I’m not normally a year-in-review kind of gal (mostly in that I’m not an update-the-blog-regularly kind of gal), but everyone’s been so awfully reflective this week that it’s put me in a mood.
Since I moved back to DC a little over 13 months ago, the entirety of 2013 was basically a year of firsts: new-this, new-that, lots of starting over. It was far from perfect. Starting over is, well, complicated, and I don’t hide my stress easily. But I do want to note a few tremendous (for me!) professional successes that came out of all that stress:
- I began my job at GW as an information architect, which quickly turned into information-architect-slash-content-strategist, because I simply couldn’t do one job without the other. I jumpstarted the inclusion of standard content practices into our team’s process to help clients (university organizations and offices) think through their web content prior to structural and functional efforts. After almost a year, I’m pleased to be seeing clearer websites, better UX, and stronger governance practices (though there’s still a lot of work to do!).
- I joined up with the Content Strategy: DC Meetup group, and helped them host Sara Wachter-Boettcher, Karen McGrane, and Ahava Leibtag — and met a bevy of smart and talented local content folks in the process. I also attended UX Book Club DC, also full of cool kids, and read some cool books that way, but, alas, my schedule didn’t allow me to keep up with them.
- I had two articles published: A Higher Ed Content Strategist Survival Guide on Meet Content, and Kill It With Fire! What To Do With Those Dreaded FAQs on 24 Ways. Supremely grateful to both of these publications for including me! Getting published is pretty up there on my list of favorite things. (There was also an anonymous publication via Blog Secret Santa!)
- I attended my first industry conference, IA Summit in Baltimore, followed closely by my second and my third: Confabs in Minneapolis and Atlanta. The conference scene has been exciting, enlightening, and addicting, mostly due to the amazing people I’ve met. Looking forward to more events like these, reconnecting with now-old friends and, of course, making new ones.
- I was granted the remarkable opportunity to speak at Confab Higher Ed, discussing one of my more challenging, and rewarding, projects at GW. I am so deeply grateful to have had this chance, so humbled to have been included in such a talented and respected group of people, so floored by the support I was shown by friends and colleagues throughout the process of preparing (and freaking out) and actually speaking. I cannot thank the Confab team enough for putting on such an amazing event, nor the friends who rehearsed with me and clapped and cheered, nor those who couldn’t be there and sent words of wisdom and encouragement anyway. It meant so damn much to me. Thank you.
One thing that was delightfully new this year was that I read like a fiend. My daily commute — about an hour on Metro — provided ample time for Kindle reading. I got to devour books at a rate I haven’t seen since I was 11, and I’m so so happy about that. Here’s what I read professionally — all well-written and useful resources that I will return to, I’m sure, again and again:
- Content Strategy for Mobile by Karen McGrane
- Content Everywhere by Sara Wachter-Boettcher
- Undercover User Experience Design by Cennydd Bowles and James Box
- Interviewing Users by Steve Portigal
- The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick (Not technically an industry book, but it’s been incredibly valuable in understanding how we think about and treat information in our culture — I constantly reference it, and strongly recommend it to anyone who works on the web.)
Here’s what I read for funsies (because it’s my blog and I can write about not-content strategy stuff if I want to):
- Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson (Motivated by her publishing a sort-of sequel this year, which I bought but have yet to read. This book was incredible.)
- Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (I had been dragging out the Hunger Games series. Finally finished it up, reluctantly. Definitely didn’t want it to end.)
- Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (Lovely collection of short stories.)
- Data: A Love Story by Amy Webb (Silly but fun — a look at online dating through the eyes of an information geek. Perfect fare if you’re single and obsessed with spreadsheets. Cough.)
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl (Thoughts on purpose and existence from a Holocaust survivor. Not light reading.)
- Wool (Silo Saga) by Hugh Howey (Dystopian lit — my go-to genre.)
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (I cannot recommend this book highly enough to enough people. I don’t care how much hype it gets. It’s worth every bit. One of my favorite books of all time.)
- Sabriel by Garth Nix (Nice, but very light — uncomplicated YA fantasy.)
- Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks (The only book on this list I WON’T recommend. Nothing was at stake in the plot, and it suffered from a certain misogyny. I’ve heard other Culture books are better, but it will be a while before I try again.)
- Bossypants by Tina Fey (Because I hadn’t read it yet, obvs. It was hilarious.)
- Zealot: The Life & Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan (Loved this. Great perspective on history, and very accessible.)
- The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Also one of my favorite books of all time. Science-y dystopia set in Thailand. If you’ve read Oryx & Crake, this comes out like a darker, edgier version of that same world. Gorgeous writing, too.)
- A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin (Couldn’t believe I hadn’t read anything by her yet. Had to fix it. This was lovely. Her command of voice is masterful.)
- The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde by Neil McKenna (If you want to know the names and detailed predilections of every man who might have ever slept with Oscar Wilde, this is the book for you.)
- Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi (Fucked-up narrative that I can’t even try to explain. I hated it at first, but at some point switched over to loving it. Twisted but compelling.)
- Dawn (The Xenogenesis Trilogy) by Octavia E. Butler (Aliens!)
- The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett (Because I hadn’t read a single Discworld book. Fixed!)
- The City & The City by China Mieville (Breathtakingly good. Surreal noir, but nothing like you expect. So very worth reading.)
On a personal level, the year was full of family, as I expected when I moved back — that was the point, no?
- I got to watch my niece through her first year on this planet (my role is to give her books, and toys that she can use to hit her father with, because I am a big sister first and an aunt second).
- My younger sister decided to move back as well this fall, so now our immediate family is all in the local area for the first time since 1999. (And she needs a job, if anyone reading this has a lead on an entry-level position in a government, non-profit, or arts organization!)
- My dog had a tough time making the adjustment to DC, struggling with sudden and severe separation anxiety. It was touch and go for a bit there, but a rigorous program of walking, Prozac, and patience seems to have set us on a better path. Nature white noise (rainstorms!) and opening the windows (really) have been surprisingly helpful. I’m optimistic that 2014 will see a happier doge (and owner).
Ultimately, the most important moments this year were the ones spent with other people: celebrating friends’ successes, supporting family in trying moments, meeting new friends who almost immediately felt like long-cherished ones. So, while I have a number of professional goals for 2014 (speak at local events, write more regularly, get involved in more organizations), my biggest hope is that I connect with people. I want to meet interesting people, I want to talk and befriend and hug, I want to stay in better touch, I want to make sure my loved ones know that they’re loved.
So here’s to 2014. To friends. To family. To our sometimes-stumbles and tiny victories and sharing it all with each other.