A poster for the Derek DelGaudio's special event documentary, In and Of Itself

A.k.a Michael Cary - and all the other identities and aliases I have held in my life (fun fact, this might be the first time ever those two names have appeared side by side in public!). They’re all masks I’ve worn, idealized versions of myself that I want to present to the world and, ultimately, lies I’ve told myself (and possibly you).

“I’m not defined by what you see, I’m also all of the things you’ll never see.”

-Derek DelGuadio, In and Of Itself

I wrote something today, and felt moved to publish it somewhere. If you are one of the vanishingly few people who actually read my blog, it’s entirely possible you’re interested in getting to know not just my thoughts on tech, but perhaps also interested in getting to know me a little deeper as well.

Read on if you want to see some of the parts of me you have likely never seen. I’m exposing myself for a moment, “warts and all.” If not, no worries, more tech opinions and knowlege are already in the works.

I’ve lived many lives. Most people I have met know me through just one of those lives. Many people have met me here or here, or where those two worlds first collided; here (among countless others).

Those who know the magician are baffled that I remain content with a handful of loyal clients, continuing to polish my craft but only performing at a few dozen events every year. Those who know me from day-jobs past (likely along with some family members) quietly worry about my lack of steady employment. In both cases there is this fear that I am “squandering my gift” (whatever they perceive it to be).

Despite being self-employed for almost a decade, I’m in newly uncharted waters. I can–and have–made a comfortable living as a full-time magician. I can–and have–made a comfortable living as a full-time coder and architect. I can–and have–made a comfortable living as a full-time freelance architect and consultant. Perhaps it is the ongoing effects of a midlife crisis that arrived right on schedule, but I radically changed my approach to all of these things last year.

I’ll be honest, I’m scared. When I first quit my day-job to focus on magic full-time I knew that, worst case, I could land a “square” job in just a week or two. Times have changed and the current tech market continues to be a bloodbath. Jobs seem scarce and mass layoffs continue. I feel like I’m walking a tightrope again but, this time, without a safety net.

I recently confided my anxiety to a friend (who is most acquainted with coder/architect Mike). Having worked together in the past, she said “I know you, you’re smart, you’re capable, there are a million jobs out there you could do.” I countered that (post 2023 radical change) I was “basically unemployable.” There was some back and forth, but that was largely the end of it. This morning, I sat down with a cup of coffee and reflected on traditional W2 employment and this is what I wrote.

(I post this with anxiety. I don’t normally write like this. What will the you, the reader, think of me? Is it too grandiose, is it TMI, does anyone care, will I undermine what I’m trying to do? Is this just fatuous navel-gazing? Here goes anyway… note: there is a small amount of coarse language)

I think I can articulate my position on traditional employment. My whole life I have been a round peg in a world of square holes. Yet, one has to eat, one has to pay the bills. I did what I had to do; compartmentalize myself. Shave off aspects of who I am to fit the hole - it was never a perfect fit and it was one that was incapable of holding for very long, no matter how many coping mechanisms I used to plug the gaps. This left a hollowness that would take decades for me to recognize.

To treat the symptom, I would take cast-off fragments of my self and stick them together; directing them towards some kind of side-hustle or passion project. This gave me the illusion of holism. The comforting lie that I fit just fine in this world as long as I am careful to only show different parts to different people. I belong, providing I take myself apart; some is better than none. Unfortunately, “you can’t serve two masters” yet I was constantly robbing Peter to pay Paul. Most of the leftover pieces were always starving. I was never whole, and no single part, nor their combination, brought any true satisfaction.

Maslow put “belonging” just above the basic survival necessities in his hierarchy of needs. I believed that I could “belong” so long as I never let anyone see my true self—my WHOLE self. I was Michael Carducci sometimes; I was Robert Cary, or Michael Cary, or Bobby at others. I was a walking facade everywhere I went. I would frequently remind myself “Everybody loves Mickey Mouse… Nobody cares about the guy in the suit.”

My mid-life crisis began when, in 2020, I finally admitted defeat on my dream of being a full-time magician (or, let’s call a spade a spade, being “Michael Carducci” the magician full time because that was the side most frequently starving and “the grass is always greener”). I tried to completely remake myself in the mold of my new job. “This is who I really am” I told myself. And when that fell apart I had to realize the truth; that that job was not who I was (and I didn’t like who I became in the process). By that point, I had pounded, cut, sanded, shoehorned, warped, and changed myself so many times I lost my entire identity. My mid-life crisis peaked with that realization. I looked at the scraps and dust that surrounded me and could no longer find anything I recognized. It seemed there was no permutation of a subset of my identities and facets that could belong anywhere. This was compounded with the realization that I didn’t have enough time left on this plane to start from scratch and construct something new.

Then I realized something magical had already happened. I married Kate. I often remind her that “I love you, exactly as you are.” It’s true, but it’s easy, she’s amazing! (Have you met her?!) It took me a very long time to accept that she could love me in the same way… but, somehow, she does. She never wanted to “fix” me, she never needed me to cast off parts of me to fit. She loved and accepted me exactly as I was; this showed me that perhaps I am fine as a round peg. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel “broken” or “wrong.” I knew I could belong somewhere–I did belong somewhere.

I quit the job and took several months off to undo the cumulative damage wrought by four decades trying to be something I wasn’t. I found me, the whole me. The round peg in a world of square holes. I’m not a coder, I’m not an architect, I’m not a magician, I’m not a skydiver… I defy labels, I contain multitudes, I am a member of many sets and I am the union of all of those classes. Integrating these–living in integrity with myself–has brought me a happiness I have never before known. I don’t want to compromise my identity again for the fleeting illusion of fit and belonging.

Looking at the job market as it stands, I have no doubt there are many Michael-shaped-holes out there, but they don’t know that. They’re all looking for collection of square pegs that will add up to their Michael-shaped hole. In the process, they are filtering for the right individual pieces and not the whole. They pass me by. It’s probably just as well because, under that arrangement, it would be very hard to be more than a cog in the machine ultimately leaving both parties unfulfilled.

I’m reminded of when Dr Richard Feynman decided he wanted to help in the war effort:

” I began to think I ought to make some kind of contribution, too. After I finished up at MIT, a friend of mine from the fraternity, Maurice Meyer, who was in the Army Signal Corps, took me to see a colonel at the Signal Corps offices in New York.

“I’d like to aid my country sir, and since I’m technically minded, maybe there’s a way I could help.”

“Well, you’d better just go up to Plattsburg to boot camp and go through basic training. Then we’ll be able to use you,” the colonel said.

“But isn’t there some way to use my talent more directly?”

“No; this is the way the army is organized. Go through the regular way.”

I went outside and sat in the park to think about it. I thought and thought: Maybe the best way to make a contribution is to go along with their way. But fortunately I thought a little more, and said, “To hell with it! I’ll wait awhile. Maybe something will happen where they can use me more effectively” “

-Richard Feynman - Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman

Fuck the “regular way.” I did that for 40 years. It sucks. It’s not me. From now on, I bring my whole self to everything I do. I make magic, love humans, tell stories, have genuine interactions, write code, think deep thoughts, dream impossible dreams, write books, give talks, teach what little wisdom I might have to share, sharpen my unique perspective; OWN my round peg status.

I’m not Richard Feynman but I, too, have gold to give. Eventually the US govt realized they needed to fill a Richard Feynman shaped hole and brought him into the Manhattan project directly.

Perhaps through unabashed authenticity in my books, my talks, my magic, my stories, my random musings, and my simple human interactions… someone will see the whole me and say “there it is, that’s what’s been missing.” And maybe, just maybe, that’s the job where I belong next, or even just a one-off speaking/training/consulting gig somewhere where I can at least give a little gold for a time.

If not, so what? I’ve already found where I belong. I’ve taken off my mask, I’m showing my Shel Silverstienian “blue skin.” I’m finding my tribe and they’re finding me. I now know what it feels like to belong and what it’s like to be truly accepted.

If I continue this path I might be forever broke—but never poor. At least I can die peacefully when my time is up, knowing I finally learned the meaning of “This, above all, to thine own self be true.”

When I say “I’m probably unemployable,” that’s a lie. I am more than capable of presenting the facade that aligns with what a company, or school, or romantic partner is looking for–I’m a black-belt pretender with a lifetime of experience. What I really mean is I am currently not willing to compromise who I am to fit some bullshit job. I say “currently” because I may eventually run out of money or opportunities just as inevitable unforeseen and dire circumstances emerge; but that day is not this day. For now, I’m going to cling to this quixotic quest for as long as I can. Life is too short and true happiness too fleeting.

As I publish with trepidation, I’m comforted by this quote from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles:

“…think what you want about me; I’m not changing. I like.. I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. ‘Cause I’m the real article. What you see is what you get.”

-Del Griffith

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming…