48 Divided by 12 is a Quarter

I’m in a kind of reflective mood these days, I turn 48 tomorrow, and for me that is a kinda a strange numerological milestone. I often think of my life in batches of seven years, it seems to be a rough segment of time I have traditionally made major changes, such as staying in LA for seven years during and after undergrad, seven years in NYC for grad school, a bit more in Fredericksburg (almost 10 years) but close enough for my edtech career, etc. But on a recent walk I realized that as I get older I have to widen the seven year itch net. Turns out cutting my life into 12 year chunks (that can pretty neatly be sub-divided into 6 year bits) might make more sense now. Here’s roughly how it breaks down:

  • 1-12 years old: No real memories of the first half of this period (1-6) just some shadowy impressions, but for brevity’s sake I’ll assume I was relatively cool with things. Also, no real documentation of me as a baby, so I’m also going to assert I was a cute baby. From 6-12 I was forming the interests I seem to be returning to now: video games, movies, and family (I also played football, but that interest hasn’t aged well with me).
  • 13-24 years old: I would say this was the great formative period. Identity totally in flux, but video games and movies remained consistent, music got thrown in the mix, and school/college became a kind of self-help obsession of sorts. The first part of this was marked by my parents divorcing, but had a big enough family with 7 brothers and sisters that I didn’t feel it too bad. And the later part of this period was when my own manic depression started to really have noticeable impacts on my relationships, etc. This is the period I finished high school in Long Island, then went to Virginia (George Mason University) for a quick year before heading out to California. The LA years were formative for my sense of self, went to UCLA, got a decent job in Audio Visual Services there (the beginning of my long career with public universities), also pretended to be literary, etc.
  • 25-36 years old: Held on in LA for a couple of more years before traveling in Eastern Europe and then heading back to NYC for graduate school. Grad school and NYC were  eye-opening, pretty much always broke for this entire period of my life, and realized the road to a professorship was strewn with the bodies of countless adjuncts. That said, I loved CUNY for all the amazing people I met and remained friends with, and was very useful to finally come to terms with the fact that I was a shit researcher and writer, but a fairly decent teacher. That was a crucial lesson, and one that helped me later on. This was also the luckiest period in my life, I met Antonella through the CUNY mafia, soon after we got married and had kids, you know the drill. The second half of this story, beyond a brief stint as a high school English teacher in Brooklyn, saw us being pushed out of NYC with the birth of Miles. The many years of making no money in the big apple finally took its toll, but I got lucky enough that CUNY provided me with an Instructional Technology Fellowship that was not only my introduction to WordPress (which was effectively the start of my career as an edtech) but soon after proved to be my ticket out of the big city. We moved to UMW where I took the job of instructional technologist with an extraordinary group of people, a fortuitous event in my life. The last part of this period saw me re-living some of my manic energy from my 20s—a period that can be pretty cleanly bookended with the birth of our second child, Tess, the loss of my mom, and a full edtech career immersion with UMW Blogs and EDUPUNK. 
  • 37-48 years old: These are a continuation of the great “productive years.” A lot of fun work with UMW, but also getting deeply tired of straddling the poverty line for almost 15 years. The start of this period saw the birth of Tommy, home ownership in the wake of the recession, and the start of my ds106 years (2010-2012)—which were by far the most productive I’ve had in terms of sheer communal insanity. The work around ds106 seamlessly lead into UMW Domains and then Domain of One’s Own, and when that resonated beyond UMW the groundwork for Reclaim Hosting became possible. Which, in turn, made leaving UMW and a much needed change of cultural scenery shift from dream to reality (the partnership with Tim being absolutely key here, this was the period I learned the crucial life-lesson that nothing great is accomplished alone). That said, the ds106 years had their cost, that period was also the time I let my manic depression, and by extension my drinking, spin out of control, and the highlight of this period for me was getting straight and preventing everything from falling apart. That happened about mid-way through, and made all the other good things like Reclaim Hosting, Reclaim Video, and the soon to be realized Reclaim Arcade an ongoing reality. 

I look back on these chunks of time and realize how mixed they are with good and bad, hard and easy, fun and painful. I have been lucky enough to skirt any major health issues to date, but given the the sheer math of time, age, and life, I may not be so lucky going forward. And when I think of the next 12 years I think of the final part of anything resembling a “career.” I will always consider myself an edtech, but I do think the next 12 years will be as much about running an arcade and VHS store, as it is about dreaming and exploring with marginal edtech possibilities with Tim. It will also be about getting to the 30 years married milestone, which will be the greatest accomplishment of all, and will also mean us seeing our kids through high school and even college, if they choose that route. It’s crazy to think all that is just 12 years away. I hope to be slowing down a bit by the end of the next 12, but I do feel like I still have a bit more energy to help create an arcade/bar, shore up the video store, and if things truly align start a movie theater along the lines of he New Beverly Cinema (always room for pipe dreams, right?). I’m not sure I’ll ever retire at this point given I already have felt retired for the last 4/5 years now. It’s not that I’m not working (I’m arguably working now as much as ever) but I am doing exactly the work I want to do all the time, and I am no longer always broke.

I think the last thing worth noting here is that I have been blogging for 14 years this December, which means this space has been a regular part of my routine for more than a quarter of my life, crazy. And I have a sneaking suspicion so many of the good things that have happened over that time period are at least partially a result of my sharing here, which is strangely ironic given I blogged because I was not a good writer and wanted an alternative to just share without the fear and loathing that came with “academic publishing.”  So, all this to say divide your life by 12, and if and when life gives you quarters all you can do is play old gold video arcade games from the 80s, am I right?

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11 Responses to 48 Divided by 12 is a Quarter

  1. Alan Levine says:

    Enjoy many more quarters, happy birthday blog boy! Since I got to meet you first at Faculty Academy 2007 here is another 12 year quarter, keep em coming.

    • Reverend says:

      It’s crazy to think that was only 12 years ago we met, seems like I have know you 3 lifetimes. Strange how time can both be packaged up like in this post, but then seem completely infinite on the other side. Here’s to knowing you for 12, and at least 12 more 🙂

  2. Happy impending 48th! I’ve been thinking a lot about aging lately, too. I mean, I get to still age, which is awesome. It was kind of touch-and-go for a bit there. I turn 50 on monday. my folks just moved into long term care facilities, mom is 28 years older than I am. So… I have about 28 years left to do stuff. Tick tock.

    • Reverend says:


      Your comment here is special, and I have been in total admiration and awe how you have gone about managing your life in the face of everyone’s greatest fear—the great foreshortening! But I have tried to model myself on your web life in so many ways, and that last 12 has a huge imprint of yours and Alan’s and Brian’s mentorship into the brave new world of edtech and friendship, something that has kept me going. So the thought of another couple of dozen years reading your blog and watching you delete social media accounts is just what the doctor ordered. Plus, I really want to come to Canada and snowboard with you soon!

  3. Happy birthday, big fella! You keep on being a source of inspiration for me and I wish you many more chunks of twelve! Am in a bit of a life change myself these days and hope we can catch up in Milano soon! Greetings from Sweden!

    • Reverend says:

      It’s that time of life, but luckily Europe makes it all a bit easier, there is no Fika (sp?) in America 🙂 I very much look forward to catching up in Milano, and yours and Tom’s session on the development for Karlstadt is a must see for me for so many reasons, I mean you two are doing amazing stuff (too quietly, mind you) and you both make me laugh! Until November, Doctor!

  4. Joe McMahon says:

    Happy birthday Jim! Here’s to many more.

    • Jim Groom says:

      Thanks Joe, and congratulations to you, big pappa! And time crazy for you know given your new role in life? Very happy for you!

  5. Chris Lott says:

    Happy belated birthday! I just turned 49 a week or so ago but I’m way too lazy to divide my life into 7ths for analysis (I’ll just hope the highlights of the next 49 are at least as good as those of the first…and of those highlights you figure in a few!)

  6. Pingback: 50 | bavatuesdays

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