This Christmas I decided to do a Christmas letter, this was something I've thought about doing for years, though part of that was also because I've wanted to do a FAKE Christmas letter writing a fictionalized version of my year, but that's not this. This is a real Christmas letter, updating my family, and now also my 3.5 blog readers about my 2021. And part of 2020, because that was also relevant.
Anyway, here's the letter. No guarantees of a 2022 version, but maybe I'll do that fictional version next time.
I'm doing a Christmas card! Or at least a Christmas letter. But probably by the time I send this, it’ll be a New Years letter. I've kind of always wanted to do one of these, but I just never have, partly because I've never had anything to write about, and partly because usually the only people who do these are moms with kids, who want to give updates on their perfect, adorable families. And I'm a single 35-year-old with no kids and two podcasts. 🤓
Well, who cares. I want to do one, so I'm doing one. Will this be an every year thing? Who knows. We'll see. Let's just do year one first and see how things go.
Well, I guess for starters, I finally got a job this year! If you read my blog, which, be honest, you don't, and that's fine. I barely even update it these days anyway, because I have so much more going on. My blog hit its peak in 2011, 2012, and it's been all downhill ever since. Though I might recycle this letter as a blog post, because, well, free content. I'm a big believer in recycling, which includes digitally. 😆
I suppose I should preface all this by going back to the first half of this year, (and even last year) because SO MUCH HAS CHANGED. From January to June I was working part time at Hy-Vee in Harlan as a personal shopper. I moved back home last year because I got a job with the census. I had been living in Ames with my Grandma after graduating. I was working overnights at a hotel, and part time at the grocery store there. I would do an 8-hour overnight shift, then go work 4 hours at Hy-Vee in the morning, then go home, crash, wake up, and do it all over again. So fun.
Not really. Anyway, I got a job with the census early 2020, and started making plans to move back home. Since I still had my permanent address set to Harlan, even though I lived in Ames, they wanted me to work in Harlan. Of course everything got delayed because obvious reasons, but then everything did eventually start up again, and I moved back home. And then Hy-Vee in Harlan wanted me back too, as they were desperate for help doing personal shopping which had become huge during the pandemic. And that's what I'd been doing since the end of 2020.
And even though Hy-Vee was part time, it was nearly full time. They wanted me to work just enough hours so that I would still be classified as part time, but not enough that they would have to do insurance, benefits, etc. But a lot of weeks I got full time hours anyway, because we were so short staffed.
Anyway, that brings us up to this spring, when, as I wrote in my ONE big blog post this year, I actually FINALLY found a job in what I went to school for! In June I started a job at Harlan Municipal Utilities, (HMU) which as the name implies, is a water/power/telecom company in Harlan, IA. Shockingly, the town where I actually live. I say shockingly, because I never in a million years thought I'd find a job in my field in Harlan. I barely thought I'd find something in Iowa.
I've been applying for jobs since 2017 when I graduated, (Not counting 2019, when I took a year out of the job search to do a long-distance internship with my friend Rachel Wagner in Utah) and for the majority of the search, I mainly focused on Des Moines, and Omaha, because those were the two big cities within driving distance, and I figured they were my best bet for finding a job in advertising. Little did I know, I would end up finding a job in marketing right in my own backyard. Funny how these things work sometimes, isn't it?
So, even though my job is in "Marketing" this job has surprisingly little actual marketing duties. To be sure, there is a lot of Marketing in this job, however, HMU has three local cable channels, and the vast majority of my job has been making content for those channels.
In fact since I’ve now been here over 6 months, and have been making content all that time, pretty much all the old content that was running when I got here, has now been cycled out, and I would probably say that at this point, about 90% of what is currently running on those channels now is programming that I filmed and edited myself. And the other 10% is church services, submitted by local churches for replay.
The fact that I now do so much work with video editing is actually kind of amazing, because in addition to that internship I did, (Which was a lot of video and podcast editing) my main extracurricular activity since I graduated has been to start a YouTube channel and my two podcasts. I learned some video and audio editing in school, but I would say the vast majority of it I have taught myself in the past 4 years of podcasting, and I'd like to think that that experience is part of why I got this job.
And even if it somehow turned out that wasn't why I got the job, it's certainly why I have felt so comfortable doing a lot of what I do now, because there is SO MUCH editing in this job, and I had no idea how much it would be when I first applied.
The first of the three cable channels is not video though, it's basically a local bulletin board. We sell advertising here, which is where the bulk of my "Marketing" job happens. I also have some marketing/graphic design to do for HMU itself, but most of it happens here. I either make ads for companies who buy space here, or make/update local events calendars, I even make all the local obituaries that we run on the channel.
The second channel is the local programming channel. This is where most of my duties began when I first got this job, as the main thing that the people keeping this department going were doing was updating this channel every Monday with the local church services.
Oh yeah, I suppose I should mention that when I got this job, it was kind of in chaos. There was literally no one in marketing, and they were barely holding the position together. They had lost literally the entire marketing team within a few months of each other, and by the time they hired me, it was two guys from the telecom department doing the bare minimum to keep the marketing department functioning in addition to doing their own jobs on top of that.
The head of marketing had retired last year, then HMU decided to fold telecom and marketing into one department, then one of the two remaining marketing associates was called to a church in a different state, because he was also a pastor, then the last one was diagnosed with cancer not long after, and she quit almost immediately.
And I think it took them at least three months to hire me, because I missed it the first time they advertised the position, and it wasn't until May when Mom saw the ad in the paper, which led to me getting hired by the end of the month. And of course I gave Hy-Vee two weeks' notice, so I didn't start until mid-June, months after everything in Marketing had fallen apart for them.
So needless to say I was kind of thrown into things, and have pretty much had to learn everything on the fly. And half the stuff I've almost had to teach myself. Thankfully my boss and one of the other telecom guys had been able to figure out some things after the other team was gone, so I wasn't totally thrown in blind, but still, my boss's main job is running the telecom side of things, so, back at the beginning, I was on my own for more than I would have prefered.
Anyway, where was I? Okay, back to the second channel.
This is where a LOT of my time has been focused the past few months, way beyond just getting local church services on the air every week. One of the first big projects I was "Thrown into" was the Shelby County Fair. HMU is responsible for a lot of the local coverage of the fair, and people around Harlan expect to be able to watch the biggest events on TV.
So the whole week of the fair I was there bright and early filming the cattle show, the swine show, sheep and goats, the crowning of the Fair Queen, the parade, the talent show. I was everywhere, and I was exhausted by the end. That was a long week. And of course I also had to edit everything too, so when I wasn't filming, I was editing, basically turning all the footage I'd collected into a television show. When all was said and done, I figured I had made at the very least, a Netflix season's worth of television, 100% by myself.
Oh, and then, not to interrupt myself again, but right after this, I got Covid and ended up in the hospital for a week. And all in all I was out of work for almost an entire month.
Thankfully this was right after my health insurance had kicked in, so in the long run, I was out of pocket for very little. I am SO thankful that I got this job when I did, because if I'd have ended up in the hospital while I'd worked part time at Hy-Vee, I would probably be in debt till I died.
Okay, so again, back to the cable channels. Right now we are right in the middle of a whole bunch of sports seasons. I filmed almost every single game that our local football team played, right up until they hit the semifinals, because at that point the rules changed, and a bigger company owns all the rights to film and distribute those games. Our team ended up winning the entire 3A Championship, and I somehow was actually invested? (Here comes another tangent.)
I have literally never cared about sports in my life. No one in my family cared about sports enough to watch them on TV. My dad moved here from Canada when he was a teen/young adult and the only sport he cared about was hockey, which we couldn't watch here, so I didn't even inherit that.
But somehow, throughout the last several months of filming every game for our hometown football team, (Including away games, which I traveled for, sometimes staying overnight in hotels) I actually found myself caring, enough so that when they ended up going into the semi finals and championships, I actually watched them on TV, because I cared enough about seeing them win.
If you had told me a year ago that in a year's time, I would care enough about the Harlan Cyclone football team to attend every game, and then watch them on TV, I would have laughed in your face and assumed you were the absolute worst psychic to have ever lived. And yet here I am.
Will I continue to watch and enjoy football? Ehh, I don't know. I'll continue to watch and enjoy Harlan football, as that's now literally my job, but I'm not really invested in any other teams right now. But I guess the moral of this story is, you never know what the future holds.
Okay, back to my job. Currently we are in basketball season, and even though I do not travel for this one, (We only cover away games for the football team) I am filming a LOT more games than I was for football. I guess I never knew how much more basketball is played than football, at least in terms of the numbers of games played. I guess part of that is that both girls and guys play basketball, so that does double the number of games I have to film, but it sure seems like I am filming a lot more than I ever did during football.
And sports aren't the only thing I'm filming now anyway, because we don't just cover sports for the school, we do as much of the arts as we're allowed, (plays are copyrighted so no filming allowed unless it's written by someone locally) and this mostly entails concerts. And unlike sports where we only cover high school stuff, we cover concerts for all ages. And we're right in the middle of the Christmas season, so there have been a not insignificant number of non-sports events to film as well.
PLUS, I haven't even told you about the third channel yet! The third channel that HMU owns and operates is the local government access channel. And I film and edit everything there too.
This includes not just our own board meetings, but city council meetings, school board meetings, county supervisor meetings, and even hospital board meetings! Plus any other special government things that happen locally.
And I only just started getting back into those after the football season was over, as my boss has been trying to ease me into everything slowly. Which I am grateful for. I would have been totally overwhelmed if I'd have had ALL of this thrown at me when I first started.
So, as you can tell, this new job keeps me VERY busy. And I somehow have been able to keep my podcasts going all this time as well. I have had to cut way back on the number of episodes I make, but I would never want to give them up entirely, I have friends all over the country that I keep in contact with through the podcasts, so that alone makes it worth it for me to keep them going, even if my spare time is now far more limited than it used to be.
So, I guess that's all my updates from the year. I know some of you know a lot of this, but I still thought it would be fun to write this, and it was. We'll see if I end up doing this again next year, I did have fun with this, so if anything worth writing about happens, I'd say chances are pretty good I do it again, but, like with literally everything that's happened to me this year, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Thanks for reading, and Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, Happy Birthday, Bye!
Your friend, son, grandson, nephew, uncle, cousin, etc.