I’ve spent the better part of the last week coming back to reality from vacation. I met so many wonderful people and had such deep experiences that I’ve found myself trying to find ways to make the positive and challenging aspects of my time away a permanent fixture in my life.

Something that I’ve been wrestling with is the notion that at one point in my life, I “knew” intrinsically that my job wasn’t my life and that the axiom that “I am not my job” was true. What I hadn’t accounted for was being confronted with that idea so clearly. It hit me like a Clue-By-Four to the face on the last day of my vacation before driving back to Boston that I was experiencing such a strong disconnect between what I did for work and what ultimately made me happy. For example, I have spent an inordinate amount of time seeking attention and validation through the work that I do and getting gratification from it because that was the only place in my life where I felt as though I was accomplished. If I could get to the bottom of a tough technical problem, I was worthy. Not a great way to measure myself, but at the time it was the only thing that really mattered to me.

In contrast, after being around other men this past week whose journeys and struggles closely mirror my own, being vulnerable with those same men about those challenges, and being unconditionally supportive and supported deeply touched me. Despite our differences in life experience and beliefs, there were wonderful men that were able to hold space for me and with me. I can’t say enough about how grateful I am to have had such an experience. It really turned the proverbial mirror on myself and gave me something to look at and think about.

Right now I find myself focused on the notion that my worth has been too heavily invested in things that are outside of my control or aren’t actually reflective of my own intrinsic worth as an individual. I spend a lot of time focusing on the physical, practical aspects of living in this world and not enough on the more abstract impact of my actions or my presence. I’m beginning to notice that I’m not as focused on visibility or active approval of my performance or behavior at work or in the climbing gym. I’m happier just trying and learning new things, whether it’s in code or on the wall. I’m a bit happier being the weird and quirky person that I know myself to be. I can listen to rock and metal, speak my truth about my life experiences while wearing a rainbow sarong, and talk about superheroes and sci-fi until the heat-death of the universe. I can talk about sexuality, HugOps, and my interest in future technology without missing a beat. I can tell you about the last Asimov book I read and how much I loved The Martian and Snow Crash before moving on to talking about how much I miss snowboarding and climbing outside on real stone. I’m not weird, I’m just me.

It’s been difficult for me to really own that. I’ve spent so long being the outsider and being rejected for what I like, who I am, and what my life is like. I spent more time trying to dodge questions and fabricate some kind of image rather than be comfortable with who I am. I’d also felt as though I really didn’t have a “right” to feeling that way about myself, as if such a thing was nothing more than an exercise in vanity.

It’s taken me quite a while to get to this point in my life. I’m annoyed that it’s taken this long, but I’m grateful that it’s happening at all.

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