Crafting an Identity

How do you start a post about your identity?

Credit to : Calamity Kim

Do I talk about my racial background? When I did copy-editing for an indie magazine focusing on black women’s narratives, pretty much everyone focused on being black, on being part of the African diaspora. I didn’t relate to that.

Should I talk about my sexuality? How I’ve been rolling it around in my head, trying to figure out where I belong, how I fit in – even though ultimately it doesn’t matter?That it’s more about love, compatibility, connectedness than it is about sex or gender expression?

Do I bemoan my educational background and the amount of loans its burdened me with? How I dread SallieMae and wish they would get swallowed up by the Earth and free me from my debt! That would, however, be really awesome. 

What about my own internal processes? How my faith seems sated only when I get what I want, how I go into a tailspin when things don’t go according to plan, the way I try to motivate myself with little success, the goals I wish I was achieving but am not? How lazy I am! 

Should I mention my external happenings? Living at home in a cramped situation, working a minimum wage job with no real potential for growth, wandering through a city I don’t like. Too bad my world won’t change over night!

Identity is a complex arrangement of all these nuances and more, and is liable to change. I’ve gotten a new job, in a new city that I’ve never been to. I’ve started looking more seriously into what my next steps would be, wanting to continue my education, wanting to be more of service to the world. Attempting to look at my life with more clarity and trying not to be afraid of being more responsible.

I hope that my identity, how I relate to and see myself is ever evolving in a way that makes me happiest. There are many people who fear change, because they’re afraid to leave behind worn labels, worn ways of seeing themselves.

Hopefully, as I move forward, I’ll become more proactive in shaping my identity, and becoming the type of person I want to be.

 

 

 

 

2011: Half and Half – Why It Sucked and Didn’t Simutaneously

Thank the Goddess that 2011 is coming to swift – and much needed – end. In about two days, we’ll be entering 2012 and I couldn’t be happier. You’ve probably seen quite a few posts about blogging this year, ways to make blogging more awesome, goals accomplished and lessons learned.

I’m going to talk about why 2011 sucked.

Backstory: At the brink of the New Year I was living in Seattle with someone I didn’t particularly like. I needed to leave my living situation but wasn’t making enough money to have my own place. At least, a super awesome place with nice amenities. So I sought out a room mate, but then discovered Penelope Trunk’s blog about taking over your career, and decided I needed to move. To Florida. In a brief, gruesome detail free nutshell. 

Hands down, the second worst decision of my life.

Moving two days before my birthday, I found myself in humid Florida, staying with relatives, two puppies and one mean old lady who I grew to despise. After seven months, the highlight had been my overwhelming feeling of joblessness – mining the internet daily for job leads, scrapping by on what little savings I had left, and being told on several occasions that retail positions don’t like college degrees. Meanwhile, I found myself flailing as I tried to make important “life decisions”:

  • Contemplate going to the local community college and majoring in Graphic/Web Design
  • Applied to over 20 positions with Americorps
  • Thought about getting into PR/Advertising but couldn’t even qualify for free internships because of my BA in French
  • Attempted to learn HTML solo (among other programming code) in order to have employable skills
  • Looking into freelance writing gigs, but found myself mostly at content mills

Ultimately, I decided on blogging, which turned out to be really fun, and allowed me to meet some really awesome people in the process. Yet, the joys from blogging seemed to pale in comparison to my day-to-day frustrations of not being able to take care of myself. I slept in most ways, well past noon, as I half-assed my job hunt, hoping that each application sent would be my golden ticket to employment.

Like most people, I wish I had the power to go back and alter time. Where would I be now if I had stayed in Seattle and moved in with that girl? Would I be blogging? Would I had found another job? What if I had moved to NY first instead of going down South?

Thinking back on my 2011, it’s easy to understand why people believe that things happen for a reason. Everything I went through brought me to this point:

  • I’ve had more interviews since leaving FL than ever in my life
  • Met really awesome bloggers, learned how to use Twitter (kinda)
  • Expanding my writing repertoire to include comics and exploring freelancing
  • Learned A LOT (particularly about social justice)
  • Building my network and connecting with like-minded people

Despite my general tone of powerlessness, 2011 gifted me with a better sense of Self. And when I actually stop to think about it – I know ten times more about what I want out of life than when I was in college, living in Seattle, or even the time I spent in Florida.Which definitely makes the transition into 2012 much anticipated; I’m looking forward to the new year despite everything!

What About You? How was your 2011?

What’s In A Scar?

Inspired by Lindsay’s post at The Boomerang Kid!

I, perhaps like most people, have a lot of scars. And a lot of regrets:

  • Moving out of Seattle to be jobless in Florida for over five months with no change in sight.

    Flickr Credit to: Finalfeliz

  • Regretting not transferring out of my second college even though I had become beyond miserable by the end of my first semester there.
  • Not being more proactive in my job and room mate hunt so that I could still have money in my pocket, my own roof over my head and living with someone I liked.

Compulsively, I run these scenarios over and over in my mind. What would my life be like now had I stayed in Seattle and moved in with that girl? Would I still be working at my old job? Would I have gotten the chance to write comics in Seattle?

In her post, Lindsay called them “invisible scars” but there’s nothing invisible about my pain. I wear it for everyone to see as I tweet incessantly about my ugliness and the rejection I’ve faced because of the way that I look. The scars from my college years haven’t even begun to scab over as I replay my suffering over and over. I mourn the loss  of having my own place, paying my own bills. I look out into the world and wonder, “What the fuck did I get wrong? Why wasn’t I informed of this fuckery!?”

My scars didn’t make me a better or more enlightened person.  I haven’t experienced any kind of life altering catharsis because of them, nor do I expect to. I have found other people’s suffering to be significantly more thought provoking than my own. As I look back on my life, I see one regret after another; like I’m incapable of getting it right, or not repeating the same mistakes.

This is why regret is so terrifying, and yet so enticing, because it appeals to a lack of self-trust. I regretted not transferring, because I didn’t trust myself enough to be okay with going to a new school, and not trusting my feelings enough to say that I wasn’t happy and should do something about it. I regretted moving out of Seattle because it was so plainly a fear-based response: my room mate wanted me to move out, the girl who I thought about living with was pressuring me about giving her a deposit, my job wasn’t living up to my expectations. I caved.

Even if some people don’t admit to regrets, carrying around “invisible scars” can be as clear as day. You see it in how reactive people can be, in how quick they are to dismiss you or reject you. The fear, the guilt, the regret is soul-consuming and it has infected every aspect of our socialization. The scars we bear can breed hate, prejudice, willful ignorance, rejection of reality and a rejection of the Self.

I have a lot of scars. Perhaps too many. At times I think they make me unbearable. Other times I simply try to drown them out with copious amounts of Norman Reedus. I don’t want my scars to define me, and in many ways they most certainly have. And in others, I still have a choice.

The Bene Gesserit Littainy against Fear: 

Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
– “Dune” by Frank Herbert (pg. 19)

 

 

 

Why I Don’t Support Polyamory

While watching The Office, I found myself disgusted by the overt displays of jealousy and insecurity between the Karen, Jim and Pam triangle. At times Karen was overtly rude and tried to police both Jim and Pam’s feelings in order to create her own comfort level. She tried (and failed) to control the situation. This also happened when Roy attempted to attack Jim (out of a sense of possession) and was often overtly aggressive toward Jim because of his attraction to Pam.

Some people might suggest that this is a pretty typical – albeit unhealthy – response to perceived infidelity. Neither

Flickr credit to: Igsinden

characters physically cheated on their partners and Pam insisted on staying with Roy despite their stark incompatibilities.

Granted, The Office is a fictitious example, but I would say that these relationships aren’t too far removed from the reality that they’re based on. According to this article published at Madame Noire, “Is Monogamy Really Possible?”, it suggests that because over 50% of both men and women admit to cheating; does that mean monogamy isn’t a viable option? Should more people begin to explore polyamory to curb cheating?

This implies that cheating is primarily sexual, not emotional or mental, which plays down the severity of a cheating spouse. For me, cheating is a sign of great personal weakness. It means you know so little about yourself that you are unable (or unwilling) to address issues of unhappiness. In Atlas Shrugged, Hank Rearden cheated on his wife for two years with Dagny for very similar reasons. He was attracted to Dagny, but he didn’t completely understand why. He was no longer attracted to his wife, but he didn’t completely understand why.

He divorced his wife when he realized what it was about their marriage (and her) that he had grown to dislike.

The very act of cheating (or wanting to cheat) is about escaping reality, not wanting to admit what’s wrong. I firmly believe that if more people had deeper self-introspective skills, cheating would be less of an occurrence. You would know immediately when and why a relationship ceased to be valuable to you, and you could come up with solutions. But by cheating, you’re admitting to yourself and the world that you’re too afraid of confronting any inner, personal truths.

Cheating is a personal choice, not en evolutionary one. 

Some might herald polyamory as preferable because the atmosphere creates one of open communication – which monogamous couples notoriously lack. But I sincerely believe that the perceived emotional perks of polyamory are achievable in monogamous relationships. Honesty, trust, communication – there is a reason why some people have been happily married for decades. 

So, what happens when you’re faced with a healthy, and fully functioning relationship? Do you pursue this with just one person or multiple people?

And there – we have the element of choice.

Here are some other blog posts that discuss this:

1. Eat the Damn Cake – “Fidelity – how big of a deal should it be?”

 

2. The Lion’s Historian – “a letter to the monogamous masses”

3. Arielle Loren – “Double gender standards: polyamory vs polygamy”

What about you? What you do believe in terms of polyamory, cheating, monogamy?

 

 

 

How Atheism Enhanced My Goddess Worship

I’ve spent like an hour trying to figure out how to start this post. What way is the most interesting? Or the most controversial sounding?

But that’s really time consuming – and distractive. So I’m just going to tell you: I want to talk about god. Why? Mostly because as I learn more about atheism, I begin to re-evaluate what I believe in and why.

Essentially, I tell people I’m a pagan, but specifically, I consider myself a Goddess worshipper. It basically means I don’t acknowledge or identify with the male concept of deity. In Wicca (which is where I got my start), deity is divided into male and female: the God and Goddess. They’re equally important and one isn’t valued more than the other.

Unfortunately – I don’t connect well with male energy. I went to a single sex college, and a vast majority of my friends are female. Even in the blogging and twitter universe, a high percentage of the people I follow are women. So it seemed like a natural transgression to worship a female deity. When you worship, it’s about doing things to keep in touch with the Goddess. There’s prayer (which is basically conversation), performing rituals and altars that you can set up.

However, it can be extraordinarily difficult to find books relating to Wiccan spirituality. But I found an excellent one titled “The Circle Within” by Dianne Sylvan. The book breaks down how to create a spiritual relationship with the Lord and Lady, which I thoroughly appreciated. It’s the only book to date that I’ve found that relates closely to my own spiritual leanings.

So – how does the conversation about atheism enhance my relationship with my own faith?

The biggest question atheists asks is: how do you know? It can be difficult to answer this question without delving too into more spiritual jargon. I could say, “It resonates with my spirit” but that presupposes that the questioner believes in the human soul. I could say, “It just feels right or it makes sense to me” which is fluff – only a conversation rife with frustration can be conducted from this statement.

Why do I believe in some of the things that I do? Because I’ve experienced physical manifestations of my belief system. I’ve been around people who are able to confirm what has happened to me. I’ve been around people who are equally rational in their approach to paganism, and their own experiences.

Atheism allows me to take a step back and reassess, to make sure my spirituality isn’t just something that lives in my head. I need to live it everyday because I want to be able to explain to people what my faith is, and what it’s about.

I’m also an cerebral person, a lot of my process is in my mind. So although I know for a fact (mentally) that the Goddess is real, and I value other people’s experiences with Her, I don’t feel it in my body. There’s a strong disconnect that I need to address. I give praise to Her and acknowledge Her, but I need to work on the bond.

As I speak with atheists, I realize that the potential for me to just preach but not practice is still there – even though I’m part of a different ideology than Judeo-Christian Abrahamic faiths. I realize that it’s much easier to spend time in my mind, going over what I can or should do than actually doing it. That I keep waiting for other people to tell me how to practice.

Atheism isn’t my cup of tea, but in these past few days, I’ve learned a lot. Not just about other people, but myself as well.

What about you? Do you have a personal ideology or philosophy that you spend more time talking about than actually doing? Have you done anything to change or challenge that?

 

 

 

Try to Learn – Despite Your Ignorance.

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the discussion of privilege and social justice. How do we aim for more awareness

Flickr credit to: Anton Khoff

in a country that chooses not to be? Admittedly, it can be and is rather frustrating to meet people who don’t know that racism still exists or feel that women have earned sexual assault. When you turn on the news, or read a new headline online – all the oppression is maddening. So the people who had dedicated a great deal of time – if not their lives – to combatting ignorance are justifiably angry. Or just plain frustrated.

To a certain extent you would think more people would be on board, that more people would just know so that we can move forward.

But not everyone knows.

There’s a lot in life that many people – myself included – will never experience. For much of my existence, I didn’t know about child abuse or its survivors until I made a friend who helped enlighten me. I have learned that 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused before she turns 18. How more than 60% of pregnant teens are sexually abused as children. That 90% of abuse toward children is committed by people the child knows (relatives, family friends, etc).

With over 39 millions survivors of sexual abuse living in America, this should be something that people should be enraged about, ready to fight against. And yet – nothing. I would say that victims and survivors of child abuse are one of the most silenced, and marginalized members of our society.

But I can’t forget that I became aware of child abuse through friends and memoirs I have read. I can’t forget that I became aware of how pervasive rape is by attending Take Back The Night at my all-women’s college. I realized how powerful fat shaming had become by reading stories of women who were severely neglected by hospital doctors.

We learn by asking questions, by trying to understand where each person comes from. 1 in 3 women in the United States is raped, but that number might not mean anything to you until you’ve met the survivors, until you realize the extent that women suffer at the hands of a callous judicial system –  15 of 16 rapists will never spend a day in jail.

And while all the statistics I listed here are readily available to you on the web, how many people would go out of their way to research it? Many men and women dedicate their time and energy to education, fundraising and volunteering to help spread awareness and yet many people remain ignorant. Disinterested. Or worse – indifferent.

Ignorance is much like a sleeping virus – you don’t know you have it until something triggers it. Then, you are bombarded with all this new information and an eagerness to learn.

And at this juncture we have a problem. The crossroads of where knowledge and experience meet YOU. You don’t know that you don’t know, so you ask questions. Maybe you’ll face rejection or insult. People saying that privilege has made you ignorant, and that you need to educate yourself. And yet here you are – attempting to educate yourself.

In a world where people continue to suffer daily at the hands of oppression, disinterest and hate – lack of knowledge is unacceptable. And yet there is it. In a world where numbers mean nothing until it personally affects us, the urgency for compassion can’t be ignored.

The need for both compassion and patience for those who “know not what they do (or say)” is overwhelming. We literally can’t have discussions with just ourselves or the people who support us – that is not progress. Even though it can be (and at times is) painful to talk to people who have no idea the kind of suffering many endure, to completely shut down is detrimental.

Some people are angry and belligerent – putting their ignorance on full blast. Some people are unassuming and timid in their ignorance. But no matter what – we must come from a place of compassion. If not for them – then for ourselves. Anger will stall the debate, and impatience will turn away those honestly seeking to learn.

I think it’s time to stop holding people’s ignorance against them. 

 

“To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.”

Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881)