Here we are, on the first day of a new year. One of my big growing points over the past few years has been learning to accept failure as not just an okay but a necessary part of growth and achievement. In light of this, I want 2018 to be the year where I just kind of “do things,” so when I thought about writing something a little bit more involved than a Facebook post about the past year… I decided to just do it.
2017 started off like most other years I’ve experienced: it was January 1st, the sun rose, and I was still alive. But 2017 would also have some major events and milestones, and was probably the best year of my life because of one of them. I also ended the year experiencing loss in a way I hadn’t before, and it still hurts.
A New Career
The first big milestone in 2017: getting hired full-time as a software engineer/web developer. It’s hard to overstate how much of a milestone this was for me. Since 2015, learning these new skills and heading down this direction has easily been the most significant source of personal growth for me. A job that didn’t let me live the life I wanted forced me to realize that the ability to change my life was in my hands, and that no one else was going to make it happen for me. Struggling to understand basic concepts made me realize that it was okay to suck, at first. Or, in the legendary words of Jake the Dog:
“Dude, sucking at sumthin’ is the first step towards being sorta good at something.”
It showed me that I had gotten discouraged in so many things in my life and given up, simply because I didn’t feel I was good enough. It helped me to throw aside the notion of talent and replace it with the fact of relentless persistence. The journey to where I am now in my career (an extremely entry level software engineer) taught me so many things, and it’s hard to explain how the pay-off felt in the moment when I received the offer.
I had a baby on the way; I was unable to work at my current job because of a recurring knee injury; Claire’s income was going to stop because the kid she nannied was going to school. In fact, it ended the week I got my job. There would have been no way of knowing that we would be in this situation in the future, but I am so thankful for the switch that flipped in me and the decision I made in 2015 to see this thing through to the end and not accept no for answer. And I am so thankful for God’s incredible provision that He has always shown us, time and time again.
A New Life
Truth is, though, I usually forget all of that stuff above when I think about what happened next: On September 5th, 2017, at 09:21PM, my life changed forever. My beautiful daughter, Zoe Claire Nicole Nagatani*, was born.
While I can explain the changes that pursuing web development invoked inside me, it is much harder to quantify or put into words what having a baby did inside me.
People always told me that you can’t explain the feeling of having your own child… and they were right. All I can say is that I didn’t know I’d be able to experience such purity and innocence in this life, especially coming from me. I didn’t know that my heart could be stretched so wide and be filled so deeply. I didn’t know that one little child could completely dominate my thoughts, my feelings, and my life and that I wouldn’t care one bit. Zoe has completely obliterated our priorities, and it’s the best thing ever. At a time when I feel I’ve been trying to become more and more of a “doer,” she has slowed me down in all the right ways. (I’ve had to stop writing multiple times already just because her smile is so hard to look away from). I love it.
This child made 2017 the best year I’ve ever had, and she is showing no signs of slowing down this year.
*Zoe means “life” in Greek, Claire has to do with brightness and clarity or “light”, and Nicole is after my stillborn niece. We want her to be full of life, a source of light in this world, and also a reminder of a little girl that our family never got to enjoy but that we will always remember.
A New Loss
On December 20th, my family lost our Grandpa Jim. His death was actually the first that I’ve really experienced of that kind; someone that I had known my whole life, that I had so many memories with, that I had been so close to. When he passed, I really didn’t know how to deal with it. And the circumstances didn’t help, either. He had been in the ICU in Fresno for issues with his liver, and the doctor had given our family different reports throughout the week and half he was there. He was doing fine, he needed emergency surgery, the surgery went well, he would have lots of time… and then he was going to pass away in a few days. Upon hearing that news Wednesday evening, we were all able to get work off the next day so we could go see him. Unfortunately, he passed away just a few hours later.
I get it: grandparents pass away. It has to happen at some point, but it didn’t make it any better. I so badly wanted to see him again, obviously. And I so badly wanted my siblings to see him again who hadn’t in much longer. But much like with Zoe, there were feelings here that I hadn’t really experienced before and that I couldn’t explain well. It’s like desperately trying to reach out and touch somebody but knowing that you will never be able to again. It’s the questions of “Why, God?” and the anger and the sorrow and the confusion. You see, my grandpa was in a lot ways more than just my grandpa.
In fact, he isn’t actually my dad’s dad. But I don’t know my dad’s dad. The story is that has/had no interest in knowing me, and so he is my just that: my dad’s dad. Jim, however, was my Grandpa. When my dad reached out to his dad a few years back to see if he wanted to meet me and his response was “no,” the love that I experienced from my Grandpa Jim became even more personal, more real, more special.
And beyond that, he also represented so much of what I struggle with still: wishing my family was still the family from my childhood. Grandma and Grandpa’s house is home to so many memories of my siblings and I, in times before divorce tore my family apart. In a sort of selfish way, I guess I felt that part of that died along with him.
In it all though, there was a sort of redemption: we got to go see my Grandma and be with her during a time that I’m sure is much harder for her than for me. She got to meet her great-grandson Jace and her great-granddaughter Zoe. We got to reminisce about Grandpa and the old days together. Claire and I got to stay a bit longer and help her with some loose ends she had to take care of regarding my Grandpa’s passing. We got to eat lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant, where we had just taken this picture one year before:
In front of Sal’s Mexican Restaurant in October, 2016
This experience was overall very hard, and very… negative. I’m not afraid to say it. Death sucks. But, I also know the hope that I have in Jesus, and I’ve learned even more now that time is our most precious resource. There isn’t always next year, next month, next week, or tomorrow. We need to take time for things that matter to us and make them happen.
A New Year
So yeah, this past year was pretty full. I learned a lot. I grew a lot. Claire and I got library cards. Star Wars was ____(fabulous? terrible? I won’t spoil it for you).
To begin this new year, I’d like to just list a few things that come to mind that I’d like to make happen. I’m not really trying to make New Year’s resolutions here… just things I want to improve on in myself, or things that I know will grow me as a person.:
- I want to read a lot more. Maybe a book every two weeks, which isn’t that much, but is a lot more than I’ve been reading.
I want to see our net worth actually be positive. AKA, no more student loans + growing our investment portfolio.
I want to just DO things. Try things. I have a lot of ideas, and it’s probably time I just started trying things and sort it all out as I go.
I want to lose more weight. I’ve lost about 13/14 pounds since Zoe was born, which is great, but not nearly enough. When she was born, I weighed almost 221 pounds (I weighed about 165 when I got married….) I’d like to get down to about 180 and get back into the great shape I used to be in.
I want to slow down. This night’s a perfect shade of dark blue, and I really don’t want to miss it. This might seem antithetical to number 3, but I don’t want dreams, ambitions, or goals to get in the way of what really matters.
I want to honor God in everything. As I’m constantly trying to grow and become a more “effective” person, I also see the need to continually tether myself to the Anchor of my soul. Jesus said it best: “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet lose their soul?”
Thanks for taking the time to read this!
Here’s to our best year yet,