Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?Mary Oliver in “The Summer Day”
I’m Daniel Golliher (gol-yer; like “golf” and “yurt” smashed together), and I am a generalist.
More specifically, I am a generalist who wishes he could be a specialist at everything. The world is filled with marvels, and I’m on my own adventure quest to see and understand them all.
In 2016 I wrote a book called Dear Wayne County. It was a letter to the place I came from (rural Indiana), and it explained who I was at age 25. I’m proud of the book, and I’m glad I wrote it.
But at age 29, I’m taking a different approach.
This website continues what Dear Wayne County started, but in a more accessible form. You can learn my personal history, how I think, and what I think. This page has the main highlights. For a more organized overview of things I think about, head to the thoughts page.
If this website or the “I write books to explain myself to people” thing gives you a “HELLO MY NAME IS DANIEL I’M A FRIENDLY HUMAN MAN” feeling, head to my Instagram and then come back. I don’t bite, I swear.
There aren’t anchor links on this page yet. Please forgive me.
Contents of this page:
- Summary Overview
- Assorted Cognitive Bricolage
- Daily life
- Personal history
- Personal qualities, including philosophy
- Personality Tests and Diagnostics
- Attachment Style
- Love languages
- Other items/tools
Every aspect of my life is an integrated whole. How I feel, what I think, when I cry, what I eat, how I move, and who I love. I consider it all, and constantly. Mine is a most examined life, and I would have it no other way.
I think there is beauty and cause to marvel at an increasingly large amount of things in our world. I am struck daily by the skyscrapers outside my Manhattan apartment, the manufactured goods on my desk, and the very idea of a supermarket.
I am, and will continuously work to be, the kind of person I would want to know—in body and mind. I am both my standard and myself, guided by values informed by reason.
My day to day life (and truly, my soul) is driven by curiosity and the pursuit of truth. Curiosity: the insatiable hunger to grok more. Truth: reality as it is, people as they are, the nature of the interactions between the two.
The world and its inhabitants are complex, and I think many people trick themselves into thinking that just because they live here, they understand the place. But understanding is not osmotic.
Understanding is the product of reasoning, and it is hard to know yourself or know the world. So why do it, especially when my unrelentingly examined life is often first read as exhausting, neurotic, or inflexible (although it is none of those things)?
Well, have you ever felt like someone else truly understood you? Like they peered into the spinning metal core of your soul and, taking in the totality, smiled? Have you ever been the one smiling?
Ignorance might be unaware bliss, but understanding bears you on the wings of angels to pull back the mask of the divine.
That is why I do it.
Assorted Cognitive Bricolage
- Diet: I like to eat the same foods over and over, and the more I hone the more it looks like a not-quite-paleo diet. Although I like to eat new and delicious things (I am friends with people who find these, and then I just piggy-back), I am marvelously happy to eat my same rotation of low-effort-to-produce food. I track my macros and keep a food journal. There’s a lot of eggs, vegetables, cheese, meat, almonds, olive oil, and a rotation of fruits. I’ve gone through candy phases, but I don’t keep candy or desserts in my apartment, and generally don’t crave them. I don’t drink alcohol, except in the company of one friend with whom I have a few beers about once a year. I cannot abide ranch dressing, mayonnaise, or visible melted butter. I have problems with open-mouth chewing; it’s quite widespread, and I have tried to alter my response to it. I have been partially successful at best.
- I love my desk. It has my computer, all the papers and scribbles and books and my calendar and…it is me. It’s where I do the work of my life (not necessarily the same thing as salaried work), and where I find conciliation between fields and ideas. I am fully alive at my desk.
- Some people love to go out, some people like to stay home, but I like to patrol my territory. I’m, well, like a cat. Have you ever seen one of those maps that shows where cats go? Usually the cats have a cluster of places close to home they patrol, with a few far flung destinations. That’s how I am. I have a series of spots that I like (coffee shops, specific park benches, specific piers, book stores, music shops, another park bench in a different park, etc). I go to these spots frequently, usually multiple every day. I take my notebook, the book I’m reading, and snacks. When I went to an office during the day I’d still hit at least one spot most nights. On the weekends (and due to current circumstances, most days now) I’m usually back in my apartment by late afternoon or evening, and I like to stay there aside from a possible late-night patrol to one of my spots if I need a walk.
- Exercise: I have long been a runner, and in the past few months have finally—after yeeeaaarss—found a strength routine that I like, that is working, and that I fundamentally understand. I exercise 4-5 days a week, and that includes running, biking, kayaking (when it is available in the summer), and strength work that is growing more complex as I learn more.
- Writing: I write all the time. I have “the notebook” that I take everywhere, and I use it as a personal journal, to write essays, to sketch out business ideas, think about career paths—it gets everything, all my schemes and ideas. I think through my pen on the pages of that notebook. I have two different pens that I alternate between: the Zebra F-301 (.7 mm, black) and the gel-ink hexa ballpoint pen from Muji (.25 mm, black).
- I like a lot of things, usually with deep passion. You can learn more here.
- I grew up on a farm in Indiana (corn, soybeans, cattle, chickens, pigs), and was an active participant in 4-H and FFA. But I really didn’t like doing farm work, especially when I was younger, because I wanted to be inside reading.
- I am a triplet. All boys. Not identical. We are all quite different. Growing up those two were close, and often I didn’t even speak to them for days on end. We get along as adults. One of my brothers runs the farm now, and he is very good at it.
- My mother was my only active parent, although my father was in the house too. For the most part, my mother let me break the mold, explore new things, and be different. I had wide latitude to conduct my own life, and between work, school, other school, extracurriculars, and my friends, I lived as I pleased. It was a very latchkey situation. Part of this is due to the fact that my mother was busy providing for the family and taming her own demons, so the bandwidth just wasn’t there to oversee me even if she wanted to, but I think she was just a good parent in that way. I didn’t experience a huge change in level of autonomy going from high school to college to post-graduation. Looking back, my mother was truly extraordinary in this regard. I did a lot of things that made people mad and uncomfortable, but she supported me. I always got the impression (aside from issues having to do with sexuality and some religion) that I could talk to her adult to adult, mind to mind. She generally didn’t try to hit me over the head with “I’m the parent and so do what I say!” She frequently took my side against other adults in positions of authority because she agreed with me.
- As a child and teenager, I was different. I wanted to have a life that was filled with things from the traditional academy, which is not easy when you grow up without internet in the middle of the country. I wanted to be good at everything across all domains: athletics, the sciences, and the humanities. Getting access to these things was hard, and the first barrier to most of them was that “you need to drive at least 30 minutes to get it” was true of everything. Arranging my life to have piano lessons, college classes of all kinds, an income stream, high school sports, every extracurricular activity, and good friends was a giant problem of coordination. I put a lot of miles on my 1998 Mercury Mystique, may she rest in peace.
- I mostly ran out of classes to take in high school after tenth grade. That’s when I started taking classes in-person and online at local colleges. Richmond, Indiana, about a 20-30 minute drive from where I grew up and where I went to high school, hosts the three institutions that provided the bulk of my education after tenth grade: Indiana University East, Ivy Tech Community College, and Earlham College. I studied public speaking, the violin, economics, constitutional law, Spanish, philosophy, and more. By my senior year I was taking one class at the high school in the morning, and then I would leave for my regular college load. I would return around 3pm for my high school extracurriculars like cross country or a thousand other things. I had a small group of teachers who were my friends—they were always ready with a smile and a desire to talk about the cool things I was learning outside of their classes. The school administration itself was a large roadblock to my self-made learning plan, and at various points came close to derailing it. It it weren’t for the school board interceding on my behalf at every critical juncture, I’m not sure how things would have played out.
- During my senior year I played Danny Zuko in my high school’s production of Grease. I thought it was fun! However, I wouldn’t have gotten that role if I’d gone to a larger school. I got it because I was musically able (although not a strong singer), could be counted on to learn my lines and show up to practice, and because I was very into it. In general, most of the young men in the area wouldn’t audition because of standard “doing theater is gay” reasons, so I was sort of the last man standing.
- I was a devout Christian during most of high school (it was self-imposed religion that took root in seventh grade), which complicated my life in innumerable ways. I began the process of apostatizing during my senior year. However: many of the people I knew through church were (and are) good. I know they consider their virtue to flow from their religion, but I think it comes from them personally.
- One of my happiest, most potent memories is when I got a call from an admissions officer at Harvard College; she called to congratulate me on my admission to the class of 2014. It wasn’t the feeling of “I have grabbed the brass ring, now let me bask in external validation.” It was my key to the life I’d always wanted (or so I thought)—the life of the academy, the life of the idealized Renaissance. And after a brief, blinding flare of exhilaration, I allowed myself to feel the burden of my high school years. After running around the school telling my best teacher friends the good news, I walked out to my car and cried for a very long time. Not tears of happiness, but tears of pent-up anger and relief. And then I went to my colleges, and then after-school things, and then work, and after I got home around midnight I started my homework.
- During college I worked about an average of 30 hours a week, and I didn’t relate very well to my other classmates. Two things summarized my freshman year well: (1) one of my roommates and I both took the same politics class. On our first major paper, I worked hard and produced a great product. The teaching assistant even circulated it as an example. I got an A. My roommate slapped a panicked paper together the night before it was due, and it was a bad paper; when he received it back, riddled with red-penned critique, he smiled a relieved smile and showed me his A-. (2) I took intensive introduction to German, which counted as the equivalent of two classes. I worked very hard. The class started off with around 20-something students, and around six were left by the end of the semester. Grades corresponded to performance. I got an A in the class, and the award for most outstanding student.
- Harvard was a giant case of academic and social whiplash for me; it was not the academy that I expected, and I took my sophomore spring semester off to clear my head, come out to my parents, and just explore more things. I moved to Indiana University’s campus, got a job at Subway, and began auditing classes there. But I got bored, and then got a job as an au pair in Heidelberg, Germany. When I returned to the States for the summer, I got a job as a Spanish bilingual customer service agent for Avon and Puma north of Cincinnati. And then I returned to school, refreshed and more accepting of the world (and people) as they were.
- After graduating with an honors degree in Government and a Spanish citation, I took a year to finish writing my first fiction novel. It wasn’t great, but I’m still proud of it. Then I got a job as a corporate paralegal to try out the life of a lawyer—I wanted to go to law school, you see. But after seeing it up close, I revolted. The hours, the culture, the everything was not right for me. I loved the lawyers I worked with, but theirs was not my path. After a year at the firm I resigned and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to finish my third book (Dear Wayne County) and work in a coffee shop.
- After eight months of Cincinnati I came back to Boston, worked for Harvard, and then returned to the same law firm I’d previously worked for—but this time on the PR team. I requested a move to the NYC office and then moved to Manhattan, where I still reside.
- After two years in the PR role, I realized that I needed to jump off the legal industry track completely. Thankfully the firm, in response to COVID, offered voluntary staff buyouts. I took one, and am currently not employed while I work on a career pivot, write, and enjoy NYC.
Note: this section isn’t “who I would like to be.” It is who I am, confirmed by observing my own patterns to the best of my ability.
- I tolerate risk and uncertainty well. This generally manifests as leaving jobs when I decide it’s time to leave, which doesn’t always line up with financial stability or a defined career path. Or moving where I want to go, even if I don’t know anyone there or haven’t lived there before. It also means being very open about how I operate and what I think on dates, in jobs, and just generally.
- I am not “a rebel,” but I do adhere to my own personal set of ethics and rules. This can appear as contrarianism, but holding up your own standards is not that at all.
- I feel very deeply, initial impressions to the contrary notwithstanding. I readily weep, marvel, and rejoice.
- Making new friends (Aristotle’s “friends of virtue“) is one of the joys of my life, and it’s marvelous that we can keep doing it as long as we live. Many of my best friends are from Wayne County, Indiana, but I continually add another person to my “friends of virtue” circle every few years. My friends are jewels that no crown is worthy to host.
- I want to be understood by others (can’t you tell?). This site isn’t just to explain myself to others, but to send up a flare to similar people.
- Some important books in my history are Atlas Shrugged and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. When I was in late elementary school I was greatly impacted by the short stories “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut and “Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes.
- I am good at steeling my spine. I am working on softening my heart.
- Historically I have had various problems fully relating to other men in my dating life (my fault). The resolutions to these issues are, broadly, “accept things as they are” and “recognize that everyone wants to be seen.” Digging into my own attachment style was vital as well, but more on that in the last section. Also, books like this are a very good thing.
- I like this poem very much.
- You can read Dear Wayne County for more information about me, but if you’re just getting to know me use this website. Remember that there has been four years of growth between that Daniel and me, but we’re still the same in all the important ways. I’m proud of him and love him.
- Music lives in the very beating of my heart. It is anger, divinity, commiseration, joy, sensuality—it is my favorite art.
- My general mode of thinking is level 3.
Where I’ve been and what I did there. Apologies in advance for the not-great way I’m presenting the timeline, but it was faster and easier to do it like this for now.
Personality Tests and Diagnostics
Purpose of this section: if you want to get to know me, aren’t these things good tools? I think so.
- 70% Secure
- A natural tendency towards feeling safe to express your feelings and needs
- Openness towards communication and belief that conflicts are solvable problems
- Strong ability to regulate your emotions
- Empathy towards others
- Natural balanced with boundary setting
- Feel safe to express your truth
- Strong sense of self-identity
- 30% Dismissive Avoidant
- Difficulty believing emotional needs can be met by others
Not true. I know it can happen.
- Quick to repress or diminish their own emotions
Historically I have had issues with this—mostly things surrounding vulnerability.
- Protective of own space and time alone
Yep. But that doesn’t mean I’m a hermit. I love sharing time and space with people I love.
- Fear of commitment
Not the case for me.
- Dislike being vulnerable
This used to be true, but being vulnerable is required to connect deeply with people. And being vulnerable doesn’t have to mean being weak.
- Blunt or harsh with actions at times
I don’t think this is characteristic of me.
- Easily wounded by criticism
- Withdraw to self-soothe when hurt, often slow to warm back up
I do like to be by myself when processing some things, but I don’t think that means the same thing as “withdrawing” here. Needing to be alone and pulling up the emotional anchor don’t have to go together, especially with good communication.
- Difficulty believing emotional needs can be met by others
- 0% Fearful Avoidant
- 0% Anxious Preoccupied
I haven’t taken an actual Myers-Briggs assessment, but here is what I think about the four axes of it:
- Extraversion vs. Introversion (how you get energy)
- Sensing vs. Intuition (how you take in information)
Intuition—abstract thinking, theories, patterns, explanations.
- Thinking vs. Feeling (how you make decisions)
Very much a thinker—decisions come from the head, not the heart.
- Judging vs. Perceiving (how you organize your world)
I don’t think I’m at either pole here, but I lean more toward judging (structure, order, plans).
These generally correspond to how I am with friends and on dates, although I haven’t had a long-term romantic relationship to see how they’d play out there. I have no reason to believe they’d be different, but you never know.
How I like to receive love:
1. Quality time (tied for first)
2. Physical touch (tied for first)
3. Words of affirmation
4. Acts of service
5. Receiving gifts
How I show love:
1. Quality time
2. Physical touch
3. Words of affirmation
4. Acts of service
5. Giving gifts
Kara Loewentheil’s method of coaching is very similar to how I talk to myself, and how I think through issues. I’m not the primary audience of her podcast, but I like her thinking. Check out her podcast; skim the titles and pick out something that looks good.