Orlando, a shattered complacency

I’m a proud gay man.

I came out of the closet publicly three months after my 15th birthday, as a freshman in high school, and was met with overwhelmingly positive support from my friends, family and total strangers. I’ve marched in half a dozen pride parades around the world, from New York to Chicago to Tel Aviv. I’ve been on the steps of the Supreme Court during the most consequential arguments and decisions on LGBT issues in our country’s history. I’ve been to gay bars and clubs hundreds of times, including Pulse. I’ve loved, and been loved.

Tonight was my first time out at a gay club since Orlando. Tonight was the first time I glanced at the emergency exit, just in case, and made note of places to hide in case I couldn’t escape in time. Tonight was the first time I was scared in a gay space. Tonight was the first time, as Carlos Mazza so painfully and eloquently wrote earlier this week, that I was afraid of dying.

“Say No”: My Digital Nomad Mantra

“Say Yes!”

It’s the “Eat Pray Love”-esque mantra sworn by among those setting off on grand, one-in-a-lifetime experiences as a way to move beyond comfort zones and establish a culture of risk-taking. It was a common theme among my Remote Year colleagues that I recently joined with on this yearlong trip around the world, and it might as well be the collective name for nearly every “digital nomad” blog that I’ve read across the internet in recent months.

“Say yes” to a night out with strangers you just met! They could become your new best friends.

“Say yes” to to that suspiciously colored meat at your breakfast buffet. It could become your new favorite food!

“Say yes” to going home with that boy you just drunkenly met at the club. He could be the Uruguayan husband you’ve always been looking for!

With all due respect to the stubbornly optimistic digital nomad brethren that have come before me, that’s not a particularly sustainable mantra when you throw on concrete commitments: a demanding job, bills to pay, contracts to fulfill.

That’s why I’m going to embrace the contrarian perspective and adopt my own mantra: “say no.”

Looking Over The Horizon

“Write a letter to your future self”

That was the task given to myself and more than five hundred classmates as we filed into high school orientation on a balmy late-August morning. “You’ll receive this letter back with your high school diploma when you leave Highland Park High School,” the instructions continued.

Like nearly everyone else, with the thought of graduation inconceivably far off and giddy to move onto the more exciting parts of the day, I hurriedly scribbled a few things out without more than moments thought. I quickly forgot about that slip of paper as I descended into the twists and turns of high school adolescence.

Nearly four years later, my eyes welled up with tears as I pulled the long-forgotten letter from my graduation packet. As I read on, my diploma in-hand, I was struck by the unexpected thoughtfulness of my goals, most of which had materialized.

The introverted and risk-averse kid who wrote that letter during high school orientation would be in awe of the adventure he would be embarking on a decade later to travel the world. That exercise taught me that there’s something inherently powerful about writing down your goals while on the cusp of a transformative new experience, full of optimism and possibility. Perhaps most importantly, it can serve as a place to continually return to, when that optimism gradually makes space for the adversity that inevitably evolves from taking risks. It’s in the spirit of that first orientation letter, hours before 75 strangers from around the world descend on Montevideo to officially kick off Remote Year Battuta, that I chart out my goals for this upcoming year.

Little Boxes

It’s odd to think that one of the things that has defined my time in Washington is boxes. Lots and lots of boxes.

During the past five years, I’ve zig-zagged this city with a mind-boggling eight moves: dorm rooms; summer sublets; ex-boyfriends; group houses – and that doesn’t even include my stints in New York City and Sydney. For better or worse, packing and unpacking on a regular basis is something I’ve become accustomed to. In many apartments, I never fully unpacked because I knew another move was imminent.

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Undertaking a move, my seventh, with my former roommate Evan during the fall of 2014.

Yet there’s something about this move that feels immensely unfamiliar from the previous eight. I’m permanently leaving Washington, embarking on a two-day drive back home to Chicago. But there’s also the fact that all but one or two of these boxes won’t be immediately re-opened – they’ll be going into storage until early/mid-2017. I’m quite literally packing away my life. Perhaps that’s a melodramatic way to put it, but it’s a weird feeling boxing up belongings that have become part of my day-to-day routine for years, knowing I won’t see them again for a long time.

Hello to Remote Year

This update was posted to my personal Facebook page on December 23, 2015.

It’s been one helluva ride, DC.

Over the course of more than five extraordinary years, I’ve had the opportunity to get a world-class education; develop a community of endlessly inspiring friends; challenge myself in a variety of work environments; explore a vibrant food and music scene; live in half a dozen different neighborhoods; witness and participate in historic moments in the fight towards equality; and fall in love. I have more treasured moments strewn across this city that I can even begin to count, and leaving is undoubtedly one of the most bittersweet experiences I’ve yet to encounter. But it’s time that I begin my next chapter in 2016.