(#Alt-)Academia Personal

Reflections on 2012

When I look back on 2012, I have no doubt that it will stick in my memory as a year of renewal. It has been an incredible and enriching year in so many ways, from a new home to a new job to what feels like a thousand and one new skills (many of them half-baked, but good starts nonetheless). I know that the tech skills below are no big deal for most everyone in the DH community, but I came to them all from total unfamiliarity.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned in the past year:

  • I learned how (and why) to use the command line.
  • I learned how to use Github, both for my own projects and to collaborate with others.
  • I learned how to use vim, and that using vim makes me feel pretty badass… or else it makes me feel like a hopeless case. The line between the two feelings is pretty thin.
  • I learned that everybody has to look stuff up in the documentation, and that half the battle is knowing where to look.
  • I’ve gotten pretty decent with HTML markup.
  • I can figure stuff out in CSS. Sometimes.
  • Along the same lines, I finally figured out how to get a domain name and host, get a proper WordPress install, set up a child theme, and start making my website look the way I want it to look.
  • I learned how to use an FTP client, and eventually I got brave enough to move remote files around from the command line.
  • I learned enough JavaScript to piece some D3 visualizations together (though not really enough to get myself out of trouble).
  • I learned a tiny little bit of Ruby.
  • I learned how to type curly quotes, and why it matters (thanks, @clioweb!).
  • And finally, it might rank low on the list of essential life skills, but I have learned to do a headstand without a wall to catch me, and that feels amazing.

It pleases me immensely that my spouse now comes to me when he’s thinking about web development issues—not because I really know what I’m doing, but because I’ve come to have a pretty decent framework for understanding how things work (or should work), even if I can’t put them together myself.

When I look back at some of my goals over the past few years, two things are very clear: First, I haven’t accomplished all of them, nor will I. (E.g., 2010, “Revise dissertation into a book manuscript.” Nope.) But second, and more importantly, I couldn’t have articulated goals that led in a straight line to where I am now, and in many ways I underestimated myself. It takes a lot of the pressure off to know that my path is always shifting, and that being flexible doesn’t necessarily mean I’m sacrificing something—sometimes it means I’m making room for something bigger.

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