Photo via: Kirsty Hall

Three Nice Things From the Past Year of My Life

Do you have a complicated relationship with your birthday?

I do. I was born on December 25th. As a boy, it meant that celebrating my birthday was at the front of our minds in my home at this time of year. The other holidays relevant to my family — Christmas, Chanukah — they were kind of secondary.

When I grew up that became less true. Mid- to late-December meant nearly everyone I knew in cities I lived in was trekking home or elsewhere to spend time with family or just to get away. I was often doing that, too. But now with a family and a life distant from where I grew up, I’m usually here in New York. Sometimes my birthday feels like less of a big deal.

Perhaps I should get over that. Many people probably also feel that way as they grow older. But it’s been a strange end of the year a little bit at home and a lot at work. I didn’t want to lose sight of some of the things that went well in this past year of my life. That’s why I’m sharing three of them with the world. Maybe I’ll do this next year, too.

What turned out nice in your life this year?

Paternity leave changed my life

Timing is everything. The New York Times announced a few months before my daughter was born that all employees, male and female, would receive six weeks of paid time off following the birth of a child. I used five of those weeks the month after my wife went back to work.

It can be really difficult to totally change the pace of your life in mid-stride without it costing you anything. Being home with Ruby let me pause and think about a lot of my priorities and what makes me me. But it also made me a better father.

My wife and I had a good partnership just after Ruby was born. But I always knew that after a couple hours of looking after the baby on my own, Amanda would be back to share the burden or relieve me outright. Staying home with Ruby full-time for five weeks forced me to be more self-reliant and stop thinking “Someone else can take care of that important task later on.” When Amanda needs to travel for work or otherwise be absent from home for any reason, I don’t get anxious and wonder how I’ll manage to look after the baby without calling someone in for support. Parenting full-time, even for a small number of weeks, made me less terrified of parenting outright.

You can read about the advice I got about paternity leave on The Times’s Motherlode blog, and also my post-leave write-up.

Another thing I wrote

After my birthday last year and before 2014 I suggested a project to my then managers at The Times: let’s round-up some of the most important things we learned from the work that we do, and share them with the world. The nice folks at Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard agreed to publish it. And my c0-workers collaborated in supplying wisdom and feedback for a nice finished product.

That essay was shared and discussed widely in the weeks and months after it was published. It helped establish The Times social media desk as a center of innovation in the news business. It also led to a lot of really interesting opportunities for me, particularly to speak at a number of public events from Internet Week New York to some journalism conferences. It felt good to know in a very concrete way that my experiences at work could help inform the efforts of others.

Ten years in New York City

I woke up one day this spring and realized I was close to a milestone in my life: Surviving 10 years in New York City.

When I moved here in 2004, I settled in a dormitory for grad students and avoided buying furniture and other things that would make this place feel permanent. I was convinced I’d move overseas when my two years at Columbia were finished. The work I lined up in the 6–12 months that followed school was very temporary. And even a couple of years later through the tumult of jobs and relationships, I imagined I’d be packing my things and going somewhere else.

And then at some point, almost invisibly, that all changed. I stopped thinking about being anywhere else in a serious way. And I started being oblivious as movie starlets tapped me on the shoulder in public places.

To close the loop that started out this post, I also stopped imagining being anywhere else with anyone else during my birthday, the time of the year that the rest of you call the holidays. I’ve spent another whole year of my life here. And on balance, nice things keep happening to me. Who needs anything more special?

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