Hello dearly beloved friends and family,

It’s my birthday today! I am 29. Which means I have completed 29 years of life. And while I’m not too big on birthdays, especially compared to Livvy, this is my very first (and hopefully only) pandemic birthday. It is also my very last birthday in my 20s—an entirely arbitrary period of time to care about but one which I still find difficult to avoid thinking is significant in some way. And so I have been thinking about how I want to mark or acknowledge this occasion.

As you probably know, Livvy likes to ask people two questions on their birthdays—something like “what was remarkable about your last trip around the sun” and “what do you know or hope might happen on your next trip around the sun”—and I thought that it might be nice to spend a little bit of time answering those questions and sharing them with you, from a distance.

Speaking of distance, I’m in Colorado today. Livvy and I have been a little bit spotty about communicating this with some of you, but my friend Jason, who is responsible for a very large share of my best high school and college memories, wanted to take a road trip across the country to see the great American west, and he invited Livvy and I to join him and his New York roommates (who we met on another Jason-prompted trip). The point of this trip was not at all to celebrate my birthday, but it’s a nice way to transition into another revolution around the sun. Gives me a way to anchor the moment.

Anyway, I am writing this from a gray Chrysler Pacifica, passing between sand colored buttes and mesas, nestled next to my favorite beaut, having just eaten a six-inch veggie-delight after some mild masked hiking and light longboarding and occasional audio recording in Mesa Verde.

And that’s probably of a good snapshot of me at the end of year 29.

But to get to the prompts:

I spent a lot of this year in my head: A crisis of faith, started half a year before, colored a lot of it. I became less vulnerable. I spent a lot of time thinking about relationships. Ways I was failing. Talked to my mom a lot. (Relatively speaking.) Spent a lot of time trying to understand and explain myself. Felt a longing for my childhood. Started seeking help. Briefly saw a therapist. Started couples counseling. Finally finished a rough draft of an essay.

I also did stuff this year. I went on a weirdly high amount of trips to New Hampshire with friends. I started learning to program. I started making music. Continued hosting dinners and church. Hosted another Summery. A few months after Ira Glass told me I should make radio (after I told him that I wanted to make radio) I started an overly ambitious podcast about Ellen G. White for my studio. I celebrated my 5th wedding anniversary by performing a modest reprise of the story with my bride. I went to Spain and learned how to ski in the Pyrenees. Skied again in Colorado. Fell head over heels for (and while) skiing—the speed, the risk, the views. The way it took me out of my head.

There was of course the pandemic. The minor and major inconveniences, and the guilt for feeling so unaffected. Things that were remote stayed remote and some things that weren’t remote became remote and some things that can’t be remote just disappeared while new ways of sharing time replaced moments of sharing space. And I have benefitted egregiously from the whole situation by getting more time with Livvy while others get less.

And Livvy. This year was filled with Livvy. Her weapons-grade communication skills, and her preternatural emotional intelligence, and her arms. She became significant in ways that were terrifying at times. She held me together.

There is certainly more—there always is—but these are things that come to mind about this time.

And next year?

I hope that an essay turns into an argument and that an argument turns into a decision. I hope to spend more time outside. Of my head, mostly, but also just outside. I hope to finish reading a 3,000 page series of books. I hope to make more music. I hope to keep longboarding with Livvy. I hope to move. I hope to become—or return to being—a better friend. I hope to start something new.

And I hope to keep seeing you, in some form or another, though I either know or suspect that this year and this pandemic will continue to unsettle and displace all of us in myriad ways.

I would also like to see more dogs. I really like dogs.

Kisses/hugs/face punches,

—Iván Alfredo Ruiz-Knott