Posted on 2020-01-05

Read Time: 4 minutes | 655 words

2019 Retrospective

summary: The title of this post is both an indication of its content and a personal challenge. I’m not entirely sure how to provide a retrospective on 2019. I’m not even sure where to begin.

I might also note that this entire retrospective is probably the height of a “first-world consideration.” There are very real issues and real disasters going right now that make my reflections here seem trivial. I suppose, in fact, that they are. I don’t pretend to think that these matter one iota to the world at large.

They are important to me, though, so I am sharing them. If you’re reading this, I assume you have a reason for being interested. If not, well, there is always a lot of content out there.

Some years, clearly suck. Others, on the balance, can be seen as pretty good years. Most move somewhere within the gradient - ranking on a scale between terrible and awesome. Then there is 2019. Last year was so all-over-the-place that I can neither categorize nor attempt to categorize it into any clear ranking. In some ways, it was the best year I have had in a long time.

  • I completed my PhD. I got to work on amazing research and basically wrote a book on the history of the Internet as a sociotechnical concept. I got to delve deep into publics and the imaginaries that were instrumental (and remain instrumental) in the evolution and expansion of our modern Internet.
  • I moved back to Minnesota - to an apartment I love in a city (Saint Paul), I adore.
  • My wife, who had been working on her own PhD in Nebraska for the past 4 years, finished her coursework and teaching which meant an end to our having to manage the trials and tribulations of long-distance relationship.

In other ways, it has been incredibly difficult and crushing.

  • The job market (academic and professional) and the stressors of the general job hunt filled the first half of 2019 with a sort of almost existential dread that really took a toll.

  • My health and fitness, which had steadily improved since 2014 took a sharp decline and left me feeling incredibly frustrated and defeated.

  • For the first time in my life, I allowed my getting older to play with my head. I felt like I was too old and it was too late for certain things 1.

Then there is the other stuff. The positives lurking within negatives and the negatives that snuck into the positives of the year that really throw things out-of-whack. How do I track getting a great job that drops me right back into the midst of a corporate rat-race that I have never been fully invested in, or getting the opportunity to work with incredible scholars as I attempt to balance a professional and academic identity while struggling to clear enough time to actually work on these amazing projects? There is no clear up or down here. My attitudes and views on all of these events seem to change by the day and the hour.

I think I can categorize 2019 in one way. It was an exhausting year. I left it tired, and I think that is because I know that while the year has changed there is so much left to do.

At best, 2019 has the set the stage for 2020. It is going to be a challenging year in many ways, and the work isn’t getting any easier. I do think that 2019 left me stronger, though. I may be tired, but I am not done. I have a better understanding of what I want. While the path to that is remains clouded, I am still moving (trudging as it may be) forward.

And that, if anything, marks a good end to a year.

  1. For the record, I actively reject that mindset. I just hate that it became an issue for me this year. ↩︎

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