2016 Year in Review

With another year gone by, I'm again sharing a few reflections on how 2016 went. (Previously: 2015, 2014, 2011.)

New house, staying in Indiana

Sky TrainWith a big shift in my wife's professional life and an intentional wrapping up of most of my local commitments that required regular attendance at in-person meetings, this year found me as physically untethered to the city of Richmond, Indiana as I've been since I first came here in 1995. We spent much of the year asking whether we should stay, or take the opportunity to explore living in new places outside of the U.S. midwest. (Someone even started a rumor that we'd already moved away.) I reflected a lot on why I've stayed in Richmond this long, what we'd be giving up if we did go, and what we'd gain by living somewhere else.

There are changes happening locally and regionally that concern us, and there are times we want our daughter to have more diverse experiences than we can find in Richmond, so we know we'll keep considering these questions. But we decided that our wonderful community of friends and family, the difference we feel like we can make locally, and the opportunities we still have to see and live in other parts of the world all added up to staying in Richmond right now.

We felt clear enough about this that we decided to buy a different house! It has a better setup for a toddler, a better home office setup for me, and a few more features that we'd been dreaming of when we talked about moving. The final few weeks of the year found us packing up all of our stuff, moving it, and unpacking it, all with the gracious help of family and friends. I already strongly dislike moving and I managed to get sick in the middle of all that, so it wasn't a particularly fun or relaxing holiday season, but we're really happy to be in our new space. (Our previous house is for sale if you're interested.)

Local life

Whitewater State ParkIn 2016 I finished up my time on the board of directors for the Wayne County Foundation, where I served as board chair for two of those six years. I'm proud of the work we were able to get done in that time, bringing in millions of dollars in resources to benefit the community, making substantial changes to our grant-making approach and processes, and just improving some key aspects of the Foundation's operations.  It was one of the best boards I've been a part of, and it was an honor to serve an organization that facilitates so much good for so many people.

After helping get Richmond's Mayor Dave Snow elected and attending his inauguration on New Year's Eve, I was glad to continue finding ways to contribute to his new administration and the great work he's doing to make city government better. (There's a nice profile of that first year in yesterday's Palladium-Item.) Even though people still ask me when I'm going to run for elected office again, I've been quite happy to help out in the background. The strategic, policy and communication pieces of politics and governance have always interested me more than some of the ridiculous things politicians have to do to get and stay elected, so this is a good fit for now.

I continue to volunteer some time to advise and consult on local other tech and community projects here and there.

Personal

Not surprisingly, parenting continued to dominate my personal life in the best possible ways. As I wrote in August,

A. is an amazing little human. She is happy and greets us and the people she loves with smiles and hugs. She enjoys getting even the most gruff-looking strangers to crack a smile, and generally loves being around people. She is observant, quick to learn and adventurous in putting her knowledge to use. She is expressive and increasingly directive in showing us what she wants. She is kind and open hearted. I feel like every day I get to be around her is a gift and a joy. Watching her change and grow has truly felt like I'm living out a miracle of life in slow motion.

There were many other joys, including my sister's wedding, fun travel (more below), good times with friends, and some great experiences outdoors.

2016 was also a year where cancer affected people I know and love even more than usual. Between accompanying my mom through further treatment, surgery and recovery, saying goodbye to friends Roland and Carol who passed away, and watching still others I know struggle with it, we are very tired of cancer.

Professional

Work MeetingsAs I come up on three years at it, my work with Automattic continues to be enjoyable and challenging in many ways, most of which I've written about previously. In 2016 I took on a team lead role, which brought its own new kinds of opportunities and learnings. It was particularly interesting to contrast what I learned about leadership and team/people/process management in past parts of my professional life with what those things mean and require in a growing, chaotic, distributed organization like Automattic.

I continue to wrestle with the question of what is the best and highest way for me to use my skills and interests to do something meaningful in the world. At the end of last year I said that I was going to tackle that in my blogging, to write "about matters of vocation and understanding what it is I am best suited to contribute to the world, so that I can operate with even more clarity and focus in my professional life."

I started many posts about just those things, but I think the events unfolding on the national political scene threw me for quite the loop. All of the sudden, the things I learned that I don't know or understand about the state of the world and what is motivating people to do what they do seemed more important to figure out first. I also feel more unsure than ever about the place that technology, software, politics and media/publishing have in making the world better, and so even though they're core subjects of this blog, it's been hard to feel excited about writing about them. I hope I can change that soon.

Travel

Along with parenting, travel continues to be an important source of fun, perspective and adventure. Living in the Czech Republic for a month was a huge highlight. Other destinations in 2016 included:

I feel fortunate to be able to see and enjoy different parts of the world as a part of my work travel. My map of "places I've been" continues to see new markers, although it's mostly still a reminder of how many places I've yet to go:

A year is a lot to fit in to a single post and I'm sure I'm leaving a lot out. In some ways it was a year full of wonderful, life-giving things, and in other ways it was a year of new uncertainty, confusion and anxiety. I continue to feel so fortunate for all that I have and have experienced, and thankful for the many people in my life who provide friendship, support and grounding when it's needed most.

Looking ahead I'll just repeat what I hoped for at the end of last year, as I want the same more than ever: here's to a 2017 full of joy met with gratitude, challenges met with courage and possibilities met with clarity.

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Chris Hardie

Chris Hardie is an Internet tech geek, problem solver, community-builder and amicable cynic.

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