This Is 41

Estimated Reading Time: 9.5 minutes

So it's that time again.  Everyone on my birthday, I take a moment to reflect about what has happend and look forward to see what may be next.  You can check out the last few years:
As usual, I start of these sessions with some basics about where I am today.

Home:  Arlington, Massachusetts
Relationship status:  Married (6+ years)
Cats Owned:  2 (Bear and Pumpkin)
Other Pets:  1 mud turtle (MJ)
Degrees earned: 5 (3 masters, 1 bachelor, 1 associate)
Degree working on:  PhD in Higher Education
Credits Completed Toward Dissertation: 72 out of 72.
Reading since Sept 2019:   books, graphic novels, and audiobooks
Work: (1) Educational Programs Manager at the Berkman Klein Center of Internet and Society at Harvard University (full time).  (2) Freelance reviewing audiobooks for Audiofile Magazine.  Teaching courses at  (3) North Shore Community College and (4) Southern New Hampshire University.
Short Stories Written:  1
Social Media Consulting Gigs:  0
Weight:  232 pounds
Longest Distance Run This Year: 13.59
Fastest Pace This Year: 8:25 minutes per mile (5K)
Runs in the last year: 227
Miles run in the last year: 890 miles 
Miles on the bicycle in the last year:  957 miles
Blog Posts in the last year:  125 
Blog Pageviews:  106,858
Blog Subscribers: 69
Blog Visitors: 73,515
Facebook Friends: 743
LinkedIn Connections: 1352
Twitter Followers:  1307
Website Domains owned:  4

Favorite Blog Posts of the Year

Looking Back

Putting COVID-19 aside, since as I mentioned above, I spent about 50 posts this year writing about it, this year has still been an interesting one.  It moved in ways I just couldn't predict, but luckily those were largely in positive or manageable ways (for now).  

Professional Changes

Professionally, there have been many changes.  Last fall, I was promoted to Associate Director of Learning Design at Brandeis University and was enjoying the newfound responsibilities that came with the position. It was something that had been in the works for months but changes throughout our division held up the progress.  When it finally happened, it was exciting to be promoted with a colleague who became the director of our team and our collaboration was very enjoyable.  

However, the new year brought a new opportunity that was impossible to say no to.  I have been appreciating and slightly fanboying over the work done at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Their work is fascinating and exciting on many levels and on subjects I'm quite interested in.  They had a position open that I applied for and was going through the interview process in early March when COVID began shutting down campuses.  The first part of the process was face-to-face and the second part was virtual and in late March, I was offered the position of Educational Programs Manager and started in April--entirely remote.

So, if you're following along, over the course of 6 months or so, I went from Instructional Designer to Associate Director to Manager--all while COVID was first coming down. COVID has been surreal in so many ways but leveling up career-wise in the midst of a pandemic and massive job loss has been the most mind-bending experience in all of this; it truly has.  

And while we're on the topic, it was also strange to be leaving a role where the crux of my work was instructional design just as instructional design was getting its moment in the limelight in higher education as everyone looked to us to help them solve problems that we had been warning about for years.  

It is strange in so many ways to look at where I am today on my 41st birthday and then, look back at where I was a decade ago--doing the full-time adjuncting after 5 colleges and universities while working full-time overnight at a residential program.  

Dissertation

But this 41st year of my life had other interesting things in store for me.  Since January, I've made more stable progress on my dissertation; not as fast as I want but progress nonetheless.  In January, I implemented a new regime.  I needed to do at least 20 minutes a day but aim for 30 minutes ideally.  I had a fantastic uninterrupted streak from January 1st until mid-April.  And well, things go complicated.  There was the pandemic; there was lots of work during the pandemic for instructional design; and then there was changing jobs during all of this.  I've had a few more bursts of progress and managed to complete my Chapter 2 (at least a rough draft that I'm proud of).  I'm hoping that I can move back into a rhythm again.

One thing that I learned that has worked for me is to pair the 20-30 minutes of working on the dissertation (which is, in itself, a good amount of time to get something done) with 20-30 minutes of something I like or enjoy.  In this case, it's getting to do non-academic writing.  That might be things like writing this blog post, creative writing, or writing some other work (other academic content).  Regardless, this pairing seems to help me feel motivated and to keep in the rhythm.  For instance, if I'm not in the mindset to work on the dissertation yet, I can opt to write a blog post, which will get me in the mind space for writing, and then after the 30 minutes, I can switch over.  

Home life

A photo of a garden with some rows of broccoli, eggplants, tomatoes, peppers and zucchini

This year, I also got back into gardening which I can blame both on COVID-19 as well as living in a place with a backyard that we have been told we can use it for gardening.  Getting to work on the garden has been rejuvenating for me.  Growing things, clearing space, weeding, watering, harvesting--all of these is work that feels enriching and I find myself taking great pride and joy in. 

Health

Healthwise, life has been interesting.  In the last few years, there was an upward trend in terms of weight. It went largely hand-in-hand with work, school, and personal stress.  I still maintained a steady and active physical life with 4-6 runs a week, complemented by 2-3 other forms of exercise (cycling, stationary bike, elliptical machine, etc).  But stress eating and being stationary the rest of the day had taken its toll.  This was made increasingly so with COVID and basically being home-bound throughout the day where the bathroom is 10 steps away and there was a kitchen with way more snacks than I might have had than when I am typically at work. 

It's always a challenge to figure out the right change to navigate these challenges.  In this case, I realized that one change was manageable and able to sustain.  In June, I decided that I would try something new.  Every third day, I would do what I call a vegetable and fruit fast.  On these days, I could only eat fresh fruits and vegetables.  Yes, I could cook them; yes, I could add some spices and some light sauces, but by and large, those days, it's just fruits and vegetables.  The other 2 days, I can largely eat what I want or at least I don't pay as much attention to what I eat.  The results have been reasonably successful three months later and 19 pounds down (celebrating that I lost the COVID-19--hahaha). 

In total, my 41st trip around the sun has been reasonably successful and rewarding, which I appreciate even more so given how hard it has been for so many and how it has been exhausting for all of us given what is going on in the world at large.  

Looking ahead

So what does the 42nd trip around the sun look like?  I have lots of hopes for this adventure.

Dissertation

This must be the year I get my act together and defend my dissertation proposal so I can move forward in my program. I want to finish the program; I want to do the work.  I now have a strategy that can get me forward so I just need to keep going.  

Work

I'm still finding my rhythm with my new work. It's only been 4.5 months but I feel like I get what I need to do and know how to do it.  It's still odd to be so fully into a position and still be so much removed from it unlike any job I have previously had but I feel like I can continue to make it work and hopefully, find new and creative ways to excel at the work.  

Health

I have an ideal weight in mind but am not blindly devoted to it.  We'll see how life goes and how this new practice works in the long term.  It might be a key as becoming a vegetarian was in managing to keep a certain amount of weight off.  But the true test will be when life gets extremely busy to see if I can manage it.  In terms of physical activity, I think I might need to aim to do some long-distance races (if those are ever a thing again in the next year) or at least making sure I get out and do long runs (10+ miles) every 2 weeks or so.  I did my first half-marathon run in several years in August and it felt so good--I realized that it has been missing in my life.  

What Do I Wish For Myself This Year

More than anything else, this year, I hope that I'm able to focus on meaningful work--personal, professional, political, spiritual. The world is a hard and ugly place right now with no end in sight of it letting up (and yes, there is a good chance this has been the status quo for so many and I have been shielded from it through privilege), I want to do better at being a caring human in a time when we all need a bit more of it.  


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