I’m looking forward to a rock and roll show. Five Iron Frenzy played their very last show at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, Colorado, more than eight years ago and the worst day of my life was hurtling toward me.
When I pulled into the drive out front, I noticed that grass had nearly finished overtaking the gravel that marked where cars were meant to park. I sat in the car for a long time because I didn’t know how to move.
I swang the gate open and walked up the sidewalk and onto the porch to a front door I didn’t know how to address. I felt I had abdicated the right to simply open the door and walk inside. But ringing the doorbell of my grandparents’ house didn’t seem like a more sane option. Luckily, I didn’t have to decide. He called out, “Come in, Jamie,” with all the strength and joy the brace on his neck would allow him to express.
I wonder if he chose to use my name deliberately to discretely signal what was happening to my grandma; she thought he was hallucinating or having some sort of aphasia. She was sitting at the table in the dining room picking through the beans for Monday. We always had beans on Mondays.
I sat next to him for a while and the seconds ticked excruciatingly off the clock, both too slow and way too fucking fast. I don’t remember what we talked about. Since it was Novemeber, we probably talked about how school was going. I probably told him about the trip to Denver, how it snowed while we were there. Since it was Sunday, we probably talked about football. Maybe we talked about how Thanksgiving was coming up and how I’d try to make it back to watch the Packers play the Lions. We liked the Packers and my grandma liked the Lions.
When I finally had to get back in the truck and leave, the pain I had been poorly hiding boiled over. I drove to the end of the street and stopped at the stop sign. I screamed in the silence so hard and loud that I could no longer hear myself. I punished my steering wheel for the injustice and for my own selfish stubbornness. I screamed at God and begged for time. At least Christmas.
My granddad, my hero, died on December 4 and I said the hardest goodbye I’ve ever known four days later.
Some time in 2012, somewhere in Denver, Colorado, Five Iron Frenzy will play their very first show in more than eight years, and I’ll be there. I don’t know what the days after that show will be like, but I know they can’t be as hard.
I’m looking forward to that rock and roll show.
In 2010, I went on my first cruise. (I thought I would hate it but it ended up being one of the funnest I have ever done.) I also went to NSConference and WWDC. It’s always inspiring to be around engineers that are way smarter and way more accomplished than I am.
One of the things I am most proud of from 2010 is the completion of my first Mac application. Eureka will be in the Mac App Store on January 6, but I both started and finished it in 2010.
Oh, and I got a new dog.
What I’ve learned
2010 was one of the toughest years of my life, but at the end of it, I’m a much better person than I was at the beginning. Here are some things I’ve learned:
- Forget about superlatives
Perfectionism is something that I’ve struggled with since I was a kid. When I say perfectionism, I don’t mean the kind of commitment to excellence that you appreciate from folks who make kickass stuff. I mean the kind of debilitating, self-sabotaging self-requirement that says mistakes are not allowed, that you have to be all things to all people all the time. I owe a big thanks in this area to my reading The Now Habit by Neil Fiore.
Here’s what I’ve learned, too. Chances are (and this is OK, by the way) that there’s no aspect of me that is superlative. I used to be the smartest person I knew. Then I went to graduate school and met some ridiculously smart people that cared a helluva lot more than I did. And in my computer science program, there were people like that too.
There have been a lot of things I thought I was superlative. But slowly, one by one, I have been disabused of all of those. What’s dangerous is that if you base your identity on superlatives, you’ll eventually be left with just the shell of an identity when those are stripped away. So, what have I learned to base my identity on? The answer to that is simple: things that don’t change. Being a husband, friend, uncle, son, a software engineer, guitarist, Pez collector, and other things. And what’s left? Getting better at them and helping others get better at their thing too. That’s it.
Keep Your Balance
When I have a decision to make, it’s easy to let a particular emotional component of the situation make me lose perspective. When a new client contacts me with a project, I have a decision to make. If all I think about is the money, I might overlook how additional time commitments might affect my marriage, work, and other deadlines. Even if I manage to keep those things in balance, maybe I’ll have to burn the midnight oil or forego my exercise routine to make it all happen and that could affect my health. This isn’t to say that I won’t still take the project, but when I do I will know it’s a better considered decision that I would likely have made a year ago.
First Person Transitive
Merlin Mann’s been using this phrase for a while and it’s been such a huge help to me. My friend Patrick says it this way, “Don’t worry; do. If there’s nothing to be done, don’t worry.” When I face a problem, I face a simple question: Is there anything I can do about this? If the answer is yes, then get your ass to work. If the answer is no, then accept the state of things and make the best of it. There’s no other option.
In 2011, I have some modest goals:
- Be a supportive and encouraging husband to my awesome wife as she finishes up her medical school prerequisites.
- Write and release at least one more indie code thing. I have several ideas in the pipeline for Mac, iOS, and the web, so we’ll see which one makes it out first.
- Continue getting into better physical condition.
- Slow down and enjoy things better than I did this year.
That’s it. Really those are my goals for 2011. Of course the usual ephemera such as being a good friend and remembering to take out the trash when it’s full, but those are ongoing, unmeasurable things. So, for 2011, my list is four deep. That seems manageable.