Reflections on 38

Today is my 39th birthday. This time next year I’ll be turning 40, and I have a lot of different emotions surrounding that that I’m really just now beginning to process in earnest…but that’s a post for next year.

My theme for 38 was “be less certain,” which for me was a way of acknowledging both that sitting with uncertainty is something I’ve always had trouble doing and that my need for certainty and tendency to manufacture it where it doesn’t already exist is a form of emotional armor that doesn’t always serve me very well. My goal for most of my itinerant twenties was “belonging without attachment,” as I put it, based on the idea that I could be a fully formed person independent of the world around me but still have the connection and belonging that we all want and need. By making my world smaller I hoped that I could learn not to need other people and all the uncertainty that depending on them entails, and then somehow build on that foundation once I finally settled down and started building a community. I’ve realized intellectually for awhile now that that isn’t how the world works, but there’s still a lot from that way of thinking that I’ve unconsciously carried with me into this next phase of life, and I’m still in the process of unpacking and exploring it all.

Luckily I’ve had a lot of support in doing that over the years from all of the wonderful people in my life. 37 was largely about getting my new place set up so that I could focus my energy on spending more time here with everyone I care about, and 38 really delivered on that promise. I didn’t take any big trips or learn a new language or anything like that; instead my calendar last year was a rich tapestry of coffees, happy hours, late-night walks, phone calls, group texts, hikes, dinners, organizing meetings, events, dinner parties, full-on parties, quick trips with friends, visiting and hosting family (including hosting my sisters, their partners, and my niece for a week and a half in early August, as part of a larger family visit that also included an aunt and two cousins and their families), and hosting out-of-town guests. I’ve supported the people in my life through hard times and received support from them when I’ve needed it, and I’ve gradually learned to wade more fully into the uncertainty, ambiguity, and discomfort that I’ve spent so much time trying to avoid for most of my adult life.

One big catalyst for a deeper relationship with uncertainty came in early December, when a woman named Lynne with whom I’d gone on two dates in the summer of 2016 reached out to tell me that my actions while we were making out at the end of our second date had caused her a lot of trauma over the course of the last two and a half years. We texted back and forth, and she asked me to write a public accountability post about it, which I did (you can read it on Facebook here, or on Medium here). The process of writing that post, and of being pushed by my friends to go deeper and be more vulnerable as I was writing it, forced me to let go of and re-evaluate some of the certainties on which I’ve based my conception of myself. I’ve spent a lot of the month and half since then reading books and listening to podcasts that various friends recommended to me when they reached out to talk about it, and the one that hit me the hardest was The Will to Change by bell hooks, the subtitle of which is “Men, Masculinity, and Love.” If you’re a man, I’d highly recommend getting a copy and reading it for yourself. It opened my eyes to the fact that the, as bell hooks calls it, “imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy” in which we live not only causes immense harm to women at the hands of men (as well as people of color at the hands of white people, and all of the various intersectional relationships between gender, race, and ability), but it also requires various forms of emotional self-mutilation from men in order to participate in the system and reap its benefits. I’d always prided myself on existing outside of that system, living by my own set of internal values and being able to tell right from wrong in any given moment—relying, again, on certainty about how the world works in order to move through it without compromise—but pulling on this thread of patriarchy and its effects on my life from an early age has shown me that what I’d mistaken for rejecting the system often looks, in hindsight, a lot more like having learned to internalize it in my own way so deeply that I convinced myself it was my idea to begin with. I don’t have any pat answers on this one, but my own complicated relationship to patriarchy is something I’m in the midst of exploring in much greater detail.

A key part of my journey this year, both before December and since then, has been learning to feel my feelings more fully and re-connect with my emotions in a way that I haven’t since my early adolescence. I consider it to be a marker of progress that when I was 38 I cried more than I have since my mom died of cancer when I was 27. I openly wept with my therapist and in front of friends for the first time; I talked about difficult topics with people I care about and saw that it only deepened our relationships; and I began to re-write some of my personal myths in ways that are less flattering but more honest, and that already feels like a more solid foundation on which to build the next decade of my life.

One of those personal myths is my attempt to travel all the way around the world without flying back when I was 24 and futureless, truly free upon the earth for the first and only time in my life. As I find myself facing the imminent end of my 30s and romanticizing the freedom of my youth I’ve been going back and re-reading my journals from The Big One, as I call it. And what I’ve found when I’ve gone back and read those journal entries is that even then, when I was crossing oceans and hitchhiking across a continent and having the adventure of a lifetime, I was still closed off from the world for the most part, passing through it without being part of it. The times when the light managed to get in through a crack, though—when my plans changed unexpectedly, when I didn’t know what the next step was going to be, when I was caught unaware and hit suddenly with the full force of an experience I wasn’t prepared for—those are the moments that I think back on when I think back on that time in my life. Hitchhiking for the first time. Hopping off a flatbed truck in the middle of rural Mozambique, realizing that there was no more onward transport and I was still 150 miles from my next destination, and setting off down a dirt path with one of my fellow travelers at his invitation, heading in the direction of his village on foot. Walking into the first yacht club I’d ever visited and seeing a flyer on the notice board that read simply, “Looking for two crew to sail to Cape Town. No experience necessary.” Et cetera. The best parts of this trip in which I was traveling around the world supposedly on my own terms and under my own power and according to my own plan were moments in which the plan broke down, I wasn’t in control, and I had no certainty whatsoever about what was going to happen next, when the closed-off little world that I’d been carefully cultivating broke open to the world. Those are the moments in which I’m most fully present in my own story, and in which I found what it was that I was looking for. Making space for more of them in my daily life has been an ongoing theme for multiple years now, and last year felt like I made some good progress on that front.

So that’s what I’m in the process of doing now—untangling what I actually want from what I’ve been conditioned to think that I or other people should want; feeling my feelings fully instead of suppressing them or hurrying past them; letting down my guard, my need for certainty, so that I can be more fully present both with myself and with everyone that I care about; and doubling down on spending the most precious resource that I have—my time—building and maintaining relationships with all the wonderful people I’m fortunate to have in my life.

There are other things that I planned to write about when I sat down to start on this post—starting up a regular, rigorous gym routine again for the first time in nearly a decade; taking over as board president at Seattle Public Theater; finally engaging the services of a financial planner to come up with clear budgets for both how I want to spend my money now and how I want to prepare for my eventual retirement; fabricating some kind of meaning out of the neatly overlapping timelines of the deep-bore tunnel’s approval and construction and my first 10 years in Seattle; how excited I was to get my first canvassers at my new place a few months ago, two college students out raising money for Greenpeace—but none of those things have been at the core of what it’s meant to me to be 38. Re-reading this piece I can see a lot of opportunities for edits, cuts for clarity or expansions on a theme or going back and taking the time to put in more of the emotion that I’m still learning to make space for both in my life and in my writing…but today’s a snow day in Seattle. There are good friends to hang out with and a little get-together tonight to get ready for, and I’ve already missed playing in the park with friends to get to this point, so it’s going to have to do in its current state.

My theme for 39, in case you’re interested, is “slow down.” I’ll let you know how it goes.

Reflections on 37

In a slight change from the traditional format, I’ve narrowed my birthday recap this year down to 20 highlights, major events, lessons, and takeaways from my 37th year of life, as opposed to 37 of them like I normally would have done (due in large part to time constraints because of a pretty jam-packed birthday weekend). Here they are, without further ado—and as always, a tip of the hat to Zac and Gina for the inspiration to start this series four years ago:

  1. The townhouse. My new home closed last August, but I’ve been under contract on it since it went up for pre-sale on November 3rd, 2016…and from that date to the housewarming in early December of last year, getting it set up and ready to be able to accommodate whatever the next 30 years of my life might hold (parties, events, and gatherings of all shapes and sizes; overnight guests up to and including my little sister and her whole family; kids of my own; AirBnB/rental income if necessary…etc) was the primary overarching theme of my life, first through detailed 3D Sketchup models and endless furniture shopping and then, after it closed, though the last-mile work of getting it all set up so it feels like home. And now that all that’s finished, I’m pleased to say that it really, really does. The whole process of designing a place that’ll be enough for me as far out as I can imagine my life and then seeing it come to fruition was absolutely incredible…and, like many of the most meaningful parts of life, it’s something that I could never have done on my own.
  2. Design Team. The most important use case for the new place for the foreseeable future is to serve as an event space and gathering place for the people in my community, in a way that my old place just wasn’t big enough to accommodate. I knew the purpose that I wanted it to serve, but I also knew that I wasn’t going to be able to get it there on my own…so I recruited my three closest friends in Seattle to be on my Design Team (they all happen to have excellent design sense, too), and starting on my birthday last year we spent 10 months planning for and then creating the space as it exists today. I couldn’t have done it without you, Team—thanks again for all your help.
  3. Hosting. I hosted a big birthday party a couple of years ago at an event space on Capitol Hill, and it was the first time I’d ever invited a big cross-section of my friends to all come together in one place. Seeing so many people I cared about in one room showed me that I really need to throw more parties. Shortly after that I started thinking about buying a bigger home, and the townhouse was the ultimate result of that process. If 37 was about building a bigger container for my life, my goal for 38 is to fill that container in as many different ways as I can. I’ve already done more hosting here than I did in the 7 ½ years that I lived in my old place combined (including co-hosting Thanksgiving this year and a fantastic housewarming in early December), and I’m just getting started. I’m very much in a “throw a bunch of stuff against the wall and see what sticks” phase right now, but I’m really enjoying it—one of my big goals for 38 is to learn to authentically express myself in the medium of bringing people together, with the townhouse as my canvas. I’m looking forward to figuring it out.
  4. Friends and family. One side effect of work taking so much of my time and spending so much of what was left on the new place was that I saw a lot less of many of you than I would have liked this past year. I could still easily write this entire post solely about the highlights from the various dinners, parties, events, conversations, karaoke sessions, etc. that we shared, but I’ve got a lot of catching up to do on that front, and I’m looking forward to doing it. Huge thanks as always to all of you for being part of my life; you’re what makes it all worthwhile.
  5. My niece.  Darcy is rapidly approaching 2 ½ now, and she’s absolutely adorable. I got to spend some quality time with her several times this past year, but our most recent visit was when I was staying with my little sister in Texas for Dad’s 70th birthday. She’s at that point where she’s talking constantly in a kind of quasi-English that her parents can understand perfectly and I could sometimes catch the general gist of, and I can tell that at some point in the very near future the two of us are going to be able to have actual conversations, which is really exciting.
  6. 10 years. Last March marked the 10-year anniversary of my mother’s death from uterine cancer. It’s hard to imagine what my world would be like if she were still alive—it feels like I’ve grown into a totally new life over the course of the last 10 years, and in a lot of ways I suppose I have.
  7. 70 in Hawaii. December 30th was my dad’s 70th birthday, and we went to Hawaii last month (when airfare was cheaper) to celebrate. He’d been there once before with mom in 1993, and he’s been talking about going back for his 70th birthday to see the big waves on Oahu’s north shore for years. He was there with his partner Becky and his high-school friend Steve and Steve’s lady friend, and I was the unofficial tour guide of the group for the 5 days for which I joined them. We spent a few mornings watching surfers tackle 15-to-20-foot waves on the Banzai Pipeline (a life highlight for Dad, who had done a lot of surfing in his younger days), checked out Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park by car and helicopter tour, did a couple of 70-year-old-appropriate hikes, ate a bunch of good food, and generally enjoyed ourselves.
  8. The missile alert. We also, as it turned out, were there for the Saturday-morning false-alarm missile alert that went out to everyone in the state. It took me about 5 minutes to figure out from Twitter that there wasn’t actually a North Korean missile that was about to hit Honolulu, but for the rest of my life I’ll remember those 5 minutes in which the imminent possibility of being killed by a nuclear warhead was a real thing that existed in my world. Given that it happened, I’m glad I was in Hawaii when it did—getting to viscerally experience the beginning of the end of the world without the world actually ending was a very profound experience.
  9. Real estate. Continuing a trend that’s been going strong ever since I became a real estate agent three years ago, this was the best year that I’ve had in the business so far. I closed 33 deals (up from 20 my first year and 24 my second), and for the first time I had a significant number of listings (8, as opposed to a combined total of 3 my first two years) in addition to my bread and butter of mostly first-time buyers. 2018 is already off to a faster start than any of the years that have come before it, so perhaps the trend will continue again this year. One thing’s for sure, though: real estate is definitely the profession for me.
  10. Class consciousness. Ever since 2015 I’ve wrestled with all the follow-on effects of going from making significantly less than the median Seattle income my entire career (but still enough to live comfortably on in the city, thanks in large part to my having bought my old place when I did in 2010) to making real estate money, seemingly overnight and without any preparation. This past year it reached a tipping point, though. I’ve been very haphazard in both my giving strategies and my systemic-change-focused volunteer time up until now, but I started taking steps towards the end of the year to be more intentional on both fronts. I see both the financial opportunities that real estate affords me and the spaciousness of time that it allows into my life during the off-season as resources that don’t fully belong to me (the townhouse falls into this category, too, which is one reason I call it “the townhouse” instead of “my place”), and I’m trying to be better about using both of them for the betterment of my city and my community.
  11. Organizing. I was on the organizing committee for an event last month that was put together by members of Women of Color Speak Out and the Tech Workers Coalition, and it was a really great experience. The idea of the event was to organize a discussion for an audience of men who work in the Seattle tech industry about the need for men to be involved in the response to #MeToo and what that can look like. The event went well (see write-ups from GeekWire and The Stranger, and check out the dashboard with summaries of the data we gathered along the way here); the organizing process itself was really profoundly meaningful for me, too, though. It was the closest I’ve come to true grassroots community organizing, as opposed to campaign organizing, and the organizing committee was a very diverse group by ideology, race, and class. One of my big takeaways from the experience—in addition to the fact that I need to do a lot more sitting down, shutting up, and elevating the voices of folks who don’t or can’t speak as loudly as I do in all aspects of my life—was that there’s a place for my worldview and my skillset in Seattle’s grassroots activist left. It’s a path I’m looking forward to exploring in greater detail in the months and years ahead.
  12. Moving out. I’ve owned my little co-op apartment on Capitol Hill for 8 years now, and I lived there myself for 7 ½ of the most transformative years of my. A friend of mine has been renting it from me since I moved out, and she’s getting ready to buy it from me later this month—it’s been bittersweet leaving the co-op community and my old home behind, but I’m glad that it’s going to stay in good hands.
  13. Dating. 37 was a year in which I was being pulled in a lot of different directions in my life generally, and that was reflected in my dating life, too—there were a few women I saw for a month or two, but nothing that really clicked. I’ve found that relationships tend to find me when I’m in a good place for them, though, and 38 feels like it’s going to be my best year in awhile on that front: all the big cornerstones of my life (community, work, home) are settled except for my lack of a partner, and it’s amazing how much mental energy that frees up. We’ll see how the year goes.
  14. Trips with friends. I had two great travel experiences with friends this past year: a weekend trip to St. Louis that helped deepen some relatively new friendships, and an epic backpacking trip in the Wind River range in Wyoming for the eclipse in August with some tried and true backpacking companions. I have a feeling 38 has more in stock on this front.
  15. City Museum. Some people say that Disney World is the happiest place on earth. Those people are wrong, because City Museum is actually the happiest place on earth. If you have children, or if you personally were ever a child, do yourself a favor and go to City Museum if you’re ever in St. Louis.
  16. A haiku journal. On a whim I started keeping a daily journal in which I write one haiku every morning as soon as I wake up (separate from the daily journal I’ve kept since early 2000), and it’s been a nice exercise. The first one is almost full—it’s a very small journal, which seemed appropriate given the format—and I’m trying to decide if I’m going to re-up the tradition for a second round or let it be a one-off thing.
  17. Icon reform. I reconfigured all of the icons on my phone’s home screen a couple of months ago in an attempt to channel my lazy phone-browsing energy into something a bit more productive, and so far it’s been working well. I’m obsessively compelled to zero out all of the little red notification icons that I can see, so I re-tuned them so that those counts now include my priority gmail inbox, all of my other inboxes, and my various to-do lists, but not Facebook or any other forms of social media. Highly recommended if this is something you struggle with, too.
  18. Testifying against the Realtors. Part of being a licensed real estate agent involves paying membership dues to Realtor associations at the local, state, and federal level…but the politics of the Realtor associations at the state and national level are often pretty terrible. At a Washington Low Income Housing Alliance board meeting during last year’s legislative session I volunteered to go down to Olympia and testify against the Realtors in support of a good bill that they were opposed to (in a nutshell, it would have permanently locked one of the major funding sources for the state’s Housing Trust Fund, which pays for affordable housing across the state). It was my first time testifying in Olympia; I emailed a bunch of clients who had bought homes recently to get some anecdotes to use in my testimony (thanks to everyone who gave me your feedback!), and it felt good to be able to offer personal counter-narratives to what lawmakers were hearing from the state Realtor association.
  19. New Camaldoli. I started this post a few days ago in a little room in a hermitage nestled in the hills above the Pacific Ocean just south of Big Sur, my favorite of the “quiet places” up and down the west coast that I’ve cultivated over the years. I spent three nights there this past week unplugging (it’s totally off the grid, with no cell service or internet access), unwinding, looking back on the past year, and thinking about what I want my year ahead to look like. It’s a good tradition.
  20. “Be less certain.” I wrote that in my journal last month as a new life goal, after two friends helped me recognize different parts of the connection between my challenging relationship with vulnerability and my innate need to always have the right answer/solution in any given situation. I know that uncertainty makes me uncomfortable, but I’d never thought about certainty as something that I manufacture in order to prevent me from having to deal with the innate uncertainty of life before, or stopped to acknowledge that vulnerability and uncertainty are necessary components of meaningful connections in life (something that was driven home when I decided to revisit Brené Brown by reading The Gifts of Imperfection during my pre-birthday retreat). So “be less certain” is my official mantra for 38; we’ll see how it goes.

Three years/The Townhouse

I realized last week sometime that today is the third anniversary of my officially becoming a real estate agent…and tomorrow, purely coincidentally, I’ll be closing on my next home. To say that real estate has been very good to me would be a dramatic understatement—when people ask me how it’s going, the most honest answer I can give is that it feels like someone made a copy of my soul and then turned it into a profession. I’ll be doing this until I retire, and knowing that frees me up to start thinking about what my life looks like long-term in a different way than I have up until very recently.

When I bought my current place, a 600 sq ft co-op apartment on top of Capitol Hill, I was one year into my plan to call an end to my wandering twenties and settle down in Seattle for good, and I’d just started a job at the Mayor’s Office with an open-ended “let’s see where this takes me” attitude and no expectations about what the future would bring. I used was what was left of the savings that I’d been using to travel around the world without flying for my down payment, and in doing so I cut off my escape routes and forced myself to commit to Seattle at a time in my life when stagnation and complacency were my greatest fears (after I moved in I named my wifi network “Room 101” in honor of the final scene in 1984). One of my life goals at the time was to spend every dollar that I had in my twenties and start over completely from scratch on my 30th birthday, and after I closed on this place, 8 days after I turned 30, I had a wonderful home and a great job but less than $100 to my name. If I’d thrown a party and invited everyone I knew in Seattle, I would have been doing well to have gotten 5 or 6 people to come to it.

Fast forward 7 ½ years, though, and my life feels like it doesn’t quite fit inside my little co-op apartment anymore. My roots have burrowed deep enough into Seattle, and Capitol Hill specifically, that I can’t imagine ever leaving; and because I’m surrounded by the most incredibly community of people that I’ve ever been a part of, being able to give back to that community in a meaningful way has become a much higher priority for me than it has been in the past. I’m very keenly aware that my financial situation gives me options many Seattleites don’t have, and given that my current place was easily affordable to me when I was making a fraction of what I do now, I feel a certain moral obligation to pass it along to someone who will put it to good use and move on to a long-term home that a) is more commensurate with my current income, so that I won’t be taking a unit of housing away from someone who’s at risk of being priced out of the city; b) will ensure that I never need to leave Capitol Hill, regardless of what happens in the future with work or life; and c) can serve as a community resource and gathering space in a way that my current place simply can’t.

The home that I’m closing on tomorrow meets all of those criteria. It’s a 3-story, 3-bedroom new construction townhouse in the heart of Capitol Hill, and I’ve spent the last 6 months meticulously planning out uses for its 1,515 square feet + rooftop deck that will allow it to flexibly encompass indoor/outdoor entertaining and event spaces, co-working space for 8-10 people, a meeting/small conference room, a guest suite/AirBnB rental that can comfortably accommodate a family of four, and a movie screening room/home office. I got it under contract as a pre-sale last November 3rd, five days before the election, so I’ve had plenty of time to think about what it means to me and what I want it to mean to my community. I’m looking forward to getting moved in later this month and putting my money where my mouth is.

Reflections on 36

For the past few years I’ve been borrowing a tradition from a friend and doing an annual birthday post to look back on the year that’s just passed and forward to the year ahead. Today is my 37th birthday; 36 was a lot of different things—many of them good, some of them bad—but one of the reasons it’s been difficult to write this post is that it doesn’t feel like it’s over yet. I like neat, crisp endings and transitions, and my last three birthdays have been great in that regard: each year built steadily on the last, I could see the progression, and timing-wise they made sense, I was able to structure my life in such a way that my birthdays felt like genuine endings and beginnings both.

Not so this year. Today feels like just another day of trying to find my bearings in the world we live in now, despite my attempts to imbue it with significance. There’s power in that, though—this moment we’re living in is an intersecting line of history, a time that forces us out of our individual lives to come together and work to make the world what we want it to be. I don’t know how relevant a birthday post is in a time like this, frankly, but I believe in traditions, and this is one that I like, so I decided to keep it going this year.

With all that in mind, here are some of the defining moments/themes/experiences that I’m bringing with me from 36 to 37:

  1. The aftermath of the election. Like most people I know, Trump winning the election was something I knew intellectually was possible, but viscerally I hadn’t even stopped to consider it until the Election Night returns were well underway and it started to become more and more apparent what was about to happen. That was a dark night; I still remember the feeling that came over me when I realized that it was really happening, that he was going to be our next president: numb dread, and existential uncertainty about what our country was and what it was about to become. That was the first night, and the first few days. As many of you know, though, I have an extremely strong bias towards action, and my initial action in this case was to reach out to as many friends and acquaintances as possible, to sit down and talk and reconnect and figure out what my community was going through, and to think about what my role in this new world should be. That in and of itself was really valuable, because it showed me just how many lights there are in this present darkness, and how much power there is waiting to be unlocked. It’s going to be a hard four years in a lot of ways, and there’s going to be a lot of damage inflicted on the most vulnerable among us, but as we’ve already seen with the Women’s Marches and the response to the immigrant & refugee ban (to name but two), Trump has made us into a nation of activists…and when we all start moving in the same direction, there’s nothing we can’t do together.
  2. The Civic Minute. 2016 was a year in which I got my Civic Minute workflow down pat, and also in which its readership really took off in a big way. In the immediate aftermath of the election I added a bunch of Trump-related news to the Minute, just because that’s all anyone was writing stories about, in Seattle or anywhere else in America, and the response was really positive…for the first couple of weeks. After that the local news cycle started to come back, and people stopped clicking on the Trump links as much, and I could sense that there was a general fatigue setting in among a not-insubstantial portion of the population where the president-elect was concerned. There was clearly still a lot of interest in getting a weekly Trump digest for a lot of Civic Minute readers, though, so I decided to explore that further.
  3. Last Week in Trump. After testing the waters a bit I ended up splitting off the Trump news into a standalone email, and on a whim I added a few articles from conservative blogs to the first edition of the beta—getting outside our bubbles was a very popular idea at the time, but no one had come up with a really good model of how to do it, and I figured this could be a lightweight way to get started. It quickly became apparent that the juxtaposition of liberal and conservative reactions to the week’s news was the core product as far as a lot of my readers were concerned, so I focused on that aspect and built it up, in the hopes of providing a platform that residents of both bubbles could eventually use to start seeing the other side as less hysterical and more human, and to start to be able to speak the same political language. The beta was hugely popular, so I launched the email officially the weekend of the inauguration, including getting some local press the week leading up to it, and it took off like gangbusters. At this point it’s become my main post-election volunteer project, and I’m excited to see how much more I can grow the list. If you want to check it out yourself, head to
  4. Using my friends professionally. One of the highlights of launching Last Week in Trump was the team who helped me do it—one friend who’s an industrial/graphic designer put together the logo, another friend who’s a web designer put together the website, and another friend who runs his own PR firm managed the launch for me and was personally responsible for all of the press hits that it’s gotten so far. If you’re in need of any of their consulting services, I can’t recommend them highly enough.
  5. The election season. Even before Election Night the 2016 election cycle was a tough one for a lot of folks, but there were plenty of high points along the way, too, at least for me—the number of thoughtful, high-quality conversations that I had with friends on Facebook comment threads was amazing (I know that sounds counterintuitive, but I have the evidence to back it up); caucusing at the Century Ballroom along with hundreds of friends and neighbors reminded me of why I first got involved in politics back in the 2008 Texas primary; and watching the Democratic National Convention convinced me that the Democratic Party really is the party of the future, and that’s a conviction that the last three months have only strengthened.
  6. Friends & family. This one’s a recurring theme for those of you who have been reading my birthday posts for a few years, but once again, far and away the highlight of the last year has been all of the good times, bad times, and everything in between that I’ve shared with all of you. The relationships that we have to other people really are the meaning of life in my opinion, and I continue to be extremely fortunate where my relationships are concerned.
  7. Good times, bad times. That’s not to say that last year was all roses and sunshine in that department, though. Election Night was the second time last year that the way I thought about my world was unexpectedly upended—the first was in late spring, and it caused a major shift in the dynamics of my core group of friends. The details aren’t important for the purposes of this post, but it was the first time last year that I went into crisis-management mode and reached out for 1:1 conversations with most of the people I knew, and realized in the process that the individual connections I had were still very much intact, but that the apparent golden age we’d been enjoying as a friend group up until that point was a thing of the past (and I also began to realize that it hadn’t been such a golden age for a lot of folks). Just before I reached the breaking point in terms of the real estate spring rush plus all of the emotional energy needed for dealing with that process, I took a quick weekend getaway to the Oregon coast to rest and recharge, and to reflect on “the fragility of happiness and the durability of joy,” as I put it at the time, and that phrase has stuck with me as a way to think about last year, and life more generally. Stability never lasts, the world never stays the same for long—but the deepest, most eternal parts of life are contained in the smallest moments, and they’re ultimately what we’re all fighting for.
  8. Kids. Speaking of which, one of the highlights of last year for me was getting to spend a lot of time with my 16-month-old niece Darcy and her cousin Ellie, who was born two weeks earlier; and, up here in Seattle, with my good friend’s adorable 5-year-old niece Lily. If you ever need to remind yourself what this is all about, just hang out with a little kid for a few hours.
  9. Real estate. Work was something that went very well when I was 36, and that looks set to do the same for 37, too. Whenever people ask me how I like being a real estate agent, I tell them, truthfully, that it feels like someone made a copy of my soul and then turned it into a profession. I’m at the beginning of my third year in the business, and I can’t imagine anything I’d rather be doing with my life; thank you to all of you who have been a part of that journey.
  10. Public speaking. The General Manager for my real estate brokerage asked me to be one of the speakers at our TEDx-style kickoff event last month, and I gave a talk to a few hundred Windermere agents about the Civic Minute (which is the only form of marketing that I do for my real estate business) and how to more effectively remind people you already know of what you do for a living. It always feels good to be up on a stage in front of an audience.
  11. The townhouse. I bought a new home, a pre-sale new construction townhouse in the heart of Capitol Hill that should be finished sometime this summer if all goes well, and I’m really excited about it as potentially the last home that I’ll ever need. I’ve spent countless hours planning out all of the different ways that I can use the space for myself, my friends, and my family over the course of the next 30 years, which is a great thing to contemplate.
  12. Light rail. My current place is a 7-minute walk from the new Capitol Hill light rail station (the new place will be even closer), and the new station with its 3-minute travel time to downtown has been an absolute game-changer.
  13. Custom-made cards. I send hundreds of birthday/closing anniversary/thank-you/holiday cards every year, and my little sister runs a letter-press business on Etsy (you can and should check it out here)…so I decided to keep it in the family and start ordering as many of them as possible through her, and I’ve loved the results.
  14. Order, compassion, and impermanence.  Those three words were what I decided formed the core of my personal belief system back in my mid-20s after I formally renounced Christianity and left the church, and I was reminded of them during a fantastic religion & politics conversation with a friend in the aftermath of the election. They still ring true today, and they’re still at the heart of my worldview, even though I hadn’t thought about them explicitly in years.
  15. Video games. I’m basically addicted to video games. My solution to this problem since I graduated from college has been that I just don’t allow myself to own video game systems, but earlier this year I came up with a different twist. Shortly after I bought an Xbox One, I made myself a rule: from Monday through Saturday I can only play it once I’ve done everything in my daily routine (16 different items that together ensure I’m completely caught up on every aspect of my personal and professional life), with Sunday as my cheat day. It’s been amazingly effective so far at both making me stick to my routine and limiting my video game intake, when nothing else was working on either front; and I haven’t broken that internal rule even once since I implemented it three months ago (see “order” above).
  16. Jury duty. I finally realized a lifelong dream of being called for jury duty in late November. It wasn’t quite all it was cracked up to be—I sat around in the main jury room for a day and a half without ever even being called down to sit for jury selection—but it was still good to get to experience the system firsthand. 
  17. Traveling with friends. Continuing on a theme from 35, I took some great trips last year with friends, chief among them showing a group of Seattle friends around Austin and an epic two-week European vacation that combined a good friend’s wedding, a mini road trip with two good friends from the wedding, and a week of hiking through the Swiss and French Alps with the bride, the groom, and the groom’s father and brother.
  18. Solo retreats. I have a carefully curated collection of what I call “quiet places” up and down the west coast that I go to when I need to relax, unplug, and unwind, and 36 was a year in which I added a new one to the list (the Heceta Head Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast on the Oregon coast) and revisited the original quiet place from my college road trip days, the Marin Headlands hostel just north of San Francisco. I also had some great road west coast road trips in the new car…which still makes me happy every time that I see it, think about it, or drive it; it really is my automotive life partner.
  19. The ultimate weekend carry-on. You may not know this about me, but I’m absolutely obsessed with travel bags. Patagonia’s Maximum Legal Carry-on is the be-all and end-all for longer trips (that was all I packed for my two-week trip to Europe earlier this year), but there’s been a hole in my arsenal for awhile now: a small carry-on bag with room for a few changes of clothes plus a laptop & iPad, so I don’t have to bring two separate carry-ons on shorter weekend trips. I finally followed a friend’s lead and took the plunge on a Minaal Daily to fill that gap…and it’s been absolutely phenomenal. If you’re in the market for something similar, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
  20. A perfect run on the best driving road in the world. I love great driving roads, and Highway 33 in southern California is the best one I’ve ever encountered. The last time that I drove it, the week of Thanksgiving, was absolutely perfect. I’d driven all the way from Seattle just for the occasion, so the pressure was high, but it had been raining all day, so I was setting my expectations as low as I could in case I was rained out…and then, just as I overtook a Tesla and started getting into the twisty bits, the rain clouds parted, the sun came out, and I had a glorious, pulse-pounding 45-mile run before the clouds came back and the rain set in for the remainder of the three-day drive back up the coast to Seattle.
  21. Sadness and fear. I had a very powerful realization at a small-group gathering after the election: if you divide human emotions into the broad categories of happiness, anger, sadness, and fear, I’m very strongly in touch with happiness and anger, but not so much with sadness and fear. One of the reasons that I enjoyed that drive in southern California so much was that pushing myself to the limits on a truly great driving road is the most dangerous hobby that I have, and doing it consistently for nearly an hour feels the same, to my body, as I imagine running for dear life from a sabre-toothed tiger must have felt to my ancient ancestors. When I finally reached the end of the road and stumbled out into a diner to recuperate, my entire body was shaking so much from the adrenaline crash that I could barely stand, and I felt stripped down and opened up to the world in a way that I very rarely am these days. It was exactly the release that I’d craved without understanding that I’d needed it, and I passed the rest of the drive filling myself back up with post-election podcasts (if you’re not already listening to Our National Conversation About Conversations About Race, it’s highly recommended) while driving through redwoods in the pouring rain. One of the items on my work list for 37 will be trying to sit with the emotions I’m less comfortable with instead of avoiding them.
  22. Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. I joined the board of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, which advocates for more funding for affordable housing across the state, and I’m looking forward to becoming more involved with them in the coming months.
  23. Seattle Public Theater. SPT, where I’ve been a board member since January of 2015, went through a major leadership transition at the end of 2016. It was my first time being part of a process like this as a board member, and there was a lot that I learned from it and continue to learn from it.
  24. The Marquis co-op. I’ve been on the board of my co-op apartment building for 6 of the 7 years that I’ve owned a unit here, including 4 years as board president, but since I’m moving this summer I didn’t re-up for this year’s board at our annual meeting last month…and it feels very bittersweet. We’ve got great new blood on the board in the form of a couple of our newer residents, but I’m really going to miss this place; it’s been a wonderful home.
  25. Buying a hat. After years of abstractly wanting a hat of some kind, I finally found one that I like. It sounds like a simple thing, but it’s amazing how big of a deal it is—it’s my most often-used fashion accessory these days, and it’s much more stylish than the red knit cap that it replaced. 
  26. A new Comcast modem. This one also seems like a small thing, but it’s made an enormous difference in my quality of life. Ever since I switched to Comcast I’ve had really spotty wifi, but all of that changed when I bought a new, Comcast-branded combination cable modem and router last year. Fast, reliable Internet had eluded me for years, which became maddening once I started depending on it for mission-critical real estate work, and having it again is fantastic.
  27. Writing down dreams. This is something I’ve done consistently at other times in my life, and I’ve gotten back into the habit in the last 6 months. It’s usually the first thing I do as soon as I wake up, and trying to capture them accurately is a great exercise in short-form creative writing.
  28. Paragliding. One of my closest friends decided that she wanted to go paragliding for her birthday last year, so naturally I went along. It was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot just by talking to my tandem instructor while we were floating around looking for thermals. 
  29. The cognitive revolution. I read a brief evolutionary history of mankind called Sapiens on a friend’s recommendation, and it introduced me to an idea called the cognitive revolution, which I’d never heard of before. Basically, it’s the theory that the reason homo sapiens won out against all of the other variations of humans that existed thousands of years ago—including some who were both stronger and smarter than we were—was because we developed the capacity for storytelling, which is truly what separates us from the animals.
  30. Dating. 36 was a very hit-and-miss year, dating-wise, but a good one overall, and I learned a lot over the course of it. For the first half of the year I outsourced my dating life to a matchmaking service (Simply Matchmaking), which was great because a) it was a really busy period of the year, b) I love blind dates, and c) I ended up meeting a lot of women I probably wouldn’t have otherwise; and most of my dates the rest of the year came from just meeting people while I was out and about. I had a lot of second and third and fourth dates, and there were a couple of women I saw for a month or two, but nothing that led to a real relationship. I feel good heading into 37, though; I’m looking forward to seeing what the new year brings.
  31. Playwriting. I didn’t do much on this front, but several of my long-term playwriting classmates had phenomenal years, including two of them getting multiple plays produced around town and one becoming the board chair of New Century Theater Company, and we had a great annual retreat on Vashon Island together for the third year in a row. Even though there are no more classes as of this year, we’re still a pretty tight-knit group, and one that I feel very fortunate to be a part of.
  32. Standing desk. I bought a new desk, and ordered a keyboard stand and external monitor mount kit to go along with it that converts any desk into a sit/stand desk with an external display…and I absolutely love it; it’s changed the way I work for the better.
  33. Dance Church. One of my second dates this year was to a great class that Velocity Dance Center puts on every Sunday morning and Tuesday evening called Dance Church, and it kind of changed my life—it’s like the best wedding dancing you’ve ever done, but structured like an exercise class, and everyone’s completely sober. Highly recommended if you like dancing for dancing’s sake.
  34. Voice coach. After years of pretty much everyone in my life telling me that I need to talk more slowly, I finally looked up a voice coach and took some lessons from her that were really useful in that regard. The secret, it turns out, is all about how you breathe.
  35. Personal trainer. Another thing I finally got around to from my to-do list was going to see a personal trainer who had been highly recommended by a friend for improving posture (and rightfully so). You know what’s also really important where posture and movement are concerned? How you breathe.
  36. Meditation. The power of breathing didn’t really hit home for me, though, until I took a mediation class from a friend the same week that I started going to the voice coach and the personal trainer, in which I recognized a lot of what I’d learned from the other two. I’ve meditated at various times in the past, but I never really understood why the breath is what’s used to center the attention until last year. It’s amazing how powerful the little things can be.

Some thoughts on privilege and allyship in a post-Trump world

OK, community. As a straight, white, progressive, single man without kids, I recognize that I’m experiencing this in a different way than a lot of you. Given that, I’ve been mulling and processing and thinking about what my place is in the new chapter of American history that we entered last night. This is definitely still an evolving line of thought for me–please call me out when needed, offer suggestions if you have them, and if you ever just want to grab coffee/a drink and talk further, I’ll buy the first round.
Here’s what I’ve got so far:

First, I commit to doing the work that needs to be done with other white men, both in the Seattle community that I’ve made my adopted home and in the rural Texas community (and beyond) in which I grew up.

Second, for all the folks in my life and my community who aren’t straight white men–women, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, people of color, and anyone else who’s feeling the impacts of last night’s election in a much more personal and painful way than I am–I commit to providing support however I can be most useful. I have a lot of forms of privilege, all of which I’ve gotten from other people; to name but a few:

1.My father is Mexican, but because I’m very light-skinned and my parents raised me as a white man, my white identity was something I didn’t even have cause to think about until I realized that white privilege exists once I was already well into adulthood.
2. Thanks to Mike McGinn and all of the people that I connected with through my time on his campaign and working in his administration, I have the strongest, most robust social network that I could imagine.
3. And thanks to that social network, my career as a real estate agent has given me a level of financial independence that I never expected to be able to enjoy.

If my white privilege, my social network, or my financial privilege can be useful to you in the organizing work that you’re doing, please don’t hesitate to ask.

I love you all, and I hope that together we can create a world that respects us all and gives every one of us the ability to live our lives freely and without fear.

Reflections on 35

I turn 36 in just under an hour, at 6:52 pm Central time…and for the first time in my life, I’m not worried about the future. 35 was the last year in a trilogy of sorts: 33 was a year in which the life I’d been building since I arrived in Seattle came crumbling down around me, and I had to pick through the pieces and decide what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to let go of; I spent 34 sketching out a plan for existing in the world as my true self, without worrying about fitting neatly into all of life’s blanks; and I spent the last 12 months watching that plan come to life in ways that I never could have imagined, fueled almost entirely by the incredible people in my life.

That’s the quick summary of what the last year has meant to me—here are 35 highlights, in an annual tradition that I’ve borrowed from two of my friends because I like it so much:

  1. Friends & family. All of you really are the heart and soul of my world today. The last time I did a cross-country road trip was in early 2009, and it ended with my arriving in Seattle 7 years ago last night knowing maybe 5 people in the city but determined to make a home for myself. Last night I threw the biggest party I’ve ever thrown for all my different groups of friends (although because of the venue capacity I could only invite about half as many people as I would have liked to), and it was one of the most magical nights of my life. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart; the last 7 years have been amazing, and I’m looking forward to the next 7 years, and the next 7, and the 7 after that, all the way out to the horizon.
  2. Real estate. 35 was the year that real estate really came into its own for me—it was exciting, close to overwhelming at times (I’ve never worked as hard as I did between March and August of last year, including my time as a Field Organizer on the Obama campaign in Ohio in 2008), and totally transformative in terms of the opportunities it’s given me and the way it’s allowed me to think about my life. None of it would have been possible without all of you, though; so again, thank you.
  3. The birth of my first niece. My younger sister and her husband had their first child in September; I was fortunate enough to be able to be there when she was born, and I saw her again as a 4-month-old when I drove through Texas on the road trip last month. I have lots of friends and cousins with kids, but the feeling of cradling my own niece in my arms is something else entirely.
  4. Dating. This was by far the best year I’ve had, dating-wise, in the last three years—I went on precisely three first dates while I was 35, but one of them in the beginning of the year turned into a great relationship that lasted most of 2015, and from which I learned an enormous amount. Hopefully 36 holds more of the same.
  5. The BMW. After wanting one for 13 years, I finally bought my dream car, a brand new BMW 328i. It’s difficult to express in a small number of words what this car means to me and just how deeply happy it makes me, but “a symbol…of the Hegelian synthesis of freedom and stability that is my life in Seattle right now” (as I put it in my long blog post on the subject at the end of my European Delivery trip in October) is a pretty good start.
  6. Seattle or Bust. When I was ordering the car last September at BMW of Seattle, the dealership told me that after I finished my European Delivery trip they could either ship it to Seattle, or to the BMW plant in South Carolina for no additional charge. I of course chose South Carolina, and after I got back from my week and a half driving the car around Europe with a friend, I set to work planning what would become the most epic road trip of my long and storied road trip career—16 states, 31 days, 48 friends visited and/or traveled with along the way, and 8,503 miles, starting on January 4th and ending yesterday afternoon. I tried 6 or 7 times in the last week to write a blog post about the trip itself, but the experience just couldn’t survive the transition into language from the feeling of omnipresent joy and peace and rightness vibrating through my cells. Suffice to say it was a life highlight.
  7. Therapy. 2015 was a very intense year—I started going to a therapist again in July for the first time in almost two years, and it’s been really good.
  8. Admitting that I had no idea what I actually want from my life. This was one of my most important realizations of 2015—it was sometime in the fall, real estate had slowed down to the point that I had plenty of time to sit back and reflect, and I had just broken up with the woman I’d been dating since late January. I suddenly found myself with a lot more time to think about the direction that my life is taking, and having reached a lot of the goals that I’d been striving towards for made me realize that I’d been so focused on my day-to-day life for so long that it had been awhile since I stopped to think about what I want the overarching focus of my life to be.
  9. Personal retreats. As a result of that realization, I took a lot of time for myself at the end of the year and at various points on the road trip to sit back and think about what I want the next 35 years of my life to look like, which was really useful. I’ve got a pretty good list of quiet places around the region and the country at this point that well-suited to this sort of thing—let me know if you want a recommendation.
  10. Being confronted head-on with my white privilege. There was a lot of discussion about institutional racism last year. It’s something that I understood from a philosophical perspective, but it was driven home for me very viscerally at, of all places, an environmental conference/retreat on Whidbey Island in November, where the Q&A session following a keynote speech by a woman of color to a mostly white audience went very quickly off-script in a really uncomfortable way that made me see my role in perpetuating the system in a whole new light. It was a revelation somewhat akin to #YesAllWomen a couple of years ago, in that it got me to see the world from a viewpoint other than my own in a very powerful way.
  11. You’ve got a friend in real estate. There was an overlap between #1 & 2 last year, too—one of my closest friends saw how much fun I was having (and, to be fair, also all of the downsides as well as the upsides) and decided to get into the business herself. It’s been great being able to go through this journey together.
  12. Time tracking. When I worked in the Mayor’s Office, I tracked the time I spent working—actually doing work, not just being physically present in the office—down to the minute. It was a great tool for seeing where all of my time was going, so I started doing the same thing back in October for real estate.
  13. Public speaking. I gave my second-best Ignite talk of all time last February, during which I pulled an audience volunteer up onstage and had her give a fully improvised, on-the-fly talk for three minutes with no advance warning. I also spoke about the City’s housing policies at the first City Inspired forum in Pioneer Square…which made me realize that I really like talking about local government in front of an audience.
  14. Seattle Public Theater. I’ve had more time to settle in as a board member, and I’m really enjoying it—the second show of our 2015-2016 season, a re-interpretation of Amadeus, is playing now, and we’ve got two more great ones on tap after that.
  15. Sleep No More. I took a whirlwind trip to New York to see Sleep No More after hearing about it from my playwriting group and a couple of different friends. It was my first experience with immersive theater, and I absolutely loved it.
  16. Drinking About Local Politics. One of the things that I missed from working at City Hall was being able to dive deep on all of the issues of the day with a bunch of wonky political insiders…so I started putting together a monthly happy hour with the local political reporters that I know, which has been a lot of fun.
  17. “Can you hear me now?” Talking on the phone is now a mission-critical part of my job, which means that my iPhone’s tendency to drop roughly 33% of the calls that I make or receive isn’t as cute as it used to be. In the ultimate Throwback Thursday, I ordered up a line of Vonage service, Amazon Primed myself a sleek new cordless phone, and regained the ability to call people like it’s 1999.
  18. Afternoon naps. Definitely one of the best benefits of working mostly from home. I was too busy to think about sleeping during the day from pretty much March to September, but when things slowed down a bit in October I started making the most of it.
  19. A new caretaker. I’m the President of the Board for my co-op apartment building (similar to a condo, except that instead of owning your unit outright you own shares in a corporation that owns the entire building), and last year I led the search for a new live-in caretaker after our old one bought a house and moved out. It was the first time I’d run a full hiring process from start to finish, and it was a great learning experience.
  20. Writing the New City. After living a few blocks away for 5 ½ years, I finally took my first Hugo House class after a friend forwarded me the listing. It was taught by The Stranger’s Charles Mudede, and the topic was writing about the changes happening to different neighborhoods in Seattle. I loved it, for a lot of reasons; it definitely won’t be my last class there.
  21. A singing telegram. One of my good friends had a Salon of Shame-style birthday party that involved everyone reading an embarrassing journal entry from their past. I was out of town, but unbeknownst to the birthday girl I hired a singing telegram actor to dress up as my future self and show up at the party to read one of my old journal entries for me. He was apparently a big hit; it still makes me smile just thinking about it.
  22. HUMP! After hearing about it for years, I finally went to Seattle’s premiere amateur porn festival for the first time with a bunch of friends. I had no idea what to expect going in, but it turned out to be more or less a series of mini-documentaries about the sex lives of ordinary Seattleites, which was fascinating.
  23. Trying Google Cardboard. Google Cardboard is pretty much the bottom of the barrel as far as VR technologies go—it’s just a little cardboard enclosure that you slide your phone into—but when I used it at a friend’s house with one of the NY Times VR stories, it blew me away. The revolution is coming.
  24. A playlist system for the ages. After a long dry spell of iTunes genius mixes and large, hastily-thrown-together mishmashes of different kinds of music, in preparation for the road trip I sat down and carefully organized my collection of more than 11,000 MP3s into 71 playlists spanning 5 different taxonomic systems. As with any first draft, it’s still a work in progress, but it’s far better than anything I’ve had before.
  25. Shopping. I finally started investing in my wardrobe in a meaningful way, including ordering some custom-fit shirts and pants from Trumaker and Trunk Club and discovering the joy of clothes shopping, something I used to do only when forced.
  26. A morning routine. One of the big lessons I learned this past year was that I need time for relaxation and reflection built into my daily life, otherwise it’s going to disappear whenever I’m really busy. In late October I came up with a morning routine and started going to bed early so that I could have two full hours every morning before I even turn on my phone…and it’s been one of the most transformative things that I’ve ever done for myself.
  27. A truly great habit-tracking app. I’ve dabbled with different apps over the years for building daily habits that don’t fit well onto a traditional to-do list, but it wasn’t until Productive that I truly found my muse. I can’t say enough good things about it—if there are habits that you’re trying to build, do yourself a favor and download it today.
  28. Sending cards. One of my resolutions last year was to be better about sending birthday cards and holiday cards—I did a great job with the former and a decent job with the latter, but there’s room for improvement on both fronts this year.
  29. Reaching for my phone less often. I bought an Apple Watch last year after my first-generation Basis B1 gave up the ghost, for two main reasons—the ability to get notifications from my phone without taking it out of my pocket, and the sheer amount of information that I can get on the front screen with just a quick glance at my wrist. I couldn’t have been happier with my choice; it’s amazing how much of a difference those two things make, and how much less time I spend looking at my phone as a result.
  30. Selling the Fit. The only downside to buying the BMW was having to give up my trusty little Fit. Luckily, though, I ended up selling it to a friend who I know will give it a good home and get good use out of it. It was my first time completing a private-party car sale to someone who wasn’t a family member, so it was also a good learning opportunity.
  31. The new Star Wars movie. I’ve seen The Force Awakens three times now in three of the best movie theaters in the world—the Pacific Science Center IMAX and the Cinerama in Seattle, and the holiest-of-holy Chinese Theater in Los Angeles—and I’ve liked it more each time. I re-watched Episodes I – VI between the first and second time, too, which really helped me appreciate it more fully…and, if I’m being honest, my high school self is really glad that a non-James Cameron movie finally beat Titanic’s domestic box office record from 1997 (and Avatar’s too, for good measure). Next stop: taking down Titanic’s #5 spot on the inflation-adjusted all-time box office list.
  32. An accountant of my own. After doing my own taxes for 19 years, I’ve finally enlisted the help of a professional ally—I’m a long way from the 1040 EZs of my youth, and it’s been great to have someone who can answer all of the questions that I have throughout the year.
  33. A sharing economy listserv. As an experiment, I set up a Google group for a group of my friends that’s kind of like a private version of the “Community” section of Craigslist; it’s been going well so far.
  34. Actually using my CRM. It sounds mundane, but as a real estate agent I live and die by my sales pipeline—I was using a jury-rigged setup that was held together by the electronic equivalent of duct tape and pipe cleaners for most of 2015, so once things slowed down a bit I spent a lot of time in the late fall and winter building out a much more robust system, and it’s made a huge difference in my daily workflow.
  35. Transitioning from a mindset of scarcity to a mindset of abundance. I never would have thought of myself as seeing the world through a lens of scarcity, but in hindsight that’s exactly how I’ve structured my life since college. I spent most of my twenties with one foot out the door of wherever I was, constantly oriented towards some distant, better version of the future, always chasing whatever new experiences were waiting for me around the next corner. Even after I settled in to Seattle around 30 and started putting down roots, I spent a long time worrying about what my life lacked instead of enjoying everything that it had—worrying that I would never find a career that felt right to me, that I would never really fit in, that I would die alone and unloved. I remember very clearly the moment when that changed. It was last November, my first full year as a real estate agent was wrapping up, and I was surrounded by a community of people the likes of which I could never have imagined even a few short years ago. I had just had the kind of conversation with a very close friend that shows you how deep the bond is that you share…and I was suddenly overcome by this incredible feeling of peace and invincibility and utter calmness, like it was OK for me to stop worrying about the future because I had finally arrived at that better place I’d been trying to get to for all these years. That was the spirit with which I entered into the road trip at the beginning of the year, and the spirit with which I’m now entering into my 36th year of life. It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally reached Peak Sol; I have no idea what the next 12 months have in store for me, but I can’t wait to find out.

The first year of the Civic Minute, by the numbers

In scanning this week’s news to get ready for the one-year anniversary edition of the Civic Minute, I was reminded of how omnipresent the year-end wrap-up article has become…and then it occurred to me that I could do one of my own! The Civic Minute, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, is my weekly wrap-up email of local political news for Seattle—it’s technically also my real estate marketing newsletter, but its only job there is to remind everyone I know once a week that I sell real estate. It’s specifically designed to be useful and relevant to anyone who lives in Seattle, even if you don’t care at all about real estate.

As many of you know, I love tracking my Civic Minute metrics, and I know a lot of you like to follow along from home, too (thanks for all the help in ranking subject lines on Facebook each week). So without further ado, I present the first year of the Civic Minute, by the numbers:


I started the Civic Minute in late November of 2014 by sending it cold to a small group of about 50 beta testers. I made a lot of tweaks over the course of December of 2014 based on the input I got from that group, and once I saw how excited people were to get it every week, I decided to launch it wide the first Sunday in January. That first email went out to 1,587 people on January 4th of this year, each of whom was handpicked by me after carefully going through my database and choosing people I thought would like it.

Since then, a total of 175 people have unsubscribed (about 11%), 390 new subscribers have signed up, and I’ve added 73 more people directly. My current subscriber count is 1776…which is kind of a perfect number at which to end the first year :) One of my goals for 2016 is to get that over 2,000, though, so if you know someone you think would like the Minute, please recommend it to them!

Open rates

I spend a lot of time thinking about which subject line will give me the best open rate. My average open rate for the entire year is currently 36.8%; here are my top 10 most-opened subject lines from 2015:

  1. 50.9%, 1/4/15: Welcome to Sol’s Civic Minute! What’s happening in Seattle, in 60 seconds per week.
  2. 44.7%, 8/16/15: Little girl + crows = lawsuit; the City calls for a voluntary 10% reduction in water use; and more…
  3. 43.6%, 5/31/15: [Civic Minute] Barefoot Ted answers the mystery of those little self-propelled wheels, the City cracks down on medical marijuana, and more…
  4. 43.2%, 6/21/15: [Civic Minute] Dive-bombing crows are back–and they remember what you did last summer; the Polar Pioneer leaves town; and more…
  5. 41.7%, 1/11/15: Fun with district elections, a stink-fog explainer, and more…
  6. 41.7%, 5/3/15: [Civic Minute] A new Councilmember is born, Taylor Shellfish decides neurotoxins & oysters don’t mix, and more…
  7. 41.5%, 6/28/15: The Ancient One returns to his people, rainbow crosswalks kick off Pride weekend #LoveWins-style, and more…
  8. 40.6%, 3/29/15: [Civic Minute] 20,000 new units of affordable housing, Comcast: The Reckoning, and more…
  9. 40.3%, 3/22/15: [Civic Minute] Bertha gets a facelift, Cupcake Royale pot cookies, and more…
  10. 40.0%, 4/26/15: [Civic Minute] Rent control takes center stage, William Shatner declares war on Seattle, and more…

Article clicks

Don’t worry, the Civic Minute is in no danger of becoming clickbait any time soon—I choose the content based on what I think is most relevant, but I do pay close attention to what my readers click on in each email. My goal each week is to maximize my open rate, and knowing which articles people want to read most helps with that goal—I usually consider it a win if the most-clicked article is the same as the one that I chose for the subject line opener. Here are the top 20 most-clicked articles from 2015, along with the number of clicks that each one got:

  1. This DYI hack for an air conditioner has nearly 3M views on YouTube (139 clicks, 7/5/15)
  2. Bertha reaches daylight (116 clicks, 2/22/15)
  3. Neighbors elevate themselves to #1 on the Crow Shitlist (83 clicks, 8/16/15)
  4. The Solowheel: transportation solution or Segway sequel? (79 clicks, 5/31/15)
  5. Stuck in Seattle: The Aggravating Adventures of a Gigantic Tunnel Drill (77 clicks, 4/12/15)
  6. Linking brains: Researchers at UW say they’ve done it (67 clicks, 9/27/15)
  7. 1,000-foot-long waterslide coming to Seattle (63 clicks, 1/25/15) [KOMO has taken the source page down, so the link doesn’t work anymore]
  8.  Amazon opens ‘Community Banana Stand’ at Seattle HQ to give away free fruit (63 clicks, 12/6/15)
  9. Inside the Smith  Tower apartment (59 clicks, 4/26/15)
  10. Goodspaceguy: The definitive interview with King County’s perennial candidate (59 clicks, 11/1/15)
  11. Marijuana vending machine to debut in Seattle (57 clicks, 2/1/15) [KOMO has taken this one down, too; apparently they don’t archive their stories]
  12. We made you a present. [Seattlish’s district map] (57 clicks, 5/3/15)
  13. Don’t Be Alarmed: We’re Researching Crows (56 clicks, 10/11/15)
  14. Seattle’s first cat café finally opens doors in Wallingford (55 clicks, 12/20/15)
  15. Nine Questions for Sandi Doughton, Author of Full-Rip 9.0: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest (54 clicks, 7/26/15)
  16. Capitol Hill’s ‘supernatural’ pop machine stays stocked, but how? Nobody knows (54 clicks, 8/30/15)
  17. Sweet Little Mysteries: Discovering Seattle’s Hidden Orchards (54 clicks, 10/4/15)
  18. Former Queen Anne fire station 26 is on the market as a residential property (53 clicks, 3/1/15)
  19. Seattle’s Shoreline Street Ends Map & Photos (53 clicks, 7/12/15)
  20. Seattle’s old brick buildings could see huge damage in big quake (53 clicks, 8/16/15)

And there you have it! Let me know if there’s any other data you’re interested in, or if you have any suggestions for the newsletter.

Thanks for all of your support in 2015, and have a happy New Year :)

On the road again

Until last week, I hadn’t left the country since March of 2011. That’s something that my immediate post-college self would have been blown away and saddened by—but he would have wholeheartedly approved of my reason for breaking that international travel fast last week.

You see, 13 years and just over a month ago, I fell in love with a BMW. It was a black, manual transmission, ’99 328i, and when it arrived one day on the used car lot of the little Ford dealership in Burien where I worked, it was like a visitor from another world. It was love at first sight; after I surreptitiously checked out the keys and took it for a lunch run the next day, it was a foregone conclusion that if I ever had the financial wherewithal to own a luxury car, this would be the one—it was so quick, so responsive, its transmission was so silky smooth, that it seemed like another class of thing entirely from my trusty little Civic hatchback, the economy of which suddenly no longer seemed like the highest virtue to which a car could aspire. The 328 struck a perfect balance between respectability and adventure: it could handle the best driving roads in America without compromise, but you could also fit four people and luggage in it comfortably.

I poked around BMW’s website, visited a couple of dealerships, and quickly decided that someday, if I ever made enough money, I was going to order a brand new one and pick it up via BMW’s European Delivery program, whereby you fly to Munich, drive your new car off the factory floor, and then go gallivanting around Europe for a week or two before dropping it off to be shipped back to you in the States. Nothing truly worth doing is ever worth doing less than flat-out, as far as I’m concerned.

It was definitely a dream deferred, though—at the time, my focus was on living as simply as possible to pay off all of my college debts and save up enough money to travel all the way around the world without flying. I saw the path that led to the BMW as antithetical to my chosen way of life, such a distant possibility that it quickly came to represent the temptation to abandon my values rather than something to which I actually aspired. I gave up on ever actually owning my dream car, but the dream never went away.

My younger self and I had a lot of adventures together in the years that followed, including, when I was 29, choosing stability over freedom and settling down in Seattle once and for all, with no intention to leave this time. That was how I thought about it—my life was a binary in which I could either have freedom or stability, but never fully both. I wasn’t going to compromise one value for the other by, for example, becoming a travel writer, which on its surface would have allowed me to keep pursuing my passions long-term but in my mind would have corrupted the travel impulse by tying it to work.

My solution to the problem was to plan on going to nursing school (I had other reasons, too, some of which were more important, but this was the aspect of that decision that’s most relevant here), which I reasoned would allow me to continue living out my binary work/travel cycle, building a life where I could have both, in full measure, indefinitely. I figured nurses were so highly in demand that I could just up and quit my job whenever I wanted to travel for months at a time and not have to worry about finding another job when I got back, plus there was always travel nursing for living abroad in one place at a time for extended periods. I signed up as a volunteer at a local hospital and discovered that I enjoyed the work, so I started taking my pre-requisite classes in preparation for applying to the UW’s 2-year BSN program.

Nursing school got put on hold, though, when I got wrapped up in the McGinn for Mayor campaign back in the summer of 2009. McGinn offered me a job in his administration after he won the election; I said yes, and I’m not sure that any single decision I’ve ever made has had a larger impact on my life. The job itself was great, but unbeknownst to me at the time, its greatest gift was the incredible network that it left me with after the administration ended and I found myself in need of a new mechanism through which to exchange my time for money.

The decision to become a real estate agent was something the undeniable rightness of which I recognized immediately as soon as the idea popped into my head. Working on commission was a deep part of my soul that hadn’t been fed in over a decade; I was ready to be my own boss; I liked the idea of being able to pay off the mortgage on my co-op apartment so that I’d be free to pursue the things I was most passionate about without being limited by money; and I figured that I knew enough people in Seattle that at least a couple of them would be willing to trust me enough to help them buy a house.

So I jumped in, not knowing what to expect and fully intending not to make my first sale for 12 months, which was one of the possibilities I’d been warned about. As far as I was concerned, if I could make my modest Mayor’s Office salary by the end of year two I’d be doing great, and if I really played my cards right I might reach a point in 5 years where referral traffic was keeping me in business without my having to go out and beat the pavement to find new clients.

To say that things went better than I could have possibly imagined would be an understatement. I got my license in August of last year and reached out to everyone I knew to let them know I was in the business in mid-September. People I knew started reaching out directly wanting to work with me; by October it was already a more than full-time job, and by December I had sold three houses already. Last Christmas I dared to dust off my old dream just enough to keep me motivated: the 328 was the only big-ticket item I’ve ever wanted that money can buy, so it became my goal. Things kept going amazingly well—at this point I’ve sold 20 houses in the last 12 months, and all of my clients have either been people from my existing network or direct referrals. My real estate career is already at the point I thought it would take me 5 years to reach, for which I feel incredibly fortunate.

This past Spring was the busiest period in my professional life to date. At some point in May, at the height of real estate’s silly season for the year, I decided that I was ready to place the order for the BMW. A few days later I was getting dinner with a good friend, and she told me about a bucket list item of her own in the Czech Republic that already had a date attached: October 15th. It was another decision that made itself—I suggested that we combine our trips, she thought it was a great idea…and just like that, taking European Delivery on a new BMW went from an abstract concept to something with a specific orientation in time and space.

On the road again

I went into BMW of Seattle, put the order together, and set a firm pickup date: October 12th, 2015. It still didn’t seem entirely real to me, though, right up until the moment this past Monday that I found myself in the BMW flagship showroom in Munich standing in front of the most beautiful car I’d ever seen, operating on four hours of sleep due to a combination of residual jet lag and childlike Christmas-day-style anticipation and separated by my hotel for the night by hundreds of miles of Autobahn and twisty driving roads leading up and over the Austrian Alps.

The car has become a symbol for me of the Hegelian synthesis of freedom and stability that is my life in Seattle right now. I used to write in my journals about my “travel impulse,” that gnawing hunger in my belly that cared less about the destination than it did about the constant meditative motion of the open road. I thought about it alternately as a subtle self-doubt, driving me on to prove that I was capable of existing totally on my own without reference to the support network that I’d had from birth to 22; an obsession with filling my life with as many new experiences as I could; and a desire to front-load my retirement while I was still young enough to fully enjoy it, a non-monetary form of compound experiential interest that’s still bearing fruit in my life to this day. As soon as that hunger went away, I thought, as soon as my appetite changed to things that were more easily accessible and that tied me to one place (a mortgage, a wife & kids), the next phase of my life would begin, with stability as the guiding principle instead of travel.

My life since the Mayor’s Office has shown me the middle path instead, a perfect balance between freedom and stability that’s driven by the essence of my travel impulse, curiosity and joyful exploration and play, but in the context of a loving, supportive community who enable me to be true to the deepest parts of myself in a way that the freedom of the open road never could. Being able to share this trip with a good friend has been wonderful, and I’m in the midst of organizing a month-long cross-country progressive road trip with different groups of friends to help me get the car to Seattle from BMW’s Performance Delivery Center in South Carolina, where I’ll be picking it up in early January (we just dropped the car off with the shipping company in Vienna earlier this afternoon, and I miss it already).

Real estate has really helped in making this lifestyle possible, not only monetarily but also by interweaving my personal life and my work life in a way that honestly doesn’t even feel like work most days. My friends have been just as important in more ways than I could list here, one of which has been helping me see that stability and stagnation are two very different things, and that it’s very possible to have the former without the latter. My life in Seattle right now feels perfectly balanced, with my need for freedom and my need for stability each helping to sustain and nurture the other.

And that’s ultimately what the BMW represents to me: the joining of what I’d previously thought of as two disparate life goals into one unified and seamless whole, just as uncompromisingly in its element on the best driving roads in California as it is on a quick trip to the store to get groceries with a couple of nieces or nephews in tow. It’s the perfect symbol for this time in my life—and I’m looking forward immensely to getting it back to Seattle in January with a little help from my friends.

Hey Seattle! Have you voted in the August 4th primary yet? No? Let me help you with that…


1. Make sure you’re registered

If you’re not registered to vote at your current address in Seattle, stop what you’re doing right now, go to the Secretary of State’s website, and register to vote. It’ll take you about 2 minutes, and we’re extremely fortunate to be able to register to vote online here, so you should take advantage of it. It’s too late to register for the primary (unless you register in person downtown — and you should tell me if you do, because there are few things in this world that would make me happier), but at least you’ll be able to vote in the general election in November.

2. Be sure you have your ballot

If you are registered to vote at your current address, you should receive your ballot in the mail this week; they’ll be going out in the mail starting tomorrow (Wednesday, July 15th). If you haven’t received your ballot by next Wednesday, July 22nd, go to King County’s replacement ballot request form to ask for a new one, or call King County Elections at 206–296–0100.

3. Remind yourself why this is important

This November’s election — with district elections for the first time since the 70′s and all 9 Councilmembers running simultaneously — is basically the local electoral equivalent of combining the Super Bowl with the World Cup and the Breaking Bad series finale, except that it only happens once every 40 years, and instead of watching from the sidelines, we all have a part to play in how it turns out. I know you already vote in Presidential elections, like 85% of Seattleites. But if you care about affordable housing, mass transit, traffic during rush hour, public safety, police reform, or zoning changes in our neighborhoods, guess who makes the policies that effect all of those issues? That’s right — all these City Councilmembers we’re going to be electing. And turnout for local elections (which take place in odd-numbered years) is generally around 30% in primaries and 50% in general elections.

Who are the 30% of us who are going to vote in this primary, you ask? I took a look, using the most current data from the 2008–2012 American Communities Survey for population numbers (as parsed by Wolfram Alpha — click on the “more details” button underneath the graph) and data on the makeup of the 2013 primary electorate from Ben Anderstone. These were the results, by age range:

  • 18–24: 13.8% of the voting population, 2% voter turnout (14.5% representation)
  • 25–34: 24.9% of the voting population, 11% voter turnout (44.2% representation)
  • 35–49: 26.6% of the voting population, 24% voter turnout (90.2% representation)
  • 50–64: 18.3% of the voting population, 32% voter turnout (148.1% representation)
  • 65+: 11.1% of the voting population, 31% voter turnout (236.6% representation)

As you can see, we can learn a lot from our elders. It’s important for everyone to vote, but if you’re in that 18–34 age bracket it’s especially critical — you’re going to be most affected by all of the changes that are happening to our city, but right now you’re the least represented when it comes to choosing the elected officials who are making those decisions. If you’re not registered to vote at your current address, go register right now so you can vote in the general. If you are registered to vote, be sure you actually do it! The August 4th primary is the election in which we’ll be narrowing the Council field down from the 47 candidates who are currently running to just the top 18 who will be on the ballot in November; it’s an important one.

4. Keep in mind how mind-numbingly easy voting is in Washington

It’s so easy that someone (your postman or postwoman) literally brings a ballot to your home; all you have to do is take 5 minutes to fill it out over a cup of coffee in your pajamas, put a stamp on it, and send it back in. If you prefer not to mail your ballot, you can also drop it off in person at one of 6 locations in Seattle. There’s honestly no excuse not to vote — unless of course you hate America, Seattle, and/or freedom.

5. Find your Seattle City Council district

To find your district, go to the City’s Council Districts page for maps of each district, or look up your address on the County’s lookup tool (note that this will also give you your state legislative district, your County Council district, your precinct, and your Congressional District). Now you know which of the 47 candidates running for City Council this year you’ll see on your ballot!

6. Figure out who you’re going to vote for

If you’re not sure which of them to vote for, there are a number of places you can go for assistance:

  • King County Elections has customized Voter’s Guide tool on their website, if you want to read the official candidate statements for the races in which you’ll actually be voting but you don’t want to dig through the paper voter’s guide you get in the mail with your ballot to find them.
  • The Progressive Voters Guide lists candidates they consider to be true progressives and tells you who they’ve been endorsed by, but in races with multiple progressive candidates they don’t tell you who individually you should vote for.
  • The Municipal League rates candidates on a scale of “Not qualified” to “Outstanding”. Their user interface isn’t great, but if you sort by “Locality”, it’s easy to go down the list of Seattle candidates. They’re more interested in competence than they are in political leanings.
  • The Stranger can always be counted on for severely biased, profanity-laced, and generally entertaining picks by their young, urbanist, progressive editorial staff.
  • The Seattle Times, whose ed board is decidedly older and more conservative than The Stranger’s, makes a nice counterweight if that’s more your scene.
  • KUOW did a series of short interviews with every candidate, if you want to hear them in their own words.
  • And there have already been a bunch of candidate forums this year; search your neighborhood blog or do a quick Google search for candidate forums in your district to see what’s out there.

7. Vote by August 4th!

In order to be counted, your ballot has to be either dropped off at a drop boxby 8 pm on Tuesday, August 4th, or put in the mail and postmarked by, again, Tuesday, August 4th. Generally speaking most blue Post Office drop boxes have their last pickup at 1:30, and most post offices have their last pickup at 5:00, so keep that in mind.

8. Way to go, Seattleite :)

Once your ballot is safely on its way to King County Elections, hold your head up high and be proud of yourself — by voting in a local primary election, you just did something that 70% of your fellow Seattleites won’t do this year!

Welcome to the club.

Reflections on 34

After being inspired by a friend who writes a birthday blog post each year with x  things she’s enjoyed about being x years old, I wrote my first birthday reflection post last year recapping 33 in 33 paragraphs. It might have been able to pass for a listicle if it weren’t for the fact that it was 7,242 words long—I’ll try to keep the length down this year :)

34, for me, was the back nine of a two-year transition that started a few days after I turned 33. It picked up in media res a month into my post-McGinn freedom, most of the way through 15 days in Seattle with no electronic connections to the modern world, as I thought deeply, for perhaps the first time in my life, about not what I wanted to do for a living or what kind of an impact I wanted to have on the world but about what I wanted my life to look like, as an integrated whole. Now, a year later, I’m more deeply and sustainably connected to my place, my people, and my purpose than I have been at any other point in my life. Thank you to all of you for your role in that. Here are some of the highlights of my year.

  1. By a wide margin, the best thing about my 34th year of life was the strength of my relationships—I carved out plenty of time for the people I care most about, and that’s made all the difference. If I had one wish for 2015-2016, it would be for even more time to be able to spend with each of you. This entire list could easily be a catalogue of the best events, dinners, birthday parties, weddings, and conversations of the last year without even scratching the surface.
  2. Real estate has been pretty high up there, too. I’ve never done anything for a living that I’ve enjoyed this much, and after selling four houses in my first 5 months of doing this full-time, I’m doing much better than I thought I would be at this point when I started out. Professionally speaking, I’m exactly where I need to be, and it feels amazing.
  3. I’m LOVING Sol’s Civic Minute!I’d been looking for an excuse to send out a curated weekly email of local news for the last three years, and making it my real estate newsletter turned out to be the perfect reason to actually start doing it. It’s been really gratifying to hear that other people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it, too.
  4. I turned over a new leaf towards the end of last year when it came to writing physical cards to friends on a regular basis, starting with birthday cards and thank-you cards and culminating in a small but completely handwritten batch of holiday cards at the end of the year. I plan on expanding my practice this year.
  5. Although I let it fade when I got busy with real estate, I re-launched Organizing for Seattle after the 2013 McGinn campaign with a friend from the campaign to give progressive activists from around the city a neutral space to mix & mingle in between election cycles.
  6. Before I made the jump to real estate, I took advantage of my post-Mayor’s-Office sabbatical to do a lot of traveling, with friends and to see friends—New York, Portland, the best Vegas trip of my life (and the only time that I’ve truly enjoyed the city), a truly epic road trip through the mountain west, and lots of good camping and backpacking in the area, to name but a few.
  7. I gave what I consider the best on-stage performance of my life last February with an Ignite Seattle talk called “All I Really Need to Know I Learned as a Car Salesman.” True to its name, it contains some good nuggets I learned on the car lot that have served me well every day of the 11 years since I moved on from the profession.
  8. I self-published my first book, a compilation of posts from this blog from 2013 and 2014 that, taken together, function as a sort of autobiography as seen through the lens of my reactions to the central event that kicked off this two-year cycle of rebirth and renewal in my life.
  9. A friend helped me take my relationship with running to a new level by pushing me outside my comfort zone and teaching me to draw strength from the pain instead of trying to suffer through it. Before I turned 34 I’d never run more than 4 miles at a stretch in my life; I ran two half-marathons last year between April and September, and I’m currently training for a trail marathon in May.  I’m not entirely sure that I’m going to be up for it by the time May 9th rolls around, honestly…but that’s the entire point.
  10. The same friend who got me into running also included me on an 8-day bike tour last summer from Vancouver BC back to Seattle via the Gulf Islands and the San Juans. I hadn’t been on my bike in several years when I accepted his invite, so I did an exploratory 23-mile ride around Seattle to assure myself that I wouldn’t be an undue burden on the group the day before we boarded the bus for Canada. It turned out to be an amazing experience, and something that I would never have done if left solely to my own devices.
  11. A friend and I started up semi-regular “chess and steak” breakfasts, which are exactly what they sound like; it feels great to be playing chess again with a fairly evenly-matched partner.
  12. Two hummingbirds started a nest directly outside my kitchen window, so as a result I had a front-row seat for the entire lifecycle of two baby hummingbirds, from eggs to hatchlings to the last time I ever saw them before they flew out of the nest for the first time, never to return.
  13. I served as a volunteer car-buying adviser for several of my friends who bought new (or at least new to them) cars, and I loved being able to lend my expertise in that way. If you or someone you know is thinking of buying a car—please, by all means, reach out.
  14. I started taking salsa classes at the Century again—I can’t say that I’m an amazing dancer, but I have a lot of fun out on the dance floor anyway. Perhaps there’s a metaphor in there somewhere about my life…
  15. I checked an item off my bucket list with a really firm checkmark by taking both a Ferrari and a Lamborghini for a spin, plus a really high-end Porsche just for good measure.
  16. A friend loaned me the whole Sandman series, and I fell in love with Neil Gaiman’s imagination.
  17. I went salmon fishing for the first time with a friend from New York, and when we got back to town I drove around and gave everything that we couldn’t eat to friends in town.
  18. I finished taking the full course of improv classes at Unexpected Productions by the market, something I’d highly recommend to anyone interested in improving their performance and storytelling skills.
  19. Speaking of storytelling skills, I took another playwriting class, finished and then started re-writing the play I wrote last January, and had professional actors do a reading of a 10-minute play that I wrote. Suffice to say I’m hooked.
  20. I’m also, as of last month, a board member at Seattle Public Theater. I got to know their Artistic Director first through the Mayor’s Office and then through the 2013 campaign, and she reached out to me to see if I’d be interested late last year. It’s been great so far.
  21. I did SIFF right this year with a full 20-pack that I put to good use—if you haven’t seen Happy Christmas or Boyhood, I recommend both of them highly.
  22. A friend and I started an internal Google group for our common group of friends to share events that we’re going to with each other. It’s been working beautifully, simply because everyone on the list knows each other really well already. If you’re not on the list, don’t feel bad—it just represents one specific group of friends out of the many overlapping circles of friends that I have in Seattle. I highly recommend the model, though; ping me if you want help setting up your own.
  23. I went to my first Moth Story Slam in Fremont, and gave a spontaneous version of the story of my tattoo that went over really well with the audience.
  24. As you may know, I began supplementing my diet with Soylent about the same time that real estate really picked up and got busy late last year. The biggest substantive changes in my life have been that I no longer skip breakfast in the mornings and that I spend a lot less money on fast food in general; it’s also had the great side effect of spurring a lot of very interesting conversations with friends, though.
  25. I greatly expanded my podcast repertoire, from the immortal This American Life and The Moth (and of course Serial, during its run) to include other greats like On Being, Snap Judgment, The One You Feed, and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin.
  26. After reading Born to Run and Go Wild, I began starting my summertime mornings off with a barefoot walk to the grass of my local pocket park and back, literally as soon as I would wake up, so that a direct, physical connection with nature was the first experience of every day. It was a fantastic morning ritual, and I look forward to starting it back up again as soon as it warms up a bit.
  27. Out of respect for my free time and my constantly growing to-do list, I gave my Xbox to a friend for safekeeping, and so far I’ve resisted the urge to take it back.
  28. The Yes All Women hashtag/campaign was really eye-opening to me in a lot of ways. I redoubled my efforts to be a good male ally to the women in my life after reading some of the accounts of the way that women experience the world differently than I do.
  29. As someone who shaves his head roughly every day, I finally splurged on a fancy shaving kit with an old-fashioned lather soap and brush and a bunch of fancy shaving oils and creams and such, for those times when I want to treat myself to a head spa without leaving home.
  30. I was fortunate to be asked to be the emcee for the Hack to End Homelessness, a great event that was spearheaded by a friend of mine to bring together the local tech community with organizations from the human services community to help the latter address technological pain points in their organizations.
  31. Spurred on by a great Cornel West talk that a friend invited me to, I began to deeply re-examine my own spirituality for the first time in awhile, which felt (and feels) really good.
  32. My dating life was better, at 34, than it has been at any other point in my life during which I’ve been single. A lot of things really do improve with age, I suppose.
  33. After years of being frustrated by CenturyLink’s spotty DSL service, I finally upgraded to Comcast cable internet—a minor victory, but an important one that’s had a surprisingly large impact on my quality of life :)
  34. After a long absence, I bought another map to go on my wall. Instead of using it to plot out foreign border crossings for an epic overland trip like I did after college, though, this one is a record of all the places I’ve ever slept in my life—a catalogue of all the places I actually made it out to—and an ongoing reminder that no matter how much I think I’ve explored, whether of the world or myself, it’s only an infinitesimal fraction of what’s still waiting to be discovered.