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The adventures of 2017

In 2017, I spent a lot of my free time at home watching TV. I also put on about 15 pounds. In so many ways, 2017 was a terrible year.

I watched our country be torn apart by “us vs. them” rhetoric and leadership that has begun dismantling hard-won protections for the most vulnerable members of our society. Racism and religion-based hatred became more normalized. The dull roar of misogyny of our society has been made a move to the forefront of our minds (which is good, but it’s painful and brings up a lot of stuff). Federal support for science and technology research that have helped our country stay a leader in innovation has been marginalized. California itself was enveloped in devastating fires that impacted us through smoke that came all the way to San Francisco and neighbors in wine country who had significant losses. There’s a lot of hopelessness out there, and that wore on me.

This year was also characterized by recovering from the burnout I suffered in 2016. I’m incredibly proud to have published a book and helped with a revision on another, but with everything else that I was doing, it was too much. Over the past 18 months I’ve shed most of the open source projects I was working on outside of work, and even in the ones I didn’t leave outright, I wasn’t as active as I should have been. Personal side-projects were almost non-existent. I had to do a lot of self-reflection this year to figure out what I wanted to be doing and what was important in my life. This blog is pretty much the only thing that survived.

On February 6th we unexpectedly lost my mother-in-law to complications surrounding cancer she was being treated for.

In early April Simcoe’s decline in health from renal failure became too much to bear and we let her go on April 9th.

In September I sprained my ankle so badly that the first doctor who looked at it thought it was broken. In early November I got incredibly sick in Cuba and then had a reaction to antibiotics I was given to treat it and ended up in the ER in San Francisco. In December I contracted a sinus infection and am once again working my way through a bout of bronchitis. Just before the new year, we discovered moisture in our attic here in at the townhouse in Philadelphia that has required immediate remediation and caused me to extend my stay out here to deal with it.

At the same time, 2017 was an amazing year, which is why this wrap-up post was such a struggle to write. If you read through this blog over the past year, the impression would not be of a sad or difficult year, but of an incredible one with a new job and adventures around the world. That story is true too. MJ and I are successful and we have the financial flexibility to enjoy the fruits of our labors. We’ve enjoyed spectacular meals, trips to Napa and Sonoma, a night out to see Hamilton and so much more this year.

And I love San Francisco, it’s a beautiful place to live, and as a tourist destination it’s one that people visit so I get to do my own local touristing when friends and family are in town.

At the beginning of the year I started a job that not only exposes me to the latest open source technologies in operations and data analysis, but gives me the opportunity to share everything I’m learning with others at conferences and events around the world.

In 2017 traveled 103,128 miles by air and I’ve still taken time everywhere I go to spend a day or two as a tourist.

The townhouse in Philadelphia has also allowed me to spend more time with loved ones out here who I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with. Family-wise I met an uncle of MJs who I had never met. I got to go to a family reunion in Florida to visit with a bunch of my family, and had a cousin visit San Francisco who I hadn’t seen in years. I did a road trip with my mother and my aunt from Florida to Philadelphia, and just a couple days later hosted an aunt and cousin at the townhouse in Philadelphia.

I also learned that people care about me even when I’m not spending all my time working. For the past ten years I’ve buried myself in work, from open source projects I work on casually to those I’m paid to spend time on. It’s so much a part of my identity now that there’s an incredible fear that I’ll end up alone and disappoint people if I struggle or scale back. I’m grateful that I was wrong. Not everyone has stayed with me, but I do have wonderful people in my life who not only stuck around, but who support me and offer compassion and kindness when I am struggling.

It was also a year of trains. In my effort to recover from tech-induced burnout, I spent more time geeking out over model trains and actual trains. For four days over Memorial Day weekend, MJ and I traveled across the country by train, taking the California Zephyr the whole length before going on to the Capitol Limited. We also finally got to take the Coast Starlight from Oakland to Los Angeles, which was a beautiful journey and I got to spend time in the Pacific Parlour Car. In October I took The Carolinian with David from Philadelphia to Raleigh for a conference.

As my interest in model trains grew, I was able to pick up a starter O-scale train set from a toy fair and get it going over Thanksgiving. In the spring MJ and I went out to the Golden State Model Railroad Museum. In October I was in Hamburg, Germany where they have the largest series of model layouts in the world, at Miniatur Wunderland.

The year concluded with a long stay in Philadelphia for the holidays and a surprising purchase: a house in Castro Valley, California. We’d been looking for a while, and finally the time, location and price were right for us. We closed remotely from Pennsylvania at the end of December and MJ picked up the keys this week. This isn’t something I’ve shared publicly until now, so if it’s a surprise to you, don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything, we’ve only told a few people. Over the next couple months we’ll be moving from the condo in San Francisco down to Castro Valley and getting the condo prepped to rent out. I’ll write about this all in more detail later, but it’s exciting times!

This was a very wordy wrap-up post, so I’ll pull back to the more list-based stuff now. Where did I travel in 2017?

With the new job, I spent more time doing public speaking in 2017. The first few talks were ones I had on my schedule already before my job started, but as soon as April rolled around I was up to speed enough to start giving talks specific to DC/OS clusters and some of the technologies that would run on top of them.

Thanks to Nithya Ruff for the photos of my presentation (source)

Talks concluded with a couple private ones within companies, which are rare for me but both were convenient for me and I have a great deal of respect for the women who invited me to both. In all, it was a super busy year for talks, this is more than I’ve ever done in a year. My goal for 2018 is to dive in deeper on a few technologies that run particularly well on DC/OS and Apache Mesos and start doing some more heavily technical talks beyond my comfort zone of CI/CD and Day 2 Operations.

Looking back now, it turns out 2017 was a mixed bag for me. Terrible. Amazing. I should cut myself some slack for watching so much TV when I have down time and putting on a bit of weight. Sure, I’d love to get back to building big, exciting projects during my precious nights and weekends so I feel more like myself, but we all go through busy, complicated times. I’ll come out the other end eventually, and the people in my life who I care about will be right there with me.