Christmas Letter

Apparently I haven’t blogged in awhile. I write things but hardly post them. Here is my Christmas letter that I wrote but also failed to send out. I do that sometimes with my writing.

Last year, as I came home from my Christmas vacation I had some time on the plane to gather my thoughts. This happens often  to me on airplanes as it is a time of relative solitude and a time untethered to the world if only for a few hours. Flights are a time of introspection and growth for me and this trio in particular helped me to focus my life which led to some great changes in my life.

These changes took root, not as an affirmation of what I should do with my life, but rather what doors I should close after years of leaving them ajar. I realized that i’m not going to join the CIA, that I’m not going to the olympics in fencing, our becoming a Broadway star, and most importantly I finally decided to close the door on a mission. By closing these doors I realized that what wad left was something I really loved but that was being closed out by the other options, online politics.

On New Years I wrote a Non-Resolution with a set of goals designed to make me healthier, more well read, smarter, more cultured, prepared for the world, focused, and open to love. In several of these categories I succeeded while others, not so much. I had planned on heading to Grad School in Fall of 2013, lose 20 pounds through diet and exercise, and read a book a week, in most of those items I failed, but I feel I failed in a grand and spectacular way.

I started out the year applying to two graduate schools in England, The University of London and Oxford University, to study politics on the Internet for Fall of 2011. When I realized that my application to Oxford was weak I decided to try something new and interesting to put my application to the top of the pile. I ran an online advertising campaign directed to the professors by using Facebook stalking & ads combined with Google advertising and a YouTube video  ad. During the process, I couldn’t figure out why my ads weren’t working and so I called Google’s 866 support line for advertisers. When I described to their support specialist what I was trying to do he understood it, but couldn’t help me fix it because he hadn’t worked with the product enough to know its limitations. Eventually I got it up and running with the help and support of some of my friends, but sadly it didn’t work out partly due to the fact that I didn’t get the campaigns launched soon enough.
In February I did open myself up to love and went on a lot of first & second dates, but almost never got to three. I still don’t know if it is my personal insecurities or that my background turns off most guys, but it is really hard for me to find someone with whom my personality matches well. I also did a lot of waiting to hear back from schools, and a good fair amount of hanging out with my great friends in DC & NYC.
In March I took an emergency trip to Salt Lake City to visit my family and took advantage of that time to Interview internship candidates from the University of Utah, and help a friend come out a little bit more, gave an interview for a former professor’s work, and spent some much needed time with my family. While on the way back home to DC I realized that I needed to be closer to my family and so I entertained the possibility of leaving my job to move back out to Utah. It was at this time that I heard back a “thanks, but no-thanks” from Oxford. Shortly thereafter, Lent began and I decided to give up fear for 46 days, to give up not trying things because I might be afraid and it was this combination of events, combined with my experience at BIPAC in online advertising and the instinctive nature of my ad campaign for Oxford that I decided to put aside the fear of rejection and apply to Google on a Hail Mary attempt before I started the job hunt in earnest a few months down the line. In March I also went with a bunch of friends and saw the opening weekend performance of “The Book of Mormon” Musical on Broadway that eventually won 9 Tony Awards, It was a great night amongst friends.
In April, despite the odds, my resume and cover letter caught the attention of a recruiter at Google who gave me a call shortly after I sent in my application to inform me that while they had filled the role I applied for, they did have another position that was similar and they thought I’d be a good fit for. Naturally I said sure and we set up the interviews for immediately after I recovered from getting my tonsils removed which gave me 10 days to focus and prepare for the interview full time. I flew out to California and stopped by YouTube’s headquarters to have 4 interviews over the span of just 3 hours. After the interviews I heard that I had moved on to the next phase and helped my recruiter send a packet of just about everything I’d done in my life. I think only a Secret Clearance check is more diligent than Google was. I continued to go out on dates, interview for scholarships I had applied for, and I heard back a resounding “yes” from the University of London who wanted me to start in September 2011, they were my second choice school and with Google progressing I told them maybe.
May opened up with major news and amazing things all happening at once, at first the boogie man of my childhood, Osama Bin-Laden, was finally killed and I celebrated outside the White House with a good portion of DC. On the 5th of May I heard from Google with an initial offer that was just what I was looking for and so without fully understanding the role I was to fill, I accepted the job and started packing for California. I wrote up a letter of resignation for my boss at BIPAC and I felt like utter crap telling him that I was leaving. During this week I also met Senator Harry Reid with a good friend of mine and showed him around DC. He, a group of younger LDS members, and I also had a meeting at the White House with their religion and youth outreach staffers complete with the actor Kal Penn as well. By the time that was all over I had one week to pack up or sell all of my things, ship them home to SLC, say goodbye to my friends and then finish my last day of work at BIPAC after almost 2 years. I then left the next day, flew out to San Francisco to look for housing with no success at all. Despite the failure of finding housing, I did make friends with a few members of the singles ward in SF and became fast enough friends with one girl that she offered to put me up in her spare room until I found a place. With these mixed results I set out to buy my first car back in SLC, a silver 2011 VW Golf TDI which is a diesel hatchback that gets ~45MPG and seats 5 people and a bit of junk in the trunk quite comfortable.
At the beginning of June I packed up my stuff in the new car and headed west for the foreseeable future confident that I would be spending a lot of time in sunny California (and foggy SF), that I’d find love, and that I’d visit home a lot. I stayed my new great friend from the ward for a couple weeks before moving into the third story of a house in the Mission of San Francisco. My basement was a laundromat and my roommates included an economics/accounting student who worked for the county, a bar-tending financial planner, and a free-spirited fashion designer/independent newspaper writer who wasn’t ever going to work for “the man.” I started work at Google and was blown away at the sheer awesomeness of this amazing company. Sure there are the free Breakfasts & Dinners, the shuttle that takes me to work, the on-site masseuse,the technological perks of living on the cutting edge, but what is really amazing is the culture. We are trusted with large amounts of information, trained minimally because they know we pick things up quickly, and most of all respected. I hadn’t worked in a terrible office environment before but this company is so superior to anything I could have imagined. The one down-side to work was the actual role I was working on. It wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t challenging.
In June I also discovered that a guy whom I really hoped would be available to start dating was already in a relationship with someone else and that was a bit frustrating, I came out to my San Francisco Bishop which resulted in a long discussion of how I should see a therapist to try and change my orientation, I could tell that was going to be a long struggle to keep active in the Church with a Bishop like that. I traveled to SLC for a good friend’s wedding and saw her one last time before she left for Jordan for a semester or two. When I got back we had our annual sales conference in San Francisco and while mingling with the crowd of 3000+ Googlers I ran into the political team I had worked with in 2010. In turn they mentioned that they were looking to hire someone with a republican background and someone experienced in working with Independent Expenditure groups. The Manager of that team (Charles) jokingly asked me to let him know if I ever wanted to leave sunny California for frozen Michigan. Because of my earlier experience conquering fear, I approached Charles the next day told him “I could see myself in Ann Arbor” because I’d be able to work in politics and be challenged. We tabled the discussion for a couple weeks but I could tell that he was interested in getting me onto his team.
July rolled in quickly and I spent the 4th in Utah attending the wedding of my next-door neighbor and childhood friend. It was touching to see him so happy and focused on his future and it gave me hope in my singletude. When I made it back to San Francisco I ended up with an ulcer in my cornea which boiled down to the sad fact that despite trying to avoid them since 2nd grade, I needed to wear glasses full time and contacts were shelved as an option of the past. I travelled for work to NYC for training and ended up seeing several shows with my great friend who happened to be there for work too. We caught the play “Unnatural Acts” about a group of around a dozen boys who were tried in a secret court at Harvard in 1920 and found guilty of homosexuality. Their story touched me and led me to research their story and ultimately be baptized for many of the boys. During this week I also met with some internal HR people and guides to figure out how best to handle a transfer after being in my role for only a short time-frame and prepped for my interviews. I started to prep for leaving San Francisco after such a short time-frame and started to cut off the roots from growing without knowing if I had been approved for the role or not yet.
In August I helped out with the Elders in teaching a few investigators and at one point I was prompted to come-out to the investigator mid-lesson in order to share with her the knowledge that I knew the fear she felt in even thinking about telling her parents (Greek Orthodox) that she wanted to get baptized. She ultimately was baptized and was able to lean on my experience and the words the spirit inspired me to say in order to tell her family. August also brought a talk in sacrament meeting about what manner of Men & Women ought we to be in which I subtley mentioned that I was planning on finding a husband one day to the instant laughter and then realized whisperings amongst the congregation. August is also when I started to interview for the role with a couple of my new teammates and I was given the unofficial nod for the role.
September was an insane month. I had accepted an opportunity to speak on 2 panels for the Affirmation (An LDS/LGBT group) conference in Cleveland Ohio. I worked to prep my notes and gather my thoughts as this would be my first conference that I had ever participated in. A week before the conference (Sept. 15) I got word from HR that I had the role and that I was expected to start on October 1st. I started to pack-up my belongings, search for housing, and book my travel for all of this. I ended up flying to Ohio to speak on the panel, meet a great friend of 3 years for the first time (we have corresponded online as he lives in London), and then within 20 hours of arriving I had hopped into a rental car, driven 4 hours to Ann Arbor and started a 36 hour search for housing before heading back to San Francisco to back up my life for the 2nd time in 4 months, say goodbye to my friends and co-workers, and start the 3-day drive from San Francisco to Michigan. I stopped over in Salt Lake for the weekend in order to spend some more time with my family and then drove through the so-called “flyover states” and made it to Michigan in one piece.
October started my new role as a Political Account Manager specializing in Independent Expenditure groups. Essentially, I am a political consultant/sales person for groups who are advocating for the election or defeat of particular candidates. You probably have seen Stephen Colbert’s now-infamous “Super PAC,” that is the type of organization I work with for Presidential, Senate, House & Gubernatorial elections this cycle. I work with a teammate based in DC and the two of us are fast becoming a great team. I spent most of October meeting new friends, the new ward, new co-workers and new roommates (both Googlers).
November brought more from October, but a better sense of belonging within the groups I had started to form. I went to Thanksgiving dinner with my Father’s former college roommate’s extended family. I knew no one and had a great time. A collection of things like this made me realize that I am rather good at being extroverted, making friends, and having a good time in a crowd, all things that I used to despise and flee from. I have charisma to share and the capability of not being alone which is highly comforting. I also spoke in my new ward after coming out to my bishop (who took it very well). I spoke openly about my sexuality and how it has led me closer to understand that God will always remember us and take care of us.
December included a trip to DC to see friends and now a trip home to Salt Lake City. I hope all of you reading tis Christmas letter now feel updated on my life and how things have turned out so far. I wish you a happy holiday season and a wonderful, blessed new year.