JESSE

Medford, MA

What’s your name?

Jesse Raymond.

What are your pronouns?

I use “they/them/their.”

Where do you work?

Complicated. I’m sort of self-employed, slash my main project is working on this house/co-op currently.

Do you have any hobbies or special interests?

I paint a lot of things, and also make other kinds of art, and I do some kinds of fiber arts. Basically I make a lot of rainbow things. I’ve also done a lot of software and programmed LEDs. I build things out of wood. I was a software developer making video games for about 10 years. And then I got into cooperative living and real estate and was really excited about fixing old houses and gardening and painting things rainbow. So I was like, I kind of need to take a break from software and do things I care more about, and then ended up doing that full-time. Because this is way more interesting. [laughs]

What do you do for fun?

It’s pretty similar really. I like hosting events, and doing some community stuff. I organize a large theme camp for Firefly (https://www.fireflyartscollective.org/) [called] the Universe.

How do you handle the issue of pronouns and being gendered when interacting with strangers / mixed company / etc?

It varies a lot based on context. I was recently in a hospital realizing that everyone in the hospital is not trained to deal with pronouns, so they don’t do it right; no one does basically. It wasn’t really worth the effort to correct people in that context. We ended up filling it out on a feedback survey after all the medical stuff was done. But in other situations, like with friends and among our community, I do tend to correct people, and not only that, but try to encourage people to have a chance to share their pronouns when doing introductions in group settings and things like that. I don’t worry about it too much, because it’s not super uncomfortable for me to be mis-pronouned. But it varies based on the individual. I find myself more often correcting people for other people’s pronouns than for mine.

What word(s) would you use to describe your identity?

I identify as queer and non-binary. There are probably a lot of other things too.

Are there ways that you dress / act / speak / etc. to specifically make a statement to others about your identity? Why?

Yeah. I think I started doing that well before I really had any idea about a lot of gender issues. I always liked colors, so I would essentially dress as colorfully as I could, even when I was pretty young. And then I started wearing women’s or female clothing largely because I liked it better, a long time before I started identifying as non-binary or had any idea what that was really. Similar, I guess, with gender stuff. I was sort of uncomfortable with gender before I realized there were any other options besides the obvious ones. I was just extremely uncomfortable with it, even when I was young. Some of that is toxic male culture.

How early on did you know or suspect that you did not identify within the binary?

I didn’t really have words for a lot of that stuff until fairly recently. At least, I wasn’t aware of words and didn’t know much about them until a few years ago basically, and always just preferred not to think about it and not to identify with any gender, I guess. Which is also, as it turns out, a thing, but I didn’t really know that when I was uncomfortably avoiding it. I had a strong preference for hanging out in more feminist spaces, even when I was younger, and couldn’t really identify with a lot of competitive masculine environments, which was what was ubiquitous. I grew up in southern New Hampshire, and it was very white, and not very diverse, and I was not aware of a lot of options. I don’t know to what extent there was a queer community or LGBTQ anything, but I didn’t know about it if it was there.

Do you think anything about the way you were raised or where you grew up affected how you drew conclusions about your identity?

In some ways, I’m sure it could’ve been worse. I sometimes feel lucky that I was raised without a lot of religion, first of all, so without ideas that I should be a particular thing. From family there wasn’t a lot of guidance either, and I certainly wasn’t aware of a lot of options. But I also didn’t get the same message that I had to be a particular thing from my family as well as school and peers. And there was certainly a lot of pressure to fit in to a particular mold, which I mostly ended up rejecting, which was kind of difficult and uncomfortable. Pretty much all through high school was very lonely, and right around the end of high school and right around college started to get better.

I went to college in upstate New York, and the culture there was also not very liberal. I certainly found some queer interesting people and spent some time around the [gayest] social fraternity at RPI, and that was better. I ended up developing a social life in Somerville Massachusetts, and I lived in upstate New York. It’s about 3 hours. I had a really short commute to work, and a really long commute to every part of my social life. [laughs] So I would be driving here sometimes every weekend, but I think it averaged about every other weekend, and going to parties, mostly the poly Boston community and various other interesting Somerville/Boston communities.

I bought a house [in New York] first and started a small cooperative living thing there, and [realized], Well, this is what I like, but it’s too small, and I don’t want to be in Albany. So then I moved to a co-op here, and the building was owned by Tufts, so we knew we were going to get kicked out and it was just a matter of time. And then we got kicked out. I was already sort of trying to buy this house then, and it took a long time, because this was in the midst of the housing crisis and the bank owned it and they didn’t know what to do. They really wanted to get rid of it, and essentially they had hundreds of properties that they owned and didn’t want to own, and no staff to deal with it. So it took them over a year to sell one house, which I imagine means it was taking them over a year to sell most of the houses.

Sometimes it’s hard to compete with developers who don’t have to get a mortgage because they have an organization that just funnels cash into things, but that isn’t always true. Developers, for example, were not interested in this property because it’s not quite close enough to transit and [isn’t] multi-family. The prices here have gone up dramatically in the past 3-ish years or so. Houses on this street – you could buy things for $300,000 or $400,000, and now it’s all $5-6-$700,000. I followed this for years. All the developers are buying any multi-family house near Davis that they can, because even if a human is willing to pay $800,000 for it, the developers might be willing to pay $900,000 for it because they can split it up and make three $450,000 condos out of it. It’s profitable but it’s horrible. I like co-ops better.

Can you give any examples of misconceptions people have about those who identify outside the binary? Have you personally dealt with them?

I think the thing that I encounter most frequently is just people who have never experienced that and have no idea what it is. The only things they do have concepts for are transgender, because most people have at least heard of that, or gay and lesbian and things like that. And so I think people often just kind of either lump it in with one of those and assume that it’s the same thing, which probably is going to be wrong, or they at least realize that they have no idea what it is, and then they might ask questions, which is probably better. I think that there’s usually a lot to learn there, and there’s some pretty pervasive negative stereotyping I think that tends to be somewhere in their subconscious if they’ve never actually had any experience with it. That said, Boston and Somerville have a lot of people who do have some experience with it I guess, and so it gets radically better as you spend time around people and ask them a few questions.

I get some amount of street harassment also, which I had forgotten about, because I’m pretty good at ignoring it. The closer I am to somewhere like Somerville, the less of it I get. But if I go to some other state, or even if I just go to a slightly less hipster part of Boston, I will tend to get a lot of people yelling various things at me. And some of them are nice, which is not to say that it’s good. 

If you’re shouting from your car, usually it’s not super pleasant, even if the things that you’re saying are nice. But I will get people saying, “What are you?” or things like that, which is less positive. Or just not very well thought out insults, because how much time do you have to think about it while you’re driving by in your truck?

I get a lot of people expressing interest in my rainbow hair all the time, and I try to be nice and patient about it even though I’m kind of bored with having conversations about how long it takes me to dye my hair and stuff like that. But I try to be patient about that because I think it’s kind of like this with anything that’s unusual. People don’t realize that if you have any kind of disability you’ve probably answered questions about it 100,000 times by the time you’re 20-something, you know, and it would probably be good if people had more education about maybe not asking the most obvious questions about people’s appearance in general. And they don’t, and so the first thing to do is to be patient about it, and then once you get to know them, they’ll realize that. And I think people usually do.

But sort of a corollary of that, is if I go to a Burn or some place that has a lot of people with rainbow hair, people don’t comment on it. And that makes sense for obvious reasons. As something becomes more ubiquitous, you become a bit less sensitized to it and you don’t start a conversation about that, and you just have conversations about regular things. And there’s something kind of funny about that, which is – you would think if you wear really rainbow clothes and have rainbow hair and do really interesting things with your appearance, you might want to have conversations about it. And I think that that’s often not really true, at least for a lot of the people I know who do that sort of thing. Yeah, we do this because we’re artists and we want to look the way we want to look and so on, but in the environments that I feel most comfortable, people don’t even think about it.

In your own words, how would you explain that gender identity is different from sexual orientation?

"I find myself frustrated with most, even fairly modern, descriptions of gender identity. [They] still tend to default to some kind of spectrum or axis or something like that. I don’t really like those models. They’re better than two boxes, but I think of gender identity much more as people get to define it however they want, and they can use an entire paragraph for as many words as they want."

I find myself frustrated with most, even fairly modern, descriptions of gender identity. [They] still tend to default to some kind of spectrum or axis or something like that. I don’t really like those models. They’re better than two boxes, but I think of gender identity much more as people get to define it however they want, and they can use an entire paragraph for as many words as they want. You’ve probably heard the thing [about how there are] millions or billions of gender identities, and I much prefer teaching something like that if I ever have to explain it to someone. So essentially, there isn’t necessarily a nice relationship that you can draw between all of the different gender identities.

That said, obviously then if you’re defining sexual orientation, I actually think that you kind of need to define it in terms of any number of gender identities. It’s not a simple “there are 4 or 5 of them on this spectrum” or something like that, even though that is what’s usually taught and really simple. You can be attracted to anything you want, and depending on how many different gender or types of identities you’re aware of, that could be very complicated. [It] usually isn’t, but I think I’m much more interested in cases where it is. There are some number of people who don’t want gender to not exist, and so while that would be fine by me, I can’t tell all of the people who do want gender to exist that it doesn’t. You’ve probably read many articles on how that ends up having some issues. And so there’s some kind of compromise, I think, where if you let people say, “I don’t have a gender, I don’t like gender, I don’t want anything to do with it,” – okay, that’s your existence, that’s your reality, and you can say, “Okay, you don’t have a gender, and we respect that,” and then the people that do can also have that.

How do you feel represented in media and society at large?

Mostly not at all. And what depictions do exist are fairly inaccurate or negative or comedic. If we’re talking about non-binary and queer and things like that, most media doesn’t even try. I just watched Steven Universe because everyone was saying it was cool. One of the characters is sort of like a queer relationship in two people. It’s two people who – I’m not actually sure what genders they are, I’m not sure they have genders, so whatever, they’re crystals – but anyway, they’re fused all the time, and so I liked that part. I liked that they didn’t reveal that until after two seasons, and then the way they did reveal it was cute. It very much is a show for children, and in a way that’s good I guess. People have probably mentioned Sense8, which I watched, and I liked it. I had somewhat higher expectations for what the Wachowskis would do with their current project and how much free reign they probably had with it, and they definitely did some good things as far as having a trans character that is not a token or joke or silly. They did a decently good job with that. That’s still not as far as I would like things to go [since] it’s very gender binary in certain ways.

I remember reading a really good article on how important it is to have a character of your own race and gender that was the protagonist in a TV show growing up. The article was written by someone who was explaining how important that was to them when they were little, to have even one, because they otherwise wouldn’t have any model and wouldn’t be able to imagine it nearly as easily. And I think that the same thing is true here, where it’s hard to realize that it is okay to feel however you feel or be whatever you are without some kind of model in media. And mostly it’s not there yet, but I’ve also been really impressed with how quickly things have changed. I bet the people who are non-binary are not famous producers. There basically just isn’t someone who is in the position where they can just do it. And so right now, they would have to go find somebody or be friends with one, and the communities are not intertwined enough for that to actually happen. It will happen, but I don’t know when.

What improvements would you like to see happen inside your communities, and in society at large?

There’s a lot of things that I would like to see. Education is pretty terrible. [That] would be one of the sub-topics there. I had a bad experience with a lot of education. It was easy for me. I was in the top percent of things and could get good grades without trying, but the social experience was awful. I was bored all of the time, and I didn’t realize that I should do something about that or that I could do something about that, and that I should not be where I was, basically. So I think it would help a lot for people to realize that they have more options. For me, getting away from a very conservative and too-slow school system, and probably going to college sooner would’ve been good. I didn’t know that you could do that. I’m sure that it was possible. And I think that that’s probably possible for a lot of people who feel trapped in environments that don’t feel safe, or are not educational or not serving their needs. But that’s one topic.

There’s so much about society that I feel is troubling right now. I don’t really want to get into politics. [laughs] I guess without specifically talking politics, there’s this huge disconnect between people who are younger and people who aren’t, where a lot of younger people have experience – and again, we’re in one of the most liberal cities in the U.S., and so it’s hard to escape that bias – but a lot of the younger people have some idea of what it means to be queer or non-binary or a whole bunch of tangentially related things. They’re just a lot more comfortable with a wider variety of identifications and experiences I guess. They’re a little less, “That is wrong and bad.” And I feel like most people that are old enough to be even remotely involved in politics have no idea, and that will change naturally every year to some extent. But it’s kind of a problem right now.

I think that there probably are systemic fixes to some of that. Sometimes I feel like a lot of it involves lowering the amount of work that it takes to be involved. [The idea that] it’s okay that it takes 20 years to get into politics, and you can’t do that and something else. That’s not okay, because that rules out a lot of things. And the same thing is true of medicine and law and a few other things; we’ve just accepted that it takes 15 years of your life to do this thing. And it probably shouldn’t, and can’t, and be healthy. Because it doesn’t take that long to learn, and that delay is really problematic in all these ways.

Could you tell me about an experience or moment in your life that was very impactful for you? It can be in regards to your identity, or not.

The thing that I most think of is that most of my early experiences with other children were them being mean or aggressive or insulting each other. Dominance games I guess. And I just sort of checked out. “Okay, this is not a game I want to play, I’m leaving. I’ll just not interact with people.” Which is not a good solution, really. [laughs] And I figured that out eventually, but there were many years of hiding, and I think that this is a somewhat common experience among people who end up defining on the outskirts of various things. A lot of my friends were people who hid in corners of libraries and read a lot of books and maybe ended up chatting on the Internet, which is also where I eventually learned to interact with people, and then later was like, “Oh okay, I can also talk to people in real life, and not everyone is scary, and there are nice people too.” But there was kind of a lot of not being sure if I wanted to interact with people and kind of running away, which is pretty unfortunate. I could’ve been doing things with those years that would probably turn out better, and have more friends, and collaborate with people on things more. All things that I value a lot now, but it was very difficult, having many years of not doing that and then feeling behind; not having some of the skills that I probably would need.

Could you give me an example of something difficult that occurred in your life how you dealt with it? It can be in regards to your identity, or not.

I have a small family that is not very cohesive and not super supportive in certain ways. Not to say anything particularly mean about them, but that essentially meant that I felt like I couldn’t count on family the way some people do. I know many people who have worse experiences. But I ended up seeking out a community or group of people that were supportive for many of the same things that other people seem to look to family for. So trying to find community and family in a group of people that would be emotionally supportive and by each other as an adult, and so chosen family and community in the greater Boston area sort of came out of that in some ways, and also in the queer/kink communities. Just feeling like I could be myself and ask people for things and share emotional conversations with people. That’s sort of one of the ways that I came to this experience.

Who in your life do you feel you can trust or depend on?

Emily is someone that I dated more than 10 years ago for some amount of time, and we sort of went on this discovering-poly-Boston/this-area-and-moving-here adventure together. We spent a lot of time living together, and then over time were dating other people more and more.

We don’t really know what to say when other people ask if we’re dating. We’ll refer to each other as best friends, or sometimes life partners, or platonic life partners. So there’s Emily, as far as I can count on her in a lot of ways. She owns [the house behind this one] and I own this house, even though she actually doesn’t live there right now, and so we sort of are co-owners in this co-op adventure.

There’s Nora, who is my partner, who lives here, and we see each other every day. And then there’s a whole bunch of other people that are a community of people that throw parties and dances and our Firefly camp. Firefly is pretty amazing in terms of people supporting each other, and so I feel pretty connected to that community. In some ways it felt more comfortable and more home-like to me than any one other group for a long time. There’s like a Venn diagram of dance community, and kink community, and poly community, and burners, and all that.

How has your identity played a role in your relationships, romantic or otherwise?

As a result of some of my feelings regarding that, I had some attraction to androgyny and non-binary and things like that, and I guess vice versa. As I am more visibly non-binary, I think the people that are most likely to be attracted to me are also people who either identify that way or are attracted to that or both. Nora also uses “they” and identifies as non-binary, and is attracted to androgyny and non-binary and various things along those lines. There’s a lot of understanding the flexibility of roles and things like that that are nice. I think it would be kind of hard to have a primary relationship with someone who doesn’t understand most of that at this point, and I don’t really know because I haven’t really tried. But similarly almost everyone I know is poly, and I theoretically could date people who aren’t poly, but I’m not sure how I would meet them in the first place. It doesn’t sound like a good idea. [laughs]

Are you able to find adequate medical care?

I have Mass Health. I think the U.S.’s healthcare is pretty crappy in a lot of ways. First of all, most medical care professionals are not going to understand anything about any of the stuff we were just talking about. Nora and I go to a couple’s therapist, and our couple’s therapist doesn’t really understand what queer and non-binary means. She’s good, and she at least is asking decent questions and willing to understand. But essentially, every therapist I’ve ever met, they try to do the pronoun thing and do about as badly as anyone else who’s never done it before. But that’s a pretty minor problem compared to the other problems that I encounter in medicine. The medical profession is terrible, and most of the things that medical professionals know are wrong. It’s not really surprising, because medicine is not really related to science, and the way it’s taught isn’t anything like science, and this is all really terrifying if you start looking into it and thinking about it. I sort of have to know a bunch of things about pharmacology for Burn-related reasons, and other reasons, and so it’s sort of staggering how, if you go to medical professionals and talk to them about those things, they know a lot of things that are wrong.

I think that the information regarding legal drugs and the drugs that they’re prescribing is also often pretty wrong and biased in a lot of ways. It’s really sad. I have friends and partners with medical mysteries that they’ve been trying to solve for decades. They’ll go to dozens of specialists and none of them really know anything, and they can’t figure it out. Some of those are more specific to female anatomy, and it is apparent to me that that whole subset of medicine is less studied, and so these are problems that large percentages of female-bodied people have, and there’s no information at all. I’ve encountered a lot of people who have the exact same story, either in life or on the Internet. They all sound exactly the same.

But anyway, Mass Health is amazing in that they don’t charge me money, and so I get this medical care of questionable value in exchange just for time and not money, which is at least better because I wouldn’t bother if I had to pay money for it. [laughs]

How has your view of yourself changed since you were younger?

Kind of a lot. I sort of had a different name when I was young, first of all. My parents for whatever reason called me by my middle name, which was Ben. And so everyone knew me as Ben, until some time in elementary school, maybe around junior high. I was like, Wait a minute, I’d rather be somebody else, and preferred my first name. I think part of that was that it was more gender-ambiguous. So I switched names, and I had people argue with me about what my name was, which was interesting. I was in communities that had lots of queer people. I sort of knew what that meant for a while, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me that I might want to identify as any of those things myself for some number of years, even after I became aware of them. So there was a slow process where at first I didn’t know about those things, or had strange understandings of what they were. Then I learned what they were.

But even a while after that, I was just like, Wait a minute, why do I still identify within this gender binary and use pronouns that I actually don’t like as much as some other pronouns? I don’t actually have to do this. But for some reason I hadn’t really thought about that until it became more prevalent in social circles and people started talking about pronouns more, which interestingly, the first time that happened I didn’t particularly like it. “I don’t want to talk about gender more, and I don’t want this to be the first thing I talk about, I don’t really want to talk about this before I know anything about someone.” But it also ended up making me think about it more, and realizing that the way that I was presenting was not the way that I wanted to present.

In some ways it feels like just having more vocabulary for it. Because I suspect in some way it is different, because having words for things changes how you think about it.

I was born male, but I never really liked identifying that way, and didn’t really feel like I had other options for a long time. It was, “Okay, we’re just not going to talk about that.” So having words for it that other people understand is nice.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I mentioned earlier that there are probably more options than I was aware of, so knowing there are other places it could go, there are other paths for education and other communities and things like that… I suspect that a lot of young people would really do better to advance more quickly, go to college sooner, have more responsibilities sooner, be able to make more decisions for themselves sooner. I think that would’ve helped me, but I also think it would’ve helped a lot of people to realize that they can do things earlier. It’s a lot harder to learn things later in some ways. So if there are things that you think that you might want to do, going out and doing them as soon as you realize that makes a lot of sense.

I grew up with some very rationalist ideas, and science is awesome, you can learn everything with some ideas of proofs in mind, and a lot of that thinking I later decided was nonsense. So balancing that much more with compassion, and trying to understand other people and how they think, and accepting other people’s experiences without trying to disprove or prove or be skeptical I guess. Skepticism is great for certain aspects of science and pretty terrible for most social interactions. [laughs] So something along those lines, I would’ve done well to realize a lot younger.

What are your concerns for the future?

There’s so many. There’s all of the political stuff. I think we need a lot more anti-capitalism, or socialism, or something like that to create a healthy society moving forward. There’s the whole thing relating to capitalism and socialism and our current politics, which are very troubling. That’s one whole category of things. Then in America there’s a lot of really troubling racism and sexism and transphobia and things like that, which I sort of see education as the solution to, but I don’t have any idea how that’s going to happen either. The Internet as a whole sort of keeps moving forward in certain ways on some of this, and I suspect that we’re more likely to find solutions there than via education or the institution of education and its dubious relationship with politics. I hope things get better.

What do you look forward to in the future?

I’ve seen a lot of progress in a fairly small number of years on a lot of issues, and I sort of didn’t expect things to move as quickly as they are. So I look forward to that. The rate at which things advance is kind of staggering sometimes, both in terms of social justice and awareness of social inequalities and economic inequality and all of that stuff. It is becoming a major issue in a fairly short amount of time, like within a few years. It probably should’ve done that 20 years ago, and 20 years is a really long time in terms of compounding inequality, but nonetheless it’s a major talking point right now. Both in terms of the economic stuff and racial inequality especially has been getting a lot of attention. So I think that’s great.

 "I meet people all the time who are like, 'Oh, I wish I could dye my hair rainbow!' That’s sad, you know? This is not difficult or interesting or hard. It shouldn’t be scary. There are things that are much more difficult and interesting and scary. Quitting your job and trying to be an artist, that’s potentially scary in some ways. I know a lot of people that have done that, and most of them do fine."

"I feel like you should have rights and all of the respect and protection that gay people or any person should have whether or not you feel like you were born that way. For me it was very much a choice. I see this gender thing, and I don’t like it, and I don’t want it. So I want to choose to identify some other way, or pretend that it doesn’t exist, or fight against it."

A lot of the stuff that we’re most specifically talking about here, as far as non-binary, is mostly invisible still apparently. I’ve heard people talk about how gay rights don’t always prioritize trans rights, and so of course if you achieve a bill that gives rights to gay people and it leaves out trans and non-binary, there’s such a small population currently that they’re not going to have the power to pass another bill. So it’s really unfortunate when that happens, and sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t, and there’s this weird leapfrog thing that’s going to happen if they get left behind, essentially, when we pass legislation. I was surprised that trans legislation is getting its own major attention sometimes right now, and what feels like not a long delay after we got a lot of attention on gay marriage and other discrimination. Obviously as someone who [identifies as] non-binary, I would like it if any of that got any attention or any consideration from the people writing [them]. It’s hard. And I think the recent Massachusetts discrimination bill was one of the few things that doesn’t explicitly limit itself to male/female/trans or something like that, so theoretically might offer some protection for people who are outside of those things. Which is great. That’s awesome. But I think we’re sort of an outlier.

For years in my head I had this little rant about the “born this way” defense, as you might put it, where it is in many cases easier to convince conservatives to give gay people rights if you make the argument that they were born that way and they had no choice. So that argument was very popular for a long time in a lot of circles. And it always bothered me, because some people certainly feel like they were born gay, and some people don’t. Some people feel like it is a choice, or was a choice, for them. And of course I feel like you should have rights and all of the respect and protection that gay people or any person should have whether or not you feel like you were born that way. 

For me it was very much a choice. I see this gender thing, and I don’t like it, and I don’t want it. So I want to choose to identify some other way, or pretend that it doesn’t exist, or fight against it. To some extent the way that I identify, there’s a conscious effort to show other people that it is not rigidly defined and that people can choose various ways.

What have been the important frustrations in your life, and the most important successes?

One of the things that comes to mind is trying to figure out how to combine the first ways that I learned to think, which were much more skepticism-based, and some of the later stuff, which is much more “try to be compassion and accepting” and things like that. Those things don’t naturally play very nice together. The former mostly is known as rationalism, but I tend to not use that word because the community surrounding rationalism is a bit weird and crazy. It’s almost like a strange pseudo-religious cult on the Internet. It’s very weird. But there’s nothing about the word that necessarily means that. That’s been challenging. I spend a lot of time noticing that people seem really caught up in their own world, or really focused on their own experience and don’t really understand a lot of the things that other people are saying, and so I see people constantly misunderstanding each other. And I would like to figure out ways to have that happen less, but maybe it’s not possible.

I’m hesitant to define success… It is interesting to me that I spent a while making software and having a 50, 60-hour-a-week job sometimes, and I for a while loved it, and then I liked it less, and then I kind of hated it for a little bit. I felt a bit trapped by the “I need to make all this money” cycle. After a while I was like, I really don’t want to be doing this. I feel like I don’t have time to do the things that are important. But I have to keep doing the job to pay the bills and all that. So I eventually left all of that and moved, and managed to somehow buy a house, and figured out ways of paying for it that don’t involve working a 9-5 or 40+-hour-a-week job. And it wasn’t actually that hard. But it was neat that I was able to go and try to do a bunch of the things that I wanted to do that are sort of off the map in terms of, they’re not a life choice that anybody talks about. And just trying to make enough money to live, as opposed to trying to make a lot of money, ends up being pretty different, at least for me in the software industry. I seem to know a bunch of people that do this at various points in their life. I sort of launched off the path a little bit earlier, and I’m not really sure what I’m doing next. But I learned a lot of things by doing it, so it feels like some kind of success.

Do you have a philosophy of life? What’s your best piece of advice?

I talked about trying out different environments, and experimenting, and not being afraid to not conform to expectations that people have for you. Because my earlier experiences were with people bullying me, I pretty quickly decided to not care what people said or thought about me. Which is not necessarily a good strategy in all regards, but it was really helpful in certain other ways because a lot of fears of people doing things that they really want to do come from, “What will everyone think?” and “I can’t do that because people are going to think less of me.” And those fears are pretty destructive to people doing what they want to do. A lot of the things that people want to do are not particularly scary of their own regard. I meet people all the time who are like, “Oh, I wish I could dye my hair rainbow!” That’s sad, you know? This is not difficult or interesting or hard. It shouldn’t be scary. There are things that are much more difficult and interesting and scary. Quitting your job and trying to be an artist, that’s potentially scary in some ways. I know a lot of people that have done that, and most of them do fine. A lot of the things that people need to survive don’t really have to be things that people pay for. It’s totally possible that food and housing and medical care could just be things that everyone has. And then you could still have money.