This year was another big one.
My daughter started school back in January which was a pretty momentous occasion – for her and us doting parents.
The build work for our house started in earnest after a long drawn out battle with the insurance company. We were paid out a fair sum of money to have our own builders come in and finish the job. We finally got to move in at the end of May after almost 20 months after the fire occurred. It was good to be home.
I was lucky to have the opportunity to head over to the US again and catch up with some of my favourite and inspiring people. Thanks to Laura for showing me some of the best beers in Texas. The Reclaim Crew put on an outstanding conference where I got to meet and catch up with Tom, Alan, Brian, Jim and a whole swathe of intelligent people. The folks from Oklahoma University – Adam, John and Keegan – who showed me around and openly shared their work.
Work this year was an interesting mix of talk around innovation and the more boring and practical. I spent a it of time immersed in the EduGrowth community but was bought back to the reality of EdTech while spending a big chunk of time skinning Blackboard. I have now upped my game when it comes to CSS abilities but have earned a few grey hairs in the process. What came out of it though was a new design system – one that I hope can grow and be maintained going forth.
As a side project I dove headfirst into the world of AgriTech startups this year with my fearless colleague Ben. While we never managed to win anything we did quite handsomely with our runner up spots that proved we were onto something. We’re planning on taking Kelpie a bit further in the new year and see what’s possible.
Being back in our home was an amazing feeling and I think as a family unit we revelled in it. We had our space and stuff back. The house was comfortable but more importantly was that it was ours. It wasn’t temporary or a placeholder it was something we controlled and inhabited. I can’t express how important that feeling is – it’s an intangible thing, but it anchors you. Home lets you be, become and do other things.
I had the great honour to have a number of international visitors come out to Australia. Keegan, Jim and Alan all made the long trek out to Australia and it was great to catch up with them all and spend time on “home turf”. It was great to explore Melbourne with Keegan and Jim, to meet Rohan and introduce them all to Joyce and Mark. What was really exciting was when Jim and Alan actually made it all the way to Wagga Wagga. It’s the first time I’ve had the opportunity to host friends from overseas for a long time and it was great.
A willingness to be hospitable has been missing in my life for a little while. Having spent so long living in what felt like (and technically was) someone else’s house, I never really wanted to invite people in or over. Most of our socialising was done somewhere else – out at a venue or at their place, but never at ours. Being home has changed that. We now have somewhere where we feel comfortable inviting people into – something that represents, reflects and embodies us. Now that we have our place there’s both a willingness and opportunity to invite people in and be more hospitable. Being home is the opposite of the hostile architecture that the rental felt like.
I’m glad Alan captured my “Up-The-Duff Chicken” – my go to meal for guests because it’s both relatively easy to prepare over a conversation at the kitchen bench, simple to cook, looks impressive and is delicious. I realised afterwards that I’d served this to both Jim and Alan when they visited (not on purpose) and I think it represents something quintessentially home-made. It’s certainly not something I’ve seen on the menu at any restaurant and the use of a can of beer to steam the chicken from the inside seems quite Australian. It was really great to have Alan and Jim come into my home and show them around Wagga and the local area and it was an honour to have them both here. It was also great to travel with Alan over to Wollongong and stop at a few of my favourite places along the way – Hyam’s Beach and Huskisson for fish and chips.
Meeting Kate Bowles and her amazing family was a huge payoff at the end of the drive. Experiencing her hospitality, and that of the whole family and the cat, was really life affirming. Her daughters blew me away with their intelligence, compassion and engagement with the world. Spending the afternoon and evening in their presences and in such hospitable company and setting recharged my sense of humanity and honestly game me hope in these often bleak times.
This year has been a shit show in so many ways. Throughout the year I’ve felt horrified at the depravity, spite and abhorrent behaviour that’s been on display. I’ve also felt completely out of my depth. I haven’t known how to respond or react in a meaningful and welcome way. I can bitch and moan from the sidelines, but most of this year I’ve been silent, unsure of what, if anything I can or should do.
2017 has been a year of rebuilding. Physically the house is done, and I’ve been able to make some in roads to being more hospitable and welcoming. I’ve got to experience it’s importance, but more significantly its effect. I’ve felt recharged and empowered by spending time with people this year, and as an introvert that’s hardly ever been the case. I realise that I was lacking in hospitality in my life, having all your stuff taken from you tends to have that effect. There was plenty of sympathy after the fact, but it wasn’t what I needed from other people that was important, it’s what I could give to them. And that’s what I’d lost in the fire – both the mechanism to do so by being able to offer my house to others, but also a real desire to invite anyone in. I think I’ve turned a corner on that one.