29 Things I’ve Learned

Intending to build on my previous post around this time last year, I’ve been in a reflective mood.  I’m less fearful in a lot of ways, and more uncertain in others.  This year has given me a lot to think about and a lot to move forward with.  Relationships have deepened in many ways, others have been shed, and exploration has become one of the most driving forces in my life.

I’ve discovered a deeper-seated need to explore than I thought I had before.  Exploring more about who I am as a person, what motivates me as a person, who I want in my life, and what makes me… well, “me”.  I think my flexibility in being able to be present in so many different ways for myself and others is one of many  profound strengths I’ve discovered.  I think in writing especially, I can be present for others and hopefully be a teacher, even when I’m not physically there.  In that spirit, let’s get started.

1. Empathy is indispensable.

This point has become abundantly clear to me as time has gone on, and especially in light of the recent US election, that empathy is the key to almost anything we intend to engage in.  Being aware of how I feel, how others feel, and how to relate to people in a way that’s positive and well-meaning makes me not only a nicer person to be around, but also people that others will seek-out.

2. Change is the only constant in the universe, so find the joy in it.

Even when I’m at my absolute worst, I’ve tried to recognize and remind myself more often that change is constant and it’s going to happen with or without me.  I’ve already “bought the ticket” as it were–sometimes it’s as simple as taking the ride and enjoying it, wherever that ride takes me.

3. Try.  Fail.  Try again.  Fail better.

I have to say this to myself a lot: failure is not an end.  It’s the semicolon in a sentence.  It’s up to the writer (which happens to be me in this case) to decide what to do after it.  Do I continue with the effort, or do I change what I am putting my effort into?  We all have personal agency to make decisions on where we spend our time and our energy, so make it count.  If it’s something I care about deeply, I need to recognize that and keep trying.

4. Not everything is as it seems.

I can’t count the number of times over the past year where I’ve been so thoroughly surprised at learning something new about myself, about someone else, or about a subject I’m interested in.  It’s amazing to me that my mind can be blown in so many ways and by so many things.  It’s one of the main reasons why I seek out discomfort and new situations.  Speaking of…

5. Comfort is the enemy of progress.

Over the last year, I’ve come to understand that comfort in my life has been the ever-present enemy to progress.  The times I’ve put myself “out on the sharp end” or exposed myself to new situations and new people, I’ve always come back with more to think about and a different perspective.  I have a good number of climbing friends, skiers and snowboarders, and technology leaders to thank for the invaluable gift of perspective.  Don’t let comfort dull the sharp or jagged edges of your life–instead, get closer to them and know them better.

6. Get out of your own way.

Sometimes I’ve spent days wavering on a decision to do something when the best course of action was honestly just to get out of my own way and do it.  Instead of getting tied-up in knots over the pros and cons, doing it would have given me the answers I was looking for.  Kitschy as it might be, “you only live once” is actually somewhat meaningful here.  Get out of your own way, bite that bullet, take that drink, step off the edge, and just do it.

7. Embrace the power of less.

There’s beauty and simplicity in having less and using less.  That device you only use sparingly?  Ditch it.  That book you’ll never read again?  Re-gift it.  Those clothes you’ll never wear again unless Aunt Gertrude decides to throw another over-the-hill party?  Donate them.  There’s almost literally nothing that you own that you can’t find a suitable (and often times higher-quality) replacement.  Buying used, high-quality items are not only a good way to keep your overall footprint small, but it’s also a great way to make friends.  Borrow your friend’s mixing machine and make some bread.  Offer to make drinks and steaks if they come over and use it.  Get creative!

8. Lessons can be learned anytime, anywhere, from anyone.

I can’t tell you how many times this year I’ve been smacked in the face with the proverbial clue-by-four from random discussions with friends and coworkers.  Seldom a day goes by where I’m not asking myself “what did I learn today?”  Take those answers, turn them into lessons.

9. Sharpen your axe.

There’s a quote that’s been making the rounds on the internet for years that is attributed to President Abraham Lincoln (which is probably mis-attributed, but let’s go with it anyway).  I’m paraphrasing at-best, but it reads:

If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first four sharpening the axe.

To clarify, what’s being presented here is the notion of not just being prepared, but taking the steps necessary to ensure a positive outcome.  Getting plenty of rest, eating a balanced diet, improving your professional skills, learning how to relate to people, or picking up new hobbies and projects.  All of these things will help you to not just be more efficient, but also keep your mind as sharp as the aforementioned axe.

10. You can say ‘no’.

This one has taken me so long to grasp.  I would find myself going to events I really didn’t want to go to, hanging out with people I didn’t even like, to impress someone who didn’t even really care if I was there or not.  At work, this would manifest itself in being sidetracked with lower-priority issues.  All of this created stress for me and made me even more unhappy than normal.

I’ve gotten in the habit lately of saying “thanks for thinking of me, but I’m not really interested” when it comes to personal invitations from friends and asking coworkers “what would you have me de-prioritize to take care of your issue immediately” when I’m asked to divert from what I’m tasked with.  I’ve found it surprisingly effective and people lately seem to be happier with me saying “no thanks” than accepting and not having a good time.  Some people haven’t been happy with this, but I have to keep telling people “I’m only one person”.

11. Advocate for yourself (because no one else will).

In addition to saying no, I’ve found that I really have to advocate for myself because no-one else will.  People might say “I’ve got your back”, but at the end of the day it’s up to me to pull my own weight and make the case for myself.  No one else knows what I want or how I want to get there, so the only person who’s responsible for the process and outcome of that advocacy is me.  We all have agency, we just need to use it.

12. Conditions are not identities.

Reminding myself that I suffer from something rather than identifying myself as something has been helpful in separating my identity from their effects.  I am not depression, I suffer from depression.  I don’t have PTSD, I suffer from PTSD.  I am not my illness, just as I am not my job, my label, my clothes, my car, or anything else.  I may be able to own some aspects of my identity and make them part of my overall identity (like being gay), but they merely inform who I am.  They are not me in totality.

13. Recognize and appreciate the small things (aka “be present”).

Something I discovered while I was out on my road-trip earlier this year was that the small things like looking at the snow-covered mountains from my truck, appreciating the wind blowing through a desert canyon, and having close friends are things that used to escape my notice.  I’m doing a lot better at recognizing the small moments and appreciating them, but I sometimes have a difficult time getting other people to see them.  At the end of the day, it’s more about contentment than it is about overwhelming joy.  The small moments come more often and are less ephemeral than the big ones.  Be aware and ready for when they arrive.

14. Appreciate the differences.

Everyone will be different from you.  Different opinions, perspectives, desires, and actions.  If you can step out of yours shoes and into someone else’s, even for a moment, you might be able to appreciate what you see and how they got there.  I appreciate the differences in experience and opinions that many of my friends have, and recognize that they got to where they are for different reasons and because of different paths.

15. Share a little love (even if it’s uncomfortable).

I’m not saying “go out and hug random strangers”, but maybe spend a bit more time and show a little more care with people you interact with regularly.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many times this year I’ve been given a glimpse into someone else’s world when I’m a bit more vulnerable and loving.  When greeted with humanity, most people respond with humility and vulnerability.

16. Vulnerability and Authenticity are inextricable from each each and are Essential.

Maybe it’s the time I’ve spent in therapy or the work I’ve been trying to do to soften my emotions, but I’ve found that vulnerability and authenticity are two variables in an equation that has led me to a lot of beautiful and eye-opening places and people in my life.  Now more than ever, we need more vulnerability and more authenticity in how we relate to each other.  We need to understand rather than berate, belittle, and avoid.  Without these things, our future survivability as a species is in grave danger.

17. I’m a little weird and so are you (and that’s great).

I worry all the time about being seen as too weird to be seen as a good friend or a compatible partner, but I worry about that less as time goes on.  My proclivities for some activities and behaviors might drive some people nuts, but those same proclivities make me more interesting and help me navigate the world in a way that makes sense to me.  Your weirdness makes you more interesting, and people being interesting is a good thing.  Homogeneity isn’t just boring, it’s dangerous.

18. Don’t ignore the call to adventure (she often doesn’t call back).

Ignore the call at your own peril.  Adventure knocks every minute of every day, and it’s up to us to do the math individually and decide whether or not to answer.  If the axiom “you only live once” is anything to go by, not answering the call is tantamount to giving up your shot.  The next time you find yourself stuck with indecision, ask yourself: “What have I got to lose?”

19. We are more powerful than we believe…

I often have to remind myself that as a human being, I’m quite powerful on my own.  As an American, I have outsize power in human society.  Additionally, as an individual unbound by dogma or creed, I am more powerful still.

20. … act accordingly.

Using that power responsibly and ensuring the highest amount of good while minimizing the amount of harm is the highest priority I have.  Others might not share that same belief, but I believe it’s up to all of us to ensure that we instill that belief as broadly as we can.  The better we do for ourselves and the people that we care about, the better we can do for everyone.

21. Take nothing for granted.

This should’ve been a no-brainer but for much of my life, I’ve taken a lot for granted.  I’ve left a lot of things unsaid and a lot of work un-done.  I’ve spent a lot of time letting relationships that I ultimately valued rot away from the inside out rather than actually work on them and make them a priority.  I’ve taken a lot of people’s affection and interest for granted, and I’ve hurt people in the process.  Don’t make the same mistakes.  At least if you do, own-up to them and make amends where you’re able.

22. Keep ignoring the hype (and hyperbole).

Hype isn’t worth the time or the energy that’s put into it.  Hype is essentially someone else’s emotional sales-pitch for something that likely isn’t going to help you or the people you care about, so tune it out.  Get rid of the distractions, ignore the con artists, and look for the things that matter most to you.

23. Don’t lose your faith.

Faith is hard to come by lately.  So many things are challenging our basic notions of humanity lately that in some ways it’s become increasingly more difficult to have faith in anything.  Faith in the due process of law, spirituality, other people–all of it seems useless in the light of the crises we all face, whether they are the day-to-day or existential variety.  What can we do in the face of such reckless hate and inhumanity?

We have to keep believing.  We have to keep our own faith and our own path illuminated.  Though we might traverse proverbial or literal darkness, and though the depths of our patience and love of our fellow humans may be plundered and left barren, one way or another we have to find and maintain our faith that people ultimately mean well, that there is a point to our suffering, and that there will be a better day.  It might seem useless or “Polly-Anna” at first blush, I’ve come to the understanding that without faith in something all endeavors eventually fail.

24. Acceptance is helpful.

Understanding and acknowledging the limitations of your circumstances can go a long way toward helping you understand what you can change and why it might be useful.  When you’re able to accept your circumstances, you might find the situation less constraining than you originally thought.

25. … but don’t settle for less.

At the same time, settling for less than what you’re worth or less than what you want only helps to kill your dreams.  Unless your end-goal is to settle into a familiar pattern and die of old-age having done nothing of note, never settle.

26. There’s a difference between what you value and what your values are.

What you value might change many times a day given various circumstances, but hopefully what your core values are will remain fairly constant.  Discovering what those core values are and taking those values into account when your priorities are changed or challenged will likely lead you toward living a more meaningful and authentic life.

27. Aging isn’t nearly as scary as our imaginations make it out to be.

Maybe this is more a result of what I’ve done with my therapy over the last few years, but lately I’ve been feeling as though aging isn’t nearly as terrible as I’d imagined.  Along with just simply giving less weight to other peoples’ opinions of me and doing my best to just be the best version of myself that I can manage, I’ve found that my life is less stressful and more fulfilling for the kind of life I want to live.  No one has to “agree” with the things I do or the way I live my life, and I don’t have to do the same with theirs either.  Simply accepting who they are (and who I am) is the quickest way to get there.

28. Fear is useful as an indicator, useless as a reason.

When I come nose-to-nose with fear, I know I’m onto something bigger.  Fear has become an indicator for me rather than a reason to avoid something.  I know now that instead of shrinking from challenge, I sit-up and take notice.  What the demons on my shoulder keep whispering in my ear, I’ve worked hard to understand it and why it’s being said.  More often than not, it’s just my past fears about how I’ll look in front of other people, how badly I think I’m going to fail, or everything that could go horribly wrong.

I’ve been working hard to instead lean into the discomfort, listen to the fear, and reply: “That was last time.  This is now.”

I figure I’ve got a choice when I’m confronted with my own fear: overcome it, or be consumed by it.  Better to go down fighting and learn something from it than to fail because I let my past or my demons get the better of me.

29. Even if you think you can’t take the time… take the time.

Seriously.  The work will always be there.  The friends and family that know and love you for who you are will understand and still be there.  That long list of books to read, routes to climb, mountains to ski, bugs and stories to write code for–all of that isn’t going anywhere.  What I’m saying, if I’m saying anything at all, is learn to take time for yourself.  Life is too short to be occupied with busyness at all times.

Sometimes you have to take and find your Walden Pond and recharge.  Whether that’s a literal place or a figurative one in your head, you have to be able to take the time to find yourself and check-in with yourself.  Your direction, your voice, and your energy are all dependent on whether or not your efforts are aligned with your life’s goals.  Making sure that you’re listening to your intuition and stepping back when it’s necessary is the first step to contributing at the highest level that you’re capable of.

E Pluribus Unum

It’s been difficult to put into words the frustration surrounding the utterly improbable political situation we now find ourselves in.  Was it because white Americans didn’t spend enough time considering their privilege?  Was it because fanatics and raving lunatics on both sides were screaming at the tops of their lungs and failing to provide anything of substance?  Or was it because the media, the self-appointed arbiters of truth in the public forum and “fourth estate” occupants, failed to understand the dire implications of treating the candidate with the same respect as any other candidate with merit?

Whatever the reasoning, our country’s image is now tarnished; likely for the foreseeable future.  Whatever claim we had to any semblance of moral high-ground is no longer valid; our collective reticence around privilege, class, and race has become the raison d’etre for the resurgence and rebranding of hate-groups and racism.  Misogyny, homophobia, and religious hatred are not part of the “post-” world that liberals and leftists claimed had won–the “culture war” having been soundly decided.

To the contrary: the culture war is never over.  Culture itself is an Ouroboros, ever in a cycle of consumption of ideas and renewal in new growth and paradigms.

What liberals and leftists have failed to comprehend is the deleterious effects of the new media streams that have created the proverbial “walled gardens” and “echo chambers”.  We spend time in our respective bubbles, kept clearly segmented from others who think, speak, pray, and present differently.  We wrap ourselves in this identity politics like a safety blanket, believing that the bogey-men of racism, classism, and extremism will simply “go away” if we stop giving them further infusions of energy by ignoring them.

We ignore the elements that could undo our imperfect Union from within at our own peril.  By not addressing them directly, turning our attention away from efforts to improve the condition of those individuals who are most often targeted for recruitment by those same elements, we instead dig the shallow grave for our Union to be laid in.

Are we collectively at-fault?  Jury’s out on that one.  I imagine that history will not be flattering or favorable to any of us if our Union survives.

“E pluribus unum” seems like a quaint and meaningless placation in light of the troubles we collectively face.  If our divisions since the founding are any indication, we are no further along the path to stamping out any of the myriad “-isms” or phobias that have formed the contrasts that we now see amplified in our mass-media-driven politics: you’re either for something, or against something by simple virtue of which pundits to which you listen, who you have as friends on social media, and where you happen to live either by circumstance or choice.

Urban-versus-rural, secular-versus-religious, post-racial-versus-racist, modern-versus-classical–the short list is daunting on its own.

What should we be engaging in?  What should your response be if you are an urban, secular, post-racial, “modern” American?  What of the opposite?  What should your response be if you are a rural, religious, (even passively) racist, classical sort of American?

I’d postulate that our divisions are both because of and exacerbated by our inability to empathize and to step into the shoes of another.  Our uncompromising belief that “they” are always wrong, and that we are always right isn’t just preposterous, it’s downright dangerous.

Let’s take an extreme example of contrast and instead perhaps see the similarities:

A non-white, female, urban college-student and a white, male, rural farmer.  What can we make of their commonality?

  • They’re both Americans by virtue of being citizens, they’re both likely under a tremendous amount of debt (one due to college, the other likely due to bank loans for the farm that they are operating).
  • They’re both probably concerned about the environment, albeit for potentially drastically different reasons (one due to living conditions abroad and health crises, the other due to the ability to reliably produce quality crops).
  • They’re both probably interested in making sure that healthcare is affordable and equitable (college students historically don’t make a lot of money, and neither do farmers).
  • They’re both probably at least somewhat concerned about the other.  College is often times the avenue of escape for children born into rural families and urban families are often similarly aligned in this desire.
  • Poverty is a big deal to both of them, seeing as how neither one wants to starve or depend on others.
  • Equity in the “social contract” that makes up civil society in America matters to both of them–one wants an equal share of what is rightfully hers by virtue of being an American citizen and being devoted to equality, the other just wants a “fair-shake” in the marketplace and to not get screwed.

Are there social divisions?  Of course.  There always has been.  After recognizing the points of commonality between both of the aforementioned people, is it difficult to believe that relation and empathy are impossible?  When engagement happens from both sides through discourse and debate, when one does not treat the other as inferior, and instead they recognize that one without the other dooms the “grand experiment” to failure?

When we spend our time in identity politics and reveling in our respective circles, failing to expand beyond them, we limit our scope and our ability to understand each other.  We fail to empathize–and when our empathy fails us, we do not have the ability to see our similarities and make common cause.

This is the primary reason why Hillary Rodham-Clinton lost.  Not because of scandal, not because she has been Scapegoat and Enemy Number One of entrenched misogyny and anti-intellectualism (though these things certainly didn’t help), but because she was dangerously out-of-touch with the electorate that she was expecting to lead.

Working-class families of all colors are looking for answers.  Middle America is looking for a reason to be hopeful again.  Coastal elites are looking for opportunity.  Former Secretary Clinton offered none of these things.  Tepid, procedural, and unquestionably lacking in personal energy or magnetism, she oozed elitism and did nothing to distance herself from the forces that have loudly and publicly sought to line their pockets and leave everyone else with the bill.

And the people responded–loudly.  A feckless demagogue and consummate sociopath is now en-route to the highest office in the land.  “Better an evil that we can see than one that will use every trick in the book to obscure and confound.”

The chance to rectify this situation passed with the end of the Democratic nomination process–and let’s not mince words about it: Senator Bernie Sanders was effectively robbed of the opportunity to provide the one thing that might have provided us with some semblance of continuity and possibility.  A true fight for the emotional core of our country would have gone a much longer way toward bringing us closer together as a nation than the tone-deaf placations that were proffered by the establishment candidate.

If that opportunity was robbed from us and democracy left to bleed-out in the street, the proverbial knife in the second-longest political night in historical memory, then what is left to be done?

All of us, regardless of the space that we occupy on the political spectrum, the unique economics that we experience, the color of our skin, the names of our deities, or even our names specifically, have a duty; one that likely all of us have forgotten.  Democracy is not built and engaged upon once and set in stone, it is a living body whose maintenance lies in the exercise of discourse, dissent, discovery, and determination.  We have largely failed in our duty to engage each other as equals, as described in the founding documents of our nation:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” – United States Declaration of Independence, 2nd paragraph

I would argue that instead of shrinking from conflict, that we instead fix our gaze upon them.  We must be steely-eyed and stand at our fullest heights, emboldened by the power of wanting and being wanted.  That all of us may not be desired or loved by all, but there are people out there who desire us and love us.  Whether your belief is in an Almighty God, many Gods, Goddesses, or none at all; now more than ever we must make appeals to the angels of our better natures.

But–we must remain firm in our belief that we all have a right to the spaces that we occupy, the air that we breathe, and the ability to use our voices.  Though we may vehemently disagree with each other, we must respect each other as best as we can.  Where violence, inequality, and disenfranchisement rear their ugly heads, we cannot shrink from those struggles.  Appeal to the laws where necessary; disobey when the hands of Justice remain still.  The moral arc of the universe bends toward justice and equality only when we exert the pressure necessary to make it so.

Above all, I would beseech everyone to commit this phrase to memory: “E pluribus unum”.  Literally translated, it means “From many, one.” We are one.  Lest we forget.

2016

We on the left more or less left the rest of the country behind. In our attempts to try and be “better” for ourselves and for the people that could grok the changes we were trying to advance, we on the left either explicitly or implicitly told people with whom we weren’t willing to engage the same pejorative statements that we had been touting internally for decades. Like a petulant pack of rabid children, we shouted them down and didn’t give them anything in return; not debate space, not chance to reset or reflect, not even an iota of human decency.

“You’re racist!”
“You’re a hick!”
“You’re sexist!”
“You’re stupid!”
“You’re misogynist!”
“You’re homophobic!”
“You’re xenophobic!”
“You’re deplorable!”

On and on the tirades went, without asking the one question that might have gotten them to do the one thing that liberals and the left have spent decades doing for themselves: to think.

“Why do you believe that to be true? What events or facts have led you to believe that to be the case?”

In our mad scramble for power and the ability to firmly anchor our country at some kind of political loggerhead in the dead-center of the left-right spectrum so we could catch a breath and “save democracy”, we exacerbated one of the largest and most telling problems in our nation’s history. We widened the rift between urban and rural, rich and poor, white and not-white, straight and not. Instead of working to understand the individual and trying to actively engage them in thought and civil debate, we on the left have descended into a brand of name-calling and demagoguery entirely of our own making.

Instead of trying to tell personal stories to people that will listen and get them to understand that the world isn’t divided along arbitrary, binary lines, we devolved into escapism and name-calling. We built our own echo chambers and closed ourselves off. The people we trusted to tell us the truth instead started telling us a version of that truth, colored by a truth that didn’t quite line-up with reality. We allowed our own demagogues and demons of our worse natures to run amok over our sense of empathy for our fellow humans, regardless of where they lay on the innumerable spectrums. Instead of engaging with a sense of realism or realpolitik, we allowed idealism to run roughshod over our political aspirations and in doing so abandoned the very people we had in mind when we embarked on this endeavor in the first place.

We’ve allowed phrases like “flyover state” and “basket of deplorables” to replace honest discourse and inquiry. Instead of standing in our identities, individual power, and agency–able to confront injustice and ignorance where we find them, we settled for the truncheon in lieu of conversation. The very weapons of oppression that we ourselves were subjected to.

Where does that leave those of us on the “left”?

We still have to organize. We still have to advocate. We still have people that are depending on us to make the right choices and do the right things. Conflict visits us when we forget the basic tenets and mutual agreements contained our founding documents and social contracts: non-aggression, free speech and assembly, and the rule of law.

Lest we forget them, we are in danger of becoming that which we vigorously oppose: bullies with pulpits and social clubs.

Fear

I’m filled again with hate—not hate for people, but hate for the way people make me feel about everyday life. I hate the fact that I am being made to feel fear. I hate that others are poised to take advantage of my fear and use it to malicious ends. I hate that this election cycle has forced me to look at everyone I know and ask some very scary questions.

Are they a Trump voter? Do they want to see me dead or disenfranchised? Do I need to watch over my shoulder after the election? Will I make it home in one piece? Or will I be woken in the middle of the night by an assailant?

Et tu Brute?

I hate the fact that I’m conditioned to it now. It’s why I still carry a pocket knife everywhere I go. It’s why I keep an eye on the ingress and egress points anywhere I go. It’s why I watch people’s body language and their emotional responses so closely.

It’s not that I don’t trust anybody; it’s that I don’t know who to trust or who to believe anymore.

Thinking

I think I’ve got a lot to think about. I think that I think too much. I think I’m both batshit crazy and just this side of sane.

The more that I think about where I am in my life, the more I think that I need to wander. It’s not that I dislike people or dislike comfort—on the contrary, comfort is wonderful. I think that instead, I’m becoming more enamored with the idea that pushing myself way outside of my comfort zone and leaving the trappings of the lives I’ve lived behind for even just a little while will be extremely important.

I’ve been getting the impression more and more often lately that what I’m looking for isn’t likely to be found on or near a screen or a climate-controlled space. The more often I go out into the less civilized and more wild areas of the places that I live, the more that I find I actually have more in common with the people, places, and animals that live in those places. Granted, I’m not a game hunter or any kind of renowned adventurer. That doesn’t matter to me.

I think what I’m saying is that I’m burned out on people. I’m torn-up and unhappy with the status quo and the absurdities that come with modern life. The compression, the degradation; the sheer loneliness and soul-crushing grind of it all. It’s amazing to me that there’s an entire civilization built around this. Though, I guess I’m not sure what I would expect out of people, especially given the oft-perverse incentives at-play.

I want to be able to wake and rest at my own pace, to be able to see the beauty of the world around me uninterrupted, and to leave as small a footprint on the world as I can manage. I want to be able to travel, to seek, to read, to reflect, and to be my own person without judgment or mischaracterization. Maybe finding an isolated retreat would be helpful. Maybe finding the right tribe would be better. I’m not sure Radical Faeries are right for me in this instance. Maybe they are; who knows.

I want to spend some time climbing, hiking, snowboarding, and camping. Some time seeing the world as it is. Maybe then I can figure out how I want my world and my tribe to be.

What do I want?

What do I need and what do I want? What I need is to sate my deep-seated need for adventure; to feel alive. What I want is to feel free. Freedom to explore and room to grow.

Modern life is constrictive. Society has expectations that aren’t in alignment with what I need. Do I think that Shawn is a perfect fit? No one is. Can I explore with him some? For sure.

What would allow me to grow more in the directions that I want to grow in? Would leaving the technology industry be a good way to achieve that?

I’ve thought about product design and engineering a lot in the last few years. How things could be made differently or how different functionality could be provided.

Maybe there’s something to this.

Labels

Our dependence on labels is killing us, figuratively and literally.

“Flyover states”. “Coastal elites”. “Country hicks”. “Urban war-zones”.

When we fail to see our dependence on labels, when we dehumanize someone and divest them of the totality of their life experience and their worth through arbitrary categorization, we in-turn dehumanize ourselves. We let tribalism and fear rule our interactions in lieu of humanity and reason.

Reason is the sum-total of humanity’s evolution to-date. Reasoning grants us vision, but without empathy it remains cold logic. For progress to continue, we must come to understand that reason, empathy, and ultimately love are inextricably linked.

We deserve to exist beyond our labels, completely visible in our totality. We deserve to stand at our full heights, arms wide and eyes fixed upon the horizon.

We all deserve more than the sum of fear—which is no sum at all.

We deserve to be more than our labels, as does the rest of the world. If we can start by dismissing our labels and peering beyond them, even just a little, we will have shifted our perspectives. And maybe—just maybe, that’s what we all need.