Friday, January 27, 2017

What Advice Would You Give Your Younger Self?

An old friend recently reached out to me (and presumably others) and asked us what advice we'd give our younger selves, particularly at ages 20, 30 and 40.


After writing my response to him, I thought it worth posting myself as well. 

The substantive bulk of my response to him follows:

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The difficult thing is that I really wouldn't change a thing about who I am, so any call for advice feels a bit like a time-traveler scenario where my advice to a younger self would affect the outcome of my present life, and I'm not sure I'd risk it. My experiences shaped me, including the glaring mistakes, and I wouldn't trade places today with anyone on Earth. But, for the sake of argument, let's assume the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics here, and thus assume I won't mess my own (present) life up.

Wibbly-Wobbly. Timey-Wimey.

It is also important to note that the question is "What advice would you give your younger self?". The answers below are specific and personal to me and my life's journey, I don't know how useful they may be to anyone who has not been in my specific shoes. However, I imagine the point of asking this of multiple people to distill some sort of Universal Truth from their collective answers. In this regard, I hope you find this helpful.

20's: 
This is the time you should play with better habits. 
Try a little more regimented physical activity. Perhaps marvel at how your body reacts to weight-lifting. Especially here in your twenties, which is pretty much its own performance enhancing drug. Hit the gym more, and the Taco Bell drive-through less. 
Also: you're really good at math, so it wouldn't hurt to save a little bit of cash now. Figure it out. 
Finally, don't believe your own hype. You're not all that impressive, and those people who are impressed with you are usually impressed for the wrong reasons. 

In short, "Discipline is Freedom." Find just a little. 

30's:
Distill life down to its essentials. 
Your 20's were in constant motion, full of performance and consumption and reaction. You carried this need to be "in motion" into your 30's, but you have confused "motion" with "action". Learn to be still. Spend some time with yourself and think beyond the next move on the board. Act more. React less.

Stop wasting time with people, places, or work that don't utterly fascinate you. Eliminate "meh" from your world. Walk the hell away from anything less than Awesome. Life is short, and the only person you have to please is yourself, so accept only Excellence. You have never had any problems demanding it from yourself, so start demanding it from the world as the price of doing business with you. 

Also, you're going to get sick soon, so disabuse yourself of the notion that the health care system works like Star Trek. It doesn't. Bones was right, we're living in the Dark Ages. 

40's: 
Marry Her. :-)

I hope this is what you were looking for. 

Thanks again, it was great to hear from you.

-Eric

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 Year in Review



I didn't post one damned thing in 2016. Sometimes you're too busy living life to write it down. But this has been a very important year for me. And scrolling back through the facebooks and instagrams has shown me just how little of the important things have been actually captured. I suppose that I always understood how fleeting social media was, but it didn't really hit me how little of what I had been sharing is actually preserved in any meaningful way. (More on that at the very end of this piece.)

So, for 2016's one and only post, I'll try and give a synopsis of what has been one of the most meaningful, wonderful, sometimes difficult, but ultimately the best year of my life... so far...

I started out the year with some serious skiing in January--a sport my girlfriend introduced me to just this last winter...
The lodge is the most important aspect of skiing.
In February, I prepared for my second nose surgery, which was ultimately very successful in returning me to nearly normal status for the first time in 5 years. How did I prepare? By shaving my beard off, ensuring that doctors would think they were operating on the wrong patient.
These are the turbinates you're looking for...
Of course, it didn't feel successful at the time....
Ow.
In March, I renovated the kitchen in preparation for adventures to come...
Stainless Steel, complete with functional oven light. 
On opening day, April 8th, I drove past the site of the old Tiger Stadium and snapped a photo on my way into the office:
Opening Day in Detroit is a sacred holiday
In the spring as my girlfriend, Stephanie, and I walked Royal Oak, we paid tribute to one of the many celebrities we lost in 2016.
Contrary to popular opinion, I do *not* hate the fuckin' Eag;es, man. 
Other highlights of the spring include visiting a hotel apparently housing a school for mutants.
The Danger Room is around here somewhere...
Summer is finally here, and Stephanie and I start hitting the carnival circuit. Her first prize of the year:
Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor
His name is Steve.
I got to visit with some old friends:
Coincidentally, his name is NOT Steve. But he calls everyone Steve.
Spent a little time on Captain Jacob's boat on Lake St. Claire.
I'm on a BOAT!
I got bike Belle Isle with my Dad on  Father's Day
He's faster than me
In June, I joined Stephanie's family for Sam and Joanna's wedding out in Grand Rapids.
Behold perfect execution of the parade wave
I'm told that I show well...
We spent a lot of time in and around Campus Martius this summer.
This is what we call "foreshadowing"
We got to celebrate Stephanie's birthday and the birth of our nation at the same time:
Happy Birthday!
The end of July marked Maker Faire, and I got to go spend time with my former colleagues at The Henry Ford.
Image may contain: 1 person, standing
The first piece of my Iron Man armor in testing...
The Insane Inflatable 5k didn't claim either of us, but I did watch one poor woman totally break her leg. Who knew adult bounce houses were so dangerous.
Behind us is the obstacle they ended up removing because of the danger it posed. 

Seen here without a broken leg

Aunt Vita came up and we got almost all of the cousins into one picture. Only Ashley was missing.
Image may contain: 10 people, people smiling, people standing
Ashley! Where are you?
I got to hang with Dino quite a bit this year. This is at his little brother Teddy's baptism. He has started calling me Uncle Eric, which just makes me giddy. 
He's my buddy
At some point "My new job", just became "my job", and we continued to thrive, working with some of the smartest people I know.
Probably capturing a moment where a very good idea was had
Then the important stuff started happening...

I took Stephanie for a bike ride on Belle Isle...
Renaissance, indeed
Later that evening, we returned downtown for drinks and dinner. After a stop in at The Keep, as we strolled through Campus Martius on the way to Roast for dinner, I asked Stephanie to marry me, and she said yes.

He did NOT go to Jared

We told only a few close family and friends, to keep the phones from blowing up, and spent the rest of the night on the town. Henceforth in this post she will be referred to as "My fiancee, Stephanie," and no longer "My girlfriend, Stephanie".
We're not leaving Greektown until we get something from Astoria
The first thing I did? Get a new ride, which one friend suggests "Now that looks like a vehicle a man could put a carseat in". 
Relax about the carseats, we've only been engaged 5 days

We took the Jeep on a little road trip. I can be seen here celebrating with a very tiny bottle of champagne:

Or perhaps I am a giant


After the engagement, Stephanie's father asked us to gather both families for dinner in order to celebrate. It was perhaps one of the happiest moments of my life so far.
My dad, Ed; Stephanie's dad, Teddy; and myself
My mom, and soon to be mother-in-law. They could be sisters.
Me, Stephanie, and her grandmother and God-parents
Lisa and Dad, Me, and Ted



We scouted some locations for the wedding, and settled on my former place of work, The Henry Ford.
Lovett Hall, people. Not under the DC-3

September arrives, and brings with it the fall harvest from the garden:
This is all basil. Pesto time.
Roma Tomatoes
Cucumber and sweet hungarian peppers
Things are moving fast now that I'm engaged. I begin the work of prepping the house I've lived in for 15 years for sale.

Let the Purge begin!
No ladder needed for ceiling paint

Stephanie and I met up with my old friend Eileen to run a 5k sponsored by the Atwater Brewery downtown.

This is clearly BEFORE the race
U-S-A! U-S-A! In all fairness, Eileen is usually repping the USA in European races
After the race with some dear old friends and professors from Eileen and my days at U of M


As autumn approaches, I take some photos of my oasis - my backyard, garden, pool, and patio. I'm not terribly nostalgic by nature, but I do love personal histories. And I want to remember this place.

Lots of happy summers were spent here
Food. Sunshine. Wine. 



Shaun German got married! And for his bachelor party, we crushed a massive Call of Duty Tournament.

It was rigged.
Meanwhile, at the Den, the Purge kicks into high gear:
You can throw away your whole house!
We got invited to join Stephanie's Sister and Brother-in-Law at their home. The Road Devils put on one hell of a car show.
Swing by for a "little gathering"
Finally, Shaun's wedding day arrives. The German family is on the move!
You can dress them up, but you can't take them anywhere.
It's October now, so me and the boys at Groundwork0 head off to annual pilgrimage to TEDx Detroit.
On foot. Because we can.
Unseasonably warm weather let us pack up the kayaks on the Jeep and hit the Huron River.
It looks even better with kayaks on the roof.
The morning started brisk, but it was in the 70's by mid-day

Stephanie's sisters had a piece in an exhibit in the DIA


We're nearing the holidays, and the house is really shaping up
The music room
The upstairs bedroom
The kitchen

Ella is chill with all the house activities, as long as we don't mess with her spot

The best dog that ever dogged.

Stephanie is ably handling all of the wedding plans (of course!). We need to get some photos together for our Save-the-Date notices. We call up my old friend and former neighbor Josh to meet us in Plymouth. He does an AMAZING job.

We're outta here

She makes me laugh every day
This is look she gives me right before she says "You little shit."
This is the look I get when I see someone walking a puppy nearby

All this "life-on-the-move" takes a toll on my though, I end up with a tweaked Achilles and end up in a boot for a while until it heals.

Sweet kicks, bro
The holidays are upon us, and Stephanie and I decide to "make just one pass" at houses listed for sale until January. Of course, the second house we look at is totally "the one". We make an offer. It's accepted. Game on!

Soon to be Home Sweet Home
But for the time being, my little place in Redford is still home for the holidays, and it gets treated with the proper respect it deserves.

Stephanie and I went down to the end of the street and picked out a Christmas Tree for me.

Dairy Whip Tree Lot. Hoping for a White Christmas soon!

I'm dreaming of a White Christmas

Did I mention that Stephanie is on top of all the wedding plans? Venue, Church, all the details are in place. That woman is amazing. And we even managed to get a preview of the church we're going to be married in when her cousin got married in a gorgeous winter wedding. 

Almost enough gold leaf for my Greek Orthodox side
Stephanie's Great Grandfather's name is in the stained glass. This is the right place.
The reception had a photo booth.



At Christmas dinner, my cousins Mark and Libby surprised us with a tremendous honor: They asked Stephanie and I to be God-parents to their first born, Luna Lucille. 

The Godfather (and Godmother)
Simich Family Christmas


At the Lentine Christmas dinner, the kids were treated to a visit from Santa. 

Totally 100% the actual Kris Kringle
2016 was very good to me, but it did deliver one very difficult blow. Ella, my beloved 14 year-old Chocolate Labrador was found to have very late stage kidney failure at her annual checkup. She went from the happy playful girl I knew to lethargic in a matter of days. I lost her not long after the diagnosis, the day after Christmas.  

The. Best. Dog. Ever.

The. Best. Babysitter. Ever.
The. Best. Lifeguard. Ever.
The. Best. Friend. Ever.

So why did I want to catalog this in a giant blog post, nobody is going to read? Well, first, the aforementioned inability to review my year via all the places I thought I was saving, publishing, and giving these things context. The second was this: just this week I had to help Mom clean up her basement from a failed sump pump. Mercifully, the basement wasn't finished, so there wasn't much damage. However, we did manage to narrowly save some documents we didn't even know were in the basement (or existed, for that matter). We found a treasure trove of official correspondence between my great grandfather and a congressman from Illinois, plane tickets, marriage certificates, applications for visas, and letters detailing the immigration of my grandparents, mother and aunt to the United States. 

Application for Immigrant visa for my mom and her family
My Great-Grandparents Marriage License to get my great-grandmother back into the U.S.  Possibly they were visiting Yugoslavia to attend my Grandparents wedding in 1950.

My Grandfather apparently didn't like doctors, even then.

There before me, in a dusty old trunk, was The Immigrant Story that's been told a thousand times over in America. In glorious old typewritten pages, or teletyped telegrams. I suddenly felt how ephemeral and absent my own story was this year--a year so monumentally important that I want to share someday with my children and grandchildren. Hopefully, someday, one of them discovers this very post and gets some sense for the kind of people Stephanie and I were and the life we led here at the beginning of our journey to starting our own family. If they do, I hope they understand that they came from a pretty impressive lineage of courage, smarts, hard work, and a commitment to family from both sides of their family tree. I sincerely hope those virtues have been instilled in you, and if they have, I hope you pass them on.