The Hardest Year of My Life

WordPress sent me a year in review infographic for this blog (linked below), and it got me reflecting on the year.  There was more on my mind than I suspected.

We’re living in a beautiful place just like we dreamed.  I’m working from home and travelling, which has always been a goal.  We’ve got family and friends close.  I launched Praxis and have never been more thrilled with the work I’m doing.  Yet I can unreservedly say 2013 was the hardest year of my life.

The year began with a horrible flu and cold that took the whole family out of commission for a ridiculous amount of time and put a damper on the holidays back in Michigan.  I knew even then, and told my wife Heather more than once, that this would be a hard yet amazing year.  I was ready to take it on, though I had no idea at the time what that meant.

I left a job that I absolutely loved to go after my entrepreneurial dream, based almost entirely on a single walk on the beach.  I know, cliche.  The photo on the masthead of this blog was taken the very day the inspiration struck.  It was early in 2013, and I was restless for no known reason.  I went to Isle of Palms to walk and think.  The word “Praxis” popped into my head, and it was like the floodgates opened and the entire program was born in my mind.  I raced back to my car, drove to my laptop to get it all down, and immediately began building.

Shortly before that beach walk, I had committed to myself to start blogging every single day, seven days a week.  I was in a creative drought.  I knew I had to force myself to create something, and if I didn’t know what, blogging would do.  I did it for a full six months.  It was incredibly challenging at times, but also very freeing and very rewarding.  It helped me carve out the space I needed to think outside the milieu I was in.  I can’t give any concrete causality, but I can confidently say that Praxis never would have been launched had I not been changed by the process of daily blogging.  Creating begets creating.

Travel and trying to start a business while putting my heart and soul into another job I was passionate about and my family started to take a toll midway through the year, but all seemed largely to be humming along.  I was on my way home from a trip to New York when I finalized arrangements to go full time with the Praxis launch.  I was ecstatic, and all my flights were (unusually) on time, so I even got home to put the kids to bed.  Then it came.  A text I’ll never forget.  I was sitting on my son’s bed and we read it together.  My 4 year old nephew Ryland fell in the pool and was in the ER in critical condition.

The next several days, then weeks, were a blur.  We rallied together as a family, but despite everything all of us could do, my sister’s beautiful little boy passed away.  The day of the funeral, Heather had to leave early to fly to Michigan due to unexpected news that her father was in Hospice.  He had been declared cancer free on Christmas day 2012.  In the spring, it came back, but he was fighting it and he was young and healthy.  Things turned quickly, and before we had a moment to process the loss of Ryland, we were packing the kids in the car to head up to Michigan for their grandfather’s funeral.

In between time putting pieces together with family, I spent the fall speaking to students about Praxis.  Giving inspirational talks on innovation and entrepreneurship was not easy while dealing with the stunning loss of two close family members.  What should have been the most exciting fall of my life was the saddest, and I had to push myself just to keep at it.

It’s been a bit more than three months since the death of my nephew Ryland and my father in law Mike.  So much has happened, and so much good, but we’re still trying to process it.  Parenting is hard enough as it is, but it’s been especially challenging trying to help a brooding 8 year old, a quietly perceptive 4 year old, and a loquacious 2 year old understand and deal with death.  They randomly recall memories that make holding back tears impossible.  I’m thankful for that.

I did not plan on writing any kind of year-end reflection, and I have not been doing daily blogging here since I launched Praxis, but this cool little blog year in review stirred up a lot.  I was especially moved to see that the most popular post on the site by a mile was an interview with my sister in the summer, which was reposted by several people while Ryland was in the hospital and after he moved on from this life.  I’m glad to have been able to lend something to the literally thousands of people who took compassion on her family and wanted to know more.

Considering the year and imagining 2014 leaves me speechless.  (If you know me, you know that’s a rarity).  I can’t say I’m full of a lot of joy, or anger, or even sadness.  I’m waiting for the inertia of life to slow down again so I can get back in the driver’s seat…or at least the useful illusion of being there.

I will say this: never have I had such a deep appreciation for the kindness of strangers than in 2013.  Friends and family have been amazing, but that’s not a surprise to me.  Scores of random people and internet acquaintances have truly and unexpectedly made the joys so much greater, and the grief so much less lonely.  Thank you.

Below is what WordPress sent me to summarize this year of blogging.  Thanks for being a part of it.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 21,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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