Reflections on Turning 43, COVID Pandemic – “May You Live in Interesting Times”

  • Post published:March 6, 2021
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  • Post category:Blog

I’m 43 today. But I don’t care if I’m 23, 43 or 63. Age and time doesn’t mean much to me; I’m doing what I want every day and whenever I die it’ll be without any regrets. This year does mark a couple things that are special to me though that are on my mind. I’ve been reflecting on those and the crazy year it’s been…

20 Years Ago

20 years ago, everything changed for me within an 18-month period. I was directionless, couldn’t get a career going or find a long-term girlfriend (screw that – I wanted a soulmate!).

But then Geno asked me if I wanted to meet with a potential tech project client; it was one of Geno’s leads but the relationship got off track and it needed a fresh start. I met the client – he was starting a new Medicaid HMO. I ended up being the first employee hired and tasked with building and managing the IT infrastructure and staff. The founders put so much faith in me and gave me room to excel and I took on the challenge.

It was a magical time. Of course there were long days, challenging days, stressful days, but the time at that job were some of my absolute favorite memories, we had a great team who supported each other and I met many great people along the way. Bobbie, Melinda, Kristine, Tony, many others). I was honored to be able to help tens of thousands of underserved people in our local communities, not many “IT Guys” get a chance to do that.

Later that year, Geno threw a Halloween party where I met Jennifer… I was in his kitchen at the party, just hanging out, scoping everyone out. I saw the top of someone’s head, moved a little to see who it was. When Jenn and I locked eyes… I had a vision. Of us walking down the isle getting married in a big, beautiful Catholic church. On top of that, was imprinted another vision of two chubby toddlers, in old-timey cloth diapers. Jenn and I hit it off that night, to say the least. It was as if we were long time friends, meeting up again (we think we were – past lives!).

Needless to say, within 4 years, we got married in a big, beautiful church just like I saw (Jenn was raised Catholic) and a couple years after that we had our wonderful twins, Jack and Jaden. Jenn and the boys are exactly what I wanted and needed. I’m thankful for them every day.

Jenn and I began long-distance dating as I was in Pittsburgh and she in Erie. A couple months later, my company said they’re moving from Pittsburgh to Erie and I’d have to move too or else find another job. I said “Perfect!” and moved to Erie where Jenn and I were able to be together.

It does not escape me that Geno led me to my career and soulmate, and we were also in our first band together (‘One of Won’ forever! lol). He plays a big part of my ‘mythology’ – I literally cannot thank Geno enough.

Spirituality

Also at the time 20 years ago, I turned my back on the religion of my childhood and set out to learn and experience what I was truly drawn to. I tried MANY different spiritual paths and practices during that time – it was a wonderful period of experimentation for me. They mostly centered on meditation, visualization, manifestation, enlightenment/self-realization/non-duality, magick, working with energies/entities.

I believe those practices played a big part in how my life took off and all the doors of opportunity opened during that time so quickly and why things have continued to play out for me, Jenn and the boys in a graceful way over the years. My spiritual stillness that began developing at that time has deepened considerably within the last five years and especially over the last year with the current practices I’m working on.

The sensation of contentment, centeredness, peace, and intentionality that I experience underneath all emotion is astounding and is wonderful but confounding at the same time. In any event, I’ve learn to never take it for granted and to keep tapping into it to keep supporting my family in an intentional, loving, patient way. The underlying stillness is still a mystery that I’m processing even twenty years later.

So, yes, a lot happened in those 18 months, 20 years ago.

Reflecting on the Present

Turning back to the present, I’ll be at my current job going on eight years next week (not sure where those years went – in a blink of an eye). I architect and execute IT projects for local companies. I’m humbled and honored every day to be able to serve so many local companies and communities, especially non-profits, which have a special place in my heart and mind. And all while wearing sweatpants in my home office (it’ll be one year that I’ve worked from home due to the pandemic in about a week).

Like, I cannot put into words the satisfaction I get when, after planning a complex, convoluted migration for people at a company that I had only just met, that they trust me even though I’m a stranger, as I guide them through the project, like through a dark forest at night, and then the project is a success when it ends a couple weeks or months later, and the customer simply, sincerely, genuinely says ‘thank you’. It feels SO satisfying. I don’t want ego strokes or accolades. I just want to serve and I get to do that everyday.

Thoughts on the Pandemic

Pivoting to my thoughts about the last year through the pandemic… many of my hunches about American society were confirmed. It’s a mix of good and bad stuff:

  • I have loved being home with the boys since they’re doing cyber schooling. We’ve bonded a lot more as I’ve become their friend in addition to their dad. Its been nice.
  • Too many Americans believe in conspiracies and misinformation. None of the QAnon narrative came true. There was no ‘Storm’. QAnon was just started as a joke on an Internet bulletin board website. Man, did people drink the kool-aid.
  • Too many Americans believe misinformation. They’ll distrust the WHO, CDC, Bill Gates, all the world’s scientists and doctors, decades of sound research but will instantly believe a link they read on social media posted by their fellow soccer mom neighbor from a crackpot website. I get it. People want to think they’re ‘connecting the dots’ and ‘doing their own research’ and want to feel like they’re in the ‘know’ and on the inside of the truth. That’s how cults succeed.
  • Deepfakes are going to become an existential threat to society. The videos of Deep Nostalgia and Tom Cruise going around are just the start. What do we do when we no longer know what’s real anymore (and what is ‘real’ to begin with)? Solutions to confirm videos as real are being developed but that will need coupled with regulations.
  • Many people don’t have the opportunity to succeed in this country. The poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer, and the gap is widening. Terrible. Sad. Disheartening.
  • Climate change is an existential threat to mankind and its happening now. I’m glad the current administration is taking it seriously but it’ll take all aspects of society world-wide to combat and we’re running out of time. Hell of a challenge. Hundreds of millions of people will be affected and displaced over the next decades. Crazy things like California wildfires and snowy Texas will become common place. And the rich who have the means will buffer it (generators, etc.) and escape it (Ted Cruz fleeing to Mexico).
  • It’s easy to focus on the conspiracy theorists during the pandemic, which is easy to do because they’re so loud and obnoxious, but thank God for all the ‘quiet’ people in society that are actually helping everyone get through this pandemic. First responders, doctors and scientists, health officials and just everyday normal people that do their part quietly, day-by-day, by wearing a mask and socially distancing and not spreading misinformation.
  • Watching the impeachment trial of an ex-president take place in the very room that his insurrectionists stormed to stop the peaceful transition to the next president, presided over by the very co-conspirators and victims themselves is beyond surreal and Shakespearean. And they acquitted him. There cannot be healing without accountability. This only emboldens people to do more attacks in the future.

My Life Strategies

Instead of getting sucked into every conspiracy theory online, I keep my head down and use logic, reason, objectivity and the willingness to change my mind as the facts evolve, as my guiding principles. Enough time has passed over the last year and some going back twenty years to see which of my life strategies have succeeded. I’ve found out that…

  • … Personal Finance 101 is always true: live below your means, have an emergency fund, have no consumer debt, don’t try to keep up with the Joneses, invest to grow your money, and behold the power of compound interest.
  • … Health & Fitness 101 is always true: be at a healthy weight, exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, get good sleep.
  • … Spiritual Fitness 101 is always true: strive for contentment (inside of you) and not happiness (outside of you), meditate, stay in the present moment, don’t let things cling to your ego (positive or negative).

That all still works, even (or especially) during a pandemic. But none of that is new and it’s all boring – the path to success and contentment is slow and predictable. Just most people don’t have enough determination long enough to travel the road. And it doesn’t guarantee success but definitely increases the chances.

Random Bits

Random bits:

  • So, I have some Facebook ‘friends’ who now split their time posting anti-mask/anti-vaccine/pro-QAnon posts with also posting… arts and crafts and other totally normal things. Its hilarious. It’d be like if Hitler posted pictures of paintings he did during WW2 or Gollum posting some nice poetry he created. It’s like, “you’re batshit crazy and completely on the wrong side of history with all the junk you’re posting every ten minutes… but those ARE some nice crafts you created over the weekend!” I have mixed emotions every time I see it. We live in such odd times.
  • Turns out the Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency I bought four years ago WAS a great investment (finally – holy hell that was a LONG couple years of a crypto bear market).

Conclusion

So that’s where I’m at, at 43. I rarely look back – I find little value in it – but with so much happening to me twenty years this year – the strands to the past are tugging on me.

What’s next? Dunno. I rarely worry about the future. I’m just navigating through it as it rolls on then I’ll see what’s on the other side of death (if anything!) and keep rolling if possible. In the meantime, I’m very content to keep iterating what I’m doing – serving people through technology, poking and prodding the boundaries of reality by going deeper and deeper into the spiritual Mysteries, spending time with Jenn and the boys, taking up new experiences and hobbies as I’m moved to.

Anyway, none of this is meant to be persuasive. Just expressing myself. My outlook on life and my belief system doesn’t require me to get you to believe in it. I do wish more people would express themselves in original writing. That’s what life is – expression, drama and play. So enjoy it, be here. Well, not here on my website – put your phone down or step away from computer and observe and experience the present moment – that’s where the magic happens!

Jason Howe

Jason Howe is the founder of Man the Ship.

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