becoming more visual

I’ve kept journals ๐Ÿ““ since I was in high school, mainly for note taking ๐Ÿ“ and the ocassional emotional processing.

๐Ÿค”๐Ÿ–Š ๐Ÿ˜ขโœ’๏ธ ๐Ÿ˜ก๐Ÿ– ๐Ÿ˜† ๐Ÿ“ ย ๐Ÿ“š ๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š ย ๐Ÿ”

Words have always been my medium of choice when expressing myself on paper, and it’s felt increasingly limited the past few years. ๐Ÿšง

So last year I set a goal for myself: become a more visual person. I started with a simple first step. Bring more symbolic thinking into my writing through the use of emoji! ๐Ÿ•บ

I realized it was working when I started incorporating emoji into project documentation. (Which, btw, I highly recommend! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ)

So I moved onto incorporating gifs!

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it’s pronounced yif

I’m finding that gifs can add a dimension of physicality and empathy to online communications. They offer a much wider palette for conveying complex emotions. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how to bring my own cultural literacies (stories, fandoms, etc) into how I search for gifs, but so far so good.

(As a side note, how on earth do people cultivate and manage gif libraries? What’s the work flow? Is it even worth it?)

More recently, I noticed that I sometimes doodle on the blank 3×5 notecards I carry around. And sometimes the doodles look really cool. It occurred to me that I could start doodling in my notebooks. So I decided to do just that at the beginning of this year!

I’m only a few weeks in, and I can already see that I’m changing as a person. At first it was something I had to remember and force myself to do. That lasted maybe three days.

I started doodling during meetings, and found that being in that zone changes the way I listen.

You know that addictive behavior where you keep checking your phone for notifications and somehow keepย opening facebook and twitter up in the middle of doing something else? I decided that whenever I’m in productivity mode ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿปโ€๐Ÿ’ป, I’d stop what I’m doing and start doodling every single time I have the urge to open up social media without any kind of intention other than to cope with or avoid anxiety.

This is a new experiment. I’ll let you know how it goes, but so far it’s helped me short circuit the urge a few times and regain a sense of self control. ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ

So what have I been drawing? Mainly vines.

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Lotsย of vines.

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They’re even starting to take over my room.

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Yes, that is a Terminator 2 reference.

Also, hexagons and bees.

I like hexagons. I don’t know what bees look like.

I don’t know where all this is going, but I can see a style is starting to develop. I’m finding out what I like and don’t like visually. I’m seeing opportunities to sketch out new ideas, and the instant gratification from this goes a much much longer way thanย other forms of addictive behavior.

Most notably, I feel a sense of possibility and growth I haven’t felt since I was a teenager.

What happens when I’ve filled notebooks full of sketches? Walls? What happens when I start to take my designs digital and back? What will this practice yield, and in what ways will it manifest in other parts of my life?

Surprisingly I’ve never had this feeling, this particular experience of personal possibility while playing music ๐ŸŽป. It’s new and unexplored territory!

2015 so far and looking ahead

2015 hasn’t exactly gone according to plan.

Snowpocalypse

I began the year with a strong plan in place for personal development and skills building. That plan was derailed when the New England snowpocalypse happened. I became homebound for nearly two months, and depression set in. (It’s amazing how losing access to infrastructure impacts mental health. There’s something to be said for the interrelated nature of personal metabolism and community metabolism.)

Once the snow finally began to melt, I reemerged with a serious case of general anxiety the likes of which I haven’t experienced in years. I suffered from anxiety most of my life up until 2010 when I found help and subsequently beat it. This Winter brought it back, and combined with my executive dysfunction issues from my 2002 head injury, there was no way I was in any condition to find a productive groove nor work towards goals with any consistency. So my number one priority became to seek help!

Medical Agency

Since I moved to Boston, I hadn’t actually taken the time to establish relationships with new doctors, so I’ve spent the past few months doing just that. The act of engaging the healthcare system with all its quirks has been its own brand of therapy. So far I’ve seen a dentist (and it didn’t work out, so I’m looking for another), found a PCP I like as well as an ENT specialist, and finally found a psychologist I can work with! Hooray! Progress!

I’ll probably be writing more about my health in future posts. There’s a project brewing here that combines my personal health with my professional/activist interests around personal data ownership infrastructure, and I can’t wait to start sharing!

Focusing on my health hasn’t been the only thing I’ve been working on however.

Code for Boston

At the beginning of the year, I had a chat with Harlan Weber to say that I’d be stepping back a bit from my responsibilities as Community Lead to focus on my personal goals. At that point I was feeling a bit burnt out. At the end of April, we had a day long core team retreat to figure out the future of our brigade, streamline our collaborative processes, etc. By the conclusion of the retreat, I felt re-energized and ready to take on new responsabilites that we’d defined that weekend. In addition to many of the same community management activities I’d been doing, I also took on the role of ‘Scribe’, responsible for core team documentation. I immediately took over our collaborative Trello boards and have since discovered I have a knack for project management.

I’m really excited about what the rest of the year holds. After putting on two big events, and losing two of our core team members to life happening, we’ve decided we need to focus the rest of this year on the long-term sustainability of Code for Boston. We’re engaged in conversation with Code for America around the idea of ‘Institutionalization’ which is all about taking our brigade to the next level by figuring out how we can offload many of our logistical activities to paid staff. We’re not sure if this means we’re turning Code for Boston into its own non-profit, finding local partners, or starting a new organization that supports Code for Boston, but we’re heavily leaning towards the latter and looking to existing models in other cities for inspiration. In the mean time, we’re also going to begin working on leadership succession planning, diversity and inclusion efforts, and streamlining our documentation+processes so our members are better supported.

More on all this in future posts.

Mozilla

After six months off, I’ve become active again at Mozilla! I’d been hanging back since December to see how things would progress, and this thread started by Emma Irwin on the Participation Team’s collaborative process finally motivated me to dive back in. Since then, I’ve started working with Jonathan Wilde on a project called Gossamer, and next week I’m going to be in Mexico to work with the Mozilla Wiki Team at Wikimania.

Because many of my contributions to Mozilla have been invisible in the past (and because I have a terrible memory for most of it), I’ve started a blog specifically to track my daily/weekly activity. If you’d like to keep track of what I’m up to at Mozilla, check out http://mozillatracks.captaincalliope.net/

Working Open

One of the through-lines this year with all of the above has been documentation. I’ve spent a lot of time keeping and maintaining health records, making sure collaborative documentation is accurate and up to date, and documenting my own activities. While I haven’t been doing this all out in the open yet, I’ve been developing good record keeping habits, learning what works and what doesn’t in terms of practices and tooling, and as a side effect leveling up in my ability to work with others.

I haven’t yet revisited/renegotiated the goals I set at the beginning of the year, but I am working towards being more open in my goal setting processes. For the past two years I’ve run my life off of a private Trello board that I’ve recently refactored into a public one: https://trello.com/b/GrOdToFy/captaincalliope-overview

This is a big step for one of my major goals for the year: putting together a support network of peers and mentors. I consult this Trello board frequently as part of my overall GTD process. By making it open, I invite others to join me in my personal and professional development at a deep level with clarity around how it might intersect with theirs.

Expect to see me publishing more frequently in all areas of my work!

personal development in 2015

2010 was something of a digital and spiritual reboot of my life. I created a new online/public identity and along with it made a commitment to personal growth made possible the the realization that doing things for myself first wasn’t counter to making the world a better place. As 2015 approached, I began to sense that it would be a similar year of renewal for me. Not one in which I throw everything out again to start from scratch but a time to grow on top of the experiences and relationships I’ve cultivated in the past five years.

Last year I realized that I’ve plateau’d in how far my current abilities will take me. I lack skills I need to accomplish the big picture goals I’ve set for myself. It’s time to level up.

My priority in 2015 will be on the personal development necessary to set the stage for the next 5-15 years of my life. Professionally, I’m aiming for a product management trajectory. Practically, this means cultivating greater facilitative and technical capabilities.

I want to become a better facilitator. I’ve spent much of the past decade being a community organizer and in that time I’ve come to realize that going from being a community to an intentional community of practice that other communities can rely upon is hard! I want to be more effective at helping the people around me work together toward common goals. So far, I’ve gotten by learning through trial and error but it’s time for me to find guidance in this area.

It’s also time for me to finally gain some web design+development skills. I’m not interested in becoming a full-blown application developer, but I do want to know enough Javascript andย  HTML5 to create rapid prototypes that use real data. I need these skills in order to move conversations forward and be more persuasive when arguing for any particular path forward.

The overall learning path for me this year may go something like this: web design -> UX design -> API design -> service design. I’m not seeing these as sequential, but as technical and interpersonal skill layers that build on top each other. My big goal for 2015 is to become more impactful by deepening my technical autonomy while broadening my collaborative capacities.

Although personal development is my priority this year, this doesn’t mean I’m stepping away from my work at Code for Boston, Mozilla, or in advising creatives and young organizations around Boston. My activities within these communities have put me in the perfect position to learn and practice these new skills I seek to cultivate. My roles within these organizations and across my networks will be evolving this year and I’m really looking forward to see what that looks like!

I plan to document my activities more consistently (for once in my life) this year. As much as possible, I’d like to follow a connected, project based learning approach to everything I accomplish. I want to share everything I’m learning, and invite others to join me as peers and mentors. Stay tuned for more!