As I'm writing this, I'm noticing the extreme contrast in my emotional state relative to my 2020 Retrospective. The last handful of months have been very difficult, and I've been very stressed out, but my baseline emotional state has not been one of doom and gloom, pessimism, and depression. I'm exhausted, but more back to my optimistic self, and I feel more like things will work out (and that I will be the cause of that). A major theme for 2021 has been overcoming inertia and some of my anxious-preoccupied tendencies, particularly as those have manifested as sort-of instances of the sunken-cost fallacy.
At the beginning of the year, I had three goals for myself for 2021:
- take a meaningful step in the direction of having a kid (eg, settle on a surrogacy agency)
- take a meaningful step in the direction of buying a home in the mountain wilderness (eg, engage a realtor to start looking for properties)
- take a meaningful step in the direction of diversifying my income streams with work that would be more compatible with being a full-time, stay-at-home, home-schooling single dad (eg, start taking on math tutoring clients)
I wasn't entirely successful with what I had intended, but I'm pretty happy with the result, particularly because I did end up making a very significant step in the direction of buying a home in the mountain wilderness: I actually bought a home (albeit not too far from civilization) with my new family, which are themselves connected to both having a kid and diversifying my income streams.
And the other highlight is that I left Amazon and started a new job at Ookla.
- Alexa Device SDK Team and Leaving Amazon
- New Family
- Buying My First Home
- Well Water and Water Treatment Systems
- Deck Repair
- Done with Aetna
- Health Issues
- State Farm Liability Resolution
- 24 Hour Fitness Incompetence
- New Job at Ookla
- Really a Coloradan
- Conclusion and Looking Ahead
Alexa Device SDK Team and Leaving Amazon
At the beginning of 2021, I moved from the Alexa Tech Docs team to the Alexa Device SDK team. A colleague that I had worked with throughout my Amazon career recruited me rather aggressively to join the team he was on, given my experience and (very nerdy) skills. It was indeed an amazing fit on paper, particularly given that team's priorities and what they needed to accomplish in 2021. And I saw it as a selfish opportunity to learn more about device software, an area of my technical knowledge that seemed oddly lacking. During my candidacy for this team, its then-manager hired a new manager from outside Amazon. That introduced some delays, but it also surfaced some yellow flags.
In particular, there are parts of my reputation that ended up "getting to" this new manager. Now, some aspects of my reputation are well deserved, and others...not so much. Certainly there are things I wish I had done better throughout my career, and I made some outright mistakes, all of which are perfectly reasonable to be held accountable for. But I think that because of negativity bias, it was very easy for people to hold on to condemnations, despite evidence of growth and having made amends. And then there were a lot of the ways in which I didn't deserve some condemnations at all, all on the basis of just being misunderstood. Well, in typical Arthurian fashion, being misunderstood triggered my desire to explain myself, to overexplain myself, to prove the truth of the matter. So even though I was consciously aware of all that at the time and the risks associated with it, it stood as a powerful motive to join this team. And I valued the trust I was able to talk the new manager into putting in me. From another angle, I really didn't want falsehoods and long-rectified misdeeds to stand in the way of the value I could create on this team; it was a perverse sort of perseverance or grit.
So on a certain level, my options were between (1) joining a team where I could use my wealth of experience and expertise and learn about device software, but had to overcome some reputational issues, and (2) accepting an offer from another team, where I had no direct subject-matter expertise or experience (and would have to give up everything I'd learned about Alexa), but I would have a "fresh start". Well, guess who has two thumbs and doesn't like dramatic change.
As it turned out, none of the negative aspects of my reputation stood in the way of being successful on the team--at least not directly.
But first, a bit of an aside: A major factor in my Amazon career trajectory is that I'm sort of a misfit as a product manager. (Heck, I'm a misfit in general, but even more so as a PM.) Amazon is weirdly and inconsistently dogmatic about product management. On the one hand, even so-called "technical" product managers are mostly expected to do lots and lots of writing and sometimes never really get into the tech (no technical problem-solving, no technical design, no discussions about architecture). The PR-FAQ is a "traditional" PM artifact, and all PMs, including "technical" PMs (PM-Ts) are expected to crank them out. The dogmatism here is that when it comes to evaluating PM performance, how many PR-FAQs were produced ends up being very important, regardless of direction provided by management or the actual amount of value created. This creates a perverse incentive to write PR-FAQs, even when they are not the right tool for driving alignment, articulating a vision, etc. Amazonian mechanisms for reviewing PR-FAQs are rife with their own problems, but a lot of this needs to go into a separate post. In my case, I've always worked on products and on teams where writing a PR-FAQ was rarely the highest-leverage use of me as a resource, and I definitely got dinged for it, despite prior alignment with my managers. Before joining the Alexa Device SDK team, I'd written five PR-FAQs and contributed heavily to several more; they were all useless exercises in rationalism that ended up creating close to zero value, and not primarily because I was bad at PR-FAQs or anything. Meanwhile, I reveled in technical problem-solving. I loved volunteering in the Alexa API Review program, where, as the lone PM, I gained such a reputation for being a technologist that principal engineers (PEs) regularly solicited my opinion and even pitched me to prospective managers as a PM who "can fill in for your PE needs". And in my primary responsibilities, I was building technical products for technical customers, so despite some raised eyebrows about the level of technical depth I was getting into, the engineers loved me, and I thought it utterly uncontroversial that as a PM, I would be expressing a viewpoint about APIs and other aspects of systems design: These were the UIs of my customers. So oftentimes, a technical design document was a more logical artifact for me to create, rather than a PR-FAQ for leaders to endlessly review, fixating on wording and phrasing.
Particularly given my experience on the Alexa Tech Docs team, where I created so much value that one of my contributions was specifically recognized in the organization's monthly newsletter, and yet I ended up leaving because senior leadership didn't think of tech docs as a product that needed a product manager (WHAT!?), I was eager to find a situation where I could get really technically deep and also live up to "traditional" Amazonian expectations. So when I joined the Alexa Device SDK team and was directed to write a PR-FAQ for the chief initiative that was the cause of my recruitment, I didn't object. I think I was so averse to making waves (because here I didn't want anybody to conclude that my undeserved reputation was right, after all), that even when it started to look like this was the wrong approach, I just kept at it, trying to be a "good" PM who did what he was told. It's not that I was silent about my reservations, but I ultimately didn't push back hard enough. Ironically, while I did plenty of "disagreeing and committing", I failed to properly manifest "having backbone". (There are two aspects of the same Leadership Principle. And it's ironic because I did the thing I often bemoan others' doing.)
I'll spare you the details, but at a high level, I ended up spending 5 months on a document that (given my back-of-the-envelope calculations) cost over $1 million to produce, given the value of everybody's time that went into it. In this time, I threw away dozens of pages of content, most of which amounted to writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting all the same basic ideas in a different form, just to be more rhetorically satisfying to the leaders whose stamp of approval we thought we needed to get. Don't get me wrong--that's not always without its value and legitimate purpose--but in this case, it was misguided. And I'll own my part in participating in that. The document that we ultimately "finished" at the end of May 2021 was no longer a PR-FAQ, and it did lead to some clarity and created some value, but I don't think the ROI justified its creation. In my judgment, we wasted 5 months on describing how we were going to pursue a whole bunch of already committed-to, approved goals/initiatives in an aligned, future-looking way. There wasn't really anything new that should have needed approval, and I think it was mistaken of us to try to frame this as a new, named initiative. Well, hindsight can be 20/20, but the result was that I had no bandwidth over the preceding 5 months to learn anything about C++ or device software architecture, and I couldn't provide any technical guidance to engineering (and we definitely did not have enough senior engineers to help provide adequate design leadership).
I had hoped to turn my attention to something "real" after that, getting involved in the actual technology, but I struggled to get alignment with my manager on the best application of my time and focus. So, despite my much stronger objections this time, I ended up begging for the attention and (in my view, unnecessary) approval of another internal team, playing middleman, and essentially playing the role of a very ineffective program manager. The irony is that I love program management and am great at it, but I need the latitude to, well, actually manage what I'm managing, not just do what I'm concretely directed to do. Unfortunately, that also involved writing a lot of useless docs. More irony? I love to write. Exhibit A: the website you're reading. Exhibit B: It was one of the chief reasons I went to law school. Exhibit C: I was on the Alexa Tech Docs team. What I object to is low-value writing, where it's just dogmatism or rationalism.
I found myself increasingly frustrated, like I was beating my head a wall, and I continued to try to make it work. I tried desperately both to live up to expectations and to create value, and yet these seemed to be in conflict with one another: If I did exactly what I was instructed, the results were bad, and that was my fault. If I tried to exercise my own judgment, I was being difficult. I tried and I tried. And I realized how much that was a severe manifestation of my anxious-preoccupied tendencies, but I continued to power through. The thing that I was working on--the reason for my being on the team--had such potential to be so hugely valuable and make such a huge impact, that I just couldn't let it go. (Aside from the sheer awesomeness of what we were going to launch, this had the potential to get me promoted.)
Throughout that time, I had become friends with someone who left his job as a structural engineer (for which he had a Master's degree) because he didn't love it. Instead, he's now a ski and snowboard instructor. Wow. I was inspired by his courage in saying "No." to a stable, high-paying job to do something he truly loves. That really prompted me to reflect on my own values and whether my current path was leading me in the direction of what I professed to want.
It was not. However much I overcame adversity in my career (and it's not just limited to Amazon), I realized that this is not the kind of tenacity and grit that I need. I need good stress: the challenge of figuring out some problem, of learning something new, of pushing myself outside my comfort zone in a healthy way. What I don't need is persevering through suffering, if I can just step away from the cause of the misery.
So in mid-2021, I started preparing myself for the prospect of leaving Amazon. I wasn't sure that I was going to do it, and I wasn't yet sure of the criteria for making a decision, but I started taking steps to minimize the pain and lost opportunities if I did decide to leave. Meanwhile, our team was hemorrhaging talent.
After taking some time off to recuperate and consider what I really wanted, I left Amazon at the end of November, with a very heavy heart. What I realized is that I needed to be in a position where I had reasonable confidence that I could actually accomplish something meaningful, something that is an expression of my personal values and that creates value for my team/company/customers. Thus far, despite tremendous potential (and desperately holding on to that in a sunken-cost-fallacy way), I had accomplished close to nothing, and certainly nothing that brought me any sense of pride.
I did some of the most meaningful work of my career at Amazon, particularly in designing and launching the Device Capabilities Framework in 2017 and 2018, and I could see myself doing even more such work. But I needed to be willing to leave a situation that was severely unhealthy for me, and I'm really proud of myself for being willing to say "No!" to golden handcuffs and stability. I managed to overcome my risk-aversion and my (justified?) arrogance in thinking that I can make a bad situation work, if only I did exactly the right thing. This was really huge for me.
What I can say is that, despite some of my personal difficulties, I still think of Amazon as a great place to work. There are some really, really good things about Amazon, including the Leadership Principles and how earnestly people believe in them and try to live up to them, as well as how truth-oriented (as against authority-oriented) the culture is. There are things that could be better (that have nothing to do with me, personally), but there are many great opportunities at Amazon, and Amazon's success as a company is not some huge accident.
I also want to make clear that I don't think that there were any "bad guys" who made things difficult for me, least of all my manager on the Alexa Device SDK team. I didn't always agree with my leadership chain, and I definitely thought there were things they might have done better, but I do know that people were doing the best that they could within systemic constraints, the incentives created, and their own skills.
Here is the resignation letter that I sent to everybody at Amazon I could remember having worked with:
It is with a heavy heart that I'm letting you know that my last day at Amazon will be November 26.
I've done some of the most meaningful and impactful work of my career working across a number of Alexa teams in the last ~4.5 years, but it's time for me to move on and find new opportunities where I can grow as a person and as a professional.
I have worked with some really amazing and skilled individuals, and I've made a lot of friends along the way. I will miss you all a great deal. Indeed, there are so many of you that I regret that I cannot individually reach out to you to let you know, so I hope you will forgive the fact that you're learning of my departure via a mass email.
Please do stay in touch. I will of course want to know that things are going well with you and (to the extent it isn't prohibited!) how things at Alexa are evolving, including API Review, DCF, Smart Home for AVS, Tech Docs, and the Device SDK. And don't hesitate to reach out if you need anything!
Thank you all for everything.
There is a lot more that I could say about this team and working at Amazon for over 4.5 years, but frankly, my purpose here is not to blast anyone, any team, and definitely not the company. The above certainly skewed negative, but I had to describe at least some of the difficulties that made my decision to leave so meaningful. This was a big deal for me; it represents a major accomplishment in taking my mental and emotional health seriously, learning how to set a certain kind of boundary critical to my wellbeing.
In the early 2010s, I started attending an annual philosophy conference put on by the Atlanta Objectivist Society, cleverly called ATLOSCon. Among the many cool people I met there were Martin and Melissa Cade, who lived in Atlanta. We were never especially close, but we were friendly. In subsequent years, they had some kiddos, Richard and Robert.
I would occasionally see Melissa's posts on Facebook, and I really appreciated how thoughtful she was about how she tried to navigate difficult parenting issues. Desperately wanting to be a dad myself, I've been keenly interested in parenting theory, so it was something that Melissa and I connected over.
In July 2020, close the height of my dysregulation over losing Adam, we happened to catch up over the phone for my birthday, and we subsequently got a lot closer, talking on the phone more frequently, and sometimes for many hours on end. It almost felt like high school again.
In April 2021, Melissa took the boys on a roadtrip across America and had plans to stop by Denver. Knowing my interest in being a dad, she warned me that her kids are "very effective birth control", referring to how they can sometimes be very difficult. Having been an especially difficult child myself (and having a track record of getting along well with so-called "difficult" children), I thought nothing of it and insisted that they stay with me for the weekend.
Naturally, we had a fabulous time, and one weekend turned into a week. They were sad to go, and I was sad to see them go. But it was during this trip that we realized that we might like to live together one day. Martin and Melissa had long flirted with the idea of moving to Colorado, and given my growing desire to make Colorado my permanent home and find a place out in the mountains, we started fantasizing and strategizing about how we might make that happen. We initially contemplated something within the next few years.
But as things got progressively more difficult and frustrating at work, I needed to start preparing for the possibility that I would leave. I realized that if I were going to qualify for a home loan, now was the time: I had over 4 years of consistent employment and 2019 and 2020 W-2s that could possibly be the best I'd have in a while because of the timing of AMZN stock vesting and performance. A friend put me in touch with the realtor he works for, Andrew Goldberg (who was fantastic), and Melissa and I started looking for a place we could all live together.
Another realization that I had was that my fantasy of building a home in the wilderness was not practical as a first step. Financially, finding a property and building the home would take a fair amount of time and would deplete the savings I would need for surrogacy and taking time off to be a single stay-at-home dad. But most critically, I realized that I couldn't have an infant out in the wilderness. I suddenly had this image in my mind of a sick child who urgently needs medical care that's hours away without traffic, but it's the middle of a snow storm, and I somehow need to shovel a driveway to the main road while my child is screaming his head off.
So Melissa and I focused our efforts on what we called "Phase 1": Buying an already-built home nestled in the mountains, but relatively close to civilization. We wanted a place that had a main house big enough for the Cades and a separate in-law suite for me. This way, we get to live together sooner, we get to the mountains we all love so much sooner, Richard and Robert gain an uncle, I gain two nephews I'd quickly and unsurprisingly grown to love, and when I have a kid, I have a live-in support system.
In July, I visited with the Cades in Atlanta between Independence Day and my birthday, and aside from just hanging out and having a great time, we continued our housing search (all virtually on Zillow and the like), and we lined up a few places for me to visit when I returned home to Denver.
I cover all the excitement of buying the house in Bailey below, but fast-forwarding a few months, the Cades moved in October, about a month after I did, coming with their first (!) 26-foot truck of belongings from Atlanta. Since then, Melissa, Richard, and Robert have been living with me here full time, and Martin has been splitting his time between Atlanta and Bailey, as he prepares to sell their house there and move their remaining belongings. (Incidentally, I own the property, and they rent from me.)
It's definitely been an adventure--a wonderful one! Melissa warned me that how messy they all are would probably get on my nerves. Maybe, but maybe that's good preparation for having a kid. And conversely, maybe my fastidiousness will be a good influence on them!
Aside from some minor things like lipsticking the walls and drawing on my sofa, the biggest snafu was Richard's having hammered a nail into the radiant floor heating pipe in his room. I'm gonna say that it was largely motivated by having been inspired by the contractor's work on the deck... But let's just say that it involved water dripping into the kitchen below and some desperate attempts to plug the hole, shut off the water, and drain the system at 03:00 in the morning. What a fun way to first learn how to read plumbing schematics!
Overall, though, I'm very happy to have them with me, and I'm enjoying being a "full-time uncle" for the first time. And if nothing else, this is really good practice for having my own kid (I think Melissa called it "deep-end learning").
So now that we're a chosen/adopted family, I call Melissa and Martin my cousins and Richard and Robert my nephews, even though there's no blood or even via-marriage relation. It's particularly easier to refer to them as that to strangers to whom I'm trying to explain my living situation, rather than going through a long, to-them-uninteresting story about how we came to know one another and live together!
Buying My First Home
Assuming you've read the sections above on how my potentially leaving Amazon and my desire to live with the Cades catalyzed my "Phase 1" home search, I'll briefly walk you through some of the challenges.
Finding the House
While visiting with the Cades in July, Melissa and I settled on four houses that I would see the day after I returned to Denver: one in Nederland, one in Evergreen, and two in Bailey. As it happened, that day was my birthday, and it's when I happened to look at the house I ultimately bought (for which Melissa actually found the listing). So within a few days, I was under contract for a house nestled in the mountains of Bailey (fun fact: at 9000 feet!), which is about an hour southwest of Denver on the 285 (about 20 minutes past Conifer, if you know that town). It really felt like a place where I could find the peace and quiet I so urgently needed.
The views were...seductive:
And the house was big and spacious:
My realtor attempted to negotiate the price down, but the seller held firm...that is, until the inspection revealed, most critically, some structural integrity concerns with the decks and the fact that the radiant floor heating piping throughout the main house (12+ rooms) had been recalled a decade earlier (and the claim period had already ended). I agonized over what I should do, but with the reduction in price and several more professional opinions, I decided to move forward.
Side note: I want to make a huge plug for Owen Brenton at Alpine Building Performance, the inspector who not only did a really thorough job, but who, after he already had my money, called me up because he happened to be reminded of some of the radiant floor heating piping when he happened to be reading some professional article. That's part of what led to the major reduction in price on the house, and it helped me to get familiar with the systems. Owen is also the one who recommended I get a professional to evaluate the decks, and my realtor found Levi Ashley of Ashley Creative Solutions, who came and provided a really thorough analysis of what needed to be addressed.
Financing and Closing
Then came snafu after snafu with my lender, Chase. The irony is that the main mortgage banker I was working with, Nathan Morehouse, was really terrific. I might quibble about a thing or two here and there, but overall, I could tell he was really keen on getting me a great rate and to push things through as quickly and painlessly as possible. Alas, much was out of his control. I don't want to belabor these points, but here are just a few of the challenges:
- Despite booking an appraiser almost immediately after going under contract, two days before the would-be appraisal (several weeks after accepting the bid), the would-be appraiser backed out because of an alleged conflict of interest.
- The appraiser we finally secured (for after the original closing date!) did not submit the report until the very last day, and then, for some inscrutable reason, the report needed to be reviewed by another appraiser before it could be finalized, which introduced even more delay.
- Meanwhile, the underwriting process was a complete shit-show, with demands for logically unnecessary verifications that Amazon wouldn't, by policy, provide. This all despite a credit score over 800 and enough liquid funds for 15+ years of mortgage payments, even if I didn't end up having a single penny of income in that time.
- There was a lot of flux and unclarity about what the final interest rate would be, since I was enticed to move all my AMZN shares into a Chase brokerage account in order to get a lower interest rate on the loan. Despite my being extremely punctual about each step, I didn't end up knowing the final interest rate until the day of closing.
- Chase kept physically mailing me all manners of packets with information that were invalid either because they never represented any agreed-to loan terms or were out of date by the time they arrived to me. Some of these packets were outright denials of offering me a loan, citing factors that were patently false (eg, insufficient credit history). None matched the documents I was provided electronically.
- The closing was further delayed by a nationwide computer outage in Chase's home lending systems the week of closing, which lasted several days.
- On the day of closing itself, I learned that Chase had just unilaterally changed my downpayment amount/percentage, several documents had numbers where the arithmetic was just wrong on its face, and other documents performed calculations in such ass-backward, creative-accounting ways that I had to rely on all the expertise I had gained becoming a forensic accountant, going over everything with a fine-toothed comb. It took many hours. And, sure enough, I discovered that $3409.74 of seller's credits had been left on the table, which they should have applied to getting me a better interest rate. For several hours, they told me that my options were to accept the offer as is or to further delay the closing date. The seller was meanwhile across the country with a pregnant dog about to give birth, whose purchase of his new home was contingent on the closing, so that, combined with my desire for this to just be over with, really put me in a bind. But to their credit, they agreed to escalate the matter and try to issue me a refund check in the coming weeks (which they did ultimately make good on), so I moved forward with signing all the documents.
- We ultimately closed over two weeks late after originally being about a week ahead of schedule. And unfortunately, we couldn't close fast enough for the seller to be able to purchase his new home, so he spent the night in a hotel with his very pregnant dog (and other dogs). It was a mess, but I was glad that everything was finally done.
- But here's a good thing: I ended up getting a really fantastic 2.875% fixed rate on the loan with only ~10% down.
My lease in Denver went through to February 2022, so I needed to find someone to take it over. As soon as I went under contract with the house in mid-July, I started looking for someone who wanted my (allegedly very in-demand) unit. I really struggled, but because of all the delays and not being able to close in mid-August as originally planned, the timing worked out for a friend of a friend to take over my lease. That ended up minimizing the amount of cost and double-payment for me, too, so despite a lot of difficulty with the building management to get all the logistics and finances sorted out, it all ended up working out in the end.
This deserves a post on its own, but the short of it is that I had such a horrible experience with Denver Professional Movers that I think I'll never risk using a moving company ever again.
Despite my providing them copious photos and details about my move in advance, they apparently brought an insufficiently large truck and loaded it extremely inefficiently. After arriving late, the specific movers were condescending and rude, badmouthed me to one another in Russian (thinking I couldn't understand), and the lead guy badmouthed his helpers to me. To speed things along, I had to help them, and at one point, they pinched me against a wall, with the piano corner in my groin, then blamed me. (I turned out to be okay, but it was rather painful in the moment.) Despite thinking toward the beginning they would not only be able to get all my belonging from my apartment, but that they'd also be able to get everything from my storage unit, by mid-afternoon, because of the crap job they'd done loading the truck (in some ways, in contradiction to my asking them to load certain things more carefully and efficiently), the lead guy threatened to just unload everything. Hours later, when we finished unloading what they were able to get into the truck, it had cost over $1200 for the move, and I didn't give them any tip. Unsurprisingly, the lead guy called me "жадный" (Russian for "greedy"), again thinking that I didn't understand him. And because of the damage they caused to my property (which was reckless, if not intentional or knowing) and the fact that they didn't get everything from my apartment or anything from my storage unit, I ended up incurring over $3000 of additional costs (of which roughly $2000 was damaged property). After several months of back-and-forth emails with their claims department, they finally offered me a final concession of $675, where if I wanted to get any more, I'd have to take them to small claims court. No thanks.
The irony is that I could have done this all by myself faster and more cheaply (heck, I'd done it a year prior), and without the insults, personal injury, and damage to my property. Ugh.
About a month later, I managed to complete my move, having had to rely on a friend to move my squat rack from the apartment and renting my own U-Haul to deal with the storage unit. That was similarly problematic, given U-Haul's extreme disorganization, but it was finally done, and I had all my worldly possessions (except those that were stolen from my storage unit the prior year) all in one place in my home, finally. And screw Public Storage for doing nothing about the fact that my unit was burglarized and for lying to me about the terms of moving out of my storage unit.
Getting reliable internet connectivity was a-whole-nother problem; I mean, I'm out in a tiny mountain town up a 1.5-mile dirt road from the highway. The local ISP, Rise Broadband, offers something called "fixed wireless", which is basically a microwave dish you mount on your property and point at their tower. This is the same technology I used in San Francisco (through Monkeybrains) that gave me 80 Mbps symmetric speed, while guaranteeing only 10 Mbps symmetric.
After much consternation and many emails and phone calls, I was sold two lines of their small business package, which was supposed to give me 50 Mbps download / 15 Mbps upload on each line. Not ideal, but I was going to pool those using a multi-WAN router. Except that when they came to install it, I was told that there was no such thing, that technically, the tower was only provisioned to provide up to 50 Mbps download / 5 Mbps upload per line of service. So I decided to start with two and see whether I would need to throw more into the pool. Each line is roughly $100 / month, including all fees.
We agreed that the equipment would be installed, but the service wouldn't be turned on until after I moved in and called in to bind the each MAC address of my router's WAN ports to each line of service. But when I went to do that, it turned out that they didn't provision the equipment correctly, so I had to wait until another technician could come out. We finally got it fixed...or so I thought.
Unbeknownst to me, they only activated one of the dishes. But meanwhile, they sent me an invoice for service starting on the original equipment installation date, so of course, I didn't pay anything until they corrected the bill. After all, not only was that not what we agreed to, but I also couldn't even have been using the service if I had wanted to, since they didn't install it correctly. (There's a bit more nuance there, but you get the basic idea.)
I sunk hours into phone calls and emails, begging for them to send me the corrected invoice, so that I could pay my bill, and they kept assuring me that they wouldn't disconnect my service for non-payment, as their automated calls and emails kept threatening. Except then at some point, day after day, every morning, my service would be disconnected, and I had to call in to have them reconnect it and get promises that it wouldn't be disconnected the next day, which it was, for many days in a row.
Finally, we got it sorted. Except then I discovered by accident that my router wasn't load-balancing between the two lines of service. Why? Because it turns out that Rise Broadband messed up the configuration of the second dish. At least this time, they refunded me all the service fees for that second line up to when they finally fixed it, after only a small handful of back and forth emails of my insisting that a two-week credit wouldn't be acceptable.
But, finally, by mid-October, everything was in a steady state, and the service has been relatively reliable since then: not amazing, but good enough.
But now, I'm thinking I might be able to throw an AT&T line into the mix, since I have an unlimited data plan and can ethernet tether an extra 5G phone I have into my multi-WAN router. Each AT&T line is half the cost and regularly tests at twice the speed of a Rise Broadband line...
As for Starlink, in December, my "by end of 2021" delivery date changed to "by end of 2022". Oy.
A few months into living here, I found out I have a cat. So that's fun. But frankly, I wonder how much that's sapping my emotional and temporal energy, delaying my ability to get a dog.
I'm surrounded by neighbors with several-acre plots, so aside from having a spacious backyard myself, we've got a lot of space between us. The few human neighbors I've met have been very friendly and welcoming, and I have yet to experience any kind of human-induced annoyance that I specifically tried to get away from by moving to the mountains.
Sometimes, though, my neighbors get into my backyard:
I'm pretty sure that I regularly have more deer in my backyard than human neighbors in the surrounding square mile. That might be an exaggeration, but it sure feels that way!
And I love when I get to feed them!
So the plan is that I'll live here, Phase 1, with the Cades for several years, until I have a kid, and kiddo is a few years old. At some point after I'm able to settle into a routine of fatherhood, I'll start developing a house on a much larger plot of land much farther out in the wilderness, my Phase 2. And assuming all goes well, the Cades are likely to build their own structure on the property. And heck, maybe other like-minded friends will join us, too.
Well Water and Water Treatment Systems
While not exactly out in the boonies, my new home is only just barely "on the grid". We've got power from the electric company (though I'm looking into solar soon), but otherwise, we're on propane, septic, and well water. One nice feature of the house is that it's got the fanciest whole-home water treatment system, including a softener, reverse-osmosis (RO) system, pH balancer, 600-gallon storage tanks, and a UV light sterilizer. Unfortunately, the well and water treatment systems have not always been reliable, and that's led to quite a bit of frustration, anxiety, and expense.
It started out with the RO system's occasionally (and then frequently) "snorting" and just stopping purifying water (meaning our storage tanks would be depleted without being replenished by the well). Basically, it would typically purify water for anywhere between 1 second and 20 minutes, then snort and stop, requiring manual intervention to reset the system, so it could just do the same thing over and over again. The RO system folks suspected an insufficiency of water pressure from the well. That seemed possible; after all, it had been a very dry summer since the well production test in July that showed 8+ gallons / minute coming from the well, and maybe the well wasn't replenishing fast enough.
We discovered that one of the well pressure tanks was waterlogged, so we just needed to reinflate the air bladder. While that was definitely a problem that we resolved, it wasn't the whole story, since the RO system's behavior continued. When we bypassed the RO system, the water pressure seemed fine, so after waiting a month for the part to arrive, we replaced the solenoid that controls the water intake to the RO system. After 30 minutes of running normally, we were optimistic that the problem was resolved, but then it happened again. And again. So after weeks of rationing and resetting the system what felt like every 15ish minutes, I broke down and paid someone to haul up water. Meanwhile, I noticed that water coming directly from the well was fluctuating wildly between a torrent and a trickle on the faucet closest to the well pressure tanks and with no other water draw from the house. That strongly suggested that it was a problem with the well, despite not previously having noticed that kind of behavior when the RO system was bypassed. So I scheduled what turned out to be a very expensive appointment with the well company.
They ran a test from the well head itself that drew over 500 gallons (the well holds only about 430ish gallons), and they inferred that the well regenerates at about 1.8 gallons / minute, and when full, it can provide that same 8+ gallons / minute to the house. Given that the RO system will only draw about 2 gallons / minute, I wasn't sure what to make of this. Yes, we could be drawing faster than the well could regenerate, but only by a small margin, and surely that small margin wouldn't be enough to deplete the well over the course of average usage.
But, as though by miracle, after we put the RO system back into commission the next day (having given the well a day to fully regenerate), suddenly we were back in a steady state: The storage tanks were topped off from the water haul, our normal water usage would draw from the storage tanks, the RO system would top off the tank and stop gracefully, starting up again only when it needed to top off the storage tanks. The only thing that I can think to explain the prior problematic behavior is that the well was dry, and we kept taxing it faster than it could regenerate, and that's what caused the insufficiency in pressure. And because we never gave the well a chance to fully regenerate (by resetting the system so often), it was always running on empty. When the water storage tank was too close to empty, the RO system would run continuously until the well was run dry; it never paused to let the well regenerate. By topping off the storage tank, we let the well regenerate by having the RO system only need to occasionally top it off. (Incidentally, filling the 600-gallon tank draws about 1200 gallons from the well, since about half the water is discarded in the purification process.)
So we had a few weeks of clean-water bliss. Until the RO system pump died. Sigh. So instead of rationing and hauling up water, I decided we might just try running the house on unpurified well water, using water filters for drinking and cooking. The water pressure was great, and we never had a problem with pressure or water availability. And my research suggested that it was perfectly safe, even though a bit hard (and we had a lot of rust stains!). So it's good to know that we can go on well water directly, that the RO-purified water is a "nice to have".
Eventually, the replacement pump arrived and was installed, except now, the problem is that the cold weather means that the much colder water is much more dense going into the RO system, so it's purified much more slowly. Much more slowly. I'll probably end up getting an in-line water heater to bring the water temperature up, so that the RO system can process it faster, even during the winter, and I can stop worrying about how much water I'm using. But that's a project for 2022.
For now, I'm just glad I know a lot more about how all this works and how to manage it without the frustration and anxiety. And I'm glad we have a basically functional system. Finally. I hope.
As I mentioned above, the inspection of the house revealed some structural integrity concerns with the decks that wrap around the house. Basically, a number of the caissons had started to slide down the hill because of erosion, and several of the posts were never centered on the caissons in the first place. There were also a few other minor issues that needed addressing, like shoring up some of the bracketing. I contacted Levi Ashley again and engaged his services in doing all the deck repair. We ran into a few unexpected costs, but overall, he and his team did a fantastic job, and I would enthusiastically recommend him to anybody who needs any work done. Levi was very communicative and forthright, and I appreciated that he often recommended the less-expensive (but still safe) option, realizing that by not bullshitting me about doing unnecessary things, he was gaining my trust and making me more likely to engage his services on future construction projects. Believe me, I will. We finished before winter would make construction impossible, and while I can't tell any difference experientially being on the decks, visually, the posts look a lot more sturdy on their caissons! With two rambunctious kiddos who will definitely test things to their limits, that definitely gives me a fair bit of peace of mind.
Done with Aetna
While I still haven't yet written up a proper post dedicated to this issue, I'm so relieved to be done with my horrific Aetna auditing/reconciliation project, which involved having to ask them to reissue about $15,000 of reimbursement checks and accounting for every penny. Everything is now deposited and done with.
I'll never use Aetna again if I have a (reasonable) choice.
But wait; there's more! On the "physical health" front (as though that's cleanly separable from other aspects of health), I discovered in the course of regular screenings/labwork that I've got hyperthyroidism. Terrific. Maybe that "explains" the chronic fatigue. Now I'm trying to figure out how to deal with it in a way that doesn't just jump to pharmacological intervention as the first step, particularly because I think that would reflect a false understanding of medical causation. But I do hope that understanding my experience as reflecting hyperthyroidism might help me to address my wellbeing more effectively. I hope to resolve this relatively quickly in early 2022, particularly as the latest labwork shows a trend in the correct direction for various hormone levels.
State Farm Liability Resolution
I also haven't written up the entire State Farm saga that started October 2019 when I was struck and then held liable, but I'm happy to report that after much consternation and escalating the matter to a manager, I managed to get the right resolution. So they reinstated the 50/50 liability determination, I had no damages (aside from the value of my time and emotional distress), and I didn't have any points added to my record or have an increase in my premiums. Thank goodness that's all over now.
24 Hour Fitness Incompetence
I don't even know where to start with 24 Hour Fitness. I wrote a much longer post that I continued to update as the situation evolved, but the short of it is that after over 1.5 years of bullshit from them, charging me for a membership that was supposed to be frozen, ignoring my emails, offering really terrible customer service (when they offered it at all), I've finally got most of my money back (either by finally getting refunds from them or by escalating to my credit card company). I've cancelled my membership, and now I need to file a special claim to get refunded my last month's membership fee, which I've double-paid for. Never again with 24 Hour Fitness. However much I miss various aspects of commercial gyms, I'm glad that I now have my own gym setup in my garage again.
New Job at Ookla
Being pretty risk-averse by disposition, the prospect of leaving Amazon without another job lined up filled me with some anxiety, especially because one ends up being a much more attractive candidate when one already has a job and is being "poached". So I started hedging early, when I wasn't sure if I was even going to leave Amazon.
Motives matter a lot to me, so I wanted to make sure that my decision to leave Amazon was based on my evaluation of Amazon and my employment there on its own terms, not because some other prospect pulled me away. I didn't want to just hop to some other job because "the grass seemed greener". If I was going to leave Amazon, then I should have been willing to do that regardless of whether I had something else lined up. (There's nothing wrong with another job offer being a factor in a decision to leave a current employer, but in my situation, it was important for the motives to be "pure", given what I was wrestling with in terms of my anxious-preoccupied tendencies and what was unhealthy for me in that role.)
And it's important to me that my motives are clear to others, too. If I was going to leave Amazon, I wanted the message to be clear: I didn't want "Oh, Arthur got another job offer that he couldn't pass up." to be an excuse that allowed anyone at Amazon to sweep the real reasons and difficulties under the rug.
So any other job offer that I might get needed to be something that lessened my anxiety around being without a job, however much I knew I could afford it for a long while. (Remember, I want to be saving up for a kid and Phase 2, not taking a vacation.)
Like I said, I started hedging early. As soon as I started thinking of leaving Amazon, I reactivated my profile on Hired and started replying to all the recruiters who had been hitting me up on LinkedIn. I wasn't in any hurry, particularly because I wasn't sure that I was leaving Amazon, and I definitely couldn't leave before I closed on my house (because that spooks lenders). So, with everything else going on, keeping up with my job at Amazon and going through the very stressful processes of buying the house and moving, I was also actively interviewing with a number of companies. I was stressed to the max.
Interviewing and even saying "No" early on in the process at various companies felt very empowering. In a way, I think it made it easier for me to give my notice when I came back to Amazon from my leave, realizing that the change I needed to see (if I were going to stay) hadn't happened.
I ended up with two offers, one from Ookla (to work on Speedtest Powered) via Hired and one from Cruise (to work on internal tools) to which my friend David had referred me. It was a very difficult decision, particularly because Cruise was offering much more in terms of compensation. My gut was telling me to go with Ookla, and some of my "cold" analysis bore that out. But in short, however well I got along with the Cruise hiring manager (and I really liked him), I especially got a great feel for the hiring manager at Ookla, who was very transparent, forthright, and amiable. Ookla felt like a family, and everybody I interviewed with was brimming with enthusiasm for the company and their coworkers. Another major factor was that Ookla was 100% remote from day 1, whereas Cruise and Amazon were being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, supporting remote work only grudgingly because of job market factors and the fallout from COVID-19. Given that working remotely was 100% non-negotiable for me, being at a company where I wouldn't be a second-class citizen even implicitly or unintentionally was huge. There were a handful of other factors, too, but ultimately choosing Ookla represented really prioritizing my happiness and job satisfaction over chasing money (which, historically, had not been a great path for overall life success, however much it brought financial success).
My time at Ookla has been very very short at the time of this writing, but all the impressions that I had gotten during interviewing have manifested and been reinforced in spades in my practical experience. I'm loving my manager, my coworkers, and the company. I've been burned before by drinking the Kool-Aid, so I'm trying to be cautiously optimistic with eyes wide open, but I have a really good feeling about it.
In 2021, Adam and I had only two sets of interactions, one more tense early on in the year, and another much more pleasant and amiable later on. Losing him remained difficult for me throughout, but over the course of the year, the frequency and intensity of my despair decreased. Going through the holidays without him was hard again, and I feel as though I'll need a good cry sometime soon to do some processing...I can feel that nagging at the edge of my consciousness. But I think that moving ahead with life, feeling all the feelings and also making sure to "keep on keepin' on" has helped with getting to a place of greater stability and peace.
I would have liked to reach out and have more of a connection with him, but I don't know if either of us is ready for that. For my part, I know that if he said "Let's try again.", I would jump at the chance, however much I know that I would need to be very cautious about it and however much I might even rationally think that's a bad or risky prospect. But that eagerness on my part is a red flag for me in terms of whether it's a good idea to reach out. And while maybe it would help if we tried to just be friends, that might also be very hard for me. And, frankly, I don't have any emotional bandwidth right now to risk more emotional dysregulation.
As it is, my route to go snowboarding at Breckenridge from Bailey now takes me south on the 285 through Fairplay, and seeing a lot of the town where Adam and I were building our once future home has been really hard.
I think about him a lot and hope that he and Billy are doing well. I wish I had been closer with our mutual friends to at least hear more about what's going on with him, but I dare not inquire, for fear of its landing the wrong way.
It will be interesting to see what 2022 brings.
Analogous to my desire for clear motives with leaving Amazon and starting a new job, so too with Adam, I want to make sure that when and if I'm "over him" (whatever that means), it's because I'm done processing, not because I've become distracted by or enamored with someone new. Feelings are messy things, so I don't know how things will go or if I'll have that clarity. But I'll certainly try to be mindful and introspective as ever.
Overall, dating in Colorado has been pretty disappointing. While there are plenty of physically attractive guys, and while I have quite a bit more in common with them, interests-wise, than with guys in SF or LA, it has happened again and again that guys would flake or ghost. Sometimes, connections just fizzle. And when I think about it, I'm betting a lot of that is also on me: Now that I'm so much more sensitive to dismissive-avoidant behaviors, I naturally lose interest, perhaps more quickly than I ought to. Maybe I've become so allergic to feeling like I'm begging for someone's attention that I'm overcompensating and not holding up my side of keeping conversation and connection alive. It's like "Not interested? Fine. Moving on.". There have definitely been some good connections, too, but no real "butterflies" for me...at least not any that ended up going anywhere. Frankly, it's exhausting.
I find it hard to believe that I'm going to love somebody again the way I loved Adam or that I will have the kind of relationship with someone that I had with him. Maybe that will just take time. But I worry a bit that I'm bringing that attitude into every new date I go on and connection I establish. I'm not sure what else to do, though; I just need to keep trying, keep being open, keep moving forward.
But you know, I'm just not in a rush. My priority now is to have a kid. I would have liked to have a kid with a partner, but at this point, I don't have the time for that. One thing that I learned in my relationship with Adam is that I don't have the knowledge/sills/intuition/wisdom to accurately judge early on whether a relationship will last or whether a partner would be a suitable co-parent for my children. I was so sure about Adam, almost immediately after we met, and I was so wrong. What that means for me is that I know that I need at least a few years with a person before I can trust my judgment of him and of us. And I just don't want to add those few years' delay to having a kid; every year I wait is one year fewer I have with my kid. I'm not getting any younger. So anybody new who comes into my life will end up being a step-parent or something to my kid. It's not the dynamic I would have preferred, but on the other hand, maybe it's good that I'll just be able to parent my own way. In a way, I think this is contributing to the energy (or lack thereof) I'm bringing into new dates: I don't want to get into anything too serious that might disrupt my plans by making me choose between waiting to vet the new partner and moving forward with having a kid unilaterally while still "just dating" (which is just plain weird). Incidentally, a lot of the same considerations apply to whether I might/should be open to trying again with Adam.
Moving to a small mountain town about an hour southwest of Denver hasn't helped dating at all, but at least it's created a bit of a quality filter. Not only does it tend to attract only guys who are serious, but it's also made me more picky about how I'm going to invest my own time.
I guess we'll see how it goes.
Really a Coloradan
Despite not being a native by birth, I've written a little already about the ways in which culturally and in my heart, I've felt more at home in Colorado than in LA or the California Bay Area. I have been eager to make my residence in Colorado permanent, but for various logistical reasons, that wasn't practical until very recently. And while my driver license is still pending (because I'm waiting on the Department of State to return my renewed passport proving my citizenship, since I don't have my birth certificate--a long story on its own), my car is now registered, and by some miracle, I got the same customized plates in Colorado that I had in California:
When they came in the mail, I cried the whole 1.5-mile drive up from the mailbox back to the house.
Somewhat humorously, I think getting my license plate and my being here feeling really real has intensified my "Colorado supremacy". Bad drivers now automatically trigger "Oh, they must be from California.", even though mathematically, that's absurd. And I bemoan the influx of Californians bringing their toxic culture and politics into our great state. On a more serious note, I think I'm committing the non-fallacy of self-exclusion here because I specifically fled California to escape the (dis)values I disliked in favor of embracing the Colorado values I've long held dear, so I'm not bringing along anything antithetical to Coloradoness. I learned a phrase from my dad recently, as he was describing a sign in Texas he'd heard of that warned immigrants from California: "Remember: You are a refugee, not a missionary." AMEN. That completely resonates with me. Oh my gods; I'm so done with California.
Conclusion and Looking Ahead
2021 was a doozy. And I'm exhausted. So far, it's looking like 2022 will show no signs of calming down, but it does seem that things are on an overall upward trajectory, in the same way that 2021 was a major improvement over 2020's hellfuckery, however stressful it was in different ways.
Whereas the theme for 2021, in retrospect, was overcoming inertia and various manifestations of my anxious-preoccupied tendencies, I think the theme, prospectively, for 2022 needs to be learning to relax and find a place of peace and equanimity in what feels like a storm of one thing after another being thrown at me.
I've written about this before, but it bears repeating, particularly because it's come up explicitly for me time and again, especially in the context of cocounseling and various support groups I'm in.
Especially in recent years, it's been very easy for me to feel completely overwhelmed and burned out. I think a lot has to do with my anxious-preoccupied tendencies (in terms of feeling an urgency to address and fix things), as well as bad habits/dispositions I picked up in my childhood around procrastination and forcing myself to do things I don't want to do (along with a strong sense of responsibility). I think that in the last few years, there was a tipping point, and I haven't really been able to catch my breath since. And speaking of breath, it seems that even daily meditation isn't helping me to just relax and "let things be". (Though really, it could be that I'd be in a worse state without it.) Life continues to feel like half-a-dozen emergencies at a time, with new emergencies popping up as others resolve, and it's really hard to discern whether it really is (1) an unfortunate coincidence of disproportionately many challenges, (2) something I'm inviting into my life, (3) just normal life that I'm struggling to cope with effectively because of my background/baseline stress, or some combination of the above. And with a few exceptions, the basic pattern is that after a workday, I'm so emotionally worn out that I have no more energy to do anything off my to-do list (which is, of course, a vicious cycle, because I'd feel much better and be more motivated with more energy to do things if I got even some small things done), and so I veg out watching TV, get to bed, and start the same cycle of feeling useless and lazy the next day. Also ironically, I don't feel "entitled" to do very many fun things (eg, writing, outdoor adventures, tech nerdery) because I'm always wanting to "be responsible" and get shit done from my ever-growing to-do list. It's ironic because doing those fun things would give me more energy and resilience to cope with stress. Maybe the solution will be to--ironically--force myself to do things I don't want to do, to summon whatever ounce of willpower and psychological tricks I have to just get some of this shit done, and that will cascade into a virtuous cycle. Or maybe I really need to find a place of inner peace and say "fuck it" to the million things nagging at my consciousness. Maybe when my back heals (oh, did I mention that I fucked it up pretty badly by snowboarding moguls hard for 5 hours my first day back on the slopes this season?), resuming lifting and snowboarding will help. Whatever the case, what I really need to focus on this year, thematically, is actually finding the calmness and stillness that I so desperately fantasized about by buying and moving to a place in the mountains. And that is critically important to my being psychologically/emotionally prepared for some of my upcoming concrete goals.
So my more concrete goals for 2022, in order of how practical I think it will be to achieve them:
I need to start developing some additional revenue streams. In the immediate term, it will give me some peace of mind in terms of money (for the same reason that being overinvested in a single stock is risky--and mathematically unwise), and in the long-term, it will give me better options and flexibility when I'm a single, stay-at-home dad. Ideally, of course, I'd like to cultivate passive income (eg, by putting together a course on one of those learning platforms that pays me royalties), but it would also be useful to have some non-scalable side gigs, such as computer consulting, resume review, interview prep, high school math/physics tutoring, personal training, and the like. Frankly, this shouldn't be too difficult, and particularly because I can scale the temporal investment up and down as needed, I really just need to DO IT.
I also need (I mean really need) to get a dog. My heart aches for not having a dog. I recently looked up listings for adopting lab puppies, and I broke down into a crying mess. A lot of that was missing Billy. And I'm a little worried about the implication there being that I'm not yet ready for a dog because I'm not done grieving losing him in my and Adam's dissolution, but I need to move forward, ready or not. At first, I thought I wouldn't be able to get a yellow lab, so I had planned on a black lab, since I had come to really love labs. But then I somehow came up with a perfect naming scheme that has turned into my multi-year fantasy of adding dogs to my family:
- yellow lab whom I'll name Thor
- 18 months later, a black lab whom I'll name--you guessed it--Loki
- 18 months later, a husky whom I'll name Merlin
Thor and Loki as a pair kind of goes without saying. "Merlin" just goes well with my name and the breed. I'll plan to wait 18 months between dogs because I learned that getting multiple puppies at the same time is disastrous for training, partially because they end up bonding to one another instead of to me, and they end up getting too distracted. I may have to adjust this schedule based on when I end up having a kid, since I can only train one creature at a time, and being a single dad will be hard enough, even with the Cades' help.
For now, I think that what I need to do is just start buying all the right equipment to be prepared as a dog guardian/custodian/companion, and that will lower the "activation energy" required to actually go and get the puppy.
And I'll mention that, because by disposition, I like to do things from scratch and have as much influence over development as possible, I'll want to get puppies. The same principle applies to having a kid.
So speaking of kids, I'd been thinking that by the end of 2022, someone would be pregnant with my baby, but I haven't pursued anything in that direction yet. By the way, while I have considered adoption, there are two reasons, each of which is sufficient on its own, that I don't think it's the path for me (though I have zero ideological issues with adoption, as I hope will be clear): (1) Adoption is a risky process, particularly for a single dad. I know that the moment an infant comes into my life, I will bond with him instantly, and if, heaven-forfend, something disrupts the adoption process and I lose custody, I would be absolutely crushed. With everything I've gone through in the last several years (and 2020 especially), I just can't risk enduring that kind of loss. (2) As I mentioned, I like to do things from scratch. I have long been interested in parenting theory (and implementing/practicing it in various contexts, as appropriate), and I want to create as healthy and supportive a developmental environment as possible for my kid. I do not want to inherit trauma.
And this last point relates to some anxiety that I've been developing of late around having a kid: Yes, I'm a control freak. It's not that I want to control my child or the concrete outcomes in his life (quite the opposite, actually), but I want to control the environment for my child's development to give him every possible advantage I can. After birth, it would be providing the right amount of support and also adaptive pressures, offering guidance and encouraging independence, giving comfort and the space to wrestle with and work things out on his own, helping to let go of suffering while creating "good stress". But I realized that there are also pre-birth developmental factors that I'm worried about. Selecting the best egg / genetic donor that I can is relatively straightforward, and that's essentially a single decision. But in-utero development has started to weigh on me heavily, particularly as I learn more about physical health. I want the surrogate to have a healthy diet, to be engaged in exercise, to be calm and serene throughout the 9 months of pregnancy, to be insulin-sensitive, even. I don't know how to reconcile this with my allergy to controlling other people, and practically, I don't know how to bring this about, other than to select a suitable surrogate who will also be willing to live with me as I do all the cooking etc for her. I hear often that there are so many unknowns and that there is so much that will be out of my control as a parent, so I should stop fussing about this. But that makes no logical sense to me; by contrast, that suggests to me that I should therefore leave as little to chance as possible. (Again, I want to stress that this is fundamentally different from trying to control your child, which is opposite of my parenting philosophy.) So I'm not sure how I should approach this yet, but I need to figure it out soon, because I don't want to keep delaying because of analysis-paralysis or inertia or anxiety or whatever.
Finally--and this is definitely a stretch goal--I want to buy my 100ish acres in the middle of the Colorado wilderness. Land prices are only going up with time, and I understand that it's very difficult to get a loan for a plot of land without a structure on it. (I like to do things from scratch--remember?) So I need to buy the land for cash. And I don't know how to make that happen while also funding surrogacy, but I'll have to figure it out somehow. This land would be for Phase 2, but I might as well get it sooner than later. For now, that's going to be just continuing to passively look through listings and seeing if anything catches my attention. But gosh, it would be really nice to have that pinned down, even if actually building something and moving is still a handful of years off.
So here's to an even better 2022--I'll need all the luck I can get and the non-luck I can create.