2018 Reflections, 2019 Goals

- 15 minute read

2018 was a big year for me and my girlfriend, Shannon. I think it might have been one of the biggest years of my life thus far. Shan and I experienced some of our lowest of lows and some of our highest of highs. This post is a way for me to reflect on them.

We lost both Shannon’s Grandpa and Uncle.

In late February, we learned that Shan’s Uncle Harris was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. We immediately booked 3 flights to see him in March, April, and May. He passed away at peace, surrounded by family, March 18th, 2018, St. Patrick’s Day.

The same night that Uncle Harris passed, Shan’s Grandpa was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Grandpa’s condition worsened considerably very quickly, and they eventually found that it was thyroid cancer. By that time though, the cancer had spread too far, and the doctor decided that surgery was not an option. Grandpa opted for hospice care, and, just two months after initial diagnosis, he passed away in his home, surrounded by his family, May 28th, 2018, Memorial Day.

Grandpa was a father figure for Shannon, and his passing has been shocking and hard. We were wholly unprepared to deal with grief and loss. But one of the things that Grandpa instilled in Shan and me was an inspiration to do good with our lives. His wisdoms and encouragement have stuck with us, and have served as a driving force for us to continue to improve our lives and ourselves. We’re very thankful for Grandpa for that.

We learned how to climb mountains.

While Shan and I have had a great interest in climbing for the last three years, we realized that we had plateaued in our abilities, and wanted to improve. In 2018, Shan and I signed up for a 4 month course that involved hitting the climbing gym 3-4 times a week in order to boost our climbing endurance, strength, and power. Our friend Juan, who specializes in these training programs, set up a calendar for us and helped us fine-tune various elements of our climbing technique. He taught us how to effectively use the hangboard, campus board, and how to manage our fear responses so that we could climb outdoors with confidence.

And it all worked. Our redpoints increased two grades, and more importantly our love for climbing grew to new heights. The crux of my climbing journey came when, near the end of spring, we set out to conquer a very classic 5.10b at Smith Rock named Screaming Yellow Zonkers. This is a climb that I would not have been able to complete at the beginning of the year, before we did any training. Everything that we had worked on came together for this one, and I was able to flash it.

We’re excited that we can venture out on our own and find crags and routes to explore, especially now that we can find routes within our abilities at nearly any crag we come across. We feel empowered and more motivated than ever to continue to improve our technique, strength, and climbing abilities.

Shan crushing circuits.

We faced the Monkey.

After our training regime was complete, one of the routes that became within our abilities was one on Monkey face, a 350 foot spire at Smith Rock, and also the first multi-pitch for both Shan and myself. Juan led, placed the gear, and belayed all of Chris, Shan, and myself up the 4 pitches. And boy was it a journey.

The first pitch had a strenuous and acrobatic start for me. This was especially interesting because both Shan and me were belayed up the same rope, with her attached to the middle of it and me at the end of it. This meant that if I fell at any point during the climb, I would rip her off her hold on the wall. Shan would still ultimately be safe, but the fall would be unexpected and unpleasant.

I made it through the start and luckily the rest of the first two pitches without too much trouble. There were some great cruxes in sections of both pitches that were exciting, but well within our abilities.

The third pitch involves using aid, and we opted for the bolt ladder approach, where we attached quickdraws to all the bolts and pulled ourselves up through them. This was an incredibly strenuous task, and to top it off, the high wind warning that we ignored at the outset of the climb was coming through with some pretty positive winds. Even with light jackets, it felt like the wind was going right through to our bones.

The anchors for the third pitch had us sitting in the mouth of the monkey, which was an incredible view and would have been a nice reprieve had it not been for the cold winds. The cave created a wind tunnel, and there was no escaping it other than to huddle together while the others scaled the last pitch.

For the final pitch of this route, you need to step out of the mouth onto the cheek of the monkey face and climb to the top of its head. Even though the climbing was softer than the rest of the route, the opening moves of the climb involve stepping out to some incredible exposure. At 300 ft. of open sky, this part is fittingly called “Panic Point”.

By the time we were done, we were cold, hungry, wind blown, and laughing in delirium, but we rappelled down with pride and accomplishment. The 300 ft rappel during the sunset was incredible, and made it all worth it.

We went back to Hell, and this time with some company.

In 2017, Chris, Shan, and I went to Arkansas for the 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell competition, where we miraculously climbed 101 routes and were thus able to qualify to return in 2018. This time, Shan competed in the 12 hour, while our friends, Juan and Luke, joined Chris and me in the 24 hour competition.

This year was just as grueling as the last. But we endured, and showed some great results. Shan managed to climb 82 laps in just 12 hours! Chris and I climbed another 101, but improved our scores by 450 points, or the equivalent of 50% more 5.9’s and 5.8’s as last year. Juan and Luke absolutely crushed and achieved the vertical mile with 131 laps!

I also got my second tattoo! I again got it done at the competition and again by Megan Franklin. This time, a climbing knot. We also got to try the barbeque in Kansas City and I think it may have topped my list for best barbeque.

All-in-all, it was another spectacular experience in Hell and we can’t wait to return again in 2019. This time with Shan in the 24 competing against Chris, Juan, Luke, and myself.

Shan running it out.

I landed my dream job.

When I graduated as a Mechanical Engineer, I already knew that I’d rather be in the software world after I learned how to program through several robotics projects in my senior year. While working my full-time Mechanical Engineer job, I spent my nights studying software engineering for nearly two years. I landed my first contract in 2016 and then spent another two years in various software engineering contract roles, learning the trade.

In December of 2017, I managed to land a contract at Nike, working on the Digital Innovation team. My team, the project, the work-life balance, and the technology I was learning and working with made the role an experience of a lifetime. However there was just one catch, and it was that I wanted to make Nike my full-time workplace.

In October of 2018, I finally managed to land the full-time position at Nike, on the Enterprise Platforms team, working with yet more amazing people and technology. A goal that was nearly four years in the making finally came to fruition last year.

I learned how to run.

A side effect of working at Nike and sitting next to murals that have quotes like this on them: “To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift” - Steve Prefontaine

Is that you’re eventually coaxed into picking up the sport. Although I was still getting my weight training and climbing in, I hadn’t been working on my cardio health. Nike made it easy to get into the sport with their running gear discounts and their daily motivation.

And I’m really glad I started, since:

I even trained for and ran my first 10k in February of 2018. The Bridge to Brews run, which went over the Fremont Bridge in Portland!

We road tripped through 8 states.

Shan and I spend the holidays in her hometown of Santa Clarita, California. We like to bring Cedar with us, so we opt to make the 15 hour drive. This year we also wanted to see our friends in Denver, Colorado for NYE, so we drove through a few more states to get there, then a couple more states to get back to Oregon.

It was quite the journey. We drove through stormy mountains, incredible landscapes, and some frozen wastelands. We also listened to the Lord of the Rings audiobooks during the drive, so we had a nice parallel journey with Sam and Frodo and the crew. We stopped wherever we could to climb, which included Red Rocks in Vegas, Black Rocks in St. George, and Wall Street in Moab. Here are some photos from the trip:


I helped my dog come into his own.

In October of 2017, Shan and I brought home a 1 year old collie/lab mix from the dog rescue. We didn’t know it at the time, but Cedar was unaccustomed to the city, to people, and was fearful of other dogs. Over the next year, we helped Cedar learn how to walk by our side, how to follow basic commands, and how to greet people. We enrolled him in several training sessions and learning environments, where more qualified instructors helped him learn his manners and how to follow more advanced commands.

The biggest strides came when we enrolled him in Doggy Business, which offers supervised play with hand-picked buddies chosen for compatibility. Here he was finally able to be in a structured environment where he could learn how to interact with other dogs. Soon after he completed some training sessions there, we were able to take him to the dog park. It was amazing. This was a dog that we initially feared would never be able to interact with other dogs out of fear, and now he was running around and playing with other dogs with no worry.

Watching Cedar grow from a fearful, anxious dog to a comfortable one has been an immensely rewarding experiences for Shan and me. We have grown very attached over the last year and we’re so happy to have an extra family member in our midst.

Bebo and Bobo.

I learned about happiness and how to achieve work that I can take pride in.

Two of the most important books I read this year were:

After struggling with these topics for some 15 years now, I found the words that described some concepts that I felt I needed. I had previously come across many of the ideas in these books scattered in various advice articles and other books, but never have I come across them presented so succinctly and apparently.

The Happiness Hypothesis looks at many of the ideas of thinkers of the past such as Plato, Buddha, and Jesus, and examines them in the light of contemporary psychology research. He distills his findings into 10 lessons that we can apply to our lives, with a focus on virtue, happiness, fulfillment, and meaning in our lives.

One of the most important lessons from the book was that love and work give a sense of meaning to life. Therefore, the following is a good list of concepts to pursue in your day-to-day:

Deep Work is defined by author Cal Newport as: “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.” He then spends the rest of the book explaining why the practice of deep work is important and how to achieve it. I plan on implementing a lot of the lessons from this book next year in order to cultivate the skill and get some quality, meaningful work done.

I found out I’ll be an uncle.

During Christmas, my sister called me up and told me I’ll be an uncle. It’ll be a boy, and I can’t wait to see him!

Goals 2019

The lessons I’ve learned and the trials that Shannon and I have endured over the the last year have been important for our personal growth, both individually and as a team. I’m entering the new year with a series of goals:

Thanks for your time with me on this post. I have daily and weekly reflection time, but have never really looked back on an entire year like this before. I think it’s good to keep a running list of goals in different areas of life, and reflection provides a way to look back at the results of your actions in lieu of the things you set out to do. So I would encourage you to look into integrating some time for reflection in your day-to-day. It certainly helped me!

Ryan Westby

Ryan Westby

Coder, climber, artist, 21st century ghost

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