50 Things That Made My Year (2023)

Tree rings
Photo: Simon Stankowski

Time is the fire in which we burn.
–Delmore Schwartz


Here in no particular order are 50 things that made 2023 for me:

  1. My daughter becoming a teenager.
  2. My daughter going away to a week-long summer camp—in 100+-degree weather.
  3. Getting to 10 pushups. 40 years ago, I could do 50-75 good form pushups without stopping. Two years ago, I could do zero. One year ago, I could do one. Today, I can do 10-15 without stopping. I’m now doing several sets of 10 each day, and it feels great.
  4. Seeing my team’s old football league trophy when I visited my old high school.
  5. The instant gratification of Apple CarPlay in my new car. This is the first time I’ve had a car where you can press a button, say the name of any old song, and have it immediately start playing. Also can text and call people, hands-free. Wow.
  6. My daughter’s first (middle) school dance. I only knew the awkwardness of being a boy at such events, so I was worried it would be awful. Turned out she had a lot of fun, and middle school dances are nothing like my childhood.
  7. Creating kits for benches for my wife’s art class. My wife’s a middle school art teacher, and students painted these after parent volunteers assembled them. They’re now sitting in the student outdoor common area.
  8. Building a firepit.
  9. Building a woodshed to go along with the firepit.
  10. Visiting the Oregon Country Fair with my wife and daughter. I’ve been several times, but it was my daughter’s first.
  11. Watching my daughter climb an obstacle course, and hearing her say out loud after “I feel like I can do anything!”
  12. Publishing a short ebook titled Start Using Git Now: A 30-Minute Crash Course.
  13. Taking my daughter to visit Reed College’s library. She’s 13, but loves books and libraries and we often pass by Reed’s lovely campus. We explored every corner of the library, and she was bowled over. I could see her world expanding in that moment.
  14. Setting fewer goals. Towards the end of the year, I had a minor epiphany (or remembered one): constant obsession with goals and todo lists was me perpetually living in the future—and it was making me miserable. So for 2024, I decided to have almost no goals and just keep taking small steps.
  15. Writing more by hand, with fountain pens. Writing by hand is a very different experience for me than typing, and produces different results. I often feel I write better when writing by hand. Current favorite fountain pen: Wordsworth & Black. Inexpensive, but works well.
  16. Visiting Aikido class with my daughter. My daughter’s practiced Aikido for several years; I did for a few years in my 20s, but this practice session resulted in me straining my glutes and being too sore to walk properly for days.
  17. Getting a DXA scan. Now I know with some precision how much body fat I’m carrying. It was slightly less than I thought.
  18. Bench pressing over 200 pounds. In my long journey back to fitness, I’ve gone from gym rat to totally sedentary to somewhat stronger. I’m not trying to set records, but bench press is a helpful indicator of my fitness and strength level, and it feels good.
  19. Continuing to introduce my daughter to 70s and 80s movies and music. She’s currently obsessing over Weird Al’s Dare to Be Stupid album (1985). She knows movies from the 60s-80s better than she knows current ones.
  20. Buying a 15” MacBook Air M2. For a long time, I was a ThinkPad fan. But this MacBook Air is the best laptop I’ve ever owned, hands down. Screen, form factor, battery, overall design, you name it.
  21. Applying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness for my student loans. Not completed yet, but soon.
  22. Attending Venardo’s Circus with my family. This small but mighty show was really something, and the seats were great.
  23. Learning a lot about foot health, which led me to switch to zero drop shoes. Right now, favorite brands are Xero Shoes and the New Balance Minimus Trail. I doubt I’ll ever go back to ‘normal’ shoes.
  24. Canceling most subscriptions. Late in the year, we took a hard look at expenses and realized we rarely used most subscriptions (Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.). Cancellations will save us over $1,000 a year, and we lose almost nothing.
  25. Disconnecting from productivity porn. The YouTube channels, the Twitter/X threads, the blogs, the ebooks, all of it. I’ve come to realize that it just doesn’t help me much to keep trying to optimize every aspect of life, and adds more stress than clarity. Like note taking, for example.
  26. Helping my daughter continue to try new things. She’s tried Aikido, volleyball, roller derby, piano, others. So far, only piano has stuck. I believe in the idea of trying everything first, then narrowing interests later. Childhood is a time to explore and discover.
  27. Reading more fiction. Many years I’ve rarely read fiction at all, and those always seemed to be the worst years.
  28. Engaging more on Twitter/X. I’m not sure Twitter is a great tool, but even a small amount of effort resulted in a lot of new followers and learning.
  29. Starting this Substack newsletter (and for now, duplicating it on LinkedIn).
  30. Trying out ChatGPT. I have many thoughts about AI and it’s purpose and role in our world, but I’m glad I’ve been trying it out and learning more.
  31. Getting better at being present, or at least seizing the moments.
  32. Letting go of a lot of ‘to learn’ goals. A large part of my bookshelves are ‘aspirational’: improve math skills. Relearn basic physics and electronics. Relearn Latin. Delve into more history. This year, I realized these are not real goals, and while I’ll explore and remain curious, I’m letting go of committing to a long list of ‘to learn’ topics.
  33. Playing more guitar. The left-hand finger calluses are returning.
  34. Learning about business small bets, and placing a few (like the Git book).
  35. Getting a ~4-foot slice of an old fir tree. The neighbors felled a very large/tall fir tree and gave me a slice: about 4’ at widest, about 2-3” thick. Easily over 100 pounds. I counted the rings—about 120. Never worked with green wood, but I’m hoping to turn it into something.
  36. Began developing and documenting a text-based workflow and tool stack for my writing. For many years, I’ve written (meaning typed) most things in Markdown text files and converted the result to other formats—ebooks, PDFs, etc. This might result in writing and publishing an ebook about it.
  37. Experimenting with digitizing my handwriting. If the perfect tool existed for turning handwriting into electronic text, I might shift to doing most writing my hand. I’m investigating.
  38. Continuing to learn and experiment with diet. After losing >90 pounds on a ‘keto’ diet and transforming my health in many ways, I stalled hard. I’m looking to lose the last 50 or so, and diet is still the key.
  39. Listening to more music. This is part new car technology (Apple CarPlay), part playing more guitar again, and part just cracking open my shell.
  40. Buying a Bluetooth-enabled stereo receiver and good speakers. Now, we can listen to music and audio books in the living room from any device. The convergence-of-all-devices-in-the-house continue.
  41. Talking to neighbors. One neighbor lost his job for several months; he joined me on my daily walks, and I made a new friend. Another neighbor, a 30+-year neighborhood resident in his early 80s, is often outside and we talk in the street, at my open garage door, wherever. He admires my woodworking tools, we trade jokes, talk about home repair and contractors and the other neighbors.
  42. Seeing my daughter grow into a funny, clever kid. She cracks jokes, acts out silly parts. Every parent knows that you periodically get handed a new kid—they’re always developing—and it’s been a year of big growth for her. And me.
  43. Enjoying a gas fireplace. After a week-long power outage in 2022, we got a gas fireplace insert and sit by it almost every morning.
  44. Realizing there’s a limit to how many more books I can read before I die, and that most books in the world will go unread by me.
  45. Reread and thought about Bukowski’s poems Wasted and The Laughing Heart at least every week of the year.
  46. Witnessing a trifecta of age milestones: me turning 60, my wife turning 50, my daughter turning 13.
  47. Visiting Mt. Angel Abbey as a chaperone for my daughter’s class. A monk led the tour, and we even saw (and held) rare medieval books. This trip was a more transcendent experience than I expected, probably influenced by a recent reading of all 21 books of the Brother Cadfael series.
  48. Volunteering to teach discus to my daughter’s class for an upcoming track & field meet. I threw discus in high school, and realized that I love coaching.
  49. My daughter getting her braces off.
  50. Pizza and movie night every Friday. We don’t really watch TV, so movie nights are special (and it’s my only diet ‘cheat’ meal every week).

What was the best thing about your 2023?