There are good days. There are not so good days.
Sometimes I suddenly am aware with a gut-wrenching force that I am more than a quarter of a century along and I don’t know how to be happy, I don’t have any answers at all and I am still trying to figure out what questions I even ought to be asking. Far enough away from childhood and youth that the process of living it can now be picked apart, bit by bit, shoved under the omphaloskeptic microscope. Turns out that’s painful. Turns out the process of turning into someone I want to be when I don’t even really know who I’ve been and who I was feels a bit like trying to build a snowman out of ash. You think you are forming a shape and then you move away and there it goes, invisible in the wind. And it’s like, why am I doing this work when next year I’ll feel like a totally different person again anyway.
Turns out too that when you’ve spent twenty-plus years trying to be something for someone else, that when you strike the “else” and that “someone” becomes yourself it’s exhausting, impossible, isolating. I don’t know how to live for myself and I don’t know how to talk to people anymore when what they think they’re going to hear out of my mouth is so different from what’s at the back of my throat. Somehow somewhere as it’s sliding over the tongue and through my lips it turns into banalities. “So what’s new for you?” “Nothing much. I sprained my finger.” I sprained my fucking finger?
How about this: I have a part-time job that puts me under the poverty line and I have ideas, a lot of them, about community and sustainability but I don’t have the resources or the know-how to make it happen and I’m in love with two people in totally different ways and I want to do sex work to help make ends meet and I waste a lot of time and I am so full of self-doubt it brings me to tears on bad days and I eat nutella out of the jar on a regular basis and I am sick most days and I don’t know how to have sex and not have it be sex-after-rape and I might not ever go back to school and I might not ever get married and I might not ever own a fucking house and I might have family that looks a whole lot different than is imaginable to just about everyone and my politics might not make any sense to anyone except myself.
Someone wrote to me a few weeks ago and asked me, what are the daily consequences for you of being a rape survivor? How does it affect your daily life? Here’s a thing, and it’s about more than rape but that has a lot to do with it: I keep walls behind me; I face doors at all times. I sit on the inside. I tuck myself in corners and against walls so that I can see anything and everything that might be coming at me and it is my life’s work to pull myself out of the corner and into the middle of the room where it feels like I have to spin so so so fast spin spin spin just to keep an eye on the 360-degree 3-D world surrounding me. And recently when I was talking to friends about self-destructive habits and patterns we have to work hard to keep ourselves from, the one, for me, is curling up and crawling into a fully-enclosed, iron-encased space where I am protected at all angles from things that be. My form of destruction is keeping myself so safe from everything that I become invisible, that I evaporate. Willing myself to untuck unfold, peeling myself off the floor away from the wall out of the corner is sometimes all I feel capable of in a day and those are the days that leave me spinning. Sometimes I get to the middle of the room and plant two feet down and it’s all my force to stay put. Good days — of which there are many, don’t get me wrong — are days when I can keep myself busy in the middle of the room and forget, for a bit, that I’m not watching out behind me.
Of course this is just an obnoxious extended metaphor but it also is the rhythm of my life and there are times I feel it crushing me. I don’t want to leave the impression that I’m depressed; of course there are times I wallow and feel nothing but most of the time I feel exhilarated or I feel obliterated or I feel something in between. I’m busy, I’m growing. Growing pains, I said in my last post, were a thing of 2011, and it already feels like they’re going to be even stronger this year.
I try to create narratives out of my life: I’m the protagonist, of course, and there are antagonists and various story arcs and things add up and loose ends get tied up. But then, memory doesn’t work in a linear way and as soon as I think I have it figured out I find more loose ends — like the time when I was in seventh grade and went to piano camp and all the boys snuck into the girls’ cabin, one per each bunk, except for mine cuz there was one more girl than boy and I was a goody-two-shoes; and then the time I played soccer in fifth grade and the boys all made fun of me and told me I kicked like a girl and I cried and didn’t go back; and the time I gave a boy a blowjob because I went to a party with someone who didn’t tell me it was a party for all the “smart girls” to give all the “popular boys” blowjobs; and the time I made out with my second cousin at my great-aunt’s funeral — things that I’d forgotten about, things that don’t make sense to me, things that I want to place and tie up in an ugly box with a piece of twine and throw away or maybe in a pretty box with tissue paper and a bow but either way I don’t want to deal with them because I want everything to make sense, because I spend so much time trying to make it all make sense, because I want to know who I am and what the hell I’m doing.
What do you do with all that? What do I do with all that?
I hardly even know where to begin. It’s easy enough to talk about the “stuff” going on in my life — getting our kitten next week (reader poll: Should We Name Our Cat?: a) Gilda b) Greta c) Simone), moving to Oakland at the end of July, starting my summer practicum in a few weeks, seriously considering staying for a PhD but also looking seriously at other PhD programs elsewhere, my part-time library job, which I actually love, family goings-on, the stuff I’ve been reading and obsessing about… and I’m sure I’ll write about more of that stuff here in the coming weeks. It’s summer, after all, and I’m not in class. I’m not intending to let this place die.
But today I want to write, again, about my hair. I wrote about it here already, last fall, when I was starting the project of growing it out. Now it’s nine months later and I’ve got a just-below-chin-length bob and just-above-brow-level bangs. I get my hair colored, too; it’s a sort of auburn with golden streaks right now. It’s funny, when I had quite short hair I never felt unfeminine and as I started identifying more as femme in the past four years or so I always was adamant that I wasn’t femme despite the short hair but rather that the hair was an integral part of my femininity. And certainly this in no way reflects on short-haired femmes in general, but for me — wow, I had no idea how much having longer hair would affect my sense of myself.
I feel so much stronger, so much fiercer, so much more solid in my body. I feel so much more myself, sexier, more flippant. It’s hard to know, actually, how much of that is related to just the hair and how much is related to other things (like this education, my graduate program, which is hardening me and breaking me all at once), but I have felt it as being integrally related to my hair. I don’t feel more feminine, per se, but I feel do feel more femme — like the way I want femme to feel for me. This sounds funny, but I feel more visible — not more visibly queer (in fact I think it’s the opposite), but more apparent to the world. And that doesn’t mean that I’m more apparent to other people but that I’m more apparent to myself. I’m showing up differently, somehow.
Though there is the thing about being more apparent to other people and that’s what I really wanted to write about. The longer my hair has gotten the more I’ve been a target of street harassment. Again, this is not a generalization of women-with-long-hair-get-more-street-harassment, not at all, but that has been my experience, and as I’ve felt more powerful in how I show up and walk around in my body, as I have felt sexier, I have also been getting a lot more desperately unwanted attention. And I don’t know what to do about this because I hate it, that isn’t strong enough, I don’t just hate it I loathe it, it makes me shake with rage.
I don’t quite know how to manage it. When ML and I were talking about moving to Oakland, one of the things she brought up was safety — is that neighborhood safer than, equivalent to, or not as safe as the Mission? And to be honest I can’t take those questions seriously because I never feel safe, ever. Ever. I’m always on my guard, no matter where I am, no matter who’s around. I’ve learned first hand, multiple times, that safety, for women, is an illusion and I feel like debating the nature of the safety of neighborhoods is the privilege of people who do feel safe in places. That probably sounds crass, and intellectually I know it probably is, but what I’m not saying is that we should throw ourselves in the path of danger or, through ignorance, subject ourselves to more of it. (Though even that sentence is victim-blaming, do you see it?) So I try to engage those issues seriously and with care but I end up generally getting really impatient and feeling like it’s all a farse, because honestly whether one neighborhood “seems” safer than another feels so arbitrary and so fictive. Also, racist. But at the same time, I don’t want to be flippant.
And still every week I get yelled at, whistled at, followed, groped, cat-called, in every neighborhood and no matter where I am. I feel less safe with the longer hair, feel somehow more vulnerable as I also feel stronger. Perhaps it’s that as I’ve felt more like me, I’ve felt less like I’m hiding — in short hair and in my body in general — and as I’m hiding less I feel more vulnerable. I don’t know, maybe that’s not it, maybe I’m entirely off base. But I need to figure out a way to respond, for my own sanity… And my hair grows longer.
I also just have to say that there is an adorable, tiny kitten playing on my lap trying to get my attention right now. So I’m going to go dote on her :)
So, grad school has started. I’d really wanted to do a post about my day trip into the central valley to see my grandpa’s pistachio orchards, but I can’t figure out how to get the pictures off my blackberry and onto my computer. Sadface. As soon as I can figure that out, I’ll post about that, because it was pretty amazing.
So, yeah, grad school. In the span of a week and a half, my life has changed pretty dramatically. Time is such an odd thing; when you’re in a particular timescape, you feel like this is it, this is what life means, it’s all led up to this, for better or for worse. And then something changes, and things shift, and that particular timescape feels so distant and you wonder how that ever felt real. My drop into grad school has been a waBAM kind of shift, and I look back on the summer (and, for that matter, the intervening years since I finished undergrad) and it feels like this weird island-in-the-sky, this floating interlude between something real and something else real. But what does “real” even mean? I guess for me, “real” means that I feel connected to myself — to my interiority as well as my exteriority — in a way I haven’t felt in quite a while.
It’s exciting. And it’s scary.
For the past two years, my relationship with ML has been the single thing outside of my own self that has motivated me the most. I have interests, sure. I love to cook (as y’all know quite well by now). I love writing here. I care deeply about the anti-sexual violence work I’ve been doing. I’ve enjoyed setting up my home with ML and expanding my sense of community in San Francisco. Many things. And yet on a day-to-day basis the thing that’s most occupied me has been my relationship. I love thinking about it, being in it, challenging myself to communicate in more effective ways (or not communicate when it’s really just time to shut up). I like positioning myself in the context of my relationship and in the context of a greater Queer Community, however fictive such a thing might be. I’ve really found resilience in my femininity and femme-ininity, and ML has been an instrumental part of that for me.
And now, in the past week and a half, my mental landscape has re-oriented. This was bound to happen no matter what program I entered, of course. But I think this particular program has hit a nerve in me in a way that undergrad never did (and that’s saying a lot, because I loved my undergraduate experience). I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but already the reading for my classes and my fellow students and the professors have all pushed my thinking to a level I haven’t been at in a while. I can already feel my mind expanding, opening windows, sweeping out old stuff and letting the cross-breeze carry in fresh air. I fucking love this feeling. It’s the feeling of being held accountable for my thinking. And the stuff we’re learning gets to me. Social justice always does. I’m gobbling it up.
What’s scary, though, is that it’s something outside of my relationship that’s driving me in a very real way. I was trying to articulate last night to ML what it was that was making me feel a bit jumpy and anxious lately and that’s really what it is. It’s this fear that being forced/encouraged to grow and expand is going to somehow make me grow and expand away from her. I know that’s probably unfounded, and that part of the beauty of relationships is pursuing our own things but being there to support each other in them. I mean, she does music, and I go to all her shows and listen to all her recordings and offer feedback and clap and cheer (and love her music, natch). I’m a part of her musical growth to the extent that I’m there by her side. Until now, there hasn’t really been that thing that I’ve needed her support in. I think grad school is going to be it. I’m going to need her to bounce ideas off of and to support me when I have a lot of homework to do and to read my papers and be interested in what I’m thinking about. So it’s going to be a probably subtle (and definitely positive) shift in our relationship once that dynamic blossoms. And I’m really excited for that.
BUT, here’s the thing. At the moment, we are both absurdly busy. I have a weekend-long seminar this weekend, plus I’m performing in a burlesque show on Tuesday so I’m rehearsing a bunch before then. Next week, she’s taking an evening music seminar Monday and Wednesday, is rehearsing with her band Thursday, and then has a major show on Saturday. The one night neither one of us has something separate — Friday — is a mutual friend’s birthday. Then Sunday I have a new student potluck to attend in Oakland. And the following week she’s got the same seminar again, and then band rehearsal again, and then another gig that Friday. And I’m kind of freaking out. When are we going to see each other???? When will we get to actually talk about the stuff that my mind has been turning over since classes started last week? She was out of town all Labor Day weekend at a wedding on the east coast, and then she gets back and BOOM we’re both frantically running around with 8 million things to do and the only time during the day that we get to share is the half hour before bed. And usually, that involves sex. Which is, you know, important. Obviously. But … I need the rest of the stuff that goes along with being in a healthy, loving and mutually supportive relationship, too. Call me high-maintenance.
So, we were just e-mailing back and forth (she’s at work, I’m at home supposedly “reading for class” but I’ve stretched the definition of that a bit by writing here…) and decided that Sunday evening, after my seminar, we’ll have a Date. Go to a wine bar, watch an old movie on the floor with lots of pillows and blankets, and have sex that’s not just half-hour-before-bed sex. So, yay! Step in the right direction. Breathe in, breathe out, and everything’s going to be okay.
And now I’d better get back to my reading…
I’ve been reading a book lately about relationships, specifically about making relationships work. It’s called The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (affiliate link). I’m not married, no, and my relationship is working just fine, but it seems to me that everywhere I turn, relationships are failing and it makes me nervous. One of my good friends here is in a marriage that on the outside seems lovely, but it turns out is on the brink of collapse. A couple that ML and I are good friends with and who were living together broke up. My parents are moving forward with divorce procedures. It’s enough to make me start to withdraw into the safe dark hole I keep for myself as a last resort, a hole that makes me feel safe and guarded from exposure, but a hole that isn’t particularly good for ML to be able to find me. And so, I’m reading this book.
Part of it is that apparently one of my values is order (surprise!) and another of my values is mastery. (This I have learned from exercises I’ve done with the help of my career coach.) Reading about things and preparing for things helps me feel in control of things; creating a working system for dealing with problems helps me feel productive and confident and content. Plus, a book of seven principles? A list of ways to have a good relationship? Based on research? That produces results? Count me in. I love shit like that. It’s like a problem-solving triage. In a fight? Let’s go through our seven principles to make sure we’re not getting in a nasty shouting match flooding gridlock.
Thing is, ML gets sort of skeeved by my reading relationship self-help books. “We’re fine,” she said, “why do you need to read that?” Because I want to, because it helps me feel secure. With relationships failing all the time, I like to be sure I’m doing everything I can to keep ours on solid footing. And I want to be intentional about it, rather than one day years from now waking up and realizing that we’ve let it slide. “Ok then,” she said, “but you don’t expect me to read it, right?” No, I don’t. I don’t expect her to read it.
But then I realized I was fighting some voice in my head that was all she doesn’t want to work for this relationship as much as you do. She’s not as invested in it as you are. She just wants it to be easy, which means that when it’s not she’s going to run. And I let that little voice in my head kick around for a day or two, feeling a bit uneasy. And yet, as I was reading the book, I was learning that we already adhere to all the principles, just by accident, just because we’re awesome. And then I came to the principle about how to solve problems, and how to recognize which problems are perpetual because they’re grounded in something other than the surface problem, because they’re grounded in clashes that run much deeper… and I read how when you find a problem like that, it’s going to be one that strikes a nerve, and what you have to do is figure out what the actual problem is and relate to each other and be willing to understand what that actual problem is in order to get anywhere. And I realized that the actual problem in the whole little-voice-in-my-head-saying-she’s-not-working-as-hard situation is really this: I like to know, I like to have solutions, I like to be prepared, I like to have a system for things, I like to plan ahead. So reading a relationship book is a way for me to have all that, to appease my want for a personal sense of security. As for her? She doesn’t care for any of that, she doesn’t try to always be prepared, she certainly doesn’t have systems in place for things, and she’s not much of one for planning ahead. She just takes things as they come. In fact, for her, seeing me reading this book made her feel a little uneasy, because it looked to her like I thought there already were problems that I needed to turn to a book to fix. For her, it triggered an insecurity that she was doing something wrong that I wasn’t communicating to her.
And once I understood that that’s what was going on, I was flooded with … something. Not relief, really. Just calm. This is just the two of us, it’s the way we work. We have different values, different stuff going on in the backdrops of our minds, different perceptions of the same scenario. And with that understanding of what’s actually going on in our minds, beyond the surface tension of why-don’t-you-value-our-relationship vs. why-do-you-think-our-relationship-has-problems, it’s so much easier to value and respect our differences, and to accept them without being critical, defensive, or insecure. So, for me, the book has already been helpful. It’s already helped me see that every relationship has those kinds of differences, and the point is to handle them graciously and with a willingness to learn about each other, rather than a desire to force one another to change.
So now I can continue reading the book without her being suspicious, and I’m completely okay with her not ever reading it. And in fact? We had a really good conversation about one of the concepts I’ve picked up in it (an argument will end in the same tone in which it started, or worse, which means if an argument starts out harshly and defensively, we can’t expect it to end gently and respectfully!), and she was receptive to talking about it, and it was helpful for both of us.
I’m continually in awe of our capacity for loving and understanding each other.
Amidst all my excitement about this summer and all the potential it carries, I have one nagging worry. I’m worried that my copious amounts of free time, most of which will probably be spent by myself, will put a strain on my relationship, that when she’s home I’ll be wanting to hang out while she may often have other things to do. Maybe this isn’t so much a worry as it is something to look out for and be mindful of this summer.
As it is right now, I do sometimes feel as though we don’t have enough together time. I work a lot of hours, take burlesque classes, volunteer on the crisis hotline, have family obligations once in a while and statistics homework to do, and have various appointments that sometimes inevitably take up evenings and weekends. She, meanwhile, has band practice generally one evening every week and one full day into the night every weekend, plus the occasional late evening at work or evening/weekend appointment. All this PLUS spending time with friends at least weekly means that … we really don’t have that much plain old hangout time. We spend a lot of time together, but it’s often just in that hour before bed when we pop in the latest disc from our Netflix queues, watch for a bit, and then have a quickie before going to sleep. It’s been even tougher lately with her new work schedule, which has her (and thus, often, me) getting up at 6:15am, rather than 7:35 as it used to be — a change which necessitates an earlier bedtime, obviously. But since my work schedule hasn’t changed (yet! ha!), and I’m still getting out of work at 6 or 6:30 on a good day, our evenings have been shortened.
And, to me, it doesn’t feel like enough. To me, it feels like our sex has stopped progressing — we do the tried and true, rather than the new and unknown. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I realize — hell, we’re still having sex at least 3 times a week, usually 4-5, and it can’t always be new and unknown (nor would I want it to be! familiar is often exactly what I most desire). But it’s at a point now where I do feel like we don’t have the time to spend with each other working on our relationship. The time we spend together gets filled up with having our relationship — watching movies, fucking, cuddling, cooking/eating, giving each other footrubs, talking about our schedules, decompressing after our respective days, sleeping — because those are usually the most pressing wants. We want to relax after work, we really want to hear about each other’s days and all the things going on that are bothering us or exciting us. We want to zone out and watch movies and curl up together just feeling each other’s bodies. And we want to have sex, to connect physically, erotically.
But I think a lot of that stuff is very short-term gratification. It’s what we think we want to do right NOW because NOW I’m tired and want to relax and chat about regular stuff. It’s comfortable, and cozy. But to me, always indulging that immediate sense of relationship laziness starts to take a toll. Sexually, I start to feel like many of my more elaborate or scarier desires are slipping into the realm of “fantasy,” rather than the realm of “to do this weekend.” Other than sexually, I start to feel like the more we do the same things with our time together, the less able we are to do other things. So maybe this is about spontaneity — making sure we keep infusing the Regular with the New and Exciting. And this spontaneity has to be something that we work on together.
I’m not sure how to start bringing more of an Our Relationship Is a Project that We Work on Together mentality into our routine, especially because (1) we’re both so busy doing our own personal projects that we really love and that really fulfill us, and (2) I think the Project Relationship mentality is more of something I want than something she wants. She, I think, is perfectly happy to just go along the way we’ve been going along. She likes comfort and routine, and doesn’t like feeling like she has to work on yet another thing in her life. I, on the other hand, really like to have relationship check-ins, and to discuss what’s working and what isn’t, figure out how to fix what isn’t and congratulate each other for what is, and to set little goals, and to be intentional about things that we do. In fact I start to feel anxious and unsettled if we don’t do those things. And I know that because that’s not a high priority for her there will always be some give and take on that front. But it’s starting to feel more pressing for me lately.
To bring that back around to my worry about this summer, the worry I have, I guess, is mostly that I’ll have a whole lot more time to devote myself to our Relationship Project than she will (I mean, I’m hoping to write here every day, and oftentimes, even this is, in a way, part of our Relationship Project), and that that will start to build up in me as this tension that isn’t getting resolved because there just isn’t time.
(What’s a good balance, anyway? How can you find the spot between co-dependent and over-committed to other things? Is it better to spend a lot of time on our own things so that we’re whole complete individuals without needing the other to complete us? Or is it better to spend a lot of time on each other, so that we feel unity and affinity? So that these anxieties don’t surface? Clearly I think a balance is necessary, but what is that balance? And at what point do we have to start sacrificing one thing or the other in order to strike it?)
So, I think it’s good that I’ve identified this issue as something that might come up for me this summer. I still have enough time to work on coming up with ways to avoid that surfacing, and strategies for combatting it if it does. Like if I set goals for myself every day, enough to keep my on my toes and sufficiently busy, then that should help. Spending time actively out and about with other people will help, too. And I think I’d like to bring up with her the idea of committing to eat dinner together whenever possible, shutting off all our other projects at least an hour before we go to bed whenever possible, and identifying and scheduling Together time as separate from time we’re together but working on separate things, so that we can make sure we’re staying attentive to each other and our relationship. And I just need to remember, too, that it’s much more of a relationship Want, for me, to be intentionally thinking about this stuff than it is for her, and that that doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about the relationship as much as I do.
Last night, we climbed into bed much later than we’d planned, both tired and already bracing ourselves against the Monday morning alarm clock. We settled into what we call our Sleep Position: big spoon (her) and little spoon (me), her arm wrapped around me. It’s become so much of a habit that I hardly think of it anymore. But last night, after a few moments, she pipes up: “Do you like sleeping like this?” “Yes, baby, I do.” “Why?” “It makes me feel safe, and snug, and warm.” “Okay. Just checking.”
Snug as two bugs in a rug.
I am very happy. Having been sitting with my decision to stay here and go to CIIS for a few days now, I can honestly say that I’m just plain happy about it. And that’s how I know it’s the right thing. I read the blog Zen Habits, which, for those unfamiliar with it, is a lifestyle blog of sorts — for living life simply and productively. I take some of it and leave some of it (barefoot walking? no thank you, plus, I have massive foot problems and need arch support), but one post this past week was particularly apt for me: The Secret to Making Life Decisions. It went up after I made my decision, or else I might think it’d influenced me. Instead, I get the nice feeling of knowing I made my decision all by myself, without any help, plus this sense of validation afterwards:
We’ve been brought up in a very left-brain-directed world, where the traditional decision-making strategy is a very logical process that involves listing each option, listing the pros and cons of each option, and then weighing up your lists in order to make your decision. This can be useful in very stable, predictable environments where we have all the information we need and in some business environments where we’re solving simple problems, but it isn’t the most effective way to make your most important life decisions . . . . In an information-rich world where we have abundant options, when it comes to making important life decisions, we need to be able to synthesize lots of information, see the big picture, spot themes and relationships, intuitively sense what information is most important to us, and invent possibilities that don’t even exist yet. These are all right-brain-directed thinking skills that we can employ through our emotional navigation system.
Most people treat their emotions as though they’re purely incidental and sometimes even a hindrance in life. Emotions are often side-lined as impulsive and troublesome parts of ourselves that have to be controlled and are of little value to us. Actually, our emotions, both negative and positive, are all perfectly safe and healthy and serve us in incredible ways, especially when it comes to making important life decisions. Every emotion you experience is a clear signal to help you differentiate between the expectations and demands being placed on you and what’s truly important to your Essential Self.
As a chronic list-maker, I always tend to stay emotionally uninvolved with my decisions. Emotions are too messy, too disorganized. I like things to be organized! Straightforward! Clear! Who needs more confusion, you know? Let’s just be practical! But I had to follow my heart on this one, because no matter how many lists I made I wasn’t finding the answer. The answer wasn’t in line-by-line comparisons of program statistics or in budget spreadsheets analyzing the costs and benefits of each option. I really had to dig around and go with my gut feelings. And that wasn’t easy either, because, as I kept saying, “I have two guts! And they’re saying different things!” But I had to go with the one that was kicking me harder.
When I came home today, there was a beautiful vase of tulips on my kitchen table and a sweet note from my roommate, saying “Congratulations on your choice EVG! I’m glad we’ll get to keep you!” [My roommate, see, has airport codes for everybody in her life, and they come from a funny mix of our names, initials, random facts/qualities about us, and what sounds good. Apparently "Ee-Vee-Gee" has a nice ring to it? Her lover du jour, for example, is called "IPM": International Playboy of Mystery. Lol.]
Speaking of my roommate, though, I don’t think I’ll be staying here much longer. The lady and I have decided that June 1st will be our day. This afternoon, we went and looked at a place not too far from where we both currently live (we’re not really looking at places yet, but this one just sounded so lovely that we had to go see). It’s gorgeous and affordable. Hardwood floors, giant windows, lots of closet space, perfect location, and a HUGE backyard with a garden and a patio all belonging just to the one flat. Amazing. We’re going to apply and see if a May 15 moving date would be too late for them. We’ll see.
And suddenly, after typing that out, I feel all jittery again, just like that. Like, wait, what? We’re moving in together? Ahhhhhhh, wait, no, what?! Can’t do it! Stop! Scary! What if we hate each other? Where will we go when we need space! What if we lose all our friends! Is this really the right thing to do? Quick! Let’s make some lists! Let’s do a cost-benefit analysis! GET ME A SPREADSHEET, STAT.
I guess I’ll just have to go with my heart on this one, too.
It all comes at once, and it throws me off.
I stopped at home yesterday afternoon for 10 minutes before my grad school interview, just to fill up my water bottle and change my shoes. But I got distracted, because I had two conspicuous pieces of mail waiting for me, one big and fat, one small and thin.
I got rejected by Berkeley. I got into UCLA.
And UCLA offered me money. A lot of money. FREE money.
And then with all of this swirling around in my head — disappointment about Berkeley, relief at getting accepted somewhere, realization that YAY! I CAN LEAVE MY JOB, that all of everything I’ve been thinking about hypothetically is now something that can really happen, and then of course feeling flattered that UCLA wants me so much that they will *pay me* to go there, which is unusual for a master’s program — all of this swirling around in my head, I still had to go to my interview at the remaining grad program here in San Francisco. So off I went, had the interview, and then at the end of the interview the faculty I interviewed with informed me that they were extending me an offer of admission as well.
So. Two offers, one rejection. All in the same day. And my whole world feels thrown off. I get to leave my job and now it feels real — May 14th will be my last day. That’s in two months. Two months left of this and then I move on, my life goes forward and it’s strange, because although for now my life is still exactly the same as it was on Friday, and I’ll have to continue going through the motions for the next few months, it all feels so different.
And, of course, the big question: do I follow the money, move to LA? I don’t know a soul in LA, and to me, the city seems huge and unforgiving. It’s a sprawling car city, very unlike San Francisco, all crammed onto a thumb jutting into the sea. It’s a city of actors and producers and entertainment and swimming pools and palm trees. I would live by myself, probably, and I’d have to get a car and wouldn’t have any friends (but of course I would make friends, I know that, but do I have to start over? again?) and I’d be going to school, sure, but what about everything else? Starting from scratch, in a place I don’t even really want to call home. And mi’lady wouldn’t be there. She’d stay here, in San Francisco. And right after we’ve been talking about living together, to do exactly the opposite, move away, live entirely separately seems so devastating.
San Francisco a city of books and hardwood floors and queers and streetcars and fog and hills and creative activism. San Francisco is my city. It’s my self-made home. And today was gorgeously sunny and warm so that it didn’t even make me half-lust after balmy SoCal. Was the universe trying to tell me to stay? “See? San Francisco can shape up and be perfect, give her a chance, don’t leave!”
I have a few weeks to make this decision, luckily. But it’s not one I’m really looking forward to having to make. I know there’s no wrong choice here, I can’t mess up. But I do so badly want to do what’s right.
So, we’re talking about moving in together in a few months. We’ve been talking about it in vague terms for the past several months already: “maybe next summer, if we’re still together, we’ll want to live together, and then I’d NEVER have to be mad about dishes piling up in the sink because you’re good at doing dishes!” and “if we’re living together, we’ll be paying less rent, so maybe I can afford to leave my job a few months early.” That sort of thing. And neither of us had really dared to bring it up in a serious way, until this past week, because, well, it’s kind of big and scary. And also vaguely far away. Someday. (Doesn’t summer always seem far away in the middle of winter?)
But the truth is, it’s not all that far away. I’ll know about grad school within a month, and I will probably leave my job by two months later, and will be starting graduate school (hopefully) within three months after that. And my calendar is filling up already for things happening in May, June. And it was when I realized that I’ll be in New York and Massachusetts for 2-3 weeks at the end of May/beginning of June for my college reunion and some family and friend visiting that I realized, um, yikes, maybe we’d better actually have that serious conversation about moving in together. Because I’m not going to be around for a large chunk of May, rendering a June move-in difficult, and she’ll be gone for part of July, and then we’re both travelling to her sister’s wedding in August, and then my classes start… which leaves May 1 and July 1 as our options, really, and for several reasons I won’t bore you with here, May 1 seems a better fit for me.
And, well, May 1 is kind of soon. Not omg-we-need-to-start-apartment-hunting soon. But soon. Omg-we-need-to-really-consider-what-we’re-getting-ourselves-into-and-are-we-ready-to-take-this-step-and-what-does-this-mean soon. I think we’re both simultaneously really fucking excited and really fucking scared. I feel a bit like how I feel about maybe leaving my job if I don’t get into grad school (and thus face immense uncertainty). It feels so right, and thinking about it makes me so happy and so excited, and when I really think about it I want to do it, like, tomorrow, but then I freeze up, like, but what if it doesn’t work? Things are fine the way they are, aren’t they? You’re not unhappy or anything, why tempt fate? It could be disastrous, what if you’re really not as ready as you think you are…
I don’t know, you know? I worry about some of my tendencies, and wonder whether really I need more time to work them out living separately before I’m surrounded by her and us all the time. I worry about my control-freak micro-managing ways; I worry about her messiness. I worry that those two things are a horrible combination, and wonder if the reason they work alright now is that we each have our own space and so I can be the boss of mine and she can be the boss of hers. I worry about my tendency towards co-dependency, and if I don’t have a space to call my own, will I lose track of my self? Will we be able to make space for our selves and for each other? I worry about being able to strike a comfortable balance of shared responsibility for our space, given my high attention to detail in household matters and her relative leniency. And, I don’t know, what if we lose the spark? What if we get boring, stop being interesting to each other? I’m afraid of taking each other and our time together for granted. I want it all to still be special.
And as I was writing all that there was the other little voice in my head saying “but! but! but!”, countering everything there with other (happier) thoughts. Like that if we can deal well with our current situation (and we do), then of course we’ll be able to handle living together, and in fact much of what’s hard now might (even probably will) be easier. Right now, though we each have our own individual space, we don’t have our own couple space. We can’t just come home from work and cook dinner and chill, read together, watch a movie while cuddling, then get distracted and start hooking up in the middle. We can’t do that because there are always roommates around. So in a way, our sexuality is quashed. Then, also, living out of two separate apartments is a drag, to say the least. I always have to be thinking a day or two ahead when I know I’ll be over there, and even though I generally have clothes over there, there are still shoes and makeup and computer and whatever my plans are the day after (burlesque? dinner with friends? show?) to be thinking of. And toting around. Cooking is harder to plan ahead for, and is more expensive, because we’re dealing with two pantries and two refrigerators.
Mostly, and maybe this is boring, but I don’t care if it is, mostly I just want to be able to spend time together not doing anything. I want to be able to come home late after an evening of being busy and have her there, working on her music, and I want to kiss her hello, throw some leftovers on the stove, and plop down on the sofa with a good book or some writing ideas and each do our own shit together, and then eventually get distracted by each other’s presence and fuck on the living room floor before crashing into bed and briefly sharing the highlights (or lowlights) of our days with each other as we drift off into snuggly slumber.
That’s what I want. I guess I’d like to take the leap of faith; we’ve done well so far with circumstances that aren’t always easy. Living together certainly won’t be easy either, I’m sure of it. We’re two people. There will always be conflict. It will be different conflict from what we have now, to be sure, but won’t that also be fun? Figuring out how to navigate a whole new set of situations? An adventure. In love.
Scary as fuck. But honestly, I think the thing I’m scared of most is that I’m less scared than she is. I want her to want this and believe in this as much as I do. What if she doesn’t? What would that mean?
I guess it’s probably time to have that conversation, yeah?
It’s freezing today, I can see my breath in the air.
I’ve been having a hard time writing this week. I think it’s because the magic that was our little retreat on the Russian River has faded into the dreary stress of work and business as usual.
What do you do when you don’t like your job? When the thing you spend the majority of your waking life doing (especially when you’re me and work a lot of overtime) is something you don’t care about? How do you combat that?
I try to combat that by doing things in my non-working time that I care about: writing here, reading, cooking, spending time with mi’lady (obvi), applying for grad school (almost done!). But it’s hard when I’m sitting here at work, and it’s the end of a week that felt like the longest week ever, and I know I just have to come back on Monday.
What do you do?
I’ve been thinking about leaving my job. I have some money saved, enough to live on, if I really scrimped, for maybe 6 months. I’ve thought about getting a part-time job (I could substitute teach, for example, which would allow me to dictate which days I work, and I’ve already got California certification–but subbing would be quite draining work, I think) and using the rest of my time to write and intern/volunteer with (for example) the rape crisis center I work for, or Femina Potens Gallery.
But, that’s scary. It’s scary to think about living on a shoestring budget, because I know that while my job makes me unhappy, so would constantly worrying and stressing about money. And it’s also scary because I would have to be very self-motivated, I’d have to make my own reasons for getting up in the morning, and to be honest, after a lifetime of having my goals set for me by other people and not really thinking about them beyond the very rudimentary “time to get up for class/work,” I’m not sure what a transition into “time to get up for writing” would be like. I’m not the most disciplined person, and I’m worried that (as has happened with me before on vacations) I’ll dilly-dally, or get distracted watching movies or reading novels or doing stupid internet stuff, and then I’ll get discouraged, and then I’ll wallow. And sink into depression.
I’m also scared that I’m hyping it up, that I have the Grass Is Greener Syndrome, in which, sitting here at work bored out of my mind and annoyed with my coworkers, I think, “gee, wouldn’t it be nice if I could go home? Wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to get up for work in the morning? Wouldn’t it be nice if I could work from home and play with the cat during the day, listen to my music, make my sandwich at lunchtime?” I’m romanticizing it, this idea of not having to go to work. But what if, when I’m there, I still have the Grass Is Greener Syndrome? What if then it’s not wouldn’t-it-be-nice-if-I-could-go-home, but wouldn’t-it-be-nice-if-I-could-get-out? What if I feel left out of the workforce, feel isolated and lonely and irrelevant? And sink into depression.
(Does it all end in depression?)
But, at the same time, I’m scared that if I don’t leave my job, that I’ll be setting a pattern for myself of not taking charge of myself. I don’t want to be the person who stays in a safe but unenjoyable job just so I can have security. I’m more interesting than that. I’d like to think I’m more bold than that, too.
How on earth do people deal with this?