Last year’s theme was fun. I didn’t write a ton about it. My “annoucement” post simply said,

I’ve decided to focus on Fun in 2022. I just haven’t had enough of that these last few years.

I didn’t quite know what I would seek out for fun, but it turns out, it took me just 8 days.

I signed up for a volleyball league, and by May I escalated from one night a week to 3-4 nigths a week. By September, I was joining more intermediate play. Returning to volleyball after 17 years was a tremendous amount of fun. And although due to surgery and travel I haven’t played since early October, it’s one of the things I’m most looking forward to when we return to Baltimore in February.

In the summer of 2021, we went to Mexico and the most fun I had was our day of biking, hiking, and swimming through the jungle and in caves. In fact, all of the highlights of the last few years for me were days with strenuous physical activity. It’s not the only thing that brings me joy, but these days are sharper and clearer in my memory than any other. They’re sharper than the other good times, and they’re sharper than the other bad times. I have to keep reminding myself of this, because my base motivation is still to remain stationary. It’s hard for me to motivate myself to get up early on the weekend and go for hike. I never regret when I do.

Volleyball was great because I had to schedule it and put it on my calendar. I built a small community of friends and people I wanted to see. I hoped they were happy on the days I could make it. And because signing up was a promise of a full court, or at least enough people to play, there was just enough guilt to mean that signing up meant going. Scheduling my physical activity with limited slots and friends who are relying on me seems ot lower the activation energy just enough to make it happen. I knew this about myself– I still go to a gym that is entirely based on small group training, and my consistency there is entirely due to the same factors that lead me to showing up for volleyball. It’s scheduled, choosing a session means locking someone else out, and there’s a community there I look forward to spending time with.

Volleyball wasn’t the only source of fun. I took a desperately needed trip to Puebla and Mexico City in early March. Personally and professionally, 2021 was a rough year. And although 2022 was a year of full of healing, growth, and fun, 2021 was not quite done with me those first two months. I’m glad we had that trip planned, but I’m also proud that I used that trip to restore myself. I set solid boundaries with work before, during, and upon my return. And I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that I came home a healthier person, more capable of moving forward than I had been in a long time.

That trip rolled into a fun weekend in Chicago in May. It was the perfect bite-sized vacation that just wasn’t possible during the peaks of COVID. It felt a lot like our trip to New Orleans in December 2019– fast, fun, restorative, and mostly, normal. It was around this time that we started to take more seriously an idea that we had while in Mexico– maybe we should spend a good chunk of winter in Mexico City.

Baltimore is dark and cold in the winter. Mexico City stays mild (50s at night, 70s during the day) pretty much year round. Because it’s further south, there’s significantly more sunlight during winter. Because both Elsa and I get time off from work for the holidays and work remotely, good wifi is pretty much all we need. Looking back, I never had work trips in December and January.

Although I had tons of anxieties about booking a long time away from home, I said yes in the interest of fun. Today, I’m writing from Mexico City, about halfway through our stay. I’m glad I said yes, and I’m glad to have had fun guide me.

All of my concerns and anxieties stemmed from an idea of what the best use of our time and money was. I am a person who has often let worry, planning, optimizing, and a host of other anxieties paralyze me into inaction. I want to do these things, but because I perceive these opportunities as rare and limited, I allow myself to be frozen, or I allow the expectations swamp any possible reality, zapping the fun from existence.

In order to have fun, I have to find ways of letting go of these anxieties and just do.

This extended to food. I have been generally eating healthier– my body is keeping score and it’s clear this year was a strong year for my healthy. At the same time, I had some of the best food of my life this year. I’m doing a better job of allowing myself to make food something I can celebrate. I make better choices for the every day mundane meals and find ways to make that still filled with joy. I know how to cook healthy food I love. I know how to get food quickly that’s still healthy when convenience is more important. But I’ve also sought out great food, sometimes expensive, often not, and let myself enjoy great meals. I’ve eaten healthier and better in every way.

But having fun wasn’t just about saying yes, it was also about boundaries and saying no. It was about doing a better job of turning off when I needed emergency surgery and not working and trusting my team. It was about going to Cuba without connectivity and being ok. It was about taking those trips and being present where I was. It was about separating the personal and professional relationships I had, even with the same person, so that each can be more healthy. It was about letting some things take longer at work so that other parts of me had time to thrive. It was about being more aggressive about putting books down I was not enjoying. Stopping things I thought would be fun but weren’t. Making easy commitments when they felt right and avoiding commitments that didn’t.

Was 2022 the most fun I’ve ever had? No. But it was a successful return to fun, or at least a year where I built better tools to find fun and to nurture the things that are fun.