2013 was a year of transition - a year of change. A lot of change. Big change.
In May, my father passed away after a long illness. He suffered from Alzheimer’s the last years of his life. During the last two years of his life, I was able to travel many times to Florida to see him. During that time, we became closer than we have ever been and I am still grateful I had the chance to connect with him at the end of his life, even though it was difficult watching him deteriorate during his illness. My last visit was just a few weeks before his death. In May, my sister called to tell me he was gone. My siblings and I traveled to Florida to say our last goodbyes. The funeral was an amazing event. I was able to deliver a eulogy (you can view it below or read a paraphrasing at /2013/06/16/MyFatherTheSurvivor.aspx) and I the US Navy sent a team to perform full military honors outside the church (also shown below). Although we all mourned my father's death, I don't think most of us viewed it as tragic. It wasn't nearly the shock of losing my sister a few years ago. My father's long illness helped prepare us for his passing and gave us a chance to say goodbye. When he finally went, we were prepared and spent the time celebrating his life and appreciating those who remain.
My mother also has gone through many transitions this year, following the death of her husband with whom she shared over five decades. In October, she moved into an Assisted Living facility and put her house up for sale. The adjustments this year took a toll on her health and she spent several weeks in the hospital and in rehabilitation, but she seems to have rebounded in recent weeks.
My sons went through transitions this year. In August, they both moved out of state. I knew it was coming and I've always looked forward to their independence, but it was still a shock as they both moved out the same week. Timmy is now a freshman at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN and Nick graduated from Michigan State University (BBA, Management) and almost immediately enrolled in graduate school at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL, where he is a graduate assistant for the basketball team. As a single father, I've planned nearly every weekend the last 10 years around the activities of one or both of my sons. Years ago, I moved here to Michigan and the only reason was to be closer to them. With both of them gone, my life has changed a great deal. Although I've missed them, I'm excited for them to move to the next phase of their lives and I see this as an opportunity to be more flexible with my own life (more on this later)
In 2013, I resolved to make an effort to be more optimistic. The most public display of this is my new habit of waking up each morning and thinking of at least one thing for which I am grateful. I’ve been sharing these thoughts on Facebook and Twitter and others have told me they appreciate and are inspired by them. I decided to do this because found that I was doing a lot of whining on social media and I realized this was not who I wanted to be and this was not the image I wanted to project to the world. My final negative post before my optimism resolution was a Facebook post on what would have been my 25th wedding anniversary. Publicly lamenting the loss of my marriage definitely did not sit well with my girlfriend, who is now my ex-girlfriend. Since committing to thinking of a new gratitude each morning, I've found my attitude is generally more positive and this helps me to accomplish more each day. Others have told me they've found inspirations in my daily gratitude posts. You can read more about this commitment at /2013/08/07/DailyGratitudeAndANewAttitude.aspx
I continued my practice of public speaking in 2013, but I targeted some larger conferences. In June, I spoke at Tech Ed North America for the first time and in October, I spoke at DevConnections. You can view the Tech Ed presentation at http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/NorthAmerica/2013/DBI-B220#fbid=. Of course, I also delivered dozens of talks at user groups and community events. Next year, I have been invited to speak at VSLive and I'm hopeful to speak at some international conferences.
October brought a big change in my career. After spending 15 years as a consultant, I accepted a job with Microsoft as a Technical Evangelist. This is a job I have pursued for some time, so when an opportunity came up, I applied and was hired. For years, I've been heavily involved in the developer community and this involvement took much of in my free time. With this Evangelism role, I can focus much more on teaching, organizing, and helping other developers in the community. There is a lot to my new job, but the biggest part involves helping people build applications for Windows 8, Windows Phone, and Windows Azure. I'm spending a lot of time teaching people how to build and submit apps and it's this teaching aspect that I'm enjoying the most. For the next six months, I'll be covering two districts (7 states), but I'll be moving to Chicago in mid-2014 and focusing primarily on developers in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. I spent much of the holidays getting my house ready for sale.
The move to Chicago will be a big change, but with my boys gone from Michigan, it is the perfect time to do this. I've worked in Chicago many times in the past and I enjoy the city and I'm looking forward to making it my home. I've spent many weeks there the past few months, meeting with my new team and with developers and community leaders and students and I really like the enthusiasm and passion I'm seeing in these folks.
As I've been going through my possessions these past couple months and deciding what to keep, I realize how much less emphasis I now place on ownership of physical things. I don't know when this change took place, but I am very happy to sell or give away many things I've held onto for years - sometimes decades. I see this as an area of great personal growth.
All in all, 2013 was a year of great growth for me. Even the challenges that arose this year came with opportunities to grow and connect with others and to change for the better. It is because of this that I feel more optimistic at the beginning of this 2014 than I have in a long time.