This Is 42

Estimated Reading Time: 10.5 minutes

So it's that time again. On my birthday each year, I do a share out about the year and think about what is ahead. This is apparently year #5 and you can see the others below.
Let's start with some of the numbers, shall we?
A photo of Lance Eaton from September 2021. He's facing the camera and the yard in the background is blurred out. He's wearing a gray t-shirt and has light facial hair and little hair on his head.

Home:  Arlington, Massachusetts
Relationship status:  Married (7+ years)
Cats Owned:  2 (Bear and Pumpkin)
Other Pets:  1 mud turtle (MJ, 35'ish years old)
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: 298 books, graphic novels, and audiobooks (Latest reads can always be found on Goodreads)
Work:
  1. Director of Digital Pedagogy at College Unbound (full time) 
  2. Adjunct Academic Partner at Southern New Hampshire University
  3. Teaching courses at North Shore Community College
Weight:  243 pounds
Longest Distance Run This Year: 14
Fastest Pace This Year: 9 minutes per mile (5K)
Runs in the last year: 261 
Miles run in the last year: 1234.8
Miles on the bicycle in the last year:  934 miles
Blog Posts in the last year:  115 
Blog Pageviews: 120,697
Blog Subscribers: 97
Blog Visitors: 82,887
Facebook Friends: 763
LinkedIn Connections: 1477
Twitter Followers:  1336
YouTube Channel Subscribers:  1991
Website Domains owned:  4

Favorite Blog Posts of the Year

Looking Back

Year 41 has been another fascinating trip around the sun. Like many previous years, it is not one I could have predicted, and yet, I am glad to be where I am.  I feel like though intense at times, there's a lot of places where I have grown and figured out new things about myself. I've also tried to make more space in my life to be looking inward and taking better care of myself.  

Professional Changes

The year has heralded a couple professional changes that I'm still getting used to.  The big one is that I ended up leaving the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and am now the Director of Digital Pedagogy at College Unbound in Providence, Rhode Island. There's a lot of reasons for this change.  The work-culture operated in ways there were not productive or enriching for me and at times, left me frustrated, feeling inept, or unnecessarily stressed for small things. At times, I did enjoy the work but more often than not, I felt like the work didn't live up to my standards or felt as if the work seemed to be more checking boxes than actually striving.  Yet, in the time that I was there, I did make some near and dear friends and that always makes things better.  

But more importantly, the move to College Unbound really represents the next step for me professionally.  In some ways, I feel like my time at BKC was a bit of a sabbatical from the work that I've been doing for the past decade. It gave me new experiences that were important (leading a team, working at upper levels of an organization, and thinking through how to build up new systems) and will help me in this job, but it was pretty far from teaching and learning in total.  But now, I feel recharged and ready to tackle the fascinating challenges that College Unbound represents as an organization that is trying to make college education accessible, meaningful, and inclusive to many who have experienced higher education as inaccessible, demeaning, and exclusive.  And I get the lucky opportunity to think about what this means as we look at how to support faculty and students, through pedagogy and technology.  So, as of last week, that's where I am now with the full-time work.  

There have been some other changes as well that are less substantial.  For instance, I switched from Adjunct Instructor to Adjunct Academic Partner at Southern New Hampshire University. This means I work on the course-design end to help improve courses by consult, creating content, or reviewing courses and course updates.  I've also recently decided that it might be a good idea to have a running ePortfolio of my work and so created one on my website.  Beyond that, I think I've definitely noticed a change in my thinking about my work in the last year in terms of striking a balance, saying "no" more often, and just feeling grounded professionally within an area that I have been working full-time for 10 years this December, and in part-time capacities (though technically full-time when added together) for 16 years.

Dissertation

As always, not as far along as I might like but am ok because I am making progress.  In fact, I'm mostly done with Chapter 3 and have assembled my dissertation committee. If all goes well, I hope to defend my dissertation proposal by December.  I'm feeling more ready now than ever. I'm still not entirely happy that it is taking this long but I think something is clicking and I'm ready to get through the proposal defense so I can go and do the research and get this done sooner than later.

Home life

Life at home as we balance this latest phase of the pandemic has been good. In the winter, we got a treadmill (definitely a lower-tier one) and that helped me get through the winter with my mood intact.  It's no-frills but I just needed something to run on and it fit neatly in front of the TV, to get me through the monotony of running on a treadmill.  

The garden this year was glorious (sorta). I had big plans and many of them happened. I grew chard, kale, broccoli, green beans watermelon, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, acorn squash, sunflowers, jalapenos, green peppers, basil, dill, potatoes, corn, spinach, lettuce, celery, radishes, and beets in the garden this year.  Some of those items never fully grew because first we had rabbits and then we had rats (I came close to going full Elmer Fudd on them).  Still, I hit the point in mid-August where I finally became that person who is pushing his garden goods on anyone with who he comes into contact.  

My partner and I have continued to make this space work as we navigated both working at home through the pandemic.  My new job as me working 2 days in the office, which if you noticed, is in Providence, Rhode Island, while we live in Arlington, Massachusetts. So it can be a long commute (about 1 hour during non-rush-hour traffic) but we are in the process of remedying that.  In fact, next year's annual reflection will likely be from the new home that we just bought in Cranston, RI; about 2.5 miles from work which means I'll be able to run or bike (or, hell, even walk) to work every day and I'm ecstatic about this.  I'm also ecstatic about the house because I did not think home ownership would be in the cards given the unaffordability of housing in the Greater Boston area.  Providence is much more affordable and thus, we purchased something that we really like and still have a lower mortgage than what our current rent is (by over $500).  So that's a bit of change that we're about to experience and while stressful (mostly because of all the damn paperwork), I'm actually really excited.  

Health

From the numbers above, I think it's clear that I'm still pretty active and I still love to run now, ten years later. I'm trying to balance it out more with cycling and some weights and yoga. I get on the bike twice a week and haven't quite gotten the right rhythm with the weights and yoga. I'm hoping the move into the new place might be an opportunity to create the moment for that.  Still, in this 5th decade of my life, my relationship with physical fitness is good, if not better than it's ever been. The pleasure I get from moving and pushing my body is something I'm grateful to have fostered in the last few decades.

My mental health this year was challenged at times with work, but more so with the mixture of the pandemic, politics, and how much right-extremism partnered with a framework of "freedom" that seems to be absent any profound understanding permeates the U.S. and world at large. So many folks are rejecting basic decency, communal care as a society, and actual means of improving society--whether it is the vaccine, masks (to reduce the spread), or rejection of anything that has been labeled (appropriately, though more often inappropriately) "socialism" because it didn't come from the political right.  I've had to think a lot about how to navigate this, given how present it is in many parts of our society. I'm trying to find the grace to accept these differences but sometimes, it can feel like complicity in the added suffering that such thinking by right-wing extremism and mindless "freedom-ology".  

Meanwhile, this year gave me some space and opportunity to reflect on my relationship with food. Over the years, my relationship with my body and food have always been challenging and at times, harmful.  I recognized this year that I have been participating in some level of binging over the years and the pandemic definitely amplified this coping mechanism.  I'm been personally working through it and it has uncovered a lot of insights.  However, after a few months of working through this internally, I decided to get some additional help and so last month started to see both a nutritionist and a therapist to work through these things. I was rather happy with myself to be able to recognize the pattern, name it, work through it on my own, and also recognize that additional help could add to reconciling what is going on in me.  So here's the looking inward and outward to figure things out.

Looking ahead

By this time next year, I believe I will be neck-deep in analyzing interviews and building momentum toward my finished dissertation.  The energy and desire is there and I've worked a lot to make sure I'm actually regularly working on it.  The new job is still revealing itself to me but I can say there is something tangibly different in how I experience working at College Unbound that I have not seen at previous places; the attention and care that they give to students, faculty, and staff is palpable. That gives me the sense that I've landed at a home I shall be at for a while.  And speaking of home, I look forward to settling into the new one and starting to get to think about how we use the inside and outside space.  While it is a small yard, I am thinking about how to make use of the outside space to have small gardens everywhere that compliment the space.  And I'm definitely going to build a Little Library for the front yard!

I hope in the next year to add some variety into my physical activity, particularly yoga and weights; I can tell my body craves more dynamic and different movement and want to honor that desire. I don't think I will be free of the binging in a year but I do think I will be more aware and better at working with what triggers it to more effectively cut off or limit the triggers.  I still don't know what to do with the turmoil of the world other than to try to think about how to be more involved in the local as I settle into Cranston and consider how I might try to make a positive impact.  

For those that don't know, I am a big fan of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  The number 42 is a significant number in that book. While I don't assume I will come to know the answer to life, the universe, and everything this year--I do think I'll be closer to understanding the answer to my life, my universe, and my everything.  And if not, well, that's still a useful thing to know as well.  

See you next year!


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