I spent the end of 2012 and the start of 2013 driving through the mountains of Colorado in freezing weather in my van without heat. I skied Steamboat on New Year’s Eve and kayaked Shoshone on the Colorado River on New Year’s Day, but somehow I was coldest when driving the van. In spite of what might be considered misery, this was a perfect way to start the next year of my life.
The annual process of penning a New Year’s blog post is both rewarding and very challenging. I have found that it contributes towards my annual growth due to the setting of goals and resolutions followed by their execution. The past few days however, I have struggled with my post for 2013 and have ultimately come to a new conclusion. The process is at least as much about personal reflection as it is about goals and resolutions.
A year ago, I was at the beginning of one my life’s great adventures when I reflected on the coming year of 2012. Without a doubt, my time in Antarctica was one of my biggest accomplishments of 2012, but it also taught me a most important lesson. The very act of walking away from my day-to-day life for several months and immersing myself in one of the most isolated places on the planet opened my eyes to the extreme importance of Home and the People in my life. Although I have made strides in my personal goals this past year, this shift in perception has probably had the largest impact on me and how I have lived my life. In Colorado, I have appreciated my friends and co-workers (who are also friends) more than ever, and I have been fortunate to spend time with my family back East at my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary in July and with my parents and brother in Florida for Thanksgiving. And in June, I was once again reminded of how wonderful my Colorado friends are when tragedy struck and we lost our friend John “JB” Boling. So as I move into another year, not only do I want to set personal goals, I also want to recognize and prioritize the relationships in my life. I want to make greater efforts to stay in touch with those I love and to really listen to them when I do have a chance to spend time with them. And despite the fact that I have a weird fear of doing so, I want to invite people over to my home to share time.
In recent years, my goals have largely centered around whitewater kayaking with 2011 representing the pinnacle of my paddling career. It would have been almost impossible for 2012 to match the previous year and as fate would have it, it was an abysmal year for the rivers in Colorado. I still managed to spend time on the water with friends, but my focus was freed from this activity for a season so that I could concentrate on other endeavors. Like I said in last year’s post, it is so very important to be able to reevaluate and adjust goals based on the circumstances that life provides. So while the rivers were dry in 2012, I had another amazing opportunity presented to me.
Out of nowhere in April, our project team at LASP received permission to build a quick turn-around instrument named, TCTE (TSI Calibration Transfer Experiment; TSI=Total Solar Irradiance; TCTE pronounced like the beer, Tecate) to make up for the Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) sensor that was lost when our Glory mission failed to reach orbit in March of 2011. I jumped at the opportunity and volunteered to lead the test program despite the fact that I had never performed this role in the past. What started as a simple gesture to help out the team turned into an all-out effort to deliver the instrument at a record-pace of 4 months. By contrast, this would usually take several years to complete. My summer nights and weekends were filled with computers and testing instead of rivers, but the accomplishments and the new friendships were just as rewarding. By the time Labor Day came around, we had followed through on our promise to NASA and had a beautifully built, thoroughly tested TIM that was ready to be integrated on the STP-Sat3 spacecraft. I am extremely proud of the contributions I made to this project and believe that it may be the biggest accomplishment of my professional career. It wasn’t just that we did our job and did it well, I truly believe that we demonstrated ourselves as an organization in a way that can hopefully establish an even stronger sense of trust with NASA that will improve the way we do business with them in the future.
With the delivery of TCTE came the start of autumn and some free time that I filled with a renewed interest in mountain biking. Over Labor Day weekend, I biked from Buena Vista to Crested Butte and continued to meet up with friends on the following weekends for more riding along with a final, exciting kayaking day on through Gore Canyon. Then as the opportunities for outdoor adventure began to wane, my thoughts began center on my home. I decided to finally finish the home renovation projects that had been on my list for a decade by remodeling my kitchen in November and December and also diving into a partial bathroom remodel. Along the way, I seriously considered the notion of selling my condo to buy a house, but the realities of the expensive real estate market deflated those dreams. But then I had somewhat of an epiphany. I decided to change my own expectations about what is possible. I reflected on what I really wanted for a home and realized that although I couldn’t get there right now, if I made some changes in my life, it would be entirely possible. I came to the conclusion that if I sold my 2010 4Runner and made a deliberate effort to contribute towards my savings, I would be in a perfect position to buy a house in June of 2014.
So you see, as I drove the snow packed roads around New Years in my cold, 2wd van, I couldn’t have been in a better place. I just finished my kitchen remodeling project and knew that I would soon be inviting guests over to share it with me. I was in the process of selling my 4Runner that would help me towards my goal of a house, so the cold van seemed like a worthwhile sacrifice. And of course, I was on my way to ski and kayak with my great friends in Colorado. I can’t imagine a much better way to start a new year.