Wednesday, January 31, 2018

2017, A Year in Review: Is that a New Year in Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Happy to See Me

Of all the years that have ever been, 2017 was certainly one of them. Not to sell 2017 short. Well, kinda, I guess. It was relatively harmless, and not particularly earth-shattering. I suppose that's the kind of banal sort of back-handed platitude that's as meaningless as it is uninspiring, but it has the benefit of being true. Personally speaking, 2017 represented a slight upward trend; as for the international sociopolitical trend, well, I will expound on that at another time, but needless to say our neighbours to the south in the grand old US of A seem to have gone off the rails a bit.

Maybe it's the slow grind towards middle age, but as the years go by, I can't help but feel a little bit of Groundhog Day syndrome, where it feels like I'm stuck living the same year over and over again to a certain extent. I suppose 2017 is what I might term a baseline year, in that nothing truly extraordinary was added to my own personal history, but it is necessary to help establish a point of reference against which to weigh future experiences.

So once again, I will raise the metaphorical glass and tip the metaphorical hat to a year gone by. 2017 did some heavy lifting; she deserves her retirement.

The Fast and The Furious or The Safe and the Practical

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we had to say goodbye to a certain automotive member of the family this year. For financial more than sentimental reasons, we were hoping to hang on to our old car for another year, but alas, it was not to be. The circle of automobile life is sometimes beautiful, sometimes harsh, but always as unyielding as its biological counterpart. As it turned out, the old girl's breaks were shot, and honestly after a cost-benefit analysis, we didn't want to - as one salesman put it - "throw good money after bad."

Car shopping is as consistently as shitty as I remember it being. Even after finding the new car that we wanted, it still took a week or more after we brought her home for me to actually start enjoying the new ride. We ultimately ended up getting what we wanted, though it cost us maybe a little more than we had anticipated adding to the monthly budget for the next five to seven years. But what the fuck, my wife and I wanted to get what we wanted to get (which ended up being a Kia Sorento, our foray into the midsize SUV bracket, a suburban milestone if ever there was one) and didn't want to be limited by silly things like our actual budget or fiduciary responsibility.

Climbing the Proverbial Corporate Ladder

2017 was kind of a landmark year for me career-wise. In January, I started work at a new company, and almost immediately it became apparent that I was as poor a fit for the job and company as they were to me. I thought it was just the usual growing pains associated with starting a new job, but I very quickly realized that there was no way I was going to survive emotionally or psychologically if I continued down that path. I had a bit of a professional epiphany that even as I, as a new employee, was on probation with my employer, so were they on probation with me. 

So not even three months on at what was supposed to be my new dream gig, I was put in the awkward position of tendering my resignation about a week before my probation period was up. It was the kind of stressful predicament that I suppose self-help gurus and Oprah special guests would refer to as "character building." That may well have been, but it was also a hot fucking mess, emotionally speaking. Everyone was cordial enough as I left, but I could tell that the relief I felt on that last day as I wound up literally running to my car as soon as I was out of sight from my now former-employer was more than mutual.

As it turned out, it actually all was for the best, as I ended up in a new job in a different industry that actually turned out to be a lot awesomer. I also ended up on a team better suited to my particular talents and vocational proclivities, and also with better benefits and pay, so I've got that going for me, which is pretty nice.

Frank's 55-Inch TV

In keeping with the materialistic theme that seems to be cropping up in this post, I have to mention the Boxing Day acquisition of a new TV. Nothing crazy. It's an RCA, so it's not exactly top of the line, but it's a 55-inch 4K TV for under four hundred Canadian dollars, you can't go wrong. Or maybe you can. I don't know, you're free to make your own mistakes.

As a registered cinephile, I'v been consistently trying to up my small screen game in a continual effort to bridge that gap between watching movies and experiencing them. Of course, that battle is usually tempered by budget, which means I currently have to pick my investments carefully. No complaints so far. I was able to set up a nice little cinema zone in the basement, far away from the prying eyes and annoying complaints of semi-sleeping children. As an added bonus, my wife is now happy that the main floor living room is free of video games and my son's and my joint collection of Disney Infinity figures (that cancellation still stings a bit...). That's a whole load of stress alleviated in one fell swoop. Who says that money can't buy happiness? Look at this smile baby. Ear to ear.

I Keep Getting Older, They Definitely Do Not Stay the Same Age

Watching my kids grow up is kind of bittersweet. Caught up in the rat-race of modern suburban life and my own bullshit, I find myself mentally glossing over huge swaths of my childrens' childhoods purely as a matter of psychological survival. I know I'm guilty of not being as present as I should be in their lives all the time, but I wanted to go on the record and acknowledge those moments that pass like sand through an hour glass in these days of their lives.

My son and I have become partners in video games. We went through a huge Disney Infinity phase, until Disney cancelled the shit out of that game series. Then for a while we were hooked on Lego Marvel Superheroes. Currently, we're building a city in Minecraft. It's nice where he's old enough where we can both be playing and I don't have to essentially play for both of us. He even finished his first airship in Super Mario Bros. 3 with no assistance. They grow up so fast.

In addition to the necessary mastery of the electronic gaming arts, my son also tried his hand at some real-world sports. He gave lacrosse a go, though he didn't like it enough to want to play again this year. It was bizarre; he finally got the chance to experience a social scenario where it's OK and even encouraged to hit other people, and he just wouldn't go for it. He's also back at soccer (third time's a charm), and I was really surprised to be able to say that my kid isn't the worst player on the entire team. It's a nice change of pace. He's a fan of defence, and does a good job of it. Then two weeks ago, he actually scored a goal. Real Madrid, here we come!

In 2017, my daughter discovered her love of horses, because of course she would pick the most expensive hobby. She had one week of summer camp with horseback riding, and she fell in love. Now all of her toys--as well as her hopes and dreams--revolve around horses. My wife and I are still trying to figure out a financially feasible way to get her back in the saddle. It's not that easy for us upper-lower-middle class folk.

My daughter also developed a greater love of writing, though to what extent that is an extension of her father's dream remains to be seen. We did end up writing a play together, and we started writing novels during NaNoWriMo, but we'll see if her enthusiasm can withstand the test of time and the cynicism of adolescence. It'd be kind of neat to have my daughter accept her Pulitzer Prize and talk about the time she spent writing with her father as a child as her inspiration. But, motherfucker, I would be torn between being proud as hell and pissed as fuck if my daughter achieved my dream before I do. (Not the Pulitzer, but success in writing in general. Wait, does the Pulitzer come with a cash prize...)

And You Get a Camping Trip, And YOU Get a Camping Trip

This is getting repetitive based on my reflections on years past, but we had a good year for camping with--I believe--a record number of camping trips. That could have been 2016 as well. The sad thing is that historians may never know.

Every year, we upgrade our gear just a little bit on our way to achieve Maximum Camping. It's a nice chance to get away, drink some beers, hang out at the beach, and play with fire in a socially acceptable way. This year, I also mastered my packing abilities, and we were able to fit all of our gear in the back of our Rav 4 without having to attach the secondary storage (really heavy duty storage sack) container on the roof rack, which is a huge pain in the ass. We also strategized a bit and cut down the size and amount of our gear. It's the little things in life.

This year we also improved upon the one element that our family has found to be essential to the camping experience: hammocks. Motherfucking hammocks, man. There's nothing quite so relaxing than being out in the middle(-ish) of the woods relaxing in a fabric sack suspended between two trees. We doubled our hammock supply (so, two now) to help maximize camping pleasure. One of the key components to choosing a campsite now is the availability of trees that are both large enough and in perfect proximity to dangle from.

Batten Down the Hatches

OK, so 2017 was definitely not a landmark year for me, since I'm now down to documenting how we replaced our basement windows. Fuck, it's boring adult shit, but I can sleep better at night knowing that there are now three less potential major routes of leakage into my house. It's practical and exactly zero fun. 

OK, I can see that this post has run out of steam, so I'm going to call it right here. 2017 will serve as a nice placeholder year. As Randal Graves might put it

"Sooner or later, I’ll do something with myself and make my mark, but until then whatever I do is not a waste of time, it’s all building towards something."

It's a good way to sum up my 2017: not the main show itself, simply part of the build-up.



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