The Story of 1×57 & A Clean Life

On Monday, August 7, 2006, I started a new role as an instructor for a sabbatical program that is, what I consider, the gold standard for how enterprises should educate and teach its employees how and why to use social, web 2.0 software. I know the date, because 4 days prior, I called off my engagement and showed up to one of my best friend’s wedding, without my fiance. My friend reminds me of this and the date on a regular basis. I share this only because it is a turning point in the history of my life, a crossroads of sorts, when I decided to deviate from everything I knew and thought I wanted.

Enter Steve.

Steve and I were the first set of instructors to support what has become the Sean and Don show – the creators and pioneers of the program. If there is one thing that stands out in my mind about Steve and my initial impression of him, it was his total state of ease. I guess when you’ve spent time as a high school teacher and a software manager at Blizzard, teaching the intel community how to collaborate and share knowledge virtually isn’t a difficult transition.

Steve and I spent a year together in the lab, teaching and running the sabbatical. If I am considered by anyone today a good instructor, it’s because of him. During that time, we talked, a lot. Sometimes we would spend hours just talking, and debating. Most of the time his logic didn’t make sense to me. But that’s what I liked. The lab was the place where you could vent, learn, regenerate, geek-out, trade and argue ideas and thoughts, lay in the middle of the floor in the dead-man’s upward-facing floating position in total exasperation with the world.

1×57 is an inside joke. What it stands for is a foundation, a base…the place where it’s okay to be the renegade, the radical, the rebel, the dissident. That’s why Steve and I started it – our virtual home to be us.

Since I’ve known him, Steve has always been a “trash man.” My earliest memories include him not throwing away a single scrap of paper. And making sure we were first to have a recycling bin as part of a facilities pilot. And him ALWAYS using a ceramic mug and bowl for his morning tea and “mush.” And him reusing his plastic salad container, washing it out EVERY single day. And him rarely buying new clothes – instead opting for trips to Buffalo Exchange, the “hip” thrift clothing exchange store. If there is one thing most people will agree on about Steve, it’s that he’s not wasteful. He has mastered the art of efficiency and resourcefulness. This is who Steve is.

So when Steve told me he was leaving DC to start a non-profit to reduce waste in our country, I thought, “What a great idea,” – but that quickly changed to, “What the f$ck!?! You’re supposed to be my partner in 1×57.” I realized, however, that Steve is doing exactly what 1×57 is all about. He’s following his own truth. People have asked me why I’m helping him with A Clean Life. It’s difficult for me to understand why the question is being asked in the first place. Since when does helping a friend require an explanation? Actually, since when did not trashing your home go out of practice – shouldn’t we all be participating? I could say that my concentration in college was “Environment” and that the thesis I wrote is being used today for JMU’s Sustainability program. Or that starting at age 10, I was asking my parents what happened to all the trash we produced and shouldn’t we care about it? Or that “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”(~Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Ultimately, though, I believe in Steve. From the day I met him, I’ve felt this need – this pull, this push – to help him. I can’t explain it. Our relationship doesn’t make sense to a lot of people and it has changed over the years. But what hasn’t changed is how I know whenever we’re together, whether we’re talking, or fighting, or whatever, it’s worth more than anything material I can ever possess.

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  1. Amy, that was a beautiful account of your connection with another person (in this case, Steve).

    If there is a Friends Day, this should be required reading. Although every friend relationship is different, there is something transcendant at the core of your account.


  2. I think it truly took Steve and you taking the cross country trip to really impact me. Once he left, I yet again filled a role one of you left. Steve left his ceramic bowl in our office and signed the base of it to never forget. Since I started working for Geoff, I have washed my plastic and used his bowl once for soup. I am bringing in more food and being more conscience of my waste.

    Once I finish with my last case of bottled water, I will go back to a brita filter system in my home and use my recent gift of a reuasble water bottle I received for speaking at a conference (and its green!).

    But most of all, I miss him around as a person. Sharing random stories or him hanging out til 2am talking about changing the world, Gov 2.0 style and granola.

  3. Bear, this is long overdue, but for me our journey started in the same month of the same year. It was August 2006 and I was fresh as ice cream out of the freezer. I knew teaching but I had no idea what intelligence was all about. I had a desire to prove myself and would not take a break for anything.

    Enter Amy.

    This beautiful girl who I was instantly drawn to. Strangely, I wasn’t drawn to her physically. I had a girlfriend and I was passionately in love. And, though Amy reminds me of this, we fought and battled but I did love Jenny a lot. Yet there was still this ‘thing’ between us.

    So we talked all the time. It never stopped. We went on breaks and talked, we talked after class, we talked about politics, life, work, and everything under the sun. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. I distinctly remember being afraid to take breaks, since i wanted to prove myself, yet I kept taking them.

    I know that as the talks passed and I learned more about Amy, I was also learning something about life. Through her passion for life and her passion for her work I saw glimpses of something. I was never quite sure what it was but I kept trying to look through the glass.

    As we grew and times changed I learned so much about myself. I can say that I am what I am today because of her and those early experiences.

    Sometimes people change you and sometimes a place changes you. In this case it was both. That place had so many other people that were and are so important in our lives. Yet the closest bonds formed were the ones between Amy and I.

    After we left that place our bond has carried on. We have faced new environments with different rules and new expectations. Yet our bonds have pushed us to recreate that old home.

    As I sit here now writing about these memories, I realize one thing. That Amy is now my home and my source for inspiration.

    In her I have a place for innovation, for change, and all the crazy things I want to do. Now comes the rewriting of my dreams and my life into something of our dreams and our life…

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