2015 in Review: An entirely self-centered evaluation

It’s the second day of 2016, I’m still in Colorado, and I have a bad cold.  That didn’t stop me from going skiing with my family on New Year’s Day, though!

Skiing New Years 2016

In case you missed it, I celebrated NYE by releasing a new short book.  Entitled Unicorn’s Grace, it’s available on Amazon Kindle for $0.99.  I wrote it this fall for my graduate school creative writing program, and, though it’s my first stab into epic fantasy/magical realism in quite some time, once I polished it up I was quite happy with the result.  I hope you’ll pick it up and enjoy it!  (And leave it a reviewhint, hint) 😉 

On with the rest of the year!

I started 2015 meaning for it to be a year of positive changes… and dammit, I made it one.

In late 2014 I got laid off from my corporate job of 8 years.  Though some people might see this as a tragedy – and at times in my life, I’d have seen it that way, as well – I saw it as an opportunity.  While I appreciated the company, liked my coworkers, and enjoyed the good pay and benefits package, sitting at a desk and entering numbers was never a fit for me.  The work itself crushed my soul.  I needed a change.  When the company forced one upon me, I couldn’t have been happier.

Fast-forward to last Christmas, I get a call from Mo and Eily, a couple of my best friends from college.  They live in Phoenix, AZ, and they have a job opportunity for me.  Eily puts me in contact with her boss, and a couple weeks later I begin my job as a Teaching Fellow at BASIS Phoenix school.

So I move down to Phoenix in January of 2015, and start learning the ropes of teaching children.  Knowing that I can’t abandon my martial arts practice without going insane, I seek out a dojo.  After 8+ years of teaching and coaching MMA, I decide it’s time to delve into a new art, and to work on the weakest part of my fighting game.  So I enroll at Megaton Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and begin training ground-fighting under one of the most respected practitioners in the world.

March comes around.  I live in north Phoenix, in a nice 2-bedroom apartment with absolutely no furniture (all my stuff’s still in storage in Chicago), when my sister and her kids come to visit for spring break.  We enjoy the sunshine and the pool and exploring the Phoenix area.  At the end of the month I meet Akisha, beginning a wonderful relationship that is now 9 months in and growing strong.

Akisha 9-2015

At the same time, I find out I’ve been accepted to the graduate school program in Creative Writing at Wilkes University.  I’m ready to take my next step toward my dream of writing professionally.

The school year finishes in May, and I’m ready to take on the job of a full-fledged teacher in August.  In June I trade in my old car, buy a new one (well, new for me), and escape the Phoenix heat to Denver, where Tyrion meets me.  After a fun couple of weeks hiking and swimming and playing there with Grandma, Auntie Jamie, Uncle Justin, Canon, and Riley, we trek to Chicago to hang out with Uncle Nate, Austin, Logan, and all my old friends.

Tyrion & me in Rockies, June 2015

Then it’s back to Phoenix in July, where I begin my grad school journey, and Tyrion learns what dry heat really feels like.  He flies back to Florida mid-month, and I begin new teacher training for BASIS, psyched to start the year on the right foot.

In August I start teaching and, just as I suspected, I love it.  It’s not easy, granted, and it only gets harder as the year marches on, but I figure things out bit by bit, and, somehow, I don’t go insane.  Yet.  I think.

Freya passed on in April. 🙁  So when one of my co-workers asks me to take a kitten he’s sheltering, I agree.  To keep Chewbacca company, of course.  I name him Gimli.

Gimli 8-2015

Early in August I also travel to Vegas to compete in my first Jiu-Jitsu tournament.  I take a silver medal and get to know my teammates better, and have an all-around great time, despite the fact that (as I am reminded) I hate Las Vegas.

IBJJF Vegas 8-15

In September Akisha and I celebrate her birthday in Sedona, where we go to the African Wildlife Park and nearly get eaten by a giraffe.  In October I take my fall break back in Colorado, where I can see leaves changing and feel something besides stifling heat.  God, I miss the seasons…

Also in October I publish my book Hello, Halloween, illustrated by my friend, brilliant artist and designer Donovan Scherer.  It doesn’t have enough time to get holiday traction, but I’ll bet it’s a hit by next Devil’s Day.

The year rolls on, and I roll on with it.  Grad school is a ton of work, teaching is a ton of work, training BJJ is a ton of work, and trying to keep a social connection with my girlfriend, friends, and cousins down in the desert is one of the few things that keeps me grounded.  I don’t sleep much.

My mom comes to visit for Thanksgiving, she meets Akisha, we have a great dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house in Chandler, and then it’s time for me to finish my grad school semester.  I get my work done in a whirlwind at the end of November/early December.  I never stop training, though, and on December 4th Professors Megaton Dias and Cecil Burch award me my blue belt in the presence of Master Royler Gracie.  Definitely one of the highlights of my 15-year martial arts career.

Blue Belt with Royler & Megaton

The kids are squirrelly the last few weeks, and the teachers are at the ends of our tethers, just trying to hold the rope as it frays.  At last the bell rings, we take off, I come out here to Colorado, Tyrion comes to meet me, we go skiing and do Christmas and… you know the rest.  Grandma (89) and Grandpa (91) came into town for the New Year.  So much fun catching up with them!

New Year 2016 with Grandma & Grandpa

So that’s where I am right now.  If you’ve read this far without being bored to tears, you know more about my life than you ever wanted to know.  I hope it enlightens you in some small way.

Obviously, in 2015, I did a lot, and overall it was a great year for me.  One thing I regret, though, is that I let stress get to me.  In addition to all I have to do for school and work and maintaining my relationships and my health and fitness, I have a great deal of mounting financial pressure.  I tend to focus more on these problems than on the good things in my life, and I spend a lot of time hating and berating myself for not taking action to get done what I need to get done.  So stress builds upon stress, and I don’t enjoy life the way I should.

My ultimate goal for 2016, therefore, is to enjoy life.  Note that it’s not to “do more fun stuff”.  I already do a ton of fun stuff, and I will continue to do fun stuff throughout the coming year.  That’s not a radical change.  What I intend to change is my attitude about things in general.  I’ll look at the positive sides of the things I do – from teaching hyperactive children to writing creative essays to crafting a workable financial plan – and I’ll appreciate that I have the opportunity to do those things, I’ll enjoy the process of doing them, and won’t dwell on the “negative” view that I have to do them.

I don’t.  What I do is my choice.  So I’ll choose how I respond to stresses.  I’ll appreciate them as opportunities, and I’ll have fun addressing and solving the challenges.

That’s my goal, anyway.  It’s not a great big resolution like “lose 30 lbs” or “make a million dollars”.  It’s a resolution of small steps, of incremental changes in attitude.  Hopefully it will pay dividends, but that’s not the point.  The process is the goal – and the goal is to enjoy the process.

Happy 2016!!!

Christmas 2015

Leave a Reply