We travel not for trafficking alone:
By hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned:
For lust of knowing what should not be known,
We make the Golden Journey to Samarkand.
— James Elroy Flecker, 1884-1915
The last two weeks have felt like an anxious countdown to departure, and yesterday I managed to tie up most loose ends and get started packing. After years of getting f’ed by Turkish Airlines, I can confidently say I will probably not make it to my destination on the flights I actually booked: BUT, I will be more prepared, with a change of clothes in my carry-on, a yak wool blanket, deodorant and toothpaste. At this point I’d bet money on being stuck in Istanbul for 12 hours minimum, and if I manage to make my connecting flight, I’m sure my luggage will not: a 3h layover has been gradually whittled down to 55 min, thanks to their constant schedule changes. I have 2.5 days of buffer in Tashkent to sort out whatever frustrations unfold en route.
I have had a lot going on, and I mean a lot. I have been dutifully frequenting both gyms, and will have 7 sessions behind me with my trainer before I leave (I have one more 7am on Tuesday). I am 1/3 of the way through this UX specialization program in one month, which puts me on pace to finish a 9-month program in 3 (technically 2.5, but I am not taking my computer with me on this trip so there is a two-week delay). My company has reinforced their hybrid policy, which doesn’t change a ton for me/my team other than I see my boss more and we go in two extra days a month. I have been showing up to lift at 7am, coming home to shower and get ready and bomb out of my house in 25 minutes to get to the office. On days I don’t do that, I do UX coursework.
We have said farewell to our two promotees, and I’ve backfilled one of my open roles. The team has business review presentations Monday/Tuesday, and the first iterations were not great, so that has taken a lot of my time. Last week was also our compensation review period, and I received a significant increase compared to what is the standard for us, as well as a chunk of equity, which is uncommon in non-tech roles. I suspected they may hit me with some kind of compensation increase with a retention aspect; I have been hopping from one retention bonus to another for awhile, and the last one fell off in November. On the plus side, my current plan is to simply transition within the company, so I ain’t mad about it.
I think I can safely say I’ve made up for lost time in the beginning of 2023. This UX certificate and lifting weights are simultaneous challenges for me: the foundations of UX are unlike anything I’ve learned before, so it has required my time and energy to actually listen and think through the information. There is a lot of project work. Typically what I learn is in some way, shape or form related to something else I know, but only now that I am in the compiling user data phase does it smack of market research; the initial course was brand new. My rough timeline is that this is complete by June, and I request that the UX research directors begin building out my 6-month role for the fall (it takes a few months to get the paperwork done and approved). I have a few month margin of error, so I am hoping that by the time my lease is up next summer, I am either in or transitioning to a different role in a different line of business, and perhaps moving again as well. I don’t hate Denver, but I suspect I will have to relocate, and will do so neutrally.
I love my new gym despite the exorbitant cost; I am sore every day and I work hard. My body is learning, I am able to connect to different muscles especially in my shoulders and back that I was unable to prior. I am hoping one of the long-term outcomes is that I manage to pull my knock-knees out a bit. My personal goals were to burn subcutaneous fat (the hyperthyroidism ate some of my muscle mass this time around, and I’ve felt flabbier than usual); to boost my metabolism; to continue to take steps to fortify my immune system against autoimmunity. My trainer has a degree in biochem, and is the perfect person to help me accomplish this. I love every moment of this experience. I see this as a long-term investment in my health, and I have 1 year and 3 months to hit the “best shape of my life” before I turn 40. I’m on my way.
Before I began going to Vital, I came across Joe Rogan’s podcast with David Goggins from last winter (I have been slow on my podcast game as I have been reading a lot). I respect the shit out of Goggins, I had read his first book last summer and am working on his new one; he is a bit too much in that he does not believe in rest or vacation and wants to be cranked up to 11 100% of the time, which to me is not sustainable and aggravates my immune system. The podcast is hilarious, and amazing: there is a part of it where he explains that being happy is easy – everyone knows how to do that – he, on the other hand, studies the dark, and that really stopped me dead in my tracks. That was one of the most relatable things I had heard in a long time, and I’ve really been reflecting on the fact that from a period of time a few years after graduating college, and especially throughout my time in Alaska, I have been systematically extracting all of the dark, shitty things inside me to contend with them. It’s often been a hard road, but it’s given me bottomless mettle and self-confidence in my ability to weather any storm. I’ve also thought a lot about how the people I encounter at this gym are the kinds of people I want in my life: people who push themselves constantly, and challenge themselves to be better, who are willing to face the music. People who are never finished becoming the best version(s) of themselves. How can I use this to further improve my quality of life, and that of others? A girl on my team recently told me that me being open about everything I’m doing has inspired her to rejoin Crossfit, as she couldn’t get started. That off-hand comment really meant a lot to me, that is the kind of shit I want more of in my life. I think it took me a long time to get into a good clip here in Denver, but I am definitely there now after a gradual upswing.
Matt also came down from Anchorage for a few days after returning from Djibouti, so we hit two excellent restaurants in town, and it was so, so nice to have him here. I’m not sure I will end up making a ton of close friends here in Colorado, and that’s fine with me, but I am really pleased that I’ve had so much time with my out of state friends. I am really looking forward to getting back to AK for a few days as well: I expect to propose to Di we go on at least two soul-crushing hikes, one being Bird Ridge, which I absolutely hate, because there are hours of false peaks along the way. I may also opt to re-do the Alyeska Flake, though it’s unlikely we’ll be able to get up that high with so much spring snow; we’ll see what we can do. The last time I did that hike, I did it in a fasted state and my quads gave out on the way down which was a total pain in the ass and delayed us significantly. The prospect of having a few days with two of my favorite people back in AK is really exciting. Toward the end of June, another friend is coming down from Juneau to hit the Emperor show with me in Dallas and hang for a few days. Feeling pretty grateful.
After a month of Seed probiotics, I also have experienced some interesting effects (good, bad and weird). The first few weeks, I had completely bizarre, vivid dreams, which is a known side effect of your gut flora changing. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this: it is another costly endeavor, and I was on the fence as I have a pretty healthy microbiome and have always consumed probiotic supplements and foods. I think my favorite outcome is that my teeth are whiter, or stay whiter: I have been whitening my teeth weekly for a few years now, due to a diet heavy in black coffee, black tea and red wine: I have whitened my teeth once since I began taking this supplement, and that was simply to see if I could get them even whiter. Apparently Seed has contains a probiotic strain that kills the bacteria that creates dental plaque, and that is pretty freakin’ cool. I also have completely lost my sweet tooth for the first time in my life… I am not a cake or donut person, but I do like sour candy and tart things, though I don’t partake often. I have no interest whatsoever these days.
I think that’s about it for me – I have knocked out a number of books this month as well, though a few are in progress. I got through The Looming Tower, which was an unbelievably well-researched book about the lead-up to 9/11 and the pissing contest between the FBI and CIA around Osama bin Laden, as well as the life of John O’Neill, who warned the US for years and years only to die in the WTC. Hulu created a miniseries based on the book which was also very good, so I got through that.
I am also finishing Murder in Samarkand, which is another great read, although it was difficult for me to find a copy. The book was written by a British ambassador and contains quite a bit of presumably confidential or semi-confidential information, so it seems to have been scrubbed from a lot of locations. Murray is highly critical of US and UK foreign policy toward Uzbekistan and the overlooking of gruesome human rights violations in return for UZ providing a jumping-off point to assist in the War on Terror. After reading a few more recent books about Uzbekistan, I am curious about how or why this country is the only one this travel company serves; I am not convinced it has lost its penchant for oppression and torture in the years between this book and present.
I will have to return all of my library books before I leave and will have to check a few of them out again in May; I am only home for 6 days in April between UZ and Atlanta, so it’s not going to happen. I am currently working on Tim Snyder’s The Road to Unfreedom, and Goggins’ Never Finished. I will do my best during this trip to not think about the fact that during my 6 days home, I will have to complete my own quarterly self-review, then conduct 7 of them for my direct reports, have two lifting days minimum, get organized and then head off to Atlanta to see Juan for what will likely be the last time before he moves back to Stanford. Life is hectic, but life is good.