Review: John Carter of … Disney?

This weekend I spent time with my lovable Mormon Theologist friend Carl who blogs over at I Feel Like Schrodinger’s Cat. He made certain that I spent time watching the mother of all Space movies, based on the books that spawned Star Wars, and inspired Carl Sagan. This series is starts with “The Princess of Mars” that Disney renamed in movie form as “John Carter.”

My review will be vastly different than Carl’s as I have never read the books before in my life. That being said they will also be similar to Carl’s as we share a love of many fantastical things including Doctor Who, Star Wars, (some) Star Trek, Firefly, and pretty much anything Nerdy. In fact we will often (with our other nerdy friends and roommates long-past) get together to spend an entire night playing nerdy games, eating pizza and watching something science-fictiony. We call them “Man Nights.”

I had understood the basic premise that this was a movie about a guy (John Carter) who lived in the post-Civil War American West who was transported to Mars and had adventures. Really that was all I needed to know to get my interest piqued. Add in some sword-fighting, romance, and cool airships and I’m SO there.

To that extent, Disney/Pixar performed well. I could understand nearly everything that was going on (Unlike Tinker,Tailor, Soldier, Spy) and the mythos that the story created made sense. Cool Shiny Blue Medallion = science tech indistinguishable from magic, lower gravity = higher jumps and more strength, and bad guys = bad guys, you know the stuff you need to build a world and its set of rules.

Where the movie failed, in my view, was the casting. They tried very hard to get the races of Martian Humans (Red Men) to look similar and then distinguished them by the colors they wore, a literal Red vs. Blue scenario. This was confusing to me at one point during a rescue scene where it took me about 3 minutes to realize that the guy rescuing John Carter was Princess’s Friend and not the Evil Dude. Disney certainly got it right when they characterized evil as malificent all those years ago and yet in this film, two polar opposite characters were cut from the same mold (physically) This could have been modified while simultaneously adding a bit of racial integration into the film that was entirely white focused. (well okay, White & Green)

Other than that I thought it was a solid movie that deserved a stronger marketing push from Disney and a better title. If you have a moment this week(end) go see John Carter, it won’t let you down.

My Heart is an Empty Room

Best listened to with this song in mind:

Yesterday was my Birthday and at work I had an amazing privilege of having our chef prepare a special menu for my birthday. I chose Chicken & Beef Empanadas with Shrimp Enchiladas, a Southwestern Caesar Salad with Chicken Tortilla soup, and quite a good cake.

As I was leaving the cafeteria with a couple of my coworkers asked me if I had gotten a picture of the cake. Let me pause for a moment here to catch you guys up on a few facts of my life you may have missed.

 

I don’t take photographs that often. If you take a look at my Facebook albums you will see very few photos that aren’t simply re-shared from somewhere else. And even when I do take photographs they are usually of cool things like some jewels at the Natural History Museum or things I find funny. I hardly document my life … at all. Okay, un pause.

When my coworker asked me if I had taken a picture of it my reaction was apparently a “scoff” followed by “I don’t keep mementos” with such an air that apparently I came off as if I live a spartan existence.

It was then that I realized again, that I do live a spartan life and I’m okay with it. I packed up all my things into my car thrice over the past year, largely by duping about half of my stuff each move.

For those who gave me hallmark cards, I’m sorry they were removed from my life a long time ago, but the memory of your words were not. To all the broadway plays I’ve seen I’ve only kept a couple of your playbills but that doesn’t mean I love you any less. And to my family of whom I only have a single photo from my sister’s wedding I’m sorry. I really do love you.

I guess what I am saying is that apparently my actions make people see me as Spartan and Heartless. I don’t collect memories I dump them, and the ones I do collect live in a shoe box.

Well my life is about growing and fixing flaws I have in my character and so I have an idea that combines Vision boards, CharlieIsSoCoolLike’s Wall of Stuff, and my book of limited mementos to try and, as it were, help me find a heart.

As I have moved into a new place I not have clean, blank walls on which to make a vision-boarded wall of stuff and so over the next few weeks expect a few updates about my additions to David Baker’s “I’m totally not heartless but have feelings … Wall”

You Are 22 Going On 23

Today is my birthday. It is another year marking the fact that I have survived the worst the world has yet to throw at me. It is quite amazing that I am still here to see it all unfold. Today I turn 23 and face another long, arbitrary period of time with which to mark a percentage of my life.

What is shocking to me is that, with all I’ve been through, that I am only 23. Whenever people try to guess how old I am they always guess high, and usually closer towards 28-30 than 22. I guess this is because I have “old eyes” as I have been told before.

When I was in 2nd grade I remember teaching the librarian and teachers how to use a real search engine and not HotBot. It was then that I became an adolescent by realizing that adults & parents didn’t have all the answers.

This trend continued throughout elementary school, and even got me into trouble when I gave a kid a paperclip to pick a lock knowing that no 5th grader could pick a master-lock with a plastic paperclip. Why did I give it to him? Because there was nothing wrong with that act, when I tried to explain this to the principal his reaction was to treat me, not as a rational human being, but as a petulant child (granted I was in 5th grade) and have me suspended.

I was lucky enough to be placed in an accelerated learning program for 1st grade that jump-started my brain and put me in the advanced classes every year where I learned to think critically, and more importantly, think for myself and by myself. This helped me take an AP History exam without ever taking the class and scoring sufficiently well on it because I took the time to study on my own as a sophomore in High School.

I took those skills, studied up on the school systems of two states, and found out a way to graduate from high school a full year early without any extra classes. Why? because school was holding me back, and the kids were terrible to me.

It was then in college where I took some time to be “normal” and not jump ahead but that lasted for all of 2 semesters before I was already fast-tracking myself because I felt ahead of the curve. During that time I also struggled with coming out and figuring out how to stay alive, how to build lasting friendships with bits & bytes of people.

I found a job in the down economy of 2009 in a flooded market of DC, worked my way into a position that I loved at the company, and then used that position and experience to get a job at one of the most amazing companies I have ever seen, filled with brilliant people. I also work with clients who are serious influencers who I see on TV or in the Washington Post or Politco at least once-a-week.

…. and almost none of them know I’m just 22 right now.

I have contemplated & toyed with the idea of just starting to tell people I am 25 when they ask. But then I realize one crucial thing. I have done all of this and I am 23, but Mark Zuckerburg is 27, and Daniel Radcliffe is still 22. CharlieIsSoCoolLike is 23-ish, and Representative Aaron Schock is only 30. The same thing for countless other awesome people that have gone before me. Compared to them my accomplishments are garbage, and it is in that bittersweet light that I proudly stand up and say that I am 23 today, and glad to be just where I am.

How Do You Measure, A Year In The Life?

In the past couple of years I have shied away from personal things on this blog. And I don’t believe I have ever gone that deep outside of my experiences that I deemed relevant to being Gay and Mormon. But over the years this blog has evolved from a personal journal, to a blog about living Mormon as a celibate Gay man, to embracing my sexuality, to a rant-blog about politics, sexuality & spirituality, to this new iteration. Namely a blog on “The thoughts of someone who is always looking for more data.” Let me take a moment to tell you why I picked that tagline.

Over the past 9 months I have moved 3 times, From DC to San Francisco to Ann Arbor and now back to DC. In each of those moves I have completely uprooted myself from my surroundings, my friends, my job, and pretty much everything I knew, starting out witha  fresh clean slate. Sure that might sound nice, but it also is terrifying sometimes. It was in this fear that a couple of months ago I realized that all of this moving, all this shifting around had left me pretty much focused on the short-term. Not even the short-term of a year, but more like the next month … maybe two.

During this realization I recalled an article I had read by Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired magazine, called “The Quantifiable Self.” In it he discusses a group of people dedicated to “self knowledge through numbers,” people who collect data on every aspect of their lives (when they go to bed, when they get up, what they eat, when they eat, how they feel, what the weather was like, where they went, etc.) and then cross-tab it so that you can learn that when you eat avocados you feel depressed and when you eat oranges you are happy. The do this on a massive scale so that as you collect more and more data using automated tools your database grows to the point of identifying quantifiable aspects of your life. The concept is to run countless experiments with yourself and use the data you collect to improve your life just a little bit each day.

Also during this realization I was reading the Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert in which there is a class of people known as “mentats” who are human computers. Think of Rain Man mixed with a photographic memory and IBM’s Watson with the personality of Sherlock Holmes. Basically the type of character that already draws me in based on their thoughts and not on their physical talents mixed with the long-term generation planning that comes with that rational thought.

Together these two aspects helped me to decide that I was going to start collecting data on myself and start becoming more quantified. To an extent I have already started doing this, for instance I know that avocados give me gas to rival Skelator after a breakfast burrito, while guacamole seems to have no effect. I just ordered a “FitBit” device that should help me keep track of some of this data, and until I get into a habit of it by doing a little bit each day, I have the community at The Quantified Self to help me get going.

Hopefully this will provide stability, consistency, and at the very least, more insight into my entire being so that, just like this week, I am not blindsided by traumatic memories like my parents divorce 10 years ago today, but instead can prepare for them and learn techniques, food, activities, and data-driven facts to combat the feelings of depression that bring me down.

And so it is with that concept, and that mentality, that I have redesigned my blog yet again to a place where I focus on data to try and influence both my life and the world at large by substantiating my claims to views with facts, not speculation.

Lent 2012 – A time to grow and learn

In previous years I have observed the 46 days of Lent by giving up big things like Religion or Fear. Apparently my Lent post has turned into an annual event for some people as I was asked twice on Fat Tuesday where my Big Lent post was. Well here it is. For Lent, I am giving up the assumption that people are dumb.

Since last Lent I have joined the workforce at Google and have been surrounded by brilliant people who think drastically differently than I do. That workforce is also sustained by us normal people who think things simply because. Despite (or maybe because of) Google’s reputation of hiring the best & brightest (just ask one of these books) and being the top company to work for in 2012, there are still plenty of times when I catch myself calling out to the heavens and wondering “what this idiot was thinking.”

I have seen this attitude in myself most recently because I see it happen in my coworker who usually adds an expletive in the midst of that phrase. I catch myself thinking that I know best, that I know how things are supposed to go, that I am right without giving true credence to the thoughts of others and their point of view. It makes me come across as an arrogant prick and I want to try and curb this mentality while I still can, lest I turn into a megalomanic.

To be fair, I have never been given many opportunities to be humbled at my lack of knowledge in a given area. I started out elementary school in program for the Gifted and Talented where I was in-between a 3rd & 4th grade level by the time I finished 1st grade. I coasted through school and even passed an AP exam in History after minimal study on a plane 2 days before and having never taken the class. It wasn’t until I was in college that I felt out of my league and that I actually had to work, but since coming out I either forgot that humbling freshman year or have chalked it up to my tumultuous time coming out that followed in lock-step. After collage I was able to find a job quickly, especially considering the lack of a job market in 2009, and from there earn a promotion and then leave the company to join Google.

Clearly I have not had the chance to have the world beat me down in order to become humble and so this lent, it is my attempt to do that to myself because I see that I could use it sometimes. This one is going to be a bit trickier than my last couple of Lenten practices as I am not giving something up fully (the thought) but attempting to successfully curb entirely the physical manifestation of this. I am going to track over the next 10 days how many times I think or say a comment that demeans someone else’s intelligence, either in-person or in-private. After collecting the data I am going to try and bring down the number of times I say something down to 0 while reducing the thoughts by ~75% so that I can show marketed improvement.

This may turn out to be a total flop, but likely will help me grow and learn as a person and as my Birthday falls into Lent I figured this is a good enough opportunity to mature and grow this season.

Gay Mormons for Rick Santorum

*disclaimer. This post (and all my posts) are my own and in no way are the views of my employer.


This week in DC was CPAC the conservative conference were 3 of the presidential candidates spoke to the far right wing of the party and where the keynote address was given by Governor Sarah Palin. Google was sponsoring the event in an effort to demonstrate that we are not liberal but rather are Pro-Free Speech.

 

As someone who is grateful for the 1st amendment, EVEN when it is used by groups like the Westboro Baptist Church I am glad tha Google was able to change the hearts and minds of conservatives about our position (or lack thereof) in politics. It reaffirmed to me a one of the core reasons why I call myself a liberal republican and one of the reasons I remain active in the Church.

 

When we are on the outside of a group we can be ignored and shunts aside as worthless. But when we are a part of them, when we are on the inside, we have the power to positively influence the minds of even the most extreme individuals.

 

This is what happened this week when a Republican Senator (Maureen Walsh) voted for Gay Marriage in Washington State after her daughter came out to her. Harvey Milk said it when he urged us all to come out in order to change the minds of the people and this week that was re-affirmed.

The most amazing moment of this week was not when I shook Newt, Mitt, and Sarah’s hands. Nor was it the banquet with the Chief of Staff for the RNC chair. It was watching another piece of positive influence rub off on someone who, honestly, has every reason to be upset with Google, Rick Santorum.

 

Google invited the Senator to be interviewed by a conservative blogger using a Google+ Hangout. While we were waiting for the Senator to show up we got nervous and I was sent to ensure he was coming and walk him down to our booth as I knew where the green room was.  I was placed inside the protective circle of the Secret Service-types and escorted with his family and a handful of key staff down to the booth. I introduced myself to the Senator along the way and mentioned that I was from Google. The distaste he had was palatable and his wife sped up and whispered in his ear “Why are you doing something with Google!?!

 

Well Senator Santorum seemed to have a good time at the Google booth and even wore a pair of Goolge sunglasses during the Hangout. Sure that may have just been the candidate in him putting on a smiling face, but because Google partnered up with a conservative blogger, Santorum came to our booth, wore our stuff and became an fraction more inclined to listen to us. I might add that no other presidential candidate took the time to come down for a similar Hangout.

 

Because Rick Santorum’s attitude is changing towards Google, and because of the 4 dozen conservatives I spoke with have changed their attitude towards Google, and the hundreds of people whose opinions I have changed by being actively Mormon and openly Gay, I know that you can do more to advance a cause you believe in, from the inside of the organization poised to hate you than you can banging at the doors from the outside. Is it a sea-change? No. Will it take time, energy, and effort? Absolutely. But given the wall of Occupy Wallstreet Protestors whose effect only galvanized the conservatives, I know that I can do more to advance the causes I believe in from the inside, and that is why I became the first (and likely only) Gay Mormon to vote for Rick Santorum in the CPAC Straw poll.

Reinventing the Wheel

I am an ENTJ. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Briggs-Meyer personality test, this means that I am an Extrovert who perceives information iNtuitively, makes decisions based on Thinking (not feeling) and make decisions based on Judgments of those thoughts rather than felt perceptions. For more information this link should prove useful. As I’ve noted in previous posts, I am also coming to terms with the Extroversion and see myself partly as an INTJ

ENTJ’s are described as being “fiercely independent in their decision making, having a strong will that insulates them against external influence,” and I think this is true for me. How this hurts me is in my lack of trust in, or inability to understand other people’s systems. Particularly the concept that “there is nothing new under the sun.”

I spent a lot of my time focused on re-creating the wheel when it already exists. Things I was brought up doing I trust implicitly as I have seen them work well, but new things, different things, are harder for me to grasp. Not so much in the external world, but when it comes to improving myself.

For instance, I enjoy reading the blog lifehacker which is all about small simple things you can do to alter the way you perceive the world and in general do things “better, faster, stronger.” It can be as simple as a task management system to ensure the day doesn’t get away from you, or a cool way to organize the cables at your desk so the OCD part of your brain doesn’t flip out.

I read all of these things about improving my life and then hardly ever do any of them. I hardly make plans with my life, let alone anything long-term that sticks (I have moved cross country 3 times in less than a year). I have difficulty keeping myself honed on learning a single skill or task, and I am easily distracted by noise and things that are of little actual importance to me.

This time though, things are going to be different. I plan on putting down roots for at least 2 years (which while laughable is nearly 4x my current average) and spending the next 5 bettering myself while at 1 company and/or going to 1 grad school. I am going to work to establish my position on every major public policy issue and write it down so as to become more deeply knowledgeable about various political topics as opposed to improvising or basing my decisions and thoughts on what I “feel” at the moment. And I am going to work at being comfortable as an extrovert.

These 3 things are going to be the focus of my willpower for the next 2 years and are my resolutions for the next few years. I will be breaking them into more manageable pieces so that the water can be exactly at my head and not over it. And I will be working to make myself a better person. Readers (if there are any left) please hold me to it.

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.

An interesting turn of events

Homosexuality is receiving more attention across the world than ever before. Members of the media write or talk about homosexuality every day, reporting on its many activities. Many of the most prominent news outlets in the United States regularly discuss homosexuality or gays. These discussions extend across the globe as well.

Homosexuality also attracts attention on the Internet, which, as you know, has dramatically changed the way people share information. At all times of the day across the entire world, homosexuality and its teachings are being discussed on the Internet, on blogs and social networks, by people who have never written for a newspaper or a magazine. They are making videos and sharing them online. These are ordinary people—both members of our culture and of other cultures—who are talking about homosexuality.

Changes in the way we communicate partly explain why we “Gays” are more visible than ever. But homosexuality is always growing and moving forward. More people have gays for neighbors and friends, and there are prominent gays in government, in business, in entertainment, in education, and everywhere else, it seems. Even those who are not gay have noticed this, and they wonder what is happening. It is wonderful that so many are now aware of homosexuality.

While homosexuality is becoming more visible, there are still many people who do not understand it. Some have been taught to be suspicious of gays, to operate under negative stereotypes about homosexuality without questioning their source and validity. There is also a great deal of misinformation and confusion about what homosexuality is and what it stands for. This has been true since the time of the Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Wilde wrote in part “to disabuse the public mind, and put all inquirers after truth in possession of the facts.” It is true that there will always be those who will distort the truth and deliberately misrepresent the teachings of homosexuality. But the majority of those with questions about homosexuality simply want to understand. These are fair-minded people who are genuinely curious about us.

The growing visibility and reputation of homosexuality presents some remarkable opportunities to us as gays. We can help “disabuse the public mind” and correct misinformation when we are portrayed as something we are not. More important, though, we can share who we are.

– Elder L. Tom Perry of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

The above is pulled directly from the October 2011 General Conference address given by Elder Perry with the only changes being that all instances of “The Church” or “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” was replaced with “homosexuality”, “members” with “gays”, “faith” with “culture”, and “Joseph Smith” with “Oscar Wilde.” I present it here without comment in hopes that the comment section below houses a discussion.

A change of scenery and a change in me

When I was young I was a loner. I isolated myself from people and they did the same. In kindergarten I was mockingly called “hairy monkey” (if any of you who called me this are reading know that I have completely forgiven this). In school I only ever had 1 real friend at a time. Sometimes they moved away, sometimes I did. In college the same thing happened to an extent. I would only really connect with 1 or two people and the rest I would ignore as they ignored me.

The one exception to this was my first time at EFY when I realized that I was never going to see these people again so why try to fit in, instead I am just going to be myself, speak my mind and metaphorically say “to hell with them!” Well my plan backfired on me and I all of a sudden had friends. I figured it was because of the summer-camp feel and so brushed it off. I didn’t reclaimed that feeling of comfort in a group setting that I felt at EFY until after I came out and then it was only a fleeting feeling.

When I left DC I left friends that I had spent two years getting to know, meet, laugh, and love. It was hard to say goodbye and thankfully the internet has kept us close. I figured that was the first time out of a college setting that I was in and so the people around me were different but that I had stayed the same, sheltered person who could only really have 1 friend.

Well then I moved to SF and now leaving it after being here for only 4 months. Last night I had a going away party with 10 friends who I was flabbergasted to have made. Until DC I only ever really had 5 friends and never more than 2 at the same time. Here I had 10 who were truly sad to see me go after knowing me for only a short while.

I juxtapose that goodbye with the hello I received during the 1 day I was in Ann Arbor. I have already met a few new friends who showed me around campus and when I went to Church I first sat quietly in a pew and then I took a step back and realized I should say hello to the people around me. I helped a young woman warm-up her voice and gave her encouragement as she practiced her solo. I met a girl who I am taking her Ice Cream maker from CA to MI for. and a couple of other friends within 1 hour of being there.

As much as I hate to admit it, I have changed. I have grown up and am no longer the boy who hid in his shell. I speak my mind without having to prep myself as I did at EFY, I make friends and can be the life of a party, I can talk about many issues and areas that I am almost never at a loss for what to say. While I don’t thrive in this environment I think that is just because I have had the mentality that I didn’t fit into it. Realizing that I am good at making friends, enjoying their company, and being the life of a party I hope to change further and make extroversion my natural habitat.