My annual recap of what happened in my personal life (2019 edition).
For new readers, I've traditionally done a year-end post here on the blog that chronicles my own life.
This will be a very one-sided post because I'm probably not going to read an account of what happened in your 2019. There's my warning.
It's cathartic and reflective for me to write one of these each year. Now that I abstain 99.9% from social media, think of this like my life update for acquaintances. Or a general transparency report.
This next section's like a TL;DR then we'll go more or less chronological.
2019 was a year of me trying to maintain or build on good stuff from last year, while cutting out some negative points. That might sound like what people aim for every year but, looking back, there weren't any big life events that otherwise stick out.
No job change or promotion, no big side business starts or ends, no deaths close to me, no injuries or health scares, no other real crises. Didn't unveil any personal projects that seem big, however my Github remained active. My "relationship status" has been unchanged for two years. I did move from Hoboken, NJ to Jersey City, NJ and live by myself now, unlike before. The lead-up to that was my only real adversity of the year. More on this later.
One thing that maybe continued declining during 2019 was my social life. 2016 to 2017 marked maybe the peak of me being social, regularly hanging out with a wide variety of people and cultivating deep friendships. Since then, I don't see as many people as regularly. My immediate family and girlfriend are my deepest social relationships by any metric. My aggregate time spent socializing is down.
However, this all to me is a price of success. It's not like I spend 60 hours a week on my salaried job... average we're talking probably 45 hours per actual working week. But I do hone or develop technical skills, research side projects, etcetera on many Saturday nights when others are "going out."
On another note, I stopped feeling that young after turning 25. Not like the wife from Don DeLillo's White Noise but more so than ever before. Will also expound on this further in.
I realize overall I'm a lucky guy. In the grand scheme of things, thinking what some lives are like in other parts of the world (i.e. where people walk 5 miles from home to find potable water), none of these "issues" were/are significant.
Running away from home
At the end of 2018, my then-roommate had an emergency which prompted him to move home for parental care. The lease on our place in Hoboken went until the end of May.
I foresaw this creating some friction between us and, sure enough, we had a falling out over how to handle his obligations. This in itself created an uncomfortable situation "at home" but a random person would also be moving in with me for the last 3 months of the lease.
This successor to my original roommate would end up being about as incompatible with my personality as possible, turning our place into a bona fide frat house.
The main reason I spell out all this is to warn anyone (especially younger people) who'll be co-habitating about getting stuck in a bad situation. Protect your interests in writing, plan for the unexpected in writing.
You need leverage to do anything. Lacking that, I made myself sparse during early 2019.
For work, I spent probably four weeks total from January 1 to April 5 just outside Philadelphia. There were also many nights spent petsitting with my girlfriend.
Though there were some nights spent in Hoboken, feeling entitled to get something out of my rent payments. During the day I'd frequent one of my company's offices instead of work from home.
During all this I put a deposit down for a place in Jersey City's Journal Square. That would've been the beginning of April, and my new lease was set to start in June.
The end was in sight but there was only one week of work travel for me between April and August (long remote project). My girlfriend's housesitting was slowing down. My Hilton points were all expended.
I figured my girlfriend and I would spend a weekend in Atlantic City before this work thing. My return from that would put me in Newark airport late on a Thurday night. I'd rent an SUV, get all of my stuff from the apartment in the dead of night, then drive up to my parents'. We'd all leave for Florida together then I would spent May in upstate NY.
Turns out... my stuff in the apartment was really two SUVs of space instead of one. But otherwise everything went according to plan.
Atlantic City, Chicago for work, Delray Beach.
(Almost) running away from my job
Further adding to the uncertainty of the beginning of the year was several months of testing the job market. While I wasn't unhappy with my job, the market was/is very hot and recruiters solicit me every day. So it was a money thing.
I mention this to capture my feelings at the beginning of the year... my places of residence and work were up in the air, or at least felt that way.
By the end of 2019 I'd build a better appreciation of my current job as we mutually sorted some things out.
The month of May in upstate NY was good. I was working remotely, able to spend a lot of time with family and at the best gym.
My dad and I saw the classic hair metal band Whitesnake at my former employer, the Turning Stone Casino.
One sad thing was that, during the month, our family dog showed signs of being sick then ultimately passed away. This was a more impactful pet death on me than our previous dogs. I guess it's just the window of my life spent with him (almost 10 years).
Good times + Jersey City
At the beginning of June, I moved into my current place in Journal Square. My parents helped me move -- with really just one bedroom's worth of stuff, we drove two cars down, then I ordered a lot of new stuff from Amazon.
This made me really aware of just how much "stuff" goes into a more established home. As one example, not having a can opener until finding myself unable to open a can.
It took me until to July to feel settled in the apartment.
During the middle of June, my girlfriend and I went to Maine. It was still a bit cold then but you can't necessarily sun bathe much up there anyway.
After the week of July 4 (traditionally more vacation time), I entered a period of increased productivity and output through the end of August.
The last time I lived alone back in college brought me a lot of depression at first. My first "big breakup" occurred early into me having my own place, and that plus the adjustment to simply living solo was a lot to deal with.
Initially I escaped that by taking a semester online back in upstate NY, doing blackjack training, then casino work over the summer. But shortly after starting this blog I found myself back at (not online) school, feeling alone. What saved me was concentrating hard on learning web development to build my fabled Bitcoin casino project.
My office circa 2014
Would it have been healthier to just rebuild my social life as a single person? Maybe. However, that period from September 2014 into May 2015 was one of the most productive in my life.
Was that just an outcome of living alone? No. But I'd be lying if I say that didn't weigh in as a motivator to live alone again.
July through August of this year saw some big output on what was sort of a secret project for my day job. At the end of August, my organization all gathered in Dallas where I unveiled that plus gave an unrelated research presentation.
There was also just a lot of billable day job work going on too, like 55 hours a week average. Yet I still studied for, then passed, the CISSP exam (a standard accolade for the information security field).
Having full control over my living environment again certainly contributed to this spike in output. It's hard to say how much because at least a dozen other things could've contributed.
For instance, increased sun exposure because it was summer and I now had a rooftop lounge to read books from. Workouts were also up due to my in-building gym, which meant more blood pumped through the brain. Etcetera etcetera.
Mixed in with the work was (what's become annual) travel to Pittsburgh with my dad.
And then my 25th birthday, briefly spent in Syracuse.
25 years old
I didn't have an overt "quarter life crisis" for 25. Quite happy with my life. I did seriously consider pre-ordering the 2020 Corvette C8, but that was mostly unrelated.
Part of a male life crisis involves buying sports cars, right?
For whatever reason this did all strike me as a more substantive birthday than usual. 25 seems way less youthful than 24. As brought up in this post's intro, I feel pretty adult, and many things are stable.
I've had the same job and girlfriend for over two years. Those are milestones for me. I live by myself again, 100% independent, paying rent, utility bills, insurance, all "adult" stuff. And my thoughts creep more to child-rearing and death than ever before.
But, hey, no more underage fees when renting cars. 🚗
Increased output again (or not)
September into early December was supposed to be as productive as my summer, but it just didn't pan out. It may have been that the pace of that was simply abnormal.
My work travel crept pretty high again, north of half time. Mostly into Pennsylvania. Also one very rushed, very weird trip to D.C.
Note my suitcase in the back seat of the rental because it didn't fit in the trunk.
There was some personal travel too. I went with my sister and one of our friends to see David Byrne's Broadway show before its actual Broadway run, in Boston.
December 9 marked the start of 4 weeks' PTO from my day job. This will force me to take some unpaid time in 2020 to cover many trips planned then, so don't get too envious. Easy come, easy go, no big deal.
That first Wednesday through Sunday was spent in Orlando and at Disneyworld to celebrate my girlfriend's birthday. She is hard to shop for so I've gotten into the habit of gifting trips.*
* My barber and some other friends have said this is unusual for your S.O. to be agreeable about. That also played a role in Bar Harbor earlier 2019. I am lucky. Valentine's Day 2020 we'll be in Las Vegas.
The last time I was at Disneyworld would've been maybe 12 years ago. For that, and other times my parents took us as kids, what I remember more than anything else is my dad complaining about the cost of everything. Don't subject your kids to that. If you can't really afford it -- and there will be expenses beyond park ticket costs, duh -- don't go.
I make it a point now to overestimate trip costs when setting money aside for travel. It is very hard to financially rattle me on vacations. And, I have a lot of travel loyalty points from work.
We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando because Hilton's triple points promotion was still going. There it made sense for me to save existing points and use my Hilton Amex there. Basically, the out-of-pocket cost was still less than almost any Disney property and will pay for time in Vegas during 2020. My allegiance to Hilton burns strong.
The Orlando Waldorf was also a great place to stay because you're still on-property with similar perks to the actual Disney hotels. But, with (presumably) less kids at the hotel.
It's connected to a "regular" Hilton too with similar perks at a lesser rate. That may have more of a kid population.
We arrived at the hotel early afternoon Wednesday. Ideally this would've allowed some time by the pool but it was gloomy weather out. I desperately need sun after little exposure in the northeast for so long. It's been a long time since I've done indoor tanning, either.
The theme parks we went to Thursday through Saturday. Basically, all except Magic Kingdom. I really enjoyed the new Star Wars and Toy Story areas. Acute readers may remember me running a Disney 5K two years ago as a Toy Story alien. And getting a special Star Wars milk drink was cool.
I will say that the walking tired me out after 3 days at heavy levels. While I work out regularly, it's more weights and any running is never at distance (< 2 mi.). My girlfriend kept up with all this much better because, as a dog walker, she logs like 30,000 steps per weekday.
We spent her actual birthday night at Flying Fish instead of an in-park restaurant. The Waldorf's own restaurant looked really good but I didn't reserve it in time. Logistically it wasn't bad to go to the Disney Boardwalk to eat.
Some people claim this is the best restaurant in all of Disney but we found it a little pretentious. The food and service were great, it's just that we had a more low-key dinner another night we liked better. See Disney Springs' The Boathouse.
Anyway, the overall trip was a success. Direct flights there and back, to my preferred airport of Newark. Less than 20 minutes from my apartment by Uber. Cannot complain.
Normal Syracuse winter
My winter holiday plans are pretty fixed from year to year. I used Hertz points to drive from Jersey City to upstate New York on 12/18. I stayed through the year end.
Christmas Eve and Christmas itself with family. New Year's Eve spent at-home and low key. Worst night of the year to go out -- I'll write that every year. New Year's Day (today) is another family even, though it's technically not 2019.
2019 was good to me. It was a year that mostly "stayed the course", but no worries there. I am lucky in the cards I've been dealt.
What's in store for 2020? More miles logged traveling, with many business trips by air and at least one personal trip overseas. Upstarts on "side business" stuff that I will reveal in due time. And some upward (or outward) mobility in my day job.
And what about the whole new decade? That's tough to think so far out. In a coming post I'll review my past 10 years at a high level.
Basically, if you wanted me to envision my life now when I was 15, there's no way this is what I'd have foreseen. Even if you asked me in 2015. So... who's to say.
Happy new year to you and yours, from me. 🎉