2015 was one of the worst years of my life

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2015 was a bad year for me. It happens, and in the specific case of ’15, a bunch of it was on me. I ain’t running from that. Failure is an important thing to discuss. I got a bunch of it from two-oh-one-five.

Before we get into this, there are a couple of important caveats:

  1. This isn’t meant to be a sob story. I’m not out there looking for sympathy, or empathy, or anything of the like. I’m just writing about stuff as transparently as I can. That’s part of why I write here. This blog is a little dinky thing to most people, but in 2015 — here comes a success — I got individual e-mails from people in 14 countries, often about deeply personal issues, in response to something I wrote about work or my life. That’s powerful, at least to me.
  2. To underscore that I don’t want this to be a sob story, in each section below I talk about a problem, some issues, and then how I’m going to begin to solve it. That’s what they call “proactive.” (I think.) That moves it away from “OMG, woe is me!” and towards “Yo 2016, you want some?”

Alright. Let’s get it going.

No. 1: I got fired

This happened in November.

Here’s a little backstory: I moved to Ft. Worth (that’s near Dallas, for the uneducated) in July 2014. I started working at a company. I worked there for 17 months and got axed in November of this year.

I’m not a very big ‘work is virtue’ person — as I’ve gotten older, I think some jobs are really cool (parts of this one were) and some jobs are a lot of digital paper-pushing (ditto) and many jobs are a means to an end if you live in a capitalism. I think we spend a lot of time worried about money and our own personal relevance at any job, but neither of those things are really tied back to happiness.

Here’s the thing: it still stings, you know? It’s still a rejection, a discontinuation, an end, etc. I still woke up that Monday and had nowhere to go — and while I do stuff like work out and write and plan the next step, there are still gaps in my days, of course. It feels devoid of purpose sometimes. It’s not easy.

A dozen or so people from my last job messaged me being like “Tear it down in a blog post!” Naw. I wouldn’t do that. First off, it’s petty as hell. Second off, a lot of the last year for me was thinking about why companies even need to exist. If you get to the most granular level, besides providing work for society, it’s essentially (a) to make money and (b) to provide a service to whatever customers/clients it has. That’s really it, at base. Where I was working does all that, so it’s doing fine. Every place has flaws, just like every person.

So, what am I gonna do? Well, at some point I’m gonna get a job, or a series of jobs, or string together some income. If you’ve got any ideas, hit me up. I wish I could tell you I’m gonna fly to Thailand and do my blubbery male version of Eat Pray Love, but I think I gotta accomplish a few things home-side first. I’ll probably end up back in a standard job, hopefully one that’s a slightly better fit, but one thing the last 1.5 years taught me is that I need to have a bunch of different ways to challenge myself and grow. I’m not very good with rote tasks and deliverables, per se — which is a challenge, because most jobs are predominantly about rote tasks and deliverables. That’s where I need to evolve.

No. 2: Modern Romance

I read Modern Romancethe Aziz Ansari/NYU sociologist book — on the plane from DFW to NYC for Christmas. It’s probably about 270 pages, and that’s about a 3-hour flight, and I straight murdered it. It’s that good of a book.

I’ll say this quickly and with emphasis: regardless of your relationship status, sexual orientation, or lot in life … read that book. It goes into detail on topics around love, romance, marriage, mating, and all the rest that people almost never discuss — even though who you love, marry, and mate with is pretty much the baseline of your life.

OK, so I’m married. If you’ve been married or have friends that are married — or I dunno, maybe your parents were married at some juncture? — you probably know it’s hard. My brother-in-law got married in ’15 (June) and my wife made a speech at it. It was really quick, but she basically said “Make up every day and commit to loving the other person.” (If you want the dirty little secret of that speech, it’s half-stolen from a different speech from 2013.)

That’s the simplest, most elegant way one can explain how to do a marriage, right? Just wake up and commit to love and what comes with it. It’s still hard. It’s fucking hard. Stuff happens — i.e. you get fired — and you deal with two families, a new place to live, and daily responsibilities.

When I talked about Aziz above, one of his big things is that we often see other relationships in a curated way — i.e Facebook, etc. — so we don’t always know what the real deal of two people is. I know couples that fight consistently, and then you see ’em at a public event or on Instagram and it’s like OMG perfect bliss and harmony. It isn’t always real, you know? The only thing real, to borrow some cutesy millennial shit, is the struggle. And by ‘the struggle’ in this case, I mean Act II of your life.

So look, I fucked up as a husband this year. I will in 2016 too. I don’t think marriages know perfection, per se.

So, what am I gonna do? This will tie a little with the next section, but basically, at the end of Christmas — before I came back to DFW area — I sat down and wrote a list of stuff that I want to do better in 2016. This included my marriage, but also jobs, health, friendships, general approaches, etc. I got a bunch of documents around it, including a solid seven pages of MS Word with totally funny shit that’s happened to me since I was 25, and goddamn it, I will become a new Seth Rogen someday. OK, that probably won’t happen.

No. 3: Drinking

Let me give it to you straight here. When you get fired before the holidays, you get depressed. When you get depressed and you’re fired and you live across the street from a bar and down the street from a handful of others, some shit gets real. Everyone drinks too much at the holidays, honestly, but I definitely did this year. I felt like I wasn’t focusing on anything properly, and waking up feeling like trash isn’t a good way to move that in the positive direction. It was just too much; it kinda took the idea of ‘What could I be?’ and turned it into ‘Shit, this is what I am right now?’

So, what am I gonna do? I’m not gonna drink. (Pause) Wait, what? Yep. Just not gonna drink. Could be 3 months, 3 years, 30 years. Dunno. Just gonna do this 24 hours at a time. Wake up, new day, and the goal is hit your targets (gym, jobs, texting friends) and reach the end of the day without drinking. I’ve read a couple of books on this and a few Medium articles by people who have done it. It’s hard, yes. But is it end-of-the-world hard? No. And if I chase it and chase it properly, maybe I can turn back to ‘What could I be?’ and really hit that.

No. 4: Health

Oh wow, someone is writing a post near January 1 and talking about their health! OMG! This is completely new! Am I going to mention getting a gym membership? No. I have one of those, sucker.

This was after that 2011 Half Marathon.

So, what am I gonna do? I did a half-marathon in Arizona in 2011. Feels like it’s time to do another, then chase a full. So I started running on a 10-week plan. I’m trying to do one in March in NC. Failing that (i.e. can’t afford it, don’t have job-type deal), there’s some stuff in Dallas in April. I could drive there, so we’re good! Focus, goals, etc.

No. 5: Books, Learning, Curiosity, Etc.

When I started writing this blog, my whole goal was to try and learn about new things. I’m in a bunch of group text threads, and except for the ones predominantly about sports, I typically feel pretty stupid. I don’t know shit about the economy or finance or anything like that, so I wanted to find a way to force myself to learn; to kind of explore the context (hence the name) behind things, as opposed to just the surface-level elements we know. Over time, it probably became more about a specific series of topics and I still don’t really understand high finance, but I still learn something new every day — and that feels cool. So my new kick is reading a bunch of books.

From Aziz, I learned that as recently as about 80 years ago, women essentially had little choice aside from ‘get married to move out of your parents’ house.’ There are UPenn research charts on this! Something like 30 percent of women in 1932 married a guy from within 18 blocks of where they grew up. That’s insane! I’m from NYC, my wife is from Miami. One of my best friends is from PA and is married to someone from Holland. Another: Michigan to NY. Everything changed about relationships, and everything changed for women, within the last 100 years. That’s a damn grain of sand in broader human existence. Oh and hey — the Holocaust was in the same period, which is probably the worst thing ever by some estimates.

Things are changing fast. You gotta find ways to learn about ’em and contextualize ’em. If you sit back and rely on what you already know, in life or in business, I feel like you’ll eventually get torched.

So, what am I gonna do? Read, read, read, and talk, talk, talk to people. I’m starting a podcast just for the purposes of discussing the world with interesting human beings. I may start a video series. I e-mail new people every day. Human connection, yo. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Isn’t that what we’re chasing when it’s all over?

No. 6: Let’s wrap this up

I started listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast more recently. On the B.J. Novak episode, Novak says that everyone hits a new year and is all about change and resolutions and what’s next. That’s very true. Novak argues that before you can do that, you gotta take stock of what happened, and what was good/bad, and then you can move on. That’s all this post is. In reality, it’s nada more, and nada less. 2015 had more bad than good, and I’m sure other years down the road will fall into the same category.

So, what am I gonna do? Dust it off and get the fuck after it. See you all out there.

My name’s Ted Bauer; I blog here regularly and I’m a member of the BlogPoets network. My deal: I try to think differently about work, the future of work, leadership, management, marketing, organizational development, customer experience, and more. I’m out here trying to chase real professional connection and collaboration, not just 200K page views. Anyone want to talk? (I also do freelance and ghostwriting work, if anyone’s into that.)

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Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money: http://thecontextofthings.com/hire-freelance-writer-ted-bauer/

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