Wow, 2021, you’ve been a lot.

Also, sometimes I’m a lot, so it works out…

You know that friend, the one everyone adores, but is just a bit more maintenance than others? Yeah, that’s 2021 in a nutshell. I wouldn’t have traded what transpired for the world but 2021 was not so effortless as previous years and 2022 is looking to be more of the same.

It ain’t all bad though, not in the slightest. Let’s refract.

At the beginning of the year, I dusted off this blog and decided to write again. Because all I did in 2020 was type casual chatter words in a messenger program all day (Teams) when I’m not (or sometimes while) talking to a box (also on Teams), my writing style had degraded from words that sound nicely put together to borderline word vomit if I was not vigilant. As 2021’s months went on, I stopped trying so hard, and in some cases, this blog showcases barely-edited word vomit. And I decided that was okay. Perfect is the enemy of good enough, and it was indeed good enough to record my history and sort through my sh*t with words even if it was more plainer than some years.

I celebrated the change then, I still celebrate it now.

In January, also, big changes happened at our company. Very public changes, so I don’t hesitate to mention it, but it really shaped my year. Twelve months ago, I truly did look at two very positive, but mutually exclusive paths, both with opportunities that excited me, and now one of them has faded into oblivion, with the label: the road not traveled. I have no regrets, I truly enjoy what my professional life has evolved into even if some SPECIFIC days I feel like I’ve been dragged behind a wagon for a few miles. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, once I can assemble more of a team, I’ll be carrying a little less of the load myself (and so will some of my folks). I am truly grateful our new owners promoted me to Director sight unseen based on the health and metrics of our product and that I’m being stretched to go way beyond those duties to take over more and conquer the world.

Nacho sez: WTF is this frozen stuff and why is it in my backyard?

Last fall/winter, I had a pretty debilitating back injury. It took most of 2021 to figure it out and (mostly) fix it, as I still feel it’s vestiges at times, but the difference between me on Jan 1 and me on Dec 28th is like night and day. First thing was just getting the eff active again any way I could. It took some fits and starts, where I did some virtual racing, powered by daily stretching and core, and then the Snowpocolypse happened and we just COULDN’T do anything for a week, and then it was March and our birthday month and we were huge slackers, and then all of a sudden my back was as bad as it had ever been and I was beyond despondent and wondered if I would ever be who I was again.

Bikes are always the answer

Then, we got the vaccine and by May, I was back in the pool and riding bikes outside. I will credit BOTH of these on my road to recovery. Cycling outside was as close as I could get to running (outdoors, sweaty endorphin generating fun, etc) and was a decent substitute after a year of utter neglect. Swimming… hurt a bit. But in a weirdly good way, it felt like it was stretching my back muscles in ways they needed to be stretched and the (mild) pain was just… assembling my body correctly again, if that makes any sense. I started to whisper about completing the half ironman I do almost every year in September, and in June, I *VERY* slowly added run/walk to the plan and hit the signup button even through trepidation it was premature.

It was not my best training cycle, not in the slightest. However, it was good enough, as I finally showed the heck up each week as I could manage it. I toed the line feeling confident about the swim, tentative about the bike (aero position and the one big hill I remember on the course being my concerns, not completing the distance as that was in pocket), and laughed about the “run” – figuring it would be a run/walk heavy on the WALK, but I’d be able to complete the race within time limits and that’s all I cared about – covering 70.3 miles on my own accord.

I did a thing and I didn’t even die!

It went just about as planned, even better at times! The swim was slow, a personal worst but as expected as my not-as-cranky-but-still-touchy back didn’t tolerate the motion of sighting buoys well. The bike was WAY more pleasant than expected. I cruised along at around 17 mph the whole time feeling just… JOY. For about 3 hours and change, I just enjoyed being present at the race, singing showtunes to myself, taking in the fact that I was RACING! The run was about as much of a sh*tshow as I expected but I made it, just a minute longer than it’s ever taken me before (yeah, personal worst by less than 60 seconds), but I didn’t really care. Six months before that, it was tough to pick up socks off the floor. Fast forward half a year, I completed my eleventh half ironman.

The return to travel not-in-a-camper was neat.

It was awesome, although kinda weird, to resume travel in 2021. We started the year camping on New Years Eve, we returned to the woods as soon as the air and weather weren’t trying to kill us in March (I forgot to post about this, but KL Ranch in New Braunfels was a beautiful place to spend a long weekend) and in April (also forgot to post on this, but Canyon Lake for a work-from-camper test). In June, we finally hopped a plane to Cozumel, sort of last minute, because the office was closed for almost a week to move servers and it was a little weird but amazing to once again submerge myself and dance with the fishies. We camped again at Krause Springs for our normal fourth of July trip (which was awesome, even though I wrecked on my bike), camping again at Kerrville for the race in September. A week later, in October, we jumped on a boat for a family cruise. I think I’m feeling a little restless right now since I’ve been at home for almost three months, the longest since Summer 2020. We shall fix that shortly though! It was truly nice to return to some semblance of normality in travel, albeit with cloth face coverings. In most cases, I felt reasonably safe, probably safer than in crowds at home as mask-wearing is enforced a lot more outside of Texas.

My one 2021 resolution, which I neglected to translate here from my “facebook as a blog” tendencies before Jan 3, 2021, was to treat my meatbag with more respect and care. I consider this as both a failure and a success, depending on which lenses you put on to examine the situation.

In 2020, I gained about the “Covid 10” and while I was a little cranky about it, I fully understood. I didn’t track my food, I didn’t even try to eat healthy (legit and frequent meals were Chef Boyardee and Top Ramen). I didn’t do anything significantly sporty after the world shut down, and I fully deserved what I got. In 2021, I gained the rest of the “Covid 19“. And it’s a little more frustrating, because I did try, at least in a half-arsed way, at least some of the time. And I was doing sporty activity things, at least some of the time. But here I am, with the majority of my closet just not fitting, and I’m exiled to stretchy pants or nothing at this point. So some of the time isn’t good enough right now. Noted.

Flattering mirror, not so flattering me.

I started the year with some really bad stress-coping strategies that I wanted to replace with healthier ones like morning meditation, and it just fell off after February. However, as expected, once I was able to return to sport things definitely got better up in the grey matter (and then also got worse after the race in September when I took a break from regular training). I have truly found my “why” beyond racing. I can’t handle as much stress in my life unless I sweat and breathe heavy more days than not. I’m not me without sport. I’m really glad to have it back in my life.

One great habit we’ve established in the last two months (and committed to for the next year) is strength training with a trainer. Booking a session once a week is enough to make us complete the other sessions we are supposed to each week (3x). Our second gym (yeah, spoiled, I acknowledge it) is within a quick walk, which after work is so much easier than the idea of sitting in traffic, and the workouts are 4-6 exercises and done within 30 minutes. We both feel more stable, our problem areas hurt us less than before, our posture is better, and we are definitely building strength. While I’m a little nervous about continuing this 3xweek during IM training next year, I think it’s probably one of the best things we can do for our hopeful finish, and it’s worth sacrificing some of the cardio to make it happen if necessary.

One very big failure was any attempt at work-life balance, respecting my own time, and setting boundaries. For various reasons work was very needy. And I needed to let it be, at least for a while. However, this trend is stretching on a bit too long, and in some cases, I need to solve problems instead of just waiting for the panacea to arrive to keep myself sane and also effective. Considering how ragged I ran myself into this holiday break, I need to establish some new habits and methods here as I’m realizing how precious my time is going to become, at least through the end of April next year.

The hobby room IS A THING. Some of y’all call it a dining room but I disagree.

And, yes, the hobbies. It wasn’t the worst year for ’em, but it wasn’t the best. I had weeks where I didn’t play guitar because I didn’t make the moments to do so (but I also had weeks where I played multiple times). Regardless, I have about 10 songs I can play from memory, even if I let it go for a few months, and I feel like I’ve improved. I painted… some… but not like I did the year before. We fell off playing solo tabletop role playing games but started playing with HUMANS in person again after we were all vaccinated and felt reasonably safe to do so. The amount of Bloodbowl (and other games, to be honest) I’ve played this year is pretty laughable compared to the last two. I made words here, but nowhere else, though I am copy editing for someone else right now and I’m getting the itch to crack open my own work, at least a little bit, but finding time to write is ultimately challenging, only stolen moments on the weekend mornings is when that happens, so it’s about priorities.

It’s difficult for me to sum up the year with three words as I normally do. Usually, they’re super positive like courage, confidence, and worthiness because I had some pretty amazing years pre-2020. But, I shall try:

Patience – Going from 0 direct reports to 13 was a learning experience in patience (and finding some kindness that I had sort of tucked away a few years ago when I started managing projects, not people). I had to be patient with my stupid cranky back recovering so slooooowly, but as frustrating as it was, it paid off. There has been a lot of patience with watching the world start to return to normal, then taking a step back, and then stalling out for a while. Who thought we’d still be wearing masks almost 2 years later? I am not a patient person by nature, in the true sense of “just waiting for something”, but when combined with persistence, “the ability to continue to bash my head against a brick wall until it breaks”, aka, the ability to be patient when I can make progress towards something, I am better.

Persistence – Even through all the things 2020 and 2021 threw at me, I may have retreated a bit, but discretion is sometimes the better part of valor. One thing I don’t do is give up. It gets me through races, difficult training days, difficult days at work, and big challenges that seem insurmountable. I’m unafraid of hard work and actually have a lot of effs to give. One of my greatest strengths is relentless forward progress. One MAY call it stubbornness, but I’ll paint it in the positive light of persistence.

Imbalance – I have a LOT of effs to give as long as I maintain some modicum of balance in my life between work, sport, creative hobbies, socialization, and rest. Sounds tricky, but I had all the plates spinning happily before March last year. 2020 threw it WAY out of balance where I spent the entirety on work and creative hobbies with almost no sport and no socializing, and I was missing one of the most important creative hobbies that kept me sane (writing). 2021 leaned even more into work, and I found a little less of my attention span ready to create on my own time. Thankfully sport and socializing became a thing again later in the year (though it was weird and awkward to do the latter sometimes after a year of just… not), but the four other aspects besides work were squished into a smaller box than normal. Sometimes you must embrace the imbalance, as it’s the path to progress, although it’s not something you can maintain for the long term.

Time for a little more of this before I go kick 2022’s arse!

If I sound a little tired and jaded, maybe I am. This is the latest in the year I’ve started my holiday break in over a decade (on Wednesday last week), and I’m still a little crispy since we went DIRECTLY into holiday shenanigans without any unwind time (coming soon, I promise). However, worry not, I know I have many effs to give for 2022, and I also have quite a bit of time to relax before I have to give them. So, stay tuned for all things 2022 because goals are BACK, my friends. At least, as soon as I get back from some time in the ocean.