I am now 30 years old.
365 days ago, I declared that 29 would be the Year of Doing. I decided to run, really run with life. To take in as much as I could, change and grow as much as I could. I was inspired by something Ann Friedman, a good friend and great mentor, wrote about what 29 means for smart women. I set out to make 29 my year of pushing personal boundaries, of being bold and ambitious. Here’s a quick excerpt from a chat with another great colleague from ’round this time last year:
B: is this the big 3-0? you’re not that old, right?me: nope, the little 2-9. i am making a big commitment. it’s going to be the year of doing.B: whoa. i like that. that deserves some caps, tho. The Year of Doing.me: yes.B: Maybe even, DOINGme: that’s too enthusiastic.
I unfurled my nerd flag and staked it smack dab in the middle of my professional life. I re-embraced comics. I spoke at many conferences, including South by Southwest, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, the Society for News Design, and the National Conference for Media Reform. Comics have introduced me to dear, lifelong friends. Just before I turned 29, I founded Graphic Ladies, a little tumblr dedicated to increasing the visibility of women who create and critique comics. It now has over 365 followers, many of whom work at leading comics publishers. Speaking about comics, writing about comics, and diving into the comics community were the first steps towards creating Symbolia.
I founded a tablet magazine, Symbolia, which will merge my love of great journalism and clever illustration on a new platform. Not only did I found Symbolia, but I’ve raised almost enough money to underwrite Symbolia’s first year of expenses. In a few weeks, I’ll be solidifying the line up for our preview issue, which will be available for download this summer.
I roamed the country. Last July, I rode my motorcycle 2,454 miles in two weeks, looping all of Lake Superior and most of Lake Michigan with my beloved Black Flame Motorcycle and Bicycle Club. At one point, I didn’t sleep inside for at least four days. We only went inside for diner breakfasts and mid-afternoon coffee breaks. All other meals were prepared using a little propane stove or an open flame.
I rode a 450 cc Honda around the greatest lake of all without a faring—that’s a wind shield—and got grudging approval from the dudes at Excelsior Bike Shop in Thunder Bay, Ontario, who told me that I had “real balls.” Thanks, bros.
I stopped being vegetarian somewhere around Marathon, Ontario. Pretty sure it was the Poutine that cinched it. I’m still deciding on whether I’ll go back or not.
I went bicycling in the Tetons with my family. Traveling with them is always a treat. Polgreens are good at being alone together. Something lovely happens on every family vacation, inevitably: We are all sitting in the same room, each of us buried in a book, happy to be together and reading. Those are some of my favorite moments in life.
In the fall, my wonderful partner Brian O’Grady and I took a two-week road trip. We spent time with dear friends and he put up with me tearing up every time we passed through a National Park. I’m proud to be with someone who simultaneously challenges and supports me in everything that I do. It also doesn’t hurt that we share a love of bourbon and collections. I’ve got my comic books; Brian has his records. I think we really became partners in the last year, and as we approach five years together, I couldn’t be happier.
I left my job of five years and changed the direction of my career, shifting from independent media to focus on emerging technologies and entrepreneurship. I’m building a fellowship program with the Instructional Telecommunications Fund that will help smart people solve some of our nation’s toughest problems. I couldn’t be more excited to split my time between Symbolia, The Media Ideation Fellowship program, and other nifty projects that come along.
While I miss my Media Consortium family, choosing to take the leap and start something new was made easier by a tremendous outpouring of support from my community and colleagues. I could spend 30 writing posts about what I learned in many, many intensive one-on-one strategy sessions, mentoring-over-cocktails, and informational interviews. A sincere thank you to every single person who took the time to advise me about going solo. Thanks to Jeanne Brooks, I learned the value of horizontal loyalty at 29. My community of peers and colleagues continues to astonish me, and I hope to put as much energy into supporting them as they have put into me and my work.
I’m writing this post to reflect, but to also start 30 out strong. I rebuilt this website, erinpolgreen.me, so that I have a place to document another phenomenal year. I’m going to use this blog to share my thoughts and behind-the-scenes peeks at Symbolia as it gets off the ground, share snippets of my favorite things, and meditate on my new work-life balance.
I was explaining my end-of-29 wrap up to Tracy Van Slyke, my brain buddy and former partner-in-mischief at the Consortium, and she immediately said something along the lines of: “But 29 is over. What’s your plan for 30?”
Looking forward, I want 30 to be the Year of Sustainability. It seems like a logical next step after the Year of Doing. I pulled out all the stops last year. It’s time to shift gears, to stop sprinting and start running a marathon. The trick now will be remaining healthy, engaged in my community, and building some truly kick ass projects that will make 30 as memorable as 29.
I’m so excited for whatever comes next.