2019 turned out to be a tumultuous year. I looked back on 2018 well, and looked forward to 2019 with a lot of optimism. In early January, it really felt like a lot of things were settling into place. I started to form a plan, and it shows in my review of 2018.
I wrote and rewrote the beginning of this review a handful of times, but inevitably there’s only one place to start…
March 28, 2019
“I don’t think I want to do this anymore,” is how she greeted me that morning, mere seconds after the alarm on my wrist gently nudged me awake. Confused, I asked, “Do what?”
The reply came: “This. Us.”
And at first it felt fake. I mean, we’d been talking for a couple months through some issues in our relationship. The whole series of events actually started near the end of January. But to actually call things off? Here? Now? It took a few minutes for it to sink in. About an hour of talking later, she had bags packed for her parents house. I was going to work.
The hour commute on the subway was a blur. I eventually made my way to my desk. And seconds after arriving asked my boss if we could talk. We took a seat and I finally gave life to the dreadful event that had just occurred: “Tia and I broke up this morning.”
Reality fell on me like a ton of bricks with that one sentence. I had to tell my boss, because someone needed to know what I was dealing with. I also just wanted to tell him. I leaned on him for support for quite a while after the breakup, and I’m very grateful he was there for me. But on the day it happened, I told just one other person at work: our COO. I’m not totally sure why I chose her as the other person to tell, but it felt right. And she too was incredibly supportive.
I told a few of my really close friends that day. I don’t remember when I told my parents. That day? The next day? A few days later? I honestly can’t keep track. What I do recall is telling my dad and him saying, “I thought you’d have another announcement regarding you and Tia soon.” Me too, Dad. Me too. People had been asking me. In my mind I thought if 2019 continued to go well for us, that I’d be asking her to marry me sometime in the fall. Part of my 2019 plan was to figure out how to save for both retirement and an engagement ring.
But that night I went home to an empty apartment. And I felt more alone than I ever have in one of the world’s largest cities.
The Weeks That Followed
She came to move her stuff out that Sunday. I helped her pack a little. When I ran out of things to do I walked a few blocks to Starbucks and tried to choke down a coffee. I texted one of my best friends for 2 hours while I sat there. I got the all clear and walked back to the apartment, the empty spaces where her furniture used to reside now mocking me. I went back out to Target and bought a new lamp and a hamper. Small items, but they filled a little space. Tiny symbolic victories in what would turn out to be a long slog to reclaim this apartment as my space when it used to be our space.
On April 3rd, at 10:42pm I sent an email to the entire company. We’re a small group, maybe 20 of us at the time, and we’re close. So I sent an email to everyone with the subject line: “Just a Note From Me to You.” It was pretty brief, but I explained what happened. For a few people, it was maybe their 3rd day on the job when they opened this email and they didn’t really know who I was. But by that day I’d grown really tired of pretending to be okay at work. I needed to let it out, and if I was in a rough mood I needed people to know why. So I told them all. The outpouring of support I received from my coworkers was, to say the least, astonishing. To know that they all had my back not just on the job but personally helped me feel a lot less alone. Just when I thought I couldn’t love my job any more than I already did, they proved me wrong.
The following weekend, my old college roommate Sunny came to visit. I dragged him on a hike with some of my coworkers and I learned he’s physically incapable of walking up or down a mountain with any ounce of confidence and has zero shame about the situation. The picture of him laying spread eagle on a rock at maybe a 25 degree angle will forever be funny to me. But he had dropped everything and came to NYC for me, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Shortly thereafter was my birthday, a day in which my coworkers also really showed up for me, trolling me with many an Amazon-themed joke, owing to my tendency to rant about how Jeff Bezos is not a good dude. I went to dinner with a few of them, and a live recording of How I Built This - an excellent podcast from NPR (it was the Peloton episode!). All in all a good birthday during some of the roughest weeks of my adult life.
A few days after my birthday, my mom came to visit NYC. I took the week off from work and she and I played tourist. We did a lot! A trip to the zoo, the museum, we saw a movie, toured a chocolate factory, ate some incredible BBQ, played a kickball game on my company’s intramural team, went to a super divey dive bar, caught a performance of Puff’s and probably more I can’t recall as I write this. It was an awesome week.
Mixed with all this support and fun events was some ongoing conversation with Tia. We discussed the possibility of taking some time just separated, to work on ourselves and things we agreed needed to be resolved in the relationship. But after thinking it over for a week she changed her mind. Despite all the conversation, despite acknowledging issues and despite agreeing some could be fixed, she ultimately felt she’d be asking me to change too much, no matter how I disagreed. She kept insisting she had a “gut feeling” our relationship wasn’t right. And she didn’t want to try to fix it.
We dated for two years in college and originally broke up over bad timing. A year and a half later, we decided the timing was better and started dating again to give things another try. Six months after, that I gave up my pretty-well-established life in Rochester to be with her. We lived together for a year and a half in New York City. All told, we’d been back together for another two years. We’d spent a lot of time together, watching each other grow in some pretty critical stages of adulthood. We knew each other dangerously well by now. But when things finally got difficult, she chose her gut over me.
When she changed her mind about trying to fix anything, something changed in me. I felt like I tried everything I reasonably could. There was nothing I could do. How do you argue with someone who can only describe their decision as being based on a “gut feeling” they aren’t willing to get to the bottom of? It was then I decided that I really deserved better. I deserved to be with someone who’s willing to try everything to save something they insist is still good. Someone who wants to get to the bottom of a “gut feeling” that something is off. Someone who won’t hide that kind of doubt for over a year before dropping a bomb on what was starting to seem like a sure thing.
As people asked me about it throughout the year, only one phrase has stuck with me as a consistent descriptor for how I ultimately feel about what happened: “Unparalleled disappointment.” I have never been so disappointed in my life. To have wanted a thing so badly. To have someone tell me to my face that thing is good but they don’t want to save it. That sort of disappointment is, fortunately, rare. But man, does it linger. The sadness would pass. The loneliness too. But right now it still feels like I will spend my entire life being disappointed by what happened. I still go back and forth over whether or not that’s a bad thing.
What I do know, is that the events of March 28th and the weeks that followed loomed over me for just about the remainder of the year. A few weeks after having my I-deserve-better epiphany I started online dating. It was, I had thought, a little soon, but high on my new attitude I went ahead and started dating anyway. When those efforts finally led to what seemed like a promising relationship, the specter of my relationship with Tia ultimately destroyed the budding partnership. I ended up doing precisely the thing that had happened to me: I hid how I felt from her for a month, which caused a series of cascading issues that made us call it all off. Having hurt someone in the same way I’d been hurt earlier this year was another major low point for me. In a gesture of extreme grace, she chose to forgive me a few weeks later, and we decided to remain friends - something I’m happy to report is still true. But this short-lived relationship serves as the best example of how most major events of my year were experienced: they were great, until tainted by bitter feelings I couldn’t quite let go of.
But that smaller breakup in October was helpful in serving as a wakeup call. The conversations she and I had regarding just where our 2-month relationship went wrong proved instrumental in finally beginning to put the big breakup behind me. I had deluded myself into thinking I was ready to be in another serious relationship, so when the new one collapsed I began confronting more of the residual anger and sadness about it all. As 2019 comes to a close, I’m finding myself more at peace with the breakup with Tia. I re-read my thoughts from earlier in the year about the concept of home, which I captured in this blog post. Reminding myself of everything else I have to show for moving to New York definitely helps. I regret that it took hurting someone to get to where I’m at, but with the shadow cast by March 28th finally fading, it’s easier to see all the good that happened in 2019.
2019: The Good Parts
While the brutal events of the beginning of the year shaped much of the rest of it, a lot of really good things happened in 2019 also, and it’s worth listing them out. For length (and my own sanity) each event will not get the same deep dive as above, but here’s some good things from the year:
- In February I went on my first international vacation to St. Maarten! I had a blast, relaxing on the beach, snorkeling with sea turtles, parasailing, the day trip to Saba to hike Mt. Scenery, all of it. This was a trip with Tia and her family, and I will forever be grateful I was able to go with them.
- Also in February: I quit Facebook. 2019 really became a year in which I doubled down on some of my values, but a big one is privacy. Facebook’s numerous violations (useful list here), and the general lack of utility it offered me made me say enough is enough. I announced it in a blog post. I haven’t regretted quitting Facebook for a second. I’ll note I am still on Instagram, because I enjoy sharing photos and it’s harder to replace but the same objections should apply to Instagram.
- I tried to start an email newsletter. I’m still calling this good, even though I only wrote 3 newsletters. Between blog posts and this it became a little much to keep up with, but I think I’m going to try to continue it in 2020 (maybe subscribe?).
- I completed another 100 Happy Days challenge on Instagram - this is something I did in college after having stumbled upon it somewhere on the internet. But starting on my birthday, I posted a photo every day of something that made me happy for 100 days in a row. Since I started it a couple weeks after the breakup, it proved invaluable in helping me deal with a period of sadness and I’m really, really, glad I did it. I will probably repeat it in 2020.
- Participated in intramural kickball with ThankView - we took second place in the league and had a hell of a time playing. Really hope we do another sport together in 2020!
- I had multiple visitors in New York: Sunny as well as my mom (both previously mentioned) but also an old friend from high school I hadn’t seen in a couple years. He stayed for a few days at the end of his cross-country tour of every MLB stadium. Went to a couple baseball games with him and had a blast. It was nice to have some visitors for a bit, and I’ve been encouraging more of my friends to come for a stay!
- In May I attended An Event Apart for the 3rd year in a row, this time in Boston! I made a weekend of it and stayed with some old college friends for a couple days as well. It was awesome to catch up with them, and I always find AEA really, really inspiring.
- At the end of May ThankView hired a couple summer interns, one of whom I worked closely with. The experience was really interesting for me - stepping into the role of a mentor for a college student, trying my best to emulate what my mentors did for me as an intern and figuring out what she wanted from the experience. The other intern now works for the company full time, and I’m really glad she joined the team.
- In June we went on our first company retreat. A three-day stay in the Catskills, full of fun activities and bonding. Planning for the 2020 retreat is about to begin and I cannot wait to see where we go next!
- In July I finally upgraded my PC, replacing almost every part. I spend most of my free time gaming, so having a newly upgraded PC to keep playing new games was a really nice treat to myself this summer.
- Also in July I saw Lights for the second time in concert and it was an absolutely wonderful night I shared with one of my coworkers. She’s an amazing performer and I would absolutely see her a third time.
- More generally: I packed the end of summer and early fall with a lot of socializing, and I’m finding that with the right group of people, it’s not quite so exhausting to be social as I once found it to be. I made a sincere effort to say yes to more things post-breakup and I think it paid off big time.
- In the early fall I started working with an old friend of mine doing some freelance web development work for some small businesses in the Rochester, NY area. It’s been a really neat experience and despite it making me extra tired sometimes I hope more projects roll in through 2020!
- In September, I was promoted to Senior Front-End Developer. I was pretty nervous to take on the responsibility, but I’m beginning to settle into it. One of the nice things about loving my job is that after the breakup throwing myself deeper into my work didn’t feel so bad. A lot of the things I had proposed “working on” to Tia in order to improve our relationship also had applications at work, so even if she didn’t want to stick around to see me work on them, I was determined to work on them professionally regardless. As a result, I think I’ve gotten much better about discussing my own performance and feelings with my boss, and this is proving to be a useful skill in my new role. 2019 was a big year for professional development all around, and I have big plans for 2020.
- In October I went to Six Flags not once, but twice. Having never been to Six Flags before this it was awesome. I actually went because they had a massive sale on 2020 season passes which could be used for the end of 2019. The passes have already paid for themselves and I will definitely be going again, because oh man do I love roller coasters.
- Also in October I spent about a week in Seattle visiting Sunny. He moved out there at the end of the summer to start working for Microsoft, so we got the old roommates back together and visited him for a while. Had a really great time, and I’m looking forward to going back to Seattle for more.
- In December I signed a lease on a new apartment in Brooklyn! I’ve been living in the Queens apartment Tia and I moved into together, so to end the year knowing I’ll be moving out and going somewhere else has me very, very excited for what’s ahead in 2020. It feels like something of a fresh start again in New York and I’m thrilled with the possibilities that lie ahead.
2019 By The Numbers
In my monthly reviews I take a look at a range of life stats and compare how they change month over month. Here, I’m comparing how they changed year over year (where possible).
So, let’s quantify 2019:
Odd to see an increase in productivity pulse, but a decrease in average productive time per day… I think this is largely the result of using my computer on days off during times at are technically during my “work hour” filters and forgetting to disable RescueTime. As a result, some days have data (and thus are counted), but there isn’t much productive time logged. The pulse is probably a better look at how I fared, so seeing an increase from 74 to 78 is very nice.
- Productivity pulse of 78 (+4)
- Averaged 4h 23m (-10m) productive time per day
RescueTime Top 5 Categories:
- Software Development (35%)
- Communication & Scheduling (32%)
- Business (8%)
- Utilities (6%)
- Design & Composition (4%)
- Average of 8,173 steps / day (+2.4%)
- Average of 2,218 calories / day (-1.5%)
- Average of 7 hours 15 minutes of sleep / night (+2.1%)
- Ended the year weighing 134.7lbs, a loss of 7.3lbs from the start of the year
- Average body fat percentage of 10.9%
- Average of 220mg of caffeine / day (-10.5%)
- I spent 92.9% of my income
Goals from 2019
At the start of 2019 I set 3 main goals:
- Focus on debt: in 2018 I saved 13% of my income, and wanted to take that safety net I had built, rest on it a bit, and instead put extra money towards paying off my debt. There were 2 loans in particular I wanted to pay off, with a 3rd goal as a stretch goal. This pretty much went out the window when Tia and I broke up. I was no longer splitting many expenses with someone so money got a bit tighter. I did use my tax return to pay off one loan, and I refinanced my private loans a second time to get a lower interest rate so I did make some good progress, but not even close to what I set out to do. I managed to save about 7% of my income in 2019 which I think is still pretty decent, but I only saved that much and didn’t get to make many extra payments on my loans. Not the outcome I really wanted, but overall I think I did okay.
- ”Level Up” My Dev Skills: I completed most of the ES6 course I purchased last year, and I was able to attend An Event Apart again. I did not read nearly enough of the books I own and wanted to read, but pushed myself in other ways when I dove deeper into my work after the breakup. I was promoted to Senior Front-End Developer in September, so overall I think I succeeded in this regard. This is forever an ongoing thing, and I have some specific ideas in mind for what to learn in 2020.
- Read and Write More: In 2018 I only read 1 book. In 2019 I read 4. That’s a really solid improvement, but very far short of my goal of 12 books. I managed to write 2 non-review blog posts in 2019, and wrote a couple issues of my email newsletter, so I think I did write a little more, but not as much as I intended. I hope to do better in 2020.
Goals for 2020
My life taking a huge left turn at the end of March made me rethink a lot of things and I started taking it all one day at a time. Ultimately I think that was helpful. Thinking about 2020, this sort of attitude is something I want to carry forward. Leading into 2019 I was very… comfortable. I was beginning to feel like a lot of things were settled and then all at once they weren’t. I made it through my worst days by pushing myself to do something new; a bit of experimentation in what life in New York is for me on my own.
I said before that moving to a new apartment in Brooklyn feels like something of a fresh start again, and that’s the thinking I’m applying to the big picture this year. My goals all relate to the fresh start experimentation from 2019, either by doubling down on some god things I started doing or by leaning in to doing something new. So, without further ado my 2020 goals:
- Spend 2 weeks alone in Europe: This is the big goal for the year, and frankly if this is the only thing I do all year I’ll feel incredibly accomplished. After having been on my first international trip in 2019, I absolutely want to travel more. I’ve also never traveled anywhere on my own where I didn’t at least meet up with someone I know. I think planning a huge trip and going by myself will be an enlightening experience. At this point I’ve chosen where I’d like to go but have no further specifics decided: London, Italy and Croatia. After I move, I’ll begin planning more earnestly, but I expect to go in September.
- Step Up Healthy Habits: I managed to get back into some healthy habits in 2019. I started yoga classes 2-3 times a week again and while I fell out of them the last couple months of the year, I’d like to get back into going twice a week. I also ran in my first organized race (a 5K), and I’d like to run 5 races this year. I’m also planning to resume the pull-up workouts I used to do in 2017. I finally saw a doctor and a dentist for the first time in 4 or 5 years, so continuing to, you know, take care of myself would be good - 2020 will be the year I finally see a dermatologist again. I also began paying a little closer attention to my diet (to mixed success), and have chosen one thing to improve about my diet for 2020: eat more fiber. In 2019 I averaged just 17.1g of fiber per day - I’m setting a modest goal of increasing that average to 24g.
- Read 20 Books: Last year I wanted to “read more” and I did read more than 2018, but I still have a large backlog of things I want to read and have set a goal in Goodreads to read 20 books this year. I’m going to set aside dedicated reading time each week (literally on my calendar) to make this more likely to happen.
- Work on at least 3 non-work code projects: I’ve been sitting on a few projects for a while and I’d like to finally work on them. I’d like to release an open source project, and I actually made really strong progress on this around Christmas time. I purchased a domain for a project in 2018 and have yet to do anything with it, so I’d like to finally start that this year. And I’ve been saying for an eternity that I want to redo my website, and I think I’m going to redo my blog with a static site generator instead of the PHP-based CMS I use now. For a while I’ve prioritized non-code hobbies and activities but I would like to do a little coding for fun now and then.
2019 was not at all what I expected. I experienced some of the worst days of my adult life, and some of the best. When I thought I was on a stable path, I turned out to be incredibly wrong. And that made 2019 my most introspective I think ever. Because of that, I’ve come out on the other side with a new outlook on what’s next for me. I’ve learned to embrace uncertainty a little more, and I’m prepared to push my boundaries a little more.
I have no idea what 2020 will look like. I’m more okay with that than I thought I would be. I’ve set a few ambitious goals and I’m actually feeling motivated about them. 2019 started out rough, but in the end it started to feel like everything was coming up Josh. With that attitude top of mind, I’m determined to have a better 2020.