The Great Reset

Steampunk-style panel flashing the word "RESET" in red

Creative Commons photo by Bruno Furnari. Click to see the original.

Deciphering Closing Time

Before you read this, you should read Closing Time, a blog entry I posted a couple of weeks ago.

On my first night of my visit to Montreal a couple of weeks ago, I had a dream after which I woke up in the middle of the night and was unable to sleep. This is very unusual. Although I’m a bit of a night owl, I’m one of those guys who’s out like a light ten minutes after head makes contact with pillow and sleeps like a bear through the night. I become insomniac only when jet-lagged or when things have gone seriously awry.

On the rare occasion that I find myself waking up at oh-dark-thirty and unable to nod off, I find that the most effective fix is not to lie awake and try to sleep, but to do something until I get sleepy enough. That particular night, I fired up the laptop and wrote about that dream in a blog entry titled Closing Time.

The front entrance of the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel

Handy Life Tip: If you’re going to lie awake during one of those “long dark nights of the soul”, a Fairmont Hotel, such as Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth, is a pretty nice place to do it.

It never occurred to me that people would interpret it as work-related. Since posting the article, I’ve had a number of friends ask if I’m thinking of quitting my job and shooed away about a dozen phone calls from recruiters hoping to land a prize.

Instead, the article Closing Time and the dream that inspired it were about something a little more personal: it’s that Wendy has asked for a divorce.

I won’t get into the hows or whys of the matter here. Splitsville is a complicated place, and a blog is not the appropriate place to hang up your dirty laundry. It will simply have to suffice for me to say that I love Wendy dearly, and that I wish her all the happiness in the world. If you are a friend of hers, please reach out to her.

Anything I write about breaking up will not be about her, but about me and the question I will be attempting to answer for the next little while:

“So what do I do now?”

My Current Mood

I’m not going to write much about how I feel right now, other than to say that the photo below should give you the general idea.

Cat with one of those cones around its neck trying to eat from its bowl and failing

If you really want to find out more, you’re going to have to do it in person, and drinks have to be involved. And yes, I’m always going to pay for at least a couple of rounds.

The “Don’t” List

Cover of the book "Top Gear's Midlife Crisis Cars"

I’m a list writer. Whenever I’m working on a big project of any sort, I find that writing lists of end results and then working backwards from them with lists of how to get there very helpful. Hitting the reset button on your life is about as big a project as it gets, so it seemed to me to be the perfect time to make a new list.

I wrote my first list the day after “the talk”. I was still reeling from what had just happened, so I went with an easy one: what I would not do.

I have witnessed first-hand the antics of newly-divorced men:

  • “Retail therapy”, especially the classic mid-life crisis purchase: the expensive (and often impractical) sports car.
  • Going on serious binges of a-drinkin’ and a-druggin’.
  • The $600-a-night habit at “the ballet”.
  • One or more instances of the wildly inappropriately young new “rebound girl”.
  • Angry, over-the-top rants about the ex.
  • Hiring prostitutes and asking them to slap you.

Oh wait: that last one wasn’t real; that’s Don Draper from Mad Men.

"someecards" greeting card: "Just because Don Draper did it doesn't mean you can avoid your family on holidays to get smacked around by hookers."

I’ve seen friends and acquaintances indulge in the other items on the list. I think I can avoid these fairly easily, but if any of you see me do any of this stuff in a moment of weakness, could you do me a favour and call me out on it?

Location, Location, Location

An apartment building under renovation, surrounded by a construction wall with the word "HOME" painted on it in large orange letters

Wendy’s moving into her own place in a couple of weeks. For the time being, I’ve decided to stay put in our current High Park apartment.

I’m not staying out of any particular attachment to the place. In fact, it’s a big reminder of what once was. Although I’d like to move out, I should probably try to keep the number of major disruptions in my life down to a manageable level. Moving can wait for a little bit. Perhaps I’ll rearrange the furniture to at least make the place a little different.

The time to move will come soon enough. Perhaps I’ll move once the weather warms up. I’ll probably move closer downtown, but still within reasonably easy access to Lake Shore and the Gardiner so that my regular visits to my family’s homes and weekly commute to Microsoft HQ are fairly easy.

I’m open to suggestions for new neighbourhoods to call home. If you have any, I’d love to hear where and why. If you feel so inclined, let me know in the comments.

All That Free Time

Buster Keaton hanging from the big hand of a building-mounted clock

Idle hands,” the saying goes (more or less), “are the Devil’s Xbox.”

I know that especially for the first little while, I’m going to have great swaths of free time in the evenings. The fact that it’ll be the dead of winter and the sun sets early will make those nights seem even longer.

I’m thinking of disconnecting the TV cable (it comes free in my building, so I can’t cancel it). Television is a great de-motivator; watching it, you substitute your own life for those of the people onscreen. With TV, you can while away an evening and have nothing to show for it. Worse still, those evenings easily add up.

In the place of TV, I plan to do constructive, creative, possibly unusual things. Some will be computer-related (I’ve been meaning to take on some kind of ambitious hobby tech project for some time), some will be musical, some will involve me expanding my community role, and some of it will involve hitting the gym a little more often. I’m still fielding ideas for this one, but the point is to not sit idly while the world moves on.

Hitting the Road

Airplanes on a tarmac under a cloudy grey sky

I like travel, so when I was job-hunting, I took the opportunities for business travel into consideration. Wendy’s not fond of travel, so when we got married, I adjusted my plans accordingly: business travel became my prime opportunity to see new places and meet new people.

With “The New Normal,” travel is back in the cards. I’ve had a chat with my manager John Oxley to see if I can get slotted for some upcoming work travel opportunities, and it turns out that from January to April, there are a number of potential destinations including Montreal, Seattle, Austin and Las Vegas.

As for personal travel time, I’m mulling over some destinations. I’d made peace with the possibility of never seeing the Philippines again, but I can now go for a visit. It’s been a while since I’ve been to the U.K. and Europe, and I’ve never been to South America, Africa or Australasia. Even Burning Man’s an option again. I’ve got the vacation days, the cash and the frequent flyer points – what I need is a destination. (Suggestions are welcome; feel free to make them in the comments.)


Dhimant Patel and me, arm in arm, smoking cigars

My friends have all asked variations on the same question: “Is there anything I can do?”

The answer is yes: be my friend. I want to hang out with my friends and reconnect with those whom I haven’t seen in a while. And no, I don’t want to always talk about my own situation; I also want to hear about yours. You’re not boring me with talk about your work, hobbies or kids – I want to hear about that stuff.

My calendar opens up quite a bit after the touring madness of TechDays ends at the end of next week, so if you want to catch up, drop me a line.

Hooking Up

Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell paining of a nude woman riding a centaur. Sexxxxy!

(Ah, Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell: where would we be without your fantasy paintings?)

This will eventually happen, either casually or more seriously. I’ve given this almost no thought, simply because this hasn’t been a concern for years.

While I’m not chiseled like the studly centaur in the painting above, I’ve got reasonably good looks, social skills, more than two coins to rub together, more than my fair share of luck and of course, the accordion. I also have a circle of friends, associates and even customers who are already offering to set me up on dates (thanks, but it’s too soon).

For the time being, I’m not going to worry too much about this one.

It Just Got Real

Two skydivers, high above the cloudsCreative Commons Photo by Kevin King. Click to see the source photo.

There probably isn’t a single First World adult who hasn’t had the idle fantasy about what they’d do if they could drop one or more of their major responsibilities.

What could I do if I weren’t in a committed relationship? Who could I be if I didn’t have these mortgage payments looming over me? Where could I go if I didn’t have these mouths to feed? If I could ditch this job right now, what would be the first thing I’d do?

Where I am now isn’t too distant from those scenarios. I’m about to become single again. I have no kids, no mortgage and no debt. I’m relatively young; they say (well, actually, I say) 43 is the new 33. Those fantasies are now my reality.

Ice Cube in the movie "Trespass", wearing a black turtleneck, a black leather jacket and holding a silver MAC-10. Damn!

As Ice Cube might say: “Shit just got real, dogg.”

41 replies on “The Great Reset”

Hi Joey.

If only I could curb my TV habit like you.

Not even a reset can curtail your blogging prowess.

Thanks for correctly naming the continent of Australasia :)!

Looking forward to hanging out with you in Calgary next week!

Kim Breland: Interesting. I’ll definitely keep it in mind. I might ask the CruiseAmerica in Reno what the current going rate for RV rentals is.

Skrud: I believe the next opportunity isn’t that far off — CUSEC 2011 is just around the corner.

Colin: Going off TV is easier than you think, especially if you’ve got hobbies and activities that you find more compelling. It’s also easier in the age of whole seasons of shows on DVD and PVRs — TV is no longer an “appointment” activity; rather than working your schedule around the TV, TV can now work its schedule around yours.

I have too many friends from “New Zillund” to not refer to the general area as “Australasia”. I’m glad you noticed!

And yes, see you in Calgary!

Sorry to hear about your divorce. My favourite quote on divorce by Helen Rowland
“When two people decide to get a divorce, it isn’t a sign that they “don’t understand” one another, but a sign that they have, at last, begun to.”
Wishing you the best

Joey, I once had a near-burnout at work and found myself adrift. After a little while I went to Australia for a month. It was so effective that in hindsight I wish I’d done it immediately. Having new surroundings instead of my usual environment made it much easier to get my mind into a new space, and I returned a recovered person. So the travel option worked well for me. For maximum reset value I recommend going somewhere you’ve never been before.

GregD: A Coffee and Code in the heart of coffee culture? Sounds like a good idea.

Estelle: Intriguing quote. Thanks!

Rohan: I just might do that. A friend just suggested catching up in Belize.

Roland: Adobo and sinigang sounds like just the ticket! And hey, walang ligaya sa lupa na hindi dinilig ng luha and all that.

Ya know… reading through the post on the hackers giving back to the community, and you now needing something to involve yourself in most likely in an intense way, then add the travel bug and the accumulated vacation time …. how about getting yourself involved in something like Engineers Without Borders or some other outfit, that could put your skills to use for the benefit of a community, all the while giving you the opportunity to travel and meet new people in a completely new 180 degree environment, that would make for one heck of a reset button. All you’ve listed that you’re thinking of trying, seem to coalesce into something like this. That’s how I read it anyway.

I wish you both the best of luck. And please don’t consider yourself a failure. Hm, nothing I can say here can help, other than to use the trite yet accurate and please don’t be offended: shit happens, even to the best of folk.

You know, you’ve got some awesome ability-fu. Directing your energy and abilities to good causes, something greater than yourself, may possibly be your next evolution. My take, based on years of reading your blog, for what it’s worth.

So very late to the game (that’ll learn me), but if you’re back in town and have some time, I’d love to grab a few pints with you and see how you’re doing.

[…] “Home is a nice place to visit” is my new catchphrase. I’m fine with that; I figure that if you’re going to have a midlife (“midlife crisis” is the wrong term to use, unless in the line “Best midlife crisis […]

[…] January 2011. It was certainly a contributing factor in a number of changes I made in the wake of The Great Reset, including leaving Microsoft, joining Shopify, relocating to Ottawa for the summer and taking up a […]

[…] The manager and I never directly worked together, but we both were on the Developer and Platform Evangelism team. To borrow a phrase from the U.S. Army, our job was to win over programmers’ and IT professionals’ “hearts and minds” and convince them of the benefits of using Microsoft tools and technologies. It was February 2011, and we were at a cocktail party at an internal conference in downtown Seattle. He’d heard about my separation. […]

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