My 2018 year in review

Happy New year. I’m sitting here in the early first hours of 2019 fretting over the 50+ MPH gusts of wind travelling through my village. I’ve always been bothered by windy days; however, I am a bit more attuned to the potentially damaging effects of nature on my belongings. You see, last year I became a home owner for the first time.

The wind has me thinking about how quickly 2018 flew by. It was one of those years where I didn’t have much time to think about what I was doing or accomplishing. Therefore, I thought it would be prudent to record some of the more memorable achievements of mine from 2019. It beats checking the status of some aging tree limbs in my front yard every five minutes.

Clearly, becoming a homeowner nears the top of my list of 2018 accomplishments. Technically, it happened in the waning days of 2017, but we didn’t move until Spring Break. In a few short months I’ve learn much about painting, restoring creaking steps, installing garage door openers that aren’t life threatening and how easy it is to spend crazy amounts of money on house upgrades. (Having windows that actually open and a gas fireplace insert are both totally worth it, though.)

Speaking of spring break, another important achievement was surviving my first year at a new job as assistant professor at SUNY Brockport. The decision to restart my professional career was a difficult one, to say the least, but was fueled by funding and leadership fiascos at my former employer, which resulted in me spending a majority of my time dealing with bureaucratic nonsense rather than engaging in activities one would commonly find a professor performing.

The move to Brockport stripped me of the freedom and security provided by the rank of full professor (along with 20% of my salary), but has been liberating in many other ways. I finished 2018 with four publications, a record for me and well above the average for a chemist at a primarily undergraduate institution. Two of those papers were on my new area of research: bespoke scientific instrumentation design using digital fabrication tools such as 3D printing. I’ve written about one of my projects already, and the second one will be described in the near future.

More important to me, though, is that I was able to take advantage of some opportunities to transform my teaching. I attended two conferences focused on higher education and secured a significant amount of (internal) funds to introduce some exciting and innovative teaching into my classroom. If only I could claim WRITING those laboratory experiments as an accomplishment for 2018, but I guess that is what the intercession period is for.

Looking back, I can’t say that 2018 was a bucket list year; there weren’t any exciting travel destinations, although we did celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary with a trip to the Hudson River valley. It’s not the Galapagos islands as we had planned some years ago; however, we hadn’t envisioned a major purchase and employment shift at the time.

We have made significant efforts to become more engaged in our community. Despite neverending traffic and being surrounded by millions of people, feelings of isolation never quite left me while in Chicago. Rahm Emanuel never asked me to write letters of support for infrastructure grants, but there also wasn’t a bridge over a canal that I cared about in the city.

I’m certain there are other important accomplishments of the year that I’m missing; I’ll blame this memory lapse on the gusts of wind that are making it increasingly difficult to focus on anything other than the creaks and groans our house is making.

Reflection on what we’ve done is a useful tool to guide us as we move forward into 2019. I’m afraid there isn’t enough reflection happening in our society right now, given the short-sighted political leaders who guide us and the constantly pinging smartphones that distract us. As we get ready to commemorate 150 years of the periodic table, perhaps 2019 will be an opportune time to incorporate more reflection into our lives. At the very least, it will motivate me sufficiently to record the year’s events rather than attempt to recall them on a dark and stormy night.

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