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Changing Plans

TL;DR: Since August 2023, I’m navigating major changes in career and living — today I’ll talk through changes I’m managing in terms of personal and community-focused projects and plans.

Best Laid Plans

Since 2017 subverted my expectations, I took to a practice of getting stuff going into the “doing” phase before I’d talk publicly about a thing. This is one reason why I haven’t been as vocal in recent years because I don’t want to ramble on about empty promises — I want to be delivering. That I was healing and living pretty independently of my former partner for the past four years is another reason why I didn’t talk up my interests and plans much — there just wasn’t any support for me at home.

I did have plans for this year, and here’s what they were, and now how they’re changing.

Volunteering

I wrote a little about transitioning my leadership of the Narberth Fireworks to the team, now spearheaded by Jenna Millman, who’s such a fun and amazing organizer. I feel really good about how and where I left things with the Fireworks crew. They are set up for solid successes to come.

I’m much more troubled by how I left the Philadelphia Robotics Coalition. I had *just* taken up chairmanship of their Board in late September. Then, I was asked to join the board in August and the focus on extending STEM opportunities for K-12 students of Philadelphia School District through FIRST Robotics was new, challenging and exciting for me to take on.

Making new connections, tapping into a new community and actively rolling up my sleeves for a cause that needs real people power as well as financial stewardship — I was excited to make a difference. However, my brief tenure was rocked with budget challenges and funding crises I had to help counsel, if not directly fund, to make it through some tough fiscal cliffs. Given the amount of change I’m managing and the need for really committed day-to-day leadership at a Board level, stepping away from that org was one of the toughest things I’ve had to do. That org was not better than I found it, as I left it.

It may not be my fault, but I can’t help but feel a bit like I failed the org taking on role obligations I couldn’t fulfill.

A Tale of Two Podcasts

When I started my new full-time gig, on my boss’s wishlist was an internal podcast for NARA employees that focuses on career success tactics and strategies for the workforce. That was planned and re-planned out a few times. Now, looking to start as an interview series that may then evolve into more of a skill content push. Organizing all that writing, recording and production led me to thinking about the last time I was podcasting regularly, Radio Gen1us from 2006-2009. I still very much want to include music in anything I do; the opportunities to do so for an internal podcast are gonna be limited and the approval process for content will also be constrained. To stay happy and engaged in the activity, I want to do a more public podcast that enables me to establish some core ideas and content that I can then adapt/filter for audience-fit within NARA.

I prepared to record for the end of January, but once I was asked for a divorce, life kinda took priority for the last eight weeks. I am only now just settled in and my equipment set-up again to pick this up where it left off. My hope is that by May I get an episode or two up, and by June/July have the cadence and the structure of a given episode fairly locked in to produce and build an audience for it.

A Book

I don’t have anyone beating down doors for me to write a book, but there’s at least one book in me and I reserved 2024 last year to knock it out. I’m a little behind on my writing but the fact that I’m blogging again is a good step in the right direction.

I have a few half-baked ideas for books. One has a built-in audience, but it’s probably pretty small because, let’s face it, almost no one has the resources to do stuff, analytically, with xAPI. But maybe if I write a book on how *I* design and manage production of learning things to be analytics-forward — maybe that is something people would be interested in? If I could template some projects I’ve done, maybe that helps people scope and budget to do that kind of work? If I do this, I’ll likely look to a publisher like ATD to help build the audience and workshops to reinforce what I’d want to share that was proven to be effective from my experiences. Anyway, this is one book idea.

It seems like there are lots and lots of books coming out about the neurodivergent experience and I certainly have stories to tell that way. I just don’t know that I’m the right person to write on this topic. Others like Judy Katz are doing so much better and more seriously focused work on the topic and they’d be much more compelling writers to provide practical and actionable guidance on working with or living with people on the spectrum. My take would likely be more personal and focus on strategies for working through big changes and transitions in life and career. If there’s one thing I know I’m practiced at, it’s doing big restarts in both my life and my career.

Hard Restarts?

If I were to write about my healing journey, atop it being very personal and inter-disciplined, I’d likely try to address things that have helped me throughout the decades quickly rebuild a sustainable, upgradeable status quo for myself. I’ve only done it like 17 different times in my life (on the average of every three years in a 51 year life). I’d touch on job transitions, career transitions, and life transitions replete with lessons learned, cautionary tales and some role models I looked to as a blueprint of what to do (and especially what NOT to do).

Separating/moving didn’t put a huge dent in these plans, but it did delay my blogging and writing a few months while I worked out getting myself stabilized enough to do this kind of deeper-thinking work.

An album

I had pretty major plans this year for recording music and all of these plans have had to change because of the need to move to Chicago.

By September of last year, I wrote 12 songs with lyrics and was confident enough in the material that I made plans with studio spaces and several musicians in the Philly area to record an EP this year that I was set to produce myself.

In Philadelphia, one can rent studio space by the hour, along with a recording engineer’s time. I was going to plan 6-8 Saturdays in studios around Philadelphia, each one to work on recording one of my songs and then whatever else we as a collective wanted to record. I was willing to pay for all of it — I budgeted for it. At 51, as a lifelong musician, I want to have done something with my music and have an outlet to play with a regular set of musicians and get better at it. I had several musicians lined up for these jam sessions I was planning. It was gonna be tight. The first session was going to be in March.

Now, everything’s pushed back a year, at least. Renting studio space in Chicago is a monthly venture, not an ad-hoc hourly/daily venture. To commit to a studio space, I need collaborators who are equally committed to not waste the time, space and money. Studio space is a lot more expensive in Chicago.

Rebuilding my music community

I also don’t know any musicians in Chicago yet, really, so this year has become another pre-production year of networking, fact-finding, and project-planning to put out an album. The value proposition must change. To make it worth doing, I need to make sure the band that’s assembled is sustainable and commercially viable. I’m willing to put in the work, but it’s a lot more work than I was planning to do, and it’s at least another year before I can actually get into a studio and record.

Atop having to leave the kids and the pets behind, having to change these long-set plans has been a sore spot for me. None of the work I’ve done to plan this is entirely in vain, but I had a whole plan for producing music this year. I was putting out music ideas daily for a while on SoundCloud. Now I’m trying to get back to that groove again. It’s frustrating, but I’m working through it.

I have quotes on studio spaces in Chicago and *just* started meeting other musicians. It’s gonna be a process.

Your Turn

What plans have you had to stop and restart for this year? What book do you need that I could maybe write? Please share your feedback in the comments!