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.

Moulin Rouge – more than just a movie to me

Moulin Rouge came out in 2001, right in the middle of when I was coming out – to myself and everyone else. My friend Megan, who was my rock at that time in my life, had seen the movie and thought that I would enjoy it. So one afternoon we left work early and walked through the parking garage to the theater in the Arboretum (before it became a Cheesecake Factory). And I didn’t just enjoy it, I fell in love with it.

At that time in my life I was unbearably unhappy. I was struggling to reconcile my faith with my sexuality and had resigned myself to always being alone. I desperately wanted to escape the impossible position I found myself in but no idea how to do so.

And then I heard One Day I’ll Fly Away which summed up what I felt so concisely:

One day I’ll fly away
Leave all this to yesterday
Why live life from dream to dream
And dread the day when dreaming ends

And the seemlingly impossible dream represented by Come What May:

Never knew I could feel like this
Like I’ve never seen the sky before
Want to vanish inside your kiss
Everyday I love you more and more
Listen to my heart, can you hear it sings
Telling me to give you everything
Seasons may change winter to spring
But I love you until the end of time

Through the help of friends I was eventually able to “fly away” to a place where I lived happiness instead of dreaming about it by accepting who I was. A couple of years after seeing Moulin Rouge I met Benjamin and Come What May become reality. It didn’t last forever, but I still cherish those 7.5 years.

Moulin Rouge reminds me that in my past I felt happiness forever out of reach, and yet I obtained it. Of the longing for love and companionship and then the fulfillment of that dream. And that the fulfillment of the dream can happen again.

Yes, I’m a hopeless romantic.

Tired of dating

I’m tired of dating. I’m tired of being interested in people who don’t have time for me. I’m tired of meeting person after person and rehashing the same life stories and there not being a connection. I’m tired of it all.

By all accounts dating is suppose to be fun, thrilling, and exciting. And it is for me when I’m getting to know someone. It isn’t when it’s a series of connection-less meetings at coffee shops. Maybe that is more interesting for extroverts.

Maybe this extreme frustration is a result of being sick for 2 weeks and feeling uncute and highly unsocial, but hating being alone. It probably doesn’t help that the person I’d really like to hang out with and get to know is in Portland, doesn’t have time for me (again — see a trend?), and is moving to San Fran at the end of the year anyway.

I’m tired of dating.

Unattainability

This past week I was chatting with a gentleman online whom I’m very much interested in. During one of our conversations he called me a “totally unattainable man”. Me? Unattainable? To this handsome fellow!? I understand in the abstract — there have been individuals I too have considered unattainable — but I’ve never thought about someone else applying that label to me. I’ve been muddling over this concept in my head all week, both the perceived unattainability of others and my perceived unattainability.

What makes someone unattainable? Is it more about them as a person or about our insecurities?

Self image

I’ve encountered guys I’ve thought to be unattainable (LJ friends might recall this post), so I’m no stranger to the phenomenon. After some reflection I’ve decided that the more physically attractive I find someone, the more I think they are unattainable to me. In fact, the more attractive they are the more unlikely I am to even initiate communication, online or in person. Admittedly this is entirely about me and my self image. Someone I think is really attractive I can’t fathom wanting to be with me who I don’t perceive to be as attractive. Sadly, we gay men seem to come in two flavors: those who underestimate how physically attractive they are and those who know it and as a result are often total assholes. Maybe the latter have the upper hand when wrestling with the concept of unattainability.

Not just a slab of meat

I have initiated communication with amazingly attractive guys when I have context to build on besides what they look like. Having only a picture from their online profile or seeing them across the room without knowing anything about them is intimidating. If, instead, their profile or a mutual friend conveys something about them, I’m much more inclined to initiate a conversation. I view people as more approachable, and ultimately more attainable, when they aren’t just a pretty face.

Too good to be true?

Assuming I get past being intimidated by their dashing good looks, it’s often remarkably intimidating to know that they also have a good job, are generally happy in life, share some of the same interests as I do, and even communicate in a similar fashion. You start stacking things up and realize: they’re unattainable because they’re too good to be true, something must be wrong with them.

There are no perfect guys, but I have to keep reminding myself that sometimes the stars line up, sometimes you really do encounter quality, attractive, guys. It doesn’t mean that there will be chemistry or that they’ll even agree to a first date, but it does mean I need to stop talking myself out of initiating conversation with someone.

Call me, maybe

All of the above is a take-away for me, on how people I think are unattainable may not really be unattainable. But given that someone made the ‘unattainable’ comment about me (although it still defies belief), I’ll be so bold to write a take-away for others who might read this: I, too, am perfectly attainable.

If you’re interested, say hello. Message me online. Come up to me in a bar. Strike up a conversation. Most of my friends would agree I’m a nice guy. I can’t guarantee chemistry but I’m perfectly approachable and by no means unattainable.

Oh, and fill out your online profiles — you become a much more interesting person when there’s context around that handsome mug.

Not letting “I’m busy” rule my life

I’ve found the phrase “I’m busy” comes up in my conversations more and more recently. It appears I’m not alone. But this blog entry isn’t to talk about how we as a country feel an incessant need to stay occupied, but rather about using that as an excuse.

A few weeks ago a gentleman I was seeing, and with whom I thought there was mutual chemistry, told me he wasn’t interested in seeing me any longer because he didn’t have the time to invest into the relationship that he thought it deserved. In short, he was too busy to have a relationship, at least with me.

I’ve found myself using “I’m busy” as an excuse on why I haven’t done something or another: responding to an email, getting together with friends, etc. But frankly, the excuse is hogwash. We’re all busy. Yet we somehow make time to do the things that we deem important to us.

We’re at one of the most stressful parts of the release cycle at work. Long hours at the office and insanely packed days are the norm, but I still need to make downtime for me and time spent with my friends. Yes, that may mean living even more rigedly by a schedule for the next several months, but that’s better than living under a merky haze of being ambigiously “busy”.

So I’m purging “I’m busy” from my vocabulary, becoming even better friends with my calendar, and making time to do things that are important to me.