2020: An Update

Ok, so like usu­al I promised to write more and haven’t. Like every­one, 2020 has been a year. So, with that in mind, I want­ed to drop in for a quick update before I lost track of time yet again.

Let’s revis­it the Before Times briefly.:

I start­ed a new job in March! Yes, after being in the free­lance wilder­ness for the bet­ter part of two years, I land­ed a full-time role lead­ing full-stack social. I know it is gross to say things like “full stack” but there’s not real­ly a bet­ter way to describe what I do. It’s some­thing I’ve want­ed for a long time and being across organ­ic and paid makes a huge dif­fer­ence in how I approach the work.

Thus con­cludes the Before Times por­tion of this post.

I walked across the hall on March 12th to let my boss know I’d be leav­ing work that after­noon to dri­ve home. The kids were going to be home from school as every­thing got fig­ured out. I fig­ured it would be a few weeks. Boy, was I wrong!

Did I men­tion the new job meant we need­ed to get the house on the mar­ket? Did I men­tion that Michi­gan real estate effec­tive­ly closed and didn’t reopen until May? Are you famil­iar with mar­ket dynam­ics on metro Detroit in a down­turn? Let’s just say it was a wild sum­mer where we weren’t real­ly sure we were mov­ing until our things were loaded on the truck.

A quick note on Detroit: we miss it. I am writ­ing an ode to the city and our friends there in a lat­er installment.

The boys? They’ve been hero­ic. Imag­ine your own kids (if you have some) and then remote school them, shut down their sports AND then move 600 miles from the only place they’ve real­ly known as home. It’s a work­out to say the very least. I’m insane­ly proud of them for being so brave, but it hurts.

Us adults? Well, it’s fun­ny to be back and not quite home. Mov­ing to Detroit was prob­a­bly the hard­est thing we’ve ever done; Char­lie was in kinder­garten, Archie was an infant, we had no sup­port net­work. Spend near­ly six years in a place with school-aged kids and every­thing changes. We unex­pect­ed­ly made dear friends quick­er than we imag­ined and now we’ve been cast back east in a pan­dem­ic. It makes the work days seem much longer.

It’s hard to rec­on­cile the very real life, adult aspects of a move that’s pro­fes­sion­al­ly right for both of us, but social­ly very dif­fi­cult. We’ll fig­ure it out, all of us, but it’s going to take some time. For now, we’re hap­py to have our health and jobs intact. Like every­one, we’re tak­ing it a day at a time.

We Don’t Deserve The New Pornographers

I wrote this about the New Pornog­ra­phers in 2017. It still holds up. Their new record is fab­u­lous. You should lis­ten to it if you haven’t already! I’m still wrestling with why I ever took a break from them in the first place.

A big part of why I tuned out on the New Pornog­ra­phers was around the time “Chal­lengers” was released. It got a 6.0 from Pitch­fork and my mem­o­ry of that album at the time was just that it lacked the unsus­tain­able punch of their ear­li­er records. Carl talked to Tom Scharpling about this right before he released “Shut Down the Streets” and it was deeply affect­ing for all the rea­sons you can imagine.

Carl revived that thread with a series of tweets. and it’s kind of delight­ful through the wincing.

Flash for­ward and the band is tour­ing and doing press on their new record, “In the Morse Code of the Brake Lights.” New­man has been curat­ing amaz­ing pow­er pop on Twit­ter and shar­ing gems like this cov­er of a brand new GBV song in case you won­dered why we real­ly don’t deserve a band this good.

Spend some time with their new album and their cat­a­log now that it’s get­ting cold­er and you’re stuck indoors. 

How to Reboot Your Personal Blog

Why don’t I take my own advice? I should’ve nev­er stopped writ­ing in the first place. Why don’t I take Anil Dash’s advice? He’s right!

Well, here I am, back at Ram­say­ings, won­der­ing where anoth­er year went. I con­stant­ly miss writ­ing and yet nev­er seem to find the words to say or the time to type them. It’s sil­ly, real­ly. The onus­es of per­son­al brand­ing and thought lead­er­ship can real­ly do a num­ber on you if you let them, which is maybe what hap­pened, but who can say. In any case, I’m back!

I may not have been writ­ing, but I have been tak­ing notes. I have thoughts on where my musi­cal taste evolved this year as I real­ly learned to embrace the new class of jam bands sweep­ing indie. I embraced my Mid­west­er­ness and drove the kids from Detroit to Flori­da in my first ever hon­est to god road­trip. I have some reflec­tions on my career jour­ney, too.

The trick now is to map those out in a steady diet. One a day. We’ll see if I can main­tain it for a week, then a month and so on. I know per­son­al blogs have died and yet so many of us who were there at the dawn of per­son­al blog­ging yearn for their return. I’ll try to keep up my end of the bar­gain this time.

How to Survive an Unplanned Sabbatical

You know all those posts about how busy is bad? Well, what if you sud­den­ly weren’t quite so busy? What would you do with the time you got back? Who would you become?

I had planned to write this in Decem­ber after start­ing a new job in down­town Detroit, recap­ping the eight months I spent ask­ing and answer­ing those ques­tions. Now I find myself back on the mar­ket after a quick two-month stint and am ask­ing the same ques­tions all over again. 

That said, I’ve dis­cov­ered a few tenets that seemed to real­ly help. I’ve shared them below.

  • Get lucky. This is the most impor­tant part. You don’t man­age to keep your life intact with­out hav­ing land­ed the kinds of jobs that pro­vide stock grants that you can cash in on your raini­est day. Plen­ty of peo­ple work real­ly hard every day and have no rainy day fund. If you are lucky, make sure you acknowl­edge it and be grateful.
  • You are not your job. This is one you see every­where. It’s still cru­cial to remind your­self, espe­cial­ly if you’ve been in roles where you’re con­sumer-fac­ing and or your iden­ti­ty can be eas­i­ly attached to the brand itself. After eight years of brand dig­i­tal and social media, it’s hard to sep­a­rate your­self from it. It’s the kind of thing that is help­ful to rec­og­nize may have had some neg­a­tive reper­cus­sions when it comes to work-life bal­ance. If you can work through this, you can make some impor­tant self-dis­cov­er­ies and path to roles that aren’t so tax­ing on your emo­tion­al well-being.
  • Talk to every­one. This isn’t net­work­ing. This is actu­al­ly con­nect­ing with peo­ple. There’s some­thing Musa said about look­ing at your life and career as a blank piece of paper, but this is big­ger than that, I think. Instead of approach­ing every con­ver­sa­tion as a trans­ac­tion, seek coun­sel. Con­nect. Recon­nect. Find a men­tor. You’ve been through a trau­mat­ic life event! It’s ok to open up and be vul­ner­a­ble to find deep­er truths about what you want to do with your one pre­cious and wild life.
  • Take your health back. Noth­ing above mat­ters if you don’t use the time you’ve got­ten back to work on every­thing from your diet to sleep. I chose to run an ultra­ma­rathon. I hope to run an even longer race this year. We under­val­ue the “life” por­tion of work-life bal­ance or inte­gra­tion or what­ev­er. That’s bad. Sure we have dead­lines and impor­tant projects, but we’re not sav­ing lives. Well, I’m not.
  • Find new favorite things. When I was­n’t run­ning, I was try­ing to feed my head with new ideas and cul­ture. I went to the library often. I rearranged my social time­lines. I watched a doc­u­men­tary series and became a fan of the Grate­ful Dead. The impos­si­ble sud­den­ly seems pos­si­ble! I did as much as I could to cut down on the screen time that had defined my work­ing life. Mak­ing your hob­by a job can have dan­ger­ous consequences.
  • Fig­ure out who you want to be next. This isn’t just a career thing. This is molt­ing the lay­ers of what­ev­er encas­es who you are when you’re not who­ev­er you were at work. For me, it meant paus­ing and real­ly get­ting to know my four year old. The time we spent togeth­er changed our rela­tion­ship entire­ly and was the pater­ni­ty leave I nev­er had. I became a bet­ter part­ner, too! Alter­ing your pri­or­i­ties has all kinds of unfore­seen knock-on effects. Embrace them.
  • Artic­u­late the vision you have for your­self. After a few months I was able to step back, gen­uine­ly reflect on my career, and put into words where I want to go. Caveat! Your next role might not be per­fect, but it should be some­thing you can see fit­ting into that vision. For me, mov­ing into con­tent was a step out­side of dig­i­tal and social. It’s impor­tant to think about your­self holis­ti­cal­ly, iden­ti­fy gaps in your expe­ri­ence and find places that might help you fill them.

That’s it! These are the rules I dis­tilled from my expe­ri­ence last year. I plan to use them again now, just hope­ful­ly for not as long. If you’ve been affect­ed by a job loss, don’t hes­i­tate to reach out. 

A Runner Reborn

When I lost my job in March, I knew above all else that I need­ed to start run­ning again. Not only did I need to get my arms around my car­dio­vas­cu­lar fit­ness after 8 straight years of being glued to a screen, I need­ed to get some time to reflect on my pri­or­i­ties now that I was­n’t star­ing into the gap­ing maw of the Internet.

But if you’re friends with me or have spo­rad­i­cal­ly read this blog, you know my track record. I had­n’t suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ed a train­ing cycle since 2009! I have so many shirts and so few fin­ish­es to show for it. How could I break that pat­tern and not suf­fer anoth­er demor­al­iz­ing injury? 

Well, for the first time ever, I lis­tened to my body. I stuck to the plan I out­lined here. I let myself rest. I did­n’t obsess over splits. I laughed at the idea of speed work. What I need­ed was time on my feet, which trans­lat­ed into the time to reflect and time to rebuild my spir­it. And even though I broke a car­di­nal rule and signed up for a race, I nev­er once thought about a hard and fast time as a goal. I set my sights on just fin­ish­ing. And it worked!

After a chal­leng­ing month of trav­el and tem­per­a­tures in August that knocked me off my usu­al train­ing reg­i­men, I toed the line at Run Wood­stock wor­ried that maybe I’d some­how under­trained after months of 50+ mile weeks. That was silly. 

The race was an amaz­ing expe­ri­ence. I ran a sol­id first loop that start­ed in the pre-dawn hours and end­ed with me dis­cov­er­ing that I’d worn mis­matched shoes! I met my pac­er and she guid­ed me through a chal­leng­ing sec­ond loop on very tired legs and an increas­ing­ly fuzzy mind. 

The fin­ish felt tri­umphant as I sprint­ed to the line. I fin­ished just out of the top five in my age group and in the top 25% over­all. But after break­ing my leg in 2016, just being able to com­pete and fin­ish is all I needed.

None of this would have hap­pened with­out the fan­tas­tic com­mu­ni­ty of run­ners sup­port­ing me, both local­ly and online. The Grosse Pointe Run­ners group has been invalu­able. My friends Britt and Jesse back in Philly have been great coach­es, reas­sur­ing me that I’d put in the work. Last­ly, the ultra­run­ning com­mu­ni­ty online, rang­ing from elite ath­letes over­com­ing their own per­son­al chal­lenges to the run­ners doc­u­ment­ing the scene, espe­cial­ly Gin­ger Run­ner.

After a decade of false starts it feels great to be back, but it feels even bet­ter to be in con­trol, mak­ing deci­sions that are mak­ing my life bet­ter in ways I’d hard­ly imag­ined. Get­ting to the start healthy was one goal; get­ting to the fin­ish healthy opens the door to adventure.