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The Machine Turns Itself Off And Decides To Take A Break

'I was driven throughout my early adult years to take on as much work as I could humanly do.'

Because my father taught me that I was a lazy, good-for-nothing bum, who didn’t try hard enough or live up to my potential (just his helpful way to motivate me not to become him), I was driven throughout my early adult years to take on as much work as I could humanly do. I worked every day, all day and I produced at such a prodigious pace I became known as “The Machine.”

I loved that nickname and worked hard to live up to it.

 For 25 years I was a top freelance writer/creative directors in the corporate world working with clients like Mattel Toys, Sony, Universal Pictures, Honda, Washington Mutual, 20th Century Fox, Hewlett-Packard and other mega-corporations.

When I turned 50 in 2007 I switched gears to focus on environmental work but continued to be The Machine working the same kind of hours. For the last 10 years I’ve been working my ass off as a community organizer and climate action/renewable power advocate. 

I talked about taking a year-long sabbatical, a #YearOfJoe, on my 60th birthday, but as I barreled through 2016 and my calendar started to get filled into 2017 it became obvious I couldn’t be spared. 

But I could give myself the gift of therapy to help me explore what was going on in my life. 

At my first session I explained about #YearOfJoe and why I couldn’t take the time off. I offered the idea of taking every Sunday off instead. My new therapist laughed at me.

The following Monday her LOL was still echoing in my head as I listened to the politicians who would be running the renewable power program I had worked so hard to launch. I suddenly grokked the reality of my situation – I wasn’t indispensable at all. Everything would go ahead without me if I wasn’t there. 

And damn, I was tired – more like deep fat fried. I understood that if I didn’t shut The Machine down it would self-destruct. 

And just as undeniable, I understood that #YearOfJoe was now not only possible, it was mandatory. Knowing that the next ten years of the climate were to be the best 10 years left, I had to step off the treadmill.

 It took me less than a week to hand off all my roles and responsibilities. Colleagues were surprised, but no one suggested I not take my year – in fact, they were rooting for me. 

Some folks who think they know me best are certain I won’t be able to stay away from the work and that #YearOfJoe will turn out to be more like three months of Joe. A few others think that I’m just using the word “sabbatical” instead of “retirement.” 

If I was still The Machine I’d know who was right I’d have a plan for what I’ll be doing 10 months from now when #YearOfJoe ends.

 But I am no longer The Machine. I don’t have a plan or a deadline. I don’t know what I’ll be doing when the year is up because I don’t know who I’ll be or how I’ll want to spend my time. What I do have is a big whiteboard filled with #YearOfJoe travel destinations, new adventures and learning experiences, and a lengthy list of things I’ve put off for a very long time. 

What I’ve also got is a list of questions I’m exploring with my #YearOfJoe therapist as I’m becoming an aware-in-training human being: 

Who am I when I’m not working? For over 30 years I’ve been what I do. 

How do I measure my happiness if I’m not approaching it productively and getting happy stuff done while the clock is ticking? 

Why shouldn’t I feel guilty about stepping aside to take time for myself just as climate change is getting worse and worse?

 Is it even possible for me to learn to meditate so that I can find the seat of consciousness, let alone sit at it? 

Can I sit at that seat atop a memory foam butt cushion? Can I see the television from that seat?

The Machine never asked these kinds of questions. But now that it’s shut itself off and quieted its loud noises, the questions are not only getting posed, I just might be able to hear the answers.

For over 25 years, Joe Galliani made his living as a writer, creative director, brand strategist and
subject matter expert for some of America’s biggest and most famous corporate names.
In 2007 Joe turned his attention to environmental work and began volunteering with GRID
Alternatives installing free solar on low income and Habitat for Humanity houses; working with
the South Bay Environmental Services Center and the South Bay Cities Council of Governments
Green Task Force, and writing environmental columns for Patch.com.
In 2009 Joe became the Organizer of the South Bay Los Angeles 350 Climate Action Group and
helped produce the largest climate action in Southern California. In 2010 Joe became one of the
founders of the South Bay Bicycle Coalition and has been on their board of directors since the
organization was formalized in 2010; was an integral member of the team that secured a $250,000
grant to create a seven-city bicycle master plan and then lobbied to get it passed by seven South
Bay City Councils.
From 2009-2010 Joe was a founding member of the Hermosa Beach Carbon Neutral City
Committee, having co-created the Carbon Neutral City initiative. In 2011 Joe became a founding
member of the Vitality City Blue Zones Bike/Walk committee and helped get its Livability Plan
passed by the city councils in the target cities of Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa
Beach.
In 2010 Joe began working with CBS EcoMedia writing both the 2010 CBS Green Report and 2011
CBS Green Report. In January of 2012 Joe joined the EcoMedia team full time as the Director of
Strategic Partnerships and Public Affairs.
Joe left his CBS EcoMedia position on October 1, 2013 to work full time as the pro bono Organizer
of the South Bay Los Angeles 350 Climate Action Group. He is the co-creator of the MB2025
vision for 100% renewable energy powered Manhattan Beach by 2025 and has partnered with the
City to produce the Earth Hour Light Up Your Future event at the Manhattan Beach Pier and the
MB2025 Forum.
In June of 2014 Joe became the Chair of the South Bay Clean Power initiative and has been
working full time ever since to bring Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) to the 20 cities of the
South Bay and West Side Los Angeles County and other eligible cities in L.A. County. On March
17, 2015 the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution to
explore the County’s CCA options and to fund a feasibility study as requested by South Bay Clean
Power. The feasibility study was delivered in July of 2016 and Joe is now working with the County
of Los Angeles and cities like Long Beach to help launch California’s largest Community Choice
Power program.

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