Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Year I Had

Hi folks!

I haven't written much over the last few weeks.  This has been due to the combination of a couple of factors, including:
  • technical issues with a laptop that only works when plugged in (recently resolved)
  • travelling back to CT and MA for the last two weeks to see family and friends over Christmas
  • general lack of inspiration; not really feeling strongly about anything I wanted to write about
With that said, it's New Year's Eve and my only plans for tonight are to watch some concerts over the internet.  I briefly entertained the notion of travelling to see one of the shows live (either Phish in New York City or The Disco Biscuits in Atlanta), but at the end of the day those trips tend to cost a lot of money and I'm at a point in my life where I'm not willing to spend such a large chunk of my budget on having a really fun weekend.  The fact that I can stream the shows for free weighs a lot into the decision - between travel, hotel, tickets, food, and general expenses, I'm saving a huge chunk of change by staying home and I still get to watch them live in real-time.  Choosing to stay home is me making the Adult Decision.

And that makes sense, since I turned 37 years old last week.  That's officially "late thirties".  Yikes.

I don't always feel like I'm 37 years old.

I still feel confident that I skew young compared to most people my age.  Case in point - I'm still at the point where I have to talk myself into not spending a ton of money on travelling to concerts.  Enough people seem genuinely shocked by my age when they find out that I can tell they're not all faking it.  For whatever reason, most of the people I interact with on a regular basis are still in their 20s and it never feels weird to me.

But with that said, I feel like 2016 has to be the single year of my life where I feel like I've aged the most. It's the single year of my life that has been the most different from any other year - I left my job, moved out of New England for the first time, spent two surreal months in Forks, moved again to McMinnville, and have more or less been building a new life from scratch with Cody in a new large house with lots of roommates with no full-time job that gets me out of the house.  Having significantly less money and more time has given me a lot of time to reflect on what it is that makes me happy, and I feel like New Year's Eve has to be the right time to reflect on all that.

This post is going to be a summary of lessons learned in 2016.  I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions - to me, it makes a lot more sense to reflect on the past and to let that guide the future than it does to make easily-broken promises to improve a specific area.  I'm going to do this in the style of an interview with myself.

Q.  Hello, Shelly.  Welcome to the 2016 Year in Review!

A.  Thanks so much!  I'm really glad to be here  :)  I hit a large patch of writer's block and didn't know what I wanted to say, so this is a huge help.

Q.  The first question is obvious - was leaving your job and your life in Boston to move across the country the correct decision?  Any regrets so far?

A.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't ask myself this on a regular basis.  There were certain aspects about life in Boston that I hated (traffic, overpopulation, frigid cold snowy winters, lack of new experiences, high cost of living) and I haven't gotten to the point in McMinnville where I take these things for granted.

But with that said, I had a pretty made life in Boston.  On paper, I wanted to find a new life out west where I can be in charge of my own time.  There were other things I wanted to do full-time - namely writing and helping Cody run his store - and made the conscious decision to throw myself into finding a life where I could support myself 100% on my interests/talents instead of selling out and getting a job.

While I'm glad that I took the chance, I feel like taking that approach was a huge mistake.  I was taking a whole bunch of things for granted, and it took me a couple of months before I realized the extent to which this was true.

Q.  What types of things were you overlooking?

A.  First off, I really missed having a reason to leave the house on a regular basis.  As a general rule, I tend to get along well with my co-workers, and socializing with people at work is something that helps fuel the extroverted side of me.  Without this in my life, I start to get restless as all of the days of the week start to blend into each other.

Secondly, I don't like not contributing to our finances.  It's really hard to not be bringing in money while Cody's been working his ass off.  It makes me feel like I'm being incredibly selfish putting all my time into what is essentially a hobby.  That, combined with the sense of a lack of purpose, has been my major stressor for 2016.  When I find myself feeling down, that has been the thing that usually dominates my thoughts.

The third thing, crazily enough, is that I miss being able to help other people with their technology.  I've always said that I made the conscious decision to stay in desktop support positions because I genuinely liked the work, but on some level I never really knew if that was just my brain rationalizing the career I had fallen into.  As it turns out, I do like I.T. - it comes reasonably easily to me and provides a tangible service for people that I get to experience on a daily basis.

And the last thing is that I don't really like the level of accountability that comes from trying to run a business (like Misfit Cords, which I see as Cody's thing) or monetize blogging (which I don't enjoy in the slightest). I've always said that I prefer the role of the sidekick to that of the leader, which was another thing that turned out to be more true than I thought.  The whole idea was to minimize time spent doing things I don't want to be doing, and it turns out that working in I.T. might have been the proper way for me to be doing that.

Q.  Sounds like you know what to do in 2017 then!

A.  Yeah.  It took me awhile to realize all of this stuff, so I remain confident that I can find myself a job that's a good fit.  I haven't given up on the idea of working for myself, but in the short term trying to do so hasn't really made me happy.

Cody and I are both huge fans of the Draw Your Future TED Talk by Patti Dobrowolski.

Q.  So do you wish you never left?

A.  Sometimes, I feel that way.  But for the most part, I'm glad that Cody and I made the decision to leave. Life is all about the risks we take, and while there is still obviously room for improvement, I still feel that I like life in McMinnville more than life in Boston.

Q.  How has your living situation in Oregon been?

A.  On one hand, there's a lot to like about it.  Cody and I pay an extremely reasonable amount of money for a fairly large room in a nice house with a huge backyard.  Generally speaking, I try to put effort into having positive relationships with the people I live with and I feel like I have some solid friendships with people that I've met out in Oregon.

Cody and I moved out there because we wanted to participate in an intentional community.  And while there are aspects of that lifestyle that I think are very good (such as group dinners and people hanging out in the common areas), the main thing that I've grown to realize as the months have gone by is that I like having a very low amount of formal structure in my living situation.

I feel like I've found a good way to handle this.  In my mind, I imagine the room that Cody and I share as our apartment, and the rest of the house is like my neighborhood.  I do my best to stay friends with everyone, and I still participate in group meals and try to my share of the chores.  In my mind, the main difference is that I want to do these things because I want to, not because I have to.

I'd be lying if I said I haven't been imagining having a place with no one other than Cody - that way we could do whatever we want at home while giving me an excuse to leave the house to socialize with others.  37 feels like a mighty old age to have a whole bunch of roommates, especially when Cody and I are essentially a married couple at this point.  We spent two months in our own place when we lived in Forks - even though I didn't like living in that town, I did really like our little house.

Q.  What was living in Forks like?

A.  For the period of weeks where I thought we would be living there long-term, Forks felt like a prison to me.  It was hard to shake the feeling like nothing that I did out there mattered - living in a town of 3,000 people where the closest town is 70 miles away was, in my experience, the perfect nightmare for an extrovert.

There's nothing quite like the forests out there!  I once went out into the woods in our backyard to gather up moss to use for art, and I ended up getting lost in the woods.  It was a really scary moment - my cellphone battery died and I knew it was roughly 4:00 p.m., and there was a legitimate fear in my mind that if the sun went down before I found my house, I'd end up having to camp out with next to nothing in a damp patch of woods in the middle of nowhere.  Thankfully, after an hour or so of wandering I managed to find my street and hike back to my house.

It took me a little while to come to grips with the fact that I didn't like living there.  I was so desperate for a place to call home at that point that I really tried to force it.  But I started to slowly grow morose as the days moved forward and nothing changed.

Once we found out we were moving to McMinnville, Forks felt more like a vacation.  Knowing that we were leaving shortly, I did my best to take in all of its natural beauty.  Cody and I had cookouts and made fires pretty much every night that it didn't rain.  When I look back on my time spent out there, those campfires are the thing that I miss most about living so far away from the rest of the world.

As it turns out, prisons and tourism are two of the biggest employers out there.  Maybe it's not just me!  That said, it's a place that I really hope to visit again, albeit for a limited amount of time.

I'd be lying if I said that 2016 was an easy year where everything went right.

Q.  Can you believe all those celebrities died in 2016?

A.  Honestly, I don't really think about celebrities all that much.

Q.  Can you believe that Trump got elected?

A.  I think that when historians go back and study the election, they'll find that the echo chamber effect will have been the most significant cultural change in a post-social-media society.  People, without even realizing it, started grouping up.  More often than not, they don't even group up on common ideals so much as common enemies.  And as it turned out, Team "I Hate Clinton" beat out Team "I Hate Trump".

Q.  Does this scare you?

A.  I think one of the great realizations of growing older has been an accepting and understanding of my place in the world.  I think there is a lot of unfairness and negativity that exists out there, and I think that the internet has tricked people into obsessing over it.  Political conversations rarely if ever change people's minds, since by and large people have already formed their opinions, and yet I see people engage in them time and time again without questioning their role in "othering" their opponents.

My solution to this has been similar to my solution to living in a large house.  I do my best to be a positive influence for the people in my life, enjoy the company of others, and contribute where I can to making the world a better place.  Instead of worrying about what other people think, I try to be more aware of how I feel about the decisions that I make, and just try and live the type of life I can proudly own.

Politics don't really scare me.  To me, our politics is the symptom of a greater problem:  we have more ability than ever to communicate with each other, but haven't yet figured out how to properly and effectively do so. But that doesn't really scare me anymore either, because at this point I've grown to accept that I'm not responsible for fixing society and I do what I can to improve communication where I can.

I'm fully aware of the fact that there are legitimate reasons for people to be worried that won't necessarily affect me, and I'm not saying that I'm not aware of them.  If people read my opinions and come to my conclusion that I'm speaking from a bubble of privilege and that I'm being irresponsible and selfish for not caring more - those are examples of the types of strawman arguments that I trying to cut out of my life, and I stand by that decision.

Q.  So you've been blogging for a year.  How's that been?

A.  I'm really glad that I've been doing this.  I'm still constantly tweaking little things here and there with the blog.  For the most part, I have a lot of fun writing in here.  Like I said, I feel like we live in a world where effective communication is becoming less and less common, and so this is my little way to try and circumvent that.

I've had a lot of ups and downs this year, and I'd like to hope that my blog reflects that.  It's interesting and humbling to write about the ways where things didn't work out the way I wanted, but when all is said and done I like what I have so far and don't want to stop yet.

Q.  What's in store for Misfit Cords?

A.  We're definitely going to learn from mistakes made in 2016!  But I've come to realize that I don't like writing about ideas ahead of time, because sometimes I get caught up in the planning and then fizzle on the execution.  Besides, I see that as Cody's story to tell :)

With that said, Cody and I have been together for a little more than three years now, and I still feel very confident that he's the person I'm going to spend the rest of my life with.  In a year that has been fraught with me second-guessing some of the decisions I've made, my happiness with my relationship has remained one of the few things I have been sure about.

True origin of Shelly Moonbeam

Q.  What else has been new for you?

A.  One of my favorite parts of McMinnville has been my discovery of a Texas Hold'em scene.  I went to a local bar on a Wednesday night and found a regular crowd of people who play every week.  For perhaps the first time ever in my life, I'm a member of a social scene where I'm one of the youngest instead of one of the oldest.  I've been reasonably successful there since starting to regularly play a few months ago, which makes it a lot more fun :)

Relative to other years, live music has had a lot less influence in my life.  That's kind of a bummer that I hope to fix in 2017.  While I'm definitely not trying to dial it back to the Eleanor years of my life, I miss dancing a lot and see that as a potential area for improvement over the next year.  Thankfully, my besties Rich and Kayla took me out on a trip out to Gorge to see Phish, a night which stood out as a highlight of 2016.

I won fantasy football this year on a team that I was co-managing with Rich!   I joined his league with all of his friends so that we'd have a reason to keep in contact while living on different coasts.  Somewhat hilariously, he got into a rules argument with the commissioner (one of his best friends) and quit the league on the day before the draft, and he was promptly replaced, leaving me in a league with a bunch of people I didn't really know.  After a few weeks, I offered him an opportunity to team up with me - it ended up being one of the funnest seasons of fantasy football ever.  I like gaming as a healthy outlet for competition, but all in all I still like collaboration better.  Plus, I find Rich's obnoxious trash-talking to be a lot funnier when he's on my team.  Go figure.

I still play online Mafia on the SA forums, and I've grown to appreciate the role of "internet friends" in my life.  There's something to be said for having a community of people online where all arguments are had in the context of a game!  While knowing people through the internet is no substitute for having friends in real-life, I've found that the conversations I've had outside of the games are a more-than-adequate substitute for scrolling through a bunch of fake news on Facebook.

Netflix recommendations:  Bojack Horseman and Black Mirror

If I were to name two bucket list items for the following year, it would be (a) find a softball team when the weather gets nicer and (b) finally apply to go on the T.V. show "Survivor".  I'm putting this here mainly for me to help hold myself accountable.

Finally, driving across the country was something I had always wanted to do, and I found that I enjoyed life on the road.  There were certain things (namely our cat Tom and the fact that we left in February) that made it so that we had to make sure we were making good time, but it anything it's something that I hope I get to do more of in my life.

Q.  Any last words before ending this post?

A.  All in all, I'd call 2016 a good year for me even if parts of it have been really difficult.  Compared to certain other negative points in my life, I'd call it a cakewalk.  I have a lot of optimism for 2017 - I know what changes I want to make, and so now it's time to make things happen.  I hope that everyone reading this feels similarly!  :)

No comments:

Post a Comment