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2018

I usually do a year-end post. That’s not happening in 2017. This year took so much from me, and from people I care about, that I refuse to write about it. But I’d like to write about 2018. Not “resolutions” so much as “plans and goals”—and maybe not even those things, so much as “shouting hopefully into the future for a better year, for all of us.”

Starting with the easy, straightforward, and soon: 2018 will be the year when I finally get to learn American Sign Language—or at least try to learn it. I haven’t attempted to learn a new language since college, and ASL is a very different kind of language than any I have experience with. I’m a little worried that I’ll find it too much of a challenge to ever get fluent, but that’s no reason not to try; worst case, I know I’ll at least learn some basic phrases and get faster at finger-spelling. Even if I’m hopeless with the language, the classes I’m taking also cover deaf culture, which will be valuable for me to understand better, both as a librarian and as a trying-to-be-decent person. My class starts the second week of January, and I’m really excited!

Although I’m not sure I’ve talked about it on this blog, I make chainmail (“chainmaille,” if you prefer) jewelry. I also took an 8-month (one full weekend per month) course on herbalism, and I started making (well-researched) herbal salves, not only for myself, but to sell to people who need them. Getting all of that online so that people can buy them is a high priority for 2018. Some sub-goals, to make that happen:

  1. Research the terms of Etsy and SquareSpace online sales, to see which is preferable. (My initial sense is that SquareSpace is the better deal, financially, but the serendipity aspect of Etsy means I probably need to participate there, as well.)
  2. Get myself a nice photography setup. As you can see from my business’s Instagram, I don’t take especially professional-looking photos, right now. That’s been a real hurdle.
  3. Probably take a small business class. Right now, I’m not even making enough to pay myself back for materials. This may never be more than a hobby that (almost) pays for itself. But in case it suddenly takes off, I want to be prepared.

Here’s some waffling about the future; tldr: career stuff

Something I’ve struggled with for some time—and expect to continue struggling with in 2018—is where I want my career to go. We’re 100% for sure (inasmuch as anything is ever 100% sure) staying in Pittsburgh for at least three more years, because staying at his job for at least five years is important to Dale. Now that I type that out, I realize: I could get a PhD—or get to ABD status, anyway—in that time.* But before having that thought I was going to say that I can 1) keep working part-time and trying to find full-time library employment (a non-trivial thing to aspire to, in Pittsburgh, especially when I really want something tech-heavy and refdesk-light); 2) stop job hunting and use my non-work days to build up enough of a portfolio to get a data science/programming job (pros: intellectually stimulating work that I’d enjoy, better pay; cons: the tech field is generally exhaustingly toxic, and there are definitely red flags in the data science community in Pittsburgh); or 3) stop job hunting and really push forward on the herbalism stuff. Not just making and selling salves—though, yes, that, too—but learning enough to really help people who don’t have insurance or access to other forms of medical care. Eventually, I’d also want to help run an herb school that is truly accessible—because, right now, none are, with the possible exception of an online-only school: they all include day-long walks in the woods and/or hours of gardening at ground level, which not all of us can do. (My herb school made accommodations for me, when I needed them, and I am grateful! But it’s not the same as being designed from the ground up for accessibility. … Honestly, I’d rather help redesign the school I went to than run a competing school, but I’m still too early in the learning journey to be more than a teaching assistant, now. It’s hard to convey to someone outside of herbalism how much I know, but also how little, comparatively.)

Someone I respect and admire said I should go with herbalism, because my skills outside the field would be valued, there, where they would not in tech or data science (or, and this is my addition, libraries), and that has stuck with me. That’s a hard path, for a lot of reasons, but it’s one I could see myself taking. Especially if insurance laws change and I can’t afford medicines for my arthritis; herbalism may be my only recourse for my own health, before too long, anyway.

But I’m not decided. I’m open to advice. Because I might be flirting with art and herbalism as a career path, but I’m still the person who left wireless engineering for information science because the latter had more interesting problems left to solve. (If data science had been A Thing™ when I made that decision, I’d have gone that way.)

I do need to pick a path, though. This thing where I stay undecided and don’t commit means that I’m not doing any of these things — job seeking, herbalism, or data science skill-building — particularly well.

</career waffling>

You’ll note that none of those paths involve stopping the part-time job, unless something full-time (or something with tuition covered and a stipend) comes along. Even if I can get into the Data Incubator‘s online cohort (which I think I probably could, yes), it’s not on my 2018 todo list, because Dale’s and my other goal for 2018 is to finally pay off the debt that we incurred in our move from Alaska and its accompanying period of unemployment. That’s a really aggressive goal, but we have a plan to pinch pennies and make it work. (And as soon as we’re within sight of that goal, I’m free to apply for the upcoming Data Incubator cohort or a spot in a PhD program, if that’s the right place for my career to go. This is, honestly, yet more motivation to get the debt paid off in 2018: that freedom.)

So, those are the big ones:

  1. Learn ASL
  2. Get my shop online
  3. Come up with a career plan
  4. Pay off debts

Some smaller-scale goals:

  1. Make a tendon and ligament salve – My muscle and joint salve only helps with part of my arthritis-related symptoms. It needs a companion salve.
  2. Learn Tarot – Yeah, this is significantly less important than learning ASL, and it’s probably a much smaller project, too. But it’s something I’ve wanted to learn for years. 2018 is the year!
  3. Get to the gym more regularly – This is just going to be a constant goal, every year, until I make daily gym trips part of my schedule, you know? Constant improvement, or whatever.
  4. Journal or meditate most days – Not every day. My Friday mornings are obscenely early, so I’m off the hook on Thursday nights, for instance. But I’d like to make a more regular practice of reflection, especially with all of the things I’m trying to learn this year. 😁
  5. Send more letters. I owe letters to several friends. And I want to send a lot of “I didn’t block you; I deleted Facebook, under duress” emails to people, too.
  6. Spend more time with my birds.
  7. Come up with a good way to teach chainmail. There are some decent online tutorials and books, which is how I learned, but some people want to take a class. I’d like to figure out how to teach that class. Mostly, I need to find/make/have made large enough rings to use as a demonstration tool.

If you’ve got advice or commentary, feel free to leave me a comment here, or to email me. My email address is my first name at this domain.

* Not really, not with the recently-passed tax bill. As much as I want a PhD, I am probably not willing—nor, currently, able—to pay taxes on the tuition covered by my fellowship/teaching/whatever. (Yeah, I’m assuming my tuition would be covered, because I’m not willing to pay for another advanced degree. If I can’t get my tuition covered, the field in question probably doesn’t need another researcher that badly.)

Published inbirdscraftsdisabilityhiring and employmenton a personal note

2 Comments

  1. Marc G.

    I don’t know how much it matters, but the provision about taxing tuition assistance was removed from the bill before it was passed.

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