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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Likness

2021: Mixed Reviews

I left 2020 feeling confident and focused. I'm still confident and full of faith, but my focus was not great last year. As much as I love to share what I can, to be honest this is a difficult post for me. Not because of the content, but because it's literally tough to write. I always loved to write, from poetry and short stories as a child to books and technical articles as an adult. I taught myself how to touch type at a very young age and used to boast well north of 100 words per minute. Now I can still type fairly fast (~80 WPM), but I have to focus hard and really make my fingers work. It's exhausting. I have speech recognition on my work machine but not yet for my personal ones and the built-in options aren't great.

2021 was a year of transition for me. After living with my diagnosis and experiencing the progression of PD, my priorities have shifted a lot. I no longer proactively seek as many opportunities for "positive pressure" as I used to because stress is a major trigger. I love to speak and present, but no longer aggressively seek out opportunities. I've had a great work/life balance for many years now, but now I'm more focused on the experiences I can create with Doreen and putting more effort into my passions and hobbies. I don't know how long I'll be able to do certain things, so I want to do them as much as I can.

If there is one major theme of 2021 for me, it has been rekindling my passion for astronomy and discovering how much I love photography. It started with comet Neo last year and culminated in the purchase of a telescope.

A comet
Comet NEO

Here's one of my favorite deep space photographs from 2021: the Veil nebula, capturing the remnants of an ancient supernova explosion.

NGC6960: The Veil Nebula

I also learned how to take space photographs with an ordinary camera and began learning how to take better landscape photography. I captured this image of Mt. Rainier, another personal favorite of last year.

Mountain between dark skies and land
Mt. Rainier at dawn

If you're interested in astrophotography, I posted a recap of my favorite space photos from 2021.

I set several goals for 2021, and here's how I did.

2021 Retrospective

Goal: Launch a new podcast with Doreen that deals with PD from the perspective of both the afflicted and their caregiver.

Result: ✔ Success

Doreen and I recorded five episodes of You, Me, and PD that you can listen to on your favorite podcast player. For convenience, I have them available on YouTube here: You, Me, and PD Podcast.

Goal: Continue to consistently eat healthy, natural, organic plant-based foods and exercise both intensely and regularly so that my PD score stays low or drops even lower.

Result: ⚠ Mixed

I remain mostly vegan with the exception of the occasional egg. Although I need to reign in my portion sizes and eat more greens, I believe my nutrition is still the strongest it's been in a long time. Exercise, on the other hand, is where I dropped the ball (and I don't mean the medicine ball). I feel like the increase of some symptoms is definitely my responsibility for giving PD a foothold by not training consistently. I own my decisions; however, I must be honest and say the medication makes it much more challenging for me to stay focused. It's not an excuse but a call to action for me to reach deeper (and reach out for support) in 2022. It is imperative I get this turned around immediately because every day of inaction means more irreversible progression of the disease that I could be slowing.

Goal: Raise awareness about the power of VR for exercising the mind and body and help empower others with and without PD to use this exciting new modality.

Result: ⚠ Mixed

I started the year optimistic about a collaboration with MieronVR and my movement disorder specialist. I don't think it went anywhere, but I made the connection and planted the seed. I've had a lot of positive feedback on my top 5 Quest 2 VR fitness game picks for Parkinson's Disease post. I didn't do as much personally as I'd like, and although my personal impact is unclear, the medical community is taking notice. It's no longer anecdotal but backed by an emerging corpus of Virtual Reality for Parkinson's Disease research papers. We'll see what the future brings!

Goal: Ski at least once this season. Result: Nope!

Goal: Start a new campaign and continue to raise awareness and funding to find a cure for Parkinson's Disease. Result: ✔ Success

I did start a new campaign fundraising for Parkinson's Disease. Although I haven't been as successful raising funds as last year, I have made significant progress. More important in my opinion is impact. I joined the disability Employee Resource Group (ERG) at Microsoft, a sort of "support group" internal to the company. I was picked to lead our communications efforts which in a large part means gathering relevant news and curating or creating content for our monthly newsletter. I will be delivering a session on productivity with accessibility and accommodations early 2022. I participated in a hackathon to make it easier to work with technology using speech recognition. I also joined the board for a new non-profit focused on supporting the Young Onset Parkinson's Disease community. It's called the Young Onset Parkinson's Network (YOPN). Check it out!

Goal: Take another overnight hiking trip.

Result: ✔ Success

I was able to go on a nice overnight hike to beautiful Pear Lake. It was about 13 miles round trip. Although it rained most of the night and was a soggy slog home, I enjoyed every minute of it. OK, except for maybe a few minutes.

Pear Lake
Pear Lake

Goal: Advance my career. I love my role, so that means promotion.

Result: ⚠ Mixed

I really hoped I could report more here. I did receive positive feedback for my contributions over the year and had a great review, but I was not promoted. We'll see what happens during the next round!

Goal: Read the bible every day, pray and keep my faith in Jesus.

Result: ❌ Fail

I remain strong in faith but have had mixed priorities. The same reasons I didn't stick to regular exercise also impact this routine. There's no excuse and I have got to stop worrying about material, immediate "things" and "stuff" and refocus on the larger goal of eternity. I'm so grateful our God is a forgiving, loving, merciful God who always welcomes us back with open arms.

2021 Highlights

As always, much transpired in 2021 despite the challenges. Here are a few highlights to celebrate the year that I didn't cover already!

  • Purchased my telescope, then purchased my second telescope (still on backorder)

  • Picked up our new German Shepherd puppy, Pepper

  • Visited several beautiful locations with the local Young Onset Parkinson's Disease support group (SEAYOPD)

  • Got vaccinated against COVID-19

  • Invested in a future dream for vacation and retirement

  • Had several fun, relaxing vacations with Doreen in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado

  • Finished furnishing our patio to relax and enjoy the firepit

  • Held a gathering to meet my Microsoft team in person for the first time after working with them in over a year

  • Celebrated our 23-year wedding anniversary on the beach with a beautiful sunset over rock formations in the water as the International Space Station drifted by overhead

  • Printed my first astrophotographs on metal and was commissioned to host them in a gallery for a local business

  • Grew my first pepper crop (Jalafuegos, Serranos, and Habaneros) and made (tasty) hot pepper sauce and hot pepper seasoning

  • Took my first Milky Way shots

  • Launched a new blog and media channels for astrophotography

  • Captured Jupiter and four of its moons in a photograph

  • Hosted my Mom and Dad when they visited the Pacific Northwest for the first time

  • Learned how to polar align my star tracker

  • Received and began using my first work accommodations (speech recognition software, pedals for mouse clicks and head tracker for mouse movement)

  • Finally found a balance of medication that minimizes side effects and maximizes suppression of symptoms

  • Delivered a live presentation to thousands of viewers for a major Microsoft event

Not a bad year!

2022 Goals

What's in store for 2022? Here are my goals:

  • Get my priorities straight and put God and my health first

  • Jangle every day

  • My new burpee challenge: one burpee for every day of the year, working up to 365 burpees in one day. I know it sounds harsh but totally possible and will be transformational

  • Sell my first astrophotography print

  • Join SEAYOPD on at least a few of their outings

  • Attend my first local astronomical society meeting

  • Create amazing images of deep space objects and planets with my new telescope

  • Hike overnight at least once

  • Summit a peak I haven't summitted before

  • Ski (yes, by golly, this will happen)

  • Maintain or improve my Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS)

  • Earn a promotion at Microsoft

  • Continue to impact the Parkinson's community through my ERG and YOPN participation and a new fundraising campaign

Thanks for listening and for your support. I look forward to a brighter 2022 year to come.


Jeremy Likness

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