeks now. So it’s not all grim! I guess that’s one of the benefits of having so many creative outlets, as one tapers off you can redirect the energy elsewhere. And I’ve done a decent enough job of doing that this year.
So… I guess that sums up the year that was. This has certainly been the most memorable and remarkable year of my life, one where the recurring theme seemed to be “change”. In spite of a lot of the unpleastantries of the year, I suspect I will always look back upon 2009 with high regard. The positives far outnumbered the negatives, so I’ve ended the year with a net profit.