I feel grateful: I set aside December 2018 to do nothing in particular and I’ve followed that slow elision of nothing-in-particular into and out of Chicago; into and out of end-of-year holidays; and into and out of a very long-running cold.
Most years since 2010 Corey & I have hosted an Annual Corporate Retreat for ourselves. TL;DR: a dedicated weekend to reflect on the passing year, welcome the new one, and make plans big and small. Rather than do a powerpoint, as I usually do, I’m summing up the year on my blog.
Here’s what I did in 2018:
In January, I gave the keynote talk at Empex LA. This talk aggregated a lot of my ideas about working in software teams over the last many years. It also shared some reflections from working on the Hillary 2016 tech team, and recovering from the election. It’s a good talk and I’m proud of it. This also gave me my first ever opportunity to go to LA.
I’ve wanted to go to LA for a while. LA serves up my fantasy life. Me, a single story ranch, a car, comedy, desert landscapes, a movie star kitchen, strange plants and long nights.
In reality, I flew in somewhat drugged-up from plane travel; practiced my talk like Zooey with the Jesus Prayer; gave it the next day; and whipped around and flew back before I could see more than a street of homeless tents and the inside of a very swank dinner club.
I see you, LA. I could do this.
In November of 2017 (yup, end of last year), I’d settled down to stop contract work and apply for a job-job, but applied to the School for Poetic Computation instead. Did my pen slip?
My desire to re-center my creative work and projects hasn’t gone anywhere over the years: it just keeps nudging back into my lane. To the point where I think: am I its lane? Should I just accept this, and figure it out? I was both surprised and not surprised I got into SFPC. Surprised: a lot of my projects over the years are unfinished: I need to work on that. Not surprised: even if unfinished, they’re good. And I keep coming back to the work. That must count for something.
So, with the discovery of Trusted House Sitters (did you know you can have lovely people from all over the world live in your home and watch your pets for free? One at a time, of course, not all the lovely people from all over the world, at once!), I moved to BROOKLYN (my home-town!) from Feb to May of 2018.
To computate poetically.
I wrote about this elsewhere but to sum up: terrifying, exhilerating, enriching, and full of new stuff. I made a machine that purrs when you pet it. I learned to eat dinners not alone. And I got to live in an elegant, art-filled, Murphy-ROOM-sporting, south-african-art-displaying sanctuary on my childhood street. With Doug and Adam, AirBNB-Lords, architect and designer, bless their Brooklyn, space-saving, art-collecting hearts.
As SFPC wrapped up, I quietly applied to an artist residency using my newly-acquired artist-resident-application skills, and in May I found out I’d been accepted! It would be two months, starting in October, in Spokane, Washington, to continue my work on what I was playfully calling Minimum Viable Cat.
Me seeing this acceptance email involved a lot of jumping and squealing and OMG-ing.
I had to think about it, though: travel again, spend money again, or go back to full-time work? After all, until the 2016 campaign I’d been a pretty full-time member of the tech world, only doing quote-unquote-creative-projects on “the side”. Scary stuff to switch it around!
While making this decision, I interviewed (and got!) a full time job at a promiment crypto company (though I think protocol dictates you shut up about where unless you take the job?). It was a neat role and I thought hard about it, but decided that instead of going full-time, I was going to keep my new-found momentum in creativity, continue to contract, save money, and do this artist residency. So…
I spent the summer working on two interesting contracts. One, I worked as a Smart Contract developer on the Ethereum and Loom networks for Neon District RPG via Dave Hoover’s Red Squirrel Tech Company. I was doing R&D and prototyping for a game they’re building. This was challenging, as it used cutting-edge tech; interesting in terms of problems to solve; and involving: there was a spreadsheet listing 100s of in-game assets along the lines of swords and armor—a departure from my usual domain.
A fun fact is that a lot of the code I wrote for this looks like it will be leveraged in Plasma Bears: The Game! sometime in January.
Plasma Bears, you guys!!!
At the same time (well, two days out of every four) I served as a senior developer / mentor / coach / project planner for Mac & Mia. I think you could sum up the role as “Acting Lead Tech Person” or something like that. I got to go into their offices, work with some folks from my Trunk Club days, pair with their team, and help the company build a major software integration and think about their tech roadmap. I really loved this and also made some new friends. I realized I enjoy coaching and helping a team sort through its processes in search of efficacy and joy.
In the meantime, residency planning. I kept a detailed spreadsheet of how much $ I’d need to get through the residency, and, let’s face it, December, without having to work. And then I went and made that money. I bank with Simple and use their goals feature like crazy: I don’t just have “money”: I have “October Github” and “November Electric”, and everything in between. In short, every expense I have is earmarked and set aside so I can plan to the penny. And that includes nice big loose buckets like “Project Expenses, October”, which let me buy a bunch of Raspberry Pis, or a box of grommets, or really whatever the project needed at a given moment. This pre-planning is what’s bought me my December vacation that I am spending…drumroll…being sick in bed!
And, filed under “Random Panels I Spoke On In 2018”, I speculated that we could use NFT tokens for electoral votes (as well as cells in our bodies, why not) at The Voice of Blockchain Conference this summer in Chicago.
Life In Washington
I’ll save Spokane details for another blog post (though you can check out my instagram for welding pics), but will leave it here that it was my first ever “for real” artist residency, I met people I was so fond of and inspired by, I worked really hard, and I experienced a lot of genuine joy and laughter. Here are some of the people and places I got to learn from and work alongside. And I am very proud of my project, the Minimum Viable Cat.
What’s Minimum Viable Cat? Well, it’s a cross between the Monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey; an iPhone; and a cat stomach. Obviously. In other words, what if we invented Solyent for pets. Not for them to eat, but, you know, instead of them. Here’s some pics from the book that goes along with it. Cats available in black, white, and rose-gold. For realz.
As of this writing, its website is minimal (as per the theme, I guess), but you can sign up for mailing list updates as the project develops.
End Of Year
Coming home, I found myself grateful I’d set aside December, because my body really did need to break down a bit. I did a few house things (it’s now all one color—real-estate-grey, I call it, also a hint it might be going on the market soon); a few holiday things (the annual drive east to see Mom & Co.); and a few cold-recovery things—like lying in bed watching Gossip Girl (through season six yo), and drinking emergen-C dissolved into pretty colors in Mason Jars.
All in all, 2018 was an unusual year for me.
Other highlights & lowlights:
- I stopped drinking. I didn’t drink a lot, to be honest, but to the extent that I drank in moments of anxiety, I decided to welcome the anxiety, as part of learning more about myself and my creativity. So… Welcome, Anxiety!
- My father got sick. Whether this sickness ends up being Pseudo-Dementia (which is actually a thing, not just adding the word “pseudo” to a disease), early actual Dementia, or early Alzheimer’s, we don’t know yet. This has thrown a lot into the air, where it is all still floating, like a bunch of slow-motion pick-up sticks or luftballons.
- I continued daily meditation, learned to float (hint: lie there in some salt water), and got in the habit of making daily thank-you lists in my head.
When I look ahead to next year, the questions that are front and foremost are:
- Continue the life of high-tech hippie contracting? Or rejoin the full-time tech realm for a while?
- I may have fallen into one of Murakami’s void’s—a magic well running underneath my life—and I welcome the opportunity to get out the other side. Magic, cats, strange underground journeys, and the mundane are all welcome to guide me out into a new open sarah-space.
- Writing. It’s a thing. Write?
- Also, say the words out loud.
- P.S. Not all questions come with question-marks.
And here are some 2019 Goals:
- How can I laugh till my stomach hurts, at least 6 out of every 7 days? If you are a friend that can help me with that, sign up here.
- Let’s get Minimum Viable Cat on tour and into production
- I want to design and make a blazer in orange, pink and other-color plaid. Don’t think I can do it b/c I don’t sew, design, or know how to use a sewing machine? Let’s see what happens!
- You should see the sneakers I’ve designed in my head. And I have a great idea for a sweater.
- I decided to get certified as a coach, which I start in a few weeks. This way I can more formally help tech orgs build more functional teams, as well as coach women in tech. Both are things I’ve been doing informally of late, I have coaching in my family (also, green eyes), and I’m really good at leading retros, so I decided to double down on this skill-set, whether I start my own business, take it to a leadership role, or both.
- Collaborators. Find ‘em.
- Monies. Pile ‘em up.
- Joy, Love, Happiness and Flow. See “laugh till my stomach hurts”, above.
- Good Surprises.
Join me on my 2019 journey however you like.
Happy New Year!