Enter Mission (2)

Aza Burns-Williams
5 min readMay 8, 2022


This blog post was originally written and published on December 17, 2017. It details my experience as a PBS television production assistant and audiovisual technician between the years of 2016 and 2017.

It's been around two years since I’ve last posted.

I suppose that consistency isn’t my strong suit.

However, over the course of these past two years, I’ve transitioned from being a depressed, job-less college grad –to an everyday working stiff — back to being jobless.

I don’t believe that I’m quite as depressed this time around as I was two years ago. And perhaps with a little luck I’ve become a bit wiser for the wear.

During one of my lowest points, I was insanely lucky to get an internship as a Television Assistant for Lakeshore PBS.

As far as first jobs go, its a pretty sweet gig. Unlike the monotonous cycle that can accompany retail, customer service, or office work; media production was oddly refreshing in the fact that no two projects are exactly alike and that there were numerous opportunities for exploration.

During my time as a production assistant, I’ve had the eye-opening opportunity to work on video segments dealing with art galleries, natural habitats, public affairs, concerts and so much more. In many ways, this job enabled me to see the true value of my childhood community for the first time, in the form of its art, entrepreneurship, comradery, and desire to make things better.

Me working as a cameraman during a regional town hall event.
Chicago Imagism, a segment produced and edited by me.
Indiana Bisontennial, a segment filmed and edited by me
White Ripple Gallery, a segment edited by me.

However, in contrast to the low-key nature of working in the local community of NWI, Chicago was a massive cultural shift into the world of suits, briefcases, and high life. Rather than performing film shoots and weaving effective narratives about my community, my time in Chicago was spent setting up monitors, projectors, microphones, and other audiovisual equipment for conferences held at the Thompson Hotel, one of the top three hotels in Chicago.

Quitting those two jobs was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done.

Aside from not making enough money to bypass the poverty line, there was always a consistent feeling of wrong that swelled to overwhelming heights as time passed on in these fields. There was a powerful feeling that I was moving in the wrong direction, that I wasn’t really all that passionate about media, especially in relation to my coworkers.

In this weird period, I remember my brother recommending me a book called The Dip by Seth Godin. In the book Godin discusses how every worthwhile goal requires that you to undergo a Dip. A Dip is a phase of incredible difficulty that must be overcome in order to achieve mastery. However in his book he also discussed the importance of quitting as a very important tactic for success, especially if it seems like you are currently on a dead end path or undergoing the wrong Dip.

When I graduated from Indiana University in 2015, I received a Radio & Television degree alongside a Philosophy/Religious Studies one. And to be honest, my interest in Philosophy and Religion was far more indicative of my true nature, values, and passion. I loved analyzing complex human constructs as well as figuring out effective ways to communicate difficult subjects in fun and relatable ways. While I do still have a love for editing and motion graphics, the addition of a Radio & Television degree was borne out of a fear of being stuck with a ‘useless’ humanities degree. My media degree was largely a compromise. The fallback plan of a responsible adult.

While working in media and audiovisual, I still found myself drawn to philosophy and complexity. I found myself reading books like Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom, Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows, and the works of Indian thinker, U.G. Krishnamurti. I continually disappointed my coworkers with my rather gross lack of movie and television knowledge despite working in the field, and bored them whenever I’d throw the conversation toward a more philosophical topic.

The more I found myself devouring resources about ethics and artificial intelligence, the more it became abundantly clear that I was walking down an ill-positioned path. I was clearly my most happy when I could decode the mysteries of a meaningful existence and analyze matters of deeper complexity.

Even though my jobs gave me what I needed: customer service experience, team work appreciation, management skills, meaningful work relationships, etc; neither one could give me what I truly wanted personally nor financially. I would be so happy whenever I could set up AV for a professor from the University of Chicago or work an interview with an academic for our Eye on the Arts program at Lakeshore PBS. However, I also felt a deep sense of envy at them as well.

Rather than simply be in the service of amazing people, or weave stories about amazing people, I wanted to be them. I wanted to be that amazing person.

After quitting, I decided that wanted to develop new skills and maneuver myself back into the world of academia and complexity in any way that I could. As a result, I made a pretty big jump and enrolled in both of Udacity’s Intro to Programming and Deep Learning Foundations courses, where I am now learning how to harness the power of artificial neural networks and big data. If I can make it through, I’d like to use the Nanodegrees as a launching pad for self-improvement in a variety of data science tools and to eventually enroll in graduate school for information science, human-computer interaction, or possibly one of the humanities.

I’m pretty scared.

I’m scared because I am trying to enter a realm that I honestly have no business being in with no academic precursor.

I’m scared because in many ways, I feel like I’ve given up most of the progress I’ve made so far and am starting all the way over.

I’m scared because I’m entering a realm that feels very lonely as none of my friends, family, or contacts have much interest in the nit and grit of AI , information, or the factors of human identity.

But mostly, I am scared because I’m still not 100% sure if this is even the right dip for me.

Even now two years later, I’m still learning how to transition from being a reactive person to a proactive one. I’m still learning how to choose actions that are motivated by strength and love rather than by fear and hopelessness.

But I can start today.

This is the first step of the rest of my life.




Aza Burns-Williams

A person trying their best to be a Time Being for the time being.