Reflections on 37

In a slight change from the traditional format, I’ve narrowed my birthday recap this year down to 20 highlights, major events, lessons, and takeaways from my 37th year of life, as opposed to 37 of them like I normally would have done (due in large part to time constraints because of a pretty jam-packed birthday weekend). Here they are, without further ado—and as always, a tip of the hat to Zac and Gina for the inspiration to start this series four years ago:

  1. The townhouse. My new home closed last August, but I’ve been under contract on it since it went up for pre-sale on November 3rd, 2016…and from that date to the housewarming in early December of last year, getting it set up and ready to be able to accommodate whatever the next 30 years of my life might hold (parties, events, and gatherings of all shapes and sizes; overnight guests up to and including my little sister and her whole family; kids of my own; AirBnB/rental income if necessary…etc) was the primary overarching theme of my life, first through detailed 3D Sketchup models and endless furniture shopping and then, after it closed, though the last-mile work of getting it all set up so it feels like home. And now that all that’s finished, I’m pleased to say that it really, really does. The whole process of designing a place that’ll be enough for me as far out as I can imagine my life and then seeing it come to fruition was absolutely incredible…and, like many of the most meaningful parts of life, it’s something that I could never have done on my own.
  2. Design Team. The most important use case for the new place for the foreseeable future is to serve as an event space and gathering place for the people in my community, in a way that my old place just wasn’t big enough to accommodate. I knew the purpose that I wanted it to serve, but I also knew that I wasn’t going to be able to get it there on my own…so I recruited my three closest friends in Seattle to be on my Design Team (they all happen to have excellent design sense, too), and starting on my birthday last year we spent 10 months planning for and then creating the space as it exists today. I couldn’t have done it without you, Team—thanks again for all your help.
  3. Hosting. I hosted a big birthday party a couple of years ago at an event space on Capitol Hill, and it was the first time I’d ever invited a big cross-section of my friends to all come together in one place. Seeing so many people I cared about in one room showed me that I really need to throw more parties. Shortly after that I started thinking about buying a bigger home, and the townhouse was the ultimate result of that process. If 37 was about building a bigger container for my life, my goal for 38 is to fill that container in as many different ways as I can. I’ve already done more hosting here than I did in the 7 ½ years that I lived in my old place combined (including co-hosting Thanksgiving this year and a fantastic housewarming in early December), and I’m just getting started. I’m very much in a “throw a bunch of stuff against the wall and see what sticks” phase right now, but I’m really enjoying it—one of my big goals for 38 is to learn to authentically express myself in the medium of bringing people together, with the townhouse as my canvas. I’m looking forward to figuring it out.
  4. Friends and family. One side effect of work taking so much of my time and spending so much of what was left on the new place was that I saw a lot less of many of you than I would have liked this past year. I could still easily write this entire post solely about the highlights from the various dinners, parties, events, conversations, karaoke sessions, etc. that we shared, but I’ve got a lot of catching up to do on that front, and I’m looking forward to doing it. Huge thanks as always to all of you for being part of my life; you’re what makes it all worthwhile.
  5. My niece.  Darcy is rapidly approaching 2 ½ now, and she’s absolutely adorable. I got to spend some quality time with her several times this past year, but our most recent visit was when I was staying with my little sister in Texas for Dad’s 70th birthday. She’s at that point where she’s talking constantly in a kind of quasi-English that her parents can understand perfectly and I could sometimes catch the general gist of, and I can tell that at some point in the very near future the two of us are going to be able to have actual conversations, which is really exciting.
  6. 10 years. Last March marked the 10-year anniversary of my mother’s death from uterine cancer. It’s hard to imagine what my world would be like if she were still alive—it feels like I’ve grown into a totally new life over the course of the last 10 years, and in a lot of ways I suppose I have.
  7. 70 in Hawaii. December 30th was my dad’s 70th birthday, and we went to Hawaii last month (when airfare was cheaper) to celebrate. He’d been there once before with mom in 1993, and he’s been talking about going back for his 70th birthday to see the big waves on Oahu’s north shore for years. He was there with his partner Becky and his high-school friend Steve and Steve’s lady friend, and I was the unofficial tour guide of the group for the 5 days for which I joined them. We spent a few mornings watching surfers tackle 15-to-20-foot waves on the Banzai Pipeline (a life highlight for Dad, who had done a lot of surfing in his younger days), checked out Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park by car and helicopter tour, did a couple of 70-year-old-appropriate hikes, ate a bunch of good food, and generally enjoyed ourselves.
  8. The missile alert. We also, as it turned out, were there for the Saturday-morning false-alarm missile alert that went out to everyone in the state. It took me about 5 minutes to figure out from Twitter that there wasn’t actually a North Korean missile that was about to hit Honolulu, but for the rest of my life I’ll remember those 5 minutes in which the imminent possibility of being killed by a nuclear warhead was a real thing that existed in my world. Given that it happened, I’m glad I was in Hawaii when it did—getting to viscerally experience the beginning of the end of the world without the world actually ending was a very profound experience.
  9. Real estate. Continuing a trend that’s been going strong ever since I became a real estate agent three years ago, this was the best year that I’ve had in the business so far. I closed 33 deals (up from 20 my first year and 24 my second), and for the first time I had a significant number of listings (8, as opposed to a combined total of 3 my first two years) in addition to my bread and butter of mostly first-time buyers. 2018 is already off to a faster start than any of the years that have come before it, so perhaps the trend will continue again this year. One thing’s for sure, though: real estate is definitely the profession for me.
  10. Class consciousness. Ever since 2015 I’ve wrestled with all the follow-on effects of going from making significantly less than the median Seattle income my entire career (but still enough to live comfortably on in the city, thanks in large part to my having bought my old place when I did in 2010) to making real estate money, seemingly overnight and without any preparation. This past year it reached a tipping point, though. I’ve been very haphazard in both my giving strategies and my systemic-change-focused volunteer time up until now, but I started taking steps towards the end of the year to be more intentional on both fronts. I see both the financial opportunities that real estate affords me and the spaciousness of time that it allows into my life during the off-season as resources that don’t fully belong to me (the townhouse falls into this category, too, which is one reason I call it “the townhouse” instead of “my place”), and I’m trying to be better about using both of them for the betterment of my city and my community.
  11. Organizing. I was on the organizing committee for an event last month that was put together by members of Women of Color Speak Out and the Tech Workers Coalition, and it was a really great experience. The idea of the event was to organize a discussion for an audience of men who work in the Seattle tech industry about the need for men to be involved in the response to #MeToo and what that can look like. The event went well (see write-ups from GeekWire and The Stranger, and check out the dashboard with summaries of the data we gathered along the way here); the organizing process itself was really profoundly meaningful for me, too, though. It was the closest I’ve come to true grassroots community organizing, as opposed to campaign organizing, and the organizing committee was a very diverse group by ideology, race, and class. One of my big takeaways from the experience—in addition to the fact that I need to do a lot more sitting down, shutting up, and elevating the voices of folks who don’t or can’t speak as loudly as I do in all aspects of my life—was that there’s a place for my worldview and my skillset in Seattle’s grassroots activist left. It’s a path I’m looking forward to exploring in greater detail in the months and years ahead.
  12. Moving out. I’ve owned my little co-op apartment on Capitol Hill for 8 years now, and I lived there myself for 7 ½ of the most transformative years of my. A friend of mine has been renting it from me since I moved out, and she’s getting ready to buy it from me later this month—it’s been bittersweet leaving the co-op community and my old home behind, but I’m glad that it’s going to stay in good hands.
  13. Dating. 37 was a year in which I was being pulled in a lot of different directions in my life generally, and that was reflected in my dating life, too—there were a few women I saw for a month or two, but nothing that really clicked. I’ve found that relationships tend to find me when I’m in a good place for them, though, and 38 feels like it’s going to be my best year in awhile on that front: all the big cornerstones of my life (community, work, home) are settled except for my lack of a partner, and it’s amazing how much mental energy that frees up. We’ll see how the year goes.
  14. Trips with friends. I had two great travel experiences with friends this past year: a weekend trip to St. Louis that helped deepen some relatively new friendships, and an epic backpacking trip in the Wind River range in Wyoming for the eclipse in August with some tried and true backpacking companions. I have a feeling 38 has more in stock on this front.
  15. City Museum. Some people say that Disney World is the happiest place on earth. Those people are wrong, because City Museum is actually the happiest place on earth. If you have children, or if you personally were ever a child, do yourself a favor and go to City Museum if you’re ever in St. Louis.
  16. A haiku journal. On a whim I started keeping a daily journal in which I write one haiku every morning as soon as I wake up (separate from the daily journal I’ve kept since early 2000), and it’s been a nice exercise. The first one is almost full—it’s a very small journal, which seemed appropriate given the format—and I’m trying to decide if I’m going to re-up the tradition for a second round or let it be a one-off thing.
  17. Icon reform. I reconfigured all of the icons on my phone’s home screen a couple of months ago in an attempt to channel my lazy phone-browsing energy into something a bit more productive, and so far it’s been working well. I’m obsessively compelled to zero out all of the little red notification icons that I can see, so I re-tuned them so that those counts now include my priority gmail inbox, all of my other inboxes, and my various to-do lists, but not Facebook or any other forms of social media. Highly recommended if this is something you struggle with, too.
  18. Testifying against the Realtors. Part of being a licensed real estate agent involves paying membership dues to Realtor associations at the local, state, and federal level…but the politics of the Realtor associations at the state and national level are often pretty terrible. At a Washington Low Income Housing Alliance board meeting during last year’s legislative session I volunteered to go down to Olympia and testify against the Realtors in support of a good bill that they were opposed to (in a nutshell, it would have permanently locked one of the major funding sources for the state’s Housing Trust Fund, which pays for affordable housing across the state). It was my first time testifying in Olympia; I emailed a bunch of clients who had bought homes recently to get some anecdotes to use in my testimony (thanks to everyone who gave me your feedback!), and it felt good to be able to offer personal counter-narratives to what lawmakers were hearing from the state Realtor association.
  19. New Camaldoli. I started this post a few days ago in a little room in a hermitage nestled in the hills above the Pacific Ocean just south of Big Sur, my favorite of the “quiet places” up and down the west coast that I’ve cultivated over the years. I spent three nights there this past week unplugging (it’s totally off the grid, with no cell service or internet access), unwinding, looking back on the past year, and thinking about what I want my year ahead to look like. It’s a good tradition.
  20. “Be less certain.” I wrote that in my journal last month as a new life goal, after two friends helped me recognize different parts of the connection between my challenging relationship with vulnerability and my innate need to always have the right answer/solution in any given situation. I know that uncertainty makes me uncomfortable, but I’d never thought about certainty as something that I manufacture in order to prevent me from having to deal with the innate uncertainty of life before, or stopped to acknowledge that vulnerability and uncertainty are necessary components of meaningful connections in life (something that was driven home when I decided to revisit Brené Brown by reading The Gifts of Imperfection during my pre-birthday retreat). So “be less certain” is my official mantra for 38; we’ll see how it goes.

One thought on “Reflections on 37

  1. Sol, Thank you for sharing, I always enjoy reading what you write. As someone much older than you are, I wish I had started writing as you do. There is much to capture in life and it fades with time. Best of luck to you for 38.

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