Sharks: Conquering fear with stupidity

Sharks: Conquering fear with stupidity

So far, my quest for “new experiences” in 2015 has been going swimmingly. Literally, as you’ll soon learn. While my third “experience” was planned, the last two weeks have not been the metronome of life that lulls you into a false sense of security, but instead a reminder of how stumbling through the days can surprise you with both the good and the bad.

Sometimes you don’t know what you just experienced

About four weeks ago, I went for a triple lap swim from Manly beach to Shelly beach, the most common swim in Manly, that every day at 7 AM features a crazy, madcap group called The Bold and Beautiful. I tend to avoid the crowds and go early, also so I can grab an earlier ferry and get my work day started. That morning my teammate and I started at 5:40 AM, and it was still dark, but the moonlight was bright, there were no clouds in the sky, the water was completely transparent, and the waves almost non-existent. Every stroke felt perfect, as we swam around a sailboat to reach Shelly beach.

Three weeks ago, my teammate was late and I hastily concluded he was a no-show, and I hopped in by myself. I swam the first lap in the dark, solo. The moonlight was still bright, the waves were a little bigger, and the water was cloudier.

The feeling of sensory debt combined with physical exertion is a strange recipe, but for me it was like concentrated adrenaline – like the feeling of standing next to a speaker with the sound vibrating through every bone. I was seriously worried I had just stumbled across a potential addiction.

Sheepishly confessing my new nocturnal aqua-philia to some teammates, I was met with one alarming response after another, all pretty much saying the same thing:

You know that most shark attacks happen at dawn and dusk, right?

1024px-Carcharhinus_obscurus_at_Seaworld

No. No, I did not know that. I was unaware. I knew that dusky sharks (picture above), about a meter long, are seen commonly around this area, and I had caught a glimpse of one while swimming, but that didn’t really bother me at the time. And, they aren’t really the sharks you worry about.

I quote the same Emily Dickenson’s line all too often, but it seems to apply to much of life: “But Light a newer Wilderness, My Wildnerness has made”. “Light” and knowledge are not always a good thing, and they can illuminate things you did not want to see or know.

Two weeks ago, my wetsuit was packed for a triathlon over the weekend, so Friday morning I walked down at 5:30 AM, sans wetsuit for the first time. The waves were massive, breaking into the beach and on the rocks loudly. The moonlight was absent, and cloud cover made even the lights along Manly beach difficult to see. After a few deep breaths I jumped in, swimming out. My first real breath told me I was in trouble – I couldn’t see the waves coming at me. I could hear them and time my duck dives but coming back up to the surface I couldn’t be entirely sure what direction I was facing. I could still tell generally that the rocks were still on my right because I could hear the waves crashing against them. I swam on. The distraction of the waves kept me focused, and I made it through the swells and could just see the blurry lights of Shelly in the distance, about 700 meters away.

That’s when I freaked out.

Without a wetsuit, I felt a lot more vulnerable. I was having a hard time sighting in the swells, and could not make out any of the shore in the pitch black. The twenty repeated conversations of the last week filled my head:

  • Sharks feed when it’s dark. Dark? Check.
  • Sharks feed when the water is cloudy. Cloudy water? Check.
  • Sharks like tender meat raised in cold climates with foreign accents. Check.

About five minutes into the swim, when I should be half-way to Shelly, I realized I couldn’t tell if I was making progress or not. I knew that I was, but I had no visible proof. My mind kept repeating the same mantra: Shark. Shark. Shark. Shark. I mentally psyched-out myself and turned around. I was not terribly happy for the rest of the day.

Last Friday

I was not going to be beaten by my own brain. I told enough people what had happened the week before and told them I was going to go back and swim in the dark. So now I couldn’t back out.

5:40, I entered the water, once again with a few strange looks from people up early enough to look at a lone figure walking into the water in the dark. There was a little more light from the week before, and the waves were a little smaller.

I battled constantly with my own brain – “Think about what’s on your calendar today.” Sharks. “Think about what you’ll eat for lunch.” Sharks. “Think about sharks.” Ack! At one point the minimal light piercing the water revealed the dark and light shapes of rocks and sand on the bottom. At one point, probably from the turbulence of my stroke, my mind caught something moving out of the corner of my eye, and I curled into a ball as if getting ready for impact. Ridiculous. I started laughing to myself, and from then on, the swim was fine.

strava

Note the GPS is not accurate when swimming and I swim a lot straighter than those lines, and I don’t swim onto rocks.

Mission accomplished. But I have no desire to keep doing this. I am cured of any momentary addiction that might have been. I can see doing this once a year as a ritual, but that’s about it. But it’s definitely going down as a new experience for The Coaster.

Knocking a baby over while running

While I didn’t have this on my bucket list, or even on my list of goals for 2015, it certainly was a new experience. Saturday, I went running with Natalie, my friend’s eight year old daughter (yeah, she’s eight and can run). I was paying so much attention to her and making sure that she didn’t get run into, that I failed to see the giant baby that walked out in front of me from the grass off to the side of the trail. In an instant, I had side checked the baby, who I think caught a little air and landed on the grass. The baby looked stunned, waited a two-count, and then began to wail. I apologized quickly to the parents, who understood what had happened, and then told Natalie, “Let’s get out of here.” On we ran.

Achievement unlocked: Knock a baby over while running.

Two months down, ten to go

So, if you’re keeping score at home, the tally so far this year on new experiences:

  1. Not to be published
  2. Not to be published
  3. Transport a cement dog from one continent to another
  4. Disastrous session of Acupuncture
  5. Ocean swim in the dark
  6. Knock a baby over while running

With it only being February, the goal of 12 is looking very easy by December, but I’m not stopping at 12.  Babies, watch yourself on the running trails.

The Coaster: 2015

coasters

When Mak introduced me to “The Napkin,” my approach to New Year’s resolutions changed forever. Over a few pints, we’d take a pub napkin, and divide it into four and then in later years, nine squares, and each square would need a New Year’s Resolution.

But the secret was in creating them with your mates. Your mates would call you out if you were being boring, or not aggressive enough, and would even suggest things to get you out of your comfort zone. And they have to be binary – you either fail or succeed (though this year we did allow each person to claim a half point for one item that was close).

In Australia, “nappies” are diapers so “The Napkin” wasn’t really right. And while “Serviette” does mean napkin, it’s a more dainty or refined word than should be used when talking about planning the year ahead in dimly lit pub. Heading down the lift after work, I was lamenting this naming dilemma to a colleague, and a stranger in the lift said, “Coaster.” I said,”I guess you can write on them.” “Coaster,” he repeated.

So, ladies and gents, may I present to you, the BJR Coaster for 2015. Oh, and generally, code names for your resolutions are useful in case you need to discuss them in public but don’t actually want to reveal what change you’re trying to make in your life. Bonus points for being clever.

1. Chef BJR

It’s no secret I’m no cook.  This year, I will learn to cook something new each month. Last year’s “Cook three new dishes this year” was a dismal failure. We’re turning up the heat in the kitchen. Either delight or food poisoning will ensue.

2. Four-in Waters

I’m going to be traveling a lot, both for work and personally: Six countries in addition to the states and Oz. In at least four of those countries, I will do an open water swim of no less than 1 K. Outside chance I contract some water bourne disease or get to fight with a sea serpent.

3. Tri for Five and a Half

This year, I’ll race in five triathlons, including another half-Ironman. Right now I have the Huski Sprint, NSW Club Champs, the Naylor’s Beach triathlon in Virginia with my nephew Braden, and hopefully I can get a spot in the Sunshine Coast 70.3. One secret – I actually don’t like racing. I actually just like the training. Don’t tell anyone. If they know, they will look at me strangely, and I’ll mistake that for an invitation to ask for a back rub.

4. Don’t Stop the Yanks

“Stop the boats” has been a political rallying cry of the conservative Liberal party (confusing, I know) to keep poorly constructed ships of Indonesian refugees from setting sail for asylum in Australia. By the end of this year, I will have logged enough days in Australia to apply for citizenship. So, by the end of 2015, I will apply to be a legit Aussie with all rights and privileges. Everyone always asks “Will you have duel citizenship?” Such a silly question. Duels really don’t occur in modern Australia, especially since gun ownership is tightly controlled.

5. Keep Bryan Weird

“Keep Austin Weird” has been a slogan as long as I can remember. Austin is not Houston nor Dallas. It’s quirky, it’s a bit profane, it’s relaxed, and it’s fun. In the last two years, I lost a lot of the edge that’s made me love life, that’s put me in awkward situations or led to discover the quirky things that I enjoy. No more! I will feast on the unusual, I will seek out the extraordinary, I will court the rare. Over the next year I will collect 12 experiences that are great stories that I love telling. Or stories so good I can’t tell them.  I’ve already logged experience number 1, which included a highlight of a San Francisco park wino singing 80s pop hits (a Lionel Ritchie song was my favorite), and that was the most normal part of the experience.

6. Fork the Aussies

Food makes its second appearance in this year’s coaster. Aussies (and Brits) don’t eat like Americans.  There’s no dropping of the knife and switching the fork to the dominant shoveling hand. I will eat with Aussie table manners this entire year, regardless of what country I am in. And if I catch myself doing the wrong thing, I will apologize to the table, saying, “I’m sorry, I’ve (list the mistake). I’m an idiot and if I’ve offended you feel free to spank me.” So far, I’ve had to make three apologies, but have avoided any physical punishment.

7. The Unclet a month club

This year, I want to have a special activity, where I spend an hour with one of my unclets or extended unclets doing something just for them or just with them. (Note: Unclets is a term for nieces and nephews. Extended unclets are the kids of my closest friends). Already in January I’ve spent a whole weekend with Little Bryan and just recently went hiking (and even running) with my cousin Makalia.

8 & 9. Yeah, not going to tell you.

Well, you don’t get to know the final two. You’ll have to just know about the seven. Don’t be too upset – last year over half weren’t fit for public consumption. Or really anything public. Or anything consumable. So I’ll leave this to your imagination. With some of you, that’s quite dangerous, and you might hurt yourself, so please wear a helmet.

Happy New Year – May your coaster be filled with things that take you out of your comfort zone.

Confessions of a (reformed) homophobe

This is a story that is 42 years in the making.

There’s no question in my mind that gay rights are the civil rights of our time. The battle between each side seems to surge back and forth, but the momentum is clearly headed in the direction of equality and acceptance.

But I can’t claim high ground or moral superiority. While today, I’m proud that someone’s gender preference doesn’t have influence on my opinion of them, I spent a great deal of my life as a homophobe.

I grew up in Alaska. In my high school there were “no gays.” But of course there were, but no one wanted to acknowledge it, and you’d be crazy to out yourself in a place where “faggot” was the worst possible thing to be called. My family is very religious, in fact Southern Baptist. And I can remember one sermon, an actual locally famous sermon where a minister talked about God creating AIDS to deal with the sin of homosexuals. While I may not have agreed with the sermon, I was, without question, homophobic. Now, environment is no excuse though it does strongly influence opinions. I had classmates in high school who were open-minded, though they were the exception, not the rule. The rule was disgust and disdain, though this enemy was invisible and only something referenced in punch lines of locker room jokes.

My first week of my freshman year in college, we were in a round table discussion on multiculturalism (perhaps one of my least favorite topics being the white guy in the room – i.e. the root of all evil during those discussions), and the subject of homosexuality came up. I distinctly remember saying, “Well, personally, I’ve never met someone who was gay,” not realizing at the time that the person to my right, yep, was gay. I’m sure if I could have seen his face, there would have been a quiet smile. He was out, so it wasn’t a secret, but those of us who were new to the dorm didn’t know. I sailed by in my ignorance. A couple of weeks later someone let me know that the word “faggot” wasn’t cool to use, that it wasn’t accepted. I shrugged and moved on.

My second year, despite being in an environment where you couldn’t help but open your mind, mine stayed closed. My best friend and I would talk about how no one could leave our university being racist, because there were brilliant engineers of every race (of course, our measure of intelligence was largely physics-math-engineering related). But race had never really been an issue for me, so it was easy to feel proud that the lower class white guy (me) wasn’t a redneck. Yee ha.

I won’t go into detail, but I even took a photo of myself which clearly shows my distaste for “the gay lifestyle,” as if I actually knew anything about it or anyone who was gay. I’m not the kind of person to push my beliefs on others or ever attack those I disagree with, but I was great at holding on to that opinion without actual knowledge to back it up. Now on campus, there were plenty of openly gay people, gay & lesbian clubs, but of course I didn’t make any effort to actually understand. I’m smart. I’m analytical. I’m a decent human being. I’m humble (just checking to see if you’re actually reading). But that didn’t help me understand. “Closed minded” is a great phrase because the door in my mind was very, very shut.

But it was a door that opened my mind during my senior year. A friend I had made that year was an amazing musician. We shared a lot of the same tastes in music, though he had actual talent and I could only stand there and bang my head. I went to leave him a note on his door one day, and his door had changed. Yesterday there had been logos of his favorite bands, tokens of all kinds of great musical acts, photos of Trent Reznor. Today, there was a rainbow triangle on his door.

I wish I had a picture of the look on my face. What’s even funnier is that I still didn’t get it. Later that week we shared a pizza in his room. He talked about all the ridiculous anti-gay legislation going on in Colorado. I can’t remember what else we talked about, but I remember being incredibly confused. I went back to my room, and at some point it finally hit me. (Yes, duh). He was gay, and had essentially come out to me. My friend had trusted me enough to tell me this, and I had completely missed it.

Fast forward just a couple of months later, and maybe I was a bit too proud of the fact that I had finally gotten wise. Late one night at a party, I jumped on my friend’s back and yelled, “I’M GETTING A PIGGYBACK RIDE FROM A GAY MAN.” Somehow, he still remained my friend after that, and could even laugh at my pride in my new-found, albeit clumsy, open-mindedness.

But it wasn’t an overnight transformation. Small steps every year. Meeting more people, understanding more, asking more questions, reading more. Spending time in San Francisco’s Castro district. The first time I really hung out with a gay couple and was completely at ease. Many childhood beliefs are so deeply engrained that it takes take time and experience to change them. I’m grateful for everyone along the way, who unknowingly was helping me move along the path.

My first year in Sydney I watched the Mardi Gras parade (which I think is the second largest gay pride parade in the world). The energy was ridiculous: an entire city surrounding a set of people and saying “we love you, we support you.” Families, couples, politicians, everyone. An incredible night, and the next year I had the chance to share it with two close friends of mine, a gay couple from the states. My company is also incredibly supportive of gay rights, and I’m proud of my company for having no fear and being courageous.

Today, we have Russia actively exporting hate. We have Arizona trying to pass laws masked in the cloth of religion which are nothing more than the same laws used against black Americans before civil rights, now being used against gay Americans. Gay marriage is still illegal in Australia and much of the world despite no actual rational, legal argument against it, but only fear of political suicide. It’s easy to look at these and think “How could anyone think that way?” But, for me, and I would argue 90-95% of people my generation who grew up outside a major city, we all thought that way. I’m not making excuses, I’m not saying we shouldn’t fight for what’s right. But I think we polarize things so much between us and them.

I wrote this because there may be people in my circle of friends who feel like I used to. It’s okay if you’re not entirely comfortable with something – but don’t run away from something if you’re uncomfortable. And if I can help someone just open the door a little bit, or to ask themselves a question, even if  that question is just “Have I really thought about this?”

There are plenty of people who are sitting on their philosophical pedestal looking down at others. I am tired of other people who can so easily see other people’s limitations. I am thankful for my friend who up until today probably didn’t know my full story and may not realize what he did for me. Without his courage, I would have missed out on many of the best friendships of my life. And a huge thanks to Dan Savage, who has for 20 years been trying to help people like me see the light, albeit in the most offensive way possible. Good on ya, Dan.

Don’t take any of this as pride in myself. I’m on a 150,000 step program in life, and this is just one of the steps, and it took me 21 years to get just to this step. I still have plenty of prejudices. I’m working on a few of them, like my distaste for white people who wear jeans shorts. A few of my closest friends know my most severe prejudices (and they aren’t the usual redneck ones) and they are deeply engrained, and they are going to take a lot of work. But, I’m willing to try.

[BJR Newsletter] : The Curious Case of Bryan J. Rollins

BJR Newsletter: The Curious Case of Bryan J. Rollins

Attention: BJR has moved. To another country. And has been there for three years.

For those of you who keep calling my mobile number from Austin, and sending holiday cards to Texas, BJR lives in Australia now. Wake up and smell the wombat. Yes, it’s been a long time since the last BJR Newsletter. Deal with it, or be dealt with accordingly.

Everything Bryan J. Rollins has told you is a lie.

The “year in review” sap and drivel that appeared in 2013: Rear View Mirror is complete and utter fabrication. BJR will set the record straight. For those of who have never read a BJR newsletter, buckle your seats belts. Some of you may be thinking, “But I’ve read Bryan J. Rollins’ blog, is this really that different?” Yes: Bryan J. Rollins is an embarrassment, trying to paint pretty pictures with words to exorcise the angst-filled-demon that kicks him repeatedly in the squishy part of his brain. BJR, it turns out, is the one kicking him.

Escape from the Eastern Suburbs

Originally imprisoned in a neighborhood called Paddington on a street that boasted “40 Dress Boutiques”, BJR fled to Darlinghurst, which was a slight improvement but still plagued with people whose weekend hobbies consisted of drinking and sitting. Finally in February, BJR fled to Manly Beach, only to discover that he would once again be enslaved in the sick and twisted addiction known as triathlon.

The definition of insanity: A second Ironman

If you don’t know this you haven’t been paying enough attention to BJR. Your excuses for not paying attention, be they kids, unnatural disaster, chocolate-milk-induced-amnesia, or freestyle water-boarding, are not accepted. In March, after previously saying “one and done” BJR will be coerced to swim 2.4 miles (3.8k), bike 112 miles (180k) and run a marathon (26.2 miles/42.2 k), in Melbourne. To shroud this absolute stupidity in philanthropy, BJR is raising $25,000 for Room to Read Cambodia. Please donate so BJR doesn’t ever have to do this again. Somehow it seems appropriate – if kids in Cambodia don’t get a proper education and learn to think rationally, they will end up doing stupid things like racing an Ironman. Currently, BJR’s hip is injured, and the chances of him actually getting to run the marathon portion of the race are slimmer every day, so stay tuned for pictures of BJR dragging one leg across the finish line. Again, a proper education might give BJR the faculties to decided to just race another day, but a mind and a hip are a terrible thing to waste.

The Australian National Past-time

BJR actually likes cricket. BJR doesn’t have the deep understanding that someone who grew up watching and playing. BJR can score a game of cricket, and interpret what’s happening on the pitch. Yes, a five day test match can end in a tie. Yes, a five day test match can end in a draw. In comparison your life is probably a hundred times duller than a five day test match, 10 times more pointless, and will likely have no actual conclusion of any kind other than you paid a lot of taxes, ate too much, and passed on twice the normal number of neurosis to your children. See what happens when you challenge cricket? Don’t test BJR again.

Looking forward

BJR is single, lives on the beach, works for the coolest company in Australia, and is in the best shape of his life (which still is barely humanoid). And yet not a day goes by where BJR isn’t blessed with the gracious gift that fills those who are chosen above all others: sarcasm. Here’s to 2014 being 365 days, no more, no less.

A second life in Australia

Seven months ago, in December 2012, Lisa and I separated.

A lot of you already know this, but I’m an open person and I prefer playing my cards face up.  I’d rather have my friends know what’s going on than keep everyone in the dark.  The last seven months have not been easy.  My heart was broken, my world was turned upside down, and I couldn’t think of anything else.

What happened?  I don’t think it’s useful going through all the details, and of course I see things from my own biased perspective.  The simplest explanation is that Lisa wanted to separate.  After two months of trying to find a way to work things out, we separated permanently.   While we’re still legally married, we now have completely separate lives and we’ll legally be divorced in December of this coming year once the year waiting period in Australia is done.

I often have a habit of only telling a personal story when there’s a positive bent at the end – so maybe I should have posted this six months ago in the turbulence and aftermath, but I’m not sure I knew what was happening or could have talked about it in a healthy fashion.

The day the decision to separate was made, I took a ferry out to Manly, a beach community where my friends Kyle and Jill live.  They welcomed me, knowing why I was there and what had happened.  On that ferry ride, my mind was a cocktail of pain, sadness and strange relief.   Pain and sadnesss: a seven year relationship had just dissolved in front of me in just 60 days.  Strange relief:  I would no longer be pouring myself into a relationship where I was not wanted, where the other person did not love me.  Years ago, a close friend taught me a mantra that he had learned: that every relationship is 100% the responsibility of each person.  And I believe that.

As I held on to the front railing of the ferry, I couldn’t help gag at how hollywood this seemed.  Facing into the wind, like a cheesy Chris Isaac music video, I looked into the waves and ocean in front of me.  And I imagined a better life.   I imagined training for triathlons again.  I imagined being surrounded by friends who I care about.  I imagined loving work.   Over the last seven months I have created that life.

For the last two years, my closest friends (and probably even acquaintances) would have told you that I wasn’t happy in Sydney.  At times I was miserable.  I held Sydney and work at arms length, not willing to personally embrace it.  I blamed my unhappiness on the city, on the people in the city, on work (despite at the same time saying it was the most amazing company I had ever worked for… yet somehow the cognitive dissonance didn’t fully take over), on not having a set of friends like those I had left back in Austin.   On that same ferry ride, I realized my unhappiness came from my relationship, and that I couldn’t admit it for almost two years; I had been blaming everything else.

My life changed quickly from that moment on:

I opened my eyes and realized I was surrounded by friends.  People had been there all along, waiting.  Opportunities for incredible friendships were right next to me, and I had closed myself to the point where I was numb to them.

In January I joined a triathlon club in Manly, and I’m signed up for a couple of big races.

In February I moved to Manly, with my apartment right on the beach, where I can see the ocean from my living and dining rooms.

In April I took a new role at work.  I loved my previous role, and the new one is as exciting and even more challenging.

I have a set of friends in Sydney who mean the world to me.

I have no plans to leave Australia.

I’m writing/blogging again (sorry, you’re going to have to once again put up with both Bryan J. Rollins and “BJR”).

I am still healing, still figuring things out.  But I am happy.  There it is.

I’m my usual open book self – when you talk to me, there’s no reason to avoid the topic if you want to talk about it.  There’s really nothing you need to do other than keep being the same great friend you have been.

What makes me happy

18Ks of fun, 3Ks of pain

Yes, as many of you have noticed, I’ve gone metric. When I return to the states, I will no longer quote energy in British Thermal Units. It’s all kilo-joules now. Last weekend I ran the Central Coast half marathon, in a personal record setting time. So far, this is a good trend. At this rate, by the time I am 80 years old, I will be able to travel in time if I keep getting faster.  Despite having been at the peak of my personal fitness a year ago, and slowly watching all that training and shape disappear over the last 12 months in Australia, I managed to push myself for the last six weeks and focus on running enough to put up a decent showing.  For comparison, the first half marathon I ran 5 years ago was 2:07, within a couple of years of my transplant.  Last year I ran two half marathons, both in 1:58 and 1:59, though one was at the end of the Lonestar 70.3 (half Ironman) and the other was at T3 practice after a 40 mile bike ride.  I was terrified that I’d just squeak out a 1:59 prove how I’ve lost everything I worked so hard for.

My plan was to aim for a stretch goal of 1:45, which is not that hard for a serious runner.  I am not a serious runner.  But I set out on a pace to maintain that, aiming for 5 minutes per k (about 8 minute miles), and I held that for 18 ks.  At the 18 k mark, with 3 ks left, and my watch at 1:30, I needed to hold 3 more ks at my pace to hit my stretch goal.  My body announced that this was not going to happen, by cramping up various muscles in my leg on different strides.  I started shoving extra salt, gu, water, anything I could get down my through.  But my pace fell off, and I was now dodging through all the 10K runners

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/131152346

Despite being right in the middle of the pack for my age group, this is definitely what I love to do.

Food price versus food pleasure

After our race, we cleaned up at the beach house, packed the cars, and headed to lunch.  After a long run, I often can’t even keep food in my stomach, much less enjoy a meal.  Essentially what begins is a battle between my need for calories and my digestive system’s desire to reject those calories.  One of our group had picked a “2 chef hat” restaurant (Aussie equivalent of Michelin stars, max of 3) for lunch, so I was equally worried about my ability to handle being at a top restaurant and not even getting to “keep” the meal.  It turned out to be fine.  Over the course of the meal, I got to thinking and realized that my enjoyment of a meal is strongly affected by price. I think this makes me middle class, or possibly even “upper lower class”, and I’m perfectly cool with that.  I’m glad other people enjoy fine food.  It’s simply not even close to worth it for me.

Movember is over

I’ve shaved.  Movember is over.  My fundraising total was simply disappointing (thanks so much to those of you who did contribute – Atlassian raised close to $30,000, which is fantastic).  My only explanation is that my past fundraising events have been a week long tour of Texas on my bike, and a year-long quest to do an Ironman, so maybe growing a moustache seemed petty in return to my normal donors.  I would much rather suffer in the heat and cold on my bike, or wake up every morning at 5 for one year, or spend hours on the physical therapy table gritting my teeth as they torture me, than grow a moustache.  It was definitely the least enjoyable thing I’ve ever done for charity – entirely due to my inability to grow facial hair and Lisa’s open hatred for my mo’.  The camaraderie at work among all of us participating was exceptional, and of course the cause is very close to my heart.

Last person waiting

I think I might be one of the last people I know to see Waiting for Superman.  Despite having waited this long, it’s timing couldn’t be better in helping highlight the need to connect with you passion and find what you love to do.  Geoffrey Canada is such a brilliant example of this – and why education has always been something I care about, despite having barely dabbled in trying to help make things better.   If you haven’t seen the movie (and you live in the U.S. or you care about education) there isn’t anything I’ve seen this good in a long, long, time.   During this week, yet another great Breakthrough Austin video came out.  So proud of the kids and staff at Breakthrough in what they do every day in creating a path to college for kids.

Mo’tastrophe – Day 18

Grovember / Movember / BJRvember marches on, and my mo’ looks worse every day.

I was clearly not born to grow one of these things.  The cause is great, and I’m really happy to be a part of this team effort at the company – just walking through the office and seeing all the mo’s is awesome – it makes you proud that so many people are a part of the effort.  My mo’ simply shows that I’ve evolved faster than my colleagues, as my genes longer require facial hair above my lip to keep me warm in the cave after hunting brontosaurs all day.

What does it look like?

  1. Whiskers, not hair – my upper lip looks more like a trimmed cat’s face that a rich soft mo’
  2. Growing in waves – the first week, all the hair that grew out was black.  Over the last two weeks, blond hair has dominated, so that at a distance, you see patchy sections of small black hair, and then as you get close, you notice these white blonde hairs jutting out at all angles.  It’s not a pretty sight.  Each time I catch myself in a mirror, it scares me.
  3. Missing hair follicles – apparently I don’t have hair follicles in several places above my lip.  I don’t know, if like my legs, my hair never grew back after chemo, or if I was born without these follicles, or if Lisa pulled them out one night while I was sleeping.

Yes, this is really it after 18 days

Support the cause!

If you’ve asked me about my mo’ and haven’t donated, now is the time!  I am suffering for your amusement, so open up your wallets.  You know who you are!!  If not for me, for Lisa.  Don’t let her daily embarrassment and suffering go without supporting a good cause!

Live in the U.S.?  Avoid currency conversion fees – my mo-gifted friend Brian in the states has agreed to let me use his donation page.

Live in Australia?  Donate here!

Mogress Day 7

My decision to join Grovember (our company’s version of Movember) seemed harmless at the time.  But already, there is a darkening of my upper lip, and Lisa has stopped kissing me (just yesterday, not years ago as many of you have recommended).

And yet, the cause is great, and the reward is having pictures of me that look ridiculous.  It’s only Day 7, and you can just see the signs of the mo’.

Bryan, Bryan, quite the fine-man, how will this mo grow?    There are so many possibilities:

Donate!

This is your chance to give something that won’t require major surgery or the walk of shame to return your specimen.

For my mates in the states, please donate to my friend Brian’s profile (will avoid any potential currency conversion fees, and I’ll still be notified!)

For my home-wallabies in Australia, please donate to my profile.

It’s time for Grovember

Right on the night of Halloween here in Sydney, I’m announcing something even more chilling: BJR is growing a moustache.
BJR Grows a MoMight Mo

That’s right, I’ve decided to jump in on Grovember, a month of fundraising to support Men’s Health.

My dad passed away over 10 years ago, due to prostate cancer, so this issue is very personal for me.   My dad also never had a moustache in my memory, except after he retired.  He grew one out, and with the silver, gray, and black mix of hairs, it looked like he had a caterpillar on his lip as seen through a 1960’s television set.   My mo will likely be much patchier, with bits of red, blonde, and brown.  Yes, I care about this cause that much to look like that.

What can you do?

1. If you’re in Australia, my fundraising page is here!  If you’re in the US, please donate to my friend Brian’s page, so you won’t be charged foreign credit card processing fees (I’ll be notified of your donation). I’d love your support.  Since I’m not doing an Ironman or a bike ride this year, this is the only time in 2011 you’ll hear from me on a fundraising mission, so I would really appreciate your support.  My page features the only other time I’ve had a moustache (and you can probably tell it’s a fake).

2. If you’re 40, talk to your doctor about a PSA test or ask about the right thing to do for early detection.  Vic (whose awesome wedding I just attended in LA) and I have a pact where we make sure the other person gets checked once a year.  My dad would have had a better chance with early detection.  Don’t wait on this.  Every time I bring Lisa home to meet my family, I wish my dad could have met her.

There’s No Place Like Someplace That Doesn’t Feel Like Home Anymore

For some reason, a really early draft of a blog article I just finished was posted back in May. I finally got around to writing the actual article so it doesn’t appear in the proper date.   Just in case your RSS reader didn’t show it as a new post, check it out here:  Transplant Ironmen

Belonging

A few weeks ago or so I flew back to the Bay Area for what to an outsider might look like a poorly planned episode of The Amazing Race.  In the middle of the most intense six weeks of Ironman training, I would spend eight days in California, and so, like any irrational maniac, I would ship my bike out there to ride as much as possible.  The trip included a reunion of the Stanford CS198 section leaders, a friend’s wedding, time with family, a business meeting in San Francisco, and attempting to visit way too many friends in between it all.

The big takeaway from the trip for me was about where I belong.  Last year, my high school reunion taught me that while a lot of my identity is tied up in being a kid from Alaska, that I didn’t really feel a bond with “my class” although I care a lot about the friends I got to spend time with there.  This time. each “event” in California reflected where I belonged and where I didn’t at each stop on the logistical nightmare of my own making.

CS198 Section Leader Reunion

In college, my job starting at the end of my sophomore year, and extending through the end of grad school, revolved around a program called CS198, where undergrads like myself served as teaching assistants (what we called section leaders) for the introductory undergraduate computer science classes.  I had scheduled the trip out for a friend’s wedding and the reunion happened to be planned for the day of my arrival, so it worked out perfectly.  Stanford is probably the first place in life I ever felt like I belonged.  My frosh dorm was packed with people who seemed to have lived the same existence in high school, have similar obsessions, and despite being from every different background on the planet, there was a bond in the new experience and our shared interests.

The “section leading community” was a step further – here were people interested in technology, but with great communication skills, and in almost all cases, a life outside of computer science.  The affinity was strong, and I spent five years in the program, eventually running the program in grad school, hiring and training new section leaders.

But I left the reunion with the same feeling that I had left my high school reunion with last year.  I didn’t belong.  Partially, because most people there still live in Silicon Valley, and many even live close to Stanford.  Austin has been home for me for the past 15 years, and I really don’t belong in the Bay Area anymore.  Whether Austin was the right place for me or whether I’ve just become accustomed to a more casual, straightforward lifestyle, I felt like an outsider.  I just didn’t care about what other people cared about.  Similar to my high school reunion, there were specific people who I would have loved to spend two hours with catching up about what’s really going on in their lives.  But this was more of a fleeting cocktail style party, and I left wishing I had spent the time running or on my bike.  The best part of the event was picking John up from working, and the drive there and back.

The next morning I woke up in John and Kathy’s guest room, where I had lived every other week during the year I was on dialysis.  The comforter, the windows, the bed all were old friends.  Despite that year being one of the worst in my life, this room felt safe, and felt like home, because of the haven away from all my problems that John and Kathy had created for me.

Dan’s Wedding

The main purpose of my trip was to see a close friend from college get married at Pebble Beach.  Despite the fact that I haven’t seen Dan (the groom) or Derek (the best man) in almost two years, it felt like home.  The day before I had toured Derek’s classroom where he teaches, and I can still picture seeing his name on the board, thinking how great it is that these kids get to have Derek for their teacher.  They’re really lucky.  The wedding was great, and in terms of the match between the bride and groom, I don’t know if I’ve ever been more excited for a couple (other than for Lisa and me).  As the wedding weekend ended, I wished that somehow I could see Dan, Derek, and their families more often.   Seeing Vic and meeting Elaine was simply excellent.

Sierra Mountain Rollins

My annual kidney reunion with my cousin Diane in the high Sierra Mountains of Northern California was just awesome: Hiking with Uncle Cy, getting in a couple bike rides in the high altitude, swimming in a freezing lake and drying off in the sunshine all combine for two amazing days.  No cell phone reception is a great thing.  We should all lose our phones for a couple of days and stay off the internet, and see how much happier we are.

Kids

I really should never have kids.  While everyone says it’s different once you have your own, I just don’t even have the basic interest in kids.  Once they can play sports at some level or hike or things like that, I have a means to bond, but the 0-6 years are really hard for me.  I cracked up when my 10 year old second cousin said, “Hey, do you want to play badminton with me?  I know you like athletic stuff.”  She’d clearly been coached by her Aunt that the way to get Bryan to do something with you is roll in some outdoor activity or sport.  She then used the word “athletic” about five times in the next hour, as a magic word that hypnotized me into an obedient trance.

I love seeing how happy kids make my friends – all of them seem more fulfilled than ever.  But there’s a strange feeling, almost guilt-like, that I have because I don’t seem to be able to bond or feel that connection with any of their kids.  One friend suggested its because all my personality traits (sarcasm, etc) don’t work in a relationship with a kid so I have to basically put on a shell of another personality in order to communicate, and so I don’t ever feel like I can relate to kids until they start to mature and get beaten down by life.  Not sure I like that theory, but I can’t refute it.

Belong

In the end I guess I don’t really belong anywhere in terms of place, or in a group.  I know I belong with Lisa.  I feel like I belong when I wake up in the John & Kathy’s guest room, when I’m having dinner with Pete and Ayse, or as I’m sitting in Derek’s classroom, laughing with Diane, hiking with Uncle Cy, or eating Italian food with Sundeep and Stephanie. I belong on my bike, riding the California coastline solo for seven and half hours, taking in the amazing feeling of burning legs combined with an ocean wind.   And I’m okay with that.