Reflections

If you’re just tuning in, here’s what you’ve missed: About a week and a half ago, I discovered that my best friend from high school is undergoing a gender transition from being male to female. Really, I’ve set the stage, but today, I want to focus on my thoughts and reflections. When I told my parents about Ben transitioning into Lucy, they reacted perfectly. Dad might’ve chuckled and remarked on how that was a bit out of the blue, and after a long pause my mom mentioned that Ben always has lovely hair. It was perfect because they didn’t really have an answer, and they didn’t need to. At that point, I still didn’t know what I really felt about the whole thing apart from shock. So – to not have to listen to them tell me how to feel or how to react was perfect. I think if they had reacted differently, it would’ve just overwhelmed me.

A week later though, and they admitted that they were worried they they didn’t handle it well. Dad said, “You know, it’s not like there were any chapters in the parenting books on how to respond when your adult-child discovers that their best friend from high school is changing genders.” Then, they asked if I’d write about it. So – here I am.

So my thoughts and reflections…. they’re complicated. How could they not be?

I guess the best place to start is with the most powerful feelings.

The best way I can verbalize it is that part of me in is mourning. for Ben. I loved Ben. I loved that she was my geeky “guy” friend that was more like a girl friend. Ben is who I connected with in high school. Ben is who I missed and who I was expecting to see at the reunion.

But – Ben’s not dead. Ben is now Lucy. I don’t really know Lucy as well. I mean, I know her as much as I know anyone else from high school I haven’t spoken to in ten years. But – somehow, it’s different. I guess because things I took for granted, like gender, have changed drastically.

I’m really excited to cultivate this new friendship with Lucy, but a small part of me is very sad that it’s not with Ben.

And why should gender matter? Why does it matter to me as long as the essence of our friendship is still there? I mean, Lucy has all the same memories that Ben has. Same person, but just a different kind of wrapping paper. Like I said before, Ben could be a purple and green penguin for all I care.

And maybe it’s wrong. But in some ways, it does matter and I DO care. I’m so happy that Lucy is taking steps to become more comfortable in her own skin, don’t get me wrong. Until recently, I don’t think I could really understand/ relate to that. I lost 15 pounds in the last few months, and while I wasn’t UNHAPPY before, I am much happier now. I like looking cuter. It makes me feel like my outside matches my insides. I posted a while ago about Power Armor and how some days, you just need to wear that one outfit that gives you the ultimate confidence. Well, now I feel like I’ve got permanent Power Armor on. And everyone should have that. I don’t want to ever contribute to someone not trying to feel good about who they are, inside and out.

But still…

Still, I miss the Ben-wrapping paper. And that’s okay. I think it would be weird if I didn’t. Obviously, Ben was someone who was really important to me, and NOT missing Ben would belittle that.

I’m going to try and condense this all into one sentence: I mourn for Ben, but I am happy for the opportunity to continue that friendship with Lucy. There. One sentence.

For me – people are these bright shiny objects. Souls. Spirits. Whatever you want to call it, and the body is just the thing we inhabit.

I strive to be a person that judges people on their actions and words. Not on their wrapping paper. It’s difficult though…

Eh. That’s all I got. No pretty conclusion or anything because, it’s still something I’m trying to figure out. I mean, I’m trying to figure out what it means to me to be a woman. Taking that a step further into what it means for Ben to be Lucy….

All I know is that I’m enjoying talking to Lucy. I can always use more friends. Purple and green penguins and all.

10 Years Later

I’ve reached the age where I can think about what I was doing ten years ago, and have vivid memories. It’s weird. I’m getting old. I graduated high school ten years ago, and shortly later, started my freshman year of college.

Ever since I got the invite for my 10 year reunion, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on who I am now and who I was back in high school. Weirdly enough, not much has changed. It seems, I’ve circled back to that person. I mean, I’m stronger and more confident (and I know what to do with my hair now – those old pictures are cringe worthy), but I dress the same way (for the most part) and like the same movies, TV shows, music – all that. I totally branched out and have grown as a person, but it feel like at my core – I’m the person I was trying to find when I was in high school.

Turns out – I’m not the only one. The only one finally embracing who they were trying to be back then.

Let me set the scene as I remember it: my sophomore year of high school, I got really sick with mono and missed a lot of the year. I was the new kid the year before, so many of those “new” friendships kind-a vanished while I was sick. I mean, I wasn’t around, so it felt like people just kinda forgot about me. However, during that time, I became good friends with two guys: Ben and Tyler.

Ben and I became really close. I wrecked my car junior year, so Ben drove me to and from school every day. He’d let me drag him along shopping and we just did whatever. We’d hang out at Tyler’s house and play video-games or watch movies. During free period at school, when Ben and Tyler were playing Magic The Gathering, I was usually shifting through the discarded pile looking at the artwork.

The best memories of high school always have always had Ben in them. People would ask all the time why we didn’t date. For me, Ben was the brother I didn’t have. I’d jokingly tell people he was like “a girl friend but just happens to be a boy.”

After graduation, we hung out a few times when we were both home, but it seemed like Ben was VERY happy to get out of our city and move on.

Years go by and Ben totally falls off my social media radar. I thought about him from time to time, but didn’t do much more than that. I felt like Ben always needed his space and if he wanted to talk to me, he would. Also, back in high school, when Ben had a girlfriend we were less likely to talk as much and hang out as much outside of school. I figured, that was the pattern we’d fallen into after high school.

So now, here we are. 2016 and I get an invite to our reunion on Facebook. I start scrolling through the names of everyone invited to see who had already replied one way or the other. I’d already decided if Ben and Susan (a girl I’d been really close with on and off since 9th grade) were going, then I’d be there.

A name pops out to me: Lucy. But attached to Ben’s last name and with Ben’s picture.

I think, “well, that’s a bit weird – but not really out of character for Ben. Or anyone from my high school..”

So I go along my merry way and start looking through Ben/Lucy’s profile pictures. He looks just like I remember him, but his hair is much longer and he’s rocking some glasses. Oh, well, he’s got eye-liner on in that one. That’s also not that weird… Then, boom. I see him wearing a long rainbow skirt, with a big smile, and a caption about it being his “Pride day” outfit.

Shocked. I put the phone face down on my desk at work. What – what the hell did I just see? That picture, put everything else into a much different context.

I think if you know me, you know that I’m a pretty open-minded person. People are people and I believe I’m here to be a steward to the Earth and be kind. So – it wasn’t the Pride thing. It wasn’t even the skirt on it’s own. It was what that meant in my brain’s context of who Ben was. Some fuses short-circuited and I wasn’t really sure how to process it all.

Taking a deep breath, I sent the friend request on Facebook. Almost, instantly, Ben – Lucy – whoever had accepted the request. I took this as a good sign meaning two things: 1) She (because I did a bit more stalking and found on Facebook that Lucy identified with the “She” pronoun. I didn’t even know that was a thing on your profile, but I was glad for it) was plugged into Facebook more than she had been before and 2) that she wanted to still be my friend. Granted, in our day and age, being Facebook friends doesn’t really carry much clout – but it was a start.

Then we started messaging. I was so worried and aware of every word I typed. I missed my Ben – my best friend that knew me back when. I felt like he was someone that would still know me today. I missed that person so much, that I didn’t want to wreck this new thing we had going.

After swapping some pictures/Snaps and messaging more, I knew that my friend was pretty much just the same. He could’ve undergone surgery to turn him into a green and purple penguin, and it’d be the same as her gender change.

That’s right. I guess I haven’t come out and said it. Ben has started on his journey to become Lucy – a woman.

From my messages with her I learned several things:

  1. Ben (using this name when referring to her back as my high school side-kick) had felt like she was a woman for a long time
  2. She’d just started hormone therapy
  3.  She’d become a hardcore feminist
  4. She didn’t play video games as much anymore

None of these new things really changed who Lucy IS to me. After the initial shock,. I think that the most upsetting thing what that she didn’t play video games any more.

In some ways, maybe gender wasn’t ever anything that really factored into our friendship. Maybe, gender was how we knew to verbalize things.

My word counter says I’m already over 1,000 words and I still have a lot more to say. Really, all I feel I’ve gotten to do here is set the scene, but I still want to share my reflections on it all.

I want to end on this though: Out of all of it, I’m glad to be talking to my friend again.

Power Armor

Husband plays video games. Me? Not so much. I mean, I like to come home after a long day and boot-up the Wii for a round or two of Maro Kart every once and a while, but that’s about it.

Husband, on the other hands, plays these epic games with these intense and detailed plots. I love watching the cut-scenes and seeing the story unfold. While I don’t pay too much attention to the details, I know that you can get stronger depending on the armor you wear. There are all these different combinations of helmets and chest plates and whatnot. Most of the suits are really awesome and Husband’s character looks pretty terrifying after the upgrades. But, it’s not really about how the character looks, right? It’s all about the Power Armor.

There are days when I think that life would be easier in a video game. I could suit up, load myself down with a small armory of weapons, and go kick some ass. If I messed up and died, no biggie, I’d just wake up at the last save point. If a conversation goes south, all you have to do is quit and load some other previously saved game data and start over.

Obviously, life is not a video game. I can’t reset. I can’t come back to life. If I make mistakes, then I have to live with the consequences. Luckily for me, the same applies to everyone else.

But – there’s one thing that I can take away from a video game: Power Armor.

That’s right. Power Armor.

There are days where you need that extra protection. Days like – a big meeting at work where you’re pitching a new program, or when you need to kick some ass, or when you need to convince everyone else you’re more of an adult than you really feel.

When I’m in my Power Armor, I feel stronger, braver, more powerful. When I have my Power Armor on, I’m taller (literally because my Power Armor includes some wedges – I am a girl after all) and can look people in the eye on their level.

Also, when I’m in my Power Armor, I feel like I can dip into that World of What If. I don’t need to imagine how a day might be different if I was braver or bolder or more confidant, I live it.

 

People That Stick With You

There are people who challenge you every day. They challenge you to be braver. They challenge you to be stronger. Nicer. Better. Kinder. 

There are people who bring out the best in you. These people can take all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s your husband. Sometimes it’s your boss. Sometimes it’s your best friend. Sometimes it’s a total stranger next to you in line at the grocery store.

Then, there are people who give you the opportunity to learn who you are and who you can be. These people are the ones that makes you doubt yourself. These are the bullies, the naysayers, the haters. Just like the others, these people can be anyone. They can be a sibling. They can be a coworker. They can be that jackass in the next lane that cuts you off.

These people, the “good” and the “bad” shape who we are. How we react and how we change defines how the world sees us, and how we see ourselves. 

Then, if you’re anything like me, there’s the scenes that play out in your head. The World of What If. What if I was kinder? What if I stopped and gave that homeless man I pass on my way to work my yogurt in the morning? What if I was braver? What if I told that coworker to go to Hell? What if I rammed that jerk in the bumper at the next red light?

I see these scenes play out so vividly in my mind. Mostly, I’m the hero. Other times, I’m the villain. All these people and all these choices to live in the World of What If are opportunities.

What people don’t know, is that for a writer, we live in the World of What If. Everyone we meet. Every person that makes an impression on us (good or bad) is free game. I might not be able to tell that creeper at the pharmacy what I really think about him, but in my writing I can. In the World of My Words, I can come in dressed in a cape, say something so clever and witty that ass won’t know what verbal onslaught just hit him, and then spray him with mace. 

This is your warning, people in the Land of the Internet. Piss me off, I will slay you in my next short story. Give me strength and I will make you a hero in my next epic. For all those people out there, the ones that stick with me, are the ones that will become characters in my stories. Good or bad, you will be my inspiration. 

I like the good, but the bad are just as fun to play with. 

So, I dare you. Challenge me. Push me and see what happens. Support me and see yourself through another’s eyes. I’m always looking for more characters for my stories. Just ask yourself first, “Who do I want to be?”

Loving Imperfections

I’m one of those people that likes to troll Facebook in order to see the funny articles, videos, and occasional updates from my friends. I don’t really pause to examine your dinner in full detail nor do I feel compelled to read every status update on your new born. Don’t get me wrong, I like babies, but I don’t need to know what color his/her snot is.

However, the other day I saw an article that made me stop and read the whole thing through. It was a link to a blog post about 7 Cultural Concepts We don’t Have in the US. The concept that spoke to me the most was this one called wabi-sabi. From the blog post and a small bit of other research, I discovered that the wabi-sabi way of looking at life might be something that all artist should adopt. Basically it’s a Japanese idea of finding beauty in something that is imperfect and/or worn. One web site defined it as ignoring perfect and embracing the worn and asymmetrical, and proposes that doing this can change the way you see the world.

It’s already helped me accept my knitting mistakes. Each time I purl instead of knit and each time I knit instead of purl I’m making a mistake that (while annoying) adds a since of humanity and beauty to the scarf. A machine can knit tons of scarfs in a day with no imperfections, but it won’t do it with love. It won’t come home from work and think of that special person each time it adds a row.

But this is a writing blog.

So what does this have to do with writing?

Everything.

That first draft of anything you write should be full of grammar mistakes and plot holes. You should work hard on it and love those imperfections as you write. If another writer hard the same plot and characters and everything, they wouldn’t make the same mistakes that you do. And maybe something that looks like a mistake (a character turns out a bit differently than you intended) might be that thing that pulls the story together later on in other drafts. You need to make those mistakes to see what your story is just as much as you need them to see what your story isn’t.

Well, what about the last draft? The story will never be “perfect.” Each time you read it you’ll think, “Oh, I should have changed that phrasing…” So – just love the story for what it is. Sure, you’ll need to fine tune those rough edges, but by the time you are done that story will be well worn. It will be full of little quirks that is all you. Quirks that you might not even notice. Quirks that make up your own unique writing style.

Maybe its just me, but I think that sounds like a good way to go about writing. This concept of wabi-sabi is what finally got this idea of being okay with your sh*tty first draft. And, the cowl I’ve been trying to knit since October.

Pressure

Right. So, this blog is a little bit about my life, a little bit about my writing/writing in general, and mostly about what it’s like being a creative writing grad student out in the “real” world.

Recently, I’ve been posting about life and hardships and inspirations and whatnot. Now I’m coming full circle back to writing.

I know what you’re thinking, “Ahhh – she’s a writer. It’s November. This is her National Novel Writing Month token post.”

Well, you’re wrong. I’m working on my thesis. I don’t have any time to write another novel on top of this one.

This is a thesis writing post.

Sorta.

Today has been brought to you by the letter “P”

P is for PRESSURE

Who is under pressure here? *I raise my hand*

Why – you may ask.

Well, I’ll tell you. So I rewrote chapter one. And it’s pretty awesome as far as I’m concerned. My thesis advisor even said it was some of the cleanest writing she’s ever seen from me. So naturally, I’m all like “woooooooo”

Then I sit down to write chapter 2. And the freaking cursor just sits there blinking on the damn page and no words are appearing.

Here’s what’s going through my head….

What if I can’t get back into that voice?”

What if my characters feel forced?”

“What if chapter 2 is not nearly as good as chapter one?”

“What if I can’t finish my thesis?”

“What if this is all I have in me?”

“What if this chapter is epically shorter than that last one?”

“WHAT WAS I THINKING?”

Yeah. It’s awesome. 

And really, who the fuck cares about most of that? Page count? I mean, come on…

Then I close the computer and read or watch TV and think, “Alright. All I need is a break. I just need some space.” 

ANNNNND then the cycle starts all over again. However this time it’s accompanied by that David Bowie and Queen song, Under Pressure.

You know, this one…

Well, I know how to beat the cycle! I will open the document and pretend that I’m not writing for my thesis. My masters degree doesn’t ride on this. No one else will see it. EVER. Just me. So really, all I need to do is have fun and write because it’s fun. Get back to the basics as it were. 

That’s what made chapter one so awesome. I was having FUN while writing it. 

This is a new plan of attack. We’ll see how it pans out… updates will follow.

The Right Words

A few posts ago (The Dangerous of Being True To Yourself) I mentioned how many inspirational quotes there are out there and that words can only go so far.

I don’t admit this often, but I was wrong.

Let me start of with this awesome quote from Mark Twain:

I think this really applies to “inspirational” crap as well.

It’s not about the words- it’s about finding the right words to inspire you.

See the difference? 

What gets me inspired and pumped up to write and just be plain awesome might not be what gets other people’e juices flowing. 

Here’s what gives me strength:
“SOME NIGHTS”

Some nights, I stay up cashing in my bad luck
Some nights, I call it a draw
Some nights, I wish that my lips could build a castle
Some nights, I wish they’d just fall off

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh
What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Most nights, I don’t know anymore…
Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa oh oh
Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa oh oh

This is it, boys, this is war – what are we waiting for?
Why don’t we break the rules already?
I was never one to believe the hype – save that for the black and white
I try twice as hard and I’m half as liked, but here they come again to jack my style

And that’s alright; I found a martyr in my bed tonight
She stops my bones from wondering just who I am, who I am, who I am
Oh, who am I? mmm… mmm…

Well, some nights, I wish that this all would end
Cause I could use some friends for a change
And some nights, I’m scared you’ll forget me again
Some nights, I always win, I always win…

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for, oh
What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Most nights, I don’t know… (come on)

So this is it? I sold my soul for this?
Washed my hands of God for this?
I miss my mom and dad for this?

(Come on)

No. When I see stars, when I see, when I see stars, that’s all they are
When I hear songs, they sound like this one, so come on
Oh, come on. Oh, come on, OH COME ON!

Well, that is it guys, that is all – five minutes in and I’m bored again
Ten years of this, I’m not sure if anybody understands
This one is not for the folks at home; Sorry to leave, mom, I had to go
Who the fuck wants to die alone all dried up in the desert sun?

My heart is breaking for my sister and the con that she call “love”
When I look into my nephew’s eyes…
Man, you wouldn’t believe the most amazing things that can come from…
Some terrible lies…ahhh…

Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa, oh oh
Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa, oh oh

The other night, you wouldn’t believe the dream I just had about you and me
I called you up, but we’d both agree
It’s for the best you didn’t listen
It’s for the best we get our distance… oh…
It’s for the best you didn’t listen
It’s for the best we get our distance… oh…

Or, you know, if you want to hear the song if you haven’t already check out the video:

To me, this is a song about being an underdog. It’s about doubt. It’s about figuring out who you are and what it might cost you to be true to yourself. It’s about weather or not it is worth doing what you do if you feel like no one understands. To me, it pretty much sums up my Dangers of Being True To Yourself post. 

When I need a kick in the pants or when I need to feel like “YES! I may be super nerdy! I may want something that isn’t easy (a life where I can be a writer and just write) but NO! I will not give up!” I listen to this song.

Also, sometimes just one or two lines – like the hook or part of the chorus of a song – really empower me. So this one from Imagine Dragons’ song “It’s Time” is one I shout at the top of my lungs in my car when I need some reassurance. 

I’m just the same as I was
Now don’t you understand
That I’m never changing who I am!


Then – I also have this lovely picture hanging in my bathroom. Every morning when I brush my teeth I see it. Every night when I get ready for bed, I take it in.
It’s “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.

Some days that road is hard and bumpy. But I am better for it I think, “And that has made all the difference.”

I’ll wrap this up now – but I do want to share that I made an iMix on iTunes that I think you can search for and download. It’s called “Music For Writers” but I really think it can be for anyone who might need a bit of inspiration. Just incase, here’s the track list:
  1. Die Vampire, Die – [title of show] 
  2. Some Nights – fun.
  3. Through Heavens Eyes – The Prince of Egypt soundtrack
  4. Defying Gravity – I like the Glee version and the original so whatever floats your boat
  5. Just Dance – Lady Gaga
  6. I Want It All – Queen
  7. Eye of the Tiger – Rocky Soundtrack
  8. Stronger – Kelly Clarkson
  9. It’s Time – Imagine Dragons
  10. Paperback Writer – The Beatles
  11. Open Book – Cake

What songs empower you? What words? Share them here or just find them and hold on to them. The right words make all the difference.