Some months ago my parents bought me the book 3000 Questions About Me, published by Piccadilly. I readily accept that I’m not terribly communicative about my life without being prompted; conveniently the book is packed with writing prompts that are designed to spur thoughts and inspire reflection. In that my friends and family can get to know me better, I’ve decided to start answering these prompts in an open and public format, being as true and honest as possible in all cases.

I readily accept that the importance of being honest sometimes flies in the face of best social practices; what if someone such as a potential employer finds my blog and sees something they don’t like? Honestly that’s a risk I’m willing to take. This post—and those that will follow—will be a deep dive into who I see myself as and what I hold important, and I fully recognize that not all answers are suitable for everyone.

With that in mind, I trust the maturity of my readers and encourage anyone who is coming along this journey with me to only read the answers to questions which interest them. I don’t think any of my thoughts are shameful or worth self-censoring, no matter how hard they may be to express.

With all of that said, I’d like to dive into the first page of questions, 15 heavy-hitting prompts that I answered this morning. I thank you for reading and learning more about me, and I hope this book will spur more interpersonal conversations down the road.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? (0001)

“Perfect happiness” is a concept I struggle with defining. I can think to years back where I had what I affectionately call “the best Saturday ever,” which was pretty darn close, and on more than one occasion I’ve awakened in the middle of the night to find my wife’s arms wrapped around me, which always provides an all-encompassing sense of comfort, but if we look at, in all the situations in the world, where could I be the most happy? I would have to say that for me, “perfect happiness” is being at peace with and accepting who and how I am, finally finding some manner to self-validate that actually feels fulfilling. Being able to look back at my life with even-keeled reflection and recognize my own failings and celebrate my own successes.

A large part of my life in the past two decades has been the pursuit of mental stability and grounding, particularly when it comes to trying to give myself a fair shake. I like to think that, if I ever get there, it’ll be a pretty wonderful place.

What is your greatest fear? (0002)

Wow, this book is starting in with the tough ones! When it comes to what I fear most, my thoughts always revolve around the idea of failing my wife and friends. Whether that means not being able to provide for her/them, not being around when they need me most, or becoming a toxic or negative influence on their lives, that’s all up in the air. I want to be the best me possible to help them, to care for them, and to aid them in their endeavors. Utterly failing at that—especially causing them harm—would absolutely qualify as my greatest fear.

What is the trait you most despise in yourself? (0003)

Seriously, it’s like these questions were written for my subconscious to dwell on. Honestly I most despise my inability to feel satisfied. I have to force myself to go to bed most nights because I don’t have a sense of satisfaction about what I accomplished during the day. If I get a big sale at work or accomplish a major task, that joy is fleeting, ephemeral. I find it very difficult to see myself as worthy of reward or credit, almost no matter my position or involvement. Closely related to question 0001 above, my hope is that—some day—through therapy, support, and medication if necessary, I can see things from a slightly less skewed angle, and actually feel content with who I am and what I get done.

What is your greatest extravagance? (0004)

In the past I may have answered this question with “my kickin-rad computer,” which I do enjoy, but nowadays I think my current greatest extravagance is buying friends lunch. I feel guilty that others have different/lower/less financially-rewarding jobs than I may, and one of the only ways I feel I can offer consolation or camaraderie is to treat them to lunch, often more frequently than is fiscally sensible. These days I’m actively working on downsizing my own life, so I don’t have many possessions remaining that I would consider “extravagant,” but my spending habits definitely point toward how I treat my friends.

What is your current state of mind? (0005)

In the opening of this entry I promised that I would be open and honest with my answers, and so I have to admit that, right now, I’m worried. Years and years ago I was hired on as the first employee for a new department, and shortly thereafter we hired a friend of mine. It has recently come to our attention that she is the lowest-paid technical resource on our team, regardless of a phenomenal work track record, rapport with clients, and developed work acumen. She’s currently in a meeting with the VP of our division/department asking for that situation to be rectified. Honestly, I’m worried for her because while she’s a fantastically reliable and necessary part of our team, it’s quite likely that senior management won’t correlate her actual value with dollars on the expense report and won’t even budge on her compensation. We’re going through a time of change and growth in our department, and I neither want to see anyone on our team thrown to the proverbial wolves, or strike out on their own due to workplace dissatisfaction. Whew, that one got personal.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue? (0006)

Looking at the historic “seven heavenly virtues”—chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility—it’s difficult for me to single any one out as being “overrated.” I see a great deal of hypocrisy in our American culture when it comes to these virtues, in that they are extolled but rarely if ever acted upon, and it makes me frown when I read over that list and see how few are actually practiced by those who lead our society. If I had to narrow one down, I would say chastity. The idea of remaining “pure” and uncontaminated has both an enormous amount of historical bias and shame associated with it, which I don’t think benefits anyone. Be true to yourself, be true to what you want, and as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult, go have fun; don’t be afraid or ashamed of yourself and don’t let closed-minded outsiders decide or dictate how you live your life.

On what occasion do you lie? (0007)

For a long while I considered myself someone who “says nothing that is untrue,” which is a fancy way of saying “lies without telling direct falsehoods.” Whether it was a little game I had to feel superior over others—having them believe something incredulous just because I was an effective story-teller—or because I had/have a streak of narcissism running through me, some time ago I decided such immature antics weren’t doing anyone any favors, and really didn’t make me feel any better in the long term. Nowadays I work on the difference between being “honest” and being “blunt.” There are many ways of saying something, conveying the same information, but using or providing different emotional cues. I’d honestly say these days I most lie when I don’t care about the situation or scenario, when someone asks me for an opinion and I genuinely have nothing to add. I try not to, but still I catch myself every now and again.

What do you most dislike about your appearance? (0008)

Two things specifically; my smile and my physique. As a youth I had braces, which did a great deal to align my top teeth, but I was terrible about wearing my retainer, which means there’s a gap between my front two teeth. The gap makes me feel very self-conscious about laughing, smiling, or opening my mouth, and so most of my smiles are tight-lipped half-twists of my lips. It feels like I can’t fully express myself or be faithful to how I’m feeling, because the (self-assigned) pressure of my own presentation weighs on me. As for my physique, some years ago I took to working out regularly, tracking my caloric intake, and started to look and feel much more fit and trim than I had before, even in the heights of swim season. Unfortunately shortly thereafter my depression worsened and while by this time I’m receiving treatment for it, the motivation and gumption to make those life choices again is sadly lacking. I really hope I can get beyond the “what’s the point” mood I so often find myself in and make a concerted effort to look and feel better again.

Which living person do you most despise? (0009)

Boy, a real positive set of questions to start this book on, Piccadilly. It’s difficult for me to single out any one person, primarily because the people my mind immediately go to are the results of deeper issues within our society. Trump being elected showed just how much of the country believes in party over country, and how fear and fascism can motivate people to action far more easily than compassion and humility can. That isn’t to say that there aren’t people on the Democratic side I’d be glad to see out of office, but between Trump and Mitch McConnell it’s hard to say that the country itself isn’t broken. I suppose the trait I despise most is the aforementioned hypocrisy.

What is the quality you like most in a man? (0010)

Finally onto double-digit questions! When it comes to how well I’ll get along with a man, I’d say the quality or trait that most appeals to me is competence. Perhaps it’s born out of my own insecurities but I don’t worry myself too much with how other men feel about what they can do, I like men who get things done. Aspects such as compassion and kindness are certainly important, but in just picking one, I’d most argue for competency.

What is the quality you like most in a woman? (0011)

Distinct from question 0010, in women I find confidence and perseverance most appealing. This world has been so tilted in men’s favor for so long, I am thoroughly impressed by any woman who is able to maintain an aura of self-confidence and -assurance, an unshakable faith in her own abilities, in the face of so much pushback, hostility, and inequity in our civilization. Someone who knows what she wants and takes steps to get it always makes me take notice. The reason I don’t say “competence” like above is that I believe too many women are denied the opportunity to achieve, and as such basing their value on what they achieve is just another way of keeping them down.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? (0012)

After giving a lengthy presentation some months back a coworker came up to me and recommended that I cut down on how much I start sentences with “honestly,” “seriously,” and “realistically.” I think my overuse of those words stems from my fear that I won’t be believed or taken seriously, and to point specific attention to an important point. I’ve tried to adjust my speech to not be so repetitive but it’s a process I have to keep working on, as I still catch myself in most conversations using them at least once or twice.

Who or what is the greatest love of your life? (0013)

While at different times in my life I have been head-over-heels with various people or ideas, I don’t think it’s a stretch for anyone who knows me to predict that I’ll easily and without reservation say my wife Noël. Neither of us are perfect individuals, and we both have our “stuff” to work on, but I feel we compliment each other just so darn well. We have varied interests, a great deal of compassion, and we love to make each other laugh. We’ve been together for around fifteen years, married for ten, and I am ever so thankful for the support and care we show for one another.

When and where were you happiest? (0014)

Battling depression as I have been for probably most of my life, it takes truly staggering moments to rise above the fog. Narrowing everything down to a single instant, I’d have to say taking a well-deserved nap immediately after my wedding. We had been going full-blast with family and preparations for what felt like weeks and after we drove away from the ceremony we made it home and just collapsed on the bed; I don’t even think I got my bow tie off before I started snoring. We were together, we had entwined our lives, and we were getting real rest. Waking up and looking over to her with the evening light streaming in from the window is a moment I hope to always remember.

Which talent would you most like to have? (0015)

When my parents first bought me this book I saw this question and my mind started racing with possibilities and ideas. Does this question relate to skill-based talents? Naturally-gifted talents? Personality or psychology-based traits? Luckily I think I’ve overcome the choice paralysis and I’ve arrived at the idea that I’d most like to be a better speaker. Some people reading this may scoff, pointing to my theatre degree, years of improv, leading a Masonic lodge of over 150 members, and having given many presentations and instructional courses to all audiences over the years, but in truth I wish I were more concise, organized, and thorough in my speech. Too often I get sidetracked with stories which, while I hope they’re entertaining, probably don’t contribute much to the narrative I’m trying to weave. While there’s evidence I’m very good at memorized speeches and orations, I find that I do best either with the whole thing planned out or a great lack of notes at all; if there’re notecards in my hand, boy does it not go over well.

Header image of the Southern Lights presented by NASA on their fantastic ongoing blog, Astronomy Picture of the Day