It’s been a rollercoaster around here and I’ve kept my game face on, but there are things that need saying.  Things about what matters, and why, and how keeping a Pollyanna attitude is no more naïve and no less radical than a scowl.

I don’t presume to take goodness at face value, and no, I don’t believe that all we need is love, or that tragedy and injustice aren’t happening every minute in every town the world. I get that. I do. But I also believe in the power of slicing through that grim nightmare with a sharp and unflinching force of forgiveness, kindness, and grace.

I believe in putting all that noise on MUTE and working tirelessly to build haven after haven from the rain.

I believe in disrupting expectations by giving someone a second chance.

I believe in putting white-knuckle fists to the steering wheel and getting the hell out of dodge — even just for a night — when anything is stuck, or broken, or stagnant. And I believe in ending up the next morning with your feet hanging off a cliff, staring at the ocean, the grand canyon, a cityscape, a mountain range, a cornfield, a playground, or even an empty Walmart parking lot if you have to — just as long as the sun is rising and you’re paying attention and you feel free. I believe in bringing that feeling home with you and pouring it into your work, your home, your loves, and your willingness to fight for another person’s moment of relief.

And it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I still believe in the Internet. Like I did in 1999, when my secret and hand-coded log/journal/diary thing that didn’t have a genre name yet was an oasis for people digging through Alta Vista and HotBot late at night for someone who was being honest and telling a story. It didn’t matter what story was being told as long as it sounded like secrets being whispered in the dark. Because that was the sound of not being alone.

I still believe in the Internet like I did before everything was archived and cross-referenced in the Wayback Machine and Google’s public caches.  Like I did when still I believed in anonymity.

And some days it’s harder to stay focused on what matters, but I do still believe in the Internet like I did before SEO was a competitive sport. Before businesses started dropping vowels in order to score a good domain name. Before plastic and aluminum grade disposable ads, widgets, and apps littered every square inch of the Internet’s surface like empty Coke bottles after a high school football game.

I believe that sincerity and excitement are critical ingredients for anything to matter, and that that is why the Internet is winning. I believe that everyone who tries to fake those ingredients will either fail or have a house dropped on their heads during a tornado as punishment for their lies and their laziness. But I also believe it’s now commonplace for people to see Internet marketing as a set of cold strategic formulas void of genuine connection, and that this is morally wrong.

It’s not the large companies and marketing agencies that bother me (this has been part of their game forever). It’s the individuals — the folks who are just trying to carve a reasonable space for themselves in the Digital Land of Opportunity — who’ve been taught that analyzing social media profiles and then contacting large groups of strangers with canned and solely self-promotional messages counts as “making connections.”  That it’s not spam. That this is how they’re supposed to do it. That this is what it means to contribute to a community. That’s the part that breaks my heart.

And yet.

And yet, on the same Internet, regular people collaborate with strangers to build free software that makes our lives better. Building a decent website without technical skills is possible.  Designers hand out attractive site designs for free, just to make the Internet a more beautiful place. Photographers give strangers permission to use their photos. Musicians offer their tunes up freely for remixing into podcasts and other creative projects. Artists can raise funds for new projects by getting friends excited about them. Anyone can start a community discussion space. Committed members are happy to volunteer.

While I sometimes miss the days when the Internet didn’t feel like a sensory and information overload bomb, I don’t think I’d go back to them. Our tools, creativity, and commitment to each other have come so far. We’re real people now; not anonymous screen-names looking for fantasy cybersex on AOL chatrooms. Our online and offline lives are so tightly woven together that we get to grapple with one another on questions like “How and when should I keep my social circles compartmentalized?”. My mom is on Facebook, and my she has the power to hide my feed because I talk too much. AND we’ve all stopped using <blink> tags. That’s progress.

Last week, the feature for Queer Open Mic (an event I co-organize) opened with a poem that stunned and rocked me back into place. It started with…

She said to me that most trailblazers
may never see the trail.
May never see the path they cut into the earth,
or the feet that come behind them.

Most days, she said, the act of walking
without a set route probably won’t feel like revolution.
There are too many goddamned branches in your face,
Too much to hack through, dulling the machete
and making your muscles scream for the kind of comfort
your mind can’t hope to welcome.

And it ended with…

She told me it was all impossible, and still
she said, “Go.”
She said, “Leave, and scare the shit out of yourself.
You’ll be glad you did.”

— excerpt from She said, “Go” by Tatyana Brown

We’re pushing paths into this Internet together. I believe the tools and opportunities we want to see are worth fighting for — that these branches are absolutely worth hacking through — but only with our feet firmly planted in the what we care about and love.

Good morning.

In a couple of hours, I’m going to a wedding in Dolores Park, at which all of the attendees will be dressed in white, preferably bridal gowns. It will look a whole lot like a Brides of March flash mob, except in september, and with a real wedding involved.

Last night, I hosted the six-year anniversary Queer Open Mic with my co-organizer, Baruch, who is an unstoppable force of creativity and community passion. Last night was one of the first nights in a long time that we ran out of time before we ran out of “if we have extra time” performers.  It sucks to have to turn people away from a microphone, but my head was still buzzing from all the art for hours afterward.

The night before that, I went to the unofficial BlogHer Debriefing dinner (reflecting on a conference I actually played hookie from this year, but have a long-standing relationship to). I walked out with a belly full of enchiladas, two work requests, and the firm encouragement from Shannon Rosa and Jennifer Byde Myers still rattling in my head, telling me I can do this. All of this. Telling me I’m doing better than I think I am.

On Tuesday, I’ll fly to New England for a week of rest, work, family, and foliage. (Mostly foliage.) I haven’t seen New England peak autumn foliage since I moved to California 6 years ago, and I know that emptiness has been getting to me because I painted my apartment red, yellow, and orange.  (BTW, if you’re in New England, the best way to see me on this trip is to be willing to come to me. I’ll probably be somewhere in New Hampshire, excepting a few stopovers in Massachusetts.)

Oh, and I got a laptop last week. I’m no longer tethered to the desktop in my studio apartment, working entirely from home. I can co-work now. I can build websites from hotel rooms. I can make the city my office. (I just have to learn to use a PC again is all.)

And this is all a long-winded way of telling you that I feel awake again.

There’s a poster in my kitchen that Hugh MacLeod drew on for me at at last year’s CrunchUp party. (That’s how he signs those posters. By drawing on them.) I told him, I feel stuck and stagnant and I don’t want to get up in the morning. Draw something that makes me feel awake. He drew this:

It took a year, but I’m feeling it now. I like getting up in the morning again. There’s stuff to do.  I have a team. I like my work. I have a new baby to feed, and it still has a long way to grow, but it already embodies everything I spent the last year trying to articulate.  I have a path now, and it’s not based on what people told me I should do. It’s what I found when I went looking for the things I care about.  And as far as I can tell, this direction didn’t even exist before (at least, not the way I want to do it). I made it up. That’s how I know it’s right.

And something completely freaking spectacular is happening to me because of this shift: I want to meet people again. For the first time in years, I’m interested in being social. I want to dance with everyone, to find more people to be close to, to listen to stories, to connect ideas, to engage.

When I felt lost, I disengaged from others quite a bit. On purpose. I couldn’t afford to fall into someone else’s agenda.

But now I feel unshakeable, and I want to keep walking.

See you soon.

Love,
Sarah

As luck would have it, the two books I contributed to this year are being launched in the same week.  This is actually quite lucky because it means I can confuse everyone with it, and distract them from looking at one book with the other.

Here they are…

1) Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation

Edited by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman. (Get it.)

genderoutlaw This is a very powerful and important book, and you should buy it.  I say this not as a contributor, but as someone who’s been holding space in the gender-variance advocacy world, who knows that most of you are craving more exposure and information, and don’t know how to get it without coming across as clumsy.  THIS IS A GOOD BOOK.  It’s a patchwork collage of 52 voices, many of whom are hidden in daily life, but all of whom are well-spoken and have something powerful to say.

I’m honored to add that my piece is the End Note. It’s a brief meditation at the back of the book about where I see us, and where I think we’re going.  An excerpt:

We are five years old. Eighteen. Thirty-seven. Sixty. We are starting grad school, starting companies, starting families, and starting trends. We are serving coffee and signing paychecks, nursing the sick and teaching children, building technology, growing food, producing masterpieces, and changing laws. We are woven into this culture and we are finding each other. We are sharing our notes, strengthening our stories, reaching out for one another, and welcoming everyone in.

And when we wake up in five, ten, twenty-five years, we’ll find that the queer issues we’re fighting so hard for today have been trumped by an understanding of the fluidity of gender. We’ll have learned that masculinity and femininity are not mutually exclusive, and how satisfying it can feel to represent both at once, or neither…

Buy the book to read the rest, and the REST! ALL of the incredible essays, stories, poems, naked pictures (yes, naked pictures), cartoons, and conversations. I’m serious. You want this one. Go get it.

2) Coming & Crying

Edited by Melissa Gira Grant and Meaghan O’Connell. (Don’t get it.)

comingandcryingThis is the other book I’m in. You don’t need to read it.

The project itself, from a purely observational standpoint, is fascinating. Melissa Gira Grant and Meaghan O’Connell decided they wanted to have an intervention into publishing — especially published sex writing — and to bring more of the rich, raw, honest writing style that was surfacing on the internet (about sex) to the printed page. They used a service called Kickstarter to raise some money from the community before they gathered the writing, so they could self-publish it properly. Their goal was to raise $3,000. They raised $17,000. And now they’re starting their own media label.

(But just because the project is fascinating does not mean you have to buy the book.)

The book is erotica-meets-drama. It’s a book of sex stories with all the messy awkwardness and overanalysis left in. I wrote a story for it. It’s under my real name. It’s a very personal story. Let’s just accept right now that I’m never going to run for Senate.

If you are a member of my family, I strongly recommend that you (please) do not buy this book. If you have a purely professional relationship with me and would rather not feel weird the next time you see me, I also really don’t think you should buy it.

And if you’re anyone else, you know what? We’re in a recession. You need to buy groceries. Look! Shiny things! I think your grandmother is on fire. Don’t look at the book.

Also? It was a limited print run. They’re gonna sell out soon anyway. And who knows — they might not print any more. So you probably can’t get the book anyway. It wasn’t meant to be. No, you can’t see an excerpt. You never heard about this. Enjoy your day.

(Don’t get it.)

Love,
Sarah

Inspired by a recent email by Melissa Gira about doing something “for the story of it,” I present you with… my decision-making flowchart:


(Click for the bigger, more readable version)

The deeper I tumble down the rabbit hole of community development, the less I care about the social media marketing crowd, and the more interested I am in people who just do it without realizing how or why.

I’d like you to meet Whitney Moses, if you haven’t already.  (Chances are you have.)

Whitney Moses

Whitney is a massage therapist with a social life.

The social media numbers?  It’s unfair to talk about them since she could care less, but I’m going to anyway. She has over 1600 friends on Facebook, and is actually friends with every single one of them.  She keeps a close written account of her life for her inner circle of friends (400+ people) on Livejournal. And being still kinda new to Twitter, she’s rallied about 630 followers from her universe on there.  (It’s also worth adding that she and Amanda Palmer go way back.)

The only internet stats she does care about are her business reviews, since they’re critical to her livelihood.  Having changed office spaces several times in the last few years, she’s at the mercy of her clients to rebuild that pile from scratch every time.  The last move was a few months ago, and she’s up to 30 reviews on Yelp and a 5-star rating.

Whitney is active, both physically and socially.  She sings and dances regularly in the San Francisco club scene, and she monkeys around at the rock climbing gym whenever she has the chance.  She’s obsessed with the human body, and is usually enrolled in extra courses to expand her massage therapy offerings, even though she already has plenty of certifications.  Online, she reads as much as she can about what her friends are up to, comments on their stuff religiously, and sends them personal notes whenever she’s thinking of them.

People love her.  She’s smart, generous, compassionate, aware, engaged, fair, accessible, and joyful about life.   Whenever a friend needs something, she finds a way to make it happen for them.  Whenever she needs something, people run toward her in mobs, holding as much of it as they can carry.

When I started the Deviants Online series in the winter, Whitney was one of the first people I invited to speak at the workshop.  But when I asked her, she looked at me like I had three heads.  “Social Media Marketing” isn’t her subject.  She wouldn’t even consider herself a great example of how to “be awesome on the Internet.” That’s for other people to be experts on. She’s just being herself.

Exactly the point.

I’m still working on her, and will hopefully get her to start articulating her methods and philosophies soon.  But that’s not what’s going on right now.

Right now, she has a broken leg. Well… worse. A knee full of ripped ligaments. As of last Saturday, she’s injured and not allowed to walk, dance, or work for six months.  Our Whitney, the center of a massive community, is down. And without insurance.

I saw her last night.  She was laughing about it, but also clearly frustrated, and worried about how this is all going to play out.

I managed to wait until I left before I burst into tears.  I crumbled into an incoherent, snot-dripping wreck, mumbling onto the shoulder of another friend, “No.  We NEED her OUT there!”

It’s just six months. She’ll get through it. But the shock still has me dizzy: Whitney’s been a lighthouse of passion, activity, health, and engagement in my life for years.  I don’t think about it — I just stand up stronger because I know she’s there, and living with the grace and force and connection that I pretend I’ll someday attain. Seeing that threatened hit me like a fist to the gut.

No. We need her out there.

Fortunately, the whole “without insurance” thing is only a half-truth.  It’s true she’s probably facing $30,000 in medical bills and 6 months worth of lost wages, but there are also hundreds (maybe thousands) of people who are committed to helping her out.  The crowds are already organizing a central calendar to plan visits, transportation, and meals for her, and schemes for several fundraisers are already in the works.

She doesn’t have that kind of safety net because she’s a nice person.

She has that safety net because she has spent her entire life listening to and supporting the people around her, pursuing her dreams as honestly as possible, and including as many people as she can in them.

UPDATE!  Stuff You Can Do…

Quick Backstory:
This is a finicky evaluation of online project management systems, taken slightly out of context. I originally published it a few weeks ago via “Dopp Brain“, my email newsletter, which I’m writing for more often than I’m blogging right now. If you miss hearing from me, go sign up for that. I’m working on some infant/sensitive projects right now, and am preferring to talk about everything just a little less publicly for a bit.

But somebody just asked me about this overview, so I’m making it public now.

~~~~~

When we last heard from our hero, she was neck deep in trial accounts for online project management software…

Man, that was not a fun game.  But it was absolutely worth the digging.  Here’s what I learned (besides the fact that I am the Donald Trump of Project Management System Evaluators):

FIRED

Basecamp: It’s everybody’s golden child, but damnit, I can’t stand it.  Something about how the information is laid out just doesn’t fit how my brain works.  The Writeboards, which should be a centerpiece, are so far out of the way and take extra time to load that they feel like a disconnected afterthought.  The dashboard and calendar views are unreadably cluttered, and the task lists are clunky.  Fired.

Wrike: Oh, this one had so much potential, it broke my heart.  Completely fresh layout — they organize everything by Folders and Subfolders rather than Projects and Clients, so you can decide how your own work needs to be structured.  They also allow you to record the same task in multiple folders, so it’s cross-referenced against what it needs to do.  The only downside? It’s all about tasks.  And it takes a few too many clicks to enter a task to warrant that single focus.  There is a space for notes and discussions, but those are hidden away and hard to find — which is bizarre and completely unecessary.  I thought i was going to strangle it for that, so… Fired.

DeskAway: This one and I almost got married.  I had loaded up all my projects and we were halfway to the chapel (my tux looked great) when I realized that its Dashboard view of the All Tasks Due Today doesn’t let me mark tasks as done.  SERIOUSLY!  It’s just a summary — you have to click through to each task in this weird convoluted way to mark a task as done — so there’s no homebase area that you can hang out in and just be productive.  The other thing that bugged me was that the list of “Overdue” tasks included Today’s tasks.  You don’t get to tell me that something due today is overdue. And by the way, I lied, I don’t really like Bob Dylan and I don’t want to live in your stupid house with the stupid white picket fence and look at your stupid face all day long and this engagement is OVER. Fired.

Pelotonics: By this point, I was jaded.  I knew my standards were too high, and I was a little too familiar with the ejection button.  There was no passion here.  Just a bland dinner, a glimmer of hope (integrating with Evernote? Sweet…), and a quick dismissal based on a flat excuse.  I can’t add a new task from the Dashboard view. There. I said it. None of the other systems would let me do that either, but it seemed as good enough an excuse as any to end that date before we got any further.  It’s not you, it’s me. Let’s just be friends.  Trust me. You don’t want to get involved with me anyway. I’m bad news. I kill systems.  Just ask the others. Go. Now. Before we do something we’ll regret. You’re fired.

After I drowned my system incompatibility sorrows in several regrettable rounds of Chat Roulette, I got back on the horse.  I’m a reasonably attractive, successful consultant — I have a good personality, damnit!  There are plenty of fish in the sea!  Maybe I’m just using the wrong pickup line. Should I change my soap?

To cut to the chase, I put on my best “fine, i’ll be more agreeable this time” face and put together a hybrid solution:

HIRED

Remember the Milk for task tracking.  But not all tasks.  Just the tasks that aren’t part of any scheduled projects and still need to get done by a certain day.  I added the widget to my Gmail sidebar and configured it to only display tasks that are due today or are overdue.  I can check things off as I go, and I can add new things super-quickly when they come up. It works fabulously.

PBWorks Business Edition for project notes and collaboration.  It’s a wiki built for project management, and it’s yummy. I can have a different wiki for each project, and pull in guest collaborators for specific spaces only.  Bonus features: it has task lists (though they’re not any better than all the other system tasks lists I fired), and I’m using those to keep track of project requirements.  It also has this really sexy conference call feature, where it will call as many people as I want to have a meeting with on their telephones and bring them into a zero-hassle conference call.  And the best part about a wiki is that it has all the content I need, and none of the content I don’t need.  Win.

Google Calendar for scheduling work sessions. I’m blocking out time on my schedule for working on different projects. Old school, I know, but it works.

Emma, aka “Girl Friday,” aka “Queen of the Wikis” for tying it all together. (*joyful choirs erupt in praise*)  Emma’s a kick-ass project organizing consultant who is keeping the wiki and calendar updated, and making sense of new projects as they come in. You might also know her from KinkOnTap, the weekly webcast about culture, sexuality, and politics that she co-hosts and organizes.  She’s an awesome one, she is.

And there we have it.  That, plus some Gmail and Freshbooks is the organizational ground I’m standing on.  So far so good.

Genderfork.com — a volunteer-run community expression blog about gender variance that I founded two years ago — has exploded. In a good way. We’re getting far more submissions than we know what to do with, and the comments have started overflowing into tangential discussions. It’s time to grow.

Last week, we put out a call to the community, asking who’d like to help advise us on the creation of open community forums. We figured 10 or 15 people might raise their hands right away. When 70 did, we closed down the invitation and marked the group as Full. (Yep. Definitely a need for forums.)

Kicking off that discussion this week, we asked everyone involved a bunch of questions about where they’re coming from, what their interests are, and what they’re most inclined to talk about in a community forum about gender variance. We also included a question about how Genderfork has affected their lives and their own identities so far.

The responses hit me hard. This is the kind of site that has a big but quiet impact. To hear people put that impact into clear terms was hugely helpful to me, and moving.

Here were some of them….

* * *

“The biggest thing Genderfork has done for me is give me permission to not fit. For a long time I’ve felt like expressing an alternate gender without being trans in some way detracted or disrespected the life experiences and narratives of trans people. Genderfork has helped me embrace a gender identity that isn’t cis and isn’t trans and is still completely valid. Genderfork has helped me to feel real.”

* * *

“Genderfork is great! It’s helped broaden my idea of gender and taught me about the different labels we put on ourselves and each other. It’s a supportive little community that is very kind. I’m very glad it’s here on the Internet or else I think I’d be totally lost.”

* * *

“Genderfork hasn’t helped me with my identity formation, per se, but it has been crucial in how I’ve grown to accept it. Without the blog, I’d still probably be closeted about my third gender and feeling quite bad about it.”

* * *

“The blog helped me an amazing amount. I used to be just very, very confused. I didn’t even think it was possible that I could have a problem with my gender! Then I found the blog (I wish I remembered how), and it helped me a lot to figure out that I can be very happy even if I don’t present the gender traits of my sex.”

* * *

“Genderfork helped me to realise that it was ok for me to not be a woman or a man. I think before I realised that I was unhappy sometimes living as a woman but that I didn’t think I would be able to transition and live as a man full time either. I think genderfork helped me see that those are not the only two options and encouraged me to explore who I am a little bit more (still exploring, still having great fun doing it).”

* * *

“Genderfork has been invaluable, not in the formation of my gender identity, but understanding how that identity was defined. I already knew how I felt, but it took seeing other people relate to that, then label it, for me to understand what it was. If it wasn’t for genderfork, I’d still have that general feeling of ‘wrongness’ when acting or dressing as my gender identity.”

* * *

“Genderfork (along with the nudging of some friends of mine) opened my eyes and really gave me a safe space to examine and explore my own identity. I intellectually grasped the social construct of the binary, but was blown away by how many of the quotes and profiles here especially hit home for me. Seeing all the different labels or refusals of labels that people came up with was extremely educating in terms of showing me how wide this community really is. Also, being able to have a space where i know there are answers to the questions that answered anywhere else, and seeing, below every submission and profile, a flood of “Me too!” is really empowering.”

* * *

“As far as gender identity construction is concerned…well, Genderfork took me as a very confused individual and left me as a very confused individual. But it a good way! Knowing that there are alternatives to the oh-so-constricting binary is definitely an improvement from where I was. I’m still working through a lot of things, but it really helps to know that there are like-minded people out there in the world, and maybe even closer to home than I originally thought.”

* * *

“It’s shown me there are others out there who are like me and yet entirely unlike me at the same time. It’s helped guide me toward the ways to outwardly express my inner identity.”

* * *

“I wouldn’t say Genderfork has helped me form my own identity as much as it has shown me how diverse other peoples’ genders can be. It’s also helped to show me that it’s not abnormal to have a non-binary gender identity.”

* * *

*gulp* Okay. We’ll keep walking.

Two different people just asked me about this in the last five minutes, so it seems worth writing out.  And then I can link to this post in my GChat status message! Shortcut!

Here’s the scenario: Through the luck of the emailing, you’ve scored my secret gmail address, and I’m showing up in your chat list.  You’ve already noticed two things:

  1. I seem to be there all the time. Like, 24/7. Like, why the heck doesn’t this Dopp ever sleep?
  2. I am always, always, without exception marked Busy. Red. Unavailable. “Warning warning, saying hi is rude right now!”  Etc. Never green.

There are good explanations for this.

Why are you always there?

I have a Google Android-based cell phone that gets Gtalk.  So as long as my cellphone is on, I’m pokeable.  (Note that if you send me a chat message when my computer is off, I’ll get it on my phone, it will feel like a text message to me. Our communication paradigm will have shifted, and you won’t have any way of knowing. *cue scary music*)

Why are you always busy?

BECAUSE I’M ALWAYS BUSY!  I usually have at least 10 projects going at once, and if I’m at my computer, I’m probably working on one of them. The Internet is my office, and my business hours are Whenever I’m Awake. If you want to hang out with me when I’m taking a break, you need to come meet me at Dolores Park in San Francisco. I’ll be the one stretching, wandering around, enjoying the sun, and not looking at my phone or computer.

So… can I gchat with you?

Sure!  (Maybe.)  Here’s what I’d love:

If you’re working with me on something, you can always send me a message. It’s a good way to get a quick answer from me. If I’m there, I’ll respond.  If I don’t respond, please send me an email.  (Gchat messages are known for getting lost.)

If you’re not working with me on something, please don’t open with “hi” or “hey” or “what’s up?” and wait for me to respond. I probably won’t. Just start with the thing you want to talk about. (And if I don’t respond, follow up over email.)

If you don’t have anything in particular you want to talk about, but you want to talk to me, please ask me if we can get coffee sometime.  Don’t try to catch up with me over gchat.

If you have something funny or interesting you want to send me, go ahead and just gchat me the link.  I may or may not be able to look at it, and I probably won’t have much time to talk about it, but I’ll appreciate the thought.

I know, I know, this is me being weird again.  First I don’t answer my phone, and now this.

But think of it this way: at least I’m reachable.  Remember when I shut down IM completely for four years?  You hated that.  This is my compromise.

Love you,
Sarah

It’s here — the holiday of all holidays — Geek New Year.  The intersection of the end of SXSW Interactive and St. Patrick’s Day, when everyone who made the annual pilgrimage to Austin, TX is wandering home, rubbing their eyes and thinking a thousand new thoughts about how the coming year will be. And drinking.

I skipped SXSW this year, and didn’t miss it much.  But apparently, 2009 Me took some steps to keep 2010 Me in the loop just so I wouldn’t feel left out.  I woke up this morning to an email I’d sent myself a year ago using FutureMe.org. The subject line read, “listenupmotherfucker.” (And I’m such a nice person to everyone else…)

If you’ve watched me twitter on New Years, you know I make a grandiose attempt to discourage everyone in the world from making resolutions.  Resolutions are often about picking something really hard that you feel guilty about, and throwing yourself at it drunkenly with all your might, only to fail in about a month. What does that really do, besides pull a few muscles and prove your incompetence?  We need better traditions.

Mine is writing a letter to myself a year in the future.  I include reminders, predictions, ideas, requests, and stories I want to carry forward.  It’s me having an ongoing, ritualized conversation between the past, the present, and the future, and I love it. I love watching my own story unfold in a correspondence with myself over time.

Except last year I fucked it up.

Last year I forgot to write myself a letter on New Years, and it bugged me for months.  So on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day and the end of SXSWi, after two weeks of traveling, I decided that despite being too wrecked to move, I could see the whole timeline of my life Very Clearly and had a LOT to say about it.

Here’s the letter I received this morning (with a few light revisions to make it more bloggable):

From: Sarah Dopp
To: Sarah Dopp
Date: March 17, 2010
Subj: From me to me, listenupmotherfucker.

Dear FutureMe,

It’s the last night of SXSW and I’m a fucking zombie. I’ve been traveling for two weeks — first a week in Portland and now this. Roomed with Melissa, Boffery’s a madman of vision, and Genderfork is exploding with passion. I want my Dopp Juice voice back. Queer Open Mic is getting its sea legs again, and occasionally I think about book deals and self-publishing. I’m speaking soon on gender and sexuality ambiguities, and in general, my life’s pretty fucking cool.

So why am I so stoned on exhaustion that I can’t even pack my fucking suitcase?

Okay, listen up. I skipped the letter from New Years so this one’s a few months late. Here’s the deal. You’re reading this in 2010, right? Shut up and keep talking. That’s my brilliant plan. Just do that, and you’ll be fine.

No, seriously, though. Here’s what you need to know:

1) Stop calling yourself an entrepreneur. It’s bullshit.

2) Don’t go back to school, even if you know you can. It’s bullshit, and you have better ways to spend your time.

3) If you forget the different between following your heart and doing what seems right, go read XKCD’s Fuck That Shit again.

4) If you get stuck, go read the Cult of Done Manifesto again.

5) Genderfork Book. Build the community. Meetups, volunteers, whatever.

6) Go talk to [redacted] about representing a community that you don’t see yourself as a complete representative of.

7) You can do this. You have to. You don’t know how not to.

Stay alive. I love you.

Sarah

p.s. I really like The Squeeze right now.

I must have been very tired, because I have absolutely no recollection of writing this.

I’m particularly fond of the line, “Shut up and keep talking. That’s my brilliant plan. Just do that, and you’ll be fine.”

And aside from that… yeah… this is how I talk to myself.

Go write your letter now.  It’s a new New Year.

Sometimes I email people.

Like, a lot of people at once. I do the “bcc” thing, and I hand pick the people who I think want to hear about something, and then I remember after I sent the email that I forgot a bunch of people. But it works well enough.  Sometimes an email to a lot of people is the right medium for what we’re doing.

Then again, sometimes blog posts are the right medium. Or tweets. Or personal emails. Or facebook wall posts. Or text messages. Or (gasp!) a phone call (but let’s not talk about that). I try to stick to whatever medium is right (except when it’s a phone call, and then I’ll try to come up with something else, anything else, that will substitute. But again, let’s not talk about that).

When I send out a big email, it’s usually because:

  • Someone sent me a really cool job or gig that doesn’t fit me very well, and I want to pass it on to other good people.
  • I want to hire assistance for something, but I don’t really want the whole world to know about it.
  • I want to tell people what’s changed recently in my consulting work, so they know what I’m a good fit for and what I’m not interested in.
  • I want to tell the story of my consulting work — what I’m learning and doing and accomplishing and messing up along the way — without feeling totally public and naked about it.
  • I want to talk about a new personal project I’m working on (usually relating to gender or sexuality or queer culture, or maybe creative writing) and see what people think before I make it public.
  • I want to announce something I’m doing or hosting or organizing or traveling to (or whatever) to people I care about.
  • I want to pass on information about something amazing that I care a lot about.

And… as you can probably tell from that list, these emails are starting to feel a little bit like having a newsletter… just, minus the “consent” part.

So let’s get consensual about this.

If you would like to be part of my inner circle of advisors, or if you want to hang out within catching range of the job/gig leads that I pass on, or if you find the neurotic journey of a consultant interesting, or if you think the stuff I do for the queer world is making a difference and you want to know about my next big thing before it happens, or if you’re just my friend who never gets to spend time with me and is looking for some insight into why I won’t answer my phone…

You can sign up to get emails from me here:

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Subscribe to Sarah Dopp’s Brain
Email:
Visit this group

After you hit “Submit” above, Google will probably email you to make sure you really meant to do that. Just tell Google, “Yeah, I did,” and then you’ll be done with it. (And if you have any problems, tell me.)

In exchange for your consent, interest, and trust, I vow to:

  • …not send you things that feel impersonal or spammy.  If I’m sending you something, it’s because I think it really, really matters, and I will tell you exactly why.
  • …never ever ever sell/trade/share your email with others, or let anyone else hijack my list to use it for their own agenda.
  • …not email you more often than I think is respectful. That’s subjective, I know. In reality, it will probably only once a month or so — maybe less.  I’m not setting a schedule.  If it starts getting more frequent than that, I’ll be extra careful.
  • …keep it a one-way announcement list.  This isn’t a big huge discussion group. If you respond, you’ll be writing directly to me, not to everybody.
  • …never take it personally if you want to unsubscribe.  In fact, I probably won’t even know.  I don’t keep track of that stuff.

Past and current clients, friends, family members, genderfork fans, queer open mic regulars, conference acquaintances, former lovers, co-conspirators, and total strangers are all welcome.  Just remember: this is me talking about what I care about.  If you don’t share the same interests, you might not find this very exciting.

But if you do, you probably already think this is awesome.

(Sweet. Me too.)

Love,
Sarah