As a general rule, I reject the notion of new year resolutions. Sure, I get why people make them; the start of a new year seems like a natural occasion to make new changes in one’s life. But I’m not sure I have ever met anyone who has successfully kept true to their new year resolutions.

You know what they say; today is the first day of the rest of your life. It seems to me if you are really interested in making a change, why wait for a national holiday to do it? Despite my apathy for new year resolutions, I expect 2018 to be a pivotal year in my life. In lots of different ways and for lots of different reasons.

40 in 2018

Though I haven’t thought much about it (partly because I don’t want to), 2018 will mark my 40th birthday. In recent years, my birthdays have generally come and gone with little fanfare and I don’t know that I expect much different next year.

But for me, passing 40 years of age is a milestone I am not looking forward to. In my mind, I should be much further along in my life. And though I’ve made trade-offs over the last 15 years, because I love this place I live, I feel fairly unaccomplished.

I own no property. No savings and minimal retirement investments. I remain single and haven’t been in a committed relationship since moving to Hawaii; I have no family of my own. And perhaps most frustrating is the feeling I am still struggling to make a career in my chosen profession.

I imagine most people when they reach 40, feel like “an adult”. I often don’t as I feel like I’m still trying to find my place, my purpose.

A Catalyst for Professional Changes

Despite the looming milestone (and potential mid-life crisis), 2018 could prove to be the most pivotal year of my life after 2002, when I moved to Hawaii.

One way or another, I suspect I will see my current employment come to an end.

Governor David Ige, for whom I work, is facing a tough reelection this year. And while I believe he can stave off his primary election challenger, there is certainly no guarantee. As an appointee, I work at the pleasure of the Governor and would have to be rehired by his successor in the event of his loss.

I’ve been in this situation before; four years ago when Ige beat the sitting Governor, Neil Abercrombie, in the Democratic Primary. I was incredibly fortunate to be kept on for the current administration. I seriously doubt I will have that kind of luck twice.

While this situation creates a level of uncertainty in my job, I don’t completely mind it. Without significant changes to my role and responsibilities in the office, I am not inclined to stay to the end of a second term. I’ve gotten about all I can out of my current position and am ready to move on.

This was the case two years ago, which is why I decided to go back to school.

In July, I will complete my Masters in Political Management from George Washington University. I started the program with the goal of learning some new skills, as well as validating with an advanced degree the skills I’ve cultivated as a volunteer activist over the last decade.

Once I decided to do it, I never looked back. Despite knowing the financial expense and that I’d likely be paying for it for the rest of my life. I wanted to move up and out of my current position and the degree was the best way I saw to do it.

And though I am struggling to figure out what comes next professionally, I’m excited (and worried) about what opportunities may present themselves with this specialized degree under my belt.

A Year for Real Change

When I think about what this year has to offer, I am most excited about the progressive political activism that has been building since Bernie Sanders announced his bid for the Presidency. In the more then ten years I’ve been involved in Hawaii politics, I’ve never seen anything like it.

Progressive-minded people are running professional campaigns for elective office across the state in greater numbers than I can recall seeing before. We are organizing, collaborating, breaking down silos across issues. Progressives are coming together for a common purpose and a common agenda: make Hawaii a better place for everyone.

HAPA’s Kuleana Academy has churned out dozens of individuals ready to be solid candidates and activists that can serve as real and useful support to those candidates. I am a graduate of their second cohort.

And the organization I co-founded in early 2017, Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI), is poised to make a marked impact on the 2018 legislative session, as well as the 2018 elections. For the first time, maybe ever, I really feel like I personally will be able to make real tangible change.

A Life in Balance – Personal Goals

Maybe for my whole life, I’ve struggled for balance and for mental and physical wellness. 2018 won’t be any different.

It seems I always have a list of things I want to accomplish, skills I want to improve. I’ve never been great at self-motivation, though there are obviously exceptions.

My parents often point out that I should spend more time focusing on my hobbies, more time relaxing, and more time enjoying the special things Hawaii has to offer. They’re right. Between my day job and the work I am passionate about, there seems little time to take a break for other interests. In what time I do have, I struggle to find the energy to do anything other than being at home on my couch.

Maybe most importantly, I need to be more healthy. Though I continue to struggle with some level of depression, it’s in check. I’ve learned over many years how to cope with its ebbs and flows. But I also need to address my slowly rising weight and general lethargy. There’s no doubt I’d feel better over-all if my physical health were better, but I nonetheless battle to find the motivation.

Aside from politics, I enjoy writing, photography, and music. I will try to continue to develop my skills as a photographer. I will take more time to explore new music to appreciate the artists and albums I already love. At the top of this list: continue to write regularly on this blog about the things in my life.


I’m excited and nervous for what 2018 has in store. Here’s hoping it’s mostly great stuff.

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So, I think everyone knows I’m currently a graduate student, online, at George Washington University. It’s been a great experience so far, with only occasional stress.

Well, yesterday I indicated which elective courses I will be taking for the remainder of the program. And I’m pretty excited about it, so I thought I’d share.

State & Local Campaigns – Application of campaign strategy and management principles to electoral races at the state and local levels. Staffing, budgeting, and strategic challenges for what are typically lower-visibility contests that involve state and local candidates. Coordinated campaigns and the impact of the national party’s reputation on these down-ballot races.

Fundraising & Budgeting – Raising and spending money in political campaigns, referenda contests, issue advocacy, and lobbying efforts. Budgeting process, standard controls to check expenditures, accounting procedures, and general strategies for use in effective fundraising.

Digital Strategy – Development of an integrated digital strategy for use in advocacy and electoral campaigns. Introduction to the theoretical concepts, distinctive technologies, applied skills, and managerial challenges associated with digital campaigning. Search engine optimization, GPS, online payment systems, customizing back- and front-end systems to meet strategic goals and budget parameters, working with IT vendors and distance volunteers, legal and cultural considerations in the US and other regimes, site rollout and scaling, security and privacy.

Issues Management – Track, influence, and alter politically significant issue-related discourses and policy developments. Legislative, executive, and judicial venues and processes for policymaking; state referendum, initiative, and recall ballot opportunities; organizational structures, including digital procedures, for issue management.

Campaign Strategy – Orientation to the basic systems and technologies that must be created and managed to produce electoral victory. The campaign plan and campaign budget as the foundation for management of campaigns. Focus on development of a campaign plan.

Grassroots Engagement – Strategies and techniques to build advocacy support among and across general civic populations. Identification of potential supporters through database targeting and individual outreach. Motivation and training of interested supporters for grassroots action in campaigns, at public forums, and before decision-makers. Coalition and protest options; analytics of ongoing efforts.

Cool, right?

These are all the courses I’ll be taking, more or less in order between now and when I graduate sometime early to mid-summer.

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There’s a part of me that doesn’t like being busy. When I am, like over the last several weeks, it disrupts an otherwise stable routine. I’m also far more likely to use any downtime to do… well, nothing. So exercise doesn’t really happen and I’m less likely to put effort into eating well.

On the other hand, when I do have downtime I get twitchy. My thoughts become more detached and I have a more difficult time getting and staying motivated. My brain struggles to focus. For me, boredom leads to an increased likelihood that I’ll spend money on (arguably unnecessary) gadgets. Boredom leads to laziness (which also makes exercising a challenge), and depression.

At least partially, my dysthymia has always been tied to my level of productivity; I always feel better when I’m productive. Though I’ve been really busy, a bit stressed, and very tired since I started school, I’ve also felt positive, upbeat.

As you may have noticed, I haven’t posted here anything regularly since starting school in mid-January. But my first class is nearly at an end and I’m finding I have a bit less strain on my time. And though part of me is pleased to have a bit more time to breathe, I’m now struggling a bit to find tasks to keep me focused.

Earlier today, when I thought it a good idea to sit and write something, my mind was blank. There was no topic that sprang to mind which spurred me to write. Forcing myself to do the work of a post, this is the topic I settled on.

Ultimately, I’m a strong proponent of having some down time at least once a week. The ongoing problem for me is finding a balance. I don’t mind too much being really busy. If I could better manage my time, though, I’d be able to be more consistently productive.

It’s all a work in progress, but as part of my efforts to find balance, I’ve prerecorded two “Music Monday” videos. Hopefully, I will at least be able to post those once a week going forward.

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I’m I start graduate school classes on Monday.

The 2017 legislative session begins on Wednesday.

Kuleana Academy begins the following weekend.

I’m also trying to take a leading role in organizing efforts in support of a $15 minimum wage.

I’m excited about all these things for different reasons and in different ways. But the combination stands to make my life busy… and challenging for the next several months. I’m looking forward to all of it. Though graduate school has commanded much of my attention in the last few weeks and months.

Since receiving my acceptance letter from the GW School of Political Management in November, I’ve spent a fair amount of time weighing the pros and cons of starting the program this month or deferring to the summer.

Ultimately, for a number of reasons, I decided to start in January.

I’ve already received my first invoice from the university. I knew when I applied, when I received the admission letter, and when I accepted, that the costs would be considerable. And while I believe the value of the education (and degree) will ultimately far outweigh the initial costs, the financial reality nonetheless weighs heavy on me.

The next six months are likely to be some of the busiest and most challenging that I’ve faced in a long time. I always work hard on everything I do, but school will absolutely be my priority.

In a lot of ways, I had a great experience in college. But my last year at Miami was, I think, the most challenging of my life. Saying I had “relationship troubles” is overstating somewhat, but I’m not sure how else to briefly characterize the situation I faced. Couple that with deep depression and that tough end to my college career casts a dark shadow over the rest of it.

I wasn’t the most committed college student to begin with, but after nearly flunking out in my last year, my final GPA is embarrassing.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve looked for ways to redeem myself. Prove to myself that I can be academically successful. Now I have a chance to do that, in a field that I’m passionate about. But while I’m confident I can do well, there is always that little voice in my head that is fearful about failing.

Self-doubt is something I’ve long struggled with. But I don’t really doubt my intelligence, or my ability to perform well. I am (obviously) much older now, more mature. I’m also more confident and comfortable with myself than I was in college. Ultimately, I want to meet this challenge and prove to myself that I can do well in school. Prove that I can do well with all of it.

I’ll spend what is likely to be my last weekend of total freedom for a while relaxing and making whatever last-minute preparations are needed before class actually start…. And session…. And Kuleana Academy….

Oy. Here we go.

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holy shit!

i have a vague recollection of how it felt when i received acceptance letters from the handful of colleges to which i applied. this is more exciting. for years now, i’ve wanted to go back to school. i’ve wanted to advance my career in politics. just as importantly, i’ve wanted to prove to myself that i could do well in college studies (i didn’t fully apply myself in undergrad).

the final product of my application i thought was ok, but i wasn’t completely satisfied. reluctant to say much, i really wasn’t confident that i’d get accepted. after two failed attempts for a couple of different graduate programs at the university of hawaii and pretty embarrassing college transcripts, part of me was sure this attempt was another wishful effort.

in the end, the many hours spent on the various application parts, not to mention the three individuals who supplied my letters of recommendation, paid off. and i’m thrilled. i can attend a top “politics” school in washington d.c. and never have to leave hawaii!

but as the saying goes, “be careful what you wish for,” because now i have to decide if it’s worth the heavy financial debt load i would have to take on in order to pay for it. unlike undergraduate loans, i cannot defer any loans for this program. no, i wouldn’t have to make payments until six months after i graduate, but the “juice” will be running from the first day.

if i could be assured a high five-figure salary as soon as i graduated, there would be no question about what to do. but i’ve been in serious, stifling debt before. i remember that feeling of being trapped and it took me years to get out from under it. the program is exactly what i’ve been looking for, but can i honestly say it’s worth the financial burden i’d be taking on? i’m just not sure.

a quick and dirty calculation suggests i could be saddled with a more than $600 per month bill that i’d be paying for the next decade…. admittedly, i’m fishing a bit for words of encouragement. but i’m also looking for honest, sober advice.

i also want to offer my thanks to the three people who helped me get to this decision by writing recommendations that i have no doubt tilted the scales in my favor.

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