I know, I know. It's the end of March and it feels a little late to be reflecting on a calendar year that has been retired for three months now. But I've gotten in the habit of doing this - see 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2011 - and there is part of me that needs any small bit of closure that writing this post might bring.
If you had told me a few years ago that 2018 would be the year I lost my mom, I wouldn't have believed it. But the year was indeed consumed by continuing to accompany her through cancer treatment, worrying about her health a lot when I wasn't with her, and then finally saying goodbye to her in December.
I've written some about what that loss and grief has been like and so I won't repeat that all here. But there was little I did, planned, thought about or worked on that wasn't somehow affected by the constant low-level stress and anxiety of knowing a loved one was facing tougher and tougher odds for survival. I wrestled with finding the right balance of dropping everything to have meaningful and special experiences with mom while I could, and living my own life as fully as I could knowing that she found comfort and pride in hearing about our adventures and accomplishments as a family.
Those struggles and that grief brought out some of the best moments, too, when it comes to the love and support shown by friends, family and community. I still can't fully believe or begin to recount the incredible ways that people have reached out and, through gestures big and small, helped make life easier for us during the hardest times. I am so grateful for this and yet I've felt woefully incapable of expressing that gratitude while the fog of grief still swirls around me.
Parenting a preschooler continued to be an almost all-consuming experience. The year started with me entertaining her with puppet shows and craft activities and now she entertains us by breaking into song, dancing on her homemade stage, telling us the latest scuttlebutt from school and amusing us with endless creative scenarios and ideas for play. Helping a human develop, figure out the world, absorb language and deepen her emotions has been incredibly moving and wonderful. Exhausting! But wonderful.
I was thrilled to have a couple pieces of my writing included in publications beyond my own websites, and I still want to get back to doing more of that.
After joining my current team at Automattic in 2017, in 2018 I stepped in to the role of leading that team. It was all at once a huge challenge and a great joy.
The challenge came from being tasked with facilitating some pretty big shifts in how the team operated, the scale of our work and the outcomes of the projects we took on. This was really hard and draining at times, especially in combination with personal life events. But the joys came from that experience too; I got to apply my skills and experience with organizational strategy and leadership, process and workflow improvement, and improving communications, and I got to do it alongside a really great group of colleagues who threw themselves at these changes with enthusiasm. We had some notable successes as a result.
Because of what we do and who we work with I'm typically not able to say much about individual projects, but the role is exposing me to some pretty amazing opportunities and organizations. In the last year I got to consult for some really interesting, influential people and organizations, many of whom are doing things to make the world a better place at a national or global scale. We're often tackling projects for them on short timelines with high stakes, and that's its own kind of adrenaline rush too.
It feels nice that I can do all of this from my small Midwestern city that these influencers have probably never heard of. As always I continue to have a lot of gratitude and appreciation for the model of work that Automattic makes possible, and the values it infuses into everything we do.
I declined a fair number of travel and conference opportunities this year because of needing to be on hand to help my mom. We didn't get in a longer international trip this year but had some much needed vacations with friends, trips to the beach and regional day trips. Between these, frequent visits to Chicago and work trips I found myself in San Diego, CA, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Asheville, NC, Orlando, FL, Washington, DC and Fort Meyers, FL.
The Year Ahead
Now that we're a quarter of the way into it, I have a little taste of what 2019 will be like.
Some part of it is obviously going to be continued grieving losing mom, along with working on her estate. This will be a long process and while I get overwhelmed by it sometimes, I'm mostly trying to take it all one day at a time.
My professional work continues to change and evolve in interesting ways, and I'm looking forward to challenges and accomplishments there. I'm also so fortunate that Automattic offers the benefit of a three-month paid sabbatical once you've been with the company for five years, and mine is starting pretty soon. I'm planning a hopefully fun and relaxing mix of doing nothing, travel, learning, writing, improving myself, and spending time with friends and family. I'm excited for the change of pace.
I've been doing some ongoing volunteer consulting for a few local political campaigns, and that's been a rewarding way to stay involved in politics from behind-the-scenes; it's ramping up even more for 2019. I also continue to participate in several local planning and leadership groups that are trying to make the city where I live more vibrant, healthy and sustainable, and I enjoy contributing what I can to those conversations. I've continued to decline most of the invitations I get to join local boards of directors, enjoying the flexibility that comes with consulting and participating "as needed" and keeping my calendar clear of recurring meetings that may not quite be necessary. Philanthropy and strategic investing remain an important part of the mix, too.
Beyond that, I'm looking forward to a year that is hopefully less stressful and painful than last, and to having more energy for being present, fun and creative with my daughter, wife and other friends and family.
What was your 2018 like? What are you looking forward to in the rest of 2019?