Reflections on 34

After being inspired by a friend who writes a birthday blog post each year with x  things she’s enjoyed about being x years old, I wrote my first birthday reflection post last year recapping 33 in 33 paragraphs. It might have been able to pass for a listicle if it weren’t for the fact that it was 7,242 words long—I’ll try to keep the length down this year :)

34, for me, was the back nine of a two-year transition that started a few days after I turned 33. It picked up in media res a month into my post-McGinn freedom, most of the way through 15 days in Seattle with no electronic connections to the modern world, as I thought deeply, for perhaps the first time in my life, about not what I wanted to do for a living or what kind of an impact I wanted to have on the world but about what I wanted my life to look like, as an integrated whole. Now, a year later, I’m more deeply and sustainably connected to my place, my people, and my purpose than I have been at any other point in my life. Thank you to all of you for your role in that. Here are some of the highlights of my year.

  1. By a wide margin, the best thing about my 34th year of life was the strength of my relationships—I carved out plenty of time for the people I care most about, and that’s made all the difference. If I had one wish for 2015-2016, it would be for even more time to be able to spend with each of you. This entire list could easily be a catalogue of the best events, dinners, birthday parties, weddings, and conversations of the last year without even scratching the surface.
  2. Real estate has been pretty high up there, too. I’ve never done anything for a living that I’ve enjoyed this much, and after selling four houses in my first 5 months of doing this full-time, I’m doing much better than I thought I would be at this point when I started out. Professionally speaking, I’m exactly where I need to be, and it feels amazing.
  3. I’m LOVING Sol’s Civic Minute!I’d been looking for an excuse to send out a curated weekly email of local news for the last three years, and making it my real estate newsletter turned out to be the perfect reason to actually start doing it. It’s been really gratifying to hear that other people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it, too.
  4. I turned over a new leaf towards the end of last year when it came to writing physical cards to friends on a regular basis, starting with birthday cards and thank-you cards and culminating in a small but completely handwritten batch of holiday cards at the end of the year. I plan on expanding my practice this year.
  5. Although I let it fade when I got busy with real estate, I re-launched Organizing for Seattle after the 2013 McGinn campaign with a friend from the campaign to give progressive activists from around the city a neutral space to mix & mingle in between election cycles.
  6. Before I made the jump to real estate, I took advantage of my post-Mayor’s-Office sabbatical to do a lot of traveling, with friends and to see friends—New York, Portland, the best Vegas trip of my life (and the only time that I’ve truly enjoyed the city), a truly epic road trip through the mountain west, and lots of good camping and backpacking in the area, to name but a few.
  7. I gave what I consider the best on-stage performance of my life last February with an Ignite Seattle talk called “All I Really Need to Know I Learned as a Car Salesman.” True to its name, it contains some good nuggets I learned on the car lot that have served me well every day of the 11 years since I moved on from the profession.
  8. I self-published my first book, a compilation of posts from this blog from 2013 and 2014 that, taken together, function as a sort of autobiography as seen through the lens of my reactions to the central event that kicked off this two-year cycle of rebirth and renewal in my life.
  9. A friend helped me take my relationship with running to a new level by pushing me outside my comfort zone and teaching me to draw strength from the pain instead of trying to suffer through it. Before I turned 34 I’d never run more than 4 miles at a stretch in my life; I ran two half-marathons last year between April and September, and I’m currently training for a trail marathon in May.  I’m not entirely sure that I’m going to be up for it by the time May 9th rolls around, honestly…but that’s the entire point.
  10. The same friend who got me into running also included me on an 8-day bike tour last summer from Vancouver BC back to Seattle via the Gulf Islands and the San Juans. I hadn’t been on my bike in several years when I accepted his invite, so I did an exploratory 23-mile ride around Seattle to assure myself that I wouldn’t be an undue burden on the group the day before we boarded the bus for Canada. It turned out to be an amazing experience, and something that I would never have done if left solely to my own devices.
  11. A friend and I started up semi-regular “chess and steak” breakfasts, which are exactly what they sound like; it feels great to be playing chess again with a fairly evenly-matched partner.
  12. Two hummingbirds started a nest directly outside my kitchen window, so as a result I had a front-row seat for the entire lifecycle of two baby hummingbirds, from eggs to hatchlings to the last time I ever saw them before they flew out of the nest for the first time, never to return.
  13. I served as a volunteer car-buying adviser for several of my friends who bought new (or at least new to them) cars, and I loved being able to lend my expertise in that way. If you or someone you know is thinking of buying a car—please, by all means, reach out.
  14. I started taking salsa classes at the Century again—I can’t say that I’m an amazing dancer, but I have a lot of fun out on the dance floor anyway. Perhaps there’s a metaphor in there somewhere about my life…
  15. I checked an item off my bucket list with a really firm checkmark by taking both a Ferrari and a Lamborghini for a spin, plus a really high-end Porsche just for good measure.
  16. A friend loaned me the whole Sandman series, and I fell in love with Neil Gaiman’s imagination.
  17. I went salmon fishing for the first time with a friend from New York, and when we got back to town I drove around and gave everything that we couldn’t eat to friends in town.
  18. I finished taking the full course of improv classes at Unexpected Productions by the market, something I’d highly recommend to anyone interested in improving their performance and storytelling skills.
  19. Speaking of storytelling skills, I took another playwriting class, finished and then started re-writing the play I wrote last January, and had professional actors do a reading of a 10-minute play that I wrote. Suffice to say I’m hooked.
  20. I’m also, as of last month, a board member at Seattle Public Theater. I got to know their Artistic Director first through the Mayor’s Office and then through the 2013 campaign, and she reached out to me to see if I’d be interested late last year. It’s been great so far.
  21. I did SIFF right this year with a full 20-pack that I put to good use—if you haven’t seen Happy Christmas or Boyhood, I recommend both of them highly.
  22. A friend and I started an internal Google group for our common group of friends to share events that we’re going to with each other. It’s been working beautifully, simply because everyone on the list knows each other really well already. If you’re not on the list, don’t feel bad—it just represents one specific group of friends out of the many overlapping circles of friends that I have in Seattle. I highly recommend the model, though; ping me if you want help setting up your own.
  23. I went to my first Moth Story Slam in Fremont, and gave a spontaneous version of the story of my tattoo that went over really well with the audience.
  24. As you may know, I began supplementing my diet with Soylent about the same time that real estate really picked up and got busy late last year. The biggest substantive changes in my life have been that I no longer skip breakfast in the mornings and that I spend a lot less money on fast food in general; it’s also had the great side effect of spurring a lot of very interesting conversations with friends, though.
  25. I greatly expanded my podcast repertoire, from the immortal This American Life and The Moth (and of course Serial, during its run) to include other greats like On Being, Snap Judgment, The One You Feed, and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin.
  26. After reading Born to Run and Go Wild, I began starting my summertime mornings off with a barefoot walk to the grass of my local pocket park and back, literally as soon as I would wake up, so that a direct, physical connection with nature was the first experience of every day. It was a fantastic morning ritual, and I look forward to starting it back up again as soon as it warms up a bit.
  27. Out of respect for my free time and my constantly growing to-do list, I gave my Xbox to a friend for safekeeping, and so far I’ve resisted the urge to take it back.
  28. The Yes All Women hashtag/campaign was really eye-opening to me in a lot of ways. I redoubled my efforts to be a good male ally to the women in my life after reading some of the accounts of the way that women experience the world differently than I do.
  29. As someone who shaves his head roughly every day, I finally splurged on a fancy shaving kit with an old-fashioned lather soap and brush and a bunch of fancy shaving oils and creams and such, for those times when I want to treat myself to a head spa without leaving home.
  30. I was fortunate to be asked to be the emcee for the Hack to End Homelessness, a great event that was spearheaded by a friend of mine to bring together the local tech community with organizations from the human services community to help the latter address technological pain points in their organizations.
  31. Spurred on by a great Cornel West talk that a friend invited me to, I began to deeply re-examine my own spirituality for the first time in awhile, which felt (and feels) really good.
  32. My dating life was better, at 34, than it has been at any other point in my life during which I’ve been single. A lot of things really do improve with age, I suppose.
  33. After years of being frustrated by CenturyLink’s spotty DSL service, I finally upgraded to Comcast cable internet—a minor victory, but an important one that’s had a surprisingly large impact on my quality of life :)
  34. After a long absence, I bought another map to go on my wall. Instead of using it to plot out foreign border crossings for an epic overland trip like I did after college, though, this one is a record of all the places I’ve ever slept in my life—a catalogue of all the places I actually made it out to—and an ongoing reminder that no matter how much I think I’ve explored, whether of the world or myself, it’s only an infinitesimal fraction of what’s still waiting to be discovered.

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