Role models

“Who are my role models?” popped into my head about a week ago, for some reason only my subconscious understands, and it’s been an interesting question to ponder for the past several days. To the best of my memory I’ve never had explicit role models. No one that if asked I could readily respond with.

The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that I have two implicit role models and I’d wager a pretty penny that until they read this they won’t have realized it either. Those people are John Martin and Jonobie Ford.

 

John Martin and I met while working at IBM on a remote assignment in Irvine, CA over 15 years ago. He’s about 20 years older than I am and yet we are more alike than different. We’re both gay, enjoy country western dancing, are frugal but not cheap, like reading and blogging, and more. We’re so alike in some ways that we affectionately refer to each other as BigMe and MiniMe.

In the gay community we often talk about living our authentic life, being who we are and not who others want us to be. John has always exemplified that. It was John that taught me that it really is OK to be out at work and that bringing your whole self to work is how you do your best work. Good employers recognize this. For me IBM sure did, as did Isilon/EMC, as does Spaceflight Industries. John inspired me to be very visibly out at work, to leverage my privilege to make it a safe place for others to be out as well.

I’ve learned other lessons from John too, like it’s OK to make big changes in your career, that it’s absolutely OK to have not just friendly but loving relationships with your ex-spouse, that living well below your means now opens up many doors in the future, that there’s no shame in trying something bold and changing paths when it wasn’t the right decision. But the one word that I keep coming back to with John, and what makes him a role model to me, is his authenticity.

 

I’ve known Jonobie Ford for almost 18 years now. We met at Tivoli, our first jobs after college. She was one of the very first people I came out to at work. One Friday afternoon, before the weekly beer bash, I asked her to take a stroll around the pond with me. I was a nervous wreck, terrified of being rejected. Jonobie accepted me with open arms and an hour later was ready to punch a guy on my behalf after he said some homophobic comment at the beer bash.

It isn’t her fierce friendship that makes her a role model to me, although she is my best friend, it’s her creativity and refusal to fit into anyone’s box.

I can’t even keep track of all the different kinds of creative endeavors Jonobie has done in her life so far. Drawing, pottery, dancing, brewing, aerial silks, knitting, and bartending just to name a few off the top of my head. At her encouragement I took my first pottery class 15 years ago and have been hooked ever since. We’ve brewed ginger beer and even taken a bellydance class together (yup, I’ve done bellydancing). Her stories of sketching encouraged me to take a chance on being a model myself. I might never have tried partner acrobatics and glassblowing were it not for catching a part of her adventurous spirit a decade ago. Being creative is just who Jonobie is, it isn’t something that gets tacked onto her life. She’s shown me that it’s more than OK to try some new creative endeavor, it’s part and parcel of living.

Jonobie doesn’t fit into any one, or anyone’s, box. She’s a woman in tech with bright pink hair. She’s insanely creative (see above) and runs races (we ran a marathon together!). She loves to travel internationally and quiet board game afternoons. She’s a feminist and very vocal LGBTQ+ ally. She’s done rock climbing, drawn models, done bow-and-arrow and gun target practice. She’s gone to Burning Man and a yoga retreat in Mexico. I’ve never known her to let anyone or anything dictate what she could and couldn’t do based on some stupid societal norm — and that’s inspiring.

So who cares if I want to present as a masculine gay man and also take bellydancing classes? Nothing’s going to stop me from helping the receptionist empty and reload the dishwasher at work even though some may see it as “beneath me”. Why should anyone care that I don’t drink alcohol or coffee because I can’t stand the taste? I workout 6 days a week, have 14.75″ biceps, and yet ugly cry while watching Moulin Rouge every. single. time. I don’t have to fit into anyone’s box either.

 

I suspect that neither John or Jonobie realize that I view them as role models, so clearly it’s possible to be a role model and not know it. That leads to the extremely scary possibility that I may be a role model for someone. If so, heaven help us all.

2018, more and less

I’m not one for making New Year resolutions, but I see value in taking a moment to reflect on the prior year and brainstorming ideas on how to make the new year better. I’m approaching 2018 with a “more and less” philosophy.

More content creation; less passive media consumption.

I want to create more content than I consume. There are times I find myself mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. Instead I want to put more energy in blogging, working on code for Distributed Proofreaders, working on VoteSTEM.org, and yes even posting more selfies on my Instagram.

More reading; more science fiction & fantasy.

Reading, particularly science fiction and fantasy, has always been my way to escape and decompress. I’ve found that reading also frees up my mind from hyper-focusing on whatever problem I’m working on and lets my subconscious piece things together, ultimately helping me work through the problem.

For the past couple of years I’ve been terrible about making time to read and I intend to change that. The year is off to a good start with discovering the Expanse series (thanks Josh!) and the Bobiverse books (thanks Samantha!).

Less soda, sweets, and carbs; more vegetables and bacon.

I’m already pretty good about not eating hollow calories like soda and sweets, but I’m still a sucker for carbs in all forms. Heaven is bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I want to pare that down and eat more vegetables. And bacon, because: bacon.

More cooking; less eating out.

Daniel does most all of the cooking in our household and I do the dishes. This is primarily because he really enjoys cooking and also because when we started dating he was working from home and could start dinner early. (There is nothing as awesome as coming home from work to a house that smells of delicious food and immediately sitting down to eat.)

Our work schedules have shifted and I get home between half an hour to a full hour before he does but he still does most of the cooking. This makes for late meals, eats into our evenings together, and risks a hangry Casey. I want to start doing more of the cooking before he gets home so that we are eating earlier and have more time together.

In addition to this, I want to eat lunch out less. This will require better meal planning and, frankly, making enough dinner that there are leftovers to take with me to the office.

More consistent workouts, including leg days and weekend running with the gang.

I’ve been remarkably consistent about working out in the mornings over the past 17 years, but not so consistent with having high-quality workouts. This year I want to be more focused on the workouts themselves and stop skimping on leg days, which I hate.

I also want to run more with my weekend running gang. Getting together and running once a week with that cadre of friends that I’ve known for more than 15 years is so good for me, body and soul.

Actually, just more running in general. I always forget how fantastic I feel after a run.

More haircuts.

I want to get more haircuts in 2018. I really like the way I look after a fresh haircut, but with ~4 weeks between haircuts my hair looks like crap there towards the end and I hate it. Sadly, my barber is no longer convenient to my office so there’s a huge time overhead in getting a haircut. I’m loath to change barbers, so I will have to get creative in making time to get my haircut more frequently.

More time with chosen family.

I want to spend more time with my chosen family in 2018. As time goes on I realize how important they are to me and how much their company improves all aspects of my life.

More good; less bad.

This year I want to do more good and fight more bad. Working to positively influence the 2018 midterm elections is a big part of that, primarily through VoteSTEM.org, but also through donations to candidate campaigns across the nation. Less dwelling on our shithole President and his cronies and more working to right the ship and empowering those people who will make that possible.

 

2018 is going to be a great year, more and less.

Becoming disconnected

I just got back from a much-needed vacation to Buenos Aires. Time with Jonobie (my wonderful friend and travel companion), sunshine, and new adventures were all in order. Also in order was becoming almost completely disconnected from my day-to-day life.

I removed Slack and my personal email account from my phone (work email is never accessed from my phone), the two most prevalent distractions from living in the now. I removed easy access to NPR and the New York Times from my phone’s home screen and succeeded in not looking at them once. I tried to limit my time on Facebook (already accessed only from the mobile web interface) to posting photos into our shared Argentina! album. Ditto Instagram. That was mostly, but not entirely, successful.

And you know, it was excellent.

I received a small handful of texts from people that I love and a few emails to my travel-only email account from the very few people that have the address. Through those and friends commenting on the Facebook and Instagram photos I felt somewhat connected with my tribe.

I didn’t feel overwhelmed by all the things piling up while I was away – things that likely don’t warrant worrying about anyway and none of which needed an immediate response from me (and they certainly didn’t get one!). I wasn’t tied to checking my personal email and Slack messages. I was free to live in the now, mostly guilt-free.

The challenge is to pull this level of disconnectedness into my daily life while still being connected to people. I’ve decided to stop having my personal email open at work. I’m going to squash all kinds of Slack notifications, perhaps not even reinstalling it on my phone. I’m going to continue ramping down reading the news to mitigate the stress that results from reading about the shit-show that is our new president.

That said, how can I retain connectivity with my tribe? More game nights? More lunches with friends? More texts? More old-school long-form emails? Therein lies the real challenge: how to stay connected to people and yet disconnected from the electronic distractions.

An introvert’s report of Seattle Pride 2012

This was the best Pride I’ve ever attended. Not that the Pride itself was particularly amazing, although the weather was perfect. But rather the friends I hung out with made the entire weekend. Pride lasts all weekend, with events happening on Saturday, mostly up on the hill, and Sunday both near the Seattle Center and up on the hill. Last year I went to the parade on Sunday, spent about 30 minutes at the festival at the Seattle Center, and then bailed for a movie by myself. That’s it.

This year on Saturday, Chris asked me to join him and Will for dinner on the hill. What I thought was just going to be dinner turned into a bait and switch of dinner then going to the Purr block party for 4 hours. The introvert in me physically cringed at the idea of the block party, but I really enjoyed myself after getting there. One of the things I love about Chris is that he has a great read of me on when to push me outside of my social comfort zone and when to back off. It helped that we arrived at Purr early in the evening, so it wasn’t as insanly crowded, and Chris knew a lot of people which made hanging out fun. The Buffy Sunday crew (Jay, Phil, Anthony, et al) showed up later as well. Eventually I reached my tipping point of too many people and my legs hurt from standing so much (standing for 4 hours after running 13.1 miles that morning wasn’t ideal).1

Sunday morning Chris and Shaun came down for brunch at Mecca Cafe. We caught the first part of the parade where Will joined us. I’m not a huge fan of parades, Pride or otherwise, but I like showing support for the companies (such as Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, F5) and organizations (eg: Seattle Public Schools) that support my community. We left about an hour into it and headed to my apartment for a brief respite before tackling the chaos at the Seattle Center. Having my apartment be, literally, a block from the Seattle Center festivities was super-handy. Drinks, bathrooms, and a break from the crowds within easy walking distance. The absolute highlight of the ongoings at the Seattle Center happened when Chris, Shaun, Will and I were sitting down on a small rise when a gentleman whom I’d chatted with online months ago, but hadn’t met in person, stopped, saw me, and came up to introduce himself. Did I mention this gentleman was very handsome? No? Well he is. After we exchanged a few words, aforementioned gentleman realized he knew Chris and Shaun and said hello to them as well. But he stopped because of me.2

I put on my extroverted hat again that evening and went back to Purr with Shaun where we ran into Brian and his friend Shara. We briefly checked out the line at the Cuff, decided it was too long, and went back to Purr. When we walked in, “Call Me Maybe” just started playing — a song that I hate to admit I love — and I danced to it. This completely floored Shaun, and probably Pip and Robin who were there as well, as I don’t dance. But then they played Pink’s Raise Your Glass, then Third Eye Blind’s Semi-Charmed Life which are probably some of my favorite songs so I danced to those too. Around 11p we meet back up with Chris, grabbed a quick burger at Dick’s, and called it a successful Pride.

I had an absolute blast this weekend and realize, again, how much I love my friends. Chris and Shaun made the weekend an unforgettable experience.

1 That night I posted this very poorly written update to Facebook which garnered numerous chuckles:

That’s a first — Casey out at a club on Pride. Between my legs hurting from the race and the mass of people, I think I left at the perfect time.

2 Later that night we exchanged a couple brief messages, but the one that made my weekend was this one from him:

You caught my eye all sorts of up down and sideways. We need to hang out very soon :)