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It’s Really Been A Year Already?

It’s Really Been A Year Already?

This photo showed up in the memories feed which my smartphone helpfully throws in my face every once in a while. It was one year ago today since I went back to the corporate campus of my previous job to turn in my laptop. I took this photo because this was a new building that wasn’t up yet when I left the campus to begin remote work in March 2020, and I was excited to see it on my return. It was under construction when I left and there was a lot of hubbub about it.

I think it’s a pretty building. The campus has this striking architectural design that resembles modern art, and this building fits right in. It also has a lot of stairs (I mean the campus as a whole does) which makes it challenging to walk around in if you are not physically fit. When I walked on that campus I felt my age. I felt like I was obsolescing as I was surrounded by the aggressive energy of a workforce that keeps growing younger with every new job I take.

I did go up that formidable looking staircase and go into the bulding. It was impressive on the inside, too, with a spacious lobby with some nice art installations. The security guy at the desk paid me no mind.

The campus was custom build for this corporation, and it must have cost a bundle. So I can understand why they wanted people returning to onsite work. Aileen and I speculated that maybe I was let go because I declined to go hybrid and wanted to stay 100% remote. They gave us the option to do either, and assured me that my decision to stay remote had nothing to do with my position being cut. But who knows.

I’m glad I made the choices I did, and that I amazingly was able to get a 100% remote job elsewhere after being let go. I feel very lucky to be in the position I am in today, and grateful for the support of my family here in Pennsylvania. I just can’t believe it’s been a year already at my new job. Tick tock.

Hi, It’s Me, Your Friendly Individual Contributor

Hi, It’s Me, Your Friendly Individual Contributor

When I was unexpectedly laid off at the beginning of the year, I scrambled to update my LinkedIn profile and my resume. I was not prepared to suddenly be looking for work.

If you are a white collar professional like me, then you know the drill. When you start a job search, you have to review your resume, which has probably been languishing, untouched since the last time you got an offer. It did what you needed it to do then, and you promptly forgot about it.

But now you need to update it with your latest experience, maybe streamline it so it’s not too long. Tweak it a little to reflect what’s new in your industry, so you look like you’re keeping up with the changing times. I mean, you are, of course, since you are a brilliant professional.

When I was doing this at the beginning of the year, I was feeling vulnerable. As I stated in my blog post then, I was thrown off balance. There was no way of knowing how long it would take me to find another position. And I was anxious about age discrimination; that the older you get, the harder it is to get hired.

Now they say that when you are doing up your resume, you should always phrase your experience in terms of how you were proactive and made a difference, rather than just list out the tasks that you performed. You’re trying to convince some hiring manager that you provide some special value. But “proactive” isn’t my vibe. My vibe is, I do the damn tasks and get the shit done. I am a worker bot. As I’ve told Aileen, my aspiration is to be like R2-D2: not a main character, but resourceful and reliable. The one you call on.

In the parlance of the corporate workforce, I am an “individual contributor.” I have never held a management or leadership position, nor have I ever sought one. I have worried a bit about what this means for my prospects, as I’ve noticed how other workers around me are younger than me by more and more years as time passes. Everyone my age, it seems, has moved on to management, to more impressive titles. But I am not seeking position or status; I just want to get paid to do work.

I know that it’s possible to finish my career this way, because I recall a job where there was an old-timer who was in the same position as me, but in his sixties. He was white haired and a little bit stooped and he was just doing his little low-level tasks under someone else’s direction. He actually retired while I was still working there. God willing, I thought, that could be me in twenty years. And that was ten years ago.

How could you let this guy go?

So I decided to embrace the idea of being an individual contributor. To own the brand, so to speak. I mention it explicitly in my LinkedIn profile, as well as how well I fit into any team (which is true, I believe). I also took a new profile pic, with the most puppy-dog-eyes look I could muster, like I want the hiring managers to see me as a rescue they just couldn’t turn away.

I guess it must have worked, since I got hired pretty quickly. I’m very lucky to be in a field where there is high demand for workers, and to have found a company that was in a hiring boom. The economy still works for some of us, and I just need it to keep working for me for another decade (or two?) so I can R2-D2 along, making a small difference.

The Solo Boardgamer

The Solo Boardgamer

What do you do when you want to play a board game, but your BFF who plays with you has gone away on a trip and left you home alone?

Why, you play board games solo, of course.

And no, I don’t mean playing a board game on your computer. I mean actually breaking out the physical game that comes in a box and setting it up on a table and playing a complete game. Not playing a pretend game where you are taking on the role of more than one player, but rather a single player game, with rules specifically designed for one player.

There are many multiplayer board games that have rules variations for solo play. In some games there is a goal, and you win or lose depending on whether you achieve it. In other games, you just play, calculate your final score, and then get ranked based on that score. Some games come with an “automa,” which is a set of special rules and usually a deck of cards to simulate an opponent taking actions on the board.

Me getting ready to lob an asteroid at Mars in a solo game.

Others, like my favorite, Terraforming Mars, just give you a challenge. You play the game as the only player and try to reach a certain game state within a fixed amount of turns. In the games I’ve played this week, I am trying to reach a certain score within 12 generations, showing how good I am at terraforming.

Is playing a board game by yourself really any fun? Well, yeah, if you are as much of a game addict as I am. You get the same challenge of figuring out your optimum strategy, the same tension as you’re not sure if the next random card draw will be in your favor or not, or if you’ll be able to achieve the game’s goal by the final turn.

And you get the same visual and tactile pleasure of working with physical components, which is why it is better playing on a tabletop than playing on a computer screen, even though it takes time to set up and break down the game. I feel the same way about multiplayer games, and there you get the bonus of face to face social interaction. And truthfully I would rather play a game with others than play a solo game, if the option is available.

But when it isn’t, a solo game will do. I’m not the only one who enjoys solitary board gaming, either. There’s a whole community out there; you can find them on social media sites and board game forums. It’s enough of a thing that there are articles about it, with recommendations of games to play when it’s just you and some time.

So if you find yourself hankering for a board game when there’s no one else around, see if any of the games on your shelf include solo rules. You just might find yourself enjoying solitary gaming as much as I do.

See how nice Mars looks after a few hundred years worth of terraforming?
Boardgames For Just the Two of Us

Boardgames For Just the Two of Us

When I lived in North Carolina, I used to go to a lot of game nights at people’s houses or at game stores, and play multiplayer tabletop board games. When Aileen came into my life, my priorities changed – I started traveling more, and going to see shows. But I kept up the gaming when I could, and Aileen joined me sometimes, even going to some of the same game nights and game conventions I was used to attending.

Then I moved to Pennsylvania, into an apartment about halfway between Aileen’s house and where I worked. I made an effort to recreate my gaming lifestyle, by going to a game store nearby that had open boardgaming on Friday evenings. I had only just started to make a habit of it and make friends there, when along came the pandemic.

During lockdown, I moved in with Aileen. There would be no game stores or game conventions for awhile, but we did play a lot of two player games. And still do. I’m very lucky to have a BFF who will play boardgames with me. Shared interests and activities is part of what makes our partnership work.

The games we like to play come in different forms. Many of them are lighter games, for when we have limited time or energy. They take an hour or so to play, and usually are in the modern vein of games that require strategic thinking. They are complicated enough to be challenging but simple enough that we might also bring them with us when traveling and be able to convince others to play with us. They are multiplayer but they play fine with just two players. Here are a few examples:

An old (1980s) photo of me playing Scrabble with Aileen.

A perennial favorite is Scrabble, which is easy to set up, and can even be played when a little unfocused, with the TV on and while socializing. Aileen and I have been playing since we first met as teenagers, long ago.

Scrabble has also always been a popular game in the extended Barrera family, one which we often play at family gatherings. I remember playing with my chain-smoking, hard-drinking aunts when I was growing up; they taught me that the game can be competitive and can be played ruthlessly.

When it’s just the two of us, Aileen and I often play modern-style games that are designed for two players, of which there are many in this Golden Age of boardgames. These also tend to be lighter, with quick set up and small footprints. Here is a short list of specifically two-player games we have played a lot:

Now my favorite kind of strategy board game is one that’s a bit heavier and takes at least a couple of hours to play. These require a more serious commitment of time and energy, as well as ample table space. Luckily for me, there are some of these that Aileen likes and is willing to play. The one we’ve played the most is Castles of Mad King Ludwig, which we call “the castle game.” If you follow me on social media, you have seen me post lots of pictures of the castles I’ve built.

Another one is Grand Austria Hotel, which we call “the hotel game,” and have even played while staying at hotels. This sometimes requires some creativity finding enough surface space to set up the game.

I made a more or less complete list of these kinds of heavier games that we play in two-player mode. I did this on BoardGameGeek using a format called a “GeekList.” I’ve already brought up BoardGameGeek session reports on this blog. A GeekList is another way one can contribute on that site; it can also be a convenient way to track games or even to hold an exchange or auction of some kind.

In the case of this GeekList I made, it’s just a collection of… My Favorite Medium Weight Multiplayer Games to Play with 2 Players. I hope you enjoy looking through it and, if you are lucky enough like me to have someone to play with, I highly recommend the games on this list as suitable for just two players.

Reunion, or “Happy Birdeversary!”

Reunion, or “Happy Birdeversary!”

As mentioned in a recent post, where I reviewed a book by a Gen X author, the girl and I went to our 40th year high school reunion at the end of September. Another milestone in this year of milestones.

I had been resisting going, since we already went to our 30th reunion in 2013. I mean, that was how Aileen and I reconnected, a story which has been partially revealed in this blog. Was there any reason to go back again, now that our own personal tale of reunion was complete?

But one of our classmates, Melanie, kept asking us about going and hanging out, and in the end we relented. It was too late to get a ticket to the main reunion event, which had sold out, but we could still show up at the informal events, and even hang out at the bar at the restaurant where the main event was, and meet up with people.

We got there on Friday, in time to join the homecoming parade, in which we marched, along with Melanie and about a dozen of our other classmates. I should mention that this was in Reston, Virginia, where Aileen and I met when we were teenagers, and that our school is South Lakes High School.

This was the first and only time in my life that I was ever in a parade. Our class was close to the front, after the marching band. Notably, our class of 1983 was the first one to fully occupy SLHS for all four years of high school, since the school was founded in 1979. So I guess that makes us kind of special, like we are the first ancestor generation of SLHS graduates.

As we walked the 1.8 miles from the starting location to our high school, the spectators lining the road cheered us on, often expressing surprise and delight to see graduates from so far back in time. “We’re old, but we’re still going!” we let them know.

The class of 1983 comes home to SLHS (40th reunion, September 2023).

You might recognize me and Aileen there on the left, wearing the caps. Melanie is in green in the center, and our two classmates who did the organizing to get us all together, Kathy and Sarah, are on the far right.

Not everyone from our class is still alive, naturally. To honor those who have passed away, their names were added to the banner. In that way they could march with us.

Names of our classmates who have passed away on our class banner.

After the parade, we went to a restaurant in Reston at Lake Anne Plaza to meet up with even more of our classmates. On the way, for fun, we drove by the house where Aileen used to live, and where I would frequently go to visit her, in our high school years. It looked very much the same, though we did note that there were a lot more cars than we used to remember in the neighborhood, which seemed a little rundown. It could be that the neighborhood is just old, like we are, or it could be that we remember it through rose colored glasses.

Reston is an interesting place. It was founded in 1964 as a “planned community,” meant to embody a new post-war ideal of land use that included ample green space, with room for both residential and commerical zones to develop in tandem, as well as room for both pedestrian and automobile traffic. With lots of walking paths and wide roads through wooded areas, and residential neighborhoods intermingled with commercial plazas, it’s sort of a middle-class consumer car culture utopia.

Having been founded around the time I was born, Reston is about my age; about the same age as everyone in my high school class, in fact. With its dated architecture of buildings and houses constructed during the Gen X childhood era, this town feels like a creche built just for our generation.

I remember it well from my teenage years. As we drove through town on our way to Lake Anne, I admired how nice Reston still looks, even as it evoked this nostalgic feeling. “I could move back here,” I told Aileen. But that is a highly unlikely scenario.

As it turned out, Aileen and I were able to get into the main reunion event after all, as not everyone who had reserved a spot was able to come. This happened on Saturday evening, in an events room at a nice restaurrant. I believe there were about 90 people attending, and the space was a bit small, so it felt crowded. We were a fairly large class; almost 400 people, and for a quarter of them to show up for the event is impressive, in my opinion. And many who couldn’t make it commented on the Facebook group, participating in spirit.

I had a great time, and very much enjoyed the feeling of solidarity with my old high school class. Many of the people from the 30th reunion in 2013 were there, and those are the folks I remembered the best. Back in my school days, I was kind of on the periphery, and honestly didn’t know most of my classmates. I hung out with the freaks and geeks, with the punk rockers and the stoners, who probably mostly didn’t show up for this occasion. If you’re from my class and don’t remember me, well that’s OK. It was so long ago, after all.

Aileen and Mr. Wareham, recreating a shot from the 1983 yearbook.

Our old high school principal, Mr. Wareham, was there! He is 84 years old. We chatted briefly, though it was hard to understand him in the noisy space. I learned that, after retiring from South Lakes, Mr. Wareham took postings overseas so he could travel the world. There was something comforting about his presence at the event, like it established a continuity with those distant but formative school years. And it helped me feel less old, knowing that an adult who was an authority figure in my late childhood is still alive.

I can’t deny, though, that going to your 40th high school reunion will make you feel old. We’re all deep in middle age now, many of us with adult children, divorces and remarriages, on their second careers or even retired already. Where did all those years go?

And yet I can attest that at a reunion, as was also the case ten years ago at our 30th, it feels very much like you are back from where you started, with all those same people you grew up with. It’s the same peer group, with the same social relationships, and the same personality types. No one’s really changed all that much. You’ve all just grown older.

As I said, we had a great time. Lots of pictures were taken, we enjoyed some food and beverage, listened to 1980s music, and had some good conversations. Late in the night we said our goodbyes. I have a feeling we will be back for the 50th in 2033, or the 45th in 2028, should that come together.

In retrospect, I thought that the 40th reunion felt more chill than the 30th, like we had all mellowed out a bit. The energy at the 30th was more hyped, with more anxiety and anticipation in the air. Maybe because we were all in our 40s instead of our 50s. Maybe because it had been a longer time (even longer than 10 years) since we had last seen one another.

The 30th reunion was the event in which Aileen and I reconnected, when I was still living in North Carolina. We had known each other in school, were very good friends, and dated when we were in college. After our mutual breakup which was totally mutual, we stayed in touch, and saw each other a few times in the 90s. But we didn’t see each other in the 2000s, not until the reunion in 2013.

Back then, we had recently connected on Facebook. It’s a common enough experience for Gen Xers to have reconnected with their old school friends on that site, and sort of gotten a fast forward catchup on everything that happened to one another in the past twenty years, before there was social media. Aileen, for example, now had two sons. I had a house.

In 2013, Aileen kept sending me posts and messages, asking me to come to the reunion, until I finally relented. When we met up during the day, before the main event, it was like we had never been apart. When I looked at he face, I saw the girl I knew thirty years earlier. It was October 19, the same day that I’m writing this, and we went to a matinee of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, and just enjoyed one another. We still call this day our “birdeversary.” At the reunion event, we danced together, had a wonderful time, then went our separate ways.

The next year, I called Aileen on her birthday. From that point on, our relationship just kept building. We started visiting each other, and then, as you may know, in 2018 I sold my house in North Carolina, moved up to Pennsylvania, and now live with her in her house.

This whole story was news to some of our classmates at the 40th reunion. But at least one of them was tracking, and had some kind thoughts to share about us. He called us the “feel good story of the last decade.”

It does feel good to be reunited, to be connected and in a family. I honestly think that I would not be in a healthy place if I had stayed single and alone in my house in North Carolina, though I do miss the area and the friends I made there. And though I was mostly comfortable in solitude, a voice inside me was urging me to get out and find someone, and luckily, Aileen found me.

Staying connected, even if only through a support network of trusted friends and family, is crucial to your well-being. It leads to better outcomes in life; I know it has for mine. It is in being together with others that we ensure a happy future for ourselves.

Syncing up the Book Reviews

Syncing up the Book Reviews

I joined goodreads a while back, but it was after I started this blog. Since I joined goodreads, I’ve been reviewing every book I read on that site. But since I’ve reviewed books on this blog as well, and some of those were done before I was on goodreads, I realized that this blog and goodreads are not in perfect sync.

My OCD couldn’t handle this, so I paraphrased my blog reviews on goodreads for all the missing books, to plug in the gaps. Is there any point to this? Just me obsessing on feedbacking my life experience into the Internet, which is, after all, going to outlive me. The Internet is where our civilization is containerized, consumed, digested and stored for future use, for at least the intelligent reasoning and meaning processing aspect of civilization that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called the noosphere.

Here’s a list of the book reviews that were added to my little ecosystem in the noosphere, where my thoughts may or may not add value to mental reality:

2023 Season Recap: A Year of Change

2023 Season Recap: A Year of Change

Heraclitus, I believe, says that all things pass and nothing stays, and comparing existing things to the flow of a river, he says you could not step twice into the same river.

-Plato, Cratylus

2023 has been a year of milestones. It began with unexpectedly having my work contract end, after having been told I was renewed for another year. That turned out to not be so bad, as I was able to transition to another WFH job smoothly.

Then came the awful news that our sweet cat had a tumor, and only months to live. That was very bad; it was so hard saying goodbye to her. It was a terrible reminder of death’s constant presence, but also a chance to reflect on mortality and the meaning of life and of love in our lives, as Sashimi was so precious to us.

Death was busy this year; early in 2023 two people I knew died from cancer, both from the same generation as Aileen and I. One was an old college friend I hadn’t seen since graduation, and the other was a friend of Aileen’s from her theater work. In the summer, one of my uncles died. I hadn’t seen him since I was a kid, but he did pop up on my Facebook feed to say nice things all the time (that’s been my experience with a lot of Boomer relatives).

The real blow came just a little later, when a dear friend from back in the day, one whom I had been seeing every year at a sort of game retreat down in Virginia, succumbed to his illness. Mark was one of the original players in our old Dungeons & Dragons game, which started some time back in the 1980s and went on for decades after that. He and I rolled up characters on the same day, a pair of thieves that were part of the longest lasting campaign I ever played in. We were in an adventuring party that hasn’t been together in a very long time; two other members have already passed away, in years past. There aren’t many of us left.

Some of us old dungeonheads have been gathering once a year, every Februray, for a weekend of gaming down in Virginia. We don’t play the old campaign, of course, but other games of a similar flavor. At this year’s gathering, Mark announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer. He assured us he would still be there for the next year’s gathering. But sadly he fell into rapid decline in July, and passed away earlier this month. It was devastating news, hitting very close to home, since we had been in touch and had seen one another recently.

Aileen and I drove down to the visitation that same weekend, then back up to attend a baby shower. As I sat watching the expectant mother open her presents, while her grandparents sat beside her, the grandmother filming, I got teary eyed. Aileen leaned over to ask if I was alright. “Cycle of life?” she asked, and I nodded. I was thinking of that; in one weekend, we said goodbye to a friend, then welcomed a new person into the world. But also I couldn’t help but notice how old the grandparents were – why did they get to live to old age, when my friend died so young?

I’m sorry if I seem resentful. I know I shouldn’t be. We all get to live the life we are allotted, and none of us can know when our number will come up. I have been very lucky, and am very grateful that all my immediate family, including my parents, are still alive. In fact, this summer, we celebrated my Dad’s 80th birthday. Another milestone.

What is life but a series of milestones that we pass, on our journey to an unknown end? Who knows how many seasons are left, before the show is cancelled? As Aileen reminds me, live every day as if was your last.

The Time of Our Lives

The Time of Our Lives

One of our patterns at home is that later in the evening, the rest of the family has retired and it’s just Aileen and I in the living area, and we would like to watch a little more TV before bedtime. As I explained in another post years ago, when you are watching streaming video with your family, you need different shows for different subsets of people, since you can’t continue watching any particular show without everyone you started watching it with being around. The latest show that we’ve picked for when it’s just Aileen and I has been Downton Abbey. This is a show which Aileen had watched some of in the past, but I had never seen. I am typically about ten years behind pop culture trends, but that’s OK because everything is conveniently saved on the Internet now.

This show is a delightful historical drama, set in a country estate in the 1910s and 1920s, and depicts the lives of both the aristocratic family that lives there, and of their domestic servants. There was a similar show in the 1970s (remade in the 2010s) called Upstairs, Downstairs that was set in London in the same time period, but we haven’t watched that one.

Period elegance on the set of Downton Abbey.

Downton Abbey, as far as I can tell, is historically accurate, and I enjoy recognizing historical moments and trends as they come up. I absolutely love the period costumes, especially the 1920s dresses – and, oh my, the automobiles – which are just gorgeous. The show is also quite sentimental, rather a bit of a soap opera, but that suits our late night viewing needs just fine. We’ve become very invested in the characters and their stories as we’ve blazed through the episodes (we’ve finished the last season already – good thing there are two movies to watch, too).

The show gives equal time to the aristocrats and to their servants, and focuses a lot on daily life. Yes, there are big differences in how characters live, depending on their economic class, but since we are binging the show so fast, I can’t help but notice how everyone, well – they just have their routines. Whatever their station in life, everyone just repeats the same behavioral patterns from episode to episode, only shifting into a new pattern if they experience a major life change, like a new position or a marriage.

Kind of like me, I think, as I go through my own routines. In my head I can hear the show’s opening theme, a stirring symphonic piece titled “Did I Make the Most of Loving You?” I’m not a servant getting breakfast ready for the household, or a countess being dressed properly by a lady’s maid before emerging from my chambers, but nonetheless I have my allotted role to play. Work from home computer guy, starts the day with coffee and the daily Quordle. Since the pandemic began, I am very much in the same pattern day to day, week to week. Not even switching jobs meant much of a change for me. Each week repeats the same cycle, another sweep of the second hand on the clock of life, ticking away to the last midnight.

It’s hard to believe it, but we’re already a third of the way through 2023. Did we binge the year too fast? Should we have tried to pace it better? The summer is almost upon us, though you wouldn’t know it from the cold rainy weather. I know it from the way some of our work is winding down. High school theater season has come to an end; there’s nothing left for the Philadelphia Independence Awards except for the awards ceremony itself. My work on Neil’s book is done. We need to get our garden planted – it’s a bit late, even for us. Did you know the kitchen gardens at Downton Abbey are quite impressive?

Our sweet sunshine kitty is holding on. Aileen is proud of her for staying with us, though it’s so hard for her to eat. We just keep giving her as much of the soft, pureed food as we can find. It’s clear that she wants to be with us, that she’s staying for love, and that we must make the most of it. What else is there to life? We’re just pushing through time, from one moment to the next, each inflection point marking out our story, until we get to the finale. How many seasons are left, and will we make the most of them?

Thrown Off Balance

Thrown Off Balance

Last week I received somewhat shocking news when I logged into work on Tuesday (Monday was a holiday so this was the start of the week). Apparently, for cost cutting purposes, some positions had to be eliminated, and unfortunately mine was one of them. I was told that my last day would be January 27. In other words, I was given two weeks notice.

This was unexpected as I recalled having been assured at the end of 2022 that my contract was extended for 2023. I guess they just meant for the start of 2023. What a raw deal. Now I am faced with the prospect of looking for work, always a challenge and ever more so as I grow older.

I might have known something like this was coming, since the amount of work the team was doing had been declining. But I guess I thought it would happen to someone else, not to me. Apparently there’s been a trend of tech layoffs, and I got caught up in it. I wonder if it’s a sign of more widespread economic troubles to come.

The manager on my project says he wants to hire me back, once they have the funds. It’s just a question of if there is anywhere they could move me to in the meantime; they say they are looking, but I’m not sure how much faith I have. A sneaky paranoid feeling makes me think they’re just blowing smoke in my eyes and are glad to be rid of me.

I went for a walk later in the week, and on my walk I stumbled on the uneven sidewalk and took a spill. I couldn’t catch my fall and hit the ground hard, luckily onto my side so I didn’t hurt myself badly, except I did skin my knee. It is still raw and red and painful, and I have a little limp from avoiding bending my leg. Was it clumsiness that caused my fall? My failing vision? It feels like this unexpected news threw me off balance, and so I literally lost my balance and fell, and now I bear this painful limp like a mark of my misfortune.

I’m sure it will heal quickly, and I’m sure I’ll get back on my feet again and be stable soon, one way or the other. It’s just getting wearying trying to stay on the path.

My 2022 Retrospective

My 2022 Retrospective

In world events, the two big stories of 2022 were clearly the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the confluence of the Jan 6th committee hearings and midterm election results, which I will call the slow death of MAGA. I thought it was impressive that the Biden administration was able to rally the West in support of Ukraine, and also dodge the expected “red wave” repudiation of the executive term. Is this inching towards a “blue wave” consolidation, and a revitalization of the Western alliance, after the setbacks of the previous administration? Or is it just pulling the partisan tension ever tauter, in anticipation of a reckoning still to come? Either way, I would like to take this opportunity to extend a middle finger to all of the MAGAts in the Putin/TFG camp, and heartily wish them more failure and humiliation in the new year.

In my own life, the best new thing to happen to me was being hired to work on the end notes for the sequel to The Fourth Turning. I’ve been a fan of Strauss & Howe generations theory for 25 years now, nearly half of my life, and it’s an honor to be included in Neil Howe’s process of writing the much anticipated sequel to their 1997 book (Bill Strauss passed away in 2007, sadly). It has been a lot of hard work, and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute and to prove myself (I’m pretty good at methodical information organization).

I say this is the best new thing to happen to me, because there is much to be grateful for in 2022 that is a continuation of past trends. I really am one of the luckiest people in the world. I get to work from home in a time of plague, and while the Covid-19 pandemic is about to reach its three year anniversary, my extended family and network has for the most part mercifully been spared the worst outcomes from the disease (though enough of us have caught it, Lordy). Our family is financially stable, even while our national economy is not. And though I have Boomer parents and Millennial children, I am not really “Sandwich Generation” in the sense of being responsible for caring for family both above and below me on the age ladder. My parents, thankfully, have retirement savings.

I’m also very lucky and grateful to be with my partner, Aileen, after almost ten years since we reunited at our 30th year high school reunion in 2013. We started off visiting each other frequently from our respective homes 400 miles apart, and ended up living together under one roof. Being in lockdown together tested our relationship – could we stand continuous contact for months on end? Turns out we could. Pandemic lockdown and moving in together have only strengthened our partnership, and I look forward to many decades together to come.

My big hope for 2023 is more opportunity for creative work, for myself and everyone else in the household. I know, it might seem crazy to wish for work. Didn’t I just enjoy a week off from that? But we Gen Xers are in our peak earning years, so it’s very good for us to keep that going at this point in our lives. I for one will be hitting the ground running next week, rereading Neil’s book while also swamped with work at my computer job. Aileen has had her contract at West Chester University extended, which is great because it means she will get one full year there to put on her resume. As for the young Millennials in our family, I hope for more opportunity to learn and grow, and figure out where they want to go in life. We will, of course, be there to support them.

To my readers, I say thank you for checking out my blog, and I invite you to keep visiting as I continue to chronicle these challenging times. We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but we can be sure there is significant change coming. I hope you have a foundation in your life like mine, because that will so helpful for getting through this crisis era. All the generations will need one another for a safe and prosperous New Year.