Twenty Nineteen Annual Report and Twenty Twenty Goals13 Dec 2019
Welcome (back?) to the Ashley Blewer annual report. This is the sixth year running! Here is last year’s.
Reading last year’s post, I feel like this is the year I have finally been able to slow down, relax, feel safe in my work and my personal life, and not feel like things are personally on the verge of constant collapse (when they haven’t been!). Which, of course, is in stark contrast to the pain and panic felt across the world, about the world. It’s not to say that I don’t feel stressed and terrible about everything going on around me, but that I am less hyperfocused, naval-gazing and withdrawing into my own personal issues. I’ve made a lot of progress in my ability to feel safe and my mental health and overall mood are in a much better place than the previous few years. I don’t know, I feel selfish articulating this – there’s been so many things that have disrupted the lives of people around me both in the abstract, on a large scale, and in specific, small ways. But I do feel like I have become better attuned to offering and providing support, of being publicly and privately vulnerable, and having space to be more generous and give more fully to others in need.
Okay, normal stuff, what did I do this year?
Workwise, I went to:
- San Jose, California (Code4lib)
- Baltimore (Bastard Film Encounter)
- Amsterdam and The Hague (Artefactual)
- Austin, Texas (Society of American Archivists)
- Singapore (Artefactual)
- Malaysia (“vacation”)
- CERN (Switzerland/France) (Artefactual)
- Budapest (No Time To Wait)
And I took some personal trips courtesy of Amtrak. Some of these places involved me giving talks, and some of them involved me talking a lot and working out software integrations and technical workflow requirements and things like that.
My work has been extremely fulfilling this year. It is absolutely amazing to work for a place and with people that share the same goals and values as me, and to be able to fully dedicate myself to working on and supporting open source software for archives, libraries, and museums. It’s been my goal for such a long time, and I’m constantly in awe that I’ve been able to achieve it. Working in a fulfilling job is such a privilege, and it is an extremely rare thing to be able to do this work. I am grateful every day for the opportunity. I’m amazed at the care and grace exhibited by my colleagues. Work is interesting, challenging, and rewarding.
I worked a lot this year. In addition to my full-time job, I also:
- Started adjuncting at Pratt Institute, for their Information Technologies class. This was a last-minute thing, but it was such a fulfilling and joyful experience to co-teach alongside Josh, and I am super excited to teach again (solo!) in the Spring 2020 semester. I learned so much from him and from my amazing students, who I’ll henceforth describe as my new colleagues. And I have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks to fully prepare and be present for the next group of students.
- Worked on a CollectiveAccess project with the Mark Morris Dance Group. Last year, I said this would premiere in 2019, but now it will premiere in 2020 because grants so often get extensions. I am feeling glad to wrap this project up in the next few weeks. It feels good to finish things.
- Started working on DVRescue with some great people. My work obligations here are low, but I am excited to be a part of another Dave Rice tool that supports the work of audiovisual archivists by creating software made for and by archivists.
- Organized another No Time To Wait conference. The feedback and praise and support seemed extra palpable this year. I’ve decided to move off of the organizing committee, but this conference will always be very dear to my heart and I look forward to attending as a regular citizen-volunteer in Fall of 2020.
- A few other volunteer positions.
- Maintaining some open source software and resources, like my dear ffmprovisr. This includes writing an “award winning” paper at iPres on ffmprovisr as an open source dual model for education with my ride-or-die bro Andrew.
- I wrote a paper about deepfakes with my partner-in-academic-crimes, Travis.
My life is overly work-focused, and these annual reports really reiterate that. But something else that happened this year is I moved in with my partner, which is something I didn’t think I would ever do. It has been extremely good for me. And my cats are happier, too.
As mentioned above, I worked a lot and had a lot of obligations. My brain would feel so full and so exhausted and stressed and I would swear that I was going to stop all of this mess, but I know I also thrive in these kinds of conditions. That’s not always for the best, though. This past decade (not just year) has involved replacing leisure time with additional work, trying to tack on two days of vacation after a week of on-site work as if that will somehow cancel it out, working full days and nights and weekends, et cetera. I want to reduce that. I need to reduce that. I’ve been more tuned into my body this past year, partially because of less stress opens up my ability to focus on this, and partially because I’m just getting older and now my body tells me when it’s had enough. My eyes get tired from the harsh monitor light. My shoulders ache from lack of stretching and unideal posture. I’m finally at the age where my body lets me know when I need to take care of myself even when my brain won’t.
Even with all of this, all the overwork isn’t ever what burns me out – people have the ability to burn me out. I’m not a great advocate for myself, even if I’m relatively notorious for being a too-loud advocate for others. I like to think I’ve finally learned how to quit saying “it’s okay” when a situation and how I am being treated definitely not okay. Unfortunately I’ve had several occasions to deliver that message this year.
I am guilty of overbooking myself. I still haven’t been able to move myself out of a mindset of scarcity – that I have to say “yes” to every opportunity, that I have to spend all of my time working, and that I need to spend all of my energy on others and not my selfish self. I think I’ve improved a lot over this past year, and I am feeling more safe (in work and non-work matters) than I ever have in my life, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have these ingrained habits and feelings of non-stop work.
As for 2020 goals, I think about times I’ve been jealous. When I find myself getting jealous, I try to think about what stems that jealousy and what it means, and how I can channel that into a positive change for myself (I think I’ve written about this before?). This year, I feel jealous of people who have been given time and space to play, especially if being funded to have time to play/discover/learn. I can’t fix that funding part, but I can attempt to self-fund by giving myself more time, and prioritizing that time in a productive way. There are so many things I want to do, and I have been very fortunate as to be compensated when doing these things, but there is a certain kind of innovation that comes from being able to play and discover that doesn’t happen when billing hours and I have to make space for that, for myself, and see what comes out of it.
In some ways, this sentiment summarizes my goals for 2020: not having concrete goals. Not pushing myself past the limit. Having space for new things. Taking care of myself and others. Appreciating and valuing time. But also: not become lazy or complacent. I have some specific things I want to work on this year, but I will keep them close to me for now, so as to give myself the flexibility to explore and not require myself to be accountable.