My Decade-End Review

I don’t like to do the year-end review thing, and having only experienced three decade changes in my life, you’d rightly assume I haven’t ever done the decade-end review thing either. In each of the three decades I’ve lived, I saw massive changes in my life. The 80s were all about me being born, and learning to do things like walk and/or talk. The 90s were about me starting at a private school that would give me the support I needed to graduate high school. The 00s were about me completely losing myself, only to be found by the love of my life. Looking back at what the teens had in store for me, I have to say I’ve changed more this decade than any I’ve experienced. Well, maybe second to the one I where I learned how to use the toilet.

The start of 2010 had promise. I had just gotten married and left a job working for Congress so I could start thinking about going to a grad school I had no right right to attend. I was accepted, and got a new Okay Job as I started this new adventure. Then, in August of 2010, my crashed down on me. I was working at the Okay Job, which was lobbying for a cause in which I believed, if not its leadership. I had a track record of success, but after just a few months, I received a performance review where I was put on probation. I was given a month to turn things around. That month ended up being one of the most difficult of my life, for two reasons.

The first reason was I kicked ass. I was great at my job. I was lobbying to help fund the mission of the non-profit, and in just 5 months I had increased the government funding by $300,000, or 4% of what the entire organization brought in that year. This was almost entirely on my own. I started a grassroots program, prevented a massive funding cut, and got more visits by policy makers than in the organization’s history.

The second reason was, to put it simply, I wasn’t given a month. I was fired less than 2 weeks after my performance review. If you know me, you know I talk openly about my ADHD. It has always been a challenge in which I’ve dealt with in every part of my life. Having just turned 30, I decided to finally address it. I went to a psychologist, was given ADHD meds, and diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. After just a week on the meds, I felt better and more capable than ever in my life. So much so, I went to the head of HR to say that whatever concerns the leadership had with me, I was sure I’d turn it around no problem. The only thing I regret during this time, was telling the HR head I had ADHD. I was fired the following day. I don’t believe in coincidences.

This was my low point. I had a new wife, we just bought a condo together, and I had started grad school. Not a great time to go to one income. In this time, I learned a lot about my life. I learned (more like confirmed) that my wife is a hero. She got to work making sure we could survive, both financially, and as a couple. It was awe inspiring. I learned the friends I had made in the five years of living in DC were better than advertised. I had no shortage of people reaching out, connecting me to others, and helping me in every way until I found a job. I also learned about a campaign life, a life I would live for years. One that allowed me to stay at home with my newborn son until he was almost a year old.

After almost three years of success managing campaigns, I started working for another non-profit. I worked harder, and had more success in that job, than any other job before. While the hours were tough, I liked what I did, and got to come home to my own real family. I saw my first major promotion, one I earned. My wife and I bought a new home to in which to grow together. It couldn’t have been going better.

Like movie timing, it was then the non-profit decided it needed to downsize, and just like that, my job was gone. To no surprise, my wife jumped into action, and once again saved the family from a dire fate. The amount of time I was unemployed this time was much longer than the first, nearly ten months. I temped, I consulted, anything to help out. I was a top two candidate for more jobs than I could count. Finally, in the summer of 2016, I was offered two jobs almost at exactly the same time. One was at a state affiliate of a national non-profit where I’d be lobbying the Maryland state government. The other was a national professional association where’d I be lobbying Congress. After a lot of thought, and more support from my wife and friends than I can describe, I chose the national professional association. At that point, I could only hope I made the right choice.

I don’t know how to describe how the last three and a half years of this decade have meant to me. It was clear to me very quickly, the choice I made was the right one. I had been warned the leadership of the Maryland non-profit was terrible, and within six months they had fired the other lobbyist with whom I interviewed, and the person they hired to take the job offered to me. Meanwhile, I was in a job where I self identified, during my interview, of having ADHD. My boss has always looked at it as a benefit, not a hindrance. I felt trust from a team like I didn’t know existed. I was allowed and encouraged to do so many things outside what I would have ever attempted in previous jobs.

I presented at our national conference on an important issues, presentations, which if I hadn’t done the work, it would have been obvious. I got to fight against policies I felt were downright immoral, and win. The peak of this time was during the last year of this decade. I had identified a problem a few years ago, but couldn’t do anything about it. However, I found in 2019 I had the ability to research a solution, pitch it to those above me, and then turn it into legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously. With some continued hard work, and a little luck, it will be law in the next decade.

Ten years is an arbitrary number. I will be the same person on January 1st, 2020 as I am on December 31st, 2019 . I am sure I will grow and learn more in the next months or years, and could easily include them in this review. But every once in a while, it’s good to look back at what you have done, and why not on New Year’s Eve? It’s as good a time as any, right?

Believe it or not, this is my brief review. What I wrote here isn’t the full story of the 2010s, but it paints the picture I want it to paint. As the author, I get to do that, it’s in the Constitution. When I look at where I was January 1st, 2010, I see a person with untreated ADHD, facing an uphill battle to accomplish anything of meaning, and possessing a real terror if losing my amazing and loving partner. As the decade comes to an end, I am excited for what’s next. I genuinely like this person.

The 2010s taught me I have rock solid friends and family who will always be there for me. It taught me just how strong I can be if I believe in myself and my ability to get what I want in life. It also taught me I was not only be a good dad, but a great one. That’s a pretty good decade, yeah?

It’s a sappy end. I tried to rewrite it a few times but it always ended up sappy. I came to the realization as to the cause. I am happy. I think, maybe, I’m just not a good enough author to avoid the sappiness when I think back at the hardest ten years of my life, and how they turned out far, far better than I could have imagined. But it is what it is. Not bad for a guy who honestly thought the odds were in favor of me living in my parent’s basement as I approach 40. Happy New Year.

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Veteran of Capitol Hill, Annapolis, state and federal lobbyist, campaign management, and anything else political except running for office. Twitter’s @abesaffer

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Abe Saffer

Veteran of Capitol Hill, Annapolis, state and federal lobbyist, campaign management, and anything else political except running for office. Twitter’s @abesaffer