News & Updates

🤔 “So… What do people do here?” 👋 Meet Pam Selle and find out!

News & Updates

What we’re going to do about Commerce Street

I get a workout at the gym 4 times a week. Or, well, 3 times a week, if I’m being honest. I change into gym clothes while I’m at Indy Hall, I grab my keys and my headphones, and I exit Colonial Penn through the back patio.

There are more trees back there, fewer cars, so I like using that concourse to cut through the block. I walk up a small set of concrete steps into a shaded parking area caked with mud and litter. It’s the kind of space that encourages (or dares) a person to see how long they can hold their breath while passing through. It smells pretty bad back there, but it’s a quicker walk to SWEAT. And that’s when I hear a sound I hate. 


Crunch.

Like I stepped on a tube of glass. Because I did. Beneath the sole of my shoe, a shattered hypodermic needle. Sometimes I don’t hear them beneath my shoe, sometimes I see them: the orange cap like a Tide pen dotted through the wet leaves and foliage around the short walls of what maybe used to be a garden.

That’s why we hosted a safety training session

On Friday, May 24th, we held a needle safety training session at Indy Hall. It was a first for us, and apparently it was a first for Keith Freeman, Director of Safety Operations for Philadelphia Parks & Recreations. Before he started his presentation, he mentioned that this was one of the few times he would teach this material to people who actually wanted to hear it. He went on to add that he thinks this was the first time he’d been invited to teach the material to a group that isn’t involved with Philly gov. Kinda exciting to hear something like that, it affirms something that I know about our community. We don’t want to sit on the sidelines. We want to do what we can to make our city better.


So what even is a needle training? A safety needle training is a (pretty brief) lesson in safely picking up and disposing of needles and “sharps” that could be found in places where they shouldn’t be, where they could harm someone. In this case and in most cases, we’re talking about hypodermic needles used for shooting heroin. 
Keith Freeman uses a slide deck to teach proper safety considerations and precautions for picking up and storing dangerous items that probably contain infectious material. The needle is dangerous, the drug in the needle is dangerous, the blood on the needle is dangerous. It goes on. Keith Freeman’s slides mostly revolve around these bullets:

  • take your time picking this stuff up
  • what to wear (gloves, long sleeves, long pants)
  • how and where to store needles (biohazard container or milk carton with biohazard sticker on it)
  • common mistakes and how to avoid them (seriously, take your damn time)

Our work begins on Commerce Street

I think it’s a common misconception that people suffering from addiction and homelessness aren’t in certain parts of the city, as if addiction is only constrained to a certain class of person. These aren’t struggles found only in “poor” neighborhoods, these are struggles that affect the entire city, no matter the neighborhood. We face these issues in Old City, it’s just easy to look past that. Truly, it’s easy to ignore because it’s virtually hidden from the sight of most folks. Commerce Street, for all intents and purposes, is hidden from the rest of our neighborhood, and teaching each other how to safely dispose of needles in our backyard is a pretty solid way to draw attention to the physical spaces that are easy to ignore. It’s a great way to gather our community and focus on Commerce Street. 


The public space behind Indy Hall is called Commerce Street. It used to be a walking space for folks back in the day, a very modest thoroughfare between a couple small buildings. Development over the years sort of folded it into animosity. It basically doesn’t exist to anyone but smokers from Colonial Penn, elderly tenants making their way into and out of the Old City Presbyterian apartment complex. And it’s covered in needles. 


Commerce Street has basically been forgotten by time, so much so that the Philly government forgot it was their property. You know a space has to be pretty skipped over if the local government doesn’t even remember they own it. 


It’s sat behind 399 Market Street for years. Years and years. And now, it’s a shady haven for people who don’t have a better place to go. People who need help, a warm meal, a better place to sleep, support and comfort that a musty old walkway can’t provide. The people who hang out and sleep on Commerce Street have blended right in with the concourse itself, hidden to the world a block away.


Intrepid journalist and fellow Indy Haller Joel Wolfram wrote an excellent piece about the beginning of our volunteer effort. If you haven’t checked it out yet, go take a look. It’s an excellent snapshot of the history of the space, the problems we face, and the potential of Commerce Street as a public park. 

Help us clean up Commerce Street on Friday, June 14

So consider our attention shifted. Joel has written about it, dozens of Old City residents and business leaders have gather around a redesign for Commerce Street, Keith Freeman has given us the tools to safely tend to the space, and about dozen Indy Hall members are ready to get to work. 

First, we gather our gloves and tongs and start taking the needles and the trash out of Commerce Street.

Join us on Friday, June 14th from 12pm to 2pm as we gear up and clean up Commerce Street, together. Bring a pair of gloves, long sleeve shirt, long pants, and boots.

Second, if you want to help the homeless folks who need comfort and protection, check out Project HOME: https://projecthome.org/
And if you’d like to help us and simply learn more, stay in-touch. Follow the Indy Hall blog, come visit Indy Hall any day Monday through Friday, and reach out to me: adam@indyhall.org 


We use this motto at Indy Hall, it’s a list of promises we make to ourselves and each other:

  • Take care of yourself.
  • Take care of each other.
  • Take care of this place.

I know that we can expand our idea of “each other” and “this place” beyond the walls of our coworking space, and give a little love to the community we belong to.

Let’s start on Commerce Street.

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Who is Coworking in Philadelphia? Meet Pam Selle

As someone who regularly gives tours here at Indy Hall, folks ask me almost daily “So… What do people do here?” Usually, I feel they’re trying to ask “What’s the majority profession represented here?” I hate this question. 

Let me expand a little. 

Indy Hall is not a community of people who all create, desire, or do the same thing. Our connection to each other isn’t driven by strictly defined goals, professional or otherwise. That has to be a consequence of the incredible variety of projects that each of us has their hands in, at any given time.

The Venn diagram of “What do people do at Indy Hall” would be practically illegible for all the infinitely tiny overlapping circles. You’d be hard-pressed to find a member of Indy Hall who can be reduced to their profession. (That’s true everywhere but it’s apparent here to a unique magnitude.)

In my chat with Pam Selle, I wanted to find out more about her circles and how they interact with Indy Hall as a whole. 


Proving herself that we all have a lot going on, she shares my view that our diverse community of interests is one of the reasons to come here. 

“I tell people all the time ‘I don’t care what you’re into, just show up and start telling people what you’re into and you see what happens.’ Because Indy Hall is kind of this hub of independent collaborations. It’s not like my friends’ clubhouse where we all have one common interest that draws us together, rather, there is a common interest, but it’s an interest in independent thought and collaboration.”

Pam has been an Indy Hall member since 2012. In her time here she’s worked different jobs and taken on different projects, many of which she’s found ways to involve Indy Hall’s larger community. A few common threads appeared as we spoke, themes of communication, empowerment, learning, and evolution.

Movement as Language

Pam has been really inspired by movement arts lately.  She’s been studying and practicing 5-7 days a week. It’s more than just good exercise that keeps her going back. “I find it really interesting about how people approach movement and this whole lineage of dance and movement arts that people are drawing from.”

There are so many varieties in dance styles, and each one is taught differently, giving Pam lots of room to explore. “The other day someone referred to the dance style we were practicing as speaking a language. By learning dance or movement style that you were learning to speak a language so that we could talk to each other”

Creating Opportunities for Learning

A few months back Pam brought an Algorave to Indy Hall, as a collaboration with her friend Sarah Groff Henneigh-Palermo, a digital artist in New York City. “I have a really good friend who is a digital artist and visual-ist in LiveCode.NYC, the collective that played here. It was there first time taking the show on the road which was great practice for [her band Codie], as they [were] about to start a European tour.”

Attendees got hands-on experience the next day, with instruction from the performers at the workshop. The Algorave performance and livecoding workshop were also Philadelphia’s first ever livecoding events, and thanks to Pam we all made history together. 

But what is Livecoding anyway? “Livecode is a form of live composition, so you’re composing music live and making visuals. The raves are events centered on experimental music, an experimental art form where it’s programming, but humans are integral to the program.”

In addition to bringing experimental music education to Indy Hall, Pam had a hand in a completely different kind of education: teaching folks how to present at tech conferences. She helped organize the local Global Diversity CFP (Call For Proposals) Day in 2018, and others carried on the tradition in 2019. (Including fellow Haller, Karin Wolok)

“The goal for Global Diversity CFP day is to help first-time speakers from underrepresented backgrounds in tech write their first proposal to speak at a conference. It’s a worldwide event that takes place across the world on the same day once a year.” Pam knows from experience what a great opportunity speaking at conferences is.

“I started speaking at tech conferences in 2012 and it has been one of the most powerful things to move my career forward in technology.” It’s that experience that has informed her passion for making those opportunities more accessible through Global Diversity CFP Day

The Evolution of Indy Hall (and What Pam Had to Do with It) 

Having been an Indy Hall member for quite some time, Pam has seen a lot of changes here. Some of which she’s had a hand in. “I like that it’s always evolving. Especially being a full-time member, it felt really neat to feel involved in shaping space with other people. When this current space had the opportunity to expand into another part of the floor, I and a few other members talked about making it a quiet zone. It was a small coalition of dedicated people. We planned together and made it happen. It was an exciting experiment.”

Pam also contributed to creating the Code of Conduct, a project led by previous team-member Sam Abrams. It was a lot of work to create it, but creation is only half the battle with such an important document. “The Code of Conduct needs to exist to serve the community. Now that we have it, I hope that we keep revisiting it. The Code of Conduct should be a living document, especially for somewhere that evolves as rapidly as Indy Hall does.”

Evolution is an important part of what keeps Pam an active member at Indy Hall. 

“The fact that Indy Hall continues to exist, even though changing locations, is because Indy Hall is more than just the building. I think of Indy Hall as an anchor: it provides a level of constancy. Indy Hall is outside home or work life, and even when these intersect it remains independent of that. I think is one of the reasons why I found it very valuable.”


Overall tech-witch, movement-speaking, and constant contributor to Indy Hall’s evolution, Pam’s whole shebang a sterling example of how spread out our interests are as members. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To learn more about Pam’s projects, check out her blog

There’s always room for more incredible, varied, interesting project makers at Indy Hall.

In Pam’s own words: “If you tell anyone at Indy Hall ‘I want to do a thing’ the generalized reaction is not just ‘that’s awesome’, but it’s also ‘that’s awesome, how do I support you?'” 

So I have to ask… 

What’s the thing you want to do? How can our community support you? 

Let us know, or schedule a tour so we can chat in person.

Let’s see what we can do together. 


photo cred Stanley Zheng

Catch up with Pam on twitter and slack (@pamasaur), or on her website.

photo cred Stanley Zheng

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A Funny Looking Map

Since becoming a tummler for Indy Hall I’ve been pondering endlessly “How did I get here?” 

I’ve come to realize that a decision I made as an 18 year old was the first step on a path which ultimately led me right here, looking back and admiring my journey.

So, let’s get into it:


Being incredibly lucky to have parents who were supportive (and willing to let me to keep living in their house), my post high school plans were completely up to me. I took full advantage of my freedom and did exactly what I wanted to do: take time off before continuing on to college.

I knew I would need skills, direction, and serious work ethic to get a degree, so I set out to get them.

A few months before graduating from high school I got a job hosting at a restaurant. The plan was in motion.

It’s Not Easy Being Green to the Restaurant Industry

My introduction to the workforce was a doozy. Restaurant work is hard. Between the never ending shifts spent entirely on your feet, the shit pay, and the toxicity, there are infinite reasons why the service industry is so notorious.

And yet there were definitely things I loved about restaurant work. The most challenging shifts were a rush of excitement, a mad sprint and delicate balancing act at the same time. Plus I was good at it, and I enjoyed working under pressure in fast paced environment. (If I had any tolerance for feces I might make a very good ER nurse)

Still, the deep of satisfaction of doing a difficult job well couldn’t make up for the incredibly taxing nature of the work.

After spending three years hosting at three different restaurants I was desperate for a very literal change of pace.

But trying to leave restaurant work with no degree was a tricky task, because despite the considerable strength and ability that I had relied on for several years, restaurant work (like most entry level work) is seen to require zero skill,  and build zero “real” experience in the eyes of potential employers in different fields. My solution was to apply to as much entry level work in other fields as I possibly could, and wait.

Dread Makes Great Fertilizer

After much applying and failing to get interviews, I found a temporary position as Garden Educator for a small non-profit which transformed vacant lots into productive community gardens and hubs for education. I wasn’t looking forward to spending a long summer sweating, designing curriculums, and being surrounded by kids, but I was excited to push myself and hoped discomfort would come with some growth.

I never imagined how much I would grow to absolutely love it.

Working closely with children and the earth is a stunning combination, harder and more rewarding than anything I had yet experienced. I designed and implemented a curriculum on farming, nutrition, and the importance of sustainable agriculture, all while maintaining the beautiful growing space and producing and distributing vegetables.

There’s something spectacular and liberating about going through something you were dreading and realizing how silly you were to dread it. This job was the first time I had catapulted myself out of my comfort zone. My reward of uncovering passion was delicious, and addictive.

That summer I transformed. I strengthened muscles I never knew I had, very literally. I felt valuable, and strong.

Finally it was clear that I was moving in the right direction.

That job led me to the next bullet point on my resume. Still working on a farm, still educating, but this time my all of my students were high-schoolers, and paid interns. Another catapult.

I adapted my curriculum to be more detailed and conceptual, while balancing time-sheets, scheduling, and mentoring teenagers through their first jobs. We talked about revolution, empowerment, and self-care, while cooking lunch for each other after a full morning of harvesting in the sun. I gave them the opportunity and some tools to design their own workshops, to teach the rest of our group something important or exciting to them, and burst with pride when they did phenomenal jobs.

My love for this work was deep, and rooted in newfound passions, but it wasn’t enough. Once again I found myself exhausted from being underpaid and overworked.

With bolstered confidence in new skills, and a refined sense of direction I found myself looking for something better.

So, Here I Am

Which brings us right up to the blog post I made last month, and stumbling upon this job as Tummler of Indy Hall.

Once again I had a single job offer after months of searching. Once again I found myself stretching my imagination to see past the discomfort of a brand new experience, focusing on the lessons I hoped to learn, and getting excited for new challenges.

My job here has come with many firsts. From the pleasure of working in a friendly community to being my own boss, Indy Hall has hosted introductions to endlessly varied and valued lessons. These lessons that are deeply aligned with the goals I set as a little 18 year old who had no idea what they wanted, which has been tremendously validating.

I won’t speak much more about Indy Hall here, because I did so much of it here, but here’s the really exciting part: my tool box is growing, my ambitions are getting clearer, and my stamina is packing on muscle.

The plan is working!


Varied as these jobs were, I found myself noticing distinct similarities amongst my responsibilities and the skills needed to keep up. Skills that deepened and blossomed from one challenge to the next. Skills that are mine to hold on to and nurture, regardless of what comes next.

Which leads me to urge you, my dearest reader, to take inventory of your knowledge and consider how you found it (or how it found you).

It is so easy to undervalue our wonky, nonlinear journeys when we compare them to mythical career-ladder-climbing folks who do things The Right Way. Is it just me who sees how phenomenally rare that is, and what a good thing, too? I’d be willing to bet that if you’ve found yourself running a coworking space, or working in one, your story is more similar to mine than you might realize.

Without taking the time to think back and take stock of how you got where you are, you’ll miss out on the overlaps, the commonalities, and the bridges. Those interwoven trails of growth that you are probably still working on, and will continue to build on far into your future.

Even more helpful to discover is the support for new growth that lies in skills you already have! There’s no one way to build a foundation, and no reason to wait even if you don’t think you have enough. A little creative thinking and the tools you already have become powerful aids of transformation.

My own exploration produced this funny little Venn diagram:

Let’s look closer at those few things in the middle:


The Multitasking Magician

While working in restaurants, the multitasking comprised of flawless customer service while clearing tables, seating customers, answering phones, and keeping the whole night on track at the same damn time. On the farm I had to balance restrictions that came with the present season, weather, and minimum standards for harvest with the needs and desires of each and every seed and each and every student.

Here at Indy Hall, my entire job description can be summed up with “Do 12 things at once, and don’t forget to get started on #13 while you’re at it!”

Enough said.


Deep in Puzzle Paradise

love solving puzzles. Always have always will.

In restaurants that was fast paced reorganization of a seating plan to maximize our headcount for the night. While farming, the puzzle came in the form of efficient crop rotation or perfecting a lesson plan.

A big part of my job at Indy Hall is being the go-to problem solver. Heck, I’m supposed to anticipate problems that don’t even exist yet and fix them before they surface. I just replace “problem” with “puzzle” and suddenly it’s 6 flags up in this brain.


Project Management (or, The Big One)

Oh, project management, what a fickle beast. Equal parts big picture and minute detail, instant judgment calls and long term decisions, project management is the end-all be-all necessary skill for Getting. Shit. Done. To be excellent at project management, you need to be practiced at solving puzzles and multitasking and the combination of the two. (Need to figure out which things must be prioritized to then multitask? That’s also a puzzle. Puzzling over the plan for future while adapting to unexpected circumstances? You are multitasking!)

Hosting put me through project management bootcamp, every night was a high intensity sprint. Then farming hit me with a whole different scale of project management, everything I’d been practicing was required in enormous proportions. Suddenly I had projects (like managing a plant from seed to harvest) that took months to execute, while simultaneously juggling a bunch of smaller, daily tasks.

At Indy Hall there are is an unending parade of projects, one after the other after the other. Some of them are self inflicted, (like this here blog post you are currently reading) some are an utter necessity (planning events, keeping up Indy Hall’s social media presence) and they each have unique timelines that must be recognized and contended with. (Cue flexing project management skills)


Besides commonalities in skills used and lessons learned, I found the deepest similarity between my jobs, past and present, to be their equal place in my weird little journey.

On the surface these positions can barely be united, but my experiences prove just the opposite.

There’s another big thing they have in common; the commitment I made when I was 18 years old and persistent faith in my instincts. The risk that started it all, which brought me pride, happiness, and big dreams that I wouldn’t trade for anything– including a diploma.

This spring it will be a full 5 years since I graduated from high school, 5 years since I made the first decision of my young life.

5 years of catapulting myself across barriers that never really existed in the first place.

See you on the other side,

Anaia

Do you have thoughts to share in response to this post? Any questions for me? Let me know at Anaia@indyhall.org!

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Expectations vs. Reality

In the spring of 2018 I was applying to any and all jobs I could find. After several trying years of work experience in two wildly different fields and approximately zero college experience, me, my high school diploma, and my funny looking resume did our damndest to find something.

My prospects usually fell under 2 categories,

  • Long shots: jobs that I was under qualified for, that could change my standard of living, bring new and exciting challenges, and seemed very very far away for someone with no degree.
  • Steps backward: jobs I was qualified for that come with deeply unsatisfying pay, location, and/or hours that I might be able to tolerate long enough I could find something better.

Enter Indy Hall

Of probably dozens of job descriptions and applications, Indy Hall’s were immediately unique. Besides describing the ideal candidate, the job description and requirements were vague and intriguing. But there was one neon sign of a sentence which really got me curious:

And then, right below it:

Was this real? Could I be hired somewhere that wouldn’t exploit of my lack of direction and inexperience, but would instead provide safe environment for exploration?

Then I saw it, the most beautiful thing I could imagine:

I started my application within seconds.

It was a handful of short answer questions, simple enough. I took a cue from the vague and inviting job listing and designed my answers to leave whoever was reading them wanting more.

Within a few days I got an email thanking me for my application, letting me know when I could expect to know if I had progressed to the interview process, and encouraging me to ask any questions in the meantime. After months of having no idea what was going on in the minds of people who may or may not hire me, I took the unusual transparency as another symbol of hope and started to get excited.

The rest of the interview process was equally unusual, and bizarrely pleasant.

After an initial conversation via zoom with Alex, the founder of Indy Hall, I was invited to see the space and meet Adam and Sam, tummlers to the stars, to ask questions and get more details about the role, as well as meet Johnny, one of the founding members of Indy Hall, to get details about this place from a community member’s perspective. Of course I was also there to give them an idea of what working with me would be like, but the entire 3 hour process was so reciprocal that I never felt like a bug under a microscope. As it turns out, feeling seen as a person and not a piece of paper is quite pleasant- who would’ve thought. To this day I don’t think any of them have seen my resume. They all confirmed the impossibly ideal job I had read about in the post. 

When I left that final interview I was warding off trepidatious excitement with a handful of bitter convictions, including (but not limited to):

  • There is no way I’m getting this job.
  • There is no way it’s as good as it seems anyway.

Luckily for me, both ideas proved themselves to be soundly untrue.

A little over a week later I was offered the position. Over the next six months what was once a too-good-to-be-true dream developed into a delightfully challenging, deeply empowering, and consistently inspiring full time job. I still can’t believe it.

I’ve made it this far, and I haven’t looked back. (I mean, I am now– but for purely journalistic purposes)


The first few weeks were a blur of names, faces, online tools, tours, and note taking, but a glorious blur at that. I don’t think I’ve ever consumed and processed that much information ever.  It was utterly exhilarating.

I couldn’t get enough.  

Being a passionate learner and a terrible student had me starving for education at school. My entry-level work experience was definitely challenging, but often tested my stamina and work ethic more than my intellect. It wasn’t until I started working at Indy Hall that I was finally able to dig into some juicy challenges, which tested everything

Some things were harder than others, (it took me 3 months to get over the intimidation of taking attendance and start introducing myself to folks I didn’t recognize) but nothing came close to the challenge of getting everything done, from tedious little chores to huge steps towards project management.

While no two days have ever been same, I began to see patterns emerging.

Daily events remain a constant rearrangement of endless tasks, which I’ve divvied up into categories:

1. Somebody Needs Something aka Perform As Needed

upgrade the account, send a deposit refund, speak fluent printer error, open the vending machine because a bag of chips got stuck, find the missing thing, can’t find the missing thing because we’re out of it so gotta go get more of it, negotiate with at least one of the 14 online tools to get someone the info they have requested, reboot a router, etc.

2. Indy Hall Needs Something aka Perform As Needed

sort the torrential downpour of packages so the mail area isn’t an actual mountain of cardboard, correctly rearrange the circular tables in the gallery, push the chairs in, wipe off the countertops in the kitchen, relocate something off the worktable in the workshop so the surface is usable again, update the notes in Airtable after a tour, etc.

3. Long Term Goal Management  aka Get Around To Whenever Possible – or – Shit That’s Tomorrow

reach out to the artists who are performing at Open Hall to see when we can do soundcheck, create the marketing plan for an upcoming event, schedule it, then execute it over the next month, write the next 500 words of the short story, dream about where you want to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years and start to work backwards, dream about where Indy Hall could be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years and start to work backwards, etc.

4. Misc. Extremely Important Stuff aka Fit It In Somewhere Because It HAS To Be Done

help people update their billing info, take attendance twice a day, give tours, write newsletter, update social media, say good morning to everyone as they walk in, etc.

5. There’s Someone Right In Front Of You Who You Could Get To Know Better  aka The Most Important, Must Do At Every Possible Opportunity!!

have lunch, learn about their favorite comic books, discuss how great the art store down the block is, commiserate about stupid septa being stupid again, share a giggle after overhearing something purely incredible at the table next to you, comment on their GroupBuzz posts, encourage people through their current challenges and celebrate together when they overcome them, etc.

As Sam tried to warn me, the mind-bending, whiplash-inducing, multitasking required to keep up with daily tasks and long term projects, and staying 100% accessible in the present moment is… substantial to say the least.

Through constant mental gymnastics to decide “what the heck should I be prioritizing right this second?”, I formulated some (imperfect) methods of prioritization out of pure desperation to not fuck up.

Here’s one of them:

A flowchart which is very hard to describe that is basically saying, “hang out with folks as much as possible, make sure all your work is being done, and don’t forget to eat breakfast”

I also, unsurprisingly, learned some extremely hard fought lessons.

So, given all of this, I’m going to attempt to speak to my past self. Maybe I can help her by sharing some pearly nuggets of wisdom that came from this past 6 months.


Dear Anaia whose mind is swimming with excitement and uncertainty, 

Hi, it’s me! (That is, you, from the future.) I’m writing because foresight is a gift only I can give you.

Hope this helps:

Mistake Like You Mean It

I know very well that you have always confused recklessness with a willingness to mess up. It’s a deliberate misunderstanding, one that has often led to commitments dissolving and leaving you smug, thinking to yourself ‘Good! I didn’t want to do it anyway.’ But guess what?

Mistakes are not excuses for doing the wrong thing on purpose.

Mistakes are beautiful, beautiful gifts. Mistakes are opportunities to learn and then do better.

It’s time to learn to love them, and it’s time to learn it out quickly, because you have too much to loose and you have worked too hard to give up. So here’s a little epiphany for you, dear Anaia.

Moments of insecurity are not your evil over loads.

There is no Eye of Sauron in the sky forcing you to walk away from a challenge because you might fail. Quite the opposite, there’s an Alex in the gallery who is ready for you to mess up, ready to help you fix it, waiting there to tell you to try again. He will probably tell you a funny story about messing up.

It’ll be fine.

The truth is you might not be good enough. Maybe your first, or second, or 8th attempts will all come up short. That is not reason enough to not try. Furthermore, by refusing to try you sacrifice ever finding out how to do the thing. I can say with mathematical certainty that not trying is never worth not finding out how to do the thing. It just doesn’t happen.

You do not like hearing this and I risk you throwing this letter away by putting this first.

(Should that impulse arise, just consider the irony until it’s unbearable, and then keep reading.)

 

There’s Room for Your Ambition After All

Your insistence to figure everything out alone, willingness to plunge headfirst into adventures big and small, and desire for growth, change, and freedom have made a lot of things more difficult than necessary, particularly in regards to finding employment. You are so damn stubborn about this it’s ridiculous.

Maybe if you were less privileged, less confident, and less ambitious you would negotiate with that deep and abiding stubbornness. Maybe one day you will be forced to choose between your livelihood and your affinity for independence and adventure. I know you are thinking that maybe that time had come, and I know that was causing you a lot of pain. Good news, friend: it hasn’t.

You have wrangled an incredible opportunity – one that not only allows you to grow, but demands that you work as hard as you can to grow as much as possible.

(I know, that thought still makes me want to cry.)

But now, for the first time, that open-ended, alluring, Just Work Hard Enough That You Exceed Your Own Expectations is matched by support. Support from people are generous with their wisdom. People whose careers, attitudes, and abilities are inspiring.

You can be independent and ask for help.

You can get help when you ask for it.

More than that: you will.

I promise.

 

Make Friends (With Discomfort)

For someone who regularly sprints off of metaphoric cliffs and into the unknown, you are a great big baby when it comes to being uncomfortable.

When you are waiting to hear back about this job and considering what you would do if you are offered the position at Indy Hall, this childish aversion to even the slightest discomfort is tugging at your shirt and whining to be tucked in for a nap. You are well within you rights to say “Kindly fuck off, childish aversion to discomfort. I rebuke you with the power of dark goal-attainment magic”

(How I wish it were that easy.)

There is one anticipated discomfort that comes with this job that frightens you more than the others. It’s the same challenge that has stood firmly in front of you, blocking your path, many, many times before.

There is tremendous social responsibility that comes with working at Indy Hall. It cannot be overstated. You will be tasked with, at the bare minimum, getting on first-name-basis with hundreds of strangers, build trusting relationships with as many of them as possible, be readily available, every moment you are at work is a moment you must be ready willing and able to help anybody with absolutely anything they need.  

This level of interaction is on such a monumentally bigger scale than ever before, you will go into shock a little. (That’s fine. You’re used to it. Remember the cliffs of yore?) You’ve grown through so many challenges, this is just one of them.

Things that make you cringe and hide right now are not doomed to do so. Exposure therapy is real, you’re a badass, and nothing is ever as scary as it seems.

It won’t get easier, but you will get stronger.

With that will come security, peace, and, yes, even comfort that you couldn’t possibly imagine. It will also mean that you are doing your job well, which is extremely important because, as stated before, you are not going to mess this up. Not only that, but you actually like meeting new people, specially Hallers. (You will really like them quite a lot.)

Three birds, one banishment of lingering immaturity. Well done.

Your smile will become freer. “Good Morning!” will float out of your throat effortlessly, countless times, every single day. You will feel pride when folks come to you, for anything and everything, because your good mornings and newsletters are working and people know you are there for them. You will shake hands, give tours, and learn through every minute interaction and every after hours heart-to-heart that this isn’t so bad.

It’s actually really, really lovely.

You will feel a little silly for resisting this charming life for as long as you did, but eternally grateful for pushing yourself into this overwhelming sweetness, that may well have stayed hidden indefinitely if you didn’t push yourself so hard.

Your little community of close friends have taught you how much you need them, how much you enjoy being needed, and just how nice it is to have smart, courageous, weird, interesting, and funny people in your life.

Now you will discover just how big that community can get, and you’re going to like it, too.

I can tell you confidently, Anaia 6 months ago, that I understand your hesitance to believe this will all happen. I know how hard you have worked for other exciting opportunities, and I remember how painful it has been when they ended in disappointment. I also know that you were right not to give up, that it was all worth it, and the best is yet to come. Just trust me on that. 

So take a deep breath or two, summon all of your considerable strength, and jump.

This one is really worth leaping for.

Love,

Anaia

 

Do you have thoughts to share in response to this post? Let me know at Anaia@indyhall.org!

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PSA: Indy Hall ❤️ Code for Philly

In many ways, Code for Philly and Indy Hall already have a lot of history.

In fact, you can trace our relationship at least back to 2010 when I wrote about Code for America’s presence in Philly and how it helped me define my understanding of citizenship.

“I think that the CFA process helped prime the pumps for the continued development of a new style of trusting relationship between city hall and citizens. Something that Indy Hall in particular is really good at, and we’ve been recognized for. – Alex Hillman

Since those days, the organization has both grown and matured. For example, despite the name, it’s not just coders! There are on-ramps for people with a variety of skills, interests, and experience. And while “hack nights” are still a cornerstone, CFP hosts a wide range of events across the city every month.

But one thing hasn’t changed: Code for Philly and Indy Hall share a love Philly and a dedication to community building through co-creation.

“That’s the heart of civic tech: community. No project would ever be able to get off the ground if it didn’t benefit from collective support, and volunteer effort from people who care. – Code for Philly’s Leadership Team (Rich, Toni, and Charlie)

After a few months of hosting occasional Code for Philly hack nights, we’re trying out something new and launching one of our first ever “organizational memberships.”

Rather than simply offer a venue, we’re thinking of our communities as a sum greater than the parts.

This means that the CFP leadership team now has an official “headquarters.” That doesn’t mean exclusivity – in fact, during our conversations I emphasized the importance of having the community “pop up” in various places around the city.

At the same time, and we hope that this membership allows the extended Code for Philly community can feel like they have a home, rather than like they’re always borrowing someone else’s.

We’re also actively looking for ways to connect the people in our communities. Code for Philly’s extended community is now part of the Indy Hall family. That means there are more opportunities to ask for help, and get it; more opportunities to find a project you care about, and contribute.

“What makes Code for Philly thrive, and not just survive, is being able to connect like-minded people with differing skill sets together to pursue progress via civic projects. We’ve found that same desire to bring people together in the people who call Indy Hall home. Together, we know that big changes start with a series of many smaller actions.

This is an exciting new chapter for both of us, and frankly, one that we agree should have happened sooner! Especially working together, our groups’ collective expertise and love for Philly couldn’t be a more powerful force.

You can read more from their side and find out how to join Code for Philly’s next event on their website.


Finally: if your group or business is interested in an organizational membership, drop us a line! team@indyhall.org

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