It amazes me that another year has passed. And like every year that came before, 2016 was the fastest year of my life. I think as we grow older, a year becomes a smaller and smaller percentage of our entire life, and that makes the time seem to move faster. At 5 years old, a year is 20% of your life. At 50 years old, it's only 2%. As a kid, a year seemed like an eternity. Today, they are over by the time I get used to writing the proper date. I expect 2017 will go by even faster than 2016 did, so before it's too late, I want to do a little reflection on my year. I find this to be a great process for motivating me to make the new year the best it can be; I encourage you to do the same! Nothing inspires quite like seeing progress, even if it is small. We don't always notice our growth on a daily basis, but by taking some time to look back, it can be surprising to see how far we've come.
2016 has taken a lot of heat. I can't remember people being so happy for a year to end. There were certainly some low points, and I can't remember a year that took so many special people from us. However, 2016 was a great year for me, both personally and professionally. This post is about giving some gratitude to 2016. I spent some time looking through my photos and calendar, and reading my notebooks. Here's a rundown of some of the things I am most grateful for.
Being Married for One Year...
This summer my wife, Courtney, and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. It's pretty awesome to spend your life with your best friend who supports you completely. We are two big kids disguised as adults, putting together life the way we want it to be. Of all the things I'm grateful for, this is the top.
Our biggest grown-up adventure is currently unfolding. We are currently buying and renovating the house Courtney grew up in. It's been a long ordeal, with a share of ups and downs, but it's extremely exciting. We hope to be living there within the next month or two. It's going to have an awesome music workspace/studio. I'll be sure to post pictures when it's finished.
A New Addition to the Family...
Slowly but surely my wife and I have become weird dog people. Like Best in Show dog people. A few years ago, we got our first puppy, a Sheltie we named Vera Lynn (after the Pink Floyd song). She's probably smarter than I am and a great companion.
In January, we adopted a 4-year-old Sheltie named Audra. Audra is very nervous around people. It took a few weeks before she would even come near us when called. Over the last year, she has really warmed up and become a great pet. Even our cat, Theo, agrees. Here's a picture of Theo inspecting Push 2. He preferred the box it came in.
About two years ago, we started bringing Vera to agility classes. This is where that weird dog people comment comes in. Agility training is great for dogs like ours because they have so much energy. It's also a fantastic way to bond and learn to communicate with your pet. Plus it's an activity Courtney and I can share. Fun for the whole family. This fall, we registered Vera in her first competition. She won three blue ribbons in the beginner's category! We were beyond thrilled. Here's a video of Courtney running Vera through a course during one of our classes.
Orange Belt in Krav Maga...
Ever since I saw the Karate Kid at age 6, I wanted to learn a martial art. I never did. As I got older, I think I started believing that it was too late, like it was something I should have done from a young age. Plus I think I was afraid of getting beat up! It took the encouragement of one of my good friends and musical collaborators, Chris P. Cauley, who has been training for well over a decade, to get me to go his Krav Maga class. On November 30th, after 3 and half years of training 3 times per week, I earned my orange belt.
It might seem unrelated, but Krav Maga has helped me grow as a musician. I've learned so much about focus, discipline, teaching, and hard work, and it all transfers into music. I'll have to write a post about the connections one of these days...
A Deepened Enjoyment of Teaching...
As some of you may know, by day, I am a high school English teacher. It's a great job and I've always enjoyed it. But I've enjoyed this current year more than any other. I think it is largely due to an attitude change on my part. I can pinpoint the moment it happened too.
Over the past few years, I've participated in my school's Acoustic Cafe. It's an event where the auditorium is turned into an open mic night for musicians and poets. I've performed with my friend Alex aka Superkid, as well as helped with the sound. You can hear our performances below.
The event memorializes a teacher who felt that we as teachers are not here to give and grade tests and essays. We are here to be role models and build relationships. Although I'd heard these words before and shared the belief, they struck me differently last year. As they resonated with me over the summer, I decided to make this much more central to my teaching philosophy.
My school was a lucky recipient of some refurbished Ableton Pushes. So I've started a little after school club for any student that wants to learn. It's been so much fun to watch the students' enthusiasm as they learn to create music. Big thanks to Ableton for giving my school this fantastic opportunity.
This has also motivated me to stay after once a week to give guitar lessons. I was entering 9th grade when I first picked up a guitar. I'm really excited to share my knowledge so students can experience the joy playing music brings.
As a result, this has been one of the best years of my career. It's taught me that when you invest yourself into something emotionally, the payoff can be huge. It's a lesson I'm now trying to bring into other aspects of my life.
And So Much More...
I chose to focus on the more personal stuff with this post, because it's the personal life that inspires and enables us to have our creative life. But there are some things worth mentioning here that I'd like to give thanks for...
- Produced 3 Video Courses (Sampling, The Groove Pool, and Push 2)
- The AfroDJMac Music Production Club reached 250 members
- Completed 3 years of teaching Advanced Music Production with Ableton Live at Berklee
- Recorded video tutorials at Berklee
- Spoke about music production at New York University
- Continued to grow my music and blog
Ready for 2017
If you haven't already done so, take a little time to reflect on 2016. Try to do so from a place of gratitude. It's easy to focus on the negative, and if you are having trouble seeing the bad, there are people everywhere willing to help. Resist the urge. A little goodness can be found in even some of the darkest days. I think it's important to focus on that and to surround oneself with people that will help you see the good. After a quick look back, I feel motivated to face the future and I'm excited to see what 2017 will bring for us all.
Share something good in your life in the comments, and spread the good vibes.
Have a great year!