Everything Everywhere

January has been a lot. I am feeling much better, which I suppose is the most important part. I managed to take someone else’s canceled endocrinology appointment in mid-Jan (every office I called was booked solid until the end of April, which was pretty nerve-wracking), and it was nice to sit down with someone who didn’t treat me like an idiot. IMG-20230128-WA0005Given my severe lack of sleep and puffy, greying raccoon eyes at that point, I was persuaded to give beta blockers a try, and they have helped a lot. I have always been afraid of this stuff, despite it being one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the Western world. 20mg of propanolol with 2mg of melatonin at bedtime has at least has allowed me to sleep over the past few weeks… and as of a few days ago, I am off both.

Last week I survived a heavy office week with multiple 12h days, and am happy that’s over. Our annual planning session seems to have gone decently enough – far less hectic than last year, although half our group is new, so it takes longer to come to agreement. There is a director position open in my office and I have decided to not apply: I actually informed the hiring manager earlier this week, and he was disappointed, although I suspect part of that is just trying to build the largest pool of applicants possible. I really don’t want to stay in this division beyond this position and I hate all the politics and am tired of feeling like an outlier. I am pretty sick of this org and everything we do; the only interesting part of this role is developing people: one of my people, who I confirmed will be offered a promotion on another team next week, was on the brink of being terminated a year ago. He was difficult to turn around, but I am impressed with him, proud of the outcome of the effort that went into that.

I did receive a performance review this month that was so good it even surprised me: the feedback from my peers and direct reports was extremely flattering and thoughtful, and have been assigned a number of additional responsibilities, which I am actually pretty excited about. There are multiple people on my team that will receive promotions and fly the coop, off to other NORAM-based teams where they will be leads, so there is a lot to be proud of in this year in terms of growing people.

Lately I’ve made a number of connect meetings with people from the UX department and should probably branch out further and see what else is interesting so I have some options; every time I want to leave this company, there is a huge shakeup in tech, complete with mass layoffs. I still plan to take the FSOT in the fall and keep that door open as well.  Regardless, UX may be a fun career to pursue: there is a lot of consumer behavior research and behavioral economics involved, the people I’ve met thus far seem really interesting. I’d hope to retain or return to managing people; I suspected I’d hate coming back into a people manager role, but I have loved it.

What is most exciting about the past few days is that after a month, I finally managed to get back on the stair mill. I’m especially pleased by this as I’ve spent the last few weeks eating approximately twice as much as I normally do, which has freaked me out – before I started doing this, I had dropped 7 lbs in 6 days. Losing weight is great — when you’re doing it on purpose. It’s been a gluttonous month, and I have never been SO big a fan of food that eating in volume is enjoyable in any way. Yesterday, I resumed my standard intensity level with no beta blocker residue and my heart rate stayed within normal range (it leapt to over 200bpm on my last attempt at this in December). I definitely need to get back at it – despite multiple visitors lately, I will be ditching them in the morning to go to the gym. My brutal workouts are an important part of my life and mental health.

February will be great, as well: Juan is visiting twice; I am headed to Chicago for a few days, then my travel-averse bff from New York is grudgingly traveling to Colorado for work, and is spending the week between her two events with ME! She is one of the two people I have trekked back to New York State to see every year: I’m still shocked she’s visiting me. I’ve also got Fleshgod Apocalypse and Rotting Christ playing in my ‘hood in February, so this should be a pretty killer month. I am also hoping My Brilliant Friend season 4 is released on HBO Max… more on that if it does.

Another obstacle to moving too much professionally is life obligations and travel: since my last post, I’ve coughed up $1600 for my Uzbekistan flights and obtained my visa, my parents have booked a Christmas family cruise (yikes) and I’ve been informed by my winter tenants in Alaska that they’ve changed their mind on summer. This is an unanticipated pain in my ass, and will probably fuck up my plans for Myrtle Beach, causing me to fly up to Anchorage for a few days in the middle of when I wanted to be at the beach. The prospect of hoping my house is in OK condition for rental season is truly horrifying, and no one will clean as well as I will… so I will fly up for a few days and get everything squared away. I have years of perfect 5-star reviews (and Superhost status) and I plan to keep that going. It’s not cheap to stay there, and part of the reason is that it’s nice, and everything is spotless.

Tweaking my Airbnb listing this past week really made me miss my little house. It is definitely an occasional source of stress for me living down here, but I make enough money in the summer even with cutting in my housekeeper that it pays for itself. I have some major renovations in the next few years: painting the interior and having my back deck rebuilt. I still am uninterested in selling (especially given the crap stock market outcomes since COVID), and hope in the future it’ll be more convenient for me to go back up there: doing the vacation rental thing in the summer allows for flexibility to visit when I (or friends/family) please, which I like. In a perfect situation, I’d make 1-2 trips up there in a summer and carve out some time to relax: that has not happened yet, as last year I was cleaning up a pigsty and this year I am supposed to be somewhere else. I definitely have learned a lot about the pros and cons of long-term vs short-term vs vacation rental since I’ve owned this place. Part of the sentimentality of that condo is that it’s such a symbol of my own success & prosperity (maybe owning a house where you can see a few glaciers from your kitchen window is not the ultimate dream to everyone, but it was to me). This is how I can spread the wealth.

Speaking of reflecting on my life, I decided I’d like to spend my 40th (or around there) in Mongolia. So I will start planning for that in a few months. The Planet Earth segment (Deserts) with the Bactrian camels eating ice in the Gobi desert has been a go-to in times of stress and anxiety over the years, combined with its status as a Soviet satellite over the years has always been intriguing to me. In the meantime, Uzbekistan is coming up quick; I am really looking forward to that, not least getting away for awhile and being so far it’s pointless to think about work.

In terms of books, in the worse nights of this thyroid episode, I pivoted to an oldie but goodie: Augustine’s Confessions. I can’t really explain why I have always loved this autobiographical religious classic so much; I am not particularly religious, nor do I have much emotion reserved for religious people. On the contrary, I tend to lean the other way, and believe that the Original Sin component of Catholicism is ridiculous and encourages its followers to grow up ashamed of themselves for no apparent reason. Regardless, I have always enjoyed listening to this. Maybe I’m jealous of his piety. Who knows.

My other “comfort audiobook” is Mary Beard’s SPQR, which I often play on planes to help myself doze off. I have listened to this audiobook an embarrassingly high number of times. Apart from the book being excellent, the narrator is also amazing.

I am back to moving through books at a fairly steady clip; I have two long ones I am wrapping up, but I started and finished four this month:

  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion | I passed this onto a guy at work; the information is good but it was repetitive to me. I just read too many of these kinds of books. That said, it’s a bestseller for a reason. I can’t remember why I purchased it in the first place.
  • Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War | zinkyThere doesn’t seem to be much out there about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, 1979-1989. The author got a ton of shit for compiling these testimonials; this war was the Soviets’ Vietnam – and even more gruesome in some ways, in that the government covered so much up, particularly to people whose sons and husbands went to war. I’m finishing her other book, Secondhand Time, currently.
  • The Brothers: The Road to An American Tragedy | I’ve read virtually everything else by Masha Gessen, I figured I’d knock this one out too. I can’t believe how much about the Boston Marathon bombers’ backgrounds was not ever shared by the media; they were not even really Chechen in the way most people think (their father grew up in Kyrgyzstan in a resettled family; their mother was from Dagestan). There’s a lot to say about this book: about the way immigration overlooked their parents’ lies and let them in, the way these two took their new lives for granted, the many parallels between these two fools and kids who end up in gangs. The book is obstructed from search due to random 1-star reviews by people outraged by the event who are also outraged there’s a book about the Tsarnaevs. This is worth the read; there’s nothing particularly illuminating, but there’s a lot more to the story, and the aftermath of their actions has deeply impacted American feelings toward Chechnya, which is another tragedy.
  • The Authenticity Hoax: How We Get Lost Finding Ourselves | athenticity_hoaxI can’t believe I found this book – everyone under 40 should read it, particularly mid-range millennials and under, generation wise. It addresses many of the ridiculous common beliefs in these generations’ culture: the annoyance when something a person likes becomes popular… liking things “before they were cool” — I think first of San Francisco black metal hipsters, but this feeling runs deep in a lot of subcultures… the infectious desire to live “off the grid” and the demonization of civilization (this has been a particularly triggering one for me, as I continue to encounter people who romanticize living this way, and I wonder being that naïve could qualify as a learning disability). The author tackles common causes of millennial depression: life can’t always be interesting. Everything can’t always be new. There’s only so much novelty, and that’s a good thing. There’s a lot of history and philosophy and psychology in there. What the hell is authenticity anyway? What is everyone aiming for when they envision someone who embodies that word? I recommended this to a few friends, and ordered two of his other books. This was very impactful and appropriate, though most of the things my annual existential crisis encompasses are not directly related to authenticity.

That’s it for this month, I suppose. I had some other items to tackle that I’ll get to in February. I saw a meme the other day that said “January was a rough year”… relatable.

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