At the end of each year, my tradition has been to reflect back on it, and note my progress towards my goals. The process makes me feel happy about the things that I accomplished, and simultaneously helps me recognize any areas that need work. Now that 2012 is over, I’m going to take a few moments to remember it.
I entered 2012 off the job. I was quite unhappy where I was working in 2011, because it was a job that had no upward momentum. I had left in August, and was still not really looking for work by the time 2012 began.
I got engaged, despite the fact that I was between jobs. My younger self always imagined that I would have my career figured out long before I was ready to get married, but that’s simply not how my life worked out. I’m comfortable with that, because I’ve learned that getting ahead in life often requires you to change your plans.
I had faith that I would make things work, and provide for my wife-to-be no matter what it took. Cassie must have known that too, because she said yes.
Not one month after the engagement, Cassie’s father died. It was a damaging blow that took us by surprise, and it still hurts.
It was tough to return to “normal life” for a while.
In early 2012 I was waiting to hear back from the creative writing program I applied to. I had my manuscript and application submitted, but I wouldn’t hear if I was accepted until March. Turns out, I didn’t get in.
I felt disappointed, but not directionless.
The plan when I left my previous job was that I’d take my shot at the creative writing thing, and if it didn’t work out, then I’d go back to work. It’s the cycle I’ve grown accustomed to: Find a job I can tolerate for a while, accumulate some money, and then try to do what’s really important to me.
This time around, though, my strategy for finding work changed.
Instead of looking for a job similar to every other job I had before, I reached higher. Much higher. I was applying for positions that made me feel uncomfortable. Positions that I didn’t have a lot of experience in. Positions that maybe I wasn’t even qualified for. Positions that, if offered to me, I’d be scared to accept out of fear of failure.
I reached regardless. I combed through local job openings, and spent time researching the companies I was applying for. I found myself taking a more selective and informed approach to my job search, and getting on the phone every morning to make myself known. Looking back on it, I realize that I was on a quest to find a job that I would love, rather than just on a hunt for any job offer.
Within three months I was working on a development team for a programming firm. I was among sharp people, learning interesting things daily, and being challenged like no other job has ever challenged me before.
Suddenly, I didn’t care that I needed to get up and go to work every day. It made a huge difference in my mood. It’s hard to convey just how huge a difference, but in an attempt to illustrate it, let’s just say that at my previous jobs, there were days where I’d rather get punched in the face than go to work in the morning. I don’t feel that way anymore.
The biggest accomplishment for me in 2012 was starting a job that mattered. It’s satisfying me both financially and mentally. As an added bonus, it revived my interest in programming — something I thought I lost in college.
There are other things that I did in 2012: move into a house, plan our wedding for July 2013, and compete on the world stage in Donkey Kong, but in this moment, my career is the most significant achievement. I’ve been so unhappy in my career for so long, that I can’t help but take pride in doing great work that I actually enjoy doing… Finally!
To mention something obvious, I’ve been writing a lot less. Though I could make excuses like “Oh I’ve been really busy! Planning the wedding! Working on the house!” — they’re simply not true.
The truth is that writing used to be a necessary outlet for me, when I was stressed out by my job. I was underemployed, unsatisfied with my day-to-day life, and consequently miserable. Writing helped me cope.
I still love writing, and I still believe it’s my passion and calling. That hasn’t changed.
What has changed is that I no longer need to write to feel happy. I admit, there are still sad days when I realize that “Wow, it’s been months since I’ve written anything” — but it doesn’t tear at my soul the way that it once did.
For me, 2012 acted as a transition into a more fulfilling life. One part of me is proud of myself, for making it happen. The other part of me is grateful, for my new guardian angel sitting on my shoulder. Ever since Steve died, I’ve been constantly aiming to make him proud as though he was watching my every move. It’s been an exciting and productive year, in spite of its shaky start.
I’m really doing it, Dad — partly for me, but mostly for your daughter. I want to be the best man I can be, so that she will always stick by me, and can rely on me. The truth is, that’s what’s important right now.
Cheers, to 2013! Let’s make it great!