Today, when I mentioned that, given time and resources, I’d want to buy a property on the Yuba and build it up, I was met with a litany of “here’s why that’s much harder than you think” from some well-meaning older friends. So, after they didn’t hear the first two times I said “We’ll start with power, and we’ll deal with water from there”, I said “I need to stop talking about this.”

And, because they don’t hear, they kept badgering me. Because I “don’t know” how hard it is. Because I “don’t understand” that I’d need to be careful about where I dug a well, and would need to get someone who knew what they were doing in on this. And I was badgered so much that I said “look, you people really know how to kill a dream. I work 80 hours a week. I have a few dreams. And I just lost $800/month, so this conversation is moot. I need to stop talking about it.” Then they said they were “just trying to help”. That they were “just being realistic”.

Don’t even get me started on the nature of that kind of “help”.
But let me tell you about realistic.

I am the sole person on a mortgage loan in the Bay Area.
I know what size generator is needed to run the Thunderdome at Burning Man.
I know what size truck is needed to transport it up there, and what size truck is needed to transport the dome, and everything else.
I know how to translate from researcher to product manager, and back again.
I know how to sing music I’ve never seen before, in a foreign language, for an audience… without making any mistakes.
I started doing aerials when I was 33 years old.
I know how to ride a motorcycle. Down 880. During rush hour. And not die (luck).
I know how to read the map for and assemble a geodesic dome.
I have performed opera on trapeze for an audience three times.
I know how to nurse a parent through the end of life.
I know how to be a birth coach.
I know a tiny amount of HTML.
I know how to register brokers with the SEC.
I can ride a liter sport bike on dirt and gravel and not fall.
I know how to keep a job through two major “economic downturns”.
I know how to be a head of household and, more importantly, how to not stab someone for assuming I’m not.
I can keep a pet alive.
Most importantly, I know how to learn. I know how to pick up these things, I know how to ask experts when I’m not an expert in a topic. I know how to get the information I need and, if I don’t have the energy, bandwidth, or expertise to accomplish a task, I know how to get people with those things involved, effectively communicate what I need, and pay them.

I have more realistic in my pinky finger than most people have in their entire bodies. I could shit enough realism to do an outline of that novel you were going to write before you turned 40.

Story time:
When Luke and I drove through Vancouver with his father, Rick, shortly after the first time he and I met, I mentioned buying an Island in the Straight of Georgia. Rick laughed. But then, he did something that seems impossible for most people. He said “How would you start?”

HOW WOULD YOU START.

How hard is that question? It doesn’t call into question my intelligence, my abilities, my knowledge. It says “Interesting. Tell me more.” It says “I don’t know what you know, so tell me.”

What a fantastic man.

And so I started.

I started by telling him power would be the first thing; we would need to get a generator there, and figure out refill schedules and the best place to situate a genny so that it would be both protected and accessible. We’d transport small amounts of water first, until we could figure out a long-term solution, either with a well or with an above ground tank. We could, first, build a 16′ geodesic dome with cover to live in while we got these other things situated. We’d want to get a place that already had a good landing situation for a boat. We’d want to start in May so we could take full advantage of the Pacific Northwest Summer.

“Good,” he said.

Rick was a man of few words. Or, rather, few meaningless words. He was a realist, a businessman, and absolutely, 100% sans bullshit. I knew with that “good”, that one small word, that I was ok. I was ok to date his son. That he knew that I was more than met the eye, that I didn’t talk out of my ass, that I wasn’t going to lead his son on some crazy flights of fancy that would destroy our lives.

I miss him. I miss people like that in the world, generally.

I have, through luck, or design, or both, surrounded myself with people who know this about me. They know some of what I know. They know enough to know that, when I open my mouth to voice a plan, the logistics are 75% mapped out already. I love these people; I work with them during the day, I create with them when I’m singing, I build with them in the desert. These are the people who, when I voice a plan, tend to say “HELL YES, I AM IN,” because they know that I’ve already thought about it, they know it’s probably possible, and they know I am capable of working hard and having fun at the same time. If it’s not fun, why bother with it, right? So work must be fun.

It’s a slap in the face when I’m around people who don’t do this. I want to scream “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT I KNOW!” These are the people who think that being a female manager in tech is insane. They have no idea that it’s about a million times more challenging than it sounds. That learning trapeze after the age of 30 is ridiculous. Yes. And pull-ups are just as hard for me as they are for you. That “still singing” opera when I have a full career is inconceivable. Yeah, I don’t spend a lot of time on the couch. That traveling internationally as often as I do is “running away”. I like to call it “learning”. That singing opera on the trapeze is just absurd. It is. So is a moon landing, swimming to the Farallones, and making a smaller microchip. I pity people who are limited by their own minds in this way; they lead tiny, tiny lives. But, mostly, they don’t know what I know. They assume I know what they know. They assume that I am as uncomfortable with the unknown as they are. They assume that I have the same tools and capacity for learning, changing, and growing, as they do. Responding to them is exhausting because they can’t get out of their mindset, and so for interaction, I must visit theirs.

It’s cramped in there. It’s sad, and dark, and fearful. And I am glad, sometimes, to visit because, sometimes, I feel as though the reason these people interact with me is because it makes them less fearful, it shows them something they hadn’t considered. I suspect this because I have these people in my world; people whose exploits and passions and achievements and attempts inspire me to reach more, and more, and more. Thinking about what they’re attempting makes me push harder. Maybe I’m this person to these people. But I wish they’d ask. Simply… ask. “How would you do that?” What I’ve learned by asking this question is vast – I either learn about the person, or the problem they’re solving… usually, I learn both.

I know I don’t know everything. In fact, I don’t know most things. But to assume that I don’t know how to find out when my life and everything I do is evidence to the contrary is an insult. No, I don’t often talk about how hard it is or the work that goes into doing what I do. About what’s required. I hint at it on that pervasive book of faces, but performance means doing a thing a thousand times more than talking about it, and no one wants to hear about that. This is why, when I tell people that I did a performance where I rode my motorcycle onstage, began singing opera, and continued singing opera while climbing a rope and doing a trapeze act, and they pause to absorb and get ready to ask a question, I interrupt with “It’s harder than it sounds”. It sounds fucking impossible, but it’s not; I know this because I did it. To do it, I had to learn four separate skills (stage presence counts; ask anyone who’s ever tried to learn it) and combine them. Everything worth achieving is harder than it sounds. I have an entire career in tech based around “harder than it sounds”, and making it look easy.

So, if you’re inclined to naysay, to doubt, to attempt to cram me into your dark, fearful world, please remember; if you’re inquisitive, your world will explode with possibility. And you have no idea what I know.

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