goals

Goodbye 2019. Welcome 2020.

So. I’ve never actually written a year-in-review type post before. At least, not that I can find. The closest I can come is this post from the beginning of 2018. It’s not a year-in-review so much as a forward-looking post at 2018 in front of me. As that post says, I’m not much for New Years’ Resolutions. Though I am all about reflection, so this revelation is actually a bit surprising to me.

Or, maybe because I’m so contemplative on a regular basis it’s never really seemed worth the effort to write an end-of-year summary. That streak ends today, as I look back on 2019 (and a bit at 2018). There’s no doubt the last year or two have been some of the most interesting and challenging of my life.

2018: A Quick Look

The year started off normal enough; school, work, politics. I had no idea what was in front of me.

Taking a night dive into uncharted waters, in March of that year, I left my job in the Governor’s Office to take a position as the Campaign Manager for Kim Coco Iwamoto in her bid to be Hawaii’s next Lieutenant Governor. I left the stability and safety of a dead-end job for an exciting new one which I didn’t know where it would lead. Or what would come next.

Finishing a disappointing fourth place, it was nonetheless a tremendous experience I’m glad I had. Not understanding how hard things would get financially, I took the remainder of the year to try to stand up my own consulting business and finish my Master’s Degree at GW.

2019 Began with Hope and Energy

2019 saw me graduate from George Washington University, my first official consulting client, and travel for work.

By the time January came around, my bank account had dwindled to pennies and my credit card debt had exploded. But I was hopeful because I also was making better-than-decent money consulting.

I was doing the work I loved on causes I genuinely cared about. Things were great. My business was taking off and I thought I was on my way.

But then the dumpster fired of a legislative session came to an end. And so did my contracts. At the time, in early June, I was still somewhat hopeful that it would only be a matter of time before the next gig came around.

Then, Reality Kicked Me in the Head

Again my bank balances dwindled, credit balances continued to rise and I didn’t actually find any other work until the end of October.

Being self-employed can be great. Freeing. Fulfilling. For me, there’s not much better than sitting down at my desk with freshly made coffee still in sleep attire. No shoes or pants required.

It can also be incredibly difficult and lonely. I went from working in an office full of other people to spending more than a few days working from home. It’s not an exaggeration that I am not social. Even in the office, I’d rarely talk story with my co-workers. Except when I did.

Having the choice was something I didn’t think I’d miss. But now I can easily spend a few days not leaving home except to venture out for meals or smokes. Being alone with my thoughts can take a depressing turn at any moment. Staying focused can be challenging.

I started to think maybe I had made a terrible mistake risking stability and comfort to venture out on my own. I applied and interviewed for a few full-time jobs back with the State, though none went anywhere. Had it not been for the love and support of my parents, it’s likely I would have been forced to pack up and move back as a failure to my high school bedroom to start anew.

I’m an Odd Mix of Hope and Brutal Reality

My life in Hawaii hasn’t been without challenges. From long bouts of unemployment to a chronic illness diagnosis and major surgery, my 17-plus years in the special place has molded who I am as an adult. Despite these challenges, I’ve always managed to land on my feet. Sooner or later.

So, while I continued to struggle toward the end of 2019 I started to think, again, about packing it in. Then, I received a call for a job that sent me to Mississippi for two weeks of work. It couldn’t have come at a better time. It was a great experience I’d happily take up again. And it kept me solvent for another month or two.

Strangely, when it comes to my personal life, I have long since given up on the possibility of “meeting someone”. Instead, I’ve chosen to focus on other parts of my life. Professionally though, I’ve always managed to stay mostly positive. Despite struggles and financial ruin (at least twice now), I continue to hold out hope that it’ll work out in the end and that I’ll be successful. Eventually.

Looking Toward a New Start in 2020

While I contemplate how best to deal with the crippling debt I’ve acquired over the last few years, new professional opportunities present themselves.

The 2020 Legislative Session begins in just a few weeks. And it won’t be long before the election season kicks into high gear. It will no doubt be a busy, stressful, and challenging year. As I sit here with my morning coffee on January 2nd, I am hopeful. Hopeful that income will begin pouring in. Hopeful that at least some of the projects on which I’m working will be successful. Hopeful that 2020 will see my business grow.

Here’s hoping. And here’s hoping 2020 will be a positive year for all of you.

Time to get to it.

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Hope In Career

Those who know me would likely not describe me as overtly optimistic. In fact, I think many think of me as cranky, curmudgeonly, and pessimistic. And honestly, I probably wouldn’t contradict them. I’m definitely not one overflowing with positivity.

I have a friend who is one of the most positive people I know. I don’t see her much anymore, but I’m often reminded of her and was again just yesterday.

Spirituality and Divining What You Want From Life

This friend of mine is… spiritual. She talks to her dead mother and the spirits of her ancestors. Not believing in any of that mumbo-jumbo myself, I always thought it strange. But acknowledging the beliefs of others without judging is something I really strive for, so I never really gave her a hard time about it.

But here’s the thing; it worked for her. I don’t mean she was content and it made her feel at ease. I mean she’d ask for things and they’d come true.

There was a time when I would spend Christmas with her, her family and some friends at a beach house in Mokuleia. One of my favorite places in the whole world, I never missed an opportunity to spend time there. I recall one year the forecasts predicted rain storms the whole week and we talked about not going. My friend made a “request” of her family ancestors, her mother, for a “puka in the sky” and told me the beach house was a go.

It may seem like a silly story and I was certainly skeptical at the time, but it turned out we had great weather the whole week. Do I believe her “request” is the reason? I’m not sure.

And way back when I was still trying to find my own way, a path and career I was passionate about, she used to tell me to just picture it in my head. Ask for it. Believe it and it’ll happen.

My Own Experience with “Luck”

After that, I began to think about it and reflect on my own life. And you know what? There may be something to her approach.

Despite more than my fair share of adversity, I’ve been incredibly lucky. Most recently, I gave up a secure and easy job with the Governor to take on the new challenge of managing a statewide political campaign. I knew the odds were slim we’d actually win, but I believed in the candidate and was ready to move my career in a new direction.

After we lost, I spent the next several months unemployed while I finished my Master’s Degree. As money grew tight, I thought maybe I’d been rash in leaving the Governor’s Office, but I eventually found some work and continued to do work I so enjoy.

Then the legislative session ended and I was, once again, unemployed. While I worked to brand my consulting business and search for clients cash again began to dwindle and credit card debt skyrocket. The months passed and I resisted the idea of finding “another job” or (ack) drive for Lyft or Uber.

I kept telling myself something would come along. As it always has. I’ve always managed to somehow land on my feet.

Stick to Your Guns in Life

A few days ago desperation grew as I started to wonder how I would pay next month’s rent, I reached out to an old friend for a loan. Sick to do it, I told him anything would help, but that I couldn’t promise when I’d be able to pay him back.

While he talked to his wife and I waited to hear from him, I got a call. A firm I’ve done some work for previously called me, out of the blue (kind of) and asked if I wanted to do some campaign work on the mainland.

Whew! Just hours later my friend regretted to tell me he couldn’t help at this particular moment.

Though desperation was taking hold, I stuck to my guns knowing (hoping) something would come through before I was forced to do something that would move me in the wrong direction. And just like nearly every time before, luck kept me on the path I wanted.

In 48-hours I fly to Mississippi and Louisiana to help coordinate field operations in the last stretch before this year’s elections. I’ll get to do what I so enjoy doing and I’ll be getting paid pretty well to do it.

My money problems will continue as I work to dig out from under a mountain of credit card debt, but I’ll be level for a while. And I expect more work upon my return as the next legislative session approaches.

A Pessimistic Optimist

I’ve never been one for faith (spiritual or godly). Given all the terrible shit in the world, it’s hard for me to believe in any kind of God. Nonetheless, I didn’t know when or how, but I was never really worried something wouldn’t come along. Sure, I wish something would have come along much, much sooner. But I didn’t give up the fight for exactly the kind of work I want to do.

So here I am, scrambling to be read to step on a plane for new places, new experiences, and new people. I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity.

When I forget what can happen when you wait for what you really want, I’m reminded how life can somehow work out. It’s just not always how you want.

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My therapist maybe as much as anyone else in my life is responsible for the person I am now.

A couple of months ago I learned my therapist is retiring. Last week I had my last session with him. Off and on for more than a decade, he has helped keep me on an even keel. Not only during the turbulent times of my life but also when its waters were calm.

When I arrived in Hawaii I was recovering from a not-so-small breakdown; one reason I moved here was to get away from a significant source of stress and heartbreak. With no plan to make Hawaii home, I came here to “sort my shit out,” which included seeking out therapy (and medication if need be). While I had been in worse shape not that long before arriving here, I was still pretty screwed up at that point.

Dysthymia and Pills

So, before I had any job or health insurance, I saw a doctor at Leahi Hospital in Kaimuki. I only went the one time. After some testing and questioning, the doctor there was the one who diagnosed me with Dysthymia. I knew then I couldn’t be casual about finding a regular doctor, but a steady job and health insurance were both important prerequisites.

The idea of “shopping for a shrink,” as I called it, was not remotely appealing to me. So I count myself incredibly lucky that I was able to find this doctor from a referral rather than by trial and error.

In the beginning, I was singularly focused on trying to understand what the hell was wrong with me. At the time I believed that if I could understand the root causes of my mental dysfunction, I would be able to make corrections.

Eventually, my therapist convinced it that the causes mattered less than getting better. I recall I resisted a causeless approach, but I was determined to get better. So I acquiesced.

In addition to an insistence on finding root causes of my dysfunction, I was fundamentally opposed to accepting any kind of medication. At the time, though a part of me really understood what it meant to be depressed, I didn’t think I needed medication to get sorted. And again, he convinced me it was worth a try.

And so I did.

For better or worse, it quickly became apparent that medication wasn’t going to help with what was wrong with me. For that I needed good, ol’ fashioned talking it out.

Off and On Maintenance

That was more than ten years ago.

Eventually, I got to the point where I didn’t think therapy had anything to offer me. After years of frequent and regular sessions, it felt like I was graduating to a new life. Or, at least a new perspective.

I was happy consistently for the first time I could remember. Or at least what seemed like happiness; I was content. And so it was for years. Until the wheels came off my wagon again and I resumed appointments.

After some time, I returned to my own equilibrium, but continued what I now refer to as “maintenance therapy.” Some weeks are better than others, and the regular check-ins have done a good job keeping said equilibrium.

I’m in pretty good shape now, for the most part. I don’t claim to be “fixed.” After several small relapses and at least one big one, I’ve accepted completely both the good and bad in me. Maybe I’ll be even better in the future, but for now… I’m good.

Retirement and Thanks

I’ve had doctors retire and relocate on me in other areas of my life. Since being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, I’ve been passed along through four Gastroenterologists. While annoying, none of those changes necessitated a blog post.

My therapist, maybe as much as anyone else in my life is responsible for the person I am now. Maybe there will always be a part of me that is broken. But for the old me, for the former me that would have been enough to send me retreating to the dark corners of my brain. The now me both understands I might change and accepts if I don’t.

That may not sound like much of a revelation, but for me, it’s the difference between happiness/contentment and dysfunction.

So this retirement and changing of the doctoral guard is, for me, much more meaningful. Poignant. I am thankful for who I am now. I like me. And for being able to say that I have my therapist to thank. While an appointment to a new therapist is pending, it’s hard to imagine I will be as lucky to have another that I like and so appreciate.

Change, for me, is somewhat challenging and this change is no different. I write this to remind me of the good work I did with him. The work he did with me. And to say thanks.

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https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/resolution.png

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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