Stranger 030


What’s your full name?

Eric Hans Houtman

Were you named after anyone?

I share my middle name with my father. I hate my middle name. Growing up, my dad didn’t seem like someone that was that interested in being a father. We grew up on a small ranch in San Diego County, with sheep, cows, etc. and he was a very traditional farmer type. Over my life, he phased himself out of it and eventually left our family when I was in high school. I have seen him three or four times in the past 15 years, mostly for funerals. Given this, I have not really had a strong affinity for my middle and last name. I have toyed around with the idea of changing them, but I feel like it would be better to keep them and grow to represent them with a much better character than my dad ever could.

What’s your average day like?

My current average day starts with waking up around 7:15AM or so. I am a late riser, not great at mornings. I typically start my day by checking my email/work messages and fire up a podcast or some music to get me going. I don’t drink coffee or any other caffeine in the mornings so music plays a big part in my life, providing me a lot of energy. These days I am listening to a lot of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and American Football.

I go into work around 8:00AM and usually stay at the office until 6:30PM. I work for a start-up health care company that delivers medications to patients. It can be a lot of work but it is satisfying to know that my daily work directly impacts people for the better. I have been working in startups since 2015 and it can be pretty demanding. Usually, when I get home each night I still have some work to do, so work for at least another hour or two. I end my night by talking with my girlfriend every night for at least 30 minutes. She is an artist at Dreamworks and she inspires me every day. It is nice to set aside time each day to decompress on the day and provide support to each other. Lastly, I try to end my day by reading for at least 30 minutes. I have a huge passion for reading and try to always have a good book in my life. I am currently reading Frans Bengtsson’s The Long Ships.

What do you consider to be your “home”?

The question of where I consider home to be is a timely one, it is something I am thinking a lot these days. I grew up on a small farm until high school, and then when my parents split up I moved with my family to another part of town. I lived in this house, across the street from my school, and it was the site of a lot of formative experiences for me. This month, my mom decided to sell it and move to St. Louis. I have been helping her packing everything up and get the place ready to be sold, which is a very strange feeling. I only lived in that house for a few years, but it is strange to see it go. I suspect it will feel like home when I visit her in St. Louis, but we shall see. Having only a single parent, it is my responsibility to help her so I sometimes feel like home is where my responsibilities are.

How far away do you live from where you were born?

I live about 2 hours from where I grew up. I currently live in LA, a town I love and can’t imagine leaving.

Is that distance something you think about? Do you have any connection to your place of birth?

I don’t really go to where I was born up since my mom moved to another part of Southern California. I drove by there last year for the first time since we moved and it was strange seeing that things changed and it didn’t look like I remembered. With my family moving to St. Louis, I imagine I will be in that part of Southern California even less, which will be a little strange. I don’t think about the distance too much, but I know why I still live in California.

When I was graduating from college, I was happy to find a job in LA so I could be somewhat close to my family. As I mentioned, I know it is my responsibility to help my family, since my mom doesn’t have someone to help her. It can be hard sometimes, but I try to live up to my responsibilities. While I don’t consider the physical distance from my birthplace much, I do consider how my relationship with that place has changed over time. I remember, as a kid, that I hated living in the country. I was a bookish kid that didn’t like going outside much. Now, I think back with some nostalgia about the living space we had, far from the noise of the city. Maybe one day I will realize the dream of Sam Neil’s character in The Hunt for Red October, and buy a piece of land with a pick-up truck, and enjoy the country.

At the moment, what’s something you’re looking forward to?

Moving in with my girlfriend. I haven’t lived with someone since College (8 years ago) so, while I am nervous, I am also excited to take the next step. I never really think about it as a big next step. While we haven’t lived together, it feels like we have. I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to share my life more with her and deepen my appreciated for her.

Is there anything you need with you throughout the day to feel complete?

Headphones. I can’t go anywhere without a pair of headphones. I hate walking around without them. One of my favorite vacation memories was hiking in the Black Forest in Germany with my headphones in and immersing myself in the music of Sigur Ros. The spiritual power of music is something I fail to articulate, but I feel it and know it is there. Headphones help me get there and allow me to filter out the noise and distraction of Los Angeles. While I love the city, it finds a way to distract and destroy many.

When you look in the mirror, what do you notice first about your appearance?

My hair. Blonde, bright, shocking, thin. A reminder of my Dutch heritage, my family, my predilection for sunburns. My hair color is envied by some and its volume is hated by me. I can never find a cut or length I like and have mostly given up. One day I might be comfortable with it, but who knows.

If you could change something about your appearance, what would it be?

I would like to get in better shape. I have never prioritized my health and probably should. I have always been so focused on my job, my career, and nothing else. I always hope one day to find a job that affords me the work/life balance to be able to prioritize it and get myself in the place where I can be happy and proud about my health and self-care.

What do you first notice in strangers?

Their eye color usually. I try to be really deliberate about making eye contact with folks and making it clear that I am listening to them. After that, I really wanted to understand if they are kind or not. Kindness is the most important thing in the world to me. If you are kind, you make the world a better place to live in.

What do think those that know you say about you?

I will quote the pithiest summary I have ever heard from someone about myself –“Hopelessly Practical.”

What would you hope they would say?

Apart from that, I hope they consider me supportive, loyal, kind, and caring.

What do you think strangers notice first about you?

Probably my blond hair and bright blue eyes. I usually get the most comments from that.

What is your proudest moment? Biggest victory?

My proudest moment is a strange one. When I was in 8th grade I participated in Constitutional Debate. Our entire class did it, so it wasn’t something that I specifically chose to do. Because of the lack of participation in our school district, we defaulted to state finals, which I found hilarious because we were competing with all these elite private schools who had these ludicrous speeches memorized and fancy suits, and here we were, a group of kids who just kinda made it up as we went along.

I loved it so much, because we were, in my opinion, the real competitors. We didn’t have coaches or prep, we just had an honest debate and reacted as the kids rolled out their arguments. Additionally, we were a group of rebels. We purposely chose arguments against the prevailing opinions of the time, to the horror yet respect of the judges. I remember having a debate with a 3 judge panel on the necessity of judicial review, with me arguing against it. A crazy position no doubt, but I enjoyed it. I remember the judges asking me about the power of the courts to uphold social justice, and from my memory cited the 1944 Korematsu v. US case as evidence of against such a claim, pointing out that the court’s history does not always uphold the view that judicial review will result in the justice for those without a voice in society. My argument was passionate and informed, and for it I received a standing ovation. I will always remember that, I felt so supported and appreciated. I loved the debate and the ability to cite history and case law in making my point. Ever since that experience, I have had a personal passion for law and history and still follow and read books and writers that focus on it.

What is your biggest regret? Biggest failure?

Gosh, I don’t know if I have any great regrets. I would say my biggest regret is, after college and when I first lived on my own, not pushing myself to go out more and be more adventurous. I spent way too much time focusing on my job alone that I didn’t take the time to prioritize myself and try new things, meet new people, make constructive mistakes, and define myself more. I am too often satisfied with comfort. I always hope for a spirit of restlessness.

If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?

If I could change one thing about myself, I would wish I could sing. I love signing, and wish I could do it. A good singer finds a way to give emotion and feeling to the unexplainable, a feeling that so many of us have but can’t find a way to express. I love that about art, especially singing.

Are you making plans for the future, or are you more spontaneous?

I am definitely more of a planner than being spontaneous. I try my best to let things happen, but plan for the future. I didn’t prioritize financial stability as a young man so am really trying to prioritize it more while I am getting older. I have a good path towards saving money to have a nest egg and will be debt free in the next 12 months. But I try not to go overboard with being a planner. My girlfriend is much more of a planner than me. I dislike over planning, it can sometimes lose the magic of spontaneity and discovery, so try to balance it out.

When I go on vacation, I purposely don’t plan out every day, but always leave time to explore and find things I didn’t plan on seeing. I have had some of my favorite vacation memories from that.

If you could know exactly when and how you would die, would you want to know?

I wouldn’t. I prefer not to know. I think it would crush me, haunt me, and not allow me to function well. I would prefer for it to be unknown, and I strive to live every day like it could be my last. I like the line in Hamilton about Hamilton “writing like you’re running out of time.” I try for that every day of my life.

If you were to die tomorrow, would your life be complete?

My life will be what I made of it. My life should never feel complete, I want to always be trying for more. I really, really, really want to publish the book I am currently working on, and hope I can publish that. When I finish it, I will move on to the next project and want to work on it like I am running out of time.

Do you have dreams left unfulfilled?

To write a book. I have been working the past year on my current book project and want nothing more than to finish it. I try not to talk about the subject publicly until I feel like I am truly ready to share it with the world, but really hope that I can put it out there. I just traveled to London for research and found it one of the best vacations I have ever had. While it may sound crazy to hear that for someone people, I find great satisfaction in setting my mind to something and using it to tell an important story that the world should hear about.

What is the one rule you try to live by? Do you feel successful at following it?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It hasn’t failed me yet.


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