First-Timer at #WorkHuman

I was finally able to attend WorkHuman Live this year thanks to my new employer. After pining over it for the past three years, I kept pinching myself up until I was on a plane to Nashville to make sure it was real.

I always get plenty out of any HR conference/seminar – employment law updates, insights on leadership, FMLA tips, standard things I think many folks in our industry look at as the most important . They’re not entirely wrong.

But I’m in HR because the human aspect is where I’m completely invested. I don’t go home at night thinking about whether or not we’re meeting ACA guidelines. Slow down. I do those things in the office because they have to be done. I go home thinking about whether or not the policy we’re about to roll out is easy to understand, fair for as many people as possible, and is something I’ll be proud to stand behind. I sit in traffic and wonder if we’re trusting our employees enough or if we’re giving our managers the right tools to be the best leaders they can.

I’ve just always been a big fan of bringing humanity to the workplace and that’s what WorkHuman lives and breathes. I’d heard the hype about these conferences and the keynote speakers over the past few years had been enough to get anyone excited about going. I was slightly concerned it might be one of those Kool-Aid drinking situations, but I was fully prepared to guzzle that juice right on down.

When I first got to the convention center/humongous hotel the conference was taking place, I wandered around a bit because my room wasn’t ready yet. One of the very first pieces of WorkHuman signage I ran into was a giant banner that said, “You belong here.” I was hoping that would be true, more like a rarity for me at most HR conferences.

The people that attend WorkHuman are my people. They get we have to believe in humans and they want to believe in humans.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that, yeah, I did belong there.

More about my 2018

I used to do this meme type thing every single year on my personal blog. I could probably go do it over there, but I figure that doesn’t really match up to goal in life, which is just be myself when it comes to my career. And this has some workish stuff in it.

1. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?
Cut an umbilical cord. Got invited to be a blogger for the national SHRM conference. Sang happy birthday to my friend Justin Timberlake. Put together a stage for Justin Timberlake during the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Filed to run for city council. Saw Hamilton. Knocked on strangers’ doors to ask them to vote for me. Said goodbye to my grandma. Won a primary election. Almost got my feet run over by a car driven by a former city council person. Became a damn hugger. Organized a tire changing clinic for women. Won a general election for West St. Paul City Council. Drove to Missouri 7 times in a year.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions and will you make more for next year?
The word resolution isn’t my jam. I just like to do better and be better.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Um, my wife. And then Jade (and Matt) rounded out the year with Baby K.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My grandma.

5. What countries did you visit?
Iowa. It’s country AF. Our only traveling this year was back and forth to Missouri.

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?
Time. Energy. Dates with my wife. Travel.

7. What date from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

  • May 14th: the most awesome city council meeting of all time.
  • May 22nd: John and I filed for city council with our boys in tow.
  • July 25th: my grandma died
  • August 14th: I won the primary election.
  • November 6th: I won the general election.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Ellis J. Winning the city council election. Quitting a job that was giving me ulcers in favor of one that got me excited about HR again. Making amazing friends.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I didn’t read as much as I wanted. I didn’t do any of the “projects” I kept telling myself I was going to do.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Two week long migraine that resulted in MRIs, medication, losing my mind, etc.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
We just bought “stuff” this year. Maybe the new dishwasher?

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Mine, you jackholes. The Women of West St. Paul. Women everywhere. People of color. My grandma’s, which was evident in the people that came to pay their respects to her when she was sick and when we celebrated her life.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Racists. Cowards. Bigots. Liars. Our president. Entitled white people.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Bills. Diapers. Gas.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Ellis. Winning my elections. Making rad friends.

16. What song will always remind you of 2018?
Anything Hamilton. So obsessed.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) Fatter or thinner: Thinner. 
b) Richer or poorer: Richer. 
c) Happier or less happy: Happier.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Reading. Traveling. Self-care. Staying closer connected with old friends.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Thinking about how other thought of me. Because who cares.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
In Missouri. We visited grandpa in his rehab center, went to see a few lights.

21. Did you fall in love in 2018?
I do every year just in different ways – with my wife every year, and now with my boys.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
The 1.5 seasons of Shameless that I watched.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Nah. Not worth it.

24. What was the best book you read?
I only read five books. Two hit me right in the face: Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown and Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. I read them at a time when I truly needed them and it was glorious.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery of 2018?
The Hamilton soundtrack and mix tape. Sorry, not sorry for being so obsessed with Hamilton.

26. What did you want and get?
A new son and a lot of votes when it mattered.

27. What did you want and not get?
I really wanted a family vacation at some point during the year, but it just didn’t work out.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
I only watched one grown up movie all year and it was Ocean 8, but I do love a good heist movie. Coco was really great, too.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 40. Maybe we went out to dinner?

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Not having to get security cameras on my house.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?

32. What kept you sane?
My wife. My boys (most the time). My friends/community.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Female-identifying folks and people of color that stepped up to make a difference in a million different ways.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Any action that was ordered or not ordered from the White House. Kids died. Trans folks and POC died. They all keep dying. Our government isn’t doing anything. I’m hoping that changes this year.

35. Who did you miss?
Both my grandmas. Out of state friends I didn’t get to see as much as I wanted.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
I can’t do this list any justice because I would forget someone and feel awful. People in West St. Paul or connected to West St. Paul that I got to know and adore is pretty much that whole list. We have local family now and it feels so good.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018:
Be authentic. You won’t win every battle that way, but that just means it wasn’t the right thing for you to battle anyway. Don’t care if people don’t like you. That’s on them and it’s not worth your time to think about it.

And that was 2018.

I don’t really know where it went and it definitely didn’t include this blog. It included a lot of other things. Some were amazing and some were heartbreaking. Others were annoying things that turned into blessings and there were some that were surprising and things I’d never even dreamed of happening. Overall, I’ll happily wave goodbye to 2018 when it steps out of the way and look forward to whatever it is 2019’s going to bring my way.

2018 started out welcoming our (almost one year old!) son, Ellis. Thumbs up emoji on that one. We introduced him to my family in Missouri in February and saw my grandma healthy for the last time. I returned to work after a six week paid leave, but never really felt like I could get back into the right place in my head when HR/my career was concerned. That’s just the best way I can describe it.

In March, my life got interesting. I turned 40 and, a week later, I was 85% sure I was going to run for public office. I don’t think the two were related.

April came with a confirmation for my future as a politician to myself and a few close friends. It also came with the creation of a women’s group in West St. Paul that was started to smash some patriarchy and change our city. (Spoiler alert: totally happened.) I met many people, nearly all incredibly amazing.

May and June were filled with becoming indoctrinated into the world of local politics. It came with screws in my tire, junk being thrown into my yard and other childish attempts at intimidation. Didn’t work. Didn’t go to the SHRM conference. Still regretting that one.

A trip to Des Moines to see Hamilton happened in July. Life changing. Not kidding. Not throwing away my shot. I wanna be in the room where it happens. Look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now. We’ll give the world to you and you’ll blow us all away. I’m willing to wait for it. Rise up! Maybe it was my sudden entrance into the political world or maybe it was the crappy head space I was in when it came to my job or maybe it was because Lin Manuel Miranda is nothing short of a damn genius.

My grandma also died at the end of July. We saw her the week before she passed because the doctor had given her two weeks to live. It was hard. Soul crushing. Heart breaking. She was and will always be one of the best people in the world.

August: my 5+ years career at the credit union ended. I won the primary election for my city council race. Found a new job. Took my kids to the Missouri State Fair.

September and October: started that new job. Campaigned my ass off. Organized two tire changing clinics in my city. My wife had surgery.

November: I won that damn election and it wasn’t even close. Not. Even. Close. Had a new job opportunity presented to me and I got excited about it. Truly excited. It was the first time in 2018 that something HR-related jacked me up. I accepted it the next day. I also became a rock star for five hot minutes.

Summer of ’69. I knew like 8 words outside of the chorus.

December: Went to Missouri to visit my grandpa because he was in bad shape. His heart’s broken. Started my new job. Went to Missouri again for Christmas. Grandpa’s doing better, but his heart’s still broken and he has his days.

And here we are. Less than a day before the new year. Plenty of things I didn’t do, won’t do, still want to do, and haven’t even thought about doing. We’ll get there.

Thanks, 2018. For completing our family. For confusing the crap out of me. For giving me hope and the ability to make change happen. For breaking my heart and crushing me. For opening doors and bringing people into my life. I ain’t mad at you, but I’m cool that you’re leaving.

2019: Bring it. Whatever it is. I’m ready.