I got a job.
I won some awards.
I scratched some speaking engagements off of the professional bucket list.
Then I deliberately took a step back from “public life.” No speaking engagements, no blog posts, no nothing. Partly because I wanted to settle into my new job and see what the vibe was like there (although I’m sure SOMEONE had to have googled me and seen what an asshole I am before hiring me). Partly because I felt like I was running out of fresh things to say and I was tired of hearing my own voice.
Then Election 2016 happened and everything was awful.
Then my mom got sick and things were worse.
Then my mom died and things got so bad that mere words can’t convey the exact feeling. So bad that as a result current events almost seem tolerable. Well, that’s a bad word choice because I can’t – and shouldn’t – actually tolerate what’s going on in the world. It’s just that once the worst possible thing that can happen happens, everything else bad in life pales in comparison.
Both of my parents lost a sibling to a car crash and when she told me that she was sick, Mom reflected that she was glad that it was an illness that was going to kill her and that we wouldn’t be subjected to the phone call in the middle of the night. Little did we know then the speed at which pancreatic cancer works. From her first “I don’t feel so well” doctor’s appointment to her death was only six weeks. It was, in effect, a slow motion car crash.
I can’t properly eulogize my mother here. Suffice it to say that for all of you that think I’m a pain in the ass, well…she was the O.G. She raised me to be outspoken, to value education (in all the forms it takes) and to spend my time serving humanity and God though my actions. I’m trying.
I grew up in – and my parents still live in – a small farming town in rural Southern Ohio. The week of my mother’s death and funeral are a bit of a blur, but one thing that stands out is the support that this community provided to my family. From deliveries of food (so much food!) to watching the cows to the line that snaked out the door of the funeral home of all the people that came out to pay their last respects to my mom…I felt the power of community and the safety net it provides.
I must admit, I’m feeling a bit adrift professionally. I like my job, but that sense of community that I felt at home that week seems to be missing from my professional life. I went to AALL last year and for the first time, I felt like an outsider. (A feeling amplified by the fact that I couldn’t land a job in a law library after my fellowship ended.) I never practiced law so Legal Tech never feels quite right. And I’m not enough of a coder to really fit in the Open Gov and Open Law worlds. Yeah, there’s a benefit to having someone like me float in between the groups and connect them, but I’m tired of feeling like I’m crashing parties.
There’s also the aforementioned feeling that I’ve said all there is to say. Not only that, but I’ve also lost the drive that I had early in my career to do ever more and more things and make my voice heard. I’ve sort of done everything that I ever wanted to do and at the end of the day it didn’t matter. And now I’m at a point where I really don’t care about my career. My main priority in life is getting my family through the aftermath of Mom’s death.
The crazy thing is that these areas – my areas of expertise – are all more important than ever. We are living in a age when facts and truth are under attack and we need institutions that it’s main purpose is to preserve and provide access to knowledge. As I wrote to my former colleagues at the library innovation lab soon after the election, “Something something libraries save the world something.” I’m still working out the details of that. And the Rule of Law is under siege and lawyers have become first responders to crises. Smart tech is going to be needed more than ever to make them more effective. And we live in a political age where secrecy and misdirection are becoming commonplace and more Open Gov sunshine is needed to help counteract that.
I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve actively avoided making decisions lately by saying “Mom would have wanted [x]…” but I think Mom would have wanted me to keep blogging. (As it turns out, she kept all of my blog posts printed out in a binder by her desk.) So I am going to attempt to write more here (as well as in the other publications to which I committed myself before everything fell apart.) Maybe by putting myself out here I’ll find more like minded individuals and we can start our own community. And I’ll hopefully find the professional spark of interest again.