Another Year Older …

Every year, upon the sad occasion of the commemoration of my birth in the far-away and ever-receding year of 1976, I offer a reflection on the year gone by, tempered with aspirations for the year ahead.
So, in terms of Year No. 36:

  • Overall, good.
  • My health has been stable. I’m in exactly the same physical condition today as I was turning 35 and 36. I’m not nearly as healthy as I was at 30, but I’m considerably more healthy than I was at 27.
  • The “day job” has engendered much turmoil and gnashing of teeth. I went from leading a team of nine analysts in the hospital’s revenue cycle space, to being the odd man out in a report-writing department in I.T., to moving to the Quality Improvement team of the health insurance company. The flip to Q.I. required an application and an entity transfer, but I’m glad I did it. In fiscal 2013, I had six — six! — formal uplines in the payroll system. Started with Mary, then Tracey, then Big Jason, then Hollie, then Meghan, then Bob. You learn flexibility in a hurry in that kind of environment.
  • The podcast has exploded in popularity. The last year has really seen a lot of cool engagement, thanks in part to the support of our friends at 360 Vegas, Denton Dallas & Beyond and Access Vegas. My unofficial estimate is that, conservatively, we probably have between 3,000 and 5,000 listeners per show. We don’t have any insight into the volumes through the biggest distribution channels (iTunes, Stitcher) but looking at a mix of RSS feed analytics and file-access stats on the server, and using a little trick I call “math,” I’m confident that we’ve more than doubled our audience in the last year.
  • Engagement with my writers’ group has proceeded well. I was much more successful (although not a “50k winner”) for last year’s National Novel Writing Month. Over the first half of 2013, I wrote several short stories set in my writers’ group fictional city of Mechlanberg. I also made good contacts with national trade magazines for future freelance work while making contact (thanks, James!) with a non-fiction book editor who’s interested in some of my pitches. Add me being a finalist for a copy editor role for a prestigious national journal … and yes. Progress.
  • ‘Twas a good year for travel. I managed a few small trips (e.g., to Horseshoe Hammond for the Midwest Smoke Out) as well as some bigger ones, like Las Vegas in the late winter — for the 360 Vegas Vacation — and Isle Royale National Park in the late spring.
  • Nearly four years ago, I totaled my vehicle in an at-fault accident. In the last year, the long-awaited lawsuits wound their way through the legal system. The upside is that I really have a much deeper understanding of my current financial position and expect to be 100 percent debt-free and ahead of the curve for retirement savings over the next few years.
  • Oh, and I have kitties now. They are sweet, even if one of them thinks his solemn duty is to serve as my alarm clock irrespective of my intended wake-up time. Nothing says “good morning, sunshine” like a cat’s head mere inches from yours, meowing loudly, and for which a few pats on the head serve only as a three-minute snooze button.
  • Much to my mother’s chagrin, I’ve let my hair grow longer. It’s now below the shoulders. I have some ideas for what I want to do with it, eventually, but I need even more length for it. Maybe after the new year.

And for Year No. 37:

  • Goal No. 1 is to get back into fighting form again. The biggest contributor to my own weight gain is stress, and over the last year I’ve methodically eliminated the biggest stressors (the job, the lawsuit). I’ve signed up for the mailing list for a marathon next summer — it’s a trail run in Newaygo County — and set up the stuff I need in the bedroom to use the exercise bike again. I find it much easier to exercise in the fall/winter than in the summer.
  • I continue with writing. I’ve been getting the novel bug in ways that my friend Duane has mentioned, and I may have an in with a non-fiction book agent. I want to “win” NaNo this year, but in the sense of writing something that is worth publishing. The non-fic lead may actually grease the wheels a bit.
  • I’m already slotted for some travel — in October, a business conference in Louisville and then the Vegas Internet Mafia Family Picnic in Las Vegas — and would love to return to Isle Royale next spring. Some folks have already expressed an interest in going with me to IRNP. I’d welcome something more remote, too. Maybe Denali, or out of the country. I can also envision a road trip to Las Vegas that includes some camping at Red Rock Canyon and a swing back through Texas.
  • I’ve penciled in more scuba classes and General-class radio licensure.
  • Biggest plan is to hunker down this fall and winter. I have a rough idea of what I want to do, and on what schedule, between now and Dec. 31. It’ll help, too, that I plan to take a full two weeks off at the holidays, so I can jump into 2014 with a leg up.
  • I’ve started conversations about continuing my higher education. I actually went to Kalamazoo last week for an aborted meeting about the interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Evaluation from WMU. Still looking at that program, as well as the M.S. biostats program at GVSU.

I know I mentioned it last year, but I think it bears repeating: My earlier revulsion to aging has been replaced by a twofold new perspective. On one hand, I’m more determined to live a life worth a robust obit, so I’ve been a bit more intense about the things that matter from a 50,000-foot view. On the other hand, much of the ignorant passion of youth has yielded to a “been there, done that, life continues” mindset that no longer sweats the small stuff. Many of the stumbles that seem so serious in your 20s … really aren’t. And it takes the benefit of experience to cut through the crap.
Right now, I’m stable and reasonably happy and I have a plan. My 36th year was good, and I intend to use it as a platform for an even better 37th year.


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