There’s no doubt about it; 2023 was objectively way better than 2022. And 2021. And 2020. Our family has been through a lot over the last 5-ish years, and I’m happy to report that 2023 contained no major medical emergencies, deaths in the family, or bizarre incidents. It was a year of returning to our own lives and beginning the healing process, which continues to this very day.
We began our year utterly depleted from managing Melissa’s mom’s cancer treatment; we returned her home right after Christmas and we booked a stay at an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana. We’ve never done an all-inclusive thing before, and despite our somewhat awkward feeling it was just what the doctor ordered. Ella had a blast and we were able to decompress.
Joining Big Medium
As soon as I got back, I took a trip to Asheville to workshop with Josh about our business together. We’ve been doing great work with a great crew of people for 10 years, so we decided to formalize things! I officially joined Big Medium as a principal and design system consultant! This post explains things in more detail, and I’m extremely proud of the work we’ve done and excited about all the great stuff on the horizon. If your organization could use some help establishing/evolving your design system, scaling your digital organization, pragmatically weaving AI into your process, leveling up your team’s design/development capabilities, or planning other big initiatives, please get it touch!
As soon as I returned from Asheville, we got a puppy! Our home felt incomplete after losing Ziggy in 2022, and we needed some serious doggo therapy. Enter our French bulldog, Bootsy Frost!
Bootsy is now a year old and has now officially grown out of his velociraptor phase. He’s a great snuggler, flips out at balls and projectiles, and is constantly begging for food. He’s a good boy.
We also built a deck in the spring, which was great as we really got to enjoy it as the weather got warmer. I think that about does it for major home projects for us right now! I’m looking forward to smaller, more aesthetic improvements to our place.
Making things on Sabbradical
In the summer, I took a long-planned 3-month sabbatical, which people were quick to dub my “Sabbradical”. I love it. I was careful not to commit to too much; I really wanted to experience what it was like to wake up and say “I wonder what I’m going to do today?” I got a taste of it! But probably not as much as I would have liked. But I had an absolute blast mostly laying low, working around the house, building things, making art, and most importantly, enjoying summertime with family and friends. A+++++++++ would highly recommend to anyone (The trick is to go way out in your calendar and block it off, then start planning). I’m already thinking about planning another one at some point.
Travel & Conferences
2023 saw a return to some conference travel, including some international events! It was such a great feeling to get back out speaking in front of people and drinking up the whole conference experience. I truly enjoy it so much, and of course since Covid there have been far fewer conferences operating. So I’m thrilled to have been able to speak at Converge in San Francisco, Front Conference in Zurich, Hatch Conference in Berlin, and Smashing Conference in Antwerp, Belgium. These were super special trips and led to some pretty amazing adventures with my family and friends old and new.
Melissa and I traveled together on our first kid-free vacation since our daughter was born, and holy crap we had an amazing time. Front Conference Zurich was an amazing conference; I had a blast, learned a lot, and got to reflect on 10 years of atomic design and what’s next in the world of design systems.
Switzerland was absolutely bananas and totally under-the-radar for us. When thought of exotic locations, Switzerland didn’t pop to the front of my mind for whatever reason. But holy shit it was some of the most epic landscape I’ve ever encountered! We had a blast exploring gigantic mountains, waterfalls (including one INSIDE a mountain!), and glacier lakes. Highly recommend adding Switzerland to your list if it’s not already on there.
And then I came back to Europe in October for Hatch Conference in Berlin, and Smashing Conf in Antwerp, Belgium. Of course the conferences were super well-run and I had a blast delivering a full-day workshop and keynote talk at each of them. It was so great to pal around with my friends and meet new people doing interesting things. Post-Covid, I have a renewed appreciation for conferences and their ineffable beauty. There’s really no substitute for getting together and chatting about your passions with like-minded folks.
It was wonderful to see friends in Berlin and explore the city. I gave my workshop and talk at a beautiful old crematorium that was turned into a venue/cultural center! What a wild experience.
It was my first time to Belgium and I had the opportunity to visit Antwerp. Holy shit, what an amazing place! And once again, totally under-the-radar for me. Antwerp was absolutely stunning, picturesque, and delicious.
In addition to the conference, my awesome Smashing pals even set up a jam session for people from the conference to join. It was so much fun playing music with people coming from all different geographies and musical backgrounds. Music truly is the great uniter, and I’m hoping to try to line up a jam session wherever I go.
The cumulative stress of the last number of years has really taken its toll on us, and unfortunately going from multiple traumatic events to optimal health isn’t like flipping a light switch. I’m so proud of Melissa; she’s been on her own healing journey, adopting a rigorous regular meditation practice and doing a lot of other great therapeutic activities.
I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia this year. That sounds like a big diagnosis, but I learned it’s a diagnosis of exclusion that effectively translates to “you hurt a lot and we’ve ruled some things out”. My chronic TMJ pain that I’ve had for a decade got a lot worse to the point of interfering with my daily life. I just started some steps to address the root cause, and miraculously, just last week my new chiropractor adjusted my jaw and I feel like she dislodged my jaw from my skull. We both yelled “HOLY SHIT!” because of the intensity of the sound and movement. I’m happy to report that right now I can no longer feel my heartbeat in my jaw and feel a lot more comfortable. I’m now working with a TMJ dentist to make these positive changes permanent. For the first time in years, I’m feeling hopeful that I can overcome my chronic pain.
And last, but certainly not least! I’m absolutely thrilled to share that Frostapalooza is taking place August 17th, 2024. I’m using my 40th birthday as an excuse to throw an honest-to-goodness musical extravaganza in the form of a benefit concert featuring me and 40 of my musical friends and family from all over the world. I’m not entirely sure if this is a new type of live music concert, but it sure feels like we’re doing something pretty unique!
Planning this concert has been my obsession for the last 5 months, and I am so incredibly excited about it! It’s already been so amazing collaborating across time and space with my musical friends and family. It turns out I know some really killer musicians! And we have a year to plan one epic night of music. I’ve desperately wanted to share some of what we’ve already schemed and recorded, but it would ruin the surprise! You’re going to want to be there! Tickets are only $20, and the idea is to sell the place out! All the proceeds go to two great causes: Project Healthy Minds and NextStep Pittsburgh.
I was so inspired by it that I took a stab at turning it into the event website! So yeah: come to Frostapalooza on August 17th in Pittsburgh. I promise you’ll have a blast; I sure as hell know that I will!
2023 by the numbers
- Wrote 20 posts on my blog, which is an improvement over the last few years. I started the year strong, but
- Shared 45 links on my site, which is a slight improvement from last year.
- Spoke at 4 conferences and ran 3 online workshops
- In my “new” role as principal and consult at Big Medium, I consulted with 16 clients, helping them create and evolve their design systems, scale design/development best practices, and work better together.
- Processed 1,265 ebook orders of Atomic Design
- Traveled 26,143 miles to 13 cities in42 countries on 2 continents.
- Read 19 books, which is a little step down from last year, but I still feel good about it!
- Listened to 5,690 songs on 3,704 albums by 2,161 artists.
- Attended 12 concerts, (which I really want to start keeping track of more formally)
Given my family’s history, I’m now particularly nervous about even years. But I feel like I’m slowly rebuilding my optimistic tendencies. Here’s hoping for another year free of any unexpected emergencies. Here’s what I’m looking at getting into this year:
Getting on top of my chronic pain
As I mentioned above, I’m tackling my chronic TMJ issues head on and would love to feel more put together in 2024. I’ve found that Frostapalooza has been a great motivator for me to get healthy and strong so that I can optimally rock out in August. So that’s what I’m shooting for!
Finding momentum in work and life
I’ve been frustrated with myself as I haven’t been able to get into a groove and get shit done. I’ve found myself scattered, foggy, and tired and I don’t like it. Could be the chronic pain, the continued disorientation after being pulled away from work so many times, or some other things I need to explore. But in any case, I need to be able to focus because there is so much I want and need to do! This recent change for the better in the health department has me feeling optimistic that I’ll be rocking and rolling in 2024.
I have a strong desire to share things and put things out into the world, and I’m excited to build up a practice of creating, writing, blogging, recording, and publishing. There’s a lot to be said about the state of social media; I’ll reserve those thoughts for another post. But in any case, I’m hoping that my improved health, a lack of emergencies, and sense of momentum translates to being able to produce and share a lot of cool stuff this year!
As already discussed, I’m absolutely thrilled about Frostapalooza on August 17th. It’s taken a Herculean effort, planning, and coordination on everyone’s part to get this going, but everyone’s sustained enthusiasm has me loving every minute of it. I’m downright giddy about it all, and am excited to share a night of fun and music and dancing and positivity and joy with everyone. So once again, come to the show!
Record Frost Frost EP
Dovetailing with our Frostapalooza efforts, Melissa and I are finally working on an EP together. The circumstances presented themselves; we’re working with our friend and neighbor Todd Gummermann (keyboardist for Twenty One Pilots and MuteMath) who is producing the album. We have over 15 years’ worth of musical ideas to play with, and we’re having fun making them real songs!
Continue healing with my family
Above all, I’m looking forward to living life and making memories with my family. We’re started 2024 off with a bang by heading over to the Philippines to visit Melissa’s huge family and attend our great friend Robertino’s wedding. It will be Ella’s first time meeting an entire side of her family and connect with her heritage in a big way.
I’m excited to continue down the healing path. We’re in a much better place than we were last year, and I’m hopeful we’re transitioning from “surviving” to “thriving”. I wish that transition for me, my family, you, and everyone in the world.
Whew, so that does it! Thanks for following along; I’m wishing you all health, happiness, safety, and success in 2024 and beyond. Here we go!