Hi, I'm Shelby Mertes.
I'm about 50 years old. Plenty of life and experience so far, with still a lot to learn and accomplish. I live in Massachusetts (USA) with my girlfriend who I love deeply, and two cats. My two amazing kids are young adults and seem to be thriving, despite my parental imperfections.
I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, IL that gave me everything I needed, but didn’t excite me. I was lucky to have supportive parents and excellent schools. I can't take full credit for my accomplishments and abilities - I was given a great head start to life, by many good people who cared about me. In my youth I was shy and studious, with a small social circle but a few meaningful friendships.
I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I earned a Bachelor's degree studying political science and psychology. This was a rich experience, both intellectually and personally. During this time, I discovered my life purpose of promoting large-scale social change through public policy and related realms. This is a spiritually-based calling, which has usually felt like both a blessing and a burden.
After school I tried to start a career in political work, which I wasn't ready for. I didn't have enough confidence and social skills yet. I embarked on becoming a teacher, which required a couple more years of schooling, and involved a handful of jobs in various schools. I ultimately realized teaching was the wrong choice for me. I excelled in educational theory and could make a great lesson plan, but that pesky shyness still got in my way. Facing a room full of kids was hard for me. But I'm still grateful for what I learned during that time. I learned how to communicate better, and how to teach people things, which has helped in so many ways.
I was about 30 years old when I landed a job as office manager for a small lobbying firm that worked at the Connecticut state legislature. That soon turned into working for a recently-formed organization doing public policy work on affordable housing and homelessness. That was a great job, and it lasted about 13 years. I learned an incredible amount from really smart people. During my time there, the organization grew significantly in size and influence. We did important work that helped thousands of people gain decent housing they could afford.
I got to do so many types of work there. Lobbying federal, state and local officials, research and writing, public speaking, hosting a radio show, creating educational videos, organizing events, creating website and email content, managing contact databases, networking and building coalitions. I learned how to make complicated issues understandable for average people, and motivate them to care and get involved. I helped people who were concerned with transportation, education, healthcare/public health, business, environment and urban revitalization understand that good housing policy was important to their goals. I found my confidence and overcame that shyness.
That job ended due to some differing philosophies between me and my supervisors. It was briefly uncomfortable, but basically fine. The housing policy work was fun and rewarding, but I had felt for some time that it wasn't what I was put on this earth to do. It was important, but wasn't my mission.
Over some years I've had a growing interest in international affairs. After some soul-searching I've decided the best way I can pursue this interest, and be of service, is to do this podcast and YouTube channel – this work I’ve called The Joy of Saving the Human Race. I've spent a few years learning and preparing for this. I also spent this transition time streamlining my life around this, finding the right sort of work that would pay my bills, while giving me flexibility and free time and headspace to work on this show. So these days I'm self-employed, repairing and improving people's homes – home improvement by day, world improvement by night. If The Joy of Saving the Human Race goes well, it may become my full-time employment. I would love to spend my full time on this important work. The world needs all the help I can give it.
Thank you for being on this journey with me.