2015: Year in Review

Lots happened. Let's try to cover the highlights.

- Declared my Three Year Resolution in blog post
- Completed the four-day hike on the Inka Trail in Peru

- Whitefish for Andrew's birthday

- Started counselling
- My team at work disbanded

- Started on a new team that is based in Edmonton
- Coachella
- My birthday

- Claire's birthday
- Carrie quit her day job
- Carrie continues working at her part-time job and starts doing overnights
- TELUS GELP Workshop

- Charles and Kerry get married

- Carrie and I bought a place
- Stampede
- Team building exercise in Edmonton at E Escape
- Bon's Birthday
- Carrie's grandmother passed away

- Jen and Roscoe wedding
- Chasing Summer
- Carrie finished a semester from hell
- Ed's Going Away Party

- Derek and Sunny got married
- Carrie's work replaced her and her coworkers with students
- Turtle Lake
- Mad Decent Block Party
- My childhood sexual abuse post went live

- Thanksgiving at Garry and Kelly's
- Tyler and Melissa got married
- Halloween in the homemade Wacky Waving Inflatable Guy costume

- Carrie started her new job
- Watched "A Chitenge Story," a play by Khloe Makambe; intense dialogue about childhood sexual abuse after the show

- Visited Edmonton EITs, went to GTFO Escape Entertainment
- Cut off my family
- Uncle passed away
- Carrie finished another semester from hell
- Deadlines for work and life converge within a two week window
- Ruspy the lap dog
- Dinner with Yasmin's family
- Everybody visited from out of town

Carrie and I average about one crisis per year. What's worse: the pain or the hangover? The only way past the pain is through it. This year, we felt a bit like Homer crossing the desert.

Startup Hype Cycle

This is the emotional roller coaster I went through this year (numerous times, mind you, but we'll focus on the main one). This cycle is meant more for startups, so bear with me as I adapt it to my year. The initial spike on the left was the announcement of my three year resolution. I'd have a break, my schedule would calm down. I'd stop overworking and try to return some sanity to my life. After creating that room for myself, that's when the novelty wore off and I headed into counselling. The months following were my trough of sorrow, as the insights from therapy started pounding away at me. When I published my childhood sexual abuse blog, that was my crashing moment. Even though I got an incredible outpouring of support, the emotional burden almost crushed me. I took a week of vacation, and life became almost unbearable. My sleep was thrown off for weeks, my diet was unpredictable, and all I could do to survive was by writing every weekend. At the beginning of December, my life became unexpectedly busy, Carrie had two major papers to write, I cut out my family, my uncle passed away, and the home was very tense through it all. That was the wiggles of false hope stage. I wrote recently that I felt like I was hitting my stride, which would be the Promised Land point. I submitted my projects at work, and this week off has been a life saver. Carrie and I have just been hanging out with each other, staying in Calgary for Christmas, and spending time with her family and our friends.

This year definitely tested all my skills and techniques for handling life's challenges. You hope your life is calm, and you say "no" whenever you feel stretched. Sifting through my past has reduced my ability to see what's been happening around me and to anticipate what's been coming up. Because I grew up in a toxic environment, I suppressed a lot of my feelings and ignored wounds for years. I pushed it all down, but it all had to come out some time.

Throwing out the trash, making room

It all started with my three year resolution in January. I quit my hobbies so I could make room on my plate. I had no idea what was going to occupy my time, but I knew I'd be sitting next to my TV for a lot of it. That meant decommissioning my soldering station, putting away my tools, and reclaiming the physical space for plain emptiness. I had to swallow my pride and declare my audio startup a failure; I only realized this a few days ago. I always wondered what it was like when a business went under and had a liquidation blowout sale, but I realized that I went through a similar process with Just Listen Audio. My plans to create a consumer amplifier didn't work out, even if I cheated a lot on my resolution. I still haven't put everything away yet.

I started counselling in March. I talked about my challenges and stressors, my upbringing, work. I was seeing one counsellor, then two. I was regularly emotionally drained from all the processing I was doing in my counselling sessions. I'm a type A go-getter, so I tried to rush my therapy. This backfired on me, so I had to slow down to one counsellor and put more time between appointments.

Summer. GELP Workshop. Stampede. Music festivals. Weddings. River floats. Birthdays. Cabin weekend with mermaids and Black Spider-Man. Board games. I had a lot of fun this summer.

EDM got me through some tough times. One of my favourite moments was at the end of Chasing Summer when Kaskade was closing out the weekend. His new material and dirty drops were pumping through the fireworks and lights caught in the misty rain, and I was surrounded by my crew. Song of the year for me was Disarm You by Kaskade. A band that rocked me to my core was Interpol, with the warm desert wind blowing in the evening at Coachella, sun setting behind the palm trees to the light show on the main stage.

As much as Carrie has been my Trap Queen and supporting me this year, her life has also proved to be a challenge for me to juggle. I was trying to put on a brave face as explosions were going off inside me and behind me. She worked two stressful jobs; went to school at the same time; quit job 1; took on the semester from hell in the summer; traveled with me to weddings and getaways; got replaced by students at job 2; entered another tough semester; got an opportunity for job 3; let me prepare her for her first behavioural interview; flipped her closet and practiced her new morning routine; and submitted her final papers. Pretty much every week, she had a bunch of writing assignments alongside responses to other students' comments, and I proofread all her submissions. Some were weighted heavier than others, some were short, some long. She didn't have much capacity left for chores, so I picked up the slack (barely). Some weeks, we didn't have groceries, and a mess piled up pretty high in the 550 sq. ft. studio. For fun, I shot some timelapse videos of me cleaning up. You know, like I learned from the Big Comfy Couch.

All the while, I'm sharing my childhood sexual abuse story with the world, putting it online for people to see until the end of history. I decided to continue writing in my blog as an open diary. I tackled my deepest and darkest demons, then wrote about them on the weekend. Readers reached out to me from the most random corners of my life: former classmates, childhood friends, distant acquaintances. As much as the feedback fueled my writing, it was draining to emotionally process every response. Don't get me wrong, please keep the conversation going. I need to hear from my readers so I can keep writing. It was a challenge to adjust to at first, but I can handle it now. Please reach out if my writing helps you in any way.


Carrie and I didn't want certain parts of this life, but if we wanted to move forward, we had to accept the hand we were dealt. If you want success, you have to risk failure. Sometimes, we live in denial when life takes an ugly turn, but that's no way to truly change your reality and destiny. We all have an image of what we want our lives to look like, and we don't want to accept certain changes in the narrative. Acceptance requires the ability to be honest with yourself and others. I'm not talking about accepting your fate, resigning or quitting. I mean acceptance as in facing facts, giving your head a shake, and taking a look around. If you don't know your history, then you don't know where you are, and you don't know where to go from here. Acceptance is necessary if you want to turn a vicious cycle into a virtuous one. Being honest enough to accept your situation requires vulnerability with yourself. Sometimes your life is too packed with burdens and problems and you need to create room. One way I did that was by unfriending people and replacing them with a new inner circle.

2015 was pretty rough, but it was also the best year of my life. 

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le