Twenty Eighteen Annual Report and Twenty Nineteen goals20 Dec 2018
Welcome (yet again) to the Ashley Blewer annual report. Here is last year’s. These go all the way back to 2014!
This year, I did something different and broke my goals down into quarters instead of trying to tackle an entire year. There’s a self-help book about this if you want to read a couple hundred pages on that concept as told through a business viewpoint. But whatever, for me it seemed useful to create goals in a shorter timespan than a year, especially as I was coming off of a difficult year and entering one in which it was impossible to plan what the future would be like (as much as I tried).
At the annual level:
- I gave twelve talks, five of which were workshops. That list doesn’t count ArchivematicaCamp, which was a 3-day workshop!
- Existing projects continued to grow merrily.
- Worked on a new Collective Access project with the Mark Morris Dance Group Archives, which will premiere in 2019.
- Crawled ever-excruciatingly from terrible to not-bad as the world sprints (also excruciatingly) towards absolutely terrible.
- I took a month off from junky food, alcohol, and caffeine (each, not all together). Each made me feel better but I inevitably jumped back on each wagon.
“At that time you don’t realize that you could actually work super hard and give everything you have and lose.”
The first twelve weeks were off to a rocky start. Succinctly, I thought I finally knew where my life was going but instead ended up feeling completely worthless and like my entire career had been building up to nothing instead of something. Anywayyyy, point is, the first twelve weeks had lots of goals that got completely wiped out and new ones consisted of me refactoring myself and trying to understand what I’m doing and why I’m doing it and if anything is worth doing. It involved me forcing myself to temporarily put aside a lot of things I really care about due to feeling like my labor was being continually exploited and undervalued, and honestly just not knowing how to keep doing this. I thought a lot about how I am understood by others and ways in which I am misunderstood by others. My Twitter bio at the time – “Archivists think I’m a developer; Developers think I’m an archivist” was a truth that I had previously found amusing but suddenly seemed to me to be a cruel reality, one in which no one understands what I do and by having a multidisciplinary skillset, have failed to have any value to anybody. I cried a lot. A LOT. But things slowly went back to normal and I focused on the opportunities I had or have in front of me.
I thought about my established professional goals: a/v, open source, preservation and mapped my CV accordingly.
Then I thought about my personal goals, which I’ve never really thought about before, ever. Being healthy, being happy, being safe, and being around people I love. I simultaneously feel like I could never leave New York and can’t stay in New York. Both are true and would hurt either way, but a decision wouldn’t happen for me (nor could it really happen) until end of Quarter 2.
“I feel like you are at a very real moment of growing out of a specific container and feeling the constraints of that.”
To escape from my container, I officially “took a sabbatical,” which is funny since I had been working as a contractor. In some ways, having all these side-gigs going at all times make it even harder to say “Listen, I am going to shut all this down and only focus on being a better programmer/person for 3 months.” I went to the Recurse Center, a magical place that seems like it can’t exist in these especially trying times of the late twenty-teens. I blogged a lot and kept an updating syllabus. This experience fundamentally changed my life in a lot of personal ways, and I recommend anyone with the capacity to do so to consider applying! I think I echo the sentiment of many people who attend Recurse Center: I guess it made me a better programmer, but definitely made me a better person. It’s also nice to remember that not everyone is a big bundle of trash all the time. I never did a full retrospective of my time there, and I regret that a little bit. I also liked tracking my learning syllabus-style and am wondering if I can/would incorporate this into 2019.
I taught a 4-hour course on audiovisual quality control at IS&T with my friend Julia.
I didn’t know what I was doing and I have an obnoxiously inflexible landlord management company, so I somewhat-begrudgingly stayed in New York, a city I still love but loves no one back.
“Am I really just itching to go back to work?”
My life was in a bit of a question-mark phase when planning quarter three, so my goals were very succinct: “Find a job, do yer best at this job.” I quickly did find a job – I now work on Archivematica at Artefactual full time instead of just as a part-time consultant – and that job allows me to do all the things I like to do and use all the skills I have, something I have been looking for for a long time. I just wrote about this a little bit for the SAA ERS blog.
Also, I was a guest on Archivist’s Alley!
“Survive all this travel!”
Following up on Quarter 3’s simple goal, my Quarter 4 goals were pretty simple too. I had a lot of new work obligations and old work obligations, and they took me to Las Vegas, London, Houston, and Luxembourg. I felt like I was away from home as much as I was at home during these twelve weeks. No Time To Wait is simultaneously one of the most emotionally and professionally rewarding things in my life, while also being the most emotionally and physically exhausting. ArchivematicaCamp was also fairly exhausting, mostly because I was unsure how it would go (I’ve never attended one before and suddenly I was leading half of it!). DLF was relatively smooth. And the workshops in Luxembourg ended up feeling breezy compared to all the rest even though it was perhaps the most labor-intensive (2.5 days and an additional conference). I felt like I had finally hit a stride in teaching open source audiovisual quality control tools. Oh, and I guest-lectured for Pratt’s Information Technologies class (this is my all-time favorite syllabus) right after coming back from this seemingly-continuous travel! I like teaching and I hope to do more of it next year.
I was asked to join the Software Preservation Network’s Tech Infrastructure group, and that’s been fun. I was asked to serve on the NDSR Advisory Group for 2019 and I’m excited to do that.
Bonus / Next year
I am now in the final four weeks of the year with no obligations as I plan for next year and, I guess, the next four quarters.
Overall, I feel like I got a lot better at paying attention to myself (physically, emotionally, and when those elements combine/overlap). In some ways, I’ve been kinder to myself as a result, just by stopping to ask myself why I feel a certain way in a certain moment. Y’know, something that sounds like a great idea but one that is very hard to implement continuously, so I’m proud of myself for that.
For next year?
- Do those above-mentioned healthy activities, but at all once and for longer than a month each.
- Focusing on transparency. This is always a core aspect of what I believe in, but I’ve seen the negative impacts of opacity manifest itself in a myriad of ways this year, so it seems even more important than ever to continue to advocate in this way.
- Working on bridging knowledge gaps between parts of the fields I am in.
- Paying attention to people within their context. I decided to redact the rest of this.
- As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I am still eager to work on figuring out how to better communicate and collaborate on the internet instead of at (environmentally costly, less accessible) conference.
- Less less less. Less participating in structures I disagree with (capitalism, consumerism, corrupt organizations, etc.). Acting by simply not-doing or not-choosing and by opting out of things. I’m always on this beat, though, but hopefully and slowly getting better at it. I have finally been able to cultivate a work uniform (one that is isn’t pajamas, but working from home IS amazing in MANY ways) and I can work towards keeping in good shape, and not have to think about the rest. Like many people, I am a tangled mess of body issues and it’s nice to find at long last a pair of pants and shirts that I am comfortable enough in to be able to wear them all the time and are not meant to be gone in a season.
- Finally have health care! (I was barred from having it in 2018 due to one of the many ways health care is a disaster in this country.)
- Re-read Ursula Franklin’s The Real World of Technology.
- Spend more time in and around good communities, and avoiding bad ones.
- More projects I can’t talk about yet!