We had the good fortune of connecting with Julie Roland and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Julie, how do you think about risk?
In the Navy, especially in aviation, we talk about risk all the time. Before every flight, we fill out sheets dedicated to Operational Risk Management. We examine what might present the greatest risks that day—live ordnance? bad weather? fatigue?—and discuss deliberately how we’ll address those risks before we even walk to the aircraft. Flying is always risky, but our missions often require accepting additional risk in time critical situations, so we develop techniques to swiftly and smartly identify our options, assess their unique risks, and then consider how we can mitigate those risks. We never accept unnecessary risks and we accept risks only when the benefits outweigh the costs. This may seem like common sense, but these kinds of principles turn risk analysis into an ingrained and continuous calculus. I do not have this discipline when it comes to risk management in my non-Navy life. I still try to not take on any unnecessary risk—there is a big difference between taking risks and being downright reckless (don’t go on a long hike in the sun without bringing enough water)—but I think it is easier for me to deem a risk “necessary” when I am not acting as an aircraft commander, responsible for the helicopter and my crew. The other day I said something to a friend in regards to what I might like to do with an art space: “I don’t know, I think I just want to throw a bunch of darts at the wall and see what sticks.” I am a very logical person, but while I’ll use logic to help me make the safest choice in aviation, the rest of the time, I often throw caution to the wind. Arguably, the benefits of things like spontaneity or satisfying my curiosity about an idea simply outweigh the costs. Even if I know a relationship may end, I still throw my heart into it. If I have a crazy idea for an event, even if I’m not sure that it will be a rip-roaring success, I still throw my heart into it. I think that’s really the only way to take on an event, or anything else in life. If you weren’t “going all out” for something, then why were you doing it in the first place? If you didn’t care enough to give it your full effort and attention, then even if you are successful, how much joy is that going to bring you? If I’m going to fall, then I want to wipe out big, doing something I love. Sometimes there’s heartbreak and disappointment, but I’ve gotten used to picking myself back up. My friend Dan Fisher likes to say, “I’ll try anything twice.” I think it’s good to take risks, fail tremendously, and go again. You’ll have learned what to anticipate, and know better how to manage all the risks through planning and implementing better controls. The second go is less risky. Then of course, you have to come up with a fresh idea, and keep challenging yourself. Oh, it’s fun.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am still figuring out what my “brand” or my “art” is, but I’m pretty content with not knowing. I love to write, but I wouldn’t call myself a writer. I love to paint, but I wouldn’t call myself a painter. I just performed last week in a live, online immersive 1920s experience called Into the Mist (@_intothemist) as a mystic named Jinx, where I spoke in a French accent and gave tarot card readings to audience members, improvising the whole way, but I wouldn’t call myself an actress, improvisor, or tarot card reader (perhaps I am a charlatan!). Only once I became a card-carrying member of the Academy of Magical Arts, after twenty years of performing magic, did I begin to identify as a magician. When I get on stage and host an event, I like to make people laugh, but I’m also sure to remind my audience that I’m not a standup, this isn’t a bit, I’m just hosting, and I won’t be offended if they don’t laugh. My friend Colin Jones, a talented musician, said recently that this makes me an “incognito comedian.” I was quite tickled by that, especially because it somehow makes me think of those Groucho glasses which I find incredibly amusing. I think being so immersed in the arts without being an artist myself helps set me apart. I don’t have to be in it for myself, I’m not trying to turn this into a money-making scheme or a lucrative career. I just love being able to spotlight other artists, bring art to the community, bring the community a little more together, make people laugh, inspire others to share their art… It’s all such a pleasure. It doesn’t have to bring me a job or money—I have a day job and my own professional goals within the Navy—but I’d like to be able to keep doing it! This is truly a passion project, and I think that makes it easier to be a little more lighthearted and whimsical. The stakes are low, so everything can be on the table (except anything at all racist, homophobic, sexist, etc…). I just think if you’ve got an idea, then go for it! And if you want me to be involved, then I’d love to be a part of it.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I looove a speakeasy, because it’s like being transported to another world. I just love anything that commits to the bit, and a speakeasy tends to be a deeply entrenched theme. Plus, I’m so curious and such a lover of magic and things that the idea of a secret bar being tucked away somewhere behind a library wall, say, appeals to me on a childlike level. Most of them are closed right now due to COVID-19, but keep your finger on that pulse. On the subject of best-kept-secrets, I recommend following Angkorian Pikestaff (@angkorian_pikestaff) for the best pop-up food in the city. I also love nature, hiking, outdoor activities, etc. My favorite hike in the San Diego area is the Monument Peak Trail near Mount Laguna. It’s the best bang for your buck: in under 4 miles you get a beautiful hike along the Pacific Crest Trail through the Cleveland National Forest, and when you reach the top, you suddenly can see infinitely into the desert. It’s a little speakeasy secret of its own, and it’s not too long a drive out there to show someone visiting all of the geographic wonder San Diego has to offer. I also like taking Cowles Mountain up by sunset, and down by moonlight on a full moon. There are so many great hikes and things to do outdoors! My dad was actually just in town and we went out for a half day of deep sea fishing, which I’d recommend. You get a sunrise on the water, a little boat tour of the coast of San Diego, we saw hundreds of dolphins, and we caught enough rockfish to fill our bellies with fish tacos that evening. I like wandering from the cactus garden to the sculpture garden at Panama 66 where you can also enjoy food, drink, and often live music. San Diego has so much to offer though; there are so many cool and distinct neighborhoods and types of activities. The farmers markets in OB and Little Italy are fun excuses to explore those neighborhoods, but I might even pick a neighborhood and walk around it for a few hours, stopping in at any shop that looks interesting and eventually settling on somewhere to eat. My go-to’s include OB Noodle House in Ocean Beach, Azuki Sushi in Banker’s Hill, Fort Oak in Mission Hills, Bali Hai in Point Loma, Silvia Pupuseria in National City, Solomon Bagels in North Park, and basically all of the food and drink on that one block of Park Blvd in University Heights. I try not to get too complacent though, it’s worth trying new places always! I discovered Flavors of East Africa on a delivery app when I was looking into Black-owned eateries, and that place is the bomb too. I’ve never even eaten there in person yet—I think they’re still closed for dining in—but I’d get that delivered to me on my deathbed. I also just love a vista (especially at sunset), whether it’s Shelter Island or Harbor Island, the Presidio, Mount Soledad, Kate Sessions Park, the secret swings of La Jolla, whatever. I stan a picnic with a view. When San Diego opens back up, I’d take in as much of the arts scene as possible. On May 1st, I’ll be hosting the first Just Tryna Make Friends Show (@jtmfshow) in a year where we’ll have improv comedy, stand up comedy, magic, and live music in my backyard. I also created and am now hosting the Firehouse Variety Show on the rooftop of Firehouse PB, so look out for those shows! I am optimistic for all the fun events that are about to start happening in San Diego.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My mother Deborah truly deserves the credit for my success. She has inspired me in so many ways, encouraged my ambitions, taught me all I know about art, and attended everything from puppet shows put on by my sister and me as toddlers to musicals I stage managed in high school. She passed away when I was eighteen, and I have said since that my life is a compilation of answers to the question “What Would Deborah Do?” Whatever I accomplish, it’s all dedicated to her.