Why Do I Keep Getting Back Up?

My confidence comes from learning my greatest ability is the capacity to change. To improve. To learn. To be a better version of me.

I recently read an article with an in comic explanation of why three different heroes keep getting back up – Iron Man, Captain America, and Captain Marvel. The article goes on to analyze why each get back up when knocked down. Iron Man gets back up because he believes in the future. Captain America gets back up because it’s the right thing to do because of his morals. Captain Marvel, though feeling weary of it, gets back up because she’s stubborn.

It made me think about my life, the times I’ve gotten back up, the time I said I only had one last time in me, and even now today, why I keep getting back up. 

I’ve come a long way from where I started out. Some would say I’m fortunate, and I can’t deny there are a lot of things in my life that have looked fortunate from the outside. There is truth and privilege in that. I went through times when I would ask myself why I would be worthy of luck or opportunity while others weren’t. I went through times when I felt misfortune for having persistent health issues, weight management problems, or just being me. The reality is, most of the positive, good things which have happened in my life have happened because I was on my feet and ready for them. I had planted seeds, or been the right person in the right time and place, or I saw something interesting and chased after it. 

I’ve also failed. I’ve felt miserable. I’ve been defeated and broken. So far, thankfully, for each of those times, it wasn’t long before I got back up and into something else. Even now, in the midst of recovery from the initial part of the pandemic, and recovering from leaving my career at Apple, a company I loved, bled, and sacrificed unrelentlessly to for 12 years, I have gotten back up and I’m healing again. This isn’t my worst fall. This wasn’t the one where I said to myself “I got one last one in me”.

This was the one where I’m said “this is part of life, and I may fall again, but this time I’m preparing myself to keep getting back up”. 

Why? 

I believe in the adventure of life. I believe that everything we experience is an opportunity to grow and become the next version of ourselves. I believe in the power of change and transformation. I believe as we pick up and carry ourselves into the new, we bring along the tools and lessons from the past to help carry on in new ways into the new present. Ultimately, and this is with some measure of self-awareness at the amount of confidence it takes to say this, I believe in myself. I believe in my ability to discover and refine the life I want to live, and each version of me, the people around me, and the life I’m living comes a little bit closer to a more authentic, natural, life for me. 

I think this is nuanced from belief in the future, belief in morality, or stubbornly getting back up in spite of the universe. Granted, spite is a huge motivator for me. I know it well, and of the three, I empathize with Captain Marvel the most. The number of people, especially early on, who would have rather seen me not get back up felt staggering. 

My confidence comes from learning my greatest ability is the capacity to change. To improve. To learn. To be a better version of me. It comes from hope that the path I’m on is the right one, and acceptance that even if it isn’t, I can find it again. As I draw closer to being on the outside who I am inside, it gets easier to find fulfillment and deeper happiness.

I’m in uncharted territory now, and have been for the last several years. I’m separated from my birth family who lives along the east coast. I’m seeking out different things than I have in previous iterations of myself. I’ve had heart surgery to correct the major health issue I had the first half of my life, and while I live in the city, I seek out the natural world I was surrounded by but ignored in childhood. I’m a relatively new father, and learning to balance who I am with fatherhood has its own challenges and worries. I’ve become a leader of a small community. There are so many ways my life has changed the last few years, yet I know more are on the way. 

I keep getting back up because I believe in myself. I believe in my story. I believe I am living an incredible adventure. The only way all of that ends is if I stop, so I’m not going to. I will keep getting up. I will keep finding new ways and new paths to follow. I will keep failing and learning. I will keep being optimistic for the things I can do, people I will meet, and life I may live, because I can keep growing to do amazing, incredible things. 

Why do you keep getting back up?

Fixing divisions

Today is my 44th birthday.

Hearing the sound of my 4 year old singing Happy Birthday first thing in the morning is one of the blessings I’m happy I’ve lived to receive. There are many others the last few years particularly I’ve been blessed with. Travel. People. Given the circumstances, even survival.

This year I lost my father, although really it was last year because of politics and disagreement. The things that tend to divide people right now are important yet dumb things to be divided about. Common ground is found easily enough when you stop a moment. Most of us want a peaceful life, a warm home, a full belly, and to be surrounded by others important to us. We get lost in the details of how we get there, and how much we acknowledge and ascribe these same concepts to others.

Don’t get me wrong, my views and my politics are still there. I got opinions. Lots of them. I think there is space to have them while acknowledging commonality. That’s the only way we find our way to some sort of harmony.

It’s easy to point fingers at another person or group. “We could live good lives if not for those people over there.” “Why can’t those people stop doing whatever shit they’re doing that is pissing us off?” Barring active harm to others, that’s what most of this squaring off is about, manufactured by others still to further division, discord, or maybe just to get views.

Our world, our media, our platforms and services and ways we share haven’t been working for us. Not in ways that bring us together. I know the irony and even hypocrisy in me writing this, as I’ve had my own part, and carry my own culpability in where we are now.

A few months ago I started trying something different. I stopped the direct confrontation about views. I stopped posting out of anger and frustration. I stopped showing anger or contempt online for whatever my feed or my news sources had been showing me that day.

I started engaging people without judgement of them. In discussions, I started just stating where I stood without frustration with others. I started treating others with a little more space and care for where they are, because another thing we all have in common is we’re all tired and frustrated and angry and sad and confused, and just trying to figure out the best way to get through this life with the people we love.

It doesn’t stop the anger. It doesn’t stop the discord. It doesn’t change the daily messages coming in that the world isn’t going the way we want it to.

Giving people more space does change our conversations. It changes the way we connect with people. It changes the burden we carry of people we alienate or feeling of otherness from saying “things would be fine if not for those people over there”. We don’t have to share opinions to talk about them. We don’t have to be on the same side of the political, economic, social, religious, or ethnic view to get along with each other. We only need to recognize our common humanity, dignity, and needs. That’s universal. We can all still be heard. We can all still be listened to. We can’t expect it to start with our leaders, or the media, or our apps or platforms or employers or anyone else but ourselves, and how we conduct our own lives.

I started. I’ve given it a shot. I’ve still talked about my opinions. I’ve still listened to others who have disagreed. I still get angry and frustrated and upset, but I’m walking away from more conversations feeling better about how they go, and feeling we actually listened to each other a little better than before. 

If I had learned this lesson a few months earlier, my father may not have died alone in a hospital room in Philadelphia with us never reconciling. So if I can use this pain, this weight, this thing I’m carrying from that for any good, it’s to encourage any of you or all of you who have read this far to start thinking about how you defy the messages of division from wherever you are, stop saying “but for them” and figure out how you can start changing the conversations around you. Wars have been fought for the worst of reasons. The worst reason is to fight one when ultimately you want the same thing.

It’s hard to change what you’re doing, to look at the same thing one day differently than you did the day before, the week before, or the 43 years before. I’m not asking you to change what you believe, or think, or watch, or identify with… I’m asking you to consider how you move through the world. This wild west of a hyperconnected, brain bending, propaganda laden, fake news, talking heads world that we’re all having trouble navigating. 

If you’re struggling with this, if you’re reading this and you’re feeling hesitant, blocked, challenged, or some other kind of way about it, let’s talk. Even if we haven’t in a while. Even if the last time we did it didn’t go so well. Even if I called so-and-so a something or you just can’t see why this is even a thing to begin with. It’s ok. Things change two people at a time. 

With peace, balance, and harmony;

Alex

This post is public for reshare. Do as you will. 

The First Signs of my life at Apple

As I approach my 10th chronological and official year with Apple (Sept 2017 and Feb 2018, respectively), I am looking back at what led me here and what the road has been. This is the first post about some of my experiences on this path leading up to next February, when I hope and plan to celebrate that 10th official year. I never take the next day at work or in life for granted, but I’m excited about the next few months.

Identifying a problem

August 8, 2005, I wrote:

Mom had bought a new Dell computer, and despite my warnings, actually paid them $100 for home installation. She said the guy wasn’t there long, and after he left, the sound still wasn’t working. I took me about 20 minutes to fix what he didn’t do right (the sound and he even used the wrong I/O monitor connections), and then spent the rest of the evening installing necessary programs and getting her Outlook set up. It almost disgusts me that so much work has to be put into a new computer to get it up and ready for the individual person. I’m about to go to a CompUSA, so I think I may go by and check out the Macs.

Discovering an old archive

I recently downloaded and logged into SpiderOak, an encrypted backup service I trialed many years ago, to give it an updated look. I thought everything had been deleted from the service when I stopped using it, but I was surprised to see it had about 3GB of data in use. I found the 3GB in the trash file, and the data was recoverable!

I was impressed the service had kept 3GB of data for years in a Trash bin without so much as a login on my part. I downloaded the data to find it was an old version of my Documents folder, complete with a backup archive of my old blog. It has posts from May 2005 through January 2006, covering the separation from my first marriage and subsequent decision to leave law enforcement and my hometown!

Perusing an old blog archive

I spent time today reading through the posts. It has been almost twelve years since that place and time. In my writing I see the sparks of the person I was to become. Early signs of the growth I was to experience in leaving my first career and hometown in search of something different.

In twelve years, I have changed religious beliefs and political parties. I have lived in four different states, including moving across the country to the west coast. I have remarried and had a son with my second wife. I have had a life-altering surgery to correct a heart condition which had not been properly diagnosed at the time. I have built a second career in Information Technology, and I have worked for [what I believe is] the best computer and personal device company in the world for almost the last ten years.

Many things have changed since I was the person writing that blog. Yet, among the differences, I see the foundations which would become the life altering events the last twelve years.

Getting a solution

Before I was in tech, I was a cop. My interest in tech blossomed during that time, and I began learning what I consider now to be the basics. By the time I had written the quote above, I had become the “tech guy” in my family and occasionally at work. 

When I wrote the first quote, I was outlining a problem. I didn’t know that problem would lead me to recommend an iPod to my stepfather early the next year.

January 30, 2006:

Ok, something has been on my mind since my trip to Charlotte last weekend. I set up my stepfather’s new iPod Shuffle 1 gig, basically from scratch. This included downloading and installing iTunes, ripping about 15 of his favorite cds to the computer, and adding them all to the new shuffle. Having not used iTunes since version 1, I figured it would take me a bit to figure it all out and that it would involve reading instructions, directions, or maybe even a call to tech support (those of you that know me KNOW it is an absolute last resort). I was wrong, and that is my problem. It was all so simple and easy to learn. The interface was so intuitive and user friendly. My beloved podcasts are integrated into the program, without a need for a separate program like iPodder that I use with Windows Media Player 10. Transferring files to the new iPod was fast and simple, unlike the complex world of syncing with WMP. Somewhere in the simplicity, I was hooked. I thought of the ease of conversion of my current music library from the unprotected WMA I use now to the AAC format of iTunes. I even came to accept that the files that did not transfer well could easily be purchased through iTunes, having never given myself over to the confusing cacophony of various music stores available through WMP (fear of obsolescence, I guess). Having received an offer from a coworker just last week to purchase my current RCA Lyra, I have found myself perusing the Apple store online, searching and deciding whether to jump on the iPod bandwagon.

I didn’t know that recommendation would lead me to buy one myself, or that it would lead me into an Apple store. I couldn’t have imagined those early trips to an Apple store would influence me to apply to work at one in 2007.

Ending up on the right path

I’ve been asked many times why I left law enforcement and how I ended up in tech. The months of the archive I read today cover the answer I’ve always given: I had a choice between staying where I was and looking for something different. I took the bold choice, the one of a dreamer, the one that didn’t make sense, and it eventually worked out. It wasn’t all roses. It was far from it. Tech wasn’t the first career I tried. Apple wasn’t my first employer.

Before that decision, I was never the risk taker. Making that decision was the single pivotal choice between the life I knew before and the life I have now. It was the first decision that challenged me to think differently than before.

Level 40 Alex, Level 1 Dad

I just got good at being me.

I’m almost 40 years old. I’ve been through college, a first career, first marriage and divorce, a second career, a second marriage, and a cross country relocation where I’ve planted my flag in the great state of California. I feel like I know myself pretty well.

I know my strengths, I know my weaknesses, and I have no problems expressing either. I have a fairly good idea of the things I don’t know which impact my daily life, and I aggressively acknowledge that there is much in this world I don’t know that I don’t know. If you can follow that, you’re probably on your way to self-actualization yourself.

One of the big things I know I don’t know is how to raise a kid.

Starting back at the beginning.

It’s been a while since I’ve started something new. I started my second career about 10 years ago. I met my wife about 7 years ago. I moved to CA two and a half years ago. In each case, I had started a career before, been married before, and relocated somewhere before. I had a background from which to work.

This is my first time raising a kid from birth. I’ve been a stepfather to teenagers. I’ve had very limited babysitting experience. I’ve never been in the day in, day out of keeping a newborn alive. For the first time in a long time, I’m back at Level 1.

Is there a buff for this?

I’m hoping that all the other experience gained from doing other things helps. I know I’m not going to be jumping right in and be awesome, but I hope that as I encounter the unknown found in dirty diapers and extreme sleep deprivation, I can pull from having to crawl through the other muck of life to get to the promised land of a potty trained child. I hope as we negotiate on what pre-school and schools to send him to, I can draw from the other decisions I’ve made to help guide us.

I’m not going to be a grade A dad right off the bat, but I want to be a great dad, and maybe that will help make the difference.

Letting my day get ahead of me.

I was already off balance.

I had a weird as hell dream last night. My wife is almost 35 weeks along, so we’re preparing for the new baby which is about to change our lives in ways we don’t even realize are possible. Last night I dreamed my wife had the baby, and it was mine, but wasn’t hers. That’s right, I had a fucked up dream that the baby my wife is carrying wasn’t her baby. In the dream, the mother of the aforementioned baby wasn’t anyone I know, but it led to all kinds of turmoil and conflict at the hospital.

Waking up to that bad dream, especially when I rarely have bad dreams, threw off my state of mind this morning. We had planned to get up and get out. Have a pedicure, maybe go shopping. An easy day is all I had to do.

The smallest of cuts.

We went to Starbucks. About once a week for the last month I’ve been getting the new sous vide egg bites. I started keto four weeks ago and they’re an easy somewhat keto-friendly option there. A few days ago I had gone by a Starbucks and had been told they were sold out. Today when I ordered them they said the region was pulling them because their distributor doesn’t have space for them.

This pissed me off way more than it should have. Why should I have given that much of a fuck about it? I shouldn’t – just order something else and move on. Instead I ordered something else and mumbled something about “fucking senseless” under my breath as I walked away. I could have done without that.

A pedicure should have made things better.

My wife wanted to get a pedicure this morning, and she wanted me to come with her. I’ve never had one, so I was game. I wish I had been in a better state of mind, because I think I would have enjoyed it more.

Instead, I was gnashing around the egg bite thing, the dream, and a situation at work in my mind. None of these things were relevant to my immediate life, and I should have gone on not giving them any further mind.

Finally turning things around.

After the pedicure and a quick trip to Ikea (yes, I said quick, so that much was going for us today), I went off on my own in search of a clear head. Finding a book related to my work situation and starting another about simplifying the things that I really care about helped. I’m not going to call out the books by name today, I’ll wait until I’m done reading them to mention, but there is one exercise I did this afternoon I think is helpful.

I write down two lists; a list of things I care about (whether I should or not), and a list of things which I surprisingly don’t care about (which maybe I should). It was a simple free-form exercise to see what I would write down if I were honest with myself. I’m going to sit down to go over it in a few days, but today it was enough to get it out.

I think I’ve had some bleed between the things I really care about and stuff I can really let pass. I’ve gone through simplifications and resets before, and I think with a baby coming it’s a good time to do this again. In a month, there’s going to be a lot of things on that list of things I care about which simply won’t be in the competition anymore, and shouldn’t be.

For today, I’m not on edge anymore. I know there are things for me to clear off my plate, and being upset about stupid egg bites at Starbucks is one of them.