What Kind of Year It’s Been (So Far)

Life has been surprisingly eventful for me in 2019. I don’t often read too much into zodiac logics, but it is the Year of the Boar — my year.

Part of me wonders if I thumped my chest a little too much over something that happens once every twelve years. The year has been, well, transformative, with the added stress of life-altering events happening at roughly the same time.

Below are the big three.

I left my “ideal” neighborhood.

In 2018, I moved to a part of Seattle that I coveted for quite some time: the International District. Everything from my place of work to my favorite restaurants were just a few blocks away on foot.

Leaving was largely a matter of money. Since I moved here in 2015, rent has increased by about $100 per month annually. I just couldn’t rationalize paying that much anymore, especially with an uncertain future ahead of me.

Fortunately, I found a spacious studio in Capitol Hill where I pay about half of what I paid overall for my place in the ID, and the lease is short-term in case I want to explore other options outside of Seattle… which is likely.

I lost my “perfect” job.

My tenure with the Greater Foundation (begreater.org) ended officially on August 31. Although the ride was briefer than I would have hoped, it was thus far the best professional experience of my life.

It wasn’t my first non-profit, but it was the first time I found myself in a position to shape an organization’s long-term future. I’m proud of many of our accomplishments, including:

  • Raising over $585,000 through donations and grants
  • 130 participants in our Startup Kickoffs, a one-day program
  • 37 applicants and 11 participants in our multi-week Training Camp
  • Over 160 mentor applicants, many from Amazon, Microsoft, etc.

I’m still working through some emotions over the unceremonious way we ceased operations, but it was still a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who saw value in our mission.

In the end, the lessons I taught to our youth community are now my own as well: Be Ready, Be Engaged, Be Respectful … Be Greater.

I’m separating “permanently” from my wife.

After 11 years of friendship, romance, and marriage, I am getting a divorce. It’s very difficult for me to talk about this, and yet I find myself eager to do so in safe spaces because I really want to process it all.

The best way for me to explain what happened: we met and fell madly in love when we had similar trajectories. We spoke the language of academia, and our needs and comforts were simple. We were a great fit.

When we married, I switched to a different path. We continued to love and support each other to the best of our abilities, but this year we came to a difficult realization: we thrived better as individuals than as partners.

I still love and respect my now ex-wife more than just about anyone in the world, maybe even the multi-verse. She’s objectively a terrific human being: brilliant, hilarious, compassionate, generous, loving, ambitious, gorgeous, and well-rated by her students, apparently!

I wish her nothing but the best and hope we’ll still be connected in some way.

It’s difficult for me to say more, so I’ll stop there.

Whoa, so why did all of this happen?

I look at these three events as interconnected:

  • Without my ex-wife, I didn’t have the heart to work at Greater as much, nor could I afford to live in my home in the ID any longer.
  • Without Greater, I felt less like the ideal partner to my ex-wife, and I didn’t need to live close to Pioneer Square (Greater’s HQ).
  • Without my home in the ID, I was no longer in my ex-wife’s dream neighborhood or in touch with the Greater community.

There was certainly one question that launched a chain reaction: am I living my authentic self? At the end of 2018, I thought I had everything: amazing wife, beautiful home, great job, and plenty of freedom to finally enjoy things.

Yet I found myself wondering if I was actually happy or simply convincing myself to think so. The closer I looked at my life, the more I realized that it seemed perfect on the outside, but discreetly I was battling loneliness, anxiety, ennui, boredom — I didn’t feel right in my own skin.

I started doing therapeutic things I should have done a long time ago: exercise, nutrition, proper rest, spending time with people who I genuinely like and respect, create and express myself shamelessly, and enjoy experience in safe, moderate ways. I stopped defining myself by what I had and consumed and more by what I did and who I helped in the process.

It’s weird: through simple upkeep and a shift towards a healthy balance between selfish and selfless, I developed a clairvoyance about my needs. Sadly, I had to make dramatic changes based on that pursuit of self-actualization. I still haven’t resolved them in full, but I’m optimistic I’ll find a life that fits me and makes me feel whole again.

What do I need (from you)

If you’ve gotten this far, thanks. All things considered, I’m doing really well. I’m proactively taking care of myself through diet, rest, exercise, therapy, good company, and the pursuit of humility. (I admit I’m not always great at the latter, but hey . … it’s okay if I like myself from time to time.)

However, I’ve also found myself getting into trouble at times. The wounds of these transitions haven’t fully healed, and I’m finding myself easily seduced and swayed, falling into bad habits out of fear, often misinterpreting people’s intents and feelings, even acting in ways to others that feel less than proper.

It’s a weird time for me, and the last thing I want to do is cause any unnecessary work, harm, or awkwardness. If you see me or want to engage, I’d love for you to do the following:

  1. Don’t make any judgmental or summarily conclusive statements, especially about my ex. It doesn’t make me feel better to hear your analyses about my life — it’s usually the opposite. I find people say them to make themselves sound smart, which I don’t care to hear. I’m never asking for these opinions, so why are you expressing them?
    More importantly, my ex-wife isn’t some abstract anecdote about me — she was and is a major part of who I am, and she’ll always be a part of me. Insulting her is a blow to me as well.
    So, please, check yourself and respect us in this challenging time.
  2. Instead, ask how I’m feeling or doing. I’ll be honest as possible here — overall I’m okay, but sometimes I have ups and downs, depending on the latest developments. I may lie, and sometimes I won’t even know I’m doing it, but it’s probably because I’m saying what others want to hear.
    Real Talk: I think there’s a weird, perverse culture out there that delights in the misery of others, as if people want to hear how badly I’m doing so that they can try to fix me (i.e. hero complex) or feel better about themselves (i.e. narcissism).
    I’ll leave it up to the truly empathetic ones to know what’s really going on and how to handle me accordingly. For the rest of you — recognize.
  3. Recommend me jobs, opportunities, and connections, but … don’t pressure me. I’m embracing a flexible future for now (I’ve been saving up for something for some time — I guess this is that something), but I won’t say no to a cool possibility. Some of you know I’m finally exploring a long-time professional passion in a serious way, but I’m well aware of the risks involved. It’s only pragmatic to stay curious, right?
    More Real Talk: Another perverse culture I’ve noticed: people are very interested in my prospective dating life. Out of respect to her (and honestly, to myself and where I am emotionally), I’m not aggressively pursuing anything right now, and certainly not something serious. I’d appreciate some space from you meddlers out there, especially for those who seem to ship me with every female within fifty miles due to your heteronormative assumptions.
    I’m not closed off to the possibility of making a connection with someone. In fact, I’m quite hungry for socialization and need it often. Instead, I’m prioritizing the cultivation of relationships in a long-term sense.
    Relationship Goal: I want to be able to have as many companions as possible so that if I need a place to sleep somewhere in the world, I’m not compromised by some selfish drive for a fleeting moment of passion.
    Let’s try to be friends with zero expectations, and we’ll take it from there.

In spite of these major changes, I still think it’s … my year. Maybe I’ll write another post about some of the incredible highlights and forthcoming events that I can’t wait to share with the world.

Until then, I thought it was time to share with you all the latest with me. I’m okay — really. I hope everyone else out there is too.

With love and respect,

— Lee

Write with intention. Think with compassion.

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