Tuesday, June 24, 2008

20 Years in a Nutshell

I recently connected up with an old friend from high school on Facebook. After a couple reintroductory messages back and forth, he posed this question: "Take me on a brief tour of your life these past 20 years?" What follows is my attempt to answer that question...

OK, let's see. What's salient and interesting from the past 20 years of my life?

In 1988, without a lot of forethought, I went off to college in Binghamton. That place was suitably depressing and boring to ensure that I focused on studies and entertained myself with recreational drugs and just generally acting crazy. They had no photography classes, which was disappointing, but I found myself drawn to film and video classes, where we did all kinds of weird experimental art projects with film, video, and computers and learned almost NO skills that might be useful in the "film industry". By my third year of college I was already sick of being there, so I spent the first semester of my fourth year studying in Prague, then I graduated early, and then spent another 5 months living in a suburb of Paris.

Coming back to the US in the summer of 1992 I determined that the last thing I wanted to do was be in New York, in the part of the country where I had lived all my life (albeit, moving around the NY metro area a lot). So, I went to Albuquerque, New Mexico with a friend who was going to grad school there. The friendship only lasted about a year after that, but I stayed in New Mexico for 7 years.

Hmm, what did I do in NM? Worked some crappy jobs; realized I had to go back to school if I didn't want to continue doing that; dated an immature manic-depressive guy for waaaaay too long (6+ years); got a Master's degree in, essentially, interactive media; worked for DoD contractors; went to massage therapy school in the evenings for a year; took a lot more recreational drugs (thanks to the BF, who was big into self-medicating); explored a bit of the new age thing going on out there (determined that some of it is sincerely spiritual, and a lot of it is just another market used to exploit people's neediness); made some life-long friends of the very creative, very nerdy type; and then ultimately realized that the only way to end this back-and-forth no-future relationship with the crappy boyfriend was to just leave New Mexico (which I had always planned to do anyway). So in the summer of 1999 I moved back to New York.

Back in New York there was an internet bubble expanding, so I took my background in interactive media and got a job at EW.com (website of Entertainment Weekly) right before the bubble burst. It worked out ok tho, because we had a lean staff that was part of a huge multimedia conglomerate, so they had enough resources to keep us on, and they didn't care what we did. It was like working at a little startup with the resources of a media giant. I got to play with web pages, build metadata systems, and write comic book reviews and articles about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Do you remember our fellow classmate Rohanna? I lived with her for 3 years and then moved into my own place in the East Village.

Eventually the internet industry started to recover and then people (mainly AOL) did start to care about what we did at EW.com, and then it got kind of bureaucratic and boring. I stuck around for a couple more years, and then eventually moved on to being a consultant at [web consulting company]. This was a funny turn of events because when I first heard about that company, it was in 1999, in a Wired article about the two guys who ran the company, and I thought they kind of sounded like douchebags. Of course, a lot had changed since then, but I still never would have expected I'd someday be an employee of that company. Anyway, that's what I've been doing for the past 2+ years.

Hmm, that's a lot about work. My career has been pretty interesting, though. I've been writing and speaking about the Semantic Web for a while, and despite not being a particularly technical person I've built sort of a reputation and I've got the ear of some of the major people in the field, when I want it. So that's pretty fun.

I'd say that my life since moving back to NYC has been characterized by working and doing lots and lots of cultural things. In addition to the web and digital whatnot, I love to experience film festivals, comic conventions, museums, theater, live comedy, public art and mischief. This is why I can't see myself being in any place other than NYC. I also used to go see a lot of live music, but I kind of lost interest in that a couple years ago. Believe it or not, it's a lot of work to keep up with what's going on in the music scene.

Well, that's a lot of words, but I think that's about as brief as I can make a 20 year synopsis, and still have it make sense and be entertaining. How did I do?