For just over a year now, I’ve been doing yoga on a weekly basis. When I first began, I was confident in my strength and balance but was sorely lacking in flexibility. I’ve noticed that as I get older, my body has gotten progressively stiffer as I’ve settled into a few distinct physical habits—namely, sitting at my desk, sitting in my car, and sitting in my kayak. As my yoga practice has slowly released some of my body stiffness, I’ve discovered that less strength is needed for the same activities and my balance has improved. In short, I’ve come to appreciate the benefits that flexibility brings to my physical well being as my body ages year after year.
During that same time, I’ve also come to appreciate the importance of emotional and mental flexibility. Similar to my physical self, I always felt that I had a great deal of inner strength and life balance, but that I was becoming more and more set in my ways as I got older. In recent years, my personal goals led to the habits of a late 30s bachelor who prioritized weekends in the mountains kayaking with his dog and camper van. As great as those times were, I felt that I’d settled into a comfortable, self-focused routine that was lacking the meaning I’ve long yearned for.
By the time I wrote last year’s New Years post, I’d come to recognize the importance of moving my life focuses toward outward goals that are intertwined with other people. And since then over the past year, I’ve experienced more profound change than any other year I can remember. It was wonderful, challenging, and even heartbreaking at times, and throughout it all, I appreciated the great benefits of being flexible so those changes could manifest themselves as meaningful personal growth.
2014 In Review
By far, the most incredible event of the past year was the sunny September day when I led Kelly on a hike into an aspen forest near Steamboat, got down on a knee, and asked her to marry me! She immediately said Yes! and we’ve been on cloud nine since! With everything I’ve done in my life, I always felt like something critically important was lacking. But with Kelly in my life and by my side now, I feel an amazing, deep sense of joy, peace, and meaningful purpose. Choosing to join our lives together is the most profound personal change I have ever experienced and would not have been possible without the flexibility that I have also consciously brought into my life in recent years.
By far, the saddest, most heartbreaking event of the past year was losing our faithful canine companion, River Dog. He and I shared ten incredible years of adventures and friendship, the last of which included Kelly in our lives. It came as a complete shock to all of us when his body decided it was no longer of this world, and Kelly and I still mourn his absence in our lives every day. I am so very grateful for our last trip together to Moab that gave one last chance for a boy and his dog to experience a bit of adventure together. It is so tough to say goodbye to him, but I remind myself that change is part of life and that it’s my responsibility to accept the sad realities of life along with its amazing highlights. Once again, I learned the importance of being flexible to the changes that life inevitably brings us.
In addition to those extreme highs and lows, the last year was continuously permeated by huge new professional challenges. At the beginning of March, I learned that my project, TSIS, was directed to fly on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2017 and that I would be leading the engineering development of the pointing system (TPS) that will allow our instruments to make their best-in-world solar irradiance measurements from the ISS. Every step of the process has been incredibly challenging as we work to build one of the largest, most technically sophisticated engineering systems that LASP has ever built during its 65 years of existence. My own professional growth has been proceeding at a continuous, unprecedented rate, but I am fully confident that my team and I are up to the challenges and responsibilities that lay before us in the coming years.
In December, I was fortunate to visit NASA’s Houston space center which provided a healthy dose of perspective regarding our roles in the USA’s prestigious space program. Touring the Apollo mission control center, we were reminded of a by-gone era when aerospace engineering development progressed at breakneck speed and that my current professional changes and growth are similar to those of that oft heralded era. It has not been easy to allow such rapid change into my professional life, but being flexible is again allowing me to grow into a person that I am proud to be.
A final sign of the changing times in my life came when I finally sold my old 1985 camper van after a six year long era that I will always cherish. Friends keep asking me if I miss the van or regret my decision, and each time, I happily tell them that it is a great relief to have it out of my life. What I have realized is that letting go of the van has afforded me so much more time (and money) for other rewarding facets of my life. Once again, I experienced how change required for growth.
Although 2014 brought massive change into my life, it was also highlighted by tons of great trips and experiences with loved ones. The year began with a monumental, 12 day self-support kayak trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon that was certainly one of the highlights of my whitewater paddling career. Although I had a small fraction of paddling days compared to year’s past, I was absolutely thrilled to spend a long weekend surfing Big Sur during one of its rare appearances. And it was a joy to teach Kelly to whitewater kayak and spend five warm summer weekends on the rivers with her as her skills improved and her confidence soared with every rapid she paddled. Not only did she kayak, she even got to take the oars of my raft during an unforgettable moment on our Main Salmon River trip that was destined to be River’s final rafting adventure.
Kelly and I were also fortunate to travel several times and visit with family. In April, we spent a wonderful, long weekend in Portland, Oregon getting to experience an region together that neither of us had ever visited and that we would love to return to some day. As our relationship grew, I met her family who lovingly brought me into their lives as a new family member during our visits to South Dakota in July, Labor Day, and Christmas. And she also got to meet my whole big family during a reunion in New York in August that fortunately didn’t scare her away! Finally, we felt blessed to open our home to old friends and family for a Thanksgiving dinner that we’ll always remember.
2014 will always be remembered as a year of great change in my life that allowed me to grow in the direction that I always dreamt.
2015 Goals and Highlights
The most highly anticipated event of the year (and also my life) is being wedded to Kelly in June! We have an incredible wedding planned in the mountains that will bring together our family and friends to witness and celebrate our marriage and upcoming life together. Afterwards, we’re planning to get away for a honeymoon that will let us savor each other’s company as the new Mr. and Mrs. Brown!
By comparison, the other looming event that would otherwise garner much more attention is my 40th birthday. Similar to each New Year, our decadal birthdays are milestones that cause us to ponder, reflect, and offer gratitude. In my own case, I am so very grateful for the life I’ve been blessed with for the past four decades and can’t imagine a better way to start the fifth than with my marriage to Kelly. Buh-bye to 39 and hello to 40!
Of course, I feel the need to lay out a few personal goals for the coming year with the hope that doing so will be the first step in achieving positive change and growth. In my professional life, I’m looking forward to putting forth the very best of myself as we converge on a robust, high-performing design for the TSIS TPS and then move on to start fabrication. Although not listed here and as you can imagine, I have already outlined my specific professional goals with my peers at work knowing that writing them down is the first step to achieving them.
Being given the gift of another year of life, I feel responsible to continue to care for my body and its wellness. With Kelly’s excellent guidance and support, I plan to embrace better nutrition this year with a goal of continued, life-long healthy eating.
In the spirit of goals from previous years, I will obviously continue to kayak, but without big challenges of year’s past. Instead, I look forward to sharing the river experience with Kelly and friends as a fun, social activity.
Walking is an area of surprising accomplishment over the past year that I will continue into this year and throughout my life. In late 2013, I was experiencing debilitating, chronic hip pain that I overcame with a combination of physical therapy and yoga. At that point, even walking a quarter mile was an agonizing experience. But with the right attitude and stretching treatments for my hips in 2014, I was able to ramp up to several days of purposeful walking a week that totaled 600 miles over 223 hours (9.3 days)! That was by far the most ever in my life, and I am going to continue that pace into 2015.
With the foundation that walking has provide me, I am going to lace up my running shoes again in 2015 knowing that it is a keystone habit that will undoubtedly propagate positively into other aspects of my life. I’m going to start small with the Runnin’ of the Green Lucky 7k on St Patrick’s Day knowing that it might not be easy to get back into running but that I will use a combination of my new knee brace, daily doses of glucosamine, physical therapy, and whatever else is necessary to make it happen.
Finally, as part of staying healthy with my return to running, I am continuing the weekly practice of yoga in 2015. Not only will it work out the kinks that running will introduce to my body, but it will also provide a much needed time for quiet introspection and peace that will support all the other efforts in my life. And of course, yoga will serve to maintain and even improve my flexibility.
As 2015 begins, I am so very grateful for the life that 2014 brought me with its amazing highs and lows and am fired up for the incredible year that awaits me with all of its changes. Life is all about change. And being flexible to those changes make life wonderful. Let’s go!