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This is what a $130 blog post looks like. Not like it’s worth $130, but it cost me $130. I make exactly $0 as a writer. So maybe I should actually say, “This is what a -$130 blog post looks like.” That feels more on brand. But let’s get to the real question - how did a person who hates spending money end up shelling out $130 for a blog post that’ll likely take 4 minutes to read and reach approximately 8 people? Answer: Because it was The Thing.

You know, The Thing. The hyperfixation on whatever gadget or tool or electronic or fill-in-the-blank-whatever-else that’s the literal key to your happiness and well-being. The Thing personifies change and better habits, resolve and dedication, joy and self-growth. It’s both the will of the universe and the path to self-actualization. Once you have The Thing, you realize your full potential. The noun becomes the verb. And it all comes at the low, low price of $129.99. At least that was the case for me. Because The Thing that was going to absolutely transform my life was a mechanical keyboard.

Have I always wanted a mechanical keyboard? No. Did I even need a keyboard? Also no. Was I going to obsess over researching them until I finally bought one? Indeed.

And that’s the really sticky part. My hyperfixation ultimately becomes so unwieldy that sometimes it feels like I need to buy The Thing so that I can fully kick off the inevitable – I lose interest in two weeks and get on with my life. This is how I ended up buying a keyboard during 2022, The Year of No Writing.

I honestly don’t remember exactly how it started. It might’ve been a TikTok, might’ve been a coworker in the cubicle next to me, or might’ve just been a targeted ad to lure me down the rabbit hole. But down that bottomless hole I fell.

I’ve always wanted a typewriter (thank you to my grandpa and the movie Finding Forrester) and a mechanical keyboard is the perfect 21st century retro-but-not-too-retro replacement. Wouldn’t it just be so satisfying to type on? The clicking, the resoluteness, the confident snaps of productivity. So satisfying, in fact, that I’d be motivated to write every day. This is all I’ve been missing.

What began as casual browsing quickly spiraled to details I didn’t even know existed a day before. Suddenly I was researching the merits of different key switches, key profiles, key cap styles and heights. Soon my Google search history was full of phrases like, “simple keyboard mods” (the only way anyone referred to modifications) and “best foam for creamy sounding mechanical keyboard”. I went deep. I got lost on YouTube videos of people typing on different keyboards (from tens of dollars to hundreds of dollars) and listening to reviews of different models. I checked my mini screwdriver set to make sure I had the right size and kept the keyboard in my cart for weeks as I wasted away an unreasonable amount of time thinking about it. I stayed up late watching videos, coveting the office setups of YouTubers and TikTokers who review these keyboards. From the moody, all black, dark wood, rainbow-backlit-everything, dark wood to the bright white desk and pegboard also rainbow-backlit-everything desk setups. I wanted that life.

And one day I finally did it. I bought a Keychron K6 68 key wireless bluetooth mechanical keyboard with Gateron G Pro red switches and upgraded to the aluminum frame to make it feel even more luxurious. I waited patiently for it to arrive and my life to change.

“Building a keyboard” is less intimidating than it sounds. At least the way I did it by buying it as a kit. It’s less “building” and more “assembling”. No motherboard (pause while I Google if those are real and not just in classic computer hacking scenes), no soldering iron, no mechanical work. It’s really popping in the switches, screwing in the frame, and individually snapping on each keycap. The most thought-provoking part is just making sure you have the keys in the right place. But, building a keyboard gives the nerdy vibe I was going for.

I’d already picked out which mods I was going to do before the keyboard got there and really I kept it simple. One was to tape the back of the keyboard with painters tape before putting it in the frame, and the other was to get some different foam to go between the keyboard and the frame. Both were easy enough to not feel intimidating but enough to make me feel like I was fully embracing the experience. I wanted a keyboard that sounded like my favorite clips.

Now, we’ve got to fast forward significantly because I bought the keyboard A YEAR AGO and I’ve used it for actual typing exactly one time. It accomplished the goal of sounding super satisfying but I weirdly don’t love how it feels. I want more heft to the keys, more resistance, more typewriter-ness. It’s a fine keyboard. But it’s not my favorite. And after the one use, it now sits on my desk, right next to the keyboard I actually use, and I occasionally tap my fingers across the keys for a 30 second ASMR break. I keep it there because part of me still refuses to fully accept my financial mistake.

Part of the problem is that as much as I love technology, I actually write the best with a pen and paper. I wish that wasn’t the case because it can be kind of a pain to type stuff up I’ve already written but there’s something about it that just helps me feel more connected, helps me think less about the act of writing and more about the thoughts themselves. When I started having success with writing again, it’s because I bought a $5 wire-bound notepad from the grocery store. There’s something about it that feels less intimidating.

A week ago I saw an ad that sent me down a days-long rabbit hole of researching the Remarkable 2. A Remarkable 2 is a digital tablet that mimics the feeling of pen and paper. Think of a Kindle but for writing. This, this is how quickly it starts. Never mind that my sensory sensitivities currently require a very particular kind of paper and pen (don’t be coming at me with a garbage Bic pen). And never mind the fact that I ALREADY HAVE AN IPAD. This is different. This is dedicated solely to writing - no distractions! People give it great reviews and something that hinges on the concept of being like paper and pen has to deliver, right? It even converts your handwriting to typed text at the touch of a button. Think of all the time I’d save. Think of all the trees I’d save. Think of all the stuff I’d get done. It’s the most environmentally-friendly, efficient, productive, career-launching decision.

I've heard that change is like a spiral. When there’s something hard for us to learn, we keep encountering the same lesson over and over again. While it may seem like we’re trapped in a loop with absolutely no progress, over time we make small changes that gradually shift our trajectory upwards. From the top down, the situation is a 2D circle. From the side, it’s a 3D spiral of gradual transformation. And here I am at that pivotal spot where the end meets the beginning, where I decide if I alter my behavior, if I make that move upwards.

I mean, I know that The Thing won’t actually change me. I know that I’m going to get tired of it. That there will be that boost of serotonin at the beginning but after a couple days or weeks or months it’ll wear off and I’ll lose interest. I know I’ll feel sheepish having this collection of electronics that I only mildly use. I know all this.

And yet.

I’m pretty sure the -$428 blog post is right around the corner. There’s no need to be hating on circles.

Coming out is so annoying. I realize that comes from a place of privilege and I’m infinitely grateful to all the people who have come before me, advocated for equality, and slowly fought inch-by-inch for the ground I stand on (please, society, let us at least keep it). To the warriors I say, I’m forever in your debt. But to the rest of you...I say, can we just, like, be done? Because this shit is exhausting.

For those of you who haven’t come out, it’s a little bit like the stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The struggle is REAL and everyone has their own story. The path doesn’t always lead to acceptance but this post isn’t really about the hard-won steps of self-discovery. Instead, it’s about the telling once you’ve gotten there. Sometimes that telling is just to yourself, sometimes it’s to your inner circle, and sometimes you tell the world.

There are so many factors that go into deciding how open you’ll be about your identity. Like, the level of PLANNING that goes into this. The community, the history of vulnerability, the potential negative repercussions. If you’re not sure if it’ll be a safe response, you make a backup plan. You might plan for post-sharing moral support. You decide the venue, the method, the lead up. You come up with the conversation starter, the segue, the actual words. You gear up and sit through the uncomfortable, the anxiety, the anticipation. You think of all the people you’re going to tell personally and what you’re going to say to the people who wanted to be told personally but weren’t (I don’t have a Coming Out contact list, Brenda). It’s like planning a marriage proposal over and over again except the big news is, “I’m me” and the reaction is much less predictable - ranging from, “That’s so amazing!” to “You’re literal evil” and everywhere in between. Throw in clinical anxiety, trauma, and insecurity and you’ve bought yourself a therapist for at least three years.

I’ve come out in a bunch of different ways – in person, one-on-one, in small groups, virtually, over the phone, in email, and in a card. The card one was some of my best work; it was a single sentence in the middle of a bunch of random updates. Her response was, “Way to bury the lede!” and honestly the only surprise there was the sinking realization I’ve been spelling the phrase wrong my whole life.

I think the only thing worse than coming out to family and friends is having to come out A SECOND TIME.

You: But isn’t it easier the second time around?

Me: You haven’t had a negative coming out experience and it shows.

I’ll concede I can see how you got there; the logic makes sense -- even with the negative responses. Like, I already changed their view of me forever, what’s one more time? It’s not like there’s a hell below hell.

But also! It’s still terrible. Maybe it’s not for everybody, but to me, the idea of coming out a second time is even more daunting. By now you know any social interaction can take a toll for me and vulnerability takes significantly more effort. We have a finite amount of energy; why do I gotta be spending mine making these ANNOUNCEMENTS? I already completed my rite of passage – let me move on with my life.

But until we get rid of coming out in general, let me add yet another method to my growing list. Allow me to set the scene of the memory we’ll cherish forevermore.

We’re at this great new local restaurant having lunch. We’re sitting at one of those little bistro tables outside because suddenly we’re in France or New York or wherever those classic movie scenes always are. It’s busy but not too busy, like I don’t feel self-conscious that everyone is hearing our conversation but also, I can totally hear you without feeling like we need to shout. The food is delicious, the weather is perfect, the conversation is flowing in a totally non-awkward way. We’re laughing! We’re bonding! We’ve never had such a great time! We’re chatting about totally normal topics and the conversation naturally, organically even, turns to gender identity as it so often does. Is there anything else we could even be talking about? There’s no other natural progression, really. And after an especially witty anecdote (there just been so many!) I say:

“Oh BTdubs, I’m non-binary.”

“Will you do me a favor?” The blue text bubble lit up on my screen as I sat at my desk in my office. It’s Kaitlyn and the three blinking gray dots show she’s still typing to give me more specifics. “Would you be willing to go pick up the dogs from the vet this afternoon? They’re done early.”

She’d dropped Emmy and Cedar off to get their teeth cleaned on her way to work. This was my first experience with dog teeth cleaning and Kaitlyn had already taught me several things about it (as she does will all aspects of dog ownership) including that they had to get bloodwork done beforehand and the dogs go under anesthesia for it. In general, Kaitlyn takes care of all animal-related care. For the dogs, that means she grooms them, exercises them, feeds them, bathes and brushes them, shops for their food and toys, and all around makes it so they live the lives of queens. My role is to help pay for this lifestyle, feed them when Kaitlyn will be home late, let them out during the day, try to bribe their love with treats, and clean up the ever-present dog hair around the house. And, act as the back-up to picking them up from the vet.

“Yeah I can,” I typed back. Working remotely means my job is more flexible than hers and I could just bring them directly home. After some quick coordinating to figure out how we’d switch cars (I love them but their hair is not allowed in mine), and a look at my work calendar, I left after my next afternoon meeting.

I’ve been to the vet before. Or rather, I’ve been to the vet parking lot. Kaitlyn made sure I know exactly where it is in case of emergencies, and I once needed to pick up a medication for Emmy. It was during Covid lockdown times though, so they just came out to my car.

Kaitlyn prepped me before going. “I talked to the vet and the girls did fine. It’s also already paid for. You just have to go pick them up.” Simple.

But as I pulled into the parking lot, the anxiety started to hit – both because it was a new experience and also because, try as I might, I’m just downright awkward with pets, including my own. What if they’re so loopy they don’t recognize me? Or they’re just not excited to see me? What if I’m so bad at this the workers don’t even believe I’m their owner? What if they think I’m a dog napper?!

It was an irrational fear but to my anxious brain, the only thing irrational about it was that a dog napper would be more calm, confident, and natural with dogs than me. I just need to act the part for a few minutes so they’ll actually release them into my care. As if this was suddenly a meeting with Dog Social Services and our very rights to ownership were on the line.

This wasn’t my first experience with dog owner imposter syndrome. Some weekends I tag along with Kaitlyn to her dog sporting events and yes, the people who attend those types of things are exactly the level of enthusiasts you’d imagine. I’ve gotten sucked into conversations with other dog owners who naturally assume I’m at the same level of commitment as them. As if I attend these things regularly. As if I’m there, right in that moment, for reasons other than loving my wife. I smile and nod and try to laugh in the right places and overall seem engaged in these conversations while trying to hide as much as possible how little I know about basic dog training. I never really feel like I’m very convincing because I think the level of discernment pet lovers have is next level. And now, once again, I was about to be in a room full of Dog People.

I could hear Kaitlyn’s voice in the back of my mind, “Why are you worried?! You don’t even have to do anything,” with genuine confusion about how I could possibly find anxiety in this basic task. You underestimate me, imaginary Kaitlyn.

I walked up to the front desk and said as casually as I could muster, “I’m just here to pick up Emmy and Cedar.”

“Okay perfect! They’re just in the back. I’ll let them know you’re here and someone will bring them up shortly,” she said, giving no indication her dog-napper sensor was on high alert.

“Great, thanks!” I said and turned to find a seat in the waiting room. There were three dogs and their owners already sitting. Just be cool, I told myself, while also strategizing how I would be able to get Emmy and Cedar out without them saying hi to the other dogs. They’re very well behaved (thank you Kaitlyn) but unexpected interaction management is above my pay grade.

I sat off to the side and pulled out my phone to wait, scrolling through email as I braced for the worst of it. I looked up with any movement, 100% not relaxed, until a staff member called out, “Emmy and Cedar?” like a nurse at the doctor’s office. I stood up, wondering where the dogs were, and listened to her go through a quick pamphlet recap of the procedure.

“Are they able to eat right when they get home?” I asked, hopefully improving my credibility as a dog owner but also just repeating verbatim what Kaitlyn’s question was.

“Yep, we just recommend you start with half of what they normally eat,” she said. I nodded and she followed up with, “Okay, I’ll just go grab them and I’ll be right back.”

She walked away while I stayed there standing, wondering for the next five minutes how long “right back” would be. Finally, the familiar little beasts led the way as she walked back through the door.

They were on temporary leashes that she handed to me as she started switching them out for their real ones. I held on, hoping it wasn’t too tight of a lead to make her judge me or somehow choke them but also not wanting to give them enough space to wander off to the other dogs.

“…You can let go now,” she hinted as she traded me for the newly attached leashes. I thanked her and led them out the door, relieved I’d made it through.

But it wasn’t over. I realized as I walked across the parking lot that I was about to encounter an unexpected obstacle. I had two dogs and needed to lift them one at a time into the car. How was I supposed to use two arms to pick one up while holding onto the other one, making sure she didn’t wander away or worse, get hit by a car. This is it. I thought. This is the moment where I get found out. The one bright spot was Kaitlyn had at least already taught me how to lift them up without them wiggling around like a distressed worm fighting for its life.

I opened the back door of the car before wrapping one leash up and around my arm. Feeling like it was secure, I picked Emmy up to put her in her crate, dropped her leash, and quickly picked up Cedar. “Wait!” I said, mimicking Kaitlyn’s authoritative voice as I stumbled through taking off their leashes and closing their crate doors. I’m pretty sure they can tell when I don’t know how to do things and, rather than try to take advantage, they wait patiently for me to figure it out. I closed the back door, got in the car myself, and pulled out of the parking lot. Against all odds, I made it.

As I drove home, I surprised even myself when, rather than the typical rehashing of the anxiety-ridden past 15 minutes, my thoughts turned instead to how grateful I was that everything with their appointments had gone fine. Even though it was routine, there’s always that pesky thought that something bad can happen.

“You’re good girls,” I said. “You’re good puppies,” repeating similar sentiments along with reassurance we were almost home as I drove extra carefully. I have no idea what recovering from anesthesia is like for dogs but at the very least I knew they hadn’t eaten since 9 pm the previous night and that alone is cause for immense empathy.

It might not seem like it externally, but I’ve grown a ton in the last four years of being a dog owner. While it might not feel like much, I like to tell myself it’s in the ways that matter most. I may be the world’s most awkward and unqualified dog owner, but they’ve booped, licked, and wagged their way into my heart. I honestly can’t imagine our lives without them, nor do I want to. It’s admittedly taken me longer than most to develop an emotional bond – even the act of talking to them is a learned behavior. But while I may not fully understand how dog owners do all the things they do, I definitely understand why.

That small favor, though, babe? I think we can all agree my efforts to manage the bare minimum were nothing short of heroic.

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