When a year and a decade turn

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Many "last of 2019" posts have caught my eye, as have posts recapping the past decade via social media. The interesting part in all of this is that all of life is basically a series of beginnings and endings. Openings and closings. Starts and stops. Yet, we focus on this "new year" or "new decade" with such fervor. Maybe we should. Maybe we need these stops and starts to understand who we are, where we came from, and how we can be better versions of ourselves going forward.

In retrospect, so much as happened in my own life in the past 5 years alone that it really astounds me how many changes we go through in our lives from year to year, decade to decade. It sometimes feels as though I am 50 instead of 35 when I focus on just these past 10 short years.

So, here are my highlights of the decade as we hurdle headlong into 2020:

  • been married and divorced
  • been parent to two wonderful little humans
  • worked at 3 different companies (Trustwave, Sprout Social, Hyatt)
  • traveled to multiple places for work (Seattle, Hawaii, Texas, Colorado)
  • quit playing in a band (I miss it dearly)
  • lost a parent and grandparent (I miss them dearly)
  • been a parent to a family member
  • met and proposed to a wonderful lady
  • traveled multiple places with said lady in country
  • loss of my fiancée's brother
  • shopped for and bought two houses
  • shopped for and bought two vehicles

Professional Growth

My growth professionally this past year feels like it has been much more significant than in the past few years. Prior to 2019, it was hard to believe in myself or the technical skills I had obtained. I truly feel like I can call myself a software developer now. It has taken multiple persons I highly respect telling me that to finally have enough confidence to truly believe in.

I was quite proud to have published my first technical blog article this year. The thoughts behind it show how much I have developed this past year, and as a technical leader while with my previous employer, Sprout Social. Additionally, it was a wonderful realization that all the work I helped put into our automation framework paid off and made our team's testing more efficient.

I rekindled my interest in mentorship while I was there as well. I really enjoyed imparting my testing and automation knowledge to other individuals in the company. It was a very rewarding experience I hope to continue in the future professionally and with my children.

Although I thoroughly loved the company, I made the hard decision to leave in favor of the new opportunities another position would allow for. I've been at the new company, Hyatt Holdings for a month now, and each passing week solidifies that I made the right decision to move on.

Personal Growth

Growth in my personal life, has been highly linked to my professional growth this year. Specifically I've made a habit of not raising my voice to my children as much. The verdict is still out on whether this will have any effect on them or their attitudes in the long run, but I like to think it makes me feel like a better person.

I've continued working on listening more than talking as well as thinking more before I talk. This helps when trying to explain things to my kids, or even in daily talking with my partner.

Thinking on my feet is something I pride myself on as a tester. If a new requirement comes in, freaking out is something I don't tend to resort to. I am able to assess the situation and provide answers in a hopefully cohesive manner. I was very happy to practice this skill in a different fashion while streaming on I really enjoy meeting new people through the platform. I've had conversations about difficult topics with people I don't know and had to think of thoughtful responses quickly. This has been a very rewarding experience.

I have also become very interested in photography. Through this, I believe I have become a bit closer to my brother-in-law. We trade pictures and editing tips all the time now. Photography is a skill I think everyone should try, it allows you to grow in more ways than one. As my friend from Sprout once put it:

Photography allows you to look at the world with from many different perspectives

Watching my Children Grow

I am constantly amazed by the things my children can accomplish on their own. They both still know how to push my buttons, but I make a habit of trying to overlook that.

My daughter, now in 2nd grade, is already quite an artist. She is always sketching or reading (above her grade level). She reminds me of myself at her age. Shes smarter than she lets on but gets discouraged quickly sometimes when it comes to math. Its funny that tonight at dinner she was practicing math on her menu and writing out a googol. She made a comment that she likes math now.

My son, starting kindergarten this year, is already looking like he might be great with math and logic. I love building Legos with him (we gained a ton this year) and just talking about things he is interested in. He shows some tendencies to sketch and read as well. Its a good feeling to find notes around the house he writes about me or his "half-mom". It warms the heart.

Relationship Growth

I've been trying to make a habit out of being more understanding with my significant other in our day to day. We definitely mesh well, but there were a few instances in the past I've been trying to learn from. This includes going back to being more honest with myself and her, trying to recognize when I am getting defensive, and just being helpful.

I've found that since my divorce, that being honest in my relationships has made things much easier. My partner and I have had many candid discussions about our past, present, and futures with one another. It is very easy to see our road forward, including in marriage.

I am also fairly honest with people at work. It has allowed me to forge much deeper friendships than I thought possible, much faster than in the past. Recently, I had a conversation with a new coworker about my mother passing and how it affected me. I don't feel ashamed of my past as a divorced father, without my biological mother anymore. It is who I am, and it has made me into the better person I am today, than I was sometimes this decade.

Growth Through Loss

Losing my grandfather this year was a painful ordeal. He has been like a father to me all these years. I still remember in vivid detail daily rides to school in his work van. Its funny to think back to these memories, because like him, I tend to comment on everyone else's inability to drive.

I would say that he is one of the bigger reasons I got into technology and gaming. He gave my family our first computer, an older Packard Bell. I learned Windows, and MS paint on that. Maybe thats why I am so into pixel art lately. You can find examples of some things I have done on my Instagram account for my gaming persona ddaypunk.

Much like my mother, I wished I had sen him more often in the past 10 years he was in Nashville. Unfortunately I had little control over this. Previously, my grandparents moved to Nashville and until more recently, I haven't felt I was fiscally able to travel there for visits. I was happy to speak at his memorial service on the many memories I have, but I still miss him dearly. I still miss my mother too, I mean who wouldn't? Thankfully they are both no longer in pain, and able to see one another, wherever that may be.

Somehow, in loss, we find out who we are, and how possible it is to miss someone. It's a personal flaw I have, is I tend to distance myself from my family. Seriously, I tend to prefer text messages to phone calls. I would rather people just ask to come over, than to specifically invite them. Its just who I am. I have some ideas why, but they are a bit personal for this post. Its definitely something I would like to work on this year. I definitely miss my siblings, parents, and grandparents I have left in this world. I miss my kids when they are not around. That is life, but it doesn't have to be right?

Favorite 2019 Memories

I enjoyed getting to start learning pixel art and game development this year. It was quite an undertaking working on a project that is not work related but heavily related to one of my passions, gaming. Thank you so much to BW for helping me to understand things and allowing me to implement the game controls! I am looking forward to starting my own project at some point in the near future. I have some ideas in mind, but I really need to sit down, take a look at some programming libraries/frameworks, and get at it. Two specific artists have been encouraging me to get back into the pixels as well, so just keep an eye out on the Instagram I mentioned earlier! (Retro, and Russ thank you again for the encouragement)

It took a while, but I am very thankful to have made affiliate status on this past summer! A huge thanks to my close friends ShayShayFace and SaxTrain for all the lurks and throwing my name out there. Thank you to Snaps for being an inspiration due to how you interact with your chat and present yourself outside of streams. Thank you so much to my group of followers like Snuffy, Noodle, Daf, and many others I have grown to be friends with. I had the pleasure of attending this year's Twitch Chicago meet-up. I had a fantastic experience meeting folks like Snaps in person as well as networking with other local streamers. I am quite looking forward to attending TwitchCon 2020! Time to plan that I suppose!

Traveling with my fiancée and children has been wonderful this year. In February, I was able to take my now fiancée with me to Hawaii for a work reward vacation. It was there that I proposed to her on the beach in Maui after hiding the ring for a week! I purchased the ring literally the day before we flew to Maui.

We also did our first road trip vacation with the kids to Nashville. It was great for them to spend time with their Oma (great-grandma) and us for a week. Its still hard to do tourist things with them, but it was a good first attempt. We plan on doing many more trips with them in the future!

Learning and Growing

It has been interesting to look back over the past year and I feel like I could write novels about some of the above subjects. However, we don't have enough time for that in this post.

When taking the last decade into account, I am not sure that 2020 me would recognize 2009 me. I've changed so much in 10 years professionally and personally, I am a very different person. The events of the past decade, and even the past 35 years have shaped me into a somewhat solid person, but there is still room for improvement. There is always room for improvement right? Constant improvement (another CI for you dev folks) sounds like a good thing.

Growing up, can be quite painful at times, but pain induces learning. Much like that time I touched a stove top when I was very young. You can be sure I didn't do that willingly again. I plan on doing many things differently the second time around. With respect to marriage, I feel much more like it is MY decision this time around. I also see a great future in my choice of a partner this time. We bring out the best in one another, and in my kids. With respect to family, I know I need to remain in better contact with them.

In Closing, Musically...

I hope that everyone, across the world, has learned something from 2019, and even more from the past decade. I know I have, and thank you Real Friends for this song that I absolutely overplayed since I first heard it:

The patience I once had is running away with my youth

Away in its hands

I've been neglecting who I am

That's just who I was back then

Don't need to be perfect, just happy

I'm still a lost boy

I'm still a lost boy

Last year I was a trainwreck, now I'm just a mess

I'm letting go so I don't lose myself

Every once in a while I listen to Death Cab and think about how it used to be

We thought that we knew the answers

When no one was asking

Asking the questions

I'm still a lost boy

I'm still a lost boy

Last year I was a trainwreck, now I'm just a mess

I'm letting go so I don't lose myself

I'm starting to be where I need to be

I'm starting to be where I need to be

It feels like I've been taking the long way for a while now

Haven't been at home in more years than I care to say

I keep letting my past cover what the present shouldn't be

What I shouldn't be

Last year I was a trainwreck, now I'm just a mess

I'm letting go so I don't lose myself

I'm starting to be where I need to be

I'm starting to be where I need to be