2019: A Year in Review

Last year, I took a look back at some of the things that I accomplished throughout 2018. It was a simple writing, but something which really provided some fantastic perspective.

Oftentimes, it can be all too easy to lose track of the little victories which we accumulate in pursuit of our broader goals. But for me, acknowledging these smaller steps has led to an ever-growing appreciation for the bigger picture.

And so with that, here are a few of the highlights from my 2019 year.

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January & February

I kicked the year off by sharpening my meme-making skills. 😂

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As with the last couple years, January brought me what’s become an annual picture with my friend Arlan Hamilton — the work she’s doing with her team at Backstage Capital is something I love supporting here in Atlanta. Her talk this year was no less compelling.

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March

I was super excited to have my friend Emily Best here in Atlanta to discuss the work she’s doing at her company Seed&Spark, and the opportunities for the Atlanta film scene.

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“Three sibs” picture with our brother before he went abroad to Germany for six months!

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Two of my best friends in the world formally asked me to be their best man. I could not be more thrilled and am so excited to be there to support Luke and Danielle when they get married. It seems I’ll have to go rent a tux! 🤵

Best man pic

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I had an awesome time recording my first podcast as a guest on Tyler Wagner’s show, “The Business Blast Podcast”. We talked about music, startups & tech, my time as a music journalist, and how learning to build relationships has been key to all of it. 🎙️

👉 Listen to the episode here! 👈

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I did an interview with Omni Calculator for their #HuntedHunters series discussing music-tech, startups, and the importance of cultivating relationships.

👉 Read the full interview here! 👈

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Sometimes the most interesting opportunities come to you from the most serendipitous of sources. 🙃

April & May

I got retweeted by Dee Snider, the legendary lead singer of Twisted Sister! 😱

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And getting retweeted by Atlanta Magazine was kinda cool too.

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I was floored (and truly humbled!) to be name-dropped by Jessi Hempel during her interview with Recode. Formerly of BackChannel, Business Insider, Fortune, and Wired, and now the editor-at-large at LinkedIn, I’ve followed Jessi’s writing for a few years now, and it was some of the first material I gravitated towards upon my entrance into startups & tech. Sometimes in this business (as with everything in life, I suppose), you wonder if you’re making any sort of impact or impression. It’s moments like this that underscore the answer: yes. 😱

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Go out and bring the very best value you can to people; all the rest takes care of itself.

Here’s the full transcript of the interview and here’s the podcast itself. I highly suggest listening to the whole thing (I’d also recommend listening around minute 23:01 😉).

I didn’t make it to the #PitchAtlanta event at the Atlanta Tech Village, but I did make it to the afterparty where I was introduced to the incomparable David Lightburn.

Here’s a snap of the great panel I hope to hear live next year!

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The excitement continued as I became more politically active, meeting a number of rising stars. Some I took pictures with and some are people I’m quietly continuing to meet with. 🗳️

Get out there and get active!

Here I am with Georgia Senate candidate Jon Ossoff.

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And here I am with Gwinett County Board of Ed Representative Everton Blair, Jr.

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June & July

Went to a great 90s punk tribute show downtown with the bestie Abby (before her move to Ohio). This picture accurately captures our friendship. 🙌

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I could not have been prouder of my parents — their win at the 11th Circuit (in a gender discrimination case) was cited at this year’s NELA Conference in New Orleans. Huge deal with far-reaching results. ⚖️

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I met Kwam Amissah around the holiday time last year through Ruben Harris. It’s been awesome to see his growth in the tech world and exciting to hear about his current projects — here we are at Flatiron Atlanta!

(Picture taken by the incomparable Tammy Carson, whom I also met this year!) 📸

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I always love it when Career Karma CEO Ruben Harris is in town and I’m able to come out to support him. He’s doing awesome things in tech and I’m super humbled to count him as a friend & ally. 🚀

I’m also continuously thrilled by the serendipity of tech — it was at this event, heading out to support Ruben, that I had the immense pleasure of meeting Charles Pridgen, a huge asset to the Atlanta tech scene. 👍

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Then it was time for a break for a little while. Wheels up for a couple weeks in Europe traveling with my mom — one of my best friends in the world. ✈️

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And here’s the post-flight exhaustion in the Frankfurt airport.

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First stop (same day!) — historic Mainz, Germany. The medieval history nerd in me was all kinds of happy. 🇩🇪

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August 

Next day — first full day in Germany, we went to Heidelberg. 😎

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We took in some amazing Jewish history in Worms. Here’s Mom going into a synagogue that is hundreds of years old.

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Hopping over to France, we experienced Colmar, a town in Alsace known as “Little Venice.” 🇫🇷

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We saw the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg in France. The medieval history nerd in me continued to geek out. 🏰

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I saw a hedgehog at our Airbnb and my life was complete.

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We stopped in Basel, Switzerland to see the synagogue. It was closed, but the architecture is amazing. 🇨🇭

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Stopped by the Jewish Museum of Switzerland in Basel before leaving the city.

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Next day brought Lauterbrunnen — it’s cold in the Alps even in the summer.

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We climbed the Schilthorn (ok, it was a cable car, but it was still 9744 feet up!). 🚠

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Jungfrau is known as the “Top of Europe” (11,333 feet). It also means snow in the summertime. 🗻

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Driving back north to Germany, we decided on a couple side-stops…

Like Vaduz, Liechtenstein! I feel like Fulton County in Atlanta is bigger than this whole country. (But it’s an awesome country!). 🇱🇮

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And dinner in Bregenz, Austria. 🇦🇹

This is my Mom, the badass master scuba-diver, Columbia-trained attorney licensed in three states, mature as can be…

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I wasn’t leaving Germany this time without seeing Augsburg. The historian in me demanded it.

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We went to see the synagogue here. Truly one of the most gorgeous synagogue interiors I’ve ever seen. They didn’t allow pictures in the sanctuary, but I will be going back sometime in my life.

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Ulm, Germany was beautiful. We took time to see some of the most popular sights.

And some of the most nondescript — here is the Holocaust Memorial behind the newly rebuilt Ulm synagogue. ✡️

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Before we did dinner in the town, we had to climb the Rothenburg city walls. Here’s Mom trying to distract me from taking a good picture because she thinks she’s funny. 😂

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While Josh finished his final exams, we took in the beautiful town of Bamberg.

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And here’s the camera capturing my face just after she tells me a ridiculous joke. 🤦‍♂️

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Last day before our flight home with Josh in the morning. Some wine in Frankfurt to celebrate a wonderful trip.

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September

Back from Europe, a week of rest, and then I so enjoyed finally having the chance to meet the phenomenal Lolita Taub in person. Gorgeous view of Baltimore in the background!

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Then over to Washington, D.C. to visit Shaina for her birthday. She makes funny faces.

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She also made me a special keychain — “one tiny fuck” as she called it.

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We hit up the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. to take a peek at work from David Best (who’s most well-known for his ephemeral wooden Temples at Burning Man). 🔥

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And yes, we are very mature…

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I did an awesome interview with entrepreneur Rich Cardona which I’m excited to post in the new year! And had the immense pleasure of meeting Allen Gannett before heading back to Atlanta.

I published this piece on three things you should be doing on LinkedIn (or you’re missing out!).

And then dropped my second podcast recording as Mario Porecca’s guest on his fantastic show the “Ten Minute Mindset.” We talked about humor, humility, creating value, how to define a mission, and how to build relationships with people who might otherwise seem unreachable. 🎙️

👉 Listen to Part One of the episode here! 👈

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👉Listen to Part Two of the episode here! 👈

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Made it out to Atlanta Blockchain Week to hear about some of the great blockchain and crypto stuff happening in Atlanta tech. ⛓️

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I met Jon Ossoff again at his official Senate campaign kickoff event.

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And I met the legendary civil rights icon and hero Congressman John Lewis as well!

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October

You know it’s gonna be a good month when it starts with old college friends coming to visit — thanks Esther!

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October was an absolute marathon of Atlanta tech! I started the month off by landing access to the first-ever OTT Fest! The sheer number of talented film, tech, and media speakers over the multi-day event was incredible. 📽️

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I finally met OTT Fest founder (and newly-minted Thea CEO!) Kate Atwood in person.

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I won a Roku…from tweeting about the amazing panels… 😱🤣

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Over the same day during lunch, I raced up to Google Atlanta in Midtown and was able to see my friend Antoine Woods speak at their Founders RoadMap event.

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So I was able to add to my “Google guest” pass collection (I’ve now crossed off Atlanta, Seattle, and San Francisco ha).

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I was super excited to serendipitously hear Stefanie Jewett speak too, and finally meet her in person as well. 😃

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I was able to attend the TechStars Atlanta demo day and hear some awesome new companies pitch! 🚀

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I kept up the pace by heading out to Atlanta’s Startup Battlefield.

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I was excited to record my third podcast episode as a guest with Luke Williams on his show, the “Grab a Cloud” podcast. The episode drops early in 2020! 🎙️

And my fourth show as a guest, on Emily Velilla’s show, also releasing in the new year. 🎙️

Then I capped off October’s tech marathon by going down to my first Atlanta Startup Village event (thanks to Aly Merritt for the invite!).

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Actually that’s a lie; October’s tech marathon was really capped off with an awesome care-package from my friends over at Shrug Capital (thanks Nick and Niv!). 📦

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November

Could November begin any better than another amazing care-package from the incomparable Nikki DeMeré, who has become one of my closest friends and allies?

I don’t think so. 🤗

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I was super excited to represent my alma mater Brandeis University at the college fair this year. Once a Bradeisian, always a Brandeisian. 😎

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Back up to D.C. to spend Thanksgiving with Shaina. Can’t believe I’ve now known her for ten years. But she works for a tour company and told me some of the cool things about D.C. as we walked around. 🇺🇸

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And I introduced her to her first Philz Coffee! ☕️

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A day in Fredrick, Maryland with Shaina and Kate, two of my closest friends in the whole world. It was cold haha. And Kate’s son is adorable, even if he’s not interested in the picture. ❤️

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Met up in D.C. with my other college friend Victoria — and I was rocking my Liechtenstein shirt.

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And I started planning a short webinar with my friend Elaine Jacques — we’ll see about getting it out the door in the new year. 😉

December 

With multiple birthdays and anniversaries, December is family time.

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Met this wonderful girl a couple months back — here we are at Garden Lights at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Chelsea made funny faces in some pictures… 😂

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And we saw Hanson! The 90s kid in me was happy. 🎸

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December is also friends and siblings time.

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Mom couldn’t resist taking one last funny picture of me for the year. ✡️

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And of course I had to finish the year by posting my new list of “100 Independent Albums and EP’s” that people probably missed in 2019. Gotta keep the ties to the music world strong. 😉🎸

Reflecting on 2019

This was a marathon year for me. I feel as if the seeds that I sometimes serendipitously planted years ago in tech and music really began to yield amazing relationships and opportunities in 2019. And I don’t see it stopping anytime soon. I can see myself continuing to write about music, tech, relationships, mental health, business, and diversity, and so much of my inspiration is drawn from dialogues I had this year.

No plan ever survives the battlefield, and 2019 was certainly no exception to that rule. But I’ve grown as a person and as an entrepreneur, and intend to keep that trajectory moving at full force as we move into the next decade.

Bring on 2020! 🚀

(And remember to look for the orange sunglasses. 😎 😉)

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2018: A Year in Review

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Back in January, I set a list of goals for myself this year.

It may have been a bit lofty, but I am nonetheless proud of what I got done this year. I achieved some of them, and some of them I’m reinstating for next year. But life is about more than just work goals — here are some of the highlights of my 2018. 👍

January

I opened January with a slew of great projects. I continued writing for Crunchbase News, writing more on Spotify as they approached this April direct listing. My dad then proceeded to make a joke about the direct listing — I’m still laughing. 😂

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A week later, I followed that with some interesting editing work on Andy Sparks’ new Holloway project.

January capped with a great talk from Arlan Hamilton here in Atlanta, which of course I enjoyed attending. It was great to see Arlan again and hear her backstory — “inspiring” barely begins to appropriately describe it. 🙌

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Though I didn’t publish too many Minimum Viable Network pieces this year, one of the ones I’m most proud of drew heavily on my experience during Arlan’s talk. I begin to think a lot more about the power of ubiquity.

I finally said goodbye to my iPhone 4S. 📱

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Remember that time at the Product Hunt party last year that Eric Willis was poking fun at me for still being the only person in tech with one? 😂😱

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I snagged an invite to the Atlanta Jewish Film festival — they made me wear a tie. 😱 👔

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February & March

February was slow, but in March, I took a break from Atlanta for a few days to fly up to D.C. for the gun reform march — the March for Our Lives speakers were amazing to hear in person.

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My college friend and I caught some culture at the Smithsonian.

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A week later, March ended on a high note when I had the pleasure of meeting Randi Zuckerberg following her talk at Georgia State. 👏

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April

In April, I started becoming much more vocal about harassment, diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility. I’ve been a huge supporter of Backstage Capital since I learned about their mission, and I believe equally as much in the work being done by Aileen Lee, Jenny Lefcourt, and others at AllRaise.org. I’m happy to be an ally in whatever way I can and will continue to be loud about changes which need to be made. I’m similarly inspired by and have become an ardent supporter of the work that Melinda Epler & Wayne Sutton are doing with Change Catalysts (plus their partnership with Backstage is fantastic!). 🤔

I saw some of my closest college friends in New Jersey and considered leaving tech for a future in modeling. Then reality set in. 😂

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I published my last piece on time & money before taking a long, well-deserved break from writing.

I made a meme.

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May

Right around mid-May, I hit a wall. I was having a hard time fighting past some anxiety and depression. I was having constant conversations with some of my closest friends and supporters, to whom I will always be grateful. But I realized that conversations may not be enough, and perhaps some fresh air was in order. So I took a break from Atlanta and worked on changing my perspective.

June

I flew out to the Bay Area and got to see Kiki Schirr again (she also hosted me, which means she’s a special kind of saint lol). Day 1, I had lunch with my super-patient editor Alex Wilhelm and he gave me a tour of the Crunchbase offices! 👍

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I finally got to meet Ken Yeung in person after many months of snarky Twitter comments. He’s just as snarky in person. 😱

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I drank a lot of Philz Coffee. A lot. ☕

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Coffee with Barrett Daniels, who’s become a close friend and confidant, and with Rei Wang, someone whom I think is doing fantastic work with new founders. Then got to drop by and finally meet Ruben Harris in person! 🚀

Lunch again with Adam Singer, and got to hit up his album release party! It ended up making my list of new albums this year (see below). There was a lot of snark and even more discussion about music than we normally touch on.

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I meandered down to San Jose and had lunch with Poornima Vijayashanker, who’s been both a pivotal influence on my understanding of accessibility in tech, and an amazing friend. 🤗

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I hit up Sacramento for some awesome hiking with college friends.

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July

Then came some time in Chicago, where I had some awesome pizza with fellow Crunchbse News writer Jason Rowley. He’s got great taste in pizza places. 🍕

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I hung out with a college friend I hadn’t seen in years.

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I met Cory Warfield, who’s become a close friend and mentor, and has completely turned me on to using LinkedIn in a new way. 🙌

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Got back to Atlanta just in time to go meet Emily Best— her company Seed&Spark was putting on a great event here in Atlanta. 📽

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I finally met Andrea Hernandez in person at an event here in Atlanta to promote more women in tech and business. 👏

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I saw the March for Our Lives speakers at their town hall here in Atlanta.

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I snagged tickets to *the FINAL* Warped Tour here in Atlanta. Got to see Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, Simple Plan, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Mayday Parade, August Burns Red, and The Interrupters. 🤘🎸

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August & September

In September, I had the super pleasure of meeting Jim Augustine— COO of Zuckerberg Media— when Sue’s Tech Kitchen came to do their event in Atlanta. 👍

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I spent a lot of time thinking about anxiety & depression, and talking about how to address these issues in a much more pointed and accepting way. I am more thankful than I could really even articulate to those of my friends— especially those in the startup/tech world— who have supported me through these challenges in my own life. To Kiki Schirr, Alex Wilhelm, Jason Rowley, Christina Warren, Nikki DeMere, Poornima Vijyashanker, Adam Singer, Espree Devora, Nick Abouzeid, Bryan Landers, Cory Warfield, and numerous others who have helped me find a more positive mindset this year, I am eternally grateful. 🤔🤗🙌

October

I voted early—  there are big things coming in the near future for Georgia. 🗳

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Halloween encouraged me to wear a tie more often ha. 😉 👔

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November

Hit up New Jersey for Thanksgiving break and Kerry Flynn took me to an awesome bar! We talked tech, music, and going to school in Boston. 🤘

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Some family time at Ellis Island. This has inspired my sister to start researching our family history and in the last few weeks, we’ve all learned things we never knew!

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Then the siblings and I pretty much froze at the Statue of Liberty. 🗽

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I returned from my six-month break from writing, and damn it felt good.

I’ve been exploring new projects with some awesome people— we’ll see what picks up in the new year.

December

I doubled down on Atlanta.

And I capped off this year with my new list of “100 Independent Albums & EP’s” that you all probably missed at some point.  😎🎸

Reflecting on 2018

The second half of 2017 was extremely hard for me for a number of reasons and I tried to enter 2018 with a new mindset. Nothing ever goes 100% according to plan, and I had a couple stumbles this year. But I’ve grown my network, cultivated deeper relationships, tried to create as much value as I could, created new things, and became determined to live my life in a more positive way. None of these things happen overnight, but it’s all about the journey.

Be well all, keep moving forward!

Bring on 2019! 😎🎉

 

 

 

 

 

A Message for the Alt-Right This Holiday Season

Dear Atl-Right,

You’re riding high on the fumes of your supposed success, so you think you’ve won the fight.

You haven’t.

I’m still still here—we’re still here. The “others” you so very much detest and scapegoat for problems which have nothing to do with us. Change is hard and uncomfortable, so you don’t like it. You think it would just be easier—better—to keep things as they were. Except, ironically, you don’t seem to realize or care that you were on the periphery then, too. You’ve just found another “other” to turn your frustrations to.

You think that because my skin is black/brown/olive/caramel/tan/not-white that you can intimidate me. You can’t.

You think that because I go to synagogue/mosque/temple/non-church to pray that you will make me doubt myself. You won’t.

You think that because I’m an immigrant I don’t belong here. I do. And anyway, that’s pretty self-righteous talk for someone who lives in a country of immigrants and their descendants.

You think that because I am gay/lesbian/bi/female/trans/feminist/queer that I should just shut my mouth. I won’t.

You think because many of us have different opinions and political ideologies that we can’t and won’t work together against you. We can and we will. We intend to.

And most of all, you think that if I am any of the things above, I won’t be supported by others in my fight to push forward. I am, and we have all made the decision that you won’t win in the end. Singular victories are hollow if they’re not followed by lasting legacy, and they ultimately brittle and turn to dust.

Look at Ozymandias:

And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

You are him, proclaiming victory when time is coming to swallow you up. The empire you seek to build will soon be in dust, so don’t get too comfortable on that pedestal you’ve built for yourself.

All this time you’ve thought we could be scared away, content to meagerly limp out, tail between our legs.

You’re wrong. We’re not going anywhere.

Happy holidays.

Signed,

The “Others”

Musings on Memorial Day

Both of my grandfathers are veterans. My mom’s father served in Korea, and my dad’s father in WWII. Every Veterans’ and Memorial Day I think about that fact. And I think about the fact that I rarely hear any stories about it.

My dad’s father passed away before I was old enough to remember him—unfortunately what I know of him is concocted through stories from my dad, uncle, and their cousins. The one thing I do know—the one thing my dad says a lot—is that he never really talked much about the war after he got back. Sure he had a few entertaining stories, but he always stuck (I’m told) to a select few. I asked my dad one time about why he thought that was, and his answer was fairly poignant: “I think he saw more over there than he really wanted to remember. I think he had to try and put it to rest.”

My mom’s father—who I’ve been lucky to grow up with—served in Korea, and though he mentions his days in the army sometimes, it’s really not very often. He’s as proud of being a veteran as anyone, but I think the same holds true for him: I think he saw more in the conflict then he really wants to remember or talk about. He’s happy to stick to his stories of funny bunkmates and captains, because that’s where he’s comfortable.

These are the things I think about on days like this; the fact that though many have served (and are currently), what they see isn’t a movie like we experience at home on TV. They see and experience things that we hope never to experience—and which they never want us to. That’s the reason they make the sacrifices they do. So today I think about those sacrifices and appreciate them as much as I possibly can. Memorial Day is fun for pool parties, cookouts, American flags—but it’s also for remembering and honoring those who aren’t here to celebrate with us.

Learn to Really Talk to People

Many nights I stay up and reflect on deep things that transpire throughout the day, and ponder meanings of ambiguous gestures by people. Tonight though, I’m thinking less about ambiguous happenings and more on specific thoughts flowing through my head. Tonight, the notions from the day are simpler to decipher.

I always go back to my belief that relationships with other people are everything. They define our lives, and open up doors for us even when we’re not necessarily looking. Talking to people, and being able to do so with relative ease, is something that I believe everyone should learn how to do, at least on some level. But people need to also learn to hear others; not just listen, but hear. Hear what other people are saying, even if you need to listen for the words between the words. Being able to read the non-verbal cues that people put out—what’s important to them, and how to augment those things with your own positivity—is one of the sure-fire ways to cultivate meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships with people. Everything else follows that.

Keep Pushing Forward

Some nights I get to the evening hour and I’m wiped out. I’ve been writing and talking with people all day, and find my mind completely fried. The light is dimming outside, and people are settling down after dinner. And I’m alone with some thoughts.

Yet in those moments when I’m almost a zombie to the world, I find I have some of my most intriguing thought processes. It’s in those precise moments that I come to grips with the passing day, and prepare myself for the volley of thoughts which will undoubtedly bombard me before bed. Such thoughts don’t overload my mind though, surprising as that might be. I find that this particular strain of thoughts tend to be what help me to keep pushing forward.

And thus I cherish this time—and these thoughts—more than one might think. Though they take up time as I’m trying to wind my mind down, they are nonetheless soothing in their reflective qualities. For some, relaxation and reflection mean plopping down on the couch and turning off one’s mind to watch Netflix. For me though, I (ironically so) find myself most reflective and somewhat relaxed when bombarded by thoughts that seem dogged in their stubbornness. Perhaps I’m even more of an artist than I think.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom

So today was Mother’s Day, and though we all know it’s a day created by the greeting card companies, I still reflected on my relationship with my Mom. How lucky I am to have the supportive relationship that I do, and how fortunate I am to even be able to spend the time with her that I do. It’s easy to take good fortune for granted, but the moments that we have in life are ephemeral, and never come around again. They only live in our memories, a realization that’s sobering in itself.

My Mom is one of my heroes, and someone I model myself after in many more ways than one. We are all products of our parents, for better or worse, though in my case I’m lucky enough to say better. I talked here about how my mom shaped my love and desire for music, but I’m fortunate for much more than that. It’s in the moments when the walls seem to be closing in, and when the world seems completely upside down that I find myself the luckiest. It’s in those moments that my mom reminds me of who I am, and who I can be. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, I love you.

A Sense of Wistfulness

With Dave Goldberg’s sad passing last night, I’ve been watching the tweets come up over Twitter as those he knew, and those he didn’t express their pain and condolences. It’s surreal that life is something fleeting, and that we go to bed (mostly) never considering the fact that the world could (and does) change drastically around us as we sleep.

It’s a nice sunny day here in Atlanta, and by all accounts was a good day when I awoke this morning. But the realization of the pain that people are in over Goldberg’s passing brings to light (for me, at least) an emotion that I try not to entertain all that often: wistfulness.

I try to keep it at bay because it feels almost like a sense of looking back; a sense of wishing that something was different in the past. Many times it’s in reference to something that was way out of my control, and thus took place as it had to. But the point remains that on days like this where the sense of change is so immediate and stark, I can’t help be entertain just a few wistful thoughts, and reflect on what they mean at their deepest cores. I imagine those closer to Dave than I was are doing and feeling similarly today. Sometimes all one can do is look to one’s support system to reassurance, and try to forge ahead, however painful it might be in the moment.