103 – INTERVIEW “We have more in common than not” -with Leo Yockey

Meghan Q Barrett  0:04  
Hey mama. This is Mama’s daily dose. I’m Meghan Q Barrett of allyoumama.com. And this is a special interview episode, where we bring you guests to add value and connection to your mama life. Our guest today is a dear friend of mine and basically the reason you’re listening to this podcast, Leo Yockey is a software engineer, activist and comedian recovering from burnout. He hosts the Leo Yockey Show podcast where he leans on his lived experience as a biracial trans man to explore other’s unique life paths. And while on the surface, it may not seem like Leo and I have a ton in common as the title of this podcast, we have more in common than not, says, the more Leo and I talk, the more similarities we see in our lives. And that although the situations are different, they evoke a lot of the same emotion. And we talk a lot about change, anxiety, and the anxiety that comes from change. And while it may not be welcome, it’s definitely needed. And let’s get moving before we get interrupted. Hey, Leo, and welcome to Mama’s daily dose of the interviews. How are you? 

Leo Yockey  1:34  
Hey Meghan, I’m doing great. Thanks for having me. It’s gonna be fun. I think. 

Meghan Q Barrett  1:38  
I bet you never saw yourself coming on a mom’s podcast?

Leo Yockey  1:41  
No, definitely not definitely don’t identify as a mom, I don’t really see myself having kids ever. So you know it. That’s part of what makes this fun, though, you know, just bringing bringing people in with different perspectives and just seeing what happens?

Meghan Q Barrett  1:58  
Yeah, definitely. I mean, let me tell the story about this a little bit because I was on Leo’s podcast, the Leo Yockey Show, Episode 12. If you have not listened to it, go check it out. And we just kind of scratched the surface on the topic of change. And it was just kind of bugging me for the longest time that I was like, I really want to continue this conversation. But I’m like, Okay, I have like a mom podcast, I tried to get moms on the show or experts to help moms. I don’t know if this like really fits in. And then I was like, You know what, F it! First of all, this is my podcast. And second of all, change is so universal. Everyone goes through change. And everyone goes through the ups and downs of change. And I just had this super strong poll to continue this conversation. And I think it’s just going to help so many people to not only know that they’re not alone in their change, that there’s different ways of coping with it, and how you react and respond to it is what really matters.

Leo Yockey  3:05  
Yeah, I think that’s a great summary of what happened on the other show. Thank you for plugging in. So so early on…

Meghan Q Barrett  3:11  
Yes, of course, don’t worry, we’ll plug it again. And so basically, so here’s here’s how it started, I had talked about how becoming a mom is changing overnight, I went from being, quote, unquote, Meghan for 30 years to being mom overnight. And Leo said that is very similar to my experience as a biracial trans man. And in your words, you described yourself as “a butch lesbian, that was easily recognized as part of the LGBT community. And then overnight, that changed.” And you weren’t as easily recognized as part of this community that you belong to. So what was your experience with this and your feelings around that transition?

Leo Yockey  3:57  
Yeah, I think first Well, first of all, that change happened at the same time that other changes were happening in my life. And I think the culmination of all these different things happening at the same time is part of what made the suddenness of it. So, so weird for me right at all. Within one month of each other. I started my medical transition from from female to male. I started a new job in a brand new career. I started my first job as a software engineering, tech coding, all that good stuff. And I moved to a new city. So yeah, and I didn’t really know anybody in that in the new area that I was living in, because I’m in LA. So like, moving from one side of LA to another is like practically moving to the other side of the world. All of the all these things kind of converged at once, and the the changes that were happening, we’re all getting kind of blended together. So like you mentioned a second ago. Yeah, like growing up, you know, I had really short hair from the time that I was really young. I wore my brother’s hand me downs, you know, out of preference, my parents let me do it. So, you know, when I came out as a lesbian, which, you know, I did, mostly because I didn’t have the words for transgender, you know, we, we see it kind of all over the media today, but even, you know, 510 15 years ago, and especially 20 years beyond, that’s not really the case. You know, so there are a lot of people who just felt like they weren’t fitting into society and didn’t know why. And so for me, at the time, coming out as gay seems like, the most fitting identity out of those that I had been exposed to at the time. And anybody that I met, you know, there was no coming out, after a certain point, by the time I was like, you know, 1415 years old, like people could, like, just tell, so to speak, I’m saying that in air quotes, because, you know, like, what does a lesbian really look like, like that, you know, that that’s such a loaded thing to be able to say that you can just clock someone like that, but that that was my experience, you know, and then all of a sudden, I start taking tests dosterone, almost overnight, you know, I, you know, people, you know, start to perceive me as male, and I get both the challenges and the privileges that come with that, right. I mean, you know, you know, from being a professional woman, that there’s just certain, there’s certain challenges in the professional world that women face that men don’t. And I found myself almost overnight, having those challenges being lifted, you know, all of a sudden, the, the men in charge are taking me a lot more seriously. But at the same time, I’m also in this new career, and I’m also now, you know, I went from being you know, this butch lesbian, to now all of a sudden, I’m having the challenges that, you know, black men face and all of a sudden, now, you know, I get into an elevator with a woman, and she’s clutching her purse a little, you know, a little bit more, you know, tightly closer to the chest, and, you know, things like that people are crossing the street, when they, when they see me coming, you know, it’s like, I have all these different changes going on at once. And I’m dealing with this new career. And, you know, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the tech industry, there’s a lot of, there’s a, you know, it’s male dominated, there’s a bit of a boys club mentality, there’s a little bit of a frat house mentality, frankly, at some companies, and that was a company that I ended up at, at first, it was this frat house mentality. So I’m kind of, you know, I’m going out to the bar with my coworkers every night. Well, not every night, but at least once a week, you know, we’re staying till the bar closes, where, you know, I had a boss that said something along the lines of, I can’t really trust someone or work with them until I have a beer with them, you know, like this, this is kind of the mentality I’m working in. And in my eyes, you know, that there’s a combination of I want to fit in at work, and I want to do whatever it takes to get ahead. And also, Oh, dang, here I am working with all these guys, and I’m fitting in is one of the guys and so almost that like I almost regressed into this like teen peer pressure, like, just want to be a part of kind of having, again, like that frat house experience. So all of these things all kind of happening at once. And so suddenly, it was like the the world was perceiving me so much more clearly, almost than even I was perceiving myself. And dealing with that internal change happening at a much slower pace than the external factors kind of became really difficult to cope with. So I mean, I even you talk about your postpartum anxiety a lot. You know, I had a lot of anxiety around my change, too. And I ended up getting a really bad stress induced illness back in 2019. All these changes happen at the beginning of 2018, by the beginning of 2019, had a horrible stress induced illness. I was sick for most of 2019 I got better just in time for the pandemic. So I’ve basically been holed up at home for you know, a whole year beyond everybody else. Wow, I’m really ready for the world to reopen. Well, hey,

Meghan Q Barrett  9:01  
there’s there’s another similarity my son was about my youngest was about four or five months. And I was like, I am ready to go out, I’m ready to get my life going, again, go places I can do this. And then it was like, No, shut down. So another similarity where I was at home for a few months before the shutdown even happened to

Leo Yockey  9:21  
Yeah, that’s wild. So many similarities. It’s all different, but it’s all the same. 

Meghan Q Barrett  9:26  
You know, as I said before, like change is so universal and it’s there’s these very different situations, but they evoke the same emotions within us. And I want to circle back you would kind of hit on anxiety of it, and we talked about it too. And you had said that change creates anxiety, and that that’s a great thing, which I think is interesting too. Now that you had just said hey, I I suffered from like this anxiety induced illness. Not everyone sees anxiety as a great thing. How do you see it as a great thing? Why is it a great thing to you?

Leo Yockey  10:04  
That’s a great question. You know, I think that in a lot of cases, we shy away. Okay, so let me back up a little bit further. I grew up in like a new age, new thought church, where a lot of that, you know, law of attraction, power, positive thinking, like all of that stuff was essentially preached. And there were a lot of advantages to growing up being exposed to all of that at such a young age. But one of the challenges to that was, have you ever heard of toxic positivity? Are you familiar with Yeah, yeah. So toxic positivity was a huge side effect of, of growing up in that environment. And I grew up in a house where toxic positivity kind of ran rampant. And I think that in a lot of cases, we look at things like anxiety, and like depression. And we don’t really allow ourselves to have those feelings, we have those feelings, and we say, oh, no, this is bad, I gotta go back to feeling normal. But the reality is that, if I’m never feeling anxious, I’m never growing, you know, the anxiety. Anxiety comes in a lot of different forms, right? But the anxiety that comes specifically from change, in my experience, has been a result of not taking that time to properly stop and sit with myself, and to really take in those changes, you know, have I really taken the time to journal or, you know, see a therapist or even a friend and really unpack the changes that I’ve gone through and where I was, and where I am today, and how I got there. You know what I mean, I really love history as a subject. And I think that the cool thing about journaling is that it we can kind of look back, and it’s like a history, our own personal history, history of our own lives. And without being able to go back and see those patterns, and also be able to see the growth and see like, Oh, my God, I used to react this way. And now I’m reacting in a much more evolved way. It is. I feel like I’m going to a bunch of different champions. But yeah, I think with anxiety, it makes me feel like, I feel like my world is kind of like falling apart a lot of times when I’m anxious, but that’s kind of exactly what’s happening, right? If you’re growing, because the old world that we were inhabiting is no longer whether it’s an external change that’s out of our control, like COVID, or an internal change, or a change in identity. Any of these changes result in kind of going into the unknown. And we have to go into the unknown unless we want to just go through the same thing over and over and over again, which I don’t because that’s the definition of insanity.

Meghan Q Barrett  12:46  
Right? Yeah, I mean, anxiety comes with anything that’s new, or different, something that we haven’t experienced before, our bodies, and our minds are like, Hey, we’ve never done this before. What the hell is going on? So it’s never really experienced any anxiety on that level, then? You’re just staying the same?

Leo Yockey  13:06  
Yeah, certainty is so important to us. I feel like it’s like we want, we want to know what’s coming in. And there’s, you know, there’s there’s a biological survival instinct behind that, right? We we want to know, when we’re out, you know, hunting and gathering, where the lions gonna come out and when it’s asleep, so it’s safe to hunt. You know what I mean? Yeah, we just don’t really have those those certainties in life, and to create a life that has those certainties built in, in my experience is a much less fulfilling life, you know, like you can make a world that’s really, really small for yourself, where you have complete control over everything that’s going to happen. But you know, at what cost?

Meghan Q Barrett  13:49  
Exactly. And I think with change, it not only creates this anxiety, well, anxiety comes from the unknown, like we said, and you had said in your podcast, too, that with this change, you have to face yourself, which that to me was like, wow, because I feel like I have made some big life changes, especially in this past year. And I’ve had to face so many things about myself and take responsibility for them. What have you faced and what have you learned about yourself?

Leo Yockey  14:20  
A lot of what I faced is my own responsibility and things and I think especially right now, especially with the world being so divided, it’s so no matter what you believe, no matter what you’re going through, no matter your stance on things, it’s very easy to have an us versus them mentality. I think you actually just posted about this recently on Instagram. Yeah, no matter where you land as far as the COVID vaccine goes, you can kind of stand in this feeling of superiority and feel like you’re better than the people who chose opposite than you when it comes to vaccine. I think that what we often choose not to see is that Again, as we’re kind of exploring here in this conversation, we have more in common than not. And the reality is that anything that any one human experiences any of us could experience and if it Okay, so, for example, take back that the COVID vaccine example, you know, if you, if you are pro vaccine, and you’re over here, dunking on someone who’s anti vaccine, there, there’s a part of you that’s afraid of the fact that a couple different circumstances could have gone differently. And in the tables could have been turned, you know, what I mean? And I think, you know, going back to my, my first job in tech, where I was kind of in this, like, frat house type environment, it was a really unhealthy environment to be working in. And, you know, looking back, I realize, and I’ve learned through therapy and stuff like that, that the boss that I had there was pretty abusive. And I realized, now, you know, it was so easy to be like, Oh, my gosh, I have this abusive boss, oh, my gosh, it was so hard. And you know that that’s true on some level. But what’s also true is that I could have left at any point. And what’s also true is that I let my ambition blind me to how abusive that boss was, because the reality was that I wanted to get ahead by any means necessary. I had other co workers who were less affected by that boss, because they kept a reasonable emotional distance between themselves in the work that they were doing, they weren’t getting as attached. And so I have to own the fact that I’m going to get, you know, really attached to any work that I do, I’m going to dive in, try to get ahead as quickly as possible. And that could make me susceptible to to bosses or environments that might not have my best interest in mind. And without owning my peace in that without owning that responsibility that I have, I can’t fully face that anxiety, because otherwise, I’m gonna always feel like that. That which gave me anxiety is always outside of my control. And that’s really scary to live like that, you know,

Meghan Q Barrett  17:06  
yeah, I’ve talked about that before, too, it’s like, you have to take that responsibility and figure out what you are in control of, you are not in control of what your boss does, or how he acts. But you’re in control of how you react to that situation, however, you choose to react to that situation that’s on you. And that’s your control. And we can’t spend I mean, we all have limited time on this earth in a day, even. And spending your time focusing on things that you can’t control, in my opinion, is just a waste of your life. Like, plain and simple, like it’s pretty, pretty bluntly, it’s just a waste of your life, like look at those things that you can control that you can have an impact on, and get your focus on those.

Leo Yockey  17:54  
Exactly. And you know, this, this is the parenting podcast, a podcast for moms. And I think a lot of that, you know, because I’ve been think about that a lot. Like, why why do I want to let go control? Like, why? Why is it so much easier to say, oh, that person did something to me as opposed to owning my piece. And I think a lot of it comes down to you know, getting real deep into the therapy stuff. I mean, it comes down to our inner child and having to learn to parent, our inner child, and almost all of us pretty universally had some sort of experience with parents who dropped the ball, right? I mean, parents are humans, they’re going to make mistakes, even if they did almost everything, right, they probably still did something wrong. Like, that’s just the reality of it. We all have inner child stuff that we’re working through, and it’s so much you know, and so in fine in putting that responsibility in other people. You know, that’s our inner child saying, Please, please someone just look out for me, please, someone take care of me. And, and facing myself is really taking back that control and saying, I’m going to be the parents and my inner child, and I’m going to take ownership of making sure that, you know, whatever happens to me, whatever happens to that inner child within me, then I’m going to find a way to to make it okay, even when it’s not.

Meghan Q Barrett  19:09  
Yeah, I mean, I didn’t even really know a whole lot about this, like inner child. And I feel like being a mom, it’s even more because it’s like, I’m trying to parent my inner child and parent, my children. And then things come out of my mouth that I’m like, Oh, wow. Okay. That was my parents. I didn’t appreciate that as a child. Okay. Let me let me help my child here first. And now let me help my inner child. You know, so it’s this balance, but I think it’s, it’s very much magnified. When you become a parent too. And you realize that, yeah, your parents made mistakes. You said, we are all we’re all human. We need to forgive our parents because now you’re an adult. And most people listening to this podcast are not only adults, but their parents too. So you need to take that risk. sponsibility not only for yourself, but how you want to parent your children. And then on the inside of that, know that at some point in your kids lives, they’re going to need to forgive you too, because you’re going to mess up.

Leo Yockey  20:13  
Yeah. So grant your parents the grace that you hope your kids will create you.

Meghan Q Barrett  20:19  
That’s, that’s basically what I am going through right now. And I’m trying to give as much grace as possible.

Unknown Speaker  20:26  
Yeah. All right. 

Meghan Q Barrett  20:27  
i’m going to switch gears here just a little bit, because I do want to know about your podcast, the Leo Yockey show. Alright, you are sharing people’s stories, which, first of all, absolutely love because, okay, so tangent A little bit. My dad used to watch documentaries all the time. And I feel like why are you watching documentaries? They’re the most boring thing in the world who cares about these people’s lives? Fast forward. Now? I love I read autobiographies. I read biographies. I watch whatever documentaries are on Netflix, like, I just want to know, these like secrets and the stories about people that are not widely known. I love that, and I’m obsessed with it. But what drove you to be the person and the medium to share everyone’s stories of these wide range of people that you have from literally all over the world?

Leo Yockey  21:17  
Yeah, I mean, to put it succinctly, it was an identity crisis. You know, in my in my podcast allele, yaki show, I have a guest on every week, I might be switching to bi weekly, soon, temporarily. But regardless, I have a guest on every episode to kind of unpack the universal truth in their unique life paths. And, you know, kind of as, as Meghan and I have been alluding to, you know, we both believe that everybody has a story, that even though it’s really unique, there’s there’s something universal, that’s just plain human about it. And I started the podcast at a point when, you know, I said, I said before, I’m, I’m a software engineer, I got into tech a few years ago, February of this year, February 2021, I had a major break down, I was starting to get a stress illness, again, I’d already left that frat house job, I was getting another stress induced illness at my new job, I realized that I had enough money in my savings account to quit and kind of figure things out for a while, take a break. So I did that. And for a while, while I was on this break, I was looking for new tech jobs, I was thinking that I was going to just take a month off. And then eventually I said, You know what, I don’t want to go back to tech, I’m done, I’m going to figure out something else. I didn’t know what that’s something else. But I didn’t know that networking is very powerful. And that having informational interviews with people is very powerful. So I would talk to basically, anybody and everybody who would be willing to meet with me, and I just asked them a bunch of questions about their job and their life and how they found fulfillment and what made them decide to do what they wanted to do. And I would take those conversations, I would get a lot out of them, I would share some of those conversations with some of my friends. And they got a lot out of you know, just what I was reeling back. And I had done a podcast in the past really enjoyed the process. And I knew I wanted to do another one in the future. So eventually, I just kind of had this aha moment of, well, here’s my podcast, and I don’t know where it’s gonna take me, but I’m just gonna do this, I’m going to just start recording these conversations and just see where it goes. And so I just wrapped up my my first season, I’m on to Season Two now. And all the while I was I was doing other creative things, I was getting into comedy, I was just kind of doing whatever I could to, you know, I was looking into coaching myself, anything I could do to just kind of forge a new path for myself. And I think I did 17 episodes in that first season, Meghan being one of them. And there was something that I took from pretty much every single episode that kind of brought me to where I am now at the beginning of season two, which is identifying that the reason why I said no more tech was because I was burnt out, not because I didn’t want to do it anymore, figuring out how to recover from that burnout, figuring out how I got to that place to begin with. And kind of, you know, figuring out where I want my path to go from here. So you know, this, this podcast was really therapeutic for me. You know, it’s really great, especially for any, you know, millennials kind of going through that like, existential crisis of like, what do I do now, I know I should be doing something different. But I don’t know what that thing is. You know, it’s like, let’s talk about it. Let’s all figure it out together. And, you know, I have people like Meghan said, from all over the world, different racial and gender identities, all kinds of different jobs, whether they just have an office job, and have maybe a fulfilling hobby on the side, whether they’re entrepreneurs I have artists of varying mediums, you know, authors, musicians, that kind of thing. You know, retired theater kids, like, all that kind of stuff. And, you know, and it’s, it’s, it’s a great time, you know, it really shows again, that there’s something universal to be taken from anyone’s experience anyone’s story, you know, kind of no matter no matter what we’re going through.

Meghan Q Barrett  25:25  
So what I got from this a little bit is you selfishly started this podcast, which I’m all for, you know, I’m all for like being selfish. But then it evolved into this, Hey, I’m doing this for me, I need this for me. But this can help so many other people, too. And that’s how I landed here, which also, PS Leo gets an extra special thank you. Because without Leo, you would not be listening to this podcast here. He is the one that got me all set up and everything and made what seemed super overwhelming. Very, very simple. And I am forever indebted to you and grateful to you for providing this for me, because it has been a great outlet, not only for me, but as I said, you know, it was selfish. It is like, this is an amazing outlet where I get to express myself, but I also get to help a ton of people too.

Leo Yockey  26:22  
Yeah, I’m happy to help. And I think that was one thing that I learned through the interviews I had on my podcast is that creativity and community are both so important. You know, we learned so much just by creating even if it’s just a podcast, or a blog or something like that. And in building community and helping other people, it all kind of comes back tenfold. You know it? It’s great. I love it.

Meghan Q Barrett  26:44  
All right, well, we could talk forever. But I try to keep this short because I know mom’s are not. They’re short on time. Basically, we don’t have a ton of time. So I try to keep them a little shorter, we could talk forever. I’ll probably have you back on because I’m going to have another dream that you need to come back on. So we’re going to wrap it up with the one question I asked all of the guests and what is one piece of advice that has changed you and or your life?

Leo Yockey  27:12  
Yeah, you know, going with the theme of this show, I had to I had to come with something that I learned from my mom. So shout out to Gail Yockey.

Meghan Q Barrett  27:22  
Thank you, Gail!

Unknown Speaker  27:24  
It’s not even really so much advice. As much as it is a thing that she just always says that has made me You know, I’ve just kind of reflected on it a lot. It’s made a big impact on me. She first said it, she’s she’s about to turn 64. But she she first said it right around the time she was turning 60. I asked her, you know, like, how does it feel to be turning 60. And she and she thought about it, and she’s like, you know, I don’t I still feel like the same person that I was, I still I don’t feel like my body is not doing what it used to like why I’ve, you know, I’m clearly older, but I don’t feel any older, I still feel the same way that I did when I was like a teenager. And I thought that that was so profound, and she’s brought it up several times, since then, I always I still feel the same, I still feel the same, because I’m obviously younger than her. But I also still feel the same way that I did on the inside, as I did when I was a teenager. You know, and, and kind of going back to that inner parent thing. I feel like I’m always waiting for that moment to be like, Okay, I’m going to get this education or I’m going to get this experience or I’m going to make this amount of money. And then I’ll really feel like at that point, I’m coasting, I’ve made it I’m set, I’m good, or I’m going to feel good about myself. And that day is never going to come I’m always going to feel like this anxious kid that just wants people to like me that just wants to fit in whatever. And the only thing that I can really, truly do is get better at managing that emotion. Because I I’m just never gonna feel different than I did before. Because deep deep down, there’s a part of me that never, never changes. So I think, you know, she brings that up again, all the time. She’s like, you know, I see my hair’s going gray, but I still feel the same arthritis, but I still feel the same. You know, and I think that that’s really profound and also again, helps humanize our parents like hey, they still feel like insecure teenagers, like of course, they messed up. It’s amazing thing that we’re not worse off than we are.

Meghan Q Barrett  29:29  
Right? And it kind of goes back to you know, like, it’s your reaction to things you like some people won’t even say their age, you know, and it’s like how you feel about it and how you want to react to it. Absolutely. Well, thank you, Leo. And thank you, Gail, be sure to tell your mom, thank you for that one. Because I appreciate that too. And mom, yes, always shout out to all the moms out there. And thank you so much for coming on. Again. As I said special absolute biggest Thank you ever to Leo, and go check out his podcast, the Leo Yockey show. Thanks for coming on, Leo.

Leo Yockey  30:09  
Thanks for having me on, take care.

Meghan Q Barrett  30:15  
A big thank you again to Leo for not only coming on the podcast, but making this podcast a possibility and giving us this space to connect. And there were a ton of takeaways in that interview, it could have gone on a lot longer. But the one that I really want to focus on on the end here is when he talked about when there’s a change going on, it feels like your world is falling apart, and that you’re so anxious, but that’s kind of exactly what’s happening. And in order to change or in order to get something that you want that is of higher quality. You have to have some things fall apart and get rid of things that are of lower quality. Be sure to go check out the Leo Yockey Show podcast, as well as check them out on Instagram at Leo Yockey and Tik Tok @LeoYockey. All those links will be in the show notes. And if you don’t already, give me a follow on Instagram as well, while you’re there @MeghanQBarrett, and that’s Meghan with an H, and have a great day free of mama guilt because you deserve it.

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