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It’s hard to believe that I had a kid when I was 20 years old. I hardly knew what I was getting into – it was really a split-second decision on a Thursday morning. I said “yes” when I could have said “no,” and it changed the entire trajectory of my life. Nearly 28 years later, this notion of “parenting” is still a bit of a mystery to me. It now involves a lot of head nodding and listening, and affirming. At this stage of the game, you’ve accepted that your opinion is just that – an opinion. And it is much better when an opinion is invited to a party. Yet it rarely is.

Had I benefited from being a parent on a more conventional timeline, I might have understood this a bit better. But really, it’s all a crapshoot. Compared to my peers, it seems like I am a decade and some change ahead of schedule in some areas, but just getting started in others. It’s only been in the last few years, I’ve asked myself the questions a typical 20-year-old asks about life. I wasn’t really opining about my hopes and dreams during those sleepless hours as a young parent.

A few days ago, I came across Tim Urban’s 2015 blog post called “The Tail End.” It’s a quick read. He breaks down the lifespan of a 90-year old visually, using different metrics related to his own life. I especially like the visual of how many dumplings Tim will eat in his remaining days. If I ever heard a reason to keep living, that might be it. On the other hand, I could care less about how many super world sports ball series games will be left in anyone’s future. Sorry, sports ball fans.

What feels especially poignant is the visual around how much time Tim estimates he has left with his parents. Based on his modeling, Urban states, “…when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end.”
Below you’ll find the very last section of an infographic showing how many in-person days Tim has left with his parents relative to the days that remain:

Credit: Tim Urban, Wait, But Why

It’s really worth seeing the graphic in its entirety.

My own parents are deceased, but I’ve thought a lot about this image relative to all the other meaningful relationships in my life. It’s sobering to calculate how fleeting time really is. I started estimating how many in-person days I have left with my kid, and it really put my time with them into perspective. Now that I live in Portland, we see each other around 21 days a year, max. At the current burn rate it means we will spend a scant 918 days together over the next 42 years. For reference, we spent about 6,000+ days together between birth and 18.

This makes me want to savor it. All of it. Anything that doesn’t fall into the “fun and meaningful” camp feels small and unimportant with this in mind.

You realize that despite not being at the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in your life.

Tim Urban

Ultimately, the purpose of this exercise is to think about how to prioritize the time we have left – which is what I’ve been spending a lot of time doing on my sabbatical. Thankfully, I’m not alone. There’s a lot of this happening in my circle of 35 to 55-year-olds friends right now. In the past year, I have friends who retired early. Friends who picked up and moved. Friends who decided to get a divorce. Friends who are down-shifting their careers. Friends who are now empty nesters. Witnessing people assess and choose what matters – no matter how disruptive or scary it may be in the short-term – is remarkable and inspiring.

My life is unconventionally nonlinear, which sometimes messes with my head. More often, it makes me brim with excitement and opportunity. I feel as though I am still 20 years old (though my body may have differing opinions on the matter) and I approach the world with some of the same sensibilities. I just keep saying “yes” when I could say “no” … as if there still is time. I hope this never changes.

Twenty years ago may have been the best day to make a big life decision, but today is good day too.


One Month

This is what 37.75 out of 90 years looks like.

I hope we all make it to a long tail-end.

Credit: I have too much time on my hands.

Sunday Dispatches

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Herd of Bison crossing Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park.
Herd of bison crossing Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park. Camera: iphone XR.

Few things scare me more than the words “long-term commitment,” but for 2022, I’m going all-in. For years, I’ve been telling myself (and everyone else) that those words are not for me, but I’m starting to feel differently about it.

Over the past five months, I’ve had a lot of time to think about my life and what I want to do next. What struck me was that I’ve never intentionally built a career, a life, a relationship WITHOUT an end in mind. I’ve always clung to the notion that if I don’t like it, I’ll change it in two years. Friendships and family are the exceptions, of course. It’s hard to get rid of me there.

I recently read an article in Protocol magazine about Matt Mullenweg, the CEO of Automattic and creator of WordPress. He decided to make it his lifelong career early on and has been unwavering about it since. It’s rare these days, especially in tech, to see someone so resolute in their vision and have the commitment and stamina to see things through over a lifetime. We need more of that in every sector if we want to change some fundamental things about our culture right now. It feels imperative.

Let’s be clear, we all can’t be Matt democratizing the internet. He’s naturally brilliant and just about as charming as all get out. Most of us could find things to invest in things that go beyond our immediate family and lives. Doing so would achieve both a collective and compounding impact – something I believe is necessary to move the needle on the things critical to our community.

The trick is, collective and compounding impact need people to take meaningful action over a long arc of time. Not on everything, but maybe just one thing. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

All this to say is that I am looking at life through a 20-year lens instead of a 2-year one for the first time ever. I’ve taken inventory of what I have to offer and want to apply them in ways I haven’t before (more on this later). It feels like I am at the precipice of my life’s work. It’s scary and exciting, and feels good to have direction and purpose again. My brain, which has been a bit mushy over my sabbatical, is back.

Sunday Dispatches

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Neighborhood Overpass in Portland, Oregon. Stenciled words saying "Everything will be okay" and "Hold your heart up."
Overpass over I-84 in Portland, Oregon. Camera: iphone XR.

When I think of how this year began and how it’s closing out, it makes me want to weep. A few tears for what was lost. Some for the things that were never realized. But most of all, tears for the life that I have gained. I know I am not alone when I say 2021 has changed me. Maybe not irrevocably. And perhaps not for the long-term. But in ways that are new and undefined. I am convinced I will look back years from now and will be able to point out the important thread lines that began this year. It feels as though I have been set sail.

Earlier this year, my heart decided to crack wide open. I cried every day for a few months. It wasn’t depressing. It was freeing. I liken it to how young kids run around without restraint, expressing however they feel in the moment. We are born vulnerable, but the wounds we survive keep us from staying true to ourselves. This year reminded me we can unlearn and relearn things as many times as we need to.

I know I am not alone in concealing the unflattering things about myself – I’m human, after all. But recently, I invited a few more people see through the hidden windows of my heart and head. I let them see the really messy bits, which petrified me. But also healed me and made me braver.

I also fell back in love with words and writing. It took some time to get reacquainted, but it’s likely here to stay. I think back to when I was a professional blogger making fistfuls of money writing about things that didn’t matter so much. That feels like a lifetime ago. Now, I write for pleasure and to work out how I feel. The purpose isnt to monetize, but to create something. After that, it’s out of my hands.

Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, I can’t explain the alchemy of human connection. I wish I could. All I know is we don’t choose the people we love and who love us. We only get to choose the volume in which we give and receive love. It’s worth fiddling with the settings now and again. And to err on the side of louder and more.

I know that some of you are reading consistently and others infrequently. Thank you. I see you, and I love you. And I’m ever so grateful.

Onward to 2022. We are in it together.

Sunday Dispatches

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Joan Didion, Photo Credit: Unknown

Joan Didion was a remarkable writer, but her musings on how to live life and what it means to be a writer sustain me. Here are 7 quotes that have been etched into my heart and mind:


You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.


I’m just telling you to live [in the world]. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it.


I don’t know what I think until I write it down.


We tell ourselves stories in order to live.


Character – the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life – is the source from which self-respect springs.


Do not whine… Do not complain. Work harder. Spend more time alone.


There is a point where you go with what you got. Or you don’t go.

There is a kind of sadness that happens when the luminaries in your life pass away. It’s a strange type of grief that feels inexplicable. A friend of mine often reminds me that time is relentless. And it is. But one can get through almost anything with the passage of time.

We’ll have solved most of the enduring heartbreaks in our lives if we master when to hold on and let go. It’s easier to do the former, but more often the latter is the answer. The trick is to become more discerning, and I think that only comes with time and experience.

Sunday Dispatches

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Old Fashioned at Paydirt in Portland, Oregon. Camera: iphone XR

Every year around this time, I get a little grumpy. It’s nothing too serious, just the general sense of doom and gloom that descends over the Pacific Northwest this time of year. You would think I would be used to it after nearly four decades, but it sneaks up on me every time and is particularly bad this year. I am finding that I have to pry myself out of bed in the darkness of the morning and muster the discipline to do the things that bring purpose into my life. It’s a first-world problem, mind you, but a problem nonetheless.

Before the end of December, I usually get busy reflecting on the prior year. I have done things like summarizing what I’ve accomplished and reflected on where I’ve gone awry. I have developed goals for the upcoming year, sometimes created annual themes, or picked a single word to encompass the tenor for the next 365 days. There always seems to be a resolution or anti-resolution peppered in there. But none of it seems to matter much right now. We are all just trying to get through our daily lives, and the only thing that I feel nowadays is a sense of openness. Good or bad, come what may.

After living through nearly two years of this pandemic, the one thing that I know for sure is that my heart is much more elastic than I ever realized. My capacity to love people has grown more expansive than ever. And at this point, I feel so deferential to love as a default state of being that I sometimes worry my friends will really start to question my sanity. They tend to be much better champions of my heart than I am. So often, I am blind to people’s faults or intentions, including my own!

But I don’t know what else to do in the dead of winter, faced with another year of uncertainty. The only thing that makes sense is to test the boundaries of my heart and my capacity to give even more than I have in 2021. I cannot think of what else I am better at. And I can’t think of a better way to get myself out of the grip of these dark winter days.

I hope we all let our hearts expand a little on the other side of this winter solstice. Our outer worlds may seem smaller than ever, but our inner worlds can be as large and expansive as our imagination.

Sunday Dispatches

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A 3 or 4 year old Giyen at at Shore Acres State Park, Coos Bay Oregon.
A very long time ago at Shore Acres State Park, Coos Bay, Oregon.

I had dinner at a friend’s house the other day, and I could not stop telling stories about myself. It was like one of those out-of-body experiences where you can’t stop yourself from doing terrible things … even though you so desperately want to. “Stop talking,” you plead with your inner self, but it’s futile. Your mouth has taken on a life of its own.

So instead, you keep going, and stories fall out of your mouth one after the other, after the other, until you’re under the table drowning in your own words. No one can really save you from yourself. You’re waiting for the eventuality of your death, and all you want to hear is the dinner host call out, “Time of death, 9:35 pm. Cause of death, verbal diarrhea.”

Only then will you allow yourself to hope that you’ve regained control of your body again. Yet secretly, you know there’s always tomorrow, with a whole new group of people who never heard the story about that one time at band camp. And the entire thing plays out again like a movie sequel … sometimes better than the first, but more often worse.

This is the life of a storyteller. Which, at the age of 47, feels like the closest description of who I am as a person as there ever will be. I am in love with words and how you can fit them together in ways that can surprise and delight people. Creating stories is intoxicating. You can spend a lifetime figuring out how to write a good story and another lifetime figuring out how to tell that story out loud to a group of people. It’s something that takes time and practice, and even then, it’s a crapshoot on whether or not anything will ever come of the labor. You are compelled to show up anyway.

Writing a memoir seems like the most self-aggrandizing thing you can do as a storyteller. I am in the thick of it and feel endlessly conflicted. Who will care? But then again, there are 26 letters in the alphabet and 171,476 words in the Oxford English Dictionary calling out to me. It is nothing short of a miracle that we can string a few letters together in endless permutations to create original works of art. It takes my breath away, and the words just fall out of my head, one after another, without restraint.

Sunday Dispatches

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