Our first year married

Last week, Ruth and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. We bought tickets to see the musical, Aladdin, which is something we normally wouldn’t do. In fact, we had a long conversation where we hemmed and hawed. Should we? Is it too expensive? We also toyed with the idea of saving up and seeing Anastasia on Broadway. Ultimately, Ruth decided we should just go for it, since our natural inclination is to put things off, especially things we’ve deemed “impractical.”

It was a wonderful evening together. It felt nice to do something special for our anniversary. I’m definitely the type of person who undervalues ceremony. “One day doesn’t matter as much as the other 364 days in between,” I tell myself. And yes, a single day does matter. It’s the marriage that matters. But an anniversary is about pausing to reflect on the past year. Consider the storms you’ve weathered and the calm waters you sailed through.

Some of my favorite memories of the past year:

  • going on many walks around the neighborhood
  • reaching many milestones, including finishing my bootcamp and her kicking butt with the GRE
  • thinking up potential baby names for our future kiddo
  • so much laughter
  • sharing turtle sundaes from our favorite ice cream parlor
  • going to Disney World for our honeymoon
  • Ruth losing her wedding band a few months into our marriage
  • our first Christmas as wife and wife
  • getting to say “my wife” as often as possible
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Travel Induced Ramblings

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Last weekend I went on a trip with my brother to St. Louis to see the eclipse. We explored the zoo, climbed around the City Museum, and visited the Gateway Arch. On Monday we walked around a sculpture park and viewed totality from a clearing in the woods. It was probably the best trip I’ve been on in years, but my favorite part by far was the ten or so hours I spent in the car talking with my brother.

Over the course of the weekend, our conversations covered a variety of topics, from conservation to politics to space flight to life goals. I learned about the different ways we experienced our shared past, as well as aspirations I had never heard him talk about before. Looking back at that weekend, I am reminded of how important it is to occasionally step out of your routine. At this point in our lives, I think we’re both happy in our personal lives but unhappy with our careers. It’s so easy to get stuck in your day-to-day routine of work-errands-sleep-repeat. This one small trip made me realize how narrow my life view is becoming, the absolute wealth of possibilities that exists just outside of my quotidian vision. It’s something that used to scare me: the prospect of becoming an adult so accepting of the monotony of life that I ceased to question things.

My philosophizing is beginning to sound like an existential crisis. Really, it feels like the opposite. I’m reminded how important it is to be intentional in how I live my life. Too often I let my actions and time be dictated by who/where I am now, rather than who/where I want to be. Prioritizing matters. Who knew??

Is this too vague? Probably. That’s already a pattern in my posts. Oh well.

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That’s how many books I’ve read this year towards my Goodreads count.

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I’ve read a few more books than that, but they were cheesy romance novels, which I don’t count. There are a few reasons contributing to my lack of reading:

  • coding bootcamp – I was regularly doing 14 hours days of classes and studying. There wasn’t much time for reading, and when I did read, it was usually fluffy novels. They’re quick and require little thought. They’re also easy to start and stop.
  • job search – the process of finding a job is incredibly demoralizing. It was a fight to open my laptop and apply for jobs. Most of my time was completing Buzzfeed quizzes to avoid life
  • starting a new job – guys, despite the joy and elation that is getting hired for a job that you’ve spend over half a year working towards, it’s still exhausting. My first couple weeks left my brain scrambled and I was exhausted.

But I love reading. I remember devouring books as a child. But somewhere along the way, books become a source of stress and pressure for me. I would have all these books I meant to read or had started, but was making little progress in.

So I’ve decided to reread all the books I own. There aren’t that many because I’ve pared down my collection. (My books are only the first shelf – the rest are Ruth’s).

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I’m hoping that this will ease me back into reading and help develop a better habit of reaching for a book in moments of stress or boredom, instead of my phone.

My first book is Persuasion, my favorite Jane Austen novel. I’ll follow up when I finish the book with my thoughts and reflection.

Anxiety and Committing to Living My Life

When going to therapy, I learned about ACT: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. In a sentence, it’s about accepting the fact that I have anxiety, but committing my life and behavior to aligning with my values.

The whole point of the bucket list was to embrace the fact that our life is now. It’s not after we finish grad school or pay off our student loans or save up to buy a house or get a promotion at work. We’re living our life now and the things we hope to do one day won’t happen unless we commit to it.

So lasts week, we trekked downtown to see a performance at Millennium Park. I could feel my anxiety building, which happens when our usual routine is disturbed. What if it’s too hot and I’m uncomfortable and start snapping at Ruth? What if I get hungry and have to spend money on overprice food? What if the crowd is huge and there’s no space for us to sit? (Crowds is a major source of anxiety for me) What if I don’t enjoy myself and Even is disappointed?

So many what ifs?

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Here’s the photo I took at the park. There were some major hiccups on our way there, but we did it! We did it because we’re committing to living a life not held back by fear.

Moderation and Self-Care

The older I get, the more consistency and moderation seem to be the keys to a happy, well-adjusted life. Unfortunately, those aren’t really my strong points. I often worry I only have two settings: either way-too-laid-back or pushing-myself-way-too-hard. I tend to oscillate between the two, sometimes within the same day.

In case you’re getting lost in my cloud of ambiguity, I’ll try to offer at least one concrete example. I love to-do lists. Christine loves to-do apps, but I love to-do lists. I use them as a sort of disorganized mind-dump. Typically, I never even reference them after writing them down. The act of writing them out is usually enough for me to mentally organize my life.  I write them all over the place: notebooks, napkins, on backs of receipts and envelopes, the corners of crossword puzzles. This habit comes in phases though. The times I have energy, I write list after list, packing my free time with errands and chores. Then, I inevitably burn out and and spend a week exhausted and unmotivated, planning nothing, doing everything only when it absolutely needs to get done. Eventually, I regroup and repeatedly kick myself until I start a new list, and the cycle continues.

I do consider myself a competent person. I get everything done that needs done. But ultimately, I want to better about self-care. I want to be aware of my personal needs, when I need to rest or slow down. I want to learn to listen to my body when it tells me I’m pushing too hard, rather than only realizing it the next morning when I wake up sore and in pain. I want to stop viewing my health as an obstacle, something to put on the back burner in pursuit of all of my other goals.

I’m not sure how to fit that in a concise bucket list bullet point, but there it is.

The Forest

When I think of our relationship habits, the one thing we do consistently is financial planning. At least once every two weeks (often several times a week) we sit down with our budget together. We look over our spending, talk about upcoming life changes, and evaluate our priorities. Over our years together, these planning sessions have turned into much more than crunching the numbers. They’ve given us the space to compromise and communicate. They’ve pushed us to be intentional with our resources, to evaluate what exactly it is that we are doing with our money, time, and energy. And, every once in a while, we’ll have a mind-blowing insight into our lives as a result. In the middle of our last one, my wife made an astute observation. She said “We’re right on track.”

About eight months ago, we made a one-year plan together. Then, the goals we put down seemed impossible: Christine wanted to quit her job, get accepted into a bootcamp, and get a new job in a completely different industry. I wanted to work, take prereqs, volunteer, ace the GRE and get accepted into grad school. Our plan was to live off my (very meager) salary until she got a job. At the time, we were certain we would crash and fail (or at the very least burn out). Now, eight months later, Christine is right: we’re right on track with our plan.

I’ve been working on a crafting project the past couple months. I keep putting it down and picking it back up again. It’s something simple: a circle of French knots radiating outwards. Just simple enough for me to obsess. Every time I make a knot, a small part of me is certain that I’ve ruined it. They’re too lopsided, too sloppy, too close together. But each time I pick it back up again, I love it. It just takes stepping away to see the forest rather than the trees. That’s how I feel with life right now. I’m doing a juggling act: two jobs, volunteering, classes, GRE, grad school applications, family stuff. And every day it all feels on the verge of failing. But Christine’s right (as always): we’re on track. We’re doing this. I just need to remember to step back and see the forest.

Finding a job as a developer: going from social work to programming

Good news – I’m able to mark our first item off our bucket list: find a coding job.

I graduated with a degree in sociology in 2011, then to grad school for a year. Afterwards I was utterly lost. No one in my family had ever gone to college, but their dream was always for me to go. I jokingly tell people that my family thinks that all I have to do is show up someplace with my degree and I get a job. It was a slap in the face when I applied for a few months with no luck.

I hopped around from dead-end job to dead-end job. Eventually, after volunteering at a nonprofit, I got a job as an AmeriCorps member, then full-time staff. The work I did was varied, but after nearly three years there, I left for a few reasons. I didn’t feel the agency was living up to its mission and the clients were the ones getting hurt. I couldn’t abide by that. Also, in that time, I got married and started thinking about my future. The life I wanted to provide for my wife and future family wasn’t going to be possible on social work salary.

I decided to explore my options and ultimately focused on technology. I took some online and evening classes to figure out – do I even like coding? Am I good at it? Could I make a career out of it?

After much research, I decided on Fullstack Academy. After three months of intense work, I completed the program on April 7 and was job searching ever since.

There were days I was sure I had made a terrible mistake. I quit my job – I could have been making money, instead of  scrimping to get by. No one was ever going to hire me. I was a fraud. These were all things the wife heard on multiple occasions. But the sweetheart she is, she encouraged and motivated me to keep moving forward.

I received the official offer a few days ago and I still can’t believe it happened! I’ll be receiving a substantial pay bump and working at an awesome company with good benefits. The type of stable job I could stick around for a while.

I just hope I savor this feeling – it took over 6 months to get here, and I put in a lot of time, effort, and money. But I had a goal – to get a job by July 1st, and here I am, a few days short, and I did it. I want to remember this feeling the next time I take a leap of faith and try something. I want to remember this feeling of accomplishing my goal. And really, that was the spirit and motivation of this whole blog in the first place. To go live life and really, truly experience it. To visualize what we want and to then make it happen.