I was a freshman in college.
I remarked to my teammate, Joal, on how quickly my year was flying past. (We were riding in the back of a U-Haul, long story…). Joal was a senior, sage and kind. Early on, he had taken me under his wing. He smiled—I remember it as a wistful sort of smile—and said, “They only go faster.”
Those words stuck.
They do only go faster. Year after year as if time has stepped onto one of those people conveyors at the airport. I like to walk on those when I have a clear shot so I can see how fast I pass the regular, non-moving-walkway travelers when I keep hustling like I’m late for a flight. Sometimes I am late for a flight. More often, though, it’s the thrill of speed. There’s really nothing like walking at the velocity of a solid jog with the comparative effort of a brisk stroll.
Things change fast. I now have to run to keep up with Jakey on his bike going down the long, gradual hill near our house. It used to be monotonous to pace beside him. Now it’s hard to keep up. And Emily now walks nearly as fast as she can crawl. Give it another week.
Today has been a fantastic end to 2016.
After breakfast, our family took a bundled-up walk on a 35-degree morning. We made the regular stops. The neighborhood chickens were in full pecking, exploring action in their enclosure. One brown hen chased a small black bird back and forth along the ground. I watched my son poke his grandpa-made walking stick into streams and puddles with investigatory vigor. And my daughter mouthed a hunk if cheese stick into oblivion while taking in all the sights from her stroller.
By noon, we were shoulders deep in the community swimming pool. They raised the water temp for the winter. Finishing an extended soak with no shivers was a welcome change. Jakey and I made five water slide laps before Heather and I swapped kiddos and she took him on a few more rides.
Later, at lunch, Heather mentioned the baby was much easier to hold in the water. So true. I’ve thrown my back out once in the past month after picking her up off the ground wrong, no thought to her growth or what my lumbar region could bear.
With a whole year past, I turn to reflection about where the days and months took me.
Because you know what? They do go faster, but I find there is more and more I’m excited about packed into each new year. This is the real adventure.
Here are some of my favorites over the past twelve months:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This was both a recommendation and a loan from my friend Daniel. It is beloved and award-winning for good reason. The way it came up in our conversation was great. Heather and I had recently had the second baby and sleep was both elusive and interrupted. I had mentioned not being able to make much progress in my fiction reading because I fell asleep so fast each night. Daniel suggested this one with its dozens of short chapters, many only a page and a half long. He said I might make it a chapter or two in a night and feel better about my accomplishment. So true.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
A gift from another good friend. I sometimes like to go into a book cold without reading the back cover. This meant I had no idea I was diving into a post-apocalyptic yarn with great characters and strong prose. What luck, then. Done well, this is one of my favorite genres. I have been digging into what it is I like about these speculative worlds after a cataclysmic event. More on that later.
(I also reread The Old Man and the Sea with more of an eye on style than I had in high school. Beautiful in its spare language and the way it allows me to see, feel, and taste the experience on his small boat.)
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
A fantastic and motivating manual for how you communicate with everyone in your life and the high standard you hold yourself to.
Mindset by Carol Dweck
The mind is unsurprisingly complex. But, the author shares story after story and study after study about the ways our brains and decision-making work. More important, we can discover the way our brains sometimes work against us reaching our goals.
Favorite Photos by Me (of subjects other than my children):
Apparently a year of light and color. I’m lucky to live where I live and to do what I do. Something I try to remind myself of often. Just as often, my surroundings and relationships remind me.
Favorite Photos (of my children):
My favorite subjects, hands down.
My son’s first globe. Now we can look at where places are and he can begin to grasp the complexities of this big, mostly round rock we live on. So far, he can find Oregon. That’s a start. Jakey and I talk a lot about places and animals from all around the world. Months ago I taped a National Geographic map up in his room, but the flat situation and stretched aspect of maps was missing something.
Huge spring storm, a power outage during dinner, and one of Jakey’s favorite trips of all time. The simple pleasures of a hotel room and heated pool go far with a three year-old.
Wilderness, family, and best friends. Good food, lots of laughs, and quiet moments in nature’s solitude. I do some of my best relaxing and best brainstorming on camping trips each year.
The guest ranch is woven into the fabric of my wife’s life. This many years in, I feel just as attached to the return trip each summer. Jakey can take the pig bowl to the pen himself now. How did this happen so quickly? Horseback rides, card games, paddles and swims in the lake, and delectable meals cooked on an old fashioned wood stove. All while gloriously disengaged from internet, television, and cell reception.
Activities around the house:
Imagination time with my son pretending to be all kinds of animals both real and imaginary.
A few highlights:
- Polar Bears
Sports and Exercise (my own):
4 obstacle course races and one big swim meet in 2016. The real thrill is in the hundreds of trail miles alone with the forest and my thoughts, as well as the pool and weight room sessions, the stretching, the rolling out, the lifestyle.
Competition had its highlights, too:
- Running a Spartan Super race with my high school buddy Chad and getting to catch up with him and his wife over the race weekend.
- Running my first Spartan Beast. I finished in the top 8% overall not because I’m a particularly fast runner. What I had going for me: I trained for the obstacles and for hills. Most important, though, I committed to myself that I wouldn’t walk and followed through. Discomfort is a tool. Athletics plumb the depths of our willingness to suffer at our own hands.
- Swimming the butterfly leg of a 200 medley relay for the Oregon team at Masters Nationals and winning our event. I finished in the top 10 in three individual races and left pleased with my times and stoked about all the great people I got to visit with from across the country including former teammates I hadn’t seen in over 20 years.
Sports and Exercise (my team):
Several years ago one of our women’s team captains brought up what a tremendous privilege it was for them to be part of our collegiate swimming program. She felt keeping that in mind would frame both her own experience and that of her teammates’.
But, the privilege belongs to the coaches, as well. I spend so much time in the presence of students learning, growing, excelling, and amazing me on a daily basis.
Last season finished well and right now we’re two thirds of our way through a great season with the biggest team I’ve had in 10 years at L&C.
I won’t play favorites. Or pick a favorite race, for in fact there are hundreds of favorites. But, the big moments of life are not always the “big” race at the “big” meet. They come in epic workout swims, in people surprising themselves, and in kind words after a tough day or a personal success.
The author Neil Gaiman often writes his New Years wish to his audience, to the world. I love that. Working on this piece for a few days and rising early with the baby on New Years Day affords me a smidgen of time to read some of what my favorite writers have said as we leap—not drag ourselves, not flee—into a new year.
I take heart in the truly spirited thinking and doing people are up to. I take heart in the opportunity to give more.
May we all encounter challenges and rise to meet them. May we do so together.
I wish you and yours an inspired, resilient, and invigorating 2017.