Welcome to 2019, everyone. For those of you familiar with my processes, you know I spend take this time at the beginning of the year to review the intentions I set the previous year and whether or not (or to what degree) I met them. I also set intentions for the upcoming year and go over a few unexpected highlights that made the last year special. I am happy that this is the twelfth year I’m doing this. It provides a strong record I can review and see areas where I can stretch further, or maybe let something go that is on the list for the fifth or sixth year in a row. Sometimes I have to simply be honest that just because I think something is worth pursuing, it might not be aligned with an authentic expression of who I am. That can be difficult to admit but there is significant learning in that process. With that, a review of 2018.
As I do every year, I set the intention to seize opportunities to travel to new places, and to speak publicly. In March I returned to Panama to participate in the annual Renewable Energy in the Caribbean and Central America conference (RECAM). This was the second year in a row I was asked to present material and talk about energy and climate issues with other professionals from across the region. So, while I definitely jumped on the chance to present in front of an audience, it was in a place with which I was already familiar. However, this time I visited the Panama Canal, which I did not do last year. And given the link between the canal and Teddy Roosevelt (whom I admire), the awesome infrastructure project that it is, and the United States’ history with it, I feel that the day I spent at the Mira Flores locks was a realization of an adventure I have been wanting to have. Larina, however, feels differently. It does not count because she was not there, so we must now visit it together. Noted.
The other fresh ink in my passport belongs to El Salvador, though that is more a function of having moved here. Similar to our move to the Dominican Republic in 2012, the deck was slightly stacked in that regard. Going forward, I will also ease off the annual “travel to new places” intention and focus more on our family exploring our new host country.
At the beginning of 2018 I set an intention to buy a guitar and resume playing. I did just that. You may recall I received my first guitar lessons in 2005 and continued exploring this new hobby in to 2006. Then, as you likely know by now, my circumstances changed dramatically and I began a life-changing adventure that led me to far-flung places, and therefore had to return the guitar to the friend who lent it to me. I have not taken it up since and I wanted to change that before the baby arrived. Eric Clapton I am not, but I do want the ability to reach over and bring music into our house at any given moment, especially if it adds to Luca’s exploration of what is going on around him.
On the financial front, I achieved both intentions I set. The first was cutting our long-term credit card debt by 25 percent. I also set a threshold of savings that I wanted for us, especially planning for a baby in (what was then) the near future. I earned a decent raise in 2017 and arranged for the extra money to automatically deposit into a savings account I rarely access, and that strategy seems to have – wait for it – paid off. And did we ever need that breathing room once Luca arrived.
For the second year in a row I set the intention for a monthly date night with Larina. My first year doing so was abysmal. This year was better. Prior to Luca’s arrival in July, we only missed March. The rest of the months were either movie nights, dinner dates, or concerts. We even managed two date nights after the baby arrived, and I’m happy about that. I’m clearly wiling to cut some slack on this one, not just because of the baby, but also because of relocating to El Salvador at the end of October. Therefore, on balance, success!
I also set an intention to incorporate my own company and set myself on the path to successful self employment. Larina’s assignment abroad led to my resigning my consulting job with the Army – handling somewhat sensitive information abroad, even with secured internet connections, is not taken lightly. This was therefore an opportunity to take charge of my situation and craft the job I want. This sentiment connects directly to the very beginnings of this blog when I quit my I.T. job to create something more fulfilling and substantive. Although I have been dabbling in private consulting since late 2014, my firm, Jakinda Consulting, is fully incorporated. I have been engaged in a side project for nine months and have shifted that to the front burner; giving my firm its first paying gig straight away. Scary as it is, I am terribly excited about this venture. I continue to be engaged in work I find meaningful and that addresses a global need. Further, I have the latitude our family needs vis-à-vis scheduling around a baby. Lastly, it is on me to make it work, no one else.
As I do every year, I set the intention to read a few books. Specifically on my list for 2018 were:
Colonel Roosevelt (I actually started the book in 2017 and wanted to finish it)
It Worked For Me
Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
The Killer Angels
Team of Rivals
I succeed with two of those. I finished Colonel Roosevelt in January and it did not disappoint. Edmund Morris, just like he did with the first two installments of the T.R. trilogy, created a thorough and engaging masterpiece of the life of one of the most influential presidents in American history. What was especially interesting was to see the degree to which Roosevelt changed in the years after his presidency. In fact, I was incredibly disappointed in him and how much of an egomaniac he became. He struggled with not being in the spotlight while the world’s decision makers, movers, and shakers occupied seats of power. He grappled with the idea of his legacy becoming so permanent while he felt he still had so much to give. In a way, sadly, his worst qualities at that time of his life mirrored the awfulness exemplified by Donald Trump: petulant, irrational, ego-centric to a fault, bombastic for its own sake, and quite insufferable. And that’s a shame given the way he shaped America – possibly the world – at such a crucial time in history.
The other book I completed was The Killer Angels. It is part of a Civil War trilogy Larina bought me for Christmas in 2017. It tells the stories of various known figures from the Battle of Gettysburg. It is researched and historical to the degree it can be, but the dialogue amongst the books characters is largely fictional, though well done. You can read more about it here.
I started It Worked for Me, but have not yet finished it. I admire Colin Powell as a leader and a public servant. Yes, he is much maligned for his role selling the unnecessary and foolish Iraq invasion, but that is only one aspect in a lifetime of honorable service and good leadership. I’m eager to finish it, but the baby has me so tired, I never make it more than a page before nodding off. I’m disappointed I didn’t read more. For the sixth year in a row Team of Rivals collected dust. I also began Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, but that is slow going, more because of time constraints than anything.
2018 also brought highlights I did not expect. I continued my work as one of the co-chairs of the Social Justice Committee at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew. I am still very honored to have been asked by the outgoing chair to assume the role in 2017. During an annual Lenten event we hosted Horton’s Kids, a local organization dedicated to helping children in one of the most (if not the most) impoverished and overlooked corners of the city. We raised enough money that night – largely from individual donations of $20 or less) to pay for their annual college tour for high school graduates.
But by far, Luca is the only thing really worth mentioning about last year. He is a constant reminder of joy in life and, as someone far more eloquent has noted, children are a sign of our permission to let our hearts wander outside of our bodies. I worry for him every hour of the day – and night! Priorities shifted in an instant. Of a crowded field of “important to-dos,” only a few remained by the time we returned from the hospital. As a friend said to me at my conference in March: when you have a kid, you instantly know exactly who you are working for. Those of you following me on social media have seen the adventure thus far, and I thank you for checking in as often as you do.
Ahead in 2019:
The usual intention to travel to new places is, as I mentioned, on hold while we simply explore the country in which we get to live for the next few years. And while it isn’t an intention to see some place news, I am setting the intention that Larina and I attend our 10-year class reunion in Bologna, Italy. It’s where we met, and it is partially responsible for Luca’s name. Putting it on the list officially holds my feet to the fire at a time where I could easily back out simply because of the price tag.
Professionally, I intend to recertify as a Project Management Professional, which is set to expire at the end of October. As per usual, I will also take advantage of any opportunity for public speaking and presenting. For the new business, I intend to have at least one long-term client signed for consulting work, and to end the year in the black. Even a single dollar left in the account would be a win.
I am putting the monthly date night back on the board. This is becoming increasingly important for us as a couple. I have even gone so far as to institute rules when date night is a dinner: we can’t talk about politics, Luca, or work!
As for the annual reading list, this year’s list comprises Leadership in Times of Crisis, Seat of the Soul, and finishing Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. I could put more on the list but I am aware of exactly how much my limited time has been further curtailed. Three books feels reasonable.
It is not enough to simply list accomplishments and unfinished business. There is a larger purpose to this exercise rooted in building awareness around being deliberate with time and connecting it with a sense of fulfillment; of having lived on purpose. As I mentioned, that took on a new meaning the day Luca was born. For a time, deliberate action meant an endless window of simply doing whatever task was waiting at the end of the task at hand. I dubbed the first two weeks after delivery “The Onslaught,” a perpetual wave of tasks and to-dos that required me to simply ask “What’s next?” ad nauseum until we settled into some semblance of a rhythm. And that was just my experience. I’m sure Larina would have much more to say about all of it.
Without question, this is a window of significant upheaval. We had a baby, packed up and moved to another country, and I decided to start my own venture. What else can we throw on top of this? I doubt my head could spin more, but I also know I’ve never been so happy to feel so jet lagged. And I believe that’s the spirit I will bring into 2019: gratitude for a truly unconventional experience. I look forward to checking in next January and reporting on how it all went.
Happy 2019, everyone. Let’s get after it.