Thursday, December 31, 2020

Summing Up "The Ludicrous Year" that was 2020

 I had a feeling that my run of the joke that was the lyrics of  "Once In A Lifetime" might come to an end in 2020 after ten years but frankly, nothing in those lines can be used that can sum up this year that absolutely redefined reality for so many. The only line that matches would be a repeat anyway... "well, how did I get here?"

It started out with my looking forward to a lot of new opportunities. My band, Ensign Red, had just recruited a new guitar player to replace our longtime outgoing guitarist. We were looking forward to a year of a new infusion of ideas, of songs, of shows, and other avenues to perform. I was just coming off of a string of dates with the Sea Dogs/Paddy West School of Seamanship during the Dickens Faire and I was looking forward to a year of performances where I'd be able to show versatility and get to perform in more places. 

Then "The Ludicrous Year" took over.

For four whole months, we didn't do anything together as we were under "shelter in place" rules and we did our best to follow them. we invested in Zoom setups. We invested in a shared file store to trade song ideas. We invested in new interface technology to capture what we wanted to record and make it as close to seamless as we could so everyone could work on ideas. We put together a short series of interviews with the band members and we would put some rehearsal footage together to leak out to people to hear what we were doing. I'd Zoom with the members of the Sea Dogs and Paddy West to stay in the loop and hope there might be some performances of some kind (spoiler, nope, there weren't). Still, I feel like I got the chance to get to know the other performers in a way I might not have otherwise and I had the chance to get a better feel for where I might be able to make contributions in some way in the future, whenever that future will be and what it will be.

I started out with a team that I had worked with for seven years, a product I knew well, and a pretty clear path as to what I had to do to keep it going as we expected. 

Then "The Ludicrous Year" took over.

With the need to reposition and reapportion who was working on what, including the tough decision to let go of most contractors,  I was asked if I'd be willing to join a group that needed a tester and hadn't had one before, to go into an avenue of our company that was utterly foreign to everything I had been working on up to that time. There were no familiar faces, no familiar rituals, no familiar workflows to fall back on. I said yes and thus started my learning about a whole new way of looking at testing and also looking at data. I took on an automation project unlike any I had previously worked on. Far less UI focus, much more API manipulation. Less browser interaction, more flat file manipulation. Less "does this look right?" and more "is the data accurate?" challenging, but interesting. I had to say "goodbye" in a way to a long time family but I got to meet a whole new team. The challenge was of course that I struggled to keep up with the people who were my long-time team as we were now focused on different things and my old comfort zone had disappeared.

I had looked at the opportunities for conferences that I was going to take part in for 2020. 

Then "The Ludicrous Year" took over.

I had to adjust to doing conference talks on Zoom. I had to manage rooms of people I couldn't see, record conference talks to a camera with no one watching or listening, and then interact with people via chat to be able to see how well I did or if I did well at all. Frankly, this was challenging as I tend to work off of a room of people and their reactions to see what is needed and adjust my message, even if I have practiced it numerous times. I also got to work with video tools and presentation tools in a way that I hadn't done so before, so there was a lot of learning and new approaches I could look to.

My family reality had looked like it would be productive and fun. Two of my daughters were working at San Francisco International Airport, with carriers working out of countries they were looking forward to visiting and perhaps even working in for a bit. My son was working on setting up a studio with some other friends and investors in Los Angeles. Christina had several opportunities with the law office she works with and on the whole, 2020 looked like it might be an adventurous year.

Then "The Ludicrous Year" took over.

Both of my daughters were furloughed from the airport (makes sense when nobody is flying or flying in such a limited capacity, especially with International carriers). My elder daughter decided to take the opportunity to pursue a cosmetology school program. We set up the upstairs living room area to be her online classroom and her own salon area for learning and practice. My younger daughter found work at a couple of places outside of the airport and has a small recurring role in the airport concierge service that she can do a few hours each week but it's definitely not the career she had been working towards. My son had to hunker down and get creative for ways to work in an industry where performances and recordings and touring were the main bread and butter of the industry. He's said it's been a challenge, added to the fact that he was the one out of all of us thus far to actually contract COVID-19. One of his housemates brought it home to all of them and thankfully his case was mild, though he said he wouldn't want to see anyone go through the six weeks or so that he did dealing with it.

For me as a whole, this year felt like treading water. Much of what I enjoyed doing had to be bottled up and thus I tended to likewise treat myself that way. Still, I could say that there were several neat developments:

- The Testing show returned to twice a month publication, so I was able to keep busy with that.

- I had some opportunities towards the end of the year to write for some publications I hadn't worked with before.

- The fact that I wasn't performing or traveling to festivals meant that the money I would have spent over the course of the year didn't get spent and that allowed me to revamp my studio/rehearsal space and buy new equipment for a guitar rig that I had dreamed of owning for years, and the oddness of "The Ludicrous Year" made that both more possible and actually more affordable, since used gear shops were filling up dramatically this year.

- One interesting development, and for those curious, is that I joined TikTok and started making content about "Heavy Metal Vocal Technique", among other things. That has also caused me to revamp my home studio space (about thirty times) so as to make it more interesting for filming and presentation purposes. If you'd like to see me doing my thing there, it's @mkltesthead :).

Needless to say, this was not the year I had hoped for and I do not want to make light of the fact that people lost loved ones this year or literally died this year. I have seen both the best and worst of human behavior. I have celebrated highs and dealt with crashing lows. Still, I am here, all of my family is still with me, I'm gainfully employed while many others aren't, and I can look forward to 2021 that I am again hoping will prove better than this year now closing down. 

Be excellent to each other :)!!!


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