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So That Was a Year

So That Was a Year

Twelve months, but also time is a construct

February 10, 2024

I’d been meaning to write some sort of scattershot recap of my 2023 well before February of 2024, and I wish I could say it didn’t happen because I’m so incredibly busy. I’m exhausted from work and I do go out and do things like dancing or concert-ing, or stay in and do things like laundry and vacuuming and assembling expensive LEGO sets made for adults. But I’m not so busy that I couldn’t have sat down to write sooner. I’d just put it off. But then I was visited in the wee small hours of the morning by an old friend.

I was woken up just after 5 am a few mornings ago by the low-battery chirping of a carbon-monoxide detector in my living room, one floor below my bedroom. The Chirp (tm) has obviously been engineered by safety professionals (they’ve got a bit of UX in there whether they’d directly call it that or not) to be so high-pitched that you can’t tune it out, making its sound at such an interval that you have to keep listening because you’re not quite sure if it has stopped or not. The Chirp and I go way back. And so, I begin my remembrance of 2023 near the end, at my last four-day showdown with The Chirp. This post might have to be split into multiple parts. I should really post more often.

Smoke detectors save lives. They are a huge pain in my ass.

At 2:45 pm on a Friday afternoon, one of the smoke detectors in my home started chirping. No problem, I thought. Easy fix. I’ll just find the right one, replace the batteries, reset the detector, and move on with my life, chirp-free. And I did the thing that everyone on a chirp hunt does – I stood in the middle of my living room waiting for the chirp to sound again and then scrambling in its general direction until I zeroed in on the culprit. The detector in question ended up being directly outside my bedroom door. So I unfolded my handy stepladder, climbed up, pulled the front panel off, and quickly realized I didn’t have the correct batteries stocked in my home. Easily solved by a Door Dash order from Walgreens (I’m not sure how that pint of ice cream or package of Twizzlers fell into my cart before I checked out), which I waited for while my work day continued and my coworkers giggled when my conversations were interrupted by The Chirp on my afternoon conference calls.

The batteries arrived, I climbed back up on the stepladder, I pulled the front panel off, I replaced the battery, I reattached the front panel, and… The Chirp continued. I pushed what looked like a reset button, which only caused the detector to briefly sound its alarm, much more annoying than The Chirp. And, disturbingly, I also started hearing a beep from somewhere else in the house. I went on a beep hunt, very similar to a chirp hunt, and narrowed its source to the control panel for the house’s alarm system. The system is not armed or monitored since I don’t want to pay for that, but it’s all wired up, including the smoke detectors, so it knew one of its minions was having trouble. I found a button to silence the beeps, but the error messages on the panel’s display continued. As did The Chirp.

Google searches for solutions were fruitless and my time was short since I had evening plans, so I made The Chirp a Future Julie problem and went out bar crawling with friends for the evening. It was Christmas-time and we visited holiday-themed pop-ups. I bought a shot glass that looks like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer wearing a lei (one pop-up was at a tiki bar). I made friends with a waitress who I’d met two weeks earlier when I’d stopped at the same bar before a Taylor Swift dance party dressed in a sequined minidress and amazing pink sparkly boots, and we exchanged numbers and promises to hang out (we’ve been texting and are still trying to meet up). Our group stopped at Pie Bar for late-night pie. All this to say… I forgot about The Chirp until I got home late that night, and then I passed out on the couch because The Chirp was quieter there than it would have been from my bed right next to the detector.

Saturday and Sunday were also busy, so it was easy to ignore The Chirp. On Saturday, I met my friend Ruth for lunch along with a couple other friends, and I ended up spending the afternoon and evening with her, decorating for Christmas and cooking dinner. On Sunday I went shopping at a couple local craft and farmers markets, then spent the afternoon cooking before heading back to Ruth’s house for a dinner party. The Chirp had just been chirping away all weekend without intervention, and my couch and I were spending way too much time together. Sunday evening, I sent a maintenance request to my property management company asking if they had any suggestions, including but not limited to providing some sort of reset code to force the wired-together smoke detectors to reset themselves.

Monday morning, I was gifted with a link to things to try, and a gentle reminder that my lease required me to replace the batteries every six months anyway, so I should probably try that first. And doing that required purchasing a ladder to reach two of the detectors attached to the vaulted ceilings in my bedrooms. Between work calls, I went to every detector in the house, heavy new ladder in tow, opening up panels, detaching from hard wiring to reset power supplies, replacing batteries, and hoping for the best. The Chirp lived on. Finally, in a desperate attempt to focus on my work for the day for just a few hours, I removed the chirping smoke detector from the ceiling entirely, wires and all. I walked into my bedroom, detector in hand, and as I reached up to set it on a shelf for safe-keeping… I heard The Chirp coming from the hallway. Not the culprit detector in my hand.

Turns out, in my smoke detector witch hunt, I had completely missed the other object on the ceiling not one foot away. Another detector, presumably for a different fire metric, stared me in the face with a small blinking red light and chirped down at me as I stared up at it. The device had a visible reset button, so I figured I’d press it and see what happened before swapping the batteries. And what happened was setting off a very loud alarm from a wall panel five feet away. BUT! My new ladder came in very handy; when collapsed, it was just the right height to prop a pillow over the source of the alarm until it exhausted itself several minutes later (apologies to my neighbors; I can heart them cursing through the wall when they get drunk and fight, so I absolutely believe they could hear the alarm). And then I did what I should have done first - I replaced the batteries in the actual problem detector, and The Chirp was gone for good.

Unemployment was definitely not Funemployment.

In August 2022, I took a job with enough of a pay bump that I could afford to move to Seattle and live on my own. It was my first management job, and a very senior one at that - and I’d been assured by the person that hired me, the interim Chief Product Officer of the company, that he would mentor me in the role and set me up for success. And then a non-interim CPO was hired and he promptly disappeared. My new manager was not as willing to hold my hand. I can’t necessarily fault her for it; the job she signed up for didn’t include dragging me along. But my job suddenly became much more challenging.

Also, when I was hired, I was immediately tasked with backfilling a direct report vacancy. I conducted many interviews, I screened many resumes, I reviewed dozens of portfolios, and I even made a handful of offers - all of which were rejected because we couldn’t match what other companies were offering. Two months into my tenure the role still had not been filled - and filling it was a key job performance metric my boss was looking at. And then another direct report left, and I had two positions to fill in addition to doing the work of the empty roles as well as the job I was originally hired for. I started from the back foot and never recovered.

And the is how, three months into this job, I was let go the first week of December. I was invited to a last-minute call with my manager and our HR person, and… I knew. I watched my Slack access be terminated in real time (and I found out a week later they didn’t tell anyone right away, because all the coworkers I was actively working on projects with wondered where I had gone in the middle of the work day with work in progress). I was still recovering from my move, financially and emotionally vulnerable, in a new place and struggling to find where I fit in, rounding the corner into my first holidays as a single person, away from my son. It was a lot. I was at my lowest point, ever, and while it likely wasn’t true, I felt completely alone. And December is typically not the best time to hunt for a job. I polished my portfolio and resume (which didn’t require much since my previous job search had been so recent), I applied for several jobs each day, I replied to lots of emails and calls from recruiters, but after a couple weeks, I resigned myself to not being able to find anything until after the new year.

In some ways, taking a job-hunt break was a relief. Evan came to visit for the week of Christmas and I could focus on hanging out with him and being together. But he got to see me cry. A lot. Really sloppy crying, too. And he has this adorable face he makes where he frowns with kind eyes, as if to say, “I’m sorry you’re sad. I know I can’t help or relate at all, but I love you so do what you need to do. It’s okay.” If only grown men were as good at communicating. This kid could be going places.

The new year brought new optimism, if not any new funds into my dwindling bank account. I had lots of first and second interviews… and I was lots of places’ second choice. Finally, in late February, being someone’s second choice paid off. A recruiter called about a senior-level job. The pay was great, it was in healthcare (not the sexiest of verticals, but people aren’t going to stop getting sick anytime soon)… It sounded like an attractive option. And they were fairly desperate to fill the role because there had been a person who had originally accepted it and then backed out to take another offer. I had two interviews, and within a couple of days I had an offer letter. And on March 6th, I finally was employed again, with close to a 25% pay bump from the management job that had unceremoniously dumped me. And I’ve survived two close shaves of layoff rounds and still have a contract at the job through this September. Things somehow work out.

Orange cats are the best cats. The shared brain cell adds character.

Not long after I moved, my therapist (who was amazingly licensed in both Colorado and Washington and therefore could keep seeing me after my move) agreed it might be good for me to get a pet or two to keep me company. It was the right thing to do, leaving our two orange cats in Denver with Evan; he needed the continuity more than I needed the companionship. But I was definitely lonely. Big lonely.

A local cat cafe lets you book time to play with adoptable cats and put in an application to take them home. I had intended to visit the cafe just to get some quality cat time, but one night, over some really great pasta in Renton, my friend Tsuki convinced me to see if there were any appointment slots available that night to visit the cafe cats, and we got in the car and drove straight there for the last slot of the night. And I fell in love with two adorable bow-tie-wearing cats - Barbie and Polly Pocket. They were pair bonded and would only be adopted together, which was exactly what I wanted - cats are more social than people realize and often do well with a buddy. I followed the process on the cafe’s website for putting in an adoption application, and then I waited.

And waited. And waited. Months went by. I went back to visit regularly and always asked when Barbie and Polly’s adoption process would start, and was always told, “I think they’re next!” The cafe’s process is very subjective and relies on a “best fit” match, and dozens if not hundreds of people can apply to adopt a single cat. The staff whittles down the applicants to 5-10 that they interview in person, and then they select a home from there. The criteria for selection were not public, and the drawn-out nature of how things were going started to frustrate me. Finally, in October, I decided it was time to have cats again, and either Barbie and Polly would be the ones that came home with me, or I’d find two others to join my family. A cat-themed art show was happening one weekend, and they had a couple rescue organizations with booths where you could play with kittens and even go through a same-day adoption. I decided to try my luck and see if I could fall in love at first sight.

The first rescue at the show had a line of people waiting to play with cats, so I bypassed them and went to the second rescue further in the venue. Tsuki was my advance team; she elbowed up to the booth desk and asked about same-day adoptions. And since I was interested in adopting vs. just cuddling, the organizers let me cut to the front of the line to browse the binder filled with kitten photos. A couple of pages in, I spotted him - a tiny orange kitten with white mittens and boots and a white belly. His name was O’Malley, and I immediately said, “This one. He’s mine.” The rescue owner took me to the playpen area and pointed him out, snoozing in the corner away from crowd of people and other kittens, and she hustled me through the gate so I could pick him up. As I gave him quality scritches, I asked if he had a littermate or another kitten he had pair bonded with. And it just so happened that his brother Sammy was in the playpen as well and available to adopt. And not five minutes later I had filled out the paperwork and sent my adoption fee and waited giddily as the owner tracked down a cat carrier for me to take my kittens home in.

Before heading to the pet store to buy supplies, I walked around the show with my cat-filled carrier. Everyone wanted to see the kittens, and several booths gave me free snacks or toys for the boys to congratulate me on bringing them home. Already this adoption thing was paying off. My friend Harvey also adopted a cat named Tornado (a very apt name since we had to retrieve him from six feet up the wall of the rescue playpen to get him into a carrier), and the two of us and our three cats headed to the pet store and filled carts with food and litter and toys. And then I dropped Harvey off at his car and took my new wards home.

It’s now been over four months since they came home, and they’ve grown into full-fledged cats. Sammy is on the chunky side and has a cute round face. O’Malley is leaner, with a face that tapers to a bit of a snout. They’re very cuddly, which I’ve found to be true of every orange cat I’ve ever met, and when they’re not sleeping they stay near me in the house and follow me around. They have a stroller, which I’ve only used once outside, and they sleep together in it while I work in my office, so I can wheel them up next to my desk and point my webcam down at them to provide a Kitty Cam for my online friends. Sammy is much more chill than O’Malley; he’s definitely a lap cat, and he’s much calmer and quieter in general, unless it’s feeding time. O’Malley is the troublemaker; he’s my friend Maisy’s favorite, so whenever he does something problematic, I’ll tell her to come get her cat. He explores everything and eats cardboard like it’s raw fish. Sammy sleeps in the crook of my legs at night, and O’Malley wakes me up by licking my elbows and chewing my hair. Whatever comes in the future, we’re now a package deal.

When does self-care become vanity?

I’m not an expensive purse or shoe person. While I like exotic travel, I don’t do it often. My car is paid off. My rent is really my only excessive required expense. So, last year I started indulging in some things that just made me feel good.

I wear makeup, but typically very little. Just enough to feel like a polished version of baseline me. But eye makeup is a thing I’ve always hated. It’s very easy to look heavy-handed and overdone. It’s hard (and sometimes even uncomfortable) to remove. It irritates my eyes. Beyond mascara, it’s something I just didn’t bother with often. So, on a whim - and I don’t even remember how or why the idea popped into my head - I decided to try eyelash extensions. I lie down for an hour every few weeks, I close my eyes, and a lovely person (now a “friend” the way people you get to know pretty well but who are still part of a financial transaction and not really in your social circle are friends) glues fake lashes one by one onto my eyelids with little tweezers. I’m forced to be still and rest, which is something that doesn’t happen often enough. I have a nice conversation with Emily (and Niqi, at the moment, since Emily is on maternity leave). And when she’s done, I look like myself, but just a little more finished. And I don’t need to wear eye makeup, because my lashes are permanently long and full and curled up just enough to pop my eyes open.

Midway through the year, Emily mentioned that the salon was starting a membership service that allowed you to pay for a facial and get discounts on additional things like lashes and waxing. Taking care of my skin is really important to me (another reason why I don’t wear a ton of makeup). I have to live in it for hopefully a long time yet. So I said, “Why not?” and signed up to start getting monthly facials. I get a sweet discount on my lashes every time I go. And since I also hate shaving, especially in certain areas, I also decided to start waxing. Niqi (she who is currently doing my lashes) does the facial and waxing. We book it in the calendar back to back, waxing first, so I can get the brief pain over with and then relax while she cleanses and exfoliates and steams and masks and moisturizes my face. And the waxing pain is less than I expected and is becoming easier to deal with. She counts down quickly and warns me of “a little pop” when she’s about to rip the wax off, and she’s done with my undercarriage in under 30 minutes.

My friend Sunny and Jordan introduced me to shellac nails. I have had a nail biting problem - yay, anxiety! - and shellac manicures have allowed me to grow out my nails a bit and keep from biting them. After a few bright colors early on, I’ve settled into trying out various neutrals each time I go. It’s less distracting that way when I notice my hands. But I still do bright colors on my toes, which are currently a sparkly green shade. And I just like the way my hands look with nails; my fingers are on the short-ish side, and just a little bit of nail makes them feel longer and less sausage-like.

It is possible to go to Las Vegas without gambling or visiting a strip club.

Last summer my friend Kevin mentioned he had an extra ticket to a music festival in Las Vegas, and on a whim I committed to buying it from him. And that is how I found myself in Sin City for a long weekend in October, slowly withering in the heat while seeing a pretty impressive lineup of emo bands with thousands of other people. Kevin and I, along with our friend Gabe and a friend of Kevin’s from college, trekked to Vegas and crashed at our friend Nicole’s house and spent a few days eating and drinking across town until the day of the festival.

Nicole works in hospitality management, so she knew the cool places to visit around town. One night we found our way into a new speakeasy for drinks before having snacks at a restaurant called Cleaver, where, in addition to great food and drinks, there are period-style portraits of various celebrities hung throughout the dining rooms. We had cocktails and mac and cheese while being watched by a floor-to-ceiling portrait of Chris Farley dressed in historical military garb. Another night we went to Minus5, a freezing bar that outfitted us in bulky coats and gloves upon entry and served drinks in cups made of ice. And I took Gabe to China Poblano, one of my favorite spots, after he dropped a cool grand on a pair of Balenciaga shoes. What happens in Vegas…

The festival itself, When We Were Young, was very, very fun. There were at least a couple dozen bands, too many to catch all of them, but I particularly enjoyed sets from 5 Seconds of Sumer, The Offspring, Sum 41, Motion City Soundtrack, Michelle Branch, All Time Low (with a surprise appearance by Avril Lavigne), Pierce the Veil, and Say Anything. Gabe waited in line to get a tattoo - they had a booth doing them on site! - but so many people signed up that his number never got called. It was brutally hot from the jump, and so many people almost got heat stroke just waiting in the security line to get in that the organizers started handing back cases of bottled water through the line to people who were waiting. We spent most of the day hopping between covered seating areas near each stage to keep cool; Gabe was also hung over and vomited up the fruit cup he attempted to eat for breakfast, so getting heat stroke on top of it would not have gone well. Green Day and Blink 182 were the headliners, but it was so packed that Gabe and I made our escape early in Blink’s set and had dinner at the Burger King inside Circus Circus just across the street from the festival grounds (a meal that was a Vegas experience all its own) and then Kevin and his friend met up with us to head home at the end of the night. Overall, the trip was a blast and I already bought tickets for this year.

Electric bikes are the future.

People who have never visited Seattle don’t realize how hilly it is. Much more so than relatively flat Denver, which people always expect to be less flat because of its proximity to mountains. I have a hybrid mountain-street bike that came with me in the move, but I quickly realized actually riding it anywhere without dying would be a challenge. And so, early in the summer, I bought an electric bike.

It’s an Electra Townie Go! step-through cruiser, and it’s perfect for riding around to run errands or just get fresh air. My friend Zeyla and I spent a weekend test-riding bikes from a few different shops and manufacturers around town before we each settled on our sweet rides (hers is more suited to hauling cargo since she uses it instead of a car and for longer trips). I have panniers for mine and can easily fit a grocery trip on the back. I’ve ridden out to Bellevue and back without breaking a sweat, and stopping at one of the parks on Mercer Island is a favorite activity when the weather is nice. A folding blanket, a few snacks, and a good book are easy traveling companions. I have discovered that I need a new bike helmet, though; mine is weirdly loose and slides around on my head more than I’d like. I’m looking forward to warmer, drier weather so I can get back out on two wheels regularly.

Why live in Seattle if you’re not going to take advantage of the water?

When I was thinking about moving and where to end up, Seattle’s access to water was a huge selling point. People don’t think of Texas as particularly wet, but in the Hill Country where I grew up, I spent much of the year on lakes and rivers - boating, tubing, swimming, jet skiing… Showing up at school in the fall with weird tan lines from a summer spent outdoors in swim gear was an annual rite of passage.

I have a stand-up paddleboard, and I was able to take advantage of nice summer weather and go out on water around town (the ocean side is a bit rougher for boarding, so staying to the lakes was more common). It felt so nice to be out and active. To paddle around on the water. To jump in to cool off. To lie on my board, eyes closed, soaking in the sunshine. My paddleboard also has attachments that allow it to be used as a makeshift kayak (the paddle converts back and forth from single- to double-ended); next summer, I need to remember that and take it out even more.

I also decided to take a sailing class and get more comfortable on the water in slightly larger vessels. I learned all about the wind clock and how to find the wind and call out its direction. I learned how to rig a boat, how to tack and jibe (and switch sides of the boat in the process as skipper, which is more challenging than you’d expect), and how to right a capsized boat - all of which were required to pass a skills test at the end of the course that allows me to rent boats to take out on my own. My class was near the end of the season, so I didn’t get in much practice afterward before the weather intervened. But I’m excited for late spring to come around so I can get back in a boat and get more practice.

There’s also a weekly event on Lake Union called Duck Dodge that’s basically an informal regatta of all sorts of boats - sometimes almost a hundred of them - and you can volunteer to crew a boat. My sailing teacher recommended it as another way to practice, and it couldn’t hurt to meet new people either. They have a Facebook group with a message thread for connecting to boats that need crew, and 2024 races begin in April! I can also continue taking classes and learning about sailing other kinds of boats beyond the small single-hulled boats we learned on during class. Evan spent a week at camp learning to sail himself when he was here last summer, so going out together is definitely in the cards for his summer visit this year.

And the spot where I took my class, Sand Point, has a boat launch and is a great place to paddleboard. Gabe and I and another friend, Sky, took our gear out and had a great few hours on the water in September during one of the last warm weekends of the year. It’s particularly nice up there compared to other places we’ve boarded because you can park relatively close to the water so you don’t have to haul things very far. And it wasn’t crowded at all; there were some sailing races happening further from shore and the normal traffic of small boats and other paddleboarders, but plenty of room on the water (and in the parking lot) for all.

Taylor Swift is an exceptional businesswoman, musician, and performer. And live music is the best music.

Miracle of miracles, I somehow managed to get tickets to see Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour last summer. I went through the official lottery process (I submitted for Seattle, Denver, and Las Vegas, and made it into Denver’s lottery), and after a four-hour wait in the queue I was able to select some affordable seats that still had a view of the stage. The prices were reasonable enough (all the truly maddening prices were mostly resale tickets) that I bought the maximum of six. I sold four at face value to two of my friends so they could win Christmas and become the Best Moms On The Planet(tm) and take their tween daughters, and originally Tsuki had planned to come with me from Seattle. But she opted to go to San Diego Comic Con the following week instead. And I asked around to several Denver friends about tagging along, and they all either had already seen the show in another city or didn’t want to go without their partners. So I found myself a few days before the concert with, miraculously, an extra ticket.

Two days beforehand, as I was packing to fly into Denver, I randomly checked Facebook, a place I hardly ever visit. And my friend Jenna was desperately searching for a single ticket of her very own. I messaged her and offered her my extra ticket, she had me confirm the offer was real and the ticket really was as cheap as I said, and I quickly had a concert buddy. And her husband Justin, also a good friend, immediately texted me his profound thanks for taking care of her birthday gift for him.

The motel I ended up at in Denver for the weekend wasn’t the greatest; as widely reported, Taylor has boosted local economies, and that meant most decent hotel rooms and Airbnbs were long gone. But I found a place not far from the old house so I could easily visit Evan. He, Jason, and I met up for dinner the night I arrived, after I’d met my Denver besties Alex, Danielle, and Gemma for lunch, and Jason helpfully offered to drop me off near the stadium for the show since pretty much any other form of transportation was going to be maddening. Evan and I had breakfast and went to a movie before the concert, and then I got changed, hitched my ride, and, after being dropped off roughly half a mile from the stadium, walked the rest of the way to the parking lot, where I met some of my oldest friends for a little pre-show tailgating.

Katie, Amberly, Stephanie, Stacey, and I met online many, many years ago, before any of us had kids. We don’t get to see each other all that often, but being able to reunite before the show was a fun extra surprise. We snacked, we watched people stream into the stadium in their meticulously planned outfits, we made last-minute friendship bracelets and traded them with passers-by, we sang along to songs from a Bluetooth speaker in Katie’s trunk… it was a chill vibe to get ready for the show. I headed in just in time to see the opening acts, completely bypassing the impossibly long merch lines, and discovered MUNA, one of my new favorite bands. They got the crowd appropriately hyped, Jenna met me at our seats, and before long the show countdown started.

I know Taylor isn’t everyone’s bag, but even if I didn’t enjoy her music, I could still appreciate the concert for the spectacle it was. The massive stage, filled with projections and risers and all sorts of fun things to allow it to transform for each era; the costume changes; the band and backup singers, most of whom who have toured with Taylor many times; the energy of the crowd dancing and singing and yelling along to every song… it was one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen. And she truly did perform for over three hours. I immediately wished I could see the show again.

After the last number and the fireworks, Jenna and I joined the mass of humanity streaming out of the stadium. The early plan had been to jump on the light rail at the stadium stop and ride it the short distance into downtown where Justin was waiting with the car to give me a ride back to my motel before he and Jenna headed home. But we saw the line for the train and the sardine cans the train cars had turned into and just decided to walk the mile and a half to the parked car and Justin playing on his Switch. Thousands of other people had the same idea, so we mostly just shuffled in a herd away from the stadium, under the freeway and across the train tracks (where we had to wait a bit for a train to pass), through Auraria Campus, and finally to the car, parked outside of a totally different sports venue. Before long I was back at the motel packing up my luggage to fly home the next day and trying to get a decent night’s sleep.

I had to Lyft back to the old house the next morning to pick my rental car and also to snag my most important piece of luggage - that weekend marked the midway point of Evan’s summer, and I brought him back to Seattle with me to stay until school started. We loaded up my car, he gave his dad goodbye hugs, and we made a quick boba stop before heading to the airport and back to Seattle.

Last year was a big year for concerts in general, in addition to When We Were Young and Taylor Swift. I saw Infected Mushroom twice. I saw NF. I saw Ed Sheeran with Ruth, and he is also an amazing performer; he and Taylor are two people who just live and breathe music. It comes so naturally to them. I saw Fly by Midnight, and am planning to see them again in a few months. I saw All-American Rejects with Motion City Soundtrack and New Found Glory, which turned out to be a great warm-up for When We Were Young. I saw The 1975, another great show, and randomly decided to splurge on dinner in the champagne lounge at Climate Pledge Arena for Adventure Buddy Gabe and I before the show. I saw Charlie Puth at Chateau Ste Michelle, a nearby winery that’s also a beautiful outdoor concert venue. And then there was all the dancing - the Barbie raves and the Taylor raves and the Shrek raves and the 80s nights and disco nights and emo nites and sin nights and everything in between - and the stand-up comedy and magic shows and sporting events and musicals. I finally saw Hadestown, and it was worth the wait. I’ve definitely been more social than I expected, and out doing things almost every weekend. I can’t quite call myself outgoing, but having outgoing friends who can talk you into anything has helped.

You’re absolutely correct. There definitely is a certain irony to only deciding to learn to ski after I leave Colorado.

For a large portion of my life, I was convinced I had the worst knees and ankles and hips and everything that a person would need to hurl themselves down a snow-covered mountain on two mostly-wood strips barely wider than their feet. I grew up poor and in Texas, two facts that put learning to ski at an early age out of reach (we weren’t exactly taking winter and spring-break trips to any snow-covered peaks). And then I was fully an adult by the time I made it Colorado, and it felt like my window of opportunity had passed; I convinced myself that you learn to ski as a kid, and it was too late for me. All this to say - I had a lot of excuses to avoid skiing. Many friends skied. I enjoyed following them up to the mountains for long weekends where I’d cozy up in a lodge while they bundled up on the slopes. But whether it was fear, lack of motivation, or something else entirely, I never took the extra step of learning to ski myself.

And then I made this big life change. I tackled so very many things I was afraid of. And at some point, I decided overcoming fear wasn’t just for the big things - I could do the little things scared, too. So last spring, I made my initial attempts at learning to ski. Whether or not they were fruitful could be up for debate. My first outing was night skiing at Snoqualmie, a resort close enough to Seattle to go after work and get in a few hours on the slopes and still be home for a decent bedtime. My friends made extremely valiant attempts at teaching me the basics, some of which I’d managed to pick up from watching Evan’s ski lessons (my child absolutely skis better than I do). But I spent most of that outing feeling like an incredible burden and embarrassed at being so afraid of something that seemed to come so easily to everyone else. I shooed everyone away so they could actually enjoy themselves without me holding them back and so I could sit at the fire pit and cry a little without an audience.

But, to my credit, I didn’t give up. I went back out the next week, to a different resort, and signed up for a group lesson so I could put the burden of my inexperience on a neutral third party. And I started to feel more confident. I became the model student, the one the teacher would point at to demonstrate things to everyone else. I was allowed to go up the longer magic carpets to the higher hills with another excelling student while the instructor focused on our classmates who were struggling. I felt a little like the brochure photo - perfect leaning crouch over my skis, poles at my sides, wind whipping past me, a smile on my face.

And then the lesson ended and I met up with my friends and immediately felt like a clumsy sack of limbs all over again, unable to demonstrate the basic prowess I’d mastered just moments before. I had taken a particularly bad fall the week before, one that detached one of my skis from my boots and bent my legs in opposite directions, and while I hadn’t been in pain at the time, tackling the more advanced hill the chair lift deposited us on called attention to a strain in my hip that left me unable to put the pressure required on one side so I could turn on my way down. Thoroughly embarrassed, I again sent my friends away while I popped my skis off and trudged the short distance back to the top of the lift to catch a ride down. The ski patrol had to come check me out when I mentioned I couldn’t ski down, and once they cleared me of serious injury I took a lonely and cold lift ride, wind in my face, the only one going down. I didn’t transition to a full-fledged cry, but I did get a bit watery as I walked back to the lodge and sat alone while the others kept skiing. I felt like an abject failure, and wondered if I had been correct after all to be so afraid.

Winter came to a close without another attempt at skiing, but when the calendar year’s end approached, I decided I had to keep trying. I went all in - I bought an Epic Pass to cover my lift tickets for the season so I could go up on weekend days to Stevens Pass when time allowed and also have access to some Colorado resorts for the spring visits I was planning to take to Colorado. I also grabbed a twilight pass for Snoqualmie so I could do more night skiing after work. I bought my own boots and skis and poles, to have better gear than the much-used, one-size-fits-all rental equipment. And I splurged on an all-day private lesson to start my season.

I absolutely don’t regret it, but six hours for my first trip of the season was a bit ambitious. By hour four my thighs were burning and my shins were too sore to put much pressure on my boots (I was bruised and sore from the knee down for well over a week afterward). My amazing teacher Kevin was endlessly patient with my mental blocks around uncontrollable speed (which I only reached in my perception, not in reality), and since my lesson he has sent me numerous helpful emails checking in on my progress and encouraging me to come back. I’ve gone night skiing with friends who go at least once a week, and the practice is starting to become routine. I’m looking forward to skiing in Colorado with Evan - likely the one person I won’t feel embarrassed around. And although this process is still painful and longer than I’d expected… I’m proud of myself for sticking with it. Learning to ski is also teaching me lessons about other areas of my life that have been held back by fear and impatience. It’s okay to be afraid. But you can’t let fear keep you from growing.

My kid is exceptional.

There’s not much more to say. He is my favorite person on the planet, and every year I get to watch him grow up is the best one yet. He is my heart outside my body. I care about other people because I care about him - everyone you meet is someone’s favorite person. He is a tiny genius who loves watching math videos on YouTube. He loves to cuddle. He loves to cook. He loves being a helper. He’s empathetic and curious and perceptive and kind. He loves to make up jokes, with varying degrees of success. He loves doing projects together. He loves his friends. He loves me and his dad and his grandparents and his aunt and uncle. He’s an incredible piano player, and he’s also a pretty good trumpet player (he just needs to practice more). He and his friends wrote a book. He’s created his own video games. He wants to be an astrophysicist. He’s learning Spanish on Duolingo. He’s a voracious reader. He loves magic and LEGOs. He somehow turned out so brave, even with me as his mom. He lights up my world. He spent a month with me last summer and it was the absolute best. He loves when I make heart shapes with my hands or gives him thumbs up on our Zoom calls, because it makes fireworks and hearts appear on the screen. And he loves Seattle, which makes me so very happy. He is perfect, and you can’t convince me otherwise.

Hello, 2024. Welcome. What’s next?