by The Bathtub Project


Date of Interview: May 23, 2018

Name: John

Age: 36

Pronouns: He/Him/His

How often do you bathe or shower?

I’ve been thinking about this lately. I think I shower three or four times a week. But it’s unclear to me recently [laughter] how often it’s happening.

What are your feelings about baths?

Baths are absolutely a way that I survive Chicago winters. I try to get them as hot as possible. And then I can get in as– it’s not even comfortable. I can just feel the capillaries and blood vessels in my hands and arms swell. It’s this amazing feeling [laughter]. Like the life being brought back into part of my body that I was going to lose [laughter].

If you were an underwater creature, which creature would you be?

Probably a sponge [laughter]. Not an animated sponge [laughter]. Maybe I’d be the fish that Gollum takes a bite out of [laughter] in The Lord of the Rings [laughter]. Because if I’m involved in a cool story [laughter], it’s usually as a tangential character who accidentally makes an appearance and something kind of unfortunate happens to in the process.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about music. And I’m passionate about teaching young people other things through music. I’m not super interested in making great musicians out of kids. I’m more interested in the fact that I can use music class to teach conflict resolution, or to teach self-expression, or something about identity. And that’s the point of music, anyway, not sound [laughter].

Can you expand on that?

Yeah. That sound is just the accidental way that music has to happen. But it must be more important– there must be something else going on in our brains because if you just look at sound objectively– it’s like if you listen to music objectively, it’s like “boom, boom, squeak, squeak, bop, bop, long, short, high, loud”. So it won’t inherently– it’s not inherently anything. But we assign all kinds of meaning so it’s really abstract. Just, so– so I guess what I’m trying to say is, music is inherently kind of stupid. And I like that, I feel safe there [laughter]. But it’s also– it also must be more than that. We all know that music can take us out of this world. And it’s also just gone as soon as it happens. So it’s just mysterious, it comes into you. But it’s also inherently, kind of dumb. So it’s a weird combination of things. So I like to explore that. And I like to explore that with students.

What is something that you feel accomplished with?

I feel accomplished with emotional intelligence. I feel accomplished in my ability to connect, to meet someone where they are, and be able to make a connection with somebody. I might not always know the right words, or the right thing to say or do, but somehow I feel like foundation-ally I’m aware of something emotional happening for somebody that I can be present with. And usually, maybe find some comfort in connection with somebody.

Is that a learned skill or always been present in your life?

Not for me, it’s been more present than me sometimes. I think it comes from deep listening. I guess that’s a learned skill. But even when I was a kid I remember adults being easy for me to find emotionally– like, “Oh, wow, they have all the emotions I have.” That was my first– that first feeling that I’m like adults, like in the sense that I’m going to be one one day in a very real way. It was like, “Oh, cool. Adults do all the things I do emotionally”.

Were you the wise kid that’s in every sitcom or major motion picture?

I need examples of wise kids.

The immediate reference in my head is 500 Days of Summer, the little sister. Were you that?

I was an enigma for my family, because I was really into being– I was really into solitude as a kid, I was really into art, and creation, in a really private way. And it was enigmatic when I was a little kid, and then became very suspicious when I was in high school. And so I was like an outsider. I don’t know that I was wise, but it always made people treat me a little different, whether they just were unsure what I was up to, or were unsure what I was really moved by, motivated by.

What is something you still struggle with?

I struggle with clarity. Being clear with myself about what I want from life, even in a lowercase-L kind of way. Even in a like what do I need today, or this afternoon. And ultimately that’s what capital-L Life is made of, is just a bunch of those little questions over and over again. And then the bigger ones I can build on that. And those are usually very unclear for me. I feel like I struggle with just– my time just floating away from me. Which would be fine if I didn’t have hopes and dreams [laughter].

What are your thoughts on relationships, sexual, platonic, romantic, familial, and otherwise?

I think they’re always changing. I think– I meant my relationships are always changing, but I guess I also mean the relationships themselves are always changing. I wish family could be something you could opt into or opt out of in a more– in a less violent way, like in a way you didn’t have to tear yourself out of it. I think sex can be anything you want it to be. It can be an expression of friendship, or even just meeting. But it can also be used to lock down a lifelong trust and commitment to somebody. So it can– and all of this– all these relationships are just tools for us to sort of plant ourselves in place. I think of all of them, family has been the hardest one for me to manage. And I’ve grown to appreciate it more recently, as I’m thinking about how it’s– I think mandatory relationships are also important, and that it can align in a vertical way, generationally time-wise, that most of our other relationships we’re choosing people who are probably within a certain spectrum near us age-wise. So that value is becoming more apparent for me.