Yes… it’s already the 3rd day of 2021, but I just didn’t have the wherewithal to handle writing a retrospective of 2020 until it was actually behind me. Maybe I still don’t, but here goes.
As it was for so many, 2020 was really hard for me. Perhaps for different reasons, though. It started in 2019.
My 2020 Began Early
I haven’t really talked about this publicly yet, but in the summer of 2019 it became clear that my marriage of 20 years (at the time) was ending. In many ways, I had been in a “pre-grieving” process for quite a long time, which I’m sure lessened the impact substantially.
The hardest moments for me came in October, 2019 when it was time to tell my teenage daughter. It wasn’t something she expected, and it was brutal for everyone.
Thankfully, her Mom and I have been able to work well together to focus on my daughter’s well-being. I cannot overstate how grateful I am for that. It’s been terribly hard, but many people deal with much worse in situations like these.
What I’m Grateful for in 2020
Talking about the demise of my marriage wasn’t something I really wanted to do, but as I related the news to a select few people, something amazing and—quite frankly—unexpected occurred.
I found that people in my life turned out to be unbelievably helpful.
People remain the most important aspect of my life. So many people have been supportive, caring, and even downright determined to keep me from spiraling downward. I couldn’t possibly mention them all, but here are a few standouts… in no particular order.
Bill has been one of my most trusted friends since we met 15 years or so ago for business reasons. Even though we’ve lived on opposite sides of the country for most of our friendship, through professional collaborations and motorcycling, we’ve managed to forge one of those lifelong friendships that are difficult to explain. Bill was one of the very first people I told about what was going on in the marriage, and he immediately started scheduling virtual cigar nights over Zoom just so he could check on me and talk me through craziness.
In 2020, he experienced some real difficult times and relocated to South Dakota, and so the Zoom calls and constant check-ins have continued. I will always value the genuine friendship that we have.
A friend for more than 10 years, Mike became my workout buddy in 2018 and was therefore a fixture in my life several times a week right up until the lockdown prevented us from going to the gym. Mike and his amazing wife, Nichole, have checked in on me, hosted me at their home (even allowing me to invade some family gatherings), and have been all around good people.
I won’t ever forget Chris’ reaction when I told him what was going on with my marriage. One night in September, 2019, over a couple of beers at our now-defunct hangout, Mr Beery’s, Chris immediately insisted that I go to WordCamp US in St. Louis in November, 2019. He also immediately added me to a group chat on the Signal platform that was populated mainly by friends from the WordPress community.
Little did I know that WordCamp US would be the last time I would travel for going on 14 months now. That trip was a lifeline in so many ways, and it gave me a chance to meet in person some of the wonderful people who have made 2020 bearable for me.
Dana was my ADHD coach and became a collaborator as we started working on a podcast together in the fall of 2019. She is one of the most wonderful humans on the planet, and has checked in on me constantly throughout the demise of my marriage, becoming a single Dad, and trying to navigate a growing set of business problems that became overwhelming to me in 2020.
She is now one of my most treasured friends.
Joe Brachle & the CSi Networks Crew
Joe immediately sprang into action when he learned what I was dealing with and arranged for me to play a role in the ongoing development of his successful local business. He’s been a key friend for more than 25 years, but his efforts in late 2019 and throughout 2020 have been above and beyond. The team that he’s built at CSi Networks welcomed me right back in (I’d worked with them off and on for more than 20 years, even as an employee for a stretch starting in 1998).
I met Taylor at WordCamp in St. Louis last November and interacted off and on via the Signal group. Through various disasters in 2020, we became friends and I can’t count the number of times just exchanging goofy banter back and forth with her through this past year has helped keep me sane.
Taylor’s overall genius and sense of humor—not to mention her determination to become stronger through unbelievable adversity—makes her refreshing, fun, and downright inspiring. It’s been an absolute blast collaborating with her on The Legend of CA Man in 2020… just the sort of project we all needed.
The Florist Friars
I’m just referring to the people in the Signal group as the Florist Friars because most of the names of the group aren’t suitable to be published. But starting with Chris & Joy Wiegman, this bunch has been my constant source of human interaction in a time where we couldn’t really have any of the traditional kind. You know who you are, but I have to mention Michele Butcher-Jones, Shawn Hooper, Roy Sivan (“Hi Roy!”), Josh Pollock, Meagan Hanes, Chris Wiegman (yes… there are 2 Chris Wiegmans in the WordPress community), Taylor Waldon, Mark Zameda, and others I won’t name in order to protect the innocent.
You guys and gals have been almost as important as oxygen over this last 15 months.
Sara, Stan, and the Station 2 Innovation Crowd
A couple of months ago, I got an invitation from my good friends Sara Hand and Stan Schultes to join them at the 5-year anniversary and reopening of Station 2 Innovation in Bradenton. Having shared coworking space with them many years ago, I was thrilled to see that their endeavors were still so successful and decided almost on a lark to attend their ribbon cutting ceremony. It was a bit odd to be there with everyone in masks, but I am so grateful I went.
It was such a delight to reconnect with old friends and to meet some incredible new people as well. I will forever be grateful for that invitation. Thank you Sara & Stan!
One of the people I met at the Station 2 event is my new good friend, Cassandra. A cultural economic anthropologist, Cassandra is not only a brilliant thinker and strategist, but is truly one of the most authentic, genuinely goodhearted humans I’ve ever encountered. She’s had more tragedy in 2020 than any 10 people I’ve heard about, and yet somehow has managed to maintain a caring and thoughtful disposition.
I am honored to call Cassandra a friend.
Michele was one of the co-organizers of WordCamp US, is a valued member of the WordPress community, and has become a dear friend. In addition to high levels of snark, she has supplied fun ways for me to prank Chris & Joy Wiegman, and has been an endless source of fun in the Signal group and beyond.
Most notably, though, Michele took it upon herself to see to it that I became part of her team at Thrive. She insisted that I go through the process, advocated for me, and continued to nudge me (OK she might have dragged me kicking and screaming) to do what it took.
Michele, I am forever in your debt for introducing me to the wonderful people at Thrive and for allowing me to be a part of your amazing team. I actually don’t have the words to express my gratitude right now.
Betsy Dane & Paul Rose
I said that this list was in no particular order, but that hasn’t stopped me from saving some of very best for last. These two members of the Grow The Dream team have endured some of the worst abuse from me—however unintended—of anyone this year. As my valuable colleagues, they have had to deal with lengthy silences from me when I was emotionally and mentally drained and couldn’t face the overwhelm that awaited me when I approached work. They’ve been determined friends and have continued to serve our clients well even when I couldn’t. I will never be able to repay the countless ways these two have been generous with their time, their talents, and their friendship. I appreciate you two more than you will ever know.
How I Spent 2020
Well it’s probably already clear that I spent most of 2020 trying to figure out how to function. Thankfully, working remotely was already part of my life. When I could get work done, I did my best to try to serve clients. I listened to a ridiculous number of audio books and podcasts, fell in love with Taylor Swift’s folklore (I blame you, Taylor), chatted on Signal, hung out on Twitter, launched 2 new podcasts, tried my damnedest to be a good Dad, tried not to drown in sorrows every other week when my daughter wasn’t at home with me, tried to do deep emotional work, engaged in voluntary hardship, grew a beard, and tried to keep my strategic wits about me as I slowly realized that I wasn’t able to function at the level that I’m accustomed to.
Hopefully, 2021 will be better.
Regardless, I’m holding on tightly to the people in my life. Somehow, we’ll face whatever comes together—digitally, when necessary… but hopefully in person.