I’ve been an introvert, avoiding crowds and mingling with new people, since I was young. For a long time, I though my shyness a hinderance, something that needed fixing. Like so many things about me.

As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve learned to accept, to a certain extent, the way I am, rather than trying to “fix” myself. This isn’t to say self-improvement isn’t a good thing, but within realistic expectations. I will never be an extrovert. I’ll never be completely comfortable in crowds or with new people. But over the years with help and practice, I’ve gotten to the point where I can overcome these character traits in limited bursts.

And I think I’m fairly good at it. I know how to be polite, personable, and how to talk to relatively large groups of people without freaking out. But it comes at a cost. One I didn’t completely understand until I went to Washington D.C. to complete my Masters Degree capstone project.

D.C. Was a Tiring Blast

I had a great time in D.C. I, for the first time during the two-year program, had the opportunity to meet some of my fellow classmates. Because the program is entirely online, we took classes together, but resided all across the country: Virginia, New York, Nevada, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, and more. With different backgrounds, career paths, and political ideologies, we were quite the hodge-podge of folks.

While I enjoyed the days spent together with these fine people, being “on” as it were, for eight to 10 hours a day was exhausting for me. Yes, there was moving around, getting up early, and having to be mentally sharp during the day, but it was really the social interaction that took the biggest toll on me each day.

Constant Reminder

Though I learned better my limits during the D.C. Residency, I was nonetheless reminded about those limits just a week ago.

It was Opening Day of the Hawaii State Legislature. A day for pomp and food and talk-story. And glad-handing and lobbying.

In the past when I’ve attended the Opening Day festivities, I’ve usually done so with friends and long-time colleagues. Though socializing is involved, it has always been easy because I’m around people I know fairly well. But this year, as I branch out doing some consulting on my own, I travelled the halls of the Capitol with a new client.

It was fun, to a point, and I think we made some good contacts. When I decided it was time to return home to do some other work, I said goodbye to my client and made my way home. I had every intention of doing work. But once I got home, changed clothes and sat down for a minute, I was hit with a wave of exhaustion. Despite knowing my socializing limits and the toll it takes on me, I was surprised at how tired I as all of a sudden.

A nap was required.

A Measured Approach

Most people I know who are involved in political activism are extroverts. They enjoy the work in all the ways which I force myself to be good at. In all the ways it energizes them, it knocks me out. And though this is something I know about myself, I also think it’s something of which I’m going to have to be regularly reminded. Long days of socializing, meetings, engaging at the Legislature and Council, etc. likely won’t end with me back at the home office doing more work. They’ll likely end with me laid out, mentally and physically exhausted.

Knowing this and trying to adjust for it might mean limiting how much time I spend each day, or week, being “on.” And it might mean late afternoon naps followed by late night sessions at my desk. In any case, Opening Day was a reminder about knowing my limits and doing a better job accounting for them.

I accept these aspects of my personality, though sometimes I wish it was a bit easier. A bit less work. Maybe as I get older and continue to “practice” it’ll become easier. But I’m not counting on it.

Read more

Two State Senators, Stanley Chang and Karl Rhoads have introduced a Constitutional Amendment lowering the voting age (for non-federal) races, to 16.

In an article, published in Civil Beat, Senator Rhoads says, “the idea is to get people in the habit young, and they’ll keep doing it.” A noble intent.

As a wide field of entrenched politicians continues to obstruct substantive changes in the face a wide range of mounting problems, I’ve seen growing effort to increase participation in elections. In most cases, those efforts manifest through voter registration drives and Get Out The Vote (GOTV) campaigns.

An extension of those efforts might be to decrease the voting age to 16. However, low voter participation in Hawaii, is only part of what I see as a more complex problem. So, should 16-year-olds be allowed to vote? There are opinions on both sides of the debate and I find myself straddling the divide.

Young People Should Have A Say In Their Future

There are certainly good reasons why someone who is 16 should be allowed to vote. In Hawaii, 16 is the age of consent for sex. It’s the age someone can get a learners’ permit to drive a car. Certainly, there are 16 year-olds who are working, who are paying taxes. And the world is on the brink of environmental collapse. Shouldn’t the generation inheriting a world on fire have a say in how we address the problem?

Young people are still required to register for the military draft (18-25). They may be forced to fight (and potentially die) in a war by politicians elected earlier. So, shouldn’t they have a say? And someone can join the military at 17, with parental consent.

I’ve met extremely intelligent, hopeful, engaged and thoughtful teenagers who are well versed in certain policy issues. I’ve seen them campaign for candidates and issues. And I’ve watched and listened as some have spoken passionately and thoughtfully. On matters ranging from gun control to universal health care, to the threat of climate change. Looking at these bright and young future leaders, the answer seems obvious to me; yes, let them vote! The world could only be better for it.

We Shouldn’t Discount Age and Experience

On the other side, someone who is 16 is simply too young to be granted such responsibility. It has been pointed out by some that 18 is the minimum age for “maturity.” The frontal lobe of the brain isn’t fully developed at 16 (though there exists research which says the brain isn’t developed at 18 either). With that immaturity may come a level of inexperience or unfamiliarity with the world. A lack of nuanced understanding of the issues affecting the world today. Or the critical thinking skills necessary to make decisions about candidates or issues.

Maybe its because I’m getting older myself, but I often find myself wondering about young people. About the things that motivate and animate them. Should a generation of people spending countless hours wandering the streets chasing imaginary creatures for sport really be considered mature enough to make decisions that affect everyone?

Though voter turnout for the youngest voting bracket (18-29) saw a significant increase from the 2014 to 2018 midterm elections. It remained low when compared with the 2016 elections (think Bernie Sanders). These increases are promising, but prove to me a relative lack of maturity in voting. Sanders is a charismatic candidate who did indeed energize young people. But in the absence of a mobilizing figure, young voters largely remain disengaged.

I believe strong critical thinking skills are necessary to make informed decisions in the voting booth. With little life experience and a base knowledge primarily reliant on what their teachers are saying, I’m not sure a 16-year-old is properly equipped with knowledge or experience enough to enter a voting booth.

Finally, there is a reason for some concern with 16 year-olds being too influenced by their parents. Or worse, that those receiving ballots at home (Hawaii is contemplating all-mail elections), kids would be forced to vote the way their parents want.

No Easy Answer

Ultimately, every argument against lowing the voting age in Hawaii can be negated by looking at the way seasoned voters make their decisions. Certainly, there are adults who I’d say lack experience, knowledge, or the ability to think critically. So if that’s true for someone who is 18 and can vote, why not let younger people vote as well?

Fears about parents forcing their kids to vote a certain way already exist for kupuna whose ballots are filled out by their caregiving children. But obviously, no one is suggesting senior citizens shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

These are points well taken. I’m just not sure pointing to a moron 40-something’s right to vote is justification for allowing moron kids to vote.

I believe strongly that the problems facing our democracy are deeply structural. With a failing education system and a voyeuristic (and biased) 24-hour news media interested primarily in ratings and entertainment, voters young and old are arguably ill-equipped to make important decisions in the voting booth.

Increasing voter participation is a noble goal and worth supporting. But in the end, my greatest concern is making sure we are giving people the cognitive tools to make informed and thoughtful decisions. Until we tackle this problem, I’m not sure I’m comfortable expanding the voting pool.

I’m sure this debate will continue and friends on both sides of the issue will remain emphatic about why they’re right. I look forward to being convinced one way or another; it just hasn’t happened yet.

Read more

Ulysses.app

As I attempt to (yet again) restart regular posts to this blog, I’m trying out the Ulysses app.

Previously, I had been using Desk PM. But as I seek to rely more heavily on my 10.5 inch iPad Pro, I began looking for a way to easily move between writing on my MacBook Pro and the iPad, I found the app had no iOS option.

While this will serve as my first post in over a year, I hope to write something more substantive very soon.

Read more

https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/resolution.png

As a general rule, I reject the notion of new year resolutions. Sure, I get why people make them; the start of a new year seems like a natural occasion to make new changes in one’s life. But I’m not sure I have ever met anyone who has successfully kept true to their new year resolutions.

You know what they say; today is the first day of the rest of your life. It seems to me if you are really interested in making a change, why wait for a national holiday to do it? Despite my apathy for new year resolutions, I expect 2018 to be a pivotal year in my life. In lots of different ways and for lots of different reasons.

40 in 2018

Though I haven’t thought much about it (partly because I don’t want to), 2018 will mark my 40th birthday. In recent years, my birthdays have generally come and gone with little fanfare and I don’t know that I expect much different next year.

But for me, passing 40 years of age is a milestone I am not looking forward to. In my mind, I should be much further along in my life. And though I’ve made trade-offs over the last 15 years, because I love this place I live, I feel fairly unaccomplished.

I own no property. No savings and minimal retirement investments. I remain single and haven’t been in a committed relationship since moving to Hawaii; I have no family of my own. And perhaps most frustrating is the feeling I am still struggling to make a career in my chosen profession.

I imagine most people when they reach 40, feel like “an adult”. I often don’t as I feel like I’m still trying to find my place, my purpose.

A Catalyst for Professional Changes

Despite the looming milestone (and potential mid-life crisis), 2018 could prove to be the most pivotal year of my life after 2002, when I moved to Hawaii.

One way or another, I suspect I will see my current employment come to an end.

Governor David Ige, for whom I work, is facing a tough reelection this year. And while I believe he can stave off his primary election challenger, there is certainly no guarantee. As an appointee, I work at the pleasure of the Governor and would have to be rehired by his successor in the event of his loss.

I’ve been in this situation before; four years ago when Ige beat the sitting Governor, Neil Abercrombie, in the Democratic Primary. I was incredibly fortunate to be kept on for the current administration. I seriously doubt I will have that kind of luck twice.

While this situation creates a level of uncertainty in my job, I don’t completely mind it. Without significant changes to my role and responsibilities in the office, I am not inclined to stay to the end of a second term. I’ve gotten about all I can out of my current position and am ready to move on.

This was the case two years ago, which is why I decided to go back to school.

In July, I will complete my Masters in Political Management from George Washington University. I started the program with the goal of learning some new skills, as well as validating with an advanced degree the skills I’ve cultivated as a volunteer activist over the last decade.

Once I decided to do it, I never looked back. Despite knowing the financial expense and that I’d likely be paying for it for the rest of my life. I wanted to move up and out of my current position and the degree was the best way I saw to do it.

And though I am struggling to figure out what comes next professionally, I’m excited (and worried) about what opportunities may present themselves with this specialized degree under my belt.

A Year for Real Change

When I think about what this year has to offer, I am most excited about the progressive political activism that has been building since Bernie Sanders announced his bid for the Presidency. In the more then ten years I’ve been involved in Hawaii politics, I’ve never seen anything like it.

Progressive-minded people are running professional campaigns for elective office across the state in greater numbers than I can recall seeing before. We are organizing, collaborating, breaking down silos across issues. Progressives are coming together for a common purpose and a common agenda: make Hawaii a better place for everyone.

HAPA’s Kuleana Academy has churned out dozens of individuals ready to be solid candidates and activists that can serve as real and useful support to those candidates. I am a graduate of their second cohort.

And the organization I co-founded in early 2017, Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI), is poised to make a marked impact on the 2018 legislative session, as well as the 2018 elections. For the first time, maybe ever, I really feel like I personally will be able to make real tangible change.

A Life in Balance – Personal Goals

Maybe for my whole life, I’ve struggled for balance and for mental and physical wellness. 2018 won’t be any different.

It seems I always have a list of things I want to accomplish, skills I want to improve. I’ve never been great at self-motivation, though there are obviously exceptions.

My parents often point out that I should spend more time focusing on my hobbies, more time relaxing, and more time enjoying the special things Hawaii has to offer. They’re right. Between my day job and the work I am passionate about, there seems little time to take a break for other interests. In what time I do have, I struggle to find the energy to do anything other than being at home on my couch.

Maybe most importantly, I need to be more healthy. Though I continue to struggle with some level of depression, it’s in check. I’ve learned over many years how to cope with its ebbs and flows. But I also need to address my slowly rising weight and general lethargy. There’s no doubt I’d feel better over-all if my physical health were better, but I nonetheless battle to find the motivation.

Aside from politics, I enjoy writing, photography, and music. I will try to continue to develop my skills as a photographer. I will take more time to explore new music to appreciate the artists and albums I already love. At the top of this list: continue to write regularly on this blog about the things in my life.

 

I’m excited and nervous for what 2018 has in store. Here’s hoping it’s mostly great stuff.

Read more