JCarroll.net is my hiding place in plain sight. This site is primarily a way to remember myself--to always remain cognizant of selected events and ideas I hold dear. It is by no means comprehensive; in fact I would say that about 90% of my life goes undocumented. Nonetheless, there is much more information about me here than will likely interest you, so please, feel free to ignore. If you see some common threads, it's because the things in which I am generally interested lie somewhere inside this mess:
- The beauty of the world and the analogues between natural systems and human behavior;
- Social justice;
- Meaningful discourse, critical thought;
- An appreciation of randomness, a desire to avoid finding patterns where there are none;
- Constant exploration--of the world, of myself, of others, of everything;
- Creative process, visual thinking, design (and a particular love for geometry);
- Stewardship of the natural and built environments, place-making;
- A love/hate (I love to observe it/generally hate the substance of it) relationship with pop culture;
- Balanced frugality;
- Most importantly...enjoying life with the ones I love, making the most of our 'one time around'.
A snapshot of my current state of affairs might go like this: Madly in love with my wife Rose and our two little offspring, Max (6) & Esmé (3), who refer to themselves as "kitty cat" and "bunny" respectively. Wow, four of us now, only used to be two--but now the four feels the same as the two--what a thought that is! I feel like I'm swimming in the deep water that is being together as a family, playing, discovering, hanging out, growing, laughing, getting angry sometimes. Max is beautifully intense. Esmé is a delicious sweetheart. I'm still dumbfounded by them both every day--the things they do, their emerging personalities, their little (rapidly) growing bodies. The world is new to them…there could be no better way to exist. The lack of social context, bias and prejudice, the ability to see things without preconceived notions of what they are--what a wonderful gift young humans are given! The struggle to hold on to this purity of thought should be a lifelong goal.
I give most of my mental and emotional energy to my family, as it should be. This leads to my next thought: the struggle of pushing forward with personal and professional goals and interests while keeping family first priority. It's difficult, perhaps doubly so for Rose, who stays at home with the kids. For me, the only part of the personal-family-professional balancing act that is not difficult is the act of being a provider. Something instinctual drives a person to work hard, protect and provide for a family. Doing this while still living a self-actualized life (i.e., pursuing and achieving personal goals) is the true challenge. Of course now many of my personal goals now specifically relate to my children and my wife--all of us as a family. This convergence and overlapping simplifies things a bit.
Professionally, I was trained as an architect, and practiced for a bit over four years before returning to business school. After an intense two years of study, I began managing projects for a national real estate developer. The next thing I knew I was recruited by a private real estate firm to run their acquisitions business. So I've evolved from a designer to a capital transactions professional--quite different from the path I would have expected had you discussed the matter with me in 1996.
Through it all, I still consider myself an architect-at-heart, particularly when considering the way I solve problems (a synthesis approach involving visual thinking--though final decision-making remains rooted in the realities of economics). My personal definition of what it means to be an architect constantly evolves; the term has a much broader meaning for me, perhaps, than for some.
A part of me, and a part of Rose, our souls together, will always walk along Via del Corso in Florence.
As of 2008, a little piece of all of us--me, Rose, Max and Esmé--stayed behind in Japan, and in South Korea.
I am an espresso fanatic; I can pull a good shot and make a near-perfect latte. Other diversions I enjoy include photography, roadtrippin' (a very important part of my life with Rose), collecting and appreciating fine art by lesser-known artists, computers and technology (gadgets!), reading, sculpture (though not for years now), and filling my sketchbook with seemingly random images and words. (Later, I go back and try to comprehend what, if anything, those images and words mean.)
I was born four years prior to the official introduction of the Atari 2600. I spend a lot of time remembering my glory days in the video arcades of the early Eighties. I still play a lot of video games (if I can keep myself awake after reading the kids to sleep).
I am a tweaker.
I believe very strongly in Living Below Your Means, and I tend to have a 'Millionaire Next Door' attitude toward wealth-building.
I have a strong tendency to take the long way home. The shortest distance between two points is usually of little interest to me.
If I see you staring up at skyscrapers in a city, I'll think well of you. If you still stare at them after living in that city for five years, then I'll know you are a person whose eyes are not closed.
Psychological Type, based on the theories of Carl Jung and Isabel Briggs Myers; My type: iNTj; Rose's Type: eNFp. Max & Esmé...?
The following is a list of some formative events in my life:
Year 0: Born (March 1, 1973).
Years 1-5: When I think about the incredible joy and richness of experience my children give me at these ages, I find it amazing that I don't remember more about my own life in these formative years. I guess that's what photographs are for. I remember trying to help my dad dig a big hole in our muddy front yard at our new house. I remember a good bit about Kindergarten, like the feeling of the 'goal'--the wooden bus-garage door that served as the safe-zone during freeze tag. I remember wending in and out of shrubbery next to buildings. I remember the color (red) and feel of the shag carpet in the living room of our house. I remember cubby-holes under stairs.
When I was 6, I cut a large hole in a wall in my house because I wanted to understand what was inside. (For some reason, I also thought that the switch-track piece to my HO-scale model railroad set was lost in there.) I was so proud of this hole that my father could not bring himself to punish me for the property damage. This set within me the mindset that "it's okay to cut large holes in things," a theory that I still hold to today.
Year 7: I didn't win the remote-controlled car race in my second grade class. The race was dominated by Bobby S., who had a Formula 1-looking car (except with 6 wheels) that was fully maneuverable in every direction and could literally run over all of the other cars. I had a Pontiac Firebird that could go straight and reverse-right, weakly.
Years 7-8: Discovery of video games. Future World arcade; Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Galaxian. I was hypnotized by the noise and light...it was magic.
Year 9: Christmas 1982--Atari 2600--with Pitfall! Bliss!
When I was 11, it was 1984. This was a particularly good year for me. I was in fifth grade. I wrote my first computer program on an Apple IIe. Epiphany! My teacher was Ms. McKleveen. She was an airplane pilot, knew a lot about computers and read "A Wrinkle in Time" to us. Mighty Orbots, the best cartoon ever, was on ABC Saturday mornings. I made every effort to spend as much time as possible in the arcades. That year, I had two very good friends: Patrick Hancy and David Butler.
Between the ages of 12 and 14, my parents cut my hair, rather than letting a barber or "stylist" do it (seemed like a good idea at the time) and I didn't pay any attention to the clothes I wore. This did not bode well for my popularity ranking in junior high school. I didn't realize that being popular was something to which I should pay attention--I was too busy having fun with my Commodre 64, graph paper, and my geek-a-nerd friends.
When I was 15, my parents left a Baptist church that was full of hypocrisy and gossip. This permanently rooted my respect for my parents, and encouraged me to continue down the path toward free thought.
When I was 16, I got a real haircut and started paying attention to the clothes I wore. It was my sophomore year, and I started to think about being popular. I ditched the friends with whom I used to play video games, manufacture homebrew D&D, write computer programs, and enter math competitions, and concentrated on being part of the desirable social crowd. Oops.
By age 17, my junior year of high school, I realized what a mistake I had made by wanting to be popular. As it happens, I was somewhat popular (it was that easy?), but I had little patience for the typical high-school shallowness of the mainline crowd. I hated the fact that they weren't passionate about anything. However, the friends I had abandoned the previous year were no longer accessible to me. I couldn't go back, and I didn't want to stay where I was. So I started over, and let my friends, interests and passions grow again--this time organically, naturally, from scratch. Since then, to this day, I have generally maintained a constant state of happiness in my social relationships.
Between the ages of late 15 and early 18, I spent a lot of time in the Art Room at my high school. This was my salvation, in so many ways. You see, my high school had quite a fundamentalist, strict, religious atmosphere--needless to say it didn't have a natural tendency to foster creativity and free thought. The Art Room was a sanctuary, guarded by the wise Mrs. Olsen, where the misunderstood could find solace and feel free to create and think. During this time I augmented my interest in physics with an interest in art.
At 19, I entered architecture school with a cocky attitude and a sense that I could do anything. I was quickly put in my place, both by peers who were much more naturally talented than I, as well as my professors. Once I calmed down and saw myself accurately within my context, I realized that I was indeed in the right place, but that a lot of hard work was called for. Thankfully, I delivered, and didn't let myself down. This set me on a path to emerge from college humble, with expertise in my field, and not afraid to work hard.
When I was 21 I went to Europe. I lived in Florence, Italy for half a year in a little apartment on Borgo Degli Albizi--right next to the Jolly Cafe and just one minute's walk from the Duomo. It gave me a sense of perspective that was frightening to me at the time. Infection of wanderlust acquired.
Year 22: I spent the bulk of the summer before my fourth year in college devouring personal observations about the United States with my newfound perspective gained traveling throughout Europe. Living abroad, for the first time, and for an extended period of time, codified in me the notion that there are many correct ways of living in the world--not just the way we do it here in the U.S.
My fourth year of architecture school was rewarding--I felt like I’d hit my stride. In an interesting contrast, I produced one of the most meaningful projects of my academic career that year, a Catholic chapel, at a time when I was questioning religion more than ever. (On a side note, I authored my first website in 1995).
My 23rd year was the last year of the five-year architecture program at Kent State University. I had truly amazing teachers that year: Michael Robinson from Harvard, Jeanine Centuori from Cranbrook, and Russell Rock, who defies association. This was the year we rebelled against the graduate school (writing manifestos and all), took an emotional trip to Chicago, trekked through the “worst” neighborhoods of Cleveland, and truly learned what community was. I learned from these people, especially Michael, that you can accomplish anything if you are willing to work until you bring down the gates of hell.
Also in year 23, my buddy (later my best man) and I road-tripped around the U.S. for about 1.5 months, sleeping in hostels, the car, and camping a lot. We hit most major cities and national parks, wandered aimlessly a fair amount, didn't get into too much trouble, had a lot of fun. Spent about $35 a day. Wouldn't trade that experience for anything. Lots of stories.
When I was 24, I met Rose. My life changed again. Two weeks after meeting, as we stood in the middle of the oval at the abandoned reservoir, we both knew that our souls had become permanently connected.
At age 25, with the help and encouragement of Rose, I started Opensewer. During this time I was working for the best architecture firm in Cleveland, Ohio: van Dijk Pace Westlake (now Westlake Reed Leskosky).
At 26, Rose and I eloped and went home to Italy. It was like being born again. We came back to America...but sometimes I think in our heads and hearts we're still there, wandering the streets of Florence and Lucca together.
At 27, I quit my job (as did Rose) and we moved to Ithaca so that I could pursue graduate studies at Cornell University. Revised annual salary: $0. Lifestyle: completely submerged in school. It was more work than I bargained for, but wonderful in so many ways.
Age 28: This year, while at Cornell, there was a fair amount of reconciliation between my past and what I perceived to be my future. This had a lot to do with a clash between artistry and economics, and it was quite messy. This year, my relationship with my wife was challenged by the workload of graduate school, but also deepened in wonderful ways.
Age 29: One of the most exciting yet...a little one on the way...we made it through graduate school, emerging as a stronger couple...I got a great job...hmmm, and we moved back to Cleveland. We'll have to see how this turns out.
Age 30: The move back to Cleveland from New York, the new job, being close to family again (for better and for worse), MAX!, the new house...
Age 31 (2004): I love my boy, I love my wife, I love my job. Full speed ahead.
Age 32 (2005): Recruited to a new job...that one came out of nowhere! A beautiful trip to Firenze with Max and Rose. A Christmas in New York to remember. The Opensewer closes.
Age 33 (2006): Esmé is born! Two years and counting at a job without moving on to a new opportunity...a first for me! This new place shows some promise...
Age 34 (2007): Amazed by how beautiful children make life. Can I stay awake past 9:00 PM after reading to the kids? Learning what it means to be a principal investor. Difficult negotiations lead to "flow". Closing deals. A good ending.
Age 35 (2008): A rough start...I no longer feel invincible. Does that mean I'm getting older? A bloodbath in transactions at work...three deals become two dead and one alive. Financial markets meltdown. Volatility. Putting 'real' amounts of money into commercial real estate investments. Teaching a course at my alma mater. Max starts Kindergarten...a big boy is starting to emerge! Esmé's gregarious, fun, loving personality bursts onto the scene. An almost indescribably wonderful trip to Japan and South Korea...reminding us of why we love each other, why we love life, why we love the friends we do. Let's just say it was a full year.
2009: Should prove interesting.
I wish I could destroy greed, heartlessness, hate, and ignorance in the world.