Making your Mess your Message :: A Year of Reflection, Working on Myself and Moving Forward

I’ll be honest, for most of the last year I’ve been completely avoiding my blog. With the exception of a few posts here or there, it’s been a ghost town over here and it’s not exactly for the lack of post inspiration either. I’ve started writing and quickly abandoned more than a dozen posts and various versions of each. It hasn’t just been my blog either. There have been months I’ve hardly posted on social media, which I get sounds kind of dramatic, but for someone who works in social media that is just notttt my norm! I've told myself it was for a number of reasons.. from being so busy actually living my life to being in the middle of rebranding and repositioning my content.. and while I'll admit those are semi-legit reasons, it's been more than that. The truth is blogging just hasn't felt good to me for a bit and I just needed some time to myself.

I’ll be frank. This last year has been really tough for me emotionally and I think for once I really just needed some time to process things and start a new chapter on my own, without the world watching. As a whole, my life really took a 180 when I moved back to Washington. With a few exceptions, my life today is hardly recognizable from this time last year and while there have certainly been good and bad things about that, it’s been a lot to processss. All you can really do is put one foot in front of the other though and now that a full year has passed, I’ve decided it’s finalllyyy time to really move forward in all parts of my life – including my blog.

So it's time to come out of the shadows, make my mess my message and continue to move forward. Because while it’s definitely been a tough year in a lot of ways, it hasn’t been all gloom and doom over here. There have been SO many really awesome things that have come out of moving back west and I want to be able to share all of that with you guys again. I don't believe in giving up on things you love and while I definitely needed the break, it's time to get back to chasing my goals. Before I get back to my {new} mostly happy regular programming though, I want to take a post to run through some of the big lessons I've learned during this time. Maybe it will help someone else who's going through some big changes -- maybe not -- but before I think I'll be reallyyyy be ready to move forward on my blog I just need to get some of this off my chest.

It's okay if leaving is harder than you thought it'd be

Healing from a long-term breakup has been hard enough, but leaving NYC ended up being a hell of a lot harder than I thought it would be. Not just because it's a pretty cool city either, but because everything about it reminded me of some kind of memory. I may not be a mush when it comes to relationships but holy crap am I even more sentimental than I thought I was. Granted, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve gone through a change this BIG but this one hit me hard.

It seemed impossible (and still does in many ways) to escape NYC. Between my blog being a full archive of my adventures in the city… to the email invites for events… heck I can’t even turn on the TV or watch a movie without being slapped in the face with a glaring reminder of what I left behind. Which is slightly ironic because I spent years complaining about the weather and various other things while I actually lived there, and truly didn't think I'd miss it as much as I have. I used to joke to my friends that the whole world does not revolve around NYC, but after leaving it has sureeee felt that way. In many ways, it has felt inescapable and that’s been tough for so many reasons.

I may have always daydreamed about moving back to Washington, but the truth is I never really thought it would happen. First I stayed for my career and the opportunities the city presented… then I added in some really awesome friends that made it hard to even consider leaving… and then it was my relationship that really sealed the deal for me. And even though I often had a love/hate relationship with the city, I truly didn’t see myself leaving. I had built a life there and the only future I envisioned was one with me there. So when that all came crashing down pretty much out of the blue, it left me feeling pretty lost in a lot of ways.

In reality, it probably wouldn't have mattered where I was living either... moving on is usually tough wherever you are because the memories you have can become trigger points to making you upset. When your trigger becomes NYC though... Dang has it been a doozy. It's easy to daydream about what life could be like if you make a change but often that daydream is just that.. daydream. Sometimes the reality is a lot tougher than you imagined it would be, and there's nothing wrong with that... but a lot of people stay in situations because they're afraid of that transition and becoming uncomfortable and I don't think you should do that. By coming to terms with the fact that things are going to be tough for a bit, you can really own the situation which can help you a lot along your journey.

You can kick breakup rules to the curb

Moving on is a process and sorting out transitions is hard. I feel like these days, people just delete photos on their social media platforms and pretend like their pasts didn’t happen. Don’t get me wrong, I get why people do it, but I didn’t want to do that. I had a really great relationship and chapter of my life and deleting some photos online wasn’t going to lessen the pain of that ending. Granted, I can’t say I would feel the same way if our relationship had ended poorly, but it didn’t and when we said we wanted to stay in touch, we meant it. I’m not saying it’s been easy... but at the same time knowing we broke up because we both needed something else allowed us a little more closure in the relationship, which has been a painful blessing in keeping things cordial. 

I've always marched to the beat of my own drum, but my advice is to do what feels right. It's not always the easiest and not everyone is going to get it, but at the end of the day it's your life. I always say, it's only weird if you make it weird. And {unpopular} opinion here, but I think it's fine to stay in touch with exes even when you move onto new relationships. You're not together for a reason (sometimes several) so that never really bothered me much. Maybe you won't be bffs but if you guys want to casually text here or there, stay in touch with your families or stay Facebook friends... why not? When you're in a long-term relationship so many parts of your lives become intertwined and personally I think as long as you both have mutual understandings for what is okay then I don't think it's a big deal. Like I said, it isn't for everyone but personally, I think breakup rules are silly. #IDoWhatIWant

Which on the note of this subject, can I please give a shout-out to all of my friends who have survived getting divorced or are co-parenting..? Because let's be real.. breaking up with a dog was terrible for me, so I give madddd props to all of you who somehow do your best to find terms that work. 

You can be excited about your next chapter and still be sad about the ending of your last

When you close one chapter, it can be so easy to dwell and go over the “what ifs” and the “did I make the right decision?” Like I said, moving on is a process and it’s an up and downhill battle. Some days will be better than others and that’s okay. One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that it's ok to be excited about your new chapter while still being sad about the ending of your last. A lot of people may disagree with that but hear me out.

We love to throw around the phrase, “time cures all wounds” and while it definitely helps, there are some things that are probably going to always hurt when you look back on them – and that’s alright. I think moving on is more about accepting things and making a conscious effort to move forward more than anything. You can read a million different articles on how long experts say it takes to get over things and move on, but personally, I think it’s crap. Everyone is different, but in my experience, I’ve never just woken up one day and been like, ah ha, I’m finally over it and ready for something new. Instead, I think moving on it more about making a choice to open yourself up to what life can offer instead of staying closed off. Do I recommend giving yourself some time to sort through things? Of course, but life doesn't always happen on your timeline so I think it's important to know you can move on while you're going throughhhh it. 

It’s been a year and I stillll have days I’m sad about things, but I also have so many new things to be excited about in my new chapter. I'm living in a new city... I'm going on new adventures... and I'm dating someone new... my business is crushing it... it's a lot of NEW and things that I am genuinely excited about. It may sound like a contradiction but having this realization has really helped me move forward. I think the key is to make sure you’re still moving forward and not just reliving your past during these moments. That’s where people get stuck. And to do that you need to keep showing up in your life and being honest with yourself. Will you need your alone time? Ab-so-freaking- lutely but you cannot put your life on hold just because you might not think you're ready. Accept invites, try new things, and give 100% of what you have each day. Some days your 100% may only be 40% but you have to keep putting one foot in front of another. Because when you do so, amazing things will happen. Little by little you’ll start to feel like yourself again and you’ll actually start to get excited about this new chapter and the possibilities you have.

Stay true to yourself, because you can’t please everyone

Another important lesson I've learned is to stay true to yourself. Truthfully one of the big reasons I decided to put my blog on hold is because I just couldn't find the right words to say for myself or others. Most of my other life transitions have been independent decisions I've made, but I took this one extra hard because I felt like I had failed others and that killeddd me inside. It turns out on top of being really sentimental, I'm also overly sensitive to other people's feelings and I just really didn't want to hurt anyone during this time. Because even though emotionally this transition has been tough, I also have a lot of really great things going for me and I've felt a lot of guilt around some of that happiness. Deep down I know that I shouldn't, but it's been an ongoing inner battle and hence why you haven't seen much of me over here.

On one side, I've felt like if I shared too much of the good on here I'd hurt those left behind and paint this picture that moving on has been so easy for me (not true), but then if I talked about too much of the struggles I've gone through I'd hurt those in my life currently. Social media and blogs are such a highlight reel of life and I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but it also just complicates things in situations like this. Talk about a tug-of-war of emotions! I knew I just couldn't win either way, so I just avoided it all together and tried to just focus on my own healing in the meantime.

What I learned was that you're never going to please everyone. Either you're trying too hard... or moving on too quickly... or too emotional... or not moving on at fast enough. No matter what you do, it's going to be interpreted different ways. I feel like I've been under a microscope and what I've realized is that as long as my intent is good, then I'm on the right path. Plus, deep down I realized that those who know me, know I would never do or post anything trying to hurt someone's feelings and that I'm just trying to continue living my life. It's been a year-long realization but a necessary one at that.

Self-care is a necessity not an option

Bouncing back can be tough.. I am totally guilty of throwing myself into a ton of different things to just keep my mind off things –- especially when I moved back. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I think staying busy was something that kept me sane in that initial time period. That being said though, make sure you also give yourself time to clear your head and recharge. Trying to put the pieces back together can be exhausting and if you run yourself down then you're going to have other issues. So be sure to take time for yourself.

I'm not talking about taking bubble baths and face masks either... I mean unless that's your thing. The term self-care has been glamorized as of recent and I think it's important to remember the true meaning. To me, self-care piggybacks off of self-development and is about being able to just be unapologetic about your thoughts -- to work things out in your mind with no distractions. It's about having those realizations so that you can actually do the self-development work. That probably means a little something different to everyone too but it's all about re-centering yourself.

For me, hiking has been my biggest outlet. I've talked about it before, but there's something therapeutic about busting my butt to make it to the top of a mountain and it's been where I've done some of my clearest thinking. Another is writing, aka hiii you're in the middle of one of my self-care activities right now. Verbally, I don't always know what to say but there's something about writing out my thoughts that has always been freeing. Even if it's only for me to read. Find what works for you and make time for it because it will be essential to your healing process.

Self-development is HARD work

Looking inside at the things you like and don’t like about yourself is tough, but for me to truly move forward I really had to take a hard look at what happened, where I was wrong, what I could learn and what I needed in the future. This one is hard because you can easily find yourself going down the road of, “ I should have done this…” or “what if I had just said that” and that won't help you move forward.

It's about stepping outside of the situation and looking at things objectively without the emotions. Emotions are so messyyyy and sometimes you can't totally see the whole picture until you're looking at it in your rearview mirror. Hindsight is 20/20 right?! It's hard but I've tried to dwell less and focus more on the things that I can change about myself, and boy is it tough work. I cannot stress the importance of doing the work though because the only way to move forward is to learn from those mistakes. By no means am I perfect, but I'm a work in progress and I'm happy with the advancements I've made.

I've learned a lot in the last year and one thing stands out. Life is messy. Moving on with a new chapter is messy. All of the emotions involved with moving on with that new chapter is SUPER messy. It's all just a freaking big ol' mess sometimes! But I want to be the one to tell you that starting over can be hard, overwhelming, and downright sad sometimes but that you WILL make it to the other side. And that the feelings you are feeling are valid, no matter what they are or how long it has been. That you don't need to feel guilty about where you are in your journey. Because spoiler alert, the people who really matter will be understanding of the situation you're going through and only want the best for you -- no matter what that is. 

More than anything, I want to take this experience and come out on the other end better because of it. Not only for myself but also for other people who are smack dab in the middle of a similar situation and could benefit from talking about it. Because let's be real, noooo one wants to talk about this kind of stuff. Hiiii I've written at least 6 drafts of this post because this stuff is TOUGH for me to write and talk about it, but I needed to, and by doing so I hope it can inspire others to face this stuff heads on themselves. It won't be easy, but as long as you're learning along the way and moving forward you will get through it.

One year down and a lot of work to continue on. It's time to move forward.

Bridging the Gap Between People and Machines
Anna Osgoodby Life + Design :: Bridging the Gap Between People and Machines

Who wants to be able to perform tasks at their job faster and more efficiently? I’m going to go on a limb and say most people. After all, for those of us working freelance or on a project basis, more time often means more availabilities to take on new projects. So what is the magic formula to making this a reality? AI! If you caught my last two blog posts, Making Every Place the Work Place and What Do Smarter Teams Look Like, you already got a glimpse at some of the ways technology is advancing the way we work. Today, I’m going to expand upon those ideas and talk about how we will bridge the gap between people and machines as we continue to integrate AI into our lives.

Building Complimentary Relationships between AI and Humans

As mentioned in my previous post, the idea that AI will replace humans makes for catchy headlines, but the truth is, we’re not going anywhere. Instead, we will use technology to develop AI that can focus on specialized tasks to streamline our processes and allow us more time for our expertise. Sandy Pentland, Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, MIT Media Lab explains the process well in an interview with Jim Guszcza, Chief Data Scientist, Deloitte Consulting, “The human does the strategy, the machine does the tactics, and when you put them together you get a world-beater.”

Humans are really great at reading people and understanding social context, something that machines are not as great at. While machines can keep track of data, analyze information and process research much faster than humans. As a team, humans can program AI to do specific tasks and we are able to piggyback off of the strengths and weaknesses of each – an ideal partnership. The concept may seem new since these partnerships are with machines, but the idea isn’t new. In fact, it’s what we already do when working in teams. For example, my business partner and I work great together for the very reason that we are able to identify our strengths and divide tasks accordingly. This allows us to get more done in a shorter amount of time than if we were both focused on one task together. In the future, we will not only be able to do this with our human counterparts but we will also be able to add AI into the mix to further increase productivity. Doing so will not only expedite many of our processes, but it will allow us to focus more on our human strengths of interpersonal connections while machines can focus on other aspects.

Teams Making Better Decisions

Something that will be very beneficial to my work as a designer is the ability to use AI to assist teams with making better decisions. As humans, something we all possess is a lot of opinions! Which is great, it’s what makes our personalities unique and gives us different perspectives. What isn’t great about that is often when you’re working on project with a team, there are a variety of different opinions on how things should be done and it’s not always easy to find a clear compromise. Insert AI. By integrating AI into collaborative software, teams will be able to brainstorm all of their ideas, input the data and then allow AI to take an analytical approach to help find an ideal solution.

This integration can also help with equalizing the playfield for team members who are collaborating. While working in a team atmosphere is a great system for brainstorming and developing new ideas and innovations, there are some common struggles many face as well. Often there is an inequality of value in ideas due to the internal hierarchy of positions in organizations. It is common for management figures to have more say in the end result of decisions and by integrating AI in the decision process, it may help give more attention to ideas from other members of the team.

As a designer, the integration of AI in collaborative projects could be a game changer for the work I do. As I mentioned, as humans we have a lot of opinions and this carries over to the client feedback part of my process. Often when I’m working on projects I’m juggling the opinions of many team members and trying to find a solution that will not only keep my clients happy but also accomplish the end goal they are looking for. With AI, my clients will be able to brainstorm their opinions and compile a summary of their ideas and how they’d like to move forward. Not only will this improve productivity of client relations but it will also be able to streamline and speed up the process of my work. 

The way I see it, remote work will only benefit from embracing technology and the use of AI. Not only will it free up availability from time-consuming tasks, but it will also help us make better decisions when it comes to the end goal and bottom line. Smarter and more effective teams, more collaborative teams and better decisions? I’m not sure there is a downside.

**This post is brought to you by Cisco and IDG. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Cisco.

AI and the Future of Collaboration
Bold & Pop : AI and the Future of Collaboration

As the trend of working remotely evolves, so too will the technology we use. The truth is, the way we’re working today is very different from five years ago and with that, adaptive technology is being created to fill our needs. So what does that mean in a collaborative team setting?

Smarter Tools that Work Together

In my post “What Do Smarter Teams Look Like?” I touched on the fact that as we move forward, our tech will continue to get smarter. Today I’m going to take that one step further. While having technology that is intuitive and takes over mundane tasks like setting up conference calls is nice, it’s even better when that technology integrates automatically across several tools we use.

What do I mean by that? Well, technology has advanced and made it much easier to collaborate regardless of our location or even device, but sometimes that doesn’t correlate between programs. Collaborative technology is great, only it’s not so great when every client you work with uses something different. As we move into the future, our collaborative programs will need to work on integrating new features internally or improving API functionality so that they can interact seamlessly with third-party programs.

This will benefit remote working in many ways. Just as Google and Microsoft began integrating chat and file-sharing applications into their programs in the early 2000s, collaborative software will continue to expand its offerings and capabilities. No longer will you need to toggle between different programs for signing agreements, invoicing, submitting project feedback, setting up conference calls, and scheduling. Instead, our tools will evolve and be focused more on compatibility and working together.

In an opinion piece for, “The growing impact of artificial intelligence on workplace collaboration” Dave Smith observes, “The emerging focus on AI is really about making decision support systems more efficient across a multitude of applications, processes and business domains. I believe AI will bring intelligent collaboration capabilities to the emerging Conversational Workspace platforms.” The technology that will stand the test of time will be able to streamline workflows and find solutions for our needs.

Another benefit of adapting AI and other technology advances is localizing business data. In an age of systems being hacked and private data being exposed, this will allow businesses to keep better track of their information.

Making Remote Work Friendlier

As I touched on in my earlier post, AI enables teams to cut back on mundane tasks such as testing technology or setting up conference calls. Another element of this is having technology perform actions automatically based on strategies developed by humans. So you could have AI tackle some of the following tasks:

  • Transcribe conference calls and send recap emails to participants
  • Listen in for meeting details and create reminders to do specific tasks
  • Suggest relevant documents to share with team members
  • Add deadlines to your calendar or project management tools
  • Book co-working spaces or provide suggestions for in-person meetings

These are just a few examples of how AI can intuitively help with our processes. Although that’s great for freeing up some of our time, AI will also provide some much-needed support to those working independently. While there are many benefits to working remotely, it can be a transition for those who are used to working in an office setting. Integrating AI provides support for day-to-day tasks that can help make the experience a little friendlier.

Having an AI Assistant in Your Back Pocket

Beyond eliminating mundane tasks, AI has the opportunity to dramatically improve our workflow with specialized AI assistants. As a designer, I use the Adobe Suite for my graphic design work and Squarespace for all of my website design projects. In my line of work one part of my job is listening to the type of design my client is looking for and the other is figuring out how to actually make that a reality.

While I have quite a bit of experience in both fields, there are many times that I have to research techniques or instructions on how to accomplish said goals. By having AI technology specific to each of these programs, it would be able to provide intuitive suggestions or shortcuts based on my activity to help me achieve the effect I’m looking for. This would allow me to focus more time on bringing my clients’ visions to life and less time reading through research or watching tutorials. Something that would benefit all parties involved.

In closing: Technology and AI have the power to revolutionize how we work remotely, but it is up to us to identify our needs for the technology. When we take full advantage of it, AI will enable us to build stronger partnerships, maximize remote working opportunities, and perform our tasks in a super human way that wasn’t possible previously.

**This post is brought to you by Cisco and IDG. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Cisco.