Birthday Inventory 2022

It’s my birthday today. I’m sitting in our car at a charging station in Glen Falls, NY, on our way down to New Jersey for my cousin’s wedding this weekend.

My family went to a show last Friday (amazing Mon Île, Mon Cœur by 7 Doigts de la Main). I had supper with good friends on Wednesday. I had breakfast in bed and cake and presents on Thursday, and supper plans with my brothers and their families on Saturday. I am well fêted!

As has become my tradition, I’m going to use this opportunity to take inventory on where I am, and think about where I’m going.

  • Family. I’m beginning to feel the post-covid unraveling of our dense family pod. For the last 2.5 years, my wife and kids and I have been each others’ main companions, traveling and eating and reading and playing together as a group. It’s been intense and it’s been the secret blessing of the pandemic for me. But my son, 13, and daughter, 17, are now taking advantage of the loose restrictions to explore their own lives. They continue to be a big part of home life, though, and they’re both careful and smart. So I’m taking it as a win; we raised kids to a point that they’re gaining independence and using it wisely, which feels like the Grand Prix of parenthood. But it has me wondering who I am going to be and what I will do when we become empty nesters.
    • My relationship with my wife remains tight and intimate, but our time is really overstretched. We can usually get an hour or so together after a long day of work, supper, chores, and homework coaching. We’ve managed to take some overnights away, and nights out with friends or as a pair. I think we’re getting to a next phase, where our role as parents fades into the background of our role as partners. When we go out, we don’t always talk about the kids, which is also great.
    • We got to visit my parents and brothers in spring this year, after having COVID-19 (see below!). It was the first visit to California for us in 2.5 years. My mom and dad are getting older and less mobile, but it was great to see them and talk in person. And getting time with my brothers and kids was great.
    • My extended family remains far off. We stay in touch online and do occasional Zoom calls, but it feels in this year that people are shifting their socialization offline. It will be good to see so many of them this weekend.
    • I’ve been doing more genealogy research this year, which is a mind-expander for thinking about family. During our trip to Amsterdam, for example, I got to see the block where my great great grandfather lived before coming to the US. And an intrepid genealogy enthusiast from Greece contacted me about my DNA; we think we have a common ancestor from a town near Istanbul. My feelings about family are extending further backwards and forwards in time.
  • Pandemic. As mentioned above, my household got COVID-19 this year, including me. We’ve gone from a pretty cloistered existence in the winter to a much, much more open life this fall. I still occasionally wear a mask, and we have been keeping our booster vaccinations up, but COVID-19 is much less a part of our calculations than it was even 6 months ago. In some ways, I miss the feeling of common cause from the shared pandemic, but I’m also glad we’re doing more these days.
  • Work. Early this summer, I started working for the Open Earth Foundation, a non-profit that makes Open Source software to fight climate change. I’m the Director of Open Technology, managing software developers, setting technical direction, and keeping us connected to the Open Source community. It’s a dream job, working on what I think is the world’s most important problem, and using the skills I’ve built up over my career. I’ve really enjoyed hiring a team and forming our software practice. It’s not a perfect job, and I’m concerned about how much work there is to do and how little time to do it. But I haven’t had my life’s purpose and my work so aligned in a very long time, and it feels good.
  • Health. I’ve been lucky so far with serious health issues; they’ve been rare. I gained about 10% of my weight during the pandemic, but I’ve been exercising regularly and trying to stick to a high-protein diet, and I’m almost back down to my pre-COVID weight. It’s been a lot harder than it used to be to regulate my weight and muscle mass, though.
    • One thing that’s been different for me over the last year is a concentration on hydrating. I try to drink 3.5 liters of water a day, which is a lot, but I can really feel the difference.
    • I’ve also been walking daily, trying to get 10K steps. This is in addition to or part of my daily exercise. I love the opportunity to roam the green alleys and streets of my neighborhood, the Plateau Mont-Royal in Quebec. It’s especially let me indulge my interest in North American native plants, as I can find wild grapes, cottonwoods and oaks right around my home.
    • I haven’t been keeping my meditation practice up. I don’t do great too early or late at night, and in the middle of the day, meditation takes a back seat to work and exercise. I’m trying to hold myself to more frequent but shorter sessions, but it makes me miss a full, deep 30-minute one.
  • School. This is new! Last spring, I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in computer science. I’ve been working as a software engineer for 30 years, but I haven’t ever earned a CS degree. I was accepted for a remote program at Georgia Tech, and I’m going to start in January 2023. I’m nervous and excited.
  • Friends. This has been a perpetual problem, and I think it will become more acute as my kids grow up and leave home. I’ve been able to see friends more often since the pandemic restrictions have loosened, but it comes in bursts. I’d like to get to a point where time with friends is just a regular part of my day or week. One thing that’s been tough is that many of the friendships I built up in the last decade were centred around Montreal’s tech and startup scene. It’s just not as big a part of my life as it used to be, so I think I have to reevaluate those relationships.
  • Travel. After getting COVID-19, we got out and about this year. In April, a trip to California, then Amsterdam and London this summer. In August, I had a work retreat in Costa Rica, and now I’m off to NJ. It’s a lot, and probably overindulgent, but it feels good to see more of the world.
    • We still have our second house in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, and it continues to provide a rich outlet for curiosity and creativity. I’ve been working on planting native North American bushes and trees and perennials, as well as 4 rows of wine grapes. It’s a wonderful place to retreat to after a week in the city.
  • Life’s purpose. I’m working for the first time directly on climate change, which is a real satisfying development. I feel a little concern that it can’t be all of my life, but it’s a big part, and it feels pointed in the right direction.

So, here I am. I feel like my life is at a crux point, but I like where I am, and how it’s going, and I’m grateful for it. I guess that’s worth remembering on my birthday.

One thought on “Birthday Inventory 2022

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