The other day, I heard someone say, “Remember Rihanna’s halftime Superbowl show? Yeah, that was this year.”

Pretty sure this happened about 5 years after February 2023

And holy effing schneikes, that did really cement in my mind how LONG of a year 2023 felt. I won’t say it was the worst year – far from it – but gosh it did feel like it cracked on for ages.

Let’s hit the highlights:

I got another shiny new promotion, and it was a really big one. Unlike the last few that came quickly, I didn’t think “I didn’t expect to be here yet” but it was really more like “I didn’t expect to be here, ever”. This one has not been without its challenges, but it’s a huge opportunity for me to continue to learn and grow and expand my ability to help great people do great things. It’s a far cry from five years ago, when I felt like I was stagnating and was really pushing myself to expand my knowledge, expertise, and responsibility, and hoo boy, what a ride it’s been since then. I’d say I’m extremely lucky, but I mean that in the way of Luck = Preparation + Opportunity. I have to give myself some credit for the hard work I’ve done to get here once I found myself in the right place at the right time.

Awww, these hopeful feets of mine would indeed run and walk a lot!

I have earned the right to run again. I’ll talk about this one more below in the goals section, but it’s worth mentioning under highlights. I weight trained consistently every month, which meant I stayed relatively uninjured so I could run every month, and I was patient and stayed at 5k for around 9 months, just building a base again, before I started stretching that further in October. Now, I’m just a few weeks away from my first double digit run and seven weeks away from running (not PRing but not limping through) a half marathon. Some days I don’t want to go, and some days aren’t the best runs ever, but after losing it for a few years, the ability to get out there and tromp around my neighborhood a few times a week is not something I will ever take for granted again.

This one may sound stilly but it was also almost half a decade in the making. After 11 seasons and over 1500 hours of playing the damn game, I won my first KIBBL Bloodbowl championship. I did it with Amazons, a team that I never quite clicked with except right at the end when I did, which was also a team that hadn’t won the league yet, so I couldn’t be accused of picking something “easy”. And then the league kind of imploded. About 8 of us left are playing half-heartedly. I’m really glad I was able to get the W before that happened. I still intend to make a damn championship shirt but the time to do it has probably reasonably passed.

We #1, finally!!!

On boxing day last year, the Muse woke me up at 2am with an idea about how to take my 250 pages of notes and 60+ videos from our D&D campaign and turn it into a book (I think at that time, I thought just one, how adorbs). This year, I finished a second-edit pass of my FIRST book, sent it off to four beta readers for feedback, and am probably about 50% through the crappy first draft version of Book 2! My writing buddy ran it through an AI program (Auto Crit) and while he simply can’t stop reminding me that HIS (half-finished) draft is clocking in at a .1% higher score than mine in one genre, we’re both around 87% which apparently is “wow, this could be a best seller” territory (take that with a shaker of salt, though I appreciate the AI buttering me up). I’m absolutely thrilled I’ve made so much progress in a year.

In all of these situations, I can see patience, persistence, and perseverance with correct prioritization to get to the potential and promise. I took something that challenged me, that I was interested in conquering, and didn’t let frustrations or setbacks defeat me. If I could look at every goal in my life that mattered under this lens, I’d have no regrets.

Oh, the Places We Went

We raced three sprint triathlons and they were all moderately successful!

First CapTex in a decade? Done and dusted.

No placement awards or unicorn performances, but no implosions or DNFs. Just good, solid racing at my current capacity. Compared to 2021 and 2022? I’ll effing take it.

And… travel! Somehow so, so, so much and not enough at the same time.

Two and a half days with this view was a nice way to end June’s EU trip.

We already have resolutions for more non-work trips next year, as you’ll notice January was the last time we had a week off, everything else was either work or a long weekend where we probably worked half the time anyway (except for the Arch trip, I was good there). More regularly scheduled non-work vacation next year!

So, the lowlights:

While I definitely handled work/life balance better than the past in terms of hours worked, I often spent too much mental energy on things I shouldn’t have dwelled on outside of those hours, and I let stress get me all riled up about dumb stuff when I just needed to make like the cucumber and be cool. Moving up so quickly has been mostly a blessing, but it has taken a huge shift in perspective which at times is challenging. It’s hard to say “damn the man” when you ARE the man. Luckily, my near future goals with this position are not to find the next place to climb, but to acclimate and become better at the job I have now. For the first time in five years, I’m not expecting a new title anytime soon and it’s actually a source of relief. While I’ve been assured I’m doing well, I’d like to feel, in my own head, like I fit what people call me now a little bit better and that will just take some time and attention.

Some of this stress was a literal physical imbalance, and I’ve been much better in the last two months since I’ve taken steps to fix it. The drawback here has been that it put about 4-5 lbs on me overnight and they haven’t gone away. I was 9-10 lbs down before that and it felt real bad having that just sliced in half by something outside of my control. Starting it around the holidays sure didn’t help either, I’ve been tracking my calories, and they surely aren’t in weight loss territory, but I should not have had an extra sack of potatoes appear on my body one week for no reason and not leave.

Also, weirdly enough, I’m not immortal and I’m starting to feel my age a little the last few months. Besides actually being on some sort of medication now, my new lenses are progressives (a little bit of “reader” glasses in the bottom), and I started taking Ginko Biloba for my memory like a grandma. I suppose that maybe it’s time at almost 45 for these things to happen, but it doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it.

Let’s talk specifics for my 5 yearly goals:

#1 Weigh 165 by December 31st.

Here we at right now, buff but a little extra fluff

Nope, but it’s not all bad news, as I said, I managed to shave off about 5 lbs this year. That’s a big thumbs up from previous years. I also will say that my 184-5 lbs right now is remarkably stronger, leaner, and more capable than where I was at the same weight a few years ago because of lifting. I was really consistent, missing only a few weeks of 3x week strength training this whole year (and in all cases, for good reason during travel or due to injury).

Can eat whatever I want, especially tacos. But it has to be tracked.

However, I tracked my food inconsistently. I went back and counted and I missed 14 of 52 weeks. Y’know what? 12 of those weeks were in the second half of the year, when I stopped making progress. I tell myself this all the time, but it’s worth repeating. TRACKING IS WHAT MAKES THE MAGIC HAPPEN. Even if the numbers are bad, at least we KNOW the numbers are bad and we’re motivated to take the steps to make them better.

Looks like someone needs to show up everyday and maybe I’ll get the progress I’m expecting. I’ll give myself a C grade for these efforts this year. Not a failure, but just average.

#2 Strength Over Stamina

There’s a bunch of speed related triathlon goals in here that frankly, I’m not really worried about and I’m also not worried about tracking. There will be a time when the idea of speedwork clicks again, and when it does, I’ll probably kick myself for taking this long to get back to it. However, I really needed the year to do one thing: earn the right to run again. Which I have. And it’s been glorious.

Wasn’t sure I’d ever run a 10k again but here I went on Thanksgiving!

And walking! I have learned to love the walk and also use it to increase my stamina. Should I be cycling or swimming more? Sure. But for now, I’m happy with the focus on #1 Weights, #2 Running, #3 Other Activities (including walking)

Some yearly stats on running and walking:

  • 2020 Run (141 mi), Walk (?) <- it says none, but I’m SURE I tracked some walks 😛
  • 2021 Run (204 mi), Walk (239 mi)
  • 2022 Run (135 mi), Walk (140 mi)
  • 2023 Run (310 mi), Walk (321 mi) (and I still have a few days of runs and walks to go!)
You get to see a lot of cool things walking 300+ miles!

Let me also note that in 2020 I was training for a freakin’ Ironman for 2 months before the pandemic shut it down, a half Ironman which I actually completed on that meager mileage in 2021, a 50-mile (read: 9 miles of running) triathlon in 2022, and nothing but sprints (max, 3-mile run) in 2023. The mileage up there makes a lot of sense, right?

I will give myself some kudos for aggressively recovering. My goal this year was to do two forms of recovery per day (massage boots, ice, stretch, roll), and I can’t think of many days beyond travel or extenuating circumstances where I didn’t do that. Where I could do better is not gravitate towards the same two all the time (massage boots and ice are the easiest), and while it’s better than nothing, stretching is really important and I do it the least, and using the massage foam roller gets places the boots don’t.

For my expectations, I’ll give myself a B. I was really damn consistent with weights, and my run and walk volume almost tripled last year. I hit the important stuff, and I’m above-averagely happy.

#3 Not Ignoring My Surroundings

I did things here!

  • We cleaned out the workout room, and it’s been fully usable as a cycling/weights room for all of 2023, which has really helped with strength training consistency.
  • We did the cleanout thing in the guest room, but sadly, it’s now messed up a completely different way, but that’s a project for 2024 (spoilers).
  • The office got cleared out and set up as my office/music room. It’s not 100% perfect (there are a few stray boxes I can’t seem to keep stored anywhere) but it’s my Zen place to go to work and play music instead of squeezing myself into a spot in various corners of the house in between a bunch of other random crap.
  • I mostly cleaned off the vanity in the bathroom and mostly cleaned off the bathroom counter. Something in 2024 will force this to happen so I’m happy I made progress.
  • I did a purge of all of my drawers and my giant piles of crap on top of my dresser and nightstand are gone.
  • We did a huge closet cleanout for Joel, a cleanout of the linens/sports gear, and cleaned out our shoe storage. There’s an overstuffed car full of things going to goodwill, and our closets are now again the right size instead of too small.

We did not remodel the bathroom yet, but we’re looking into options, and this will definitely be a 2024 goal, along with a few other things we plan to do with the rest of our holiday break.

I will give this a B-. I made progress but not with solid consistency. I really could show up here for like 2 hours every month to make incremental progress and be impressed with where I’m at a year from now with projects that just seem annoyingly overwhelming but really aren’t.

#4 Relaxing Hobbies:

My intention here is not necessarily to aggressively progress here, but to remind myself there’s stuff I like doing way better than binge watching shows I’ve seen a million times and doomscrolling social media. Occasionally, one needs to do that, and it’s totally okay. However, most of the time I’m much happier after a photo edit session, playing a game or the guitar, or hitting submit on a travel blog, so I need to remind my brain to gravitate towards that sustained hit dopamine of monofocusing creatively vs the quick, easy hit of being force fed content someone else created.

Krause Springs 2023 pics were edited in record time, but somehow I have 2000 pics from 2022 left

Photo editing/travel blogs: Paris 2022 continues to be that project I just can’t get back to, for some reason, but I’m otherwise caught up to trips through August this year. I’m working on some smaller ones before I tackle the 1000+ pictures I took at the Louve only. As I finish the sets, I’ve been pretty good at adding a travel blog for them, even if it’s months later.

Painting: Ehhhh. I finished a cool set of geometric paintings, but it took me 4 months. I painted the Eiffel Tower and some ornaments and probably some minis too. But… I could definitely paint more. I have some hurdles here with feeling like I have the space to do it, and also, I find the time that Joel spending painting is my writing time instead, so creativity is happening. But I do love slapping acrylic on canvas, so I need to make sure it happens SOMETIMES.

Guitar really fell off second half of the year, to the point where I didn’t even play the Christmas song I know during the Christmas season, because I didn’t play. I did learn a new song this year. I’m not sure if I have problems to solve here or habits to make, or whether it’s just okay if I pick up the guitar when I feel like it.

Meditation was inconsistently consistent (it was good most of the year but fell off occasionally and definitely in the last month). That’s one of those I need to re-up for 2024.

Playing Games was fair to middling. This was real slow most of the year besides Bloodbowl, but I did pick up a few new games (Peglin, Baulder’s Gate III, Persona 5) and with the Steam Deck I got for Christmas, I anticipate good things here in 2024 with the ability to play the Steam Deck anywhere.

I do have to realize I only have so much time and attention without stressing myself out about it, and thinking about how I spent my time over the year, I cycled through my relaxing hobbies, prioritizing what was fun and made me happy throughout the year. Only the type-A flower sniffing champion would give themselves a grade on doing relaxing hobbies. So, let’s get on with it, shall we? If I was pressed, probably a B.

#5 Write a Book or Two

I won’t belabor the point since it’s in my super-highlights of the year, but I’m so glad the Muse decided to give me inspiration for Christmas last year. It’s like one of those pieces of me I lost in 2020 finally came back and I feel a bit more whole again. A+, if I can’t give myself an A+++. I’m thrilled with my progress and even more so my motivation to continue happily plugging away at these books until they’re done.

Last year, my words for 2022 were promise, potential, and priority.

For 2023? I think I’m going to break that tradition. I’m going to give the year overall the grade of a B and summarize thusly: I can see where I showed up and where I did not. Where I stayed consistent and didn’t let frustrations or it “being too hard” drag me down? I won. Where I let myself off the hook with regularity and let myself get in the way? I didn’t.

So, what’s on tap for next year? I really think it’s just showing up. More particulars once we get to the other side.