As is now tradition, here are 34 semi-random topics and thoughts after 34 years of life. I started writing this a couple days before my birthday (10/22) and, as the tradition states, I have to put it off and iterate on it needlessly for months before posting it. Thanks as always for reading!
Birthday: Sticking with what works, my celebration day was:
- a 15 mile bike ride to and from breakfast at a rural diner,
- a sprint of effort to finish a list of improvements to the new house before company,
- a few hours of genuine Halo LAN,
- and a fantastic, rich Italian dinner…
- …finished off with a birthday cannoli.
I wouldn’t trade that Sunday for anything; thank you to all who made it memorable!
This Old House: Despite all of the drama surrounding the sale of our previous house, we accepted a similar offer in early October and closed on November 1st. Just like that, it was over—money in the bank and one less string attached to Central (and all of) Florida. We’re all moved in at the new rental, mostly settled, and reaping the rewards of downsizing.
Product Owner, Again: Thanks to the spontaneous exit of my previous supervisor (and four months of internal hire song-and-dance), I am once again a Product Owner (a hybrid project manager and business analyst). It came with a hefty (negotiated) raise, and despite still being paid thousands less than the majority of the team, it finally feels like the balance of pay, responsibility, and effort invested makes some kind of sense. I’m happy to feel comfortable sinking my teeth into a real job again, and on a day-to-day basis, I feel great about my short-term position.
Relocated, Again: Purely by coincidence, our whole team was relocated just south of campus the week I switched roles. Change sucks, especially when you move from private to shared office space, but after a week of transition, I have a fully-decorated and comfortable corner. I’m rather enjoying the change of pace, the shaded sidewalks, the adjustable desk, and the air of professionalism the space imputes, but I’ll really miss the affordances of campus, like…coffee shops and walkable food.
Let’s “Sink” Up: After my UCF memoir video made a splash internally, I was recruited to help our internal marketing and communications group produce interview videos of our VP to be included in the monthly newsletter. It was a great opportunity to leverage a simple iPhone-video setup with a teleprompter app on the iPad and the results are pretty solid. Flex your creativity whenever you can! You never know where it’ll lead.
Dandelion Drive: The new house has been a flurry of activity. Since August, we’ve completely redone the upstairs master bath, had the carpet, roof, and AC replaced, completely furnished and decorated all rooms, held another garage sale, cleared the lot of vines and branches, installed a patio, carved up a broken hot tub, and still have plenty to go. It’s kept me busy and it’s been tough to find relaxation at night or on the weekends, but it feels great to be less attached and more free to experiment with silly setups.
Homework: A couple years ago I tried to work from home a day a week and bounced off of it, hard. With a role that prioritizes soft skills, critical thinking and problem solving, having a lonely house to yourself for eight hours with no bulleted list of tasks drove me batty. Now that I live 30+ miles away from work, I’m forcing myself to overcome the dread of working from home, one way or another. The first several attempts have been great (getting easier every time), with the highlight being the BBQ food truck a 10-minute walk away that will likely become a staple.
Exploring Deltona: One of the best parts of moving has been having an entirely new area to explore (on foot, bike, car, Sunrail, who knows!). We’ve discovered all new wonderful places to eat, there’s a great flavor to the area (a little rural, a little older, way more trees), and it opens up Daytona and NE Florida for quick trips. I don’t know if I’m ready to say moving often is the key to keeping me curious and interested, but it’s sure working this time.
Pizza and Games: Lately we’ve been tracking down and building out a collection of favorite SNES games to play on the Super NT. One of the cooler finds in that search has been Cybertron, a local duo of stores with a fantastic retro atmosphere. I tend to drop in every week or so to soak in the nostalgia and scope out the inventory. We tried out the adjacent pizza place on a whim and it’s become a bit of a routine: meet up at Cybertron, make a round, and scoot over to Pacino’s for some stuffed garlic knots and a pepperoni and bacon pie.
Blue Ridge Trip: For the past few years, Rob and I have taken a trip to the Boone/Blowing Rock area of the Blue Ridge Parkway in early October for a getaway full of hiking, food, and fresh air. This year, we brought some friends along. It took a lot of planning, patience, and flexibility—scaling up a personal, cozy trip up to 8-9 people was not easy, especially when their only connection to each other in some cases was “I’m friends of the host.” Despite all odds, we made it work: we hiked about 50 miles as a group, hit all of the wonderful food we’re used to, and made the experience uniquely ours.
Graystone Cottage: The cabin/house we rented was the Graystone Cottage, about 10 minutes SW of Blowing Rock on 221. Past a nondescript brick entrance, this place was: an enormous entry floor, two living room spaces, a large kitchen, and a master bedroom with a shower literally larger than all of the bathrooms in our new rental. Downstairs had plenty of room and beds, both floors had porches with views of the mountains, and the deck had a covered, bubbling hot tub. With a little help from Paul we eked out enough internet for a few rounds of Drawful and Mario Kart. We capped the trip with a Friday night bonfire and paid our respects to the spiders and stink bugs lost along the way.
The Perfect Day: Thursday of the trip was close to perfect. We got up early, donned our custom trip shirts, hit up Waffle House, strolled to Local Lion for coffee and donuts (for later), and headed north on the Blue Ridge. We hiked a short loop to the Cascades, stopped at Doughton Park for the views, skipped into Virginia for the Blue Ridge Music Center and live bluegrass, and concluded the hiking with a ravine-descending, river-crossing, and switchback-climbing two-mile loop. Our reward was a dinner of fresh pasta at The Twisted Fork and comas of creamy cones and wet walnuts at The Daily Bar. Our two-car caravan made its way back to the cabin to the soft beats of Chvrches, most of its passengers asleep by the end. Finally, the daring among us drove up the mountains at midnight to hike Rough Ridge decked out in headlamps and lights. In all the days I’ve been tracking my mood, my birthday celebration day and this Thursday stand out above the rest.
Rocky’s Hot Chicken: Favorite places tend to take hold fast in our family. After a solo trip to Asheville, Erik told me about this great chicken tender place he’d tried. We swung by on the return trip from the Smoky’s earlier this year (right after The Rise of Skywalker teaser aired) and it was out-of-this-world delicious—crispy chicken tenders covered in spices and hot sauce. Rob and I detoured on the way back from GenCon in August to hit up the other location and I converted Rob instantly. We ventured with our cavalcade to the same location on the way up to the cabin and it was as epic as you could imagine. Rob tried their hottest sauce on a tender…you should ask him for the video. 😂
Fan Service: Speaking of The Rise of Skywalker: with tickets acquired and the date, time and location set, I don’t want to think about it for another second until my butt is in the theater seat. I’ve been very pleased with both films in this trilogy so far, and I’m hoping Mr. Abrams doesn’t let the discourse dissuade him from taking big and bold risks with the conclusion. I’m sure it’ll be grandiose, nostalgic and heavy-handed, and I could do without the excessive advertising and brand partnerships, but like, for real just pump it into my veins. Tonight!
Divesting from Google, Amazon: I’m tired of feeding the advertising monopolies and loss-leaders, so I’m currently working on migrating away from Google and Amazon as much as I can, including email, calendars, and (now canceled) Prime. Basic email and calendaring from iCloud or Fastmail is more than adequate, and there’s so much competition with Prime that free shipping can be found most places now. I know I won’t make much difference but I don’t want to be part of it. PS: changing your primary email address is hell.
Whatcha Playin’: Horizon Chase Turbo, Chasm, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Link’s Awakening (2019), The Outer Worlds, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD, Pokemon: Shield, Jedi: Fallen Order, and Luigi’s Mansion 3. Gaming these days is an embarrassment of riches—there’s really no way to play even half of what you want to. I probably won’t “beat” half of these games; and as I’ve discussed before, that is (or should be) totally cool with me.
Analogue: Is there anything cooler than a boutique shop creating modern, sleek, and refined takes on classic gaming consoles that output crystal clear over HDMI using original cartridges? I’m still in love with my Super NT, and with the recent announcement of the Pocket, it feels too good to be true. Truly grateful for Analogue in this life (as long as I can actually snag a Pocket next year 🙏).
AGDQ 2020: As usual, I was up to late and irrationally emotional at the close of another Awesome Games Done Quick last January. Then they announced it was moving to Orlando for 2020, and I’ve been anticipating it with glee ever since. We pounced on week-long admission and somehow acquired a room for Tues-Sun. If you’ll be in the area and want to attend live speed running, let us know! They’re also doing a Classic cast over Christmas you should check out.
Celeste: What a special game. It continues to stick with me almost two years later. The game play, the message, the absurdly-rad soundtracks I can barely listen to without being overwhelmed…and a whole new free DLC I can’t bring myself to finish (and whose soundtrack even kept me company through this). If that wasn’t good enough, I received a badass Celeste T-shirt for my birthday from Erik and a personal message from the game’s creator at the request of Rob. It feels like a game that means so much to me at this point that I’m just destined to revisit it again and again. I’m so thankful to be able to have new experiences like this into my 30s.
Color: I bought a Switch Lite recently because I’m a little kid and easily swayed by video game techno-lust. Every day leading up to launch I’d wonder why I was so into that brutal, matches-with-everything gray model. Standing in Target on a Friday night, I looked at the display case and thought…no. No, I’m fighting this. I will take a chance on color. In the words of a friend that patiently dealt with my first-world problem: “Be queer. Pick turquoise.” And I’m really glad I did. Even at 34, I’m still fighting an internal battle of sense of self, but I’m slowly learning how to win.
Focus: I still prefer consoles and portables to PC gaming. For me, consoles help hide distractions by forcing me to let go of (most) multi-tasking and get me into the experience faster with less overhead and zero-configuration setups. I still play and enjoy PC games, but with as much time as I spend in front of a personal screen, it feels like an act of willful defiance to focus on a television and contort myself into various pretzel shapes on a couch or bed.
Positivi-sheet: As part of an effort to focus less on the negativity around me, I’ve been keeping a log of all of the good things that happen every day. The ratio of good to bad doesn’t matter—only the positives make the list. It’s both helped me remember how often positive things do happen, given me a go-to activity when I’m feeling anxious, and provided me with a great resource to review when things aren’t going so well. This activity came from the wonderful book The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work which I highly recommend and probably need to re-read.
One Year Ago: Looking back at my Year 33 Status Report, I:
- Have unfollowed a lot of people on Twitter to make it more manageable, but I’m probably leaving it alone eventually
- Still have trouble with “finishing games” fatigue
- Am still addicted to One bars (I eat at least one almost every day)
- Still have had little success getting to bed on time (but I’m working on it!)
- Still don’t feel like the over/under on watching football is worth it
If my intent was to find a new direction…moving, selling the house, and changing roles at work has felt like a good start!
Two Years Ago: Looking even further back a couple of years at Surprise I’m 32, I:
- Still think password managers are critical on today’s internet; bite the bullet and switch to one if you re-use any passwords
- Still adhere to ‘Plan, do, check, act’, and it’s still basically everything to my success. Take action quickly, expect to fail (or, learn), make changes, and try again.
Looking Way Back: A friend asked me to include reflection on what I would tell my teenage self, if I could. Even as late as high school I feel I was pretty sheltered, so I can’t be too hard on myself. But, if I could sneak a letter to my IB-program-self, I’d say:
- There are so many more valid perspectives than you think, and you’ll only see that with time and experience.
- Give college more thought than “my mom went there and they have a good football team so they must have good degree programs.”
- Calories really are pretty straightforward, so like, pay more attention to them.
- Learn about low-cost index funds ASAP and just save money there instead of a savings account.
- Other than your close family, no one cares nearly as much as you fear they do. Just be yourself and enjoy it while you can.
Full Utilization: The key to finding momentary happiness my whole life has been occupying myself with backlogs of things to do, important or not. It’s mostly worked until recently—as I’ve matured, I find I’m unable to buy into the rational foundation of a lot of these activities anymore. Work has mostly taken over—it provides that same level of challenge, fulfillment, and justification that things like photography and marathon gaming used to. And that’s a problem! That feeling of being valuable and truly leveraging all that I can give has made it next to impossible to feel “justified” in relaxing or being less than perfectly-balanced at home. Lately I’ve been reminding myself that at home it’s more than okay to not be performing 24/7, but it’s been a challenge I continue to experiment with, especially with a new house giving me every excuse to be productive.
Overwhelming: “Disorder” really quickly drains and frustrates me, especially if I can’t fix it. A strategy I’ve had to adopt: removing things from view that I can’t act on so they don’t overwhelm me. At work this means turning off notifications, keeping my inbox perpetually at zero, being away from the office often, and only selecting a few things to work on every day. At home: putting half-finished projects out of sight until they can be worked, tidying up every night before bed, and limiting myself to just a handful of open threads at a time. I leverage tools like Asana (work) and Trello (home) to keep myself focused and honest with how much I’m juggling, but I’m hoping to eventually not have to have things feel “just right” to be able to feel good about the state of things.
Disdain for Normalcy: Most of my life I’ve never really fit in, and most times that’s felt like an asset, a unique perspective to most problems. But lately, being constantly immersed in culture I don’t understand and can’t relate to has been getting to me. I don’t like kids, I have no desire to have kids, and my nuclear family is a chosen one, but I’m at the age where coworkers, followed personalities and podcasters are becoming less and less relatable as they build traditional families of their own. Add in not drinking for good measure. It’s given me a real resentment of those able to tap into the benefits of that normalcy, especially when they seem less and less willing to see non-normalcy as valid and their position as privileged. Is it just my rebellious attitude, or a valid reaction to never fitting in?
Inverting Adversity: A trend I’ve noticed in my actions this year: seeing disappointment as a welcome opportunity of constraint. Shoved into a new office against your will? Decorate the hell out of it and be proud. Anxious and alone? Turn that into a cue to reach out and say hi to a friend. Got 24 minutes until the next meeting? Challenge yourself to do something in 20. Afraid of gifting your free time to a convention whirlwind? Record it and make a video later. It’s about choosing not to be a victim, about taking the active step to change the situation from “ugh, why is this happening to me?” to “okay, cool, how can I take advantage of this?” It’s surprising how well it’s been working for me, even if I could stand to practice it more often.
A Closet Enthusiast: Recently we did a DISC assessment at work, and despite my misgivings everyone on the team took it rather seriously—it was a good experience. I got pegged as a “CD” (meaning I’m a hybrid of “dominance” and “conscientiousness”), with some tendencies toward “I”, or “influence”. But as we went through the material and specifically highlighted the traits and desires of “influence” types (prioritizes taking action, collaboration, and expressing enthusiasm), I saw a lot of myself—or rather, a lot of what I typically want in my life but shy away from. It got me thinking…was I destined to be an “I” but conformed to more “CD” path after being bullied and told as a kid to stand out less? It’s taken me a long time to find cracks in my shell, and I routinely find myself the only one in the room being silly, trying off-the-wall things, and breaking the mold. It has strengthened my resolve to be that change agent to those that need someone to lead the way, whether being tenacious or ridiculous.
Halloween: Instead of suiting for my stale coworkers, I decided at the last minute to dress up as a Pokémon trainer, complete with a shoulder-mounted Pikachu. It came together the night before fantastically and was a liberating blast to wear with pride. It did however leave me a little shell-shocked by the end of the day, thinking…why did I enjoy this so much? It’s something about unencumbered expression of joy and self, something I don’t get a lot of at work. I hope to chase this a little more in 2020. PS: Still suited after :D
Health: My walking average is up to 5.2 miles a day; my weight has plateaued in the low 160s since January (currently 163, no complaints). Other than a couple minor cavities, I can’t complain. Still working on that whole mental health thing, which has been more than challenging, but overall I’m improving. I should probably chill on the land cleaning at the new house so my poor hands can rebound a little.
Next: In no particular order, some things I’m going to deal with in the new year:
- New challenges: this will be the first semester where my strategy is tested as PO, and it’s been really tough to split the difference on “what is good for my clients” and “what the business thinks it wants”. We’ll see!
- New horizons: Probably scoping out places to relocate, as much as one can do that really. I feel like I need to move somewhere safer before November.
- New philosophy: I want to create an inventory of the material things I value—documents, game consoles, special clothes, plushies, artwork—and largely rid myself of the rest of it. I want a clean slate before my next adventure. It’s made the gift part of Christmas feel…more than a little unrelatable.
- New focus: trying to leverage the advantageous position of being a renter to live simply, save money, and discover how to take it down a notch
ABC: Always, Be, Creating. It feels incredible—it taps into some primal urge to express something uniquely me. And in the end, I have something to share to make others smile, think, or at least understand me a little better. Like this post. 😄
I don’t think I can do this again at 35, but I have a year to talk myself down from this format. Thanks for reading as always, and here’s to another year of progress, learning, and intentional happiness. 🦝