Currently Listening: Morning View

I owe Spotify. The playlist “Your Summer Rewind” had Incubus’s “Aqueous Transmission” as the first track, and I didn’t get beyond that. I switched to Morning View and it felt like a breath of fresh air.

This summer has been incredibly difficult for reasons I’m not really ready to write about. I have hardly put pen to paper physically and barely have virtually. I’ve been busy planning events with the Cecil County Democrats Club and starting an Instagram account for my dog. But I haven’t been able to write like I wanted to, and I haven’t been able to face the “feels” I’ve had since May.

Morning View changed that. I filled a few pages in my journal. I took a mental trip back to high school, but not the way I have been. Since getting diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I tend to look back on high school and college and wonder what could have been. Music works differently though, and it took me back to playing Rollercoaster Tycoon and driving around in my old Jetta.

This was a softer album for Incubus compared to Make Yourself, and chill songs like “11am” and “Aqueous Transmission” complement harder songs like “Blood on the Ground.” The guitar riffs are so typical of the early aughts without being too pop or too rock. I don’t know why, but this album just hits the spot.

There’s also the inclusion of “Wish You Were Here,” which became an important song in 2001. It was the year of September 11, but a week after that our high school lost students in a car accident and that song because an anthem, a lifesaver, a way for all of us to express ourselves and convey a sentiment that we couldn’t otherwise put into words. It was a traumatic September in Central PA. And as we approach September, hearing that song brings those memories back too. Bittersweet, I guess, but part of the musical journey.

So thank you, Spotify, for sending me down this road. It brightened my August and took me back 16 years.

Planning a Giving Day

This morning I was speaking with a former colleague about Giving Day, and thought I’d like to put together some things I’ve learned after surviving two of them. I didn’t play as part of the advancement team, but I participated as a cooperating stakeholder (marketing team). Based on my experiences, this is what I would say to anyone planning a Giving Day.

Plan Ahead

Giving Day isn’t just a day; Giving Day is a big campaign. It needs to fit in with your other campaigns, and it needs to complement the work you’re already doing. Your plan of attack will vary depending on when your Day falls in your calendar and fiscal year. For example, if it’s close to the beginning of the calendar year, you might not want to do a huge end-of-the-year push because people may not be prepared to make another gift so soon.

Clarify your incentives far in advance. If you plan to have matching gifts or prizes, lock those in as early as you can. This will help as you plan out your communications, work with other stakeholders, and try to keep your sanity. Scrambling the week of leads to confusion and annoyed partners—trust me, I’ve been the annoyed partner.

Get Your Timeline

Your timeline shouldn’t only be for Giving Day itself. Plan the communications you’ll send out prior to the Day to let people know what’s on the horizon and plan your follow up communications to the best of your ability. (You’re going to be worn out after Giving Day is done; the more work you can do in advance, the happier you will be later.)

Your timeline should include emails, web updates, social media updates, and any other media you’re including in your outreach. If you’re an overachiever—and you should be—prepare timelines or scripts for your cooperating stakeholders, too. They may edit what you write to be in the voice they use for communications, but they will be grateful that you provided them with something to work with.

Cooperation

And, that said, recruit the stakeholders you’ll need early in the planning process. Let them know what your plans are. Having the buy in long before your Giving Day arrives will help other teams prepare to work with you rather than try to rework their plans at the last minute to help you out. Teams you may want cooperating with you include the main marketing arm of your institution, your admissions team, and any other highly visible departments or offices with a big social presence.

Got questions? Email me at hello@lindsaybergmandebes.com.

Here We Go Again

I made a promise to myself to write more, but I broke it thanks to a depressive episode. I’m still working with a psychiatrist to get my medication right. Too much Latuda made me sleep all the time and really brought out the nihilist in me. I just wanted to stop existing, and apparently that isn’t something we should want. We started a different antidepressant and now I’m worried that I’ve bypassed hypomania for a full blown manic episode just based on my own understanding of how it felt last time. I’m doing my best to avoid big purchases and trying not to let stress push me over the edge—but it’s hard. I’m not just fighting my own brain now, I have additional chemicals fighting a battle in me.

On Friendship

Friends are helpful. Friends who have the same disorder are a godsend.

It’s funny how the world works sometimes. I’d be lost without one friend in particular, and I didn’t meet him because I tweet about mental illness. He actually presented at a conference I attended and I followed him because of his presentation. Interestingly enough, we both got diagnosed with bipolar around the same time. He’s asked me about side effects like akathisia, and I confessed to him two nights ago that I think I might be manic. Part of our relationship is offering encouragement. Two nights ago, he encouraged me to call my psychiatrist (I bumped up the Latuda last night). We also support each other through job stresses and the inevitable rollercoaster moods. We both have supportive spouses, but sometimes it’s just helpful to say to someone, “Hey, has your brain ever done X?” and hear an affirmative response. It means that things are going to be okay. It means that I’m not alone.

That’s something I didn’t realize with this diagnosis. I have a better understanding of myself, but I also feel alone because so much of the world is neurotypical (or just a lot better at pretending).

Hindsight is 20/20

The epiphanies since my diagnosis and partial hospitalization are too many to list. I started to reflect on this a bit with late night thoughts, but it goes beyond that. Periods of my life make more sense. But perhaps what upsets me the most is my whole trajectory could have been different with an earlier diagnosis. It’s not fair to dwell on what could have been, but when I’m in certain moods it’s unavoidable.

What would have happened if I’d stayed at the same college all four years instead of transferring and then transferring back after one semester? What would have happened if I hadn’t walked out on the job in publishing? Or the job at the nonprofit? And that one time I almost impulsively moved to D.C.—what would have happened if I’d followed through with that? Would I have dated so-and-so if I’d been medicated? What would life be like if I hadn’t spent so much on tequila and clothes and then had to dig myself out of debt?

And the most unfair question of all: Why didn’t anyone see it?

My life makes more sense now. The self-made obstacles that got me to this point are just part of my story. Asking “what if” is not going to bring back 15 years, and would I want to lose all those experiences anyway? I’m who I am today because of all the wrong turns and bumps in the road. My hope, as I move forward, is that sharing my experience can help others make sense of their own journeys. And knowing I’m not alone gets me through this.

 

A Love Letter to my CMS

When you wear a lot of hats (as we tend to in higher ed), it’s a relief when you have a tool that makes your life easier. For me, it’s our CMS. As we gear up for a redesign, I can’t help but reflect on how great my experience has been over the last four years since we became a LiveWhale school. Working with the CMS let me fall in love with content strategy and has helped me see the bigger picture of our website.

LiveWhale CMS is tailored for higher education. Faculty, offices, student clubs—everyone can easily edit their own static content, create stories and events, or upload full photo galleries. The WYSIWYG editor is as simple as Microsoft Word, and the dynamic content creation echoes the ease of popular social media that these folks use anyway. The back end organization makes it even easier to control who has access to edit what, but dynamic content can be shared easily from group to group.

What I like best is that I don’t have to say “no” often. If someone comes to me and asks, “Can I do X with my content?” I can usually figure out a way to do it with LiveWhale in 10 minutes. My favorite example of this is Path to Passion, which came out of an idea our Volunteer Coordinator had. She asked me, “Can I make a searchable thing with profiles of alumni?” and we went from “I think so” to “here you go” in record time. This was made much more simple by having a profiles module in our CMS where we could update or create profiles for our alumni. One of the coolest results of this project? We got to present it at eduWeb Digital Summit.

The support from LiveWhale is also top notch. I mentioned the hats? Well, sometimes quirks and bugs are outside my wheelhouse, and I just can’t fix them. The support team at LiveWhale is amazing at diagnosing and correcting any issues with the CMS. They’re just an email away. Plus, the entire LiveWhale family—you know, other schools who use LiveWhale CMS—is part of a Basecamp where we can discuss ideas and developments for the CMS, which is an open development platform. The sharing with this crew and with the Whales themselves is a unique atmosphere I can’t imagine with any other product. Like I said, it’s a family. We may all be in the business of recruiting students—some of us possibly in direct competition for the same kids—but we’re also always there to help each other with ideas!

To be completely honest, LiveWhale is one of the reasons I love my job in higher education. Working with the LiveWhale team, the extended LiveWhale family, and the faculty, staff, and students at my college make my days better. I’m constantly learning, and as a liberal arts grad working at a liberal arts school, I couldn’t appreciate it more.

On Grief

My grandfather passed away last year. On Christmas Eve of 2015, I drank a Budweiser to honor his memory, even though he had since become a Yuengling man.

This year was different. I feel like I’ve been in mourning all year. I’m grieving not only the deaths of both of my grandfathers, but also the world that I’ve known. That works on both a large scale (see: election) and a personal scale (see: mental health).

I’m grieving the end of President Obama’s two terms in office. Under our first Black President, I saw my country working toward equality and empowering women and POC. The Affordable Care Act, marriage equality, science valued over religion—I saw these things and more happen in his eight years. Not everything during the Obama years was perfect; the legislative branch created nightmares, mass shootings occurred on the regular, the Black Lives Matter movement needed to form in response to a systemic problem in our police force… But overall, Obama’s tenure is a bright spot in our history, and I am grateful to have witnessed it. I’m also grieving the party’s loss in this election. It proves we haven’t come far enough in our acceptance of women in power—because any man running for office would not have faced such scrutiny over the same details. Instead, our country elected a xenophobic misogynist accused of sexual assault, further driving home the inequality women are well aware exists in most every work place. I grieve for the dreams we thought were about to come true, for the hopes that we would see our first female President.

In these past eight years, I’ve also grown tremendously as a person. I finally have an understanding of what makes me tick. Treatment for anxiety better unmasked additional issues, and only now am I working with a diagnosis I often suspected. While I’m happy to have a better understanding of myself, I now grieve for the girl I used to be. I was a quiet mouse, satisfied to stay in one place. I’ve lost my sense of self; I not only mourn who I was before but also the opportunities I lost as that person. While I look forward to the future, I’m also worried about what changes my evolving self-awareness will bring to my life.

We can all agree that 2016 was a shit year. There’s no question that the sheer volume of celebrity deaths, the hideous election cycle with all its disappointments, and whatever personal demons we may have faced make this year qualify as a complete dumpster fire. But I cannot grieve forever. The changes, the losses, the emptiness—my hope is that all these factors can serve as motivation to live better in 2017.

Last year around this time was my grandfather’s funeral. I remember crying, unashamed because my grief was understandable, undeniable—my tears were completely justified. I have not shed tears for 2016 like I did for my grandfather, and maybe it’s time that I do. Or maybe it’s just time to toast 2016 with a Budweiser (or a Yuengling) and say good riddance.

Late Night Thoughts

Well y’all, it’s four in the morning and I just finished doing some organizing for a freelance project and writing this blog post.

I think this firmly proves that I’m still in some sort of manic phase, although I’m definitely not at the height of it, and I’m much more self-aware. In fact, I can see myself making the bad decisions and sometimes even stop myself.

It’s not that I’m not sleeping. I fell asleep around 7:00 on the sofa, went up to bed around 10:00, and woke up—bright eyed and bushy-tailed—between 1:30 and 2:00. Around 2:00 I decided I would just get up and do some work in the living room. I’ve been waking up all week, usually at 2:30 and 4:00. Sometimes I get back to sleep. Sometimes I stare at the ceiling for half an hour. It’s annoying and it leaves me drained, but this too shall pass.

It’s nothing like high school when I consistently got by on two or three hours of sleep each night. I would stay up working on my graduation project and watch The Crow twice a night sometimes. These were the days before I had a computer in my room. In summer, when my poor sleeping habits were more acceptable, I’d stay downstairs on the computer all night and sometimes fall asleep on the pull-out sofa in the computer room. I’d be chatting on IRC or playing Rollercoaster Tycoon, trying my best to be quiet as I listened to OutKast on repeat.

* * *

In our psychoeducational groups, they explained bipolar and other depressive orders with a graph. [Aside: I just now understood sinus rhythm is because it’s a graph of sine and remembered how much I hated trig.]my crappy graph drawing Anyway, the neurotypical mood graph is that gentle wave and my mood has this tendency to go up, up, UP, and then back down. The third line in my poorly-drawn graph is what a friend who has depression says her mood tends to be—her ups don’t make it to manic highs if and when she has them.

Part of the problem with this disorder is that it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between being happy and being manic. Another problem, for me at least, is that so much has also been masked by anxiety, which is what I first sought treatment for. In fact, I sort of wonder if the intensity of this manic episode I just had could be because I’m already on a great SSRI for treatment of anxiety. I haven’t had a bad panic attack in ages, and—knock on wood—I haven’t experienced a bottom-out depression on that mood graph for a long time.

This journey of understanding is just beginning, but I’m hopeful my graph looks a bit more muted in the future.

Hi, I’m Lindsay and today I’m feeling okay.

I have a pineapple tattoo on my arm.

It’s not my first tattoo, but it’s my first that I can’t hide easily. It’s not the first that I got while manic, but it’s the one that made me realize I needed help. At thirty-two, I found myself in therapy and marriage counseling. My thoughts were racing constantly. I spent months making impulsive choices that kept getting more and more reckless. I started to hurt the people around me. Suddenly, it wasn’t fun anymore.

In hindsight, I’ve been experiencing ups and downs for most of my life. I could always write it off as something else. I didn’t sleep because I was a night owl. When I slept all day it was because I needed to catch up. Invincibility was just confidence, and I should be happy I felt good! Hook ups and binge drinking were just part of the college experience. And so on and so forth until I excused it all away. I wasn’t hurting anyone then—unless you count myself.

So at the beginning of December, I entered a partial hospitalization program. From nine to three every day, I attended group sessions alongside peers with similar diagnoses. Some were recovering from substance abuse, others had anxiety or depression, others—like me—were bipolar. We learned from each other and a team of professionals. We participated in process groups, psychoeducational groups and expressive therapies.

Today, I was discharged.

I’m still processing what this means for me. The journey of the past two weeks, my growth in self-awareness, the friendships I’ve forged—I’m still sorting everything out in my head. What I can say now is that the focus on self-care that was the underlying theme of the program will not be forgotten. I clearly needed this break to regroup, to get to know myself again, and to figure out how to cope with a chemical imbalance that can lead to me jumping into the swamp before I look for alligators.

Writing more is a goal of mine, so I hope to expand on this journey over the next few months. Stay tuned!

Dear Family and Friends

I have a lot of feelings this year—2016 has kind of thrown a lot of curveballs and a few of them have hit me and left me bruised. It’s Thanksgiving Day as I write this, and I’m thankful for all of you. We are entering the time of year where I typically get excited to send out holiday cards and find perfect presents for the people in my life, but I can’t muster the energy. This year I’m dreading the holidays. I feel crappy inside. The world is going to hell and there’s nothing I can do—except, maybe there sort of is.

Instead of giving me a present this Christmas, please consider donating to one of these charities/nonprofits (either in my honor or just cuz):

The Big Ones

Some Specifics

 

I don’t need things this year. I need my heart to stop hurting. I am blessed with food, shelter, and an amazing support system of friends and family. I hope that you can choose one of these nonprofits—or find one that is special to you—and share good fortune with others this year.

Love always wins,
Lindsay

Inspriation from eduWeb 2016

 

This is going to be the year I delegate more.

I’ve been at Washington College for nearly five years, and with each year I’ve taken on more responsibilities. I found out that I love content strategy and information architecture—something I might not have known had I not become our resident CMS guru. And these days, I’d rather spend my time developing strategies that will serve our audiences than crafting tweets about campus events.

Maybe this is what happens when you wear many hats at an institution. I’ve reached critical mass, and I need to make room for the new ideas and goals that I’m bringing back to the office through professional development. It’s time to stop postponing diving in to data and analytics because I don’t have time; if I want our strategies to be successful, I need to make the time. Several of the sessions I attended at eduWeb spoke to the importance of analytics strategy and data-driven changes. I want this information to inform my decisions—whether it backs up what I think or changes my views. (Now the big challenge is getting the data I want out of Google Analytics.)

Two of the sessions I attended—“Empathy for the Digital Age” with Kevan Gilbert and “Project Kickoffs that Work” with Allison Manley—prompted some additional thoughts on breaking down those wonderful silos we have in higher education. In a perfect world, I would incorporate so many of these tactics into larger scale projects, but I don’t typically get to start the big stuff. As it stands, I will take bits and pieces of each presentation and incorporate them into the smaller-scale CMS trainings and content strategy consultations I perform. I want the people I work with to feel empowered to use the CMS. I want them to feel comfortable coming to me with ideas that seem crazy and asking me if what they want to do is even possible. That is, after all, how Jenny and I ended up presenting at this year’s eduWeb.

This year will be more strategic, but I won’t implement all the ideas that support the strategies I create. I will use my time wisely—and encourage others to do the same too!

Leveraging Alumni Stories

“Can we do something like this?”

It’s one of my favorite challenges—and in the case of Path to Passion, a very promising question. When Jenny first came to me with her idea, she had been shot down because it seemed complicated. We talked about what she wanted, and in 10 minutes we had the basics hammered out.

How It Started

When Jenny moved into the Volunteer Coordinator position, 450 alumni had filled out an engagement survey stating that they wanted to give back as career mentors and admissions champions. Unfortunately, at that time, those opportunities weren’t really available to them. Career development wanted job placement, internships and job shadowing instead of mentors; and admissions wasn’t ready to onboard alumni volunteers. Jenny was confronted with the challenge of making sure these alumni still felt valued even though we did not have the volunteer opportunities that they wanted. While she was thinking up ideas, she was also watching her firstborn look at colleges. He had a strong interest in economics and finance but no desire to be a banker. Jenny knew that our liberal arts majors went on to great things regardless of their majors—so how could she show this to her son?

Path to Passion solved a conundrum. The opportunity to create a profile and make your way to Jenny’s rolodex of volunteers would keep our alumni engaged beyond that initial survey, and creating a searchable directory of outcomes would benefit prospective students like Jenny’s son.

In its first year, we’ve developed and expanded our searchable directory to include academics and career fields. We’ve increased engagement with alumni—some of whom were previously hard to find. We’ve placed various alumni on panels and found inspiration for new events. With alumni who participated in Path to Passion we saw twice the conversion in monetary giving. And finally, we generated numerous story leads and social content.

How We Did It

After we realized that the CMS side of things would not be a problem, Jenny set out to create a form that was in depth but not daunting. The questions shape the narrative for the alumni, focusing on their experience with Washington College and the liberal arts. Any school can create the narrative it wants with specific questions. If yours is a research-based institution, ask questions about what kinds of research influenced the alumnus’s path. If your students transfer on to four-year programs from your school, tell the story of how starting at your institution helped them achieve longer-term goals.

We use paid third-party service Wufoo to run the form because it can employ logic and also allows for file uploads; it goes a bit beyond what our CMS’s forms can currently handle.

Lists of alumni were built through the aforementioned survey, through personal contacts, and through some good old-fashioned detective work. Jenny found interesting alumni via Google and then stalked them (in a completely appropriate and legal way). Some of the connections she built from this seemingly simple research provided incredibly interesting stories and fantastic opportunities for these alumni to work with faculty and students.

After they are contacted and complete the form, profiles are created and tagged in our CMS. We use LiveWhale, which makes the idea of profiles super easy because it has a profiles module we were already using for student (and alumni) profiles. If your CMS doesn’t have a profiles module, you can use some sort of dynamic content to make profiles. If you go that route, make sure you come up with an established style guide so your profiles look consistent!

The tagging nomenclature is vital, as it drives the search function of our widgets. We decided ahead of time that we would use academic programs, but as we were creating the form we came up with general career fields to use, and we haven’t expanded these too much. The academic program tags are somewhat overwhelming; we don’t need career fields to get out of hand, too! In the future, we may add tags for athletics—it will depend on the buy-in we get from our coaches and athlete alumni.

How It Turned Out

I can talk in depth about the varied experiences we had reaching out to alumni with personalized emails, with letters from professors, and through general word-of-mouth discussion of Path to Passion—but that’s a long story for another time. The TL;DR version is that our first year went pretty well. We’ve gathered a plethora of profiles, Jenny found inspiration for a new event (Lead Like a Girl), and we’ve continued to grow the program. Recently, we presented our journey at eduWeb Digital Summit in Denver, Colorado. That experience helped me feel like we’ve got something good—and I look forward to continuing to work on this project.