My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

Supercut

"And in my head / The visions never stop / … There's just a supercut." (I know it's a song about love and loss, but I still love supercuts, mmkay?)
A very young me and my brother, standing next to each other on the sidewalk, in windbreakers.

I'm in Grade 4, and I'm holding a book from the school library all about idioms, which is entirely on brand. I already knew I wanted to be a teacher by that point, by the way. (The kid on the right is my younger brother, Brad.) And we're wearing fluorescent windbreakers, the height of ’90s fashion!

Me standing next to my friend Lauren, who is much shorter than me.

Although I'm sure I can find photos between 1999 and 2005 if I look somewhere, most of my extant digital collection dates back to 2005, when I got my first digital camera. Here I am in 2008, a year out of high school. I visited my friend Lauren, who lives in Ohio and whom I had only known online, for about 3 years. It was my first time travelling by myself, and back then going to meet someone you'd only ever known online (and stay at their house for two weeks) was still quite adventurous.

This also begins my long history of awkwardly taking photos with people who are much shorter than me.

Three women I worked with at the art gallery and me sitting in what I believe is Applebee's. From left to right: Dayna, Thea, Brittany, and me.

You know what the secret is to avoiding awkward tall shots? Take the group shots sitting down! I believe this is in an Applebee's in 2010. At this point I had been working at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery for four years, and many a coworker had come and gone, but for a while we had a stable little group, including these three. For a very long time, my front desk coworkers were a significant social force in my life (and a force for good), and I learned a lot over the years from each and every one of them. Some of them I'm still in touch with; others have drifted away—yet might always drift back in, for a time.

A photo of me lying on my side on a group of tables, holding up a calculus textbook. In the background, three friends/coworkers.

For a long time, this was the photo I had on my About Me page on this site. In the summer of 2010 I was doing an NSERC Undergraduate Research Grant. The students with whom I shared an office and I decided to have a little photo shoot one day in a small meeting room. As you can see, my penchant for being photographed with books that are very on brand remains.

Photo of me standing next to a friend/peer, Erica.

I graduated university in 2012, finishing my last year with a second student teaching placement that I shared with a fellow student teacher, Erica. She got married earlier this month, and I sent her a blanket I knit! I learned a lot from Erica, both about teaching but also just about … presence. In particular, the formidable team we made helped me understand that I gravitate towards working with opposites—i.e., extroverted people. Erica taught me a lot about courage.

Group photo of me and fellow teachers in the UK sitting around a group of tables in a classroom. There is cake, because it is my birthday.

A year later, it's my second birthday celebration in England. My coworkers bring in cake and we celebrate quickly at lunchtime. I blogged about this birthday. (I tend not to blog about my birthday. I looked back at the exceptions, including a deleted draft that never saw the light of day because it was way too pretentious, as I was thinking about what to say in this post.)

The person sitting to my left? Her name is Josie, a fellow math teacher, and we share a birthday! That, by itself, is perhaps not too remarkable. What was pretty cool was how we arranged to fly over to England together through a Facebook group for teachers who were embarking on that journey back in August 2012. We met first in person at the airport, and as we chatted on the plane discovered that this person we'd almost randomly decided to sit next to, then work with, had the same birthday as us. Talk about weird coincidences.

If my life is chapters, one was the Art Gallery, and another is definitely Teaching in England. The Art Gallery was my coming of age, and Teaching in England was my first taste of true adulthood and independence.

A group shot of me standing next to Rebecca, Dayna, and Kamila, gallery coworkers, wearing T-shirts for a fundraising walk.

But all good things come to an end (except awkward tallness, apparently)—and some good things come back for a sequel! The next chapter in my life turned out to be the Art Gallery Redux, with some new faces and some old. Here I am with Rebecca, Dayna, and Kamila (who was the only front desk person more senior than me). We walked a few kilometres as part of a fundraiser for a church group Kamila was involved with. I am clearly much less stylish than these three ladies, yet I must be all right because they still put up with me to this day.

And then I bought a house.

I don't have a lot of photos of me in my house with other people—hopefully you've noticed by now I only posted photos of me with others. Because I'm reflecting today, on my 30th birthday, how much other people have shaped who I am, and how grateful I am to the people who have helped me throughout my life—no matter how little or how much. There are far more of them than I have photos to share.

While I don't have a lot of photos of me in my house with other people, buying a house definitely created a space for me—a place where I could be alone and happy, but also a space where I could invite others on my own terms. And the result was the beautiful flourishing of friendships, particularly two that have become integral to me.

The past two years have been some of the best two years of my life—and I say that, having looked back at many photos to select the ones in this supercut, knowing I have had a pretty good life so far. Sure, I'm glossing over a lot and choosing to focus on the good. I could talk about the darker moments, the anxious moments, the stresses that always test the structures we build out of ourselves. But this blog post is for my future self, who will want to look back and wonder what I felt and thought when I was 30. This is how I choose to remember 30.

I doubt I'll ever have it all figured out—anyone who does is trying to sell you something, right? Yet I have little doubt that the next 30 years will be as edifying and exciting as these 30 have been. If my life is chapters, these past two years have been called Finding That Balance. And every time an event threatens to puncture that equilibrium, all I have to do is look back at this life and remember I'm not, and have never been, alone.

Me standing between Amanda and Rebecca, my two besties, outdoors.

I'm 30 years old today, and I'm content. I'm not always happy, and I'm not always positive. But I will always, eventually, be okay, as long as I continue to have these people around me who remind me of my inherent worth, and—perhaps more importantly to my aromantic, introverted self—who let me care for them joyfully and intensely. It's very difficult to put into words how much of the equanimity I project comes from the stability I get from my friendships with Amanda and Rebecca. From Sunday Doctor Who and PhD dessertation revisions to constant phone conversations and podcasting, these two have become fixtures. We lean on each other in a way that has helped me understand what friendship means in the context of adulthood. Friendship as the long game rather than the flashy dramas that often define our youth. Friendship as the patience that comes with knowing that “I love you” has as many manifestations as people have days in their lives, and if I love you, I will make sure you know. Because now I am 30, and I have had a long life behind me and hopefully have an even longer life ahead—yet nothing is certain and every day is too precious not to tell my friends that they put the meaning in the memories that make me who I am.