Excelsior! Recapping 2018 and looking ahead.

Later 2018!

It’s been a hell of year. Professionally. Personally. Externally. Internally.

I’ve wanted to write a few times over the last two months, but my head was too cloudy, and the pieces of what I wanted to share were too jumbled to put down. I’m in a place where my thoughts have settled a bit, and I wanted to definitively stop my rumination.

To say I’ve taken on a lot of challenges this year would be a massive understatement, and a true disservice to the amount of growth I’ve had in a multitude of areas. I’ve started to be a better friend, I’m a father, I’ve become a decent photographer, I’m on the precipice of beginning a new job, and I’ve continued to improve my self-awareness and objectivity.

It’s fairly easy to pick out flaws and to pontificate on things you’d like to change about yourself. I’m no different in that regard. My problem has been that I’ve had a lifelong struggle with my own high expectations. I’ve started to recognize when I’ve done well enough. I’m moving on from things that I typically nitpicked myself about.

I’ve had a lot of help with that at work. I’m part of a team with exceptionally high standards for themselves, and it took a toll on me. It felt as if I was in a feedback loop of constant evaluation and rehashing of past events. It’s generally coming from a good place of trying to find the best solution to issues that arose, so we can improve the outcome of similar situations that happen. Unfortunately, I started to feel as if nothing was ever handled acceptably, and that I’d never reach a place where I’d feel good about my decision making skills, problem solving, or my accomplishments. In the past, that lethargy would have led to an extended period of depression, but this time around, I used it as a motivational tool to seek a change in my environment.

When I started working for adults with disabilities three years ago, I had no experience in the field. Within eight months my work ethic and dedication led to advancement, and I have been very happy as an assistant manager.

I’ve had an impact in the lives of those I serve, and when that bout of apathy started, I reflected on the difference I’ve seen in their lives over the last three years. It’s a vastly different culture in the house as far as how their independence is respected, and I cannot be happier about that. I played a major role in that change, but I definitely didn’t do it alone.

Yup, we’re the best looking staff group.

The staff that I work alongside of have grown a lot over the time I’ve been in management as well. Their budding leadership reaffirms that I’ve learned how to adapt my style to suit the people I’m trying to teach. I’ve always been good at modelling positive behavior, but I have struggled with conveying what I want. It’s taken trial and error, but I’m happy with how I’ve grown as a leader. Their feedback — direct and indirect — has helped me strive, and I cannot be more proud of our collective successes. I’m about to take over a different program as the manager, and I’m so happy that the effort I invested was returned. I cannot wait to bring my vision to the new team and cultivate a culture shift that will improve lives.

The return of investment at work is only shadowed by the improvements in my photography. I’ve always had a decent eye for framing shots, but the hardware I used to capture what I saw was pretty lacking. I got my first DSLR in 2018, and I have taken pictures at least three times a week since March.

See my favorite shots from 2018 at my photography site, KJF Photos.

When I first started taking pictures, I’d have 100-150 shots of what I was trying to get. Out of those I’d wind up with maybe 4-5 shots worth keeping. Now I have really hit a groove with my shooting. I’m not ashamed to review what I’m taking right on the camera and trash rejects as soon as I see them. If I’ve got time to try again, I’ll make another attempt. If I miss a shot, then oh well. (See? I told you I was working on accepting something when it’s good enough and not stewing! Thank work and fatherhood for that.) 

Henry is a stud. (2 mos)

During Dorena’s pregnancy I was able to logically contemplate the changes and challenges a child would bring to our lives. I’m a planner, and that’s what planners do. We look ahead and play out different scenarios to have some idea of what to expect. What I could never imagine was how rapidly my personal growth would transpire after he popped out.

I guess he didn’t pop out. He was an emergency-ish Caesarean Section so he was more or less lifted out. Being lifted out only took about fifteen minutes when it was all said done, after a stressful sixteen hours of waiting. That was nothing compared to what happened when we got home.

First time holding hands (5 mins)

Within the first 48 hours of having Henry at the house all he did was cry. We couldn’t get him to sleep for more than a half hour, and he was absolutely miserable. In the hospital, we had pre-measured bottles. At home, we had jars of powdered formula that we had to mix ourselves. In our sleep-deprived minds, we misread the label and were only giving him half of the powder he required in each bottle. Of course he was miserable… We were fucking starving the baby!

I stewed over the mistake for three days. I couldn’t sleep more than two hours at a time because I was so hard on myself for making the mistake. There were obviously no lasting ill-effects from my misstep, but I couldn’t let it go. It consumed me. That level of torment has happened to me a few times, because I was so stuck on what I could have done differently.

I’m working on accepting that I can’t change what I’ve already done. The energy wasted on cogitation is better applied to going with the flow. Knowing that I can’t possibly have answers to everything (or that I’ll handle everything perfectly) has been a game changer. I feel more relaxed when I can handle my stress that way.

Sure, I still got sucked into that pattern of self-loathing in November and December. Instead of beating myself up, though, I’m reflecting positively on what I’ve been able to accomplish when the new way has worked. Small confidence builders lead to massive change. This attitude has also carried over into the way I curate friendships.

Henry’s first visit to work (1 mo)

I have started investing more energy into the relationships that fulfill me, and I am loving what’s coming out of that. It’s the first time in over six years that I can truly say I’ve made new friends. The next step is rekindling some friendships that have faded away due to our paths diverging.

I’m not saying everyone that I was close to at one point or another will be getting texts from me every day. What I am committing to is making a goddamned concerted effort at returning positive energy to the people that send some my way.

Here’s to 2019 being a year full of personal growth, professional success, continued friendship building, and making my son laugh at fart jokes.

By Keith

I am Keith J. Frank, an overweight, acerbic, narcissistic, and sometimes lovable asshole that was born in June of 1983.