Happy New Year everyone. The old and weathered 2015 has come and gone, and we now find ourselves in the shiny sparkly new 2016. May it be filled with awesomeness and adventure, and just the right amount of shenanigans.
To be honest, I currently have mixed feelings about 2015. While it brought a lot of adventure and success, I’m struggling to not let some of the things I didn’t accomplish get in my way of recognizing how good the year was. And it was good.
Things I Didn’t Do In 2015
The year began with great intentions: goals of running more, and biking more, and generally being a better, healthier version of me. Instead I allowed myself to completely bork up my work-life balance. Yes, I had fun. Yes, I got to see friends, and go to dinners, and movies, and on adventures, and all of those awesome things – but they all seemed rushed. I don’t think I can honestly say that I was fully present during most of these things because I made a choice that prioritized work over almost everything. I don’t regret this decision, but I also recognize that it has had an obvious effect on my life. I feel blah. I found that I was almost always exhausted this year. And not the kind of sleep-in a few hours and feel better exhausted, but the kind of exhausted that makes the trudge to work almost painful. I found that my fuse was a little shorter than normal, and that I had less patience with people. Mostly, I ended 2015 feeling lethargic, and lazy, and less awesome than I would like.
The good thing is that last year is over and 2016 is new and sparkly. I have 366 glorious days of 2016 to find my balance again. Will I continue to work a lot? Probably. But I will also make my health – physical and mental – a priority again.
Things I Did Do In 2015
I worked a lot. This isn’t a complaint – it’s a fact. And despite the previous paragraphs that identify a loss in work-life balance, I love my job, and I’m really happy with what I was able to accomplish there. I managed to publish several new papers, win a bunch of new grants, and bring on even more students (who for whatever reason want to work with me). I got to work with Meal Exchange so that we could bring their Trick Or Eat campaign to my students this fall, and work continued on the Garden Fresh Box program from last year. Between those two programs and Farm To Fork, I’ve had a really awesome year helping develop innovative student solutions that address the issue of food insecurity.
These things on their own would be enough for me to feel pretty freaking awesome, but earlier this year my position was also regularized – meaning that my position was made permanent. I am now a fully tenure-track faculty member in the School of Computer Science at the University of Guelph. And then there was the icing on a pretty spectacular cake: I was presented a college wide teaching award.
Beyond all of this, the ICON Transdisciplinary classroom – which I co-created with Dr. Shoshanah Jacobs – has proved to be a huge success. We are offering the 2nd iteration of the course this winter, and have been given the senior administration’s support and go-ahead to develop a two semester version of the classroom. Will this be a crazy amount of work? Yes. Will this mean a crazy amount of awesome? Hells yes.
I also travelled a lot. This is really one of the key metrics that helps me judge my year. Strangely, because of the work-life balance, I ended the year thinking that I hadn’t travelled much. In reality, I managed to fly 1.3 times the circumference of the earth (slightly less than last year, but still awesome nonetheless). This included trips to Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, and Rigolet (with stops in Goose Bay, Halifax, and St. John’s), as well as New York City, Paris, Amsterdam, and Bruges. While I didn’t add any new countries to my list, I still managed to be away from my home for about 50 days of 2015. For a guy who wanderlusts constantly, that’s a pretty awesome stat.
Things That Made Me Smile In 2015
Some of my favourite moments of 2015 weren’t necessarily about me, but they still made me realize how bloody lucky I am to get to do what I do.
Earlier this year I watched as Corey, Lee-Jay, and Oliver – the Farm To Fork developers – received the University of Guelph Student Life’s Be The Change Award. They, along with my friend and co-founder Danny, were also awarded the Guelph Mercury’s 40 Under 40 Award. Our community partners – Kate and Lisa – were awarded the Emilie Haye’s Community Partnership Award, and the program has been nominated for some other really amazing international awards. And then we ended the year with the community donating $10000 to the project. Amazing? Hells yes. All the feels? You know it.
Outside of the work domain, I got to spend some more time in the mountains with Rick, and Paul. While these adventures always make me smile – because Rick and Paul are hilarious – our hike to the summit of the Middle Sister stands out. For whatever reason, reaching the summit was a far greater challenge than I was expecting. Before we were half-way up, I was already knackered and questioning whether or not I had the energy and wherewithal to make it. The internal conversation was mostly negative, and every single step was a challenge. I don’t know where the energy came from, but I managed to put one foot in front of the other, willing myself to the top. When I finally reached the top I was beyond elated. I can’t remembering smiling that much since I reached Everest Base Camp. It didn’t hurt that Rick and Paul had me in stitches most of the way.
In October I spent more than a week in Rigolet – an amazing community in Labrador. While there I walked part of their 8km long boardwalk. It was a cold and crisp night, lit by the full moon. The night was silent save for the sound of the cold dark water lapping at the shoreline, the wind through the trees, the crunch of the ice and snow beneath my feet, and the cry of a single loon. It was magical, and one of those moments that despite being so simple was completely overwhelming. My job affords me the opportunities to travel, and I am grateful every day for this. And the more and more I travel, the more I feel that somehow I have had a far greater share of these types of moments than most.
Somehow during an incredibly busy year I also managed to head to NYC, and to Vancouver, which allowed me to spend some time with some old friends, and new. While NYC was centred on seeing Hedwig and the Angry Inch, I got to spend a few days with Arlene, and Peter. I’ve known Arlene since 2nd year university (although we technically had the same chemistry lab in 1st year), and I met Peter while travelling through China in 2014. Despite the distance between where we live, and the fact that we don’t get to see each other more frequently, spending time with these two nerds always seems to make me smile. How I lucked out to cross paths with either of them remains a mystery to me. And then there’s Dr. Beth in Vancouver. Given where she lives, it’s not often that we get to hang out. But this year I managed to see her not just once, but twice. We spent much of our time nerding out and catching up over tasty pints, or cookies, or delicious food. That I got to see her twice this year is amazing. Whoever is in charge of the universe – well done.
Hmmm, perhaps I spoke too soon. Looking back, 2015 was an incredibly amazing and full year. While I feel there are areas that I definitely need to address, I can’t really complain about the year that was. I am, very clearly, one lucky bastard.
If you’re interested, I’ve created a small album of photos that describe in some way the year that was 2015 (just click here).