It's that time again. 2017 was a LOOONG year in many ways. As it winds down, I like to go back and review the highlights (and lowlights, of course).
I guess the biggest thing was the move. My work relocated us from a crappy Chicago suburb to the posh northern seaside of San Diego. Susan and I made the move at the beginning of the year. It was, honestly, a kind of stressful period, even though everything went fairly smoothly. I was flying back and forth from San Diego to Chicago, Susan was winding us down here, and we were simultaneously relocating and selling our house ourselves, with a closing on the day after we physically moved out (I do not recommend doing things this tightly). The physical relocation was accomplished on the cheap - my company offered us a flat rate to reimburse our move, so anything we didn't spend was money in our pockets. We sold/gave away a lot of stuff (including one of our cars), hired a team of guys to cram our stuff into a fractional rental of a trailer (using this service, for those interested), then piled what was left into my car and started driving west. Four days in the car with two humans and three cats (two heavily medicated, one hairless) was an adventure, but we made it. So far, the payoff has been good. San Diego is, by and large, a much better place to live than the Midwest (this is even easier to write in late December).
What else stands out from 2017?
I spent a lot of time in hotels this year. According to my desk calendar, I spent more than three months out of the year (93 days!) living in a hotel room or otherwise on the road. Pro road warriors might scoff at this number, but it's a lot for a cube drone like me. A big part of it, probably half, was spent in temporary housing in San Diego while we looked for a place to live. I also took work trips to Boston, Chicago and Hawaii, while personal trips to Sacramento, Italy, Greece, Chicago (again!) and North Carolina also added to the total. It was tiring, as all travel is once it passes a certain threshold. Amazingly, Susan made an additional half-dozen trips for work, so she's got me beat in the days-on-the-road department.
Another big one: Four months ago, I converted to being a part-time employee. I now work "only" three days per week, basically the minimum amount I could negotiate. This has been a long time in coming; it was a tense process to secure this reduced schedule (all slaves must row FULL TIME, right?), but it came through in the end. Like the move to San Diego, so far the new schedule has been good; after being slowly ground down by the inexorable forces of Corporate America over many years, the extra time off is a welcome relief. The move to part-time was accompanied by an assignment shuffling that mostly removed me from the laboratory and put me into what scientists call a "business job". I've settled into the new role reasonably well; we'll see how things go in 2018 and possibly beyond.
The other big thing relates to this newfound free time: what have I been doing with those extra free hours? I've made no bones that one of my priorities was to increase my rate of writing production and delve into more challenging projects. This has gone... just OK. Honestly, I needed some time following the transition to regain a more robust state of mental health, which turned out to be several months. During this period, my all-around output was pretty low. However, I've bounced back and my writing is on the upswing. Most notably, I've put out a longer work that I've published serially here (Where The Cats Pee), which is essentially one of my longer, more involved stories about my living situation during one ill-fated summer many years ago.
I'm also working on other, more complicated things behind the scenes. This means, of course, a full book. This will be the fourth book I'll have completed; in addition to Ultra-Fat to Ultra-Fit, I wrote a tome about my experiences in graduate school (The Ivory Asylum) and a murder mystery (The Magic Bullet). Both of these have never left my desk drawer. Now I'm writing something that I think of as The Martian set in a lab.
Four books written to one book released is a terrible ratio. It behooves me to ask just why I've done nothing to put any of it out there. I USED to have a reason - early in my corporate career, I was concerned that having a profile could cause me problems - maybe people would think that I wasn't a TEAM PLAYER who lived and breathed the corporate mission. Fortunately, I don't care so much what corporate command thinks of me these days (and, for the record, my career hasn't exactly suffered following this transition). That, combined with the fact that making money is no longer such an important driver, frees me up a good bit. Regardless of how things play out, I need to transition into becoming more aggressive in putting my work out there. In 2016, when I started this site, I wanted to write. I continued this into 2017, showing (to myself, at least) that I could sustain it. Now, in 2018, it's time to take it forward and start putting my stuff out there even more. I suppose that could loosely be thought of as a resolution.
I'm also out to have a ton of FUN next year. With less work responsibilities (and hours), there's more time to try new things, test out new hobbies, and go to new places - I have plans for some really fun trips, starting with the Sundance Film Festival next month. Seeing new artists and ideas always juices me up with creative notions and ideas of my own, hopefully jumpstarting some big things. I'm also hoping to perhaps make some contacts with filmmakers as a scientific consultant (Sundance has forums to facilitate this sort of interaction). Also on the front burner is a big international trip (location TBD) and, in December, my third Ironman triathlon.
Hope everyone's 2018 is excellent.
Noah's Inner Monologue
Scribblings of a man who can barely operate an idiotproof website.