It Just Does Not Matter

I should have saw this coming.

Back in school, when I first took a government class – on the first day we took a political spectrum test.  If I remember correctly, it was about 30 questions varying from scenario questions and True and False questions. After taking the test, we were divided into groups visually around the room.

I sat by myself.

Apparently, my father always tinkering in the garage listening to the early days of Rush Limbaugh had indoctrinated me so far right that my teacher “jokingly” called me “another Hitler.”

I took it in stride, mostly because I was confused why he would call me Hitler, and second because I felt so alienated sitting by myself that I really was waiting for the bell to ring so I could just get the hell out of there.

You see, that was the first time anyone had labeled me anything other than just a nerd. In one 30 question test, I would be provided a label as “right-wing-conservative” and would carry that label through my young adult life.  It impacted me that deeply. I had picked a side. I had marching orders. I was defined!  (I dropped the Hitler part, though.)

Prior to that test, I had not really thought of this spectrum at all. Likely because I grew up legitimately an outsider in a foreign land that was not anything like your typical American childhood street to grow up on. “Where do you fit on the political spectrum,” is not something you ask about at that age –  or really, in general when your 10s of thousands of miles away from your home country soil.

You see, my early to mid-childhood was spent overseas in the Middle East. My parents initially served in the military and then transitioned almost directly after giving birth to their best child (me, dear reader, that is me) to working longer term in Aviation in Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries.  These are the countries today I mourn and grieve that I only have fading, breaking down memories of.  I will not likely be unable to visit with my children, or even alone given the world we are in today. That’s tough, because that part of my life drastically shaped who I am today and my worldview of the Muslim people and Islam as a faith.

When I came back to the states to start a life here, I was closing in on the teenage side of my life. Overseas, and even the time I had spent back in the States up until that class, my parents never really put an emphasis on labels. They never sat me down and told me, “now Grant – in this home we are conservatives – here’s handbook – go learn!”

Instead, I think a combination of church attendance in some of the way more grassroots area of our state, coupled with my father’s radio show choices cemented what I thought to myself – well, made sense.  But it was likely deeper than that. I thought I knew what mattered. I had been labeled, after all!

Did the contents of my right-wing label make sense? And at the risk of losing all my blog readers 3 posts in, I feel comfortable enough to say – well, a good portion of it does, but then a lot of it does not.

Confused yet? Me too.

See, if you were to create a pie chart outlining the importance of that spectrum –  probably the biggest wedge of the pie chart – sandwiched somewhere between “critical, and important” would be the largest part of the pie chart , labeled simply: “it does not matter.”

And that is not intentional by the way, it is just me being honest.  I am starting to realize that so much of what we focus on anymore is just noise and useless to what we are here to really pursue. The more I grow, the more I build relationships and get in that part of the friendship where you become brutally honest about yourself and each other – where the lines of your relationships blur from “come over for a beer, why don’t you” to “I’m struggling in life right now, and I need a friend.”

This is that special, crazy pace that’s so freeing – it’s the moment where you realize that so much of what you have been told you had to make your mind up on, take a stand on, pick a side on, apply a label on, protest on, believe in, or otherwise pledge your allegiance to isn’t worth the breathe it was told in or the paper it was printed on.

It.

Just.

Does not.

Matter.

Let me break it down for you a bit more:

I am sitting here, during a global pandemic, watching people argue and bicker over the stupid stuff.

I’m sitting here, during one of the most trying times in our country, watching our political leaders completely neglect the human side of community to make a good blurb, tweet, or Social Media presence to boost their Primary and Election, all while lives and livelihoods are destroyed in the wake of a pandemic.    

I’m sitting here, during what may be the largest economic crisis we may ever see in our lifetimes, hearing babble constantly on whose fault this should be, and what it means for people that call themselves important “analysts” on the TV, while many families in even the bubble of my community around me wonder where the rent check is coming from.

I’m sitting here, completely alienated from all sense of community in the name of social distancing and I’m unable to reach out and bear hug the people I care deeply for that are hurting – but I’m told by countless prim and proper mega church pastors, celebrities, and political and business leaders from multi-million dollar homes that we are “in this together.”  Give me a break.

And through it all – through all the political pundits, press conferences, speeches, tweets, viral Facebook posts, infighting, and posturizing, I have become disgusted with the label given to me in school.  I have been become disgusted with ALL labels. 

So that is it – I’m done. I give up. I quit. I cannot do it anymore.  If they find this post because I’ve gone absolutely insane and decided that running for any public office is a good idea, this is for you – my running mate – the political career murder material you need. You are welcome.

I cannot continue to care about the stuff that doesn’t matter. I cannot continue to define myself in words that others will then use to label me or accept me later.  I cannot base my friendships on a Social Media post or frustrating thread of arguments about stupid clickbait articles written by people who are so obsessed with getting you to try and care about something that:

Just.

Does not.

Matter.

So, what does matter? That’s a small list for me, and maybe different for you, and as I grow older, I’ve found it grows even smaller.  It may change, but I doubt it.

Meaningful, honest relationships, up to and including my marriage and my family.

Friendships.

Trust.

Broken Hearts.

Protection for my family and those that cannot protect themselves.

My faith.

My community.

And finally, that if I see a need from someone hurting, in need – that my eyes will be open to see it and I will react.

So, do not ask me to take another damn political spectrum test.  I should not have done it then, and I certainly will not do it now.  If I had a time machine, I would go back in time and I would rip up that test before the teenage me could take it.  I would look at myself, and I’d whisper, before dashing off again in my DeLorean back to this insane year of 2020 — I’d whisper one thing to myself as I ripped up that test in front of my face:

“Thank me later, kid. This doesn’t matter.”

Grant Dawson

Noblesville, Indiana – May 2020

Finding Order

This week, I went on this “Order” crusade.

Being stuck in my house for what seems like the last year has caused me to look around at the piles of “stuff” that makes up my life and oft-neglected disorder that daily life brings.

I cleaned the garage.  I organized five boxes of computer cables and redid my computer desk and workstation. I weeded the flower beds.  I organized my workbench, and all my tools. I even organized screws and individual pieces of hardware.  About three fourths of the way through organizing every screw and piece of hardware in my workbench, I came up for air for a second of rational thought to ask my inner self – “hey, why are you doing this?”

Order.

I was doing it for order. Like most people right now, I am seeking order in the things I can control, since there is so very much I cannot. I cannot control the economy. I cannot control the spread of COVID-19 single-handedly.  I cannot control the fact that my favorite restaurant will not let me belly up to the bar with friends for a cold drink and a burger.

However, I believed I can control the microcosm of things that exist within the walls of my home, even if it as simple as putting washers of different sizes in different plastic dividers and organizing every drill bit by length and purpose. It brings peace in the moment, it brings some comfort in chaos, and it is something I did – something I accomplished.  I will admit, after cleaning the garage and organizing my workbench I found reasons to go back in and admire my work.  It was orderly. It was neat.  It was comforting. I was in control.  You know the feeling, right? It feels great, doesn’t it?

But alas, it never stays that way? Does it? You know better.

Disorder comes.

It already happened today – one of my children – putting away the recycle – had the AUDACITY to put a stack of cardboard boxes in the middle of the clean garage. The house almost went to Defcon 3 as I searched for the perpetrator of such a sin, on the tirade that only a frustrated father can do through the home. “Who DID THIS???,” I yelled carrying around the box as if it were the charred remains of a favorite shirt someone had set on fire.

Sure, I can put it back to order. But eventually I will leave my garage. I will leave my well tidied room and weeds will grow again in the fresh top-soiled flower beds.  Disorder will return, chaos will creep back in and organization will take a back seat to busy life again.

Disorder, disorder is coming.

But…. But…I need Order! Not Disorder!

So, here is what I’ve learned this week, friends: Perhaps, my microcosm interpretation of order isn’t the most important rationalization I can make. Maybe, if I zoomed out – there is a greater, more hidden order of things.  Perhaps, where I see disorder, my creator – my God, sees a perfect order.  For sometimes, at micro-level things can look utterly disastrous. For me, my disaster was cardboard boxes in a freshly cleaned garage. For others, maybe it is more serious.

We see losing our job – disorder.

We see a family member get sick and pass on – disorder.

We see a relationship fall apart – disorder.

If we are to step back to the 10,000 foot view, what we’ll often see – what I think God sees – is the order in things that he has created  – in his creation, in his children – in our lives.

Job loss – a new beginning.
A loss of a friend or family member – a desire and motivation to carry on a legacy.
A relationship fall apart – a chance for honest, deep healing.

So then, if we focus away from the proverbial boxes in our clean garage, we may see what God sees – his perfect order at work in our disorder. When we see order through the eyes of God things change.  We change. Hearts change. We’ve all seen it, even if we don’t always know how to call it out.

A child’s messy room shows a workstation of creativity.
A messy relationship offers the sweetness of forgiveness opportunity to build strong foundations.
A garden of weeds shows an opportunity for hard work, and the reap of a small harvest.

Perhaps, disorder is not always bad, as it alone can usher in change from our comforts, COVID-19 being no short of examples – just check your Social Media feed. Where we think we see order – sometimes instead is a veil to cover up true disorder. Even more so – perhaps order is not always necessary — maybe it’s not even necessary to see or even apply order.

Seems overwhelming when you think of it that way, no? Well, what if we just — let go? I think we can right now. I think it’s okay – to just, let go. Leave the boxes in the garage….

What is the prayer were told as kids again – the serenity prayer? The courage to change what I can?  But maybe we should rewrite it for today’s events, no? How about this instead: the strength to leave alone even what I can change, to wait instead for your timing?  That is where my heart is today, friends. Not to go and create order – but to find out where I should be creating it to begin with. To use my life as a magnifying glass on the focus of God and where he wants to see order.

That’s my comfort, tonight, friends – that in a world where it seems like we only see the opposite of a clean garage – I will live in the midst of peace even in total disorder. For I serve a God who makes order out of disorder, and who’s plan and timing is perfect.

But if you’ll excuse me – I have some boxes to put back in my garage.

Grant Dawson

Noblesville, Indiana
April, 2020

So, Now What?

When I was in my teens, I remember wanting to accomplish two things. I wanted to be a CIO of a company, and I wanted to be a writer.

At the time, the CIO option seemed such a faraway goal and unachievable, that I found myself chasing my dreams of writing as it seemed a more likely proposition and something that didn’t require a car, a bank account, a work permit, and perhaps a resume.

Throughout High School, I wrote often.  I kept very little of it – my goal at the time wasn’t to write for others, but to write for myself and I treated each thing I wrote the same way an athlete would treat a workout session – important, but ultimately forgettable. 

As I grew older, I transitioned away from my dream of writing – because as these things normally work out, the dream I found to be the least achievable was actually the one I would go on to eventually come close to present day achieving.  Man plans, God laughs.

So here I am, 37, in the middle of a Pandemic – leading a technology team through uncharted waters of full-on remote work, and sitting at desk in my home office everyday – rather than walking through an office daily, or flying to locations – simply put – distractions have been forced away. 

A week into Quarantine I made two major revelations, one comfortable and nothing shocking, the other one very much uncomfortable and a bit hard to swallow:

1) I love my job. I get fulfillment out of it. It is important to me, and I continue to find value and challenge out of it.

2) Outside of work, I am woefully unfulfilled, and have been searching for fulfillment in all the wrong places.

1 is easy and does not warrant much discussion. I have a great team and peers, and a good mentor of a boss. 2 is where I got hung up. You see, when you work in technology, it’s easy to take on the persona of the always-on technologist for friends, family, and your house of worship. In fact, in some ways – you are almost expected to fit that role.

I have worn that role well because it was comfortable. I have used my work experience, my passion for technology, and my willingness to help others to create a persona that has worn out it’s welcome. I’ve been “the guy” to go to for technology – spending a ton of my energy and time supporting others in their mission through technology and helping them be creative.  I said yes to everyone, no to nobody, and allowed myself to believe that my best contributions were to occur behind a computer and thus where I should stay both at work and at play.

It took a pandemic to prove me wrong. When the projects others needed my assistance on changed – when the well of after-hours hobbyist work dried up, and the rhythm of work changed – I literally found myself sitting in front of a computer, and perhaps like many of you – found myself asking:

So, now what?

My technology projects did not give me the same level of excitement as before – do not get me wrong – I love technology – but it does not define me like it used to. My help to the organization outside of work I am a part of was met with frustration and unfulfilled vision with no deep relationships being fostered.

I, for the first time I am a long time, slowed down long enough to realize I was woefully lost in just who I was and what I wanted for myself.

Then I remembered my 13-year-old self:

The kid who would read 6 books at a time, and still find time for online gaming, and tinkering with technology.

The kid who ran a pirate radio station in his neighborhood – not because he necessarily wanted to learn more about radios, but because I thought maybe the block wanted to hear what I had to say (spoiler: they didn’t).

The kid who figured out at a young age that he could write his would-be girlfriends’ cheesy poetry and get a response (spoiler: it rarely was a good response).

The kid who used to secretly write short stories about people and faraway lands for nobody to read, then delete them later.

If 13-year-old me could visit me now, he would be proud at first.  We would spend the day together – he would see a wonderful family, a wonderful job, good health, and good fortune.  But then, when the day was done and the dishes were washed from family dinner, and the job at work was complete for the evening – and it was just me and my 13 year old self in my home office – no more emails to check or projects to do – he would ask:

“So, now what?”

And I would not have an answer.

And you know what, 13-year-old-me? That is just not okay, is it?

So here I am, 13-year-old me. I am back, and I am going for goal two – I am going to write.

I will call it, as I tried once before, Remotely Nowhere.

Why Remotely Nowhere? That was the name of the online bulletin board system I ran as a child with some old computers and the extra phone lines I begged to have in my house from my parents.  I ran Remotely Nowhere as a place for other geeks to get together and just have a place to write – about tech, what was on our mind – and just life. It flourished, because it used technology to produce my creative outlet of writing – technology as a tool and not a way of life.

So, I will continue to be me, the technology leader. But I owe that kid from 1996 something so much more. He has been waiting long enough to show up but giving me the space to figure this out on my own. 

It is time to go back to that promise and become that writer.

I hope you will join me. I think I have stuff worth writing about, and if not, that is okay too –

I am doing this for my soul, and for 1996 Grant Dawson.

You know – just in case he shows up.

– Grant Dawson

  Noblesville Indiana – May 2020