2022 was the year Kelly and I became empty nesters. We’d gotten Hallie settled at Chapel Hill in 2020 and for a while Travis was a virtual only child at home. In March, he and I went on college tours to UNC Charlotte (taking Amtrak) and to Appalachian State. He liked App more than UNCC but the small class sizes of UNC Asheville appealed the most to him. He graduated Enloe with honors in June, spent the summer working for a short while, and got settled in at UNCA in August. He’s been thriving there! He is delving into engineering classes there, making friends, playing on the school’s ultimate Frisbee team, too. He also makes time for bike rides and learning the banjo in his spare time.
As for Hallie, she spent the spring semester in Montana doing field work in environmental science outside of Glacier national park. In-between sciency stuff, she would go on miles-long hikes in the mountains and camp out. It’s been wonderful watching her love of science blossom, though I think she prefers field work to lab work! After a short break at home, she left in the summer for a semester in Highlands, NC doing more field work. She was studying the effects of stream pollution on the hemlock trees in the area and became an expert on taking core samples. More hiking, camping, and waterfall exploration took place, in addition to road trips to Tennessee to go see bands. Hallie was initially unsure she would like her time in Highlands but was soon loving it and was sad when it came to a close. I don’t doubt there will always be a place in Hallie’s heart for mountains and I love seeing it.
So, how have Kelly and I been using our time as empty nesters? We took a week to stay at a riverside cabin in Randleman, NC back in June. I was jobless by that time but we didn’t let that ruin our break. We paddled on the river, paddleboarded on the local lake, and did lots of hiking in a North Carolina forest I’d never explored before: the Uwharre National Forest. I loved our little trip there and want to explore more of all the parks in North Carolina I have yet to see.
Beyond the Randleman trip, we’ve not done much. The flaw in our Empty Nester plan is that we may not have kids but we do have two dogs. Boarding two dogs for a week turns out to be quite expensive. This tends to put a damper on any spontaneous plans to get up and go somewhere. In fact, last month Kelly took the kids up to visit her parents while I stayed home. Boarding the dogs while I have no income didn’t seem to be a prudent use of our money.
This was the year that I put my money where my mouth is and actually got going with a band, DNR. I had first auditioned on December 30, 2021 but met the full band at my first rehearsal on January 15th. It was awkward for me at first because as the frontman / lead singer the band would often look to me for direction on what song to work on next. It was my first band and my first freaking rehearsal, so I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I just winged it, though, and figured it out as I went. I’m the noob in the band and the youngest, with the rest of the group having a decade or more of playing. They make it easy for me to fit in, though, and we’ve spent hundreds of hours of diligent rehearsing to perfect our sets. We played three private parties in 2022, which was great experience to be out in front of an audience, but I’ve always hungered for more! We have a dozen or so gigs lined up for 2023 at local bars and breweries and I can’t wait to get out there and entertain folks again!
I learned on December 21st that my friend and shipmate, Matt Feath, died after some recent heart surgery. Matt was a flaming liberal in a military uniform disguise when we served together on the USS ELLIOT. I kept my politics to myself when I served and he did as well, but once he had retired and I Was out I really began to appreciate him. It is a lonely thing to be progressive in a conservative culture like the military. I assume Matt did it for the same reason I did it: purely out of love of country, and not because of some forced, fake patriotism that drives some on the right. He and I traded messages on Facebook every few days, swapping takes on national politics, good bands and musicians, military life, and mutual interest in spooky topics such as UFOs, remote viewing, and the like. I was delighted that our friendship has blossomed the way it had. I smiled at all the photos Matt shared of time he spent with his kids, on whom he absolutely doted..
Matt was very loyal to his family and friends. He helped me find my way as a liberal veteran – that is, a former military member who actually gives a shit about others. He introduced me to a lot of good music, too. He was an atheist for much of the time that I’d known him but I suspect some of the woo woo interests I’d shared with him may have made him think that perhaps there is something more to material life. When I eventually cross the border into the next world, I look forward to sharing a beer with my good shipmate, Matt.
Twenty twenty-two was the year that COVID came home to roost at the Turner household. After masking nearly everywhere, Travis went to his high-school chorus rehearsal unmasked on April 6th and the next day was sick. He spent the next week or so coughing and hardly leaving his bed. Kelly and I masked and tended to him and she and I dodged the bullet.
It was a little over a month later that it was Kelly’s turn to get COVID. She tested positive on May 15th and was sapped of energy for about a week. Kelly isolated in our guest bedroom while I took care of her. We’re not sure where she picked it up: possibly a work event or a social event.
Hallie is the latest to come down with COVID when she tested positive on December 22nd. She had dodged COVID when it affected her Carrboro roommates, drove for hours with her sick friend Jonas as they traveled the state, and kept healthy during her semester at Highlands with the exception of a short bout with the flu. She isolated in her bedroom here at home for over a week, always answering a sad “not good” when I’d asked how she was feeling. Only after Christmas did she seem to start feeling better. We all masked up in house and I kept the HEPA air filter running day and night and thankfully we are all healthy again.
I have never tested positive for COVID, neither PCR or rapid antigen tests. That is not to say that I dodged COVID because I think the odds of that are pretty small. Still, I have never stopped masking up in public places. I got another COVID booster vaccine in May and the bivalent booster in September. Yet, in spite of the negative tests I have noticed the “COVID toe” phenomenon appearing occasionally. And the day before I thought to test Hallie, my right shoulder began aching – the same one that I got my last COVID shot in. It always makes me wonder that I’ve been exposed to COVID but perhaps my body is very good at fighting it. Who knows? I am adamant on staying healthy and that’s that.
The biggest challenge of 2022 for me personally was job changes. Up until June, I had a job that I loved at Pattern Health, working with old friends at a startup and building new skills. It was about all I could ask for until one day in June when my boss called me into an impromptu Zoom meeting to tell me the board was cutting the workforce and I had been laid off. My manager, John, is a good friend. He was as surprised and saddened as anyone and I know it must have been tough for him to do it. I didn’t take it personally – startups don’t always succeed – but it is never convenient to have to look for work. The silver lining is that within two days, I had 42 leads from my huge network of friends. I had to make a spreadsheet to keep up with all the suggestions.
After a vigorous job search I wound up getting three job offers. I politely turned the first one down. The team was really nice but the role itself was largely Windows-focused and I didn’t want my Linux skills to atrophy. The second was for a local startup company that would’ve gotten me (or at least one foot of me) back into sales engineering in addition to DevOps. I considered it but turned it down as well since I didn’t think I clicked with upper management and there were some things I saw that raised some ethical questions.
I wound up taking the third offer even though it was significantly lower than the other two. It was for an even tinier startup because the company was intriguing and I would be working a four-day workweek. I felt good about working for a company that claimed to want to give back, and was looking forward to having some extra time to devote to my own projects. Well, it turned out the company didn’t really live up to its values. Material information was withheld until after I’d accepted the offer. My manager did not play well with others, alienating me as well as the developers we ostensibly were serving. The DevOps work I had hoped to be doing never materialized. The four-day work week? Well, they didn’t really mean that. I was relieved when we parted ways. To think that I had chosen this employer based on ethics is laughable now.
So, 2022 is in the books. It was another year on the planet, another year of learning, and for that I am grateful. Still, a few of the lessons of 2022 were pretty shitty ones, overall. Even so, there were great achievements in 2022 as well. So here’s a recap. This year I will mention the things that didn’t go so well right at the start, so that I can focus on the things that did go so well. Part of my focus for 2023 is to celebrate the good things, of which there are many and to which I don’t typically give proper credit.