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?”

BWAAAAAA!

Okay, so this is me freaking out a bit.

I really wanted to keep up with the Top Ten Tuesday. I really did. It’s been super fun and easy to do several posts at once in advance… but I just can’t commit to it anymore.

I’m sorry to say, but I really just can’t commit to my blog right now. Here’s a list of what on my plate….

  • Thesis (research, reading models, planning, writing, thinking…)
  • Reading
  • This writing project I’m doing with some Peace Core Volunteers where I write a short story (in English) based on the town/village that these children live in in Ethiopia
  • The 12-15 page paper that goes along with the novel portion of my thesis
  • Housework/ being a non-slacker partner to Husband (who has been working 12 hour shifts on top of school and is just plain worn out) and trying to keep some order in the house to balance the chaos of his schedule
  • My job
  • Having a life
  • Oh… and sleep

That’s a lot on one plate. And look, my blog isn’t even on it. Oh, and I’m going to be helping my buddy Cameron and some others out with a new entertainment blog that launches in March. The only reason that that isn’t stressing me out is that it’s not a whole blog/project that is on my shoulders alone. I get to make up lists and whatnot. On this blog I feel that I have a bit of a difference audience. I know that some of you enjoy the personal aspects of the blog and I do to…

I also enjoy writing about the books I’ve been reading. But that’s not happening.

Last night I did finish Paper Valentine one of the books on my 2013 Top Ten that’s being released this year. It was…okay. I stuck with it because a lot of the relationships in the book were similar to ones in mine and I wanted to see how the author went about showing these relationships and not just telling

Okay… whew. I would say I feel better but it’s late, I need to unload the dishwasher and write one more chapter before tomorrow and all I want to do is sleep.

WHEW! 

WHERE IS THE CAFFEINE DRIP WHEN I NEED ONE?    

Libraries as Crack Houses

Right, so in one of my super early posts I talked about how books can be like crack to writers (and just general book-lovers). For real, if it wasn’t for my husband and having to be a partner in a grown-up relationship, I’d most likely blow all my grocery money on books. I can never have enough. It’s a problem. I think they need to get some support groups up in here.

For example: I have  about 185 books on my shelf (this includes reference books and the like but it doesn’t include all the books I still have at my parent’s house) and I haven’t read about 75 of them. It’s even worse at my parents house. Like, how is this possible? I have all these books I bought wanting to read… then I don’t get to them and just go buy more. WHY? IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE!

But crack addiction doesn’t really make sense to me either. So, there’s that.

Now, I’m circling back to my central thesis here.

Libraries are freaking awesome. A whole building full of books and movies and audio books that you can borrow for FREE. FREE! Okay, not free… taxes and all that. But whatever, I don’t have to pay for each book.

But libraries, while super awesome, are really bad for bookish people. Here’s a chance to just get MORE books that you intend on reading. It’s like letting a former alcoholic walk through an ABC store. It’s so tempting. And all those books you own that you haven’t read, they’ll just gather more dust. And you’ll renew these books until you’ve run out of renewals and then probably get some late fees.    

It’s just dangerous.

And so wonderfully delightful.

(Note: I want to make clear that I really do think real addiction is not something to joke about. Yes, I”ve trivialized it a bit in this post, but I really don’t think being addicted to books is anywhere near as damaging as other addictions. There, I feel better…)

Comfort Zones

You know that thing when you were little, the whole “if I can’t see you, you can’t see me” deal? I don’t know about you all, but I don’t think I ever out grew that instinct.

When ever the weight of life is particularly heavy (bills, thesis deadlines, work, growing pains, etc.) I tend to do this thing. I go into my closet, turn off all the lights, and lay on the floor in the dark. There isn’t a world outside that dark little room. Sure, you might see a girl laying in a pile of dirty clothes in the dark, but I know better. I know that she’s picking up the little pieces. (And yes, go ahead and make your in the closet jokes – that’s not what this is about…)

I’ve found that things tend to sort themselves out in my closet. Plot lines fall into place. Characters’ motives become clear. I make a plan of attack for laundry. Then, when I come out, the world doesn’t seem so tough anymore.

Everyone needs a comfort zone. I don’t think it really has to be a particular place either. I used to like to sit on steps. I know that’s weird. But when I needed to think, I’d go find a step in my college dorm, or outside next to my parent’s deck, even in the house. I don’t know what it is about a flight os steps, but before the closet I was a fan of steps. 

But maybe that’s just me? 
What about you? Is there a place you like to think? Read? Write? Hide from everyone?