& i know i will carry it with me for a long, long time.

i’ve been passing as a guy now for 2-4 years now, depending on the situation (and people still think i’m a lady on the phone).  which i guess means that’s what i really am now.

i was thinking about that the other day and this huge feeling of responsibility came over me.  because now that i am who i want to be, i have to remember and take care of who i’ve been.  even though the world sees me as a straight, married man with a baby, i have been a girl, a woman, a lesbian, and a non-passing transguy.

and even if i had never been any of those people, now that i am in a place of much greater privilege, i really need to be a really good ally.  because as strong as we all are, we need each other to have our backs, because the world is not an easy place.

my tea’s gone cold, i’m wondering why…

the end of the year has been fairly angsty for me.  planning to have, anticipating having, and actually having our baby has been wonderful, of course, but it really ramped up my anxiety.  for months, i felt like i was on the verge of a panic attack.  i was freaking out and not being particularly nice to myself about it, either.

i felt a little bitter and grouchy about my feeling of distance from the meeting.  it was this weird cycle of pushing myself away, feeling abandoned, and barely coming back, and being annoyed at people for letting it happen.  you know, generally being codependent.

finally, i reached out to m&o, and at the same time, the meal train a friend of ours was setting up for the early baby time was rolling out, and letting myself ask for help started to help things.

but the panics still kept coming from time to time.  and these codependent angries at everyone i care about kept coming up.  i was also commenting a lot on facebook about the wonderful effects of god in my life (ex: “the following comment is not meant to try to convince you to agree with me: for me, my belief in god is not about god’s existence. at some point, i decided that was irrelevant. what i’ve read about the history of religion suggests that there was a time where in certain cultures, there was no idea that god didn’t exist, and that is what the bible came out of, and so questions of “do you believe in me?” were about the kind of belief you have in a friend. “can you trust me?” i was in a rough place then, and i decided, “well, i’m not sure who or what or if you are, but i’ll try that. i’ll try seeing if i can trust in you, who i acknowledge are probably an idea in my head…” and just having this big god-thing in the universe to be grateful to, to vent to, and to hope to, has made my life better. and its existence is irrelevant, to me, actually. but i believe i can trust it.  and for me, god is as much a provable thing as the part of t’s smile that ALWAYS makes my heart dance.”)  but god was feeling really distant, too.

even as i was filled with sense-memories of all sorts of really ineffective coping mechanisms, my body and brain and soul and heart were searching for things that actually did work, trying to find time to sit with prayers and practices that have worked.  but my head was too spinny…

but then, the other day, i struck upon gratitude.  “thank you god, universe, whomever, for t and c and secret and the sky and the ground that holds me and my family and my ten fingers and the lessons of this panic…” and it helps.  i need to remember it.  because it helps.  it really helps. 

Published in: on 1 January, 2013 at 6:22 pm  Comments (1)  

we had a baby!  she is 4 days old.

also, today i posted this as a facebook comment:

“there are lots of things people of faith are not good at a lot of the time. my perspective is that dividing the world into atheists and people of faith is a useless dichotomy, because it generally just causes conflict and a lack of understanding. i think a lot of atheists and religious people say the same thing, they just use different language to express themselves. the dichotomy that i see and that is infinitely more frustrating to me is the dichotomy between atheists and people of faith who accept each other, and atheists and people of faith who think it’s better to use their time by being contentious. i’m kind of an optimist and tend to give people the benefit of the doubt in general, but i truly believe that people are generally doing the best they can with the resources they were given– and i include motivation, pain, ability to empathize, etc. in with those resources. i think there are very few people who are genuine jerks for no reason at all. most people are jerks because they are in some sort of pain. and i think of religion and atheism as other “resources”– or at least experiences. i think religion and atheism are pretty cultural, and that shit runs deep, you know… but i think the same person could be an atheist or a person of faith, depending on what culture they grew up in. they would be the exact same person, just have different ways to express what is important to them.”

it is probably the best i’ve every been able to articulate this, which is really important to me.  i guess the lack of sleep is good for my writing.

Published in: on 15 December, 2012 at 10:49 am  Comments (2)  

one of those times, again, where going to quaker meeting is such an event.  i’ve been contemplating finding a meeting or church closer to home, but haven’t been able to even work up the energy for that.

the thing is: it’s the long, sustained attendance at meeting is what really makes me feel centered, but going to meeting is a 4 hour commitment, at the least, and it’s really hard to make myself do that right now.

and i’ve been feeling a little nutty, so i feel like i really need to go to meeting.  but unfortunately, frequently, by the time my one-shot meeting attendance is done, i feel more nutty, because my day feels almost over and my work week feels so close.

i’ve been thinking about church as opposed to quaker meeting a little bit, too, because my head is a wild and frazzled place, and i barely get past the wild and frazzled in the hour of worship.  having someone do the spiritual thinking for me sometimes works to get me out of my head long enough to hear god.

i HAVE been trying to up my home spiritual practice a little bit, though, but what that amounts to right now is just trying to remember the serenity prayer when my head and heart get too wild and frazzled.

quakerism changed my life.  and i’m not currently convinced i’m living up to that.  i feel disappointed in myself right now, in my ability or drive to take care of my spiritual needs right now.  and then, of course, i know that judging myself is not actually all that helpful, of course.

my dream still is of a community of quakers and a quaker meeting, just down the street.  i hate that i even have a choice to just drift away from meeting like this, from time to time.  i hate that it takes forever to get to meeting so i don’t, and that that is understandable and acceptable.  (i would probably hate it, too, if it wasn’t understandable or acceptable.)

Published in: on 25 November, 2012 at 1:59 pm  Comments (1)  

driving lessons

i got my driver’s license last month.  i am 32 years old, have been teaching for the past 3 years, and am engaged to my pregnant partner, and i got my driver’s license last month.

when i was 12, i read that 50 simple things kids can do to save the earth book, and then immediately after it read kids can save the animals: 101 easy things to do.  i was finishing it in the car, and decided to become a vegetarian.  we’d been running errands all day, and my grandparents pulled into mcdonalds.  horrified, yet lacking creativity, i ordered my usual cheeseburger.  soon, i decided that i would cut out red meat and until the middle of my first year of college declared myself a “partial vegetarian,” eating fish, chicken, and turkey, but not beef or pork (that mid-first-year of college moment was when i decided to be a total vegetarian– now i’m more pescetarian).

the books made me more patient with the fluorescent light that took forever to turn on, in my great-grandma’s bathroom, and it made me an easily thwarted crusader for paper, rather than styrofoam for my school’s lunches.  (after a letter to the principal, i got called to the office for i think the only time of my entire school career, for a conversation that went something like this: principal: “i hear you want us to stop using styrofoam but instead use paper instead.”  me: “yes, please.”  principal: “well, the styrofoam is a lot less expensive than the paper, so we have to keep using it.”  me:  “yeah, i guess that makes sense.  thanks anyway.”)  i bought the greyish, fibrous recycled looseleaf paper, and used it religiously, horrified when the boy i had a crush on complained about it.

i had seen the old lorax movie many times as a child, and i knew i was someone who cared a whole awful lot.  i didn’t do everything right, but i did what i knew about, as much as i knew how to do it.  to this day, in my head, there is a dying person in a hospital bed during the nuclear apocolyptic endtimes, who’s life is either prolonged or ended by the extra lights i turn on in a house (but only lights… and refrigerators and cars… trigger this thought– computer use, temperature control, stereos don’t).  i was responsible for life to continue on this planet by my choices.

early in my sophomore year of high school, there was a horrible car accident involving some of my classmates, and one of them died.  we weren’t friends, but i felt the loss, because i thought she was cool but i was too shy to talk to her.  around the same time, one of my pen pals also lost a classmate to a car accident.

so, as i neared my 16th birthday, and people started to ask me about getting my drivers’ license, the combination of environmental responsibility and terror of dying a horrible fiery death took away all motivation.

when i was 19, i did try to learn.  my mom and i went out in her pick-up truck, cruising around some school and church parking lots.  but as soon as we went on the road and i saw another car (across the median, in the furthest possible lane), i pulled over and burst into tears.

i’ve never been clear on my relationship to driving.  as a passenger, i’ve tried as hard as possible to limit myself to trips people were making anyway, getting a ride to errands with people already going on them, or asking for a block detour to run an errand i need to run.  realizing how terrifying riding the bus can be sometimes, and then biking more, helped me get over a lot of the fear aspect, but there’s always been resistance.   i cannot figure out if it’s self-righteousness, fear, god, prescience, preciousness, or what.

then at the end of last school year, i had to make a choice.  i could either follow my amazing colleagues and the wonderful students at my school to a school that is entirely inaccessible by bus (up a giant hill, it is a 45 minutes walk from the nearest regular bus stop), or i could gamble on a move to another school– and it looked like it was probably going to be a middle school.  meanwhile, t was pregnant, and i decided that the responsible thing to do was to get a drivers’ license.

i hate that kind of responsibility.  that decision between “how do i help the people closest to me?” vs. “how do i help the whole world?” (and it sounds like parenting is a lot of that)  there have been times where i’ve wondered if my time waiting at bus stops was getting in the way of my world-saving time, but in general, i’ve always felt really good about my decision not to drive.

now, i have a drivers’ license.  i get up in the morning, get ready for work, and then drive through the woods to get to my job.  it is gorgeous.  sometimes there are deer.  sometimes there are turkeys.  it’s crazy to remember that i’m even in oakland.  my favorite part, though, is listening to music.  i’ve been resurrecting cds from my collection, bopping along to wonderful and hilarious selections, like the disney peter pan soundtrack, a lot of ani difranco, and the andrews sisters’ greatest hits.  i relish my dorkiness as others pass me.

but my exercise has gone way down.  i’m trying to fix that in other ways, but the balance hasn’t been reached yet.  and it’s stressful.  it’s really really stressful.  riding the bus, you aren’t in control of this giant thing and sometimes you hear scary people say scary things, but you can retreat into books.  you don’t have to be present and in decision-making mode the whole time.  one of my friends whose been teaching me to drive, outside of that context mentioned that she read a study about how people in modern american society all show symptoms of ptsd, and she thought that made sense.  i do too.  and during one of our drives together, i asked her if she thought a lot of it had to do with cars, because i do.  these giant metal death machines that move with the merest touch of a foot but that are fueled by greed and war should NOT be how the majority of our country gets around.  i am now one of those people, but i am not okay with it.

AND at the same time, i am remembering that a good part of the reason i didn’t want to drive was because i thought that there was a possibility i’d like it too much.  and part of me really does like it.  it is sort of fun.  it is sort of easy.  i get to pick my music.  it is fast.

in the first couple of weeks of the school year, t expressed concern that maybe i was drinking too much coffee because i was so stressy.  but then we realized that i’m actually drinking less coffee than last year.  and there are definitely plenty of things to be stressed about right now so i chalked it up to adrenaline.  but at the birth class last weekend, as the teacher was talking about endorphins, and oxytocin, and adrenaline, i started to put a lot of it together with my driving.  my fight-or-flight time is way up, and my exercise time is way down.  just like much of america.


“i want to blog this weekend.  i have so much to say!”

“about what?”

“well…  driving… and gender.”

“what about it?”

“well, i want to write it down first, because it gets all garbled when i try to say it out loud.”

in other incarnations of this post, in my head, i’ve had really good segues and connections between these issues, because parenting is part of why i’m driving and part of why i’m thinking about gender a lot right now.  but i ended that driving part pretty nicely, so i’ll use that dialogue and this monologue to change the subject.

“what are you having?”

the question is like nails on a chalkboard to me right now.  it is a complete overreaction, i know, but when i hear it, part of me wants to snap back an adolescent (adrenaline-filled?) response about how that very question goes against the very fiber of my being and all of my beliefs, and how could they ask me such a thing and and and and and!

i don’t know.  and i won’t know even when i do know.  and i still think it’s totally irrelevant to who this little person growing in t’s tummy will be.  unless they want it to be relevant, and i know there are times when it is vitally important for them, and that’s fine.

it’s hard when there is something that you believe in so strongly that is so counter to mainstream thinking.  i remember a woman at a school i worked at in seattle, who was so upset about a family raising their kids to be vegan.  “how can they impose their values on their child like that?”  i didn’t say it (i basically never say “it” btw, whatever “it” is), but i had this epiphany.  if you don’t raise your kid by your values, you are raising them by mainstream values.  you are saying that what the mainstream believes is fine and ok.  and maybe it is.  it might be.

and then in my case, it’s so tricky, right?  i don’t actively want to have a transgender child.  i don’t NOT want a transgender child, but i don’t plan on raising our kid to be trans.  binary gender assignments seem to have worked more or less okay for most of the population for quite awhile now, so i can’t assume that any bit of it will chafe on my child the way it has chafed on me.  but i really want to counter all of the messages about what is and is not okay to be that our society feeds to all of us all of the time.  that is vitally important to me.  and the idea that our favorite colors, things, and way of dealing with the world are pre-determined for us, now even before we pop out of our parents that have the right plumbing to pop us out, makes me itchy, scratchy, irritable, cranky, tired, and sad.

how do i make my child’s self as filled with possibilities as possible, without limiting it by deciding that that limitless is important?  how does my belief in that limitlessness limit my child in a world that believes so gosh-darn fiercely in those limits?  how do make sure to honor the possibility that our kid could be totally gender-normative, without just going along with the culture’s assumptions that that is how it will be?

“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word “love” here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace – not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”
–James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

this is one of those times that i’m posting when a number of posts and themes have been rumbling, boiling, roiling, and bumbling around in my head, and i’m trying to see if i can distill them all into something cohesive, together. 

recently, i finished reading the bible for the third time.  the first two times were in high school, one right after the other.  what the three reads have in common is that they were relatively textually easy editions that i read at night, before bed.  this reading was the message: remix, meant to be read in small chunks, over either 1, 2, or 4 years.  i took a little over 3 years, reading at a variety of paces throughout that time, sometimes missing a few days to a week at a time.  i found myself baffled and concerned by the frequent old testament battles and the bloody imagery throughout.  i felt disconnected from the frame of mind of early jews, trying to translate my own experience into this entirely different worldview.  the bible resonates the most with me when treated as metaphor, but there were so many stories and events, and long narratives, that i couldn’t find the use in, and that seemed to run counter to my own ideas of morality and god.

one piece of that that’s interesting is that in my quaker journey, i’ve found a lot of resonance in contemporary jewish writers, sometimes more so than in contemporary christian writers.  it’s actually through jewish writers that i learned to feel more comfortable looking at religious stories metaphorically.  and a reality about myself is that whenever i’m in new york, i get self-consciously giddy by all of the jewishness.  i am worried about my tendency to romanticization and exotification as i press my nose to the bus window going through hasidic neighborhoods, but my justification is that i am fascinated by that ability to live one’s faith out loud like that, jealous as a white kid who believes he has no culture.

shortly after finishing the bible, i was part of a conversation where someone was talking about his atheistic respect for this person who had actually read the bible and lived by it, despite how ugly it was.  this person and the person he was referring to were thinking about the bible of the eternally angry god.  i was saddened by this, but unable to counter it, both because of my natural timidity in conflict, the power dynamics involved, the level of alcohol consumed, and my awareness of the confusing ugliness i’d found in the bible.

one thing he said was that many christians don’t acknowledge how hard it is to actually live by the bible.  and even as i create the bible in my own image, unsure how to grapple with the pieces that make me deeply uncomfortable, i still find it difficult to live by the pieces that i absolutely believe in.  god is love.  there is no fear in love.  love your neighbor as yourself.  who is my neighbor?  the good samaritan.  these things can be distilled into fluff, i guess, but at their core, they are terribly terribly hard.  if we all succeeded in living by them, i believe the world would be a much better place, but they seem to be ignored by the people flocking to chik-fil-a, boycotting funerals, and engaging in warfare.  these people have their own piece of the bible, too.  how do i justify my piece of it, in the face of the other side of things?  is it fair to take the bible piece by piece?

i will probably continue to live my piece of the bible as much as possible.  my view is something like that comic strip that says something, “what if it’s all a hoax?  what if we fix up the ozone layer, replant trees, and make the world better, for no reason?”  that is the world that i want.

confessions of a professional grad school applicant, part 3a

at some point last night, as i was trying to fall asleep, i realized i’d forgotten to write about syracuse.  syracuse was the last school that t and i visited together.  it was another rental car trip, right after i got back from boston.  we took the path train to new jersey and rented our car in the mall, after eating sbarro, because that’s what you do when you are in a mall.

the drive up was nice.  hurray for lots of trees.  the most notable part of the drive was that, when hunting for a starbucks, the gps took us to “great wolf lodge.”  we followed this road that looked like it was going to take us nowhere, and then suddenly, there was a giant lodge with wolves “carved” into the front.  we went into the building, and first i thought there was a cotton candy maker and hat shop at the front, but really it was a build-a-bear.  or rather a build-a-raccoon-wolf-or-dragon.  further in, we discovered a fake nature scene with cartoony characters and a native american woman statue in the middle.  there was also a photobooth, and as we got closer to that, we peered out the window and saw that there was a giant, indoor waterpark.  it was crazy.  i asked t if this was what most americans expect out of vacations now and if this was normal.  t didn’t think so.

when we got to the hotel, we discovered that they were having a car show, because some people from the syracuse nationals were staying there, and there was a live band.  that was entertaining, and t wanted to get photos, but she was too hungry to do it right away.  we checked the internet and found out we had multiple vegetarian options, and decided on an all-vegan cafe, strong hearts.  the food was good and there were  a million vegan milkshake options, named after lefty (politically, not handedness) heroes.

the next day, i visited the school.  none of the professors i’ve been in touch with were going to be around, and the student who i’d been corresponding with also couldn’t be there, but he suggested i get in touch with some folks in different offices, and i wound up getting to hang out and talk in the disability cultural center, which was awesome and the person who runs it was awesome and had all those “for every girl who doesn’t want her e-z-bake oven, there’s a boy who wishes he’d got one” types of posters all over the place.  the administrative assistant for the cultural foundations program, which is what i’m interested in, got me hooked up with a student, one of the more burned out students i’ve met on my trip.  i also got a tour and a chat and a TON of syllabi from the administrative assistant, who was wonderfully friendly.

i didn’t know what to expect from syracuse and i’m still not entirely sure what i think of it as a place.  we’d heard it was very cold, and a friend of ours talked about race and class strife, another friend called it “kind of a sh*thole,” but all the tourism stuff makes it sound like an artistic destination spot.  in some ways it sort of reminded me of olympia– the grimy, punkishness of a place where there aren’t enough jobs but people are somehow making it work and where there are lots of non-normative types.  it was a grey day, which is probably what it’s like a lot, but it was odd to be in a town that felt so bleak in the middle of summer.  i liked it, but it’s also very spread-out and strip mally.

on the drive out, we stopped at another of the vegetarian-suggested places, an indian restaurant called dosa grill.  t debated the lunch buffet vs. ordering chana masala off the menu, since it wasn’t on the buffet, and decided on chana masala.  as we waited, we were given complimentary mango lassis, and the people there were ridiculously friendly.  the chana masala became an actual massive amount of food with tons of rice, a poppadum, and 2 chutneys, in addition to a very full container of chana masala.  we both ate enough to be very happily full and there was still a lot left over.

we were driving along and traffic slowed down, and we creeped under a underpass.  suddenly, the most horrible old onions smell filled the car.  first we thought it was from the underpass, but it didn’t go away.  after 5 minutes of appalled giddiness, i looked in the bag, and one of the chutneys had leaked all over the inside and was starting to creep outside of the bag as well.  “the smell is coming from inside the car.”  i put the free paper we’d gotten in syracuse underneath and tried to seal the bag as much as possible.  and then we got in the middle of a ridiculous traffic jam where we went 2 miles in about half an hour, all with this horrific stench in the car.  it was horrible, but it also kept us giggling.

so that was syracuse.

Published in: on 26 July, 2012 at 7:53 am  Comments (2)  

confessions of a professional grad school applicant, part 3

and now i’m in seattle, and all of the visiting of schools is done.  the university of washington is a school i’ve been thinking of, on and off, but as i was shuttling up the east coast, the joy of the humidity plus the stress of coordinating one more visit was too much for me, and i never tried to make a visit to uw happen.  today, i’ve been wandering around my old seattle haunts, contemplating the dreaminess, beauty, craziness, sadness, and creativity that one finds here.  i am uncomfortable with the prevalence of mental illness and poverty as i walk around, and just want to sequester myself in bookstores, coffeeshops, and vintage things, which is of course ironic because i’m so interested in class and disability.  it is sunny today, but i think part of the discomfort is the grimy understanding that that person howling on the street corner could be you, and when it’s drizzling, it sort of feels like they are all you.  and of course i know that in new york, there are all those pieces as well, and it’s harder to just make it there, in many ways, but the time i lived in seattle was one of the saddest parts of my life, through no fault of its own.
anyway, after my last post, i quickly started to think of philadelphia as “the city of brotherly HOOOOONNNNK!”  getting the rental car was tremendously stressful, because we had to get out of a parking garage that was under construction, and thus had all of its signs pointing in directions to nowhere.  by the time we made it out, we were exhausted and stressed, especially considering the fact that we were also hungry.  so we got food quickly (getting honked at all the time) and then got on the highway to happy valley (getting honked at all the time).  we did not understand what lane to get in for the toll booth, so we got honked at some more, and in general the ride was high stress punctuated by quiet lulls.  every time things seemed to get into place, some minor disaster would occur, and there would be more honking.  in the middle of the drive, the gps took us to a starbucks that was in a weird shopping center, and t collapsed in an amazingly comfortable adirondack chair.  the adirondack chair life is something we both crave.  after some relaxing there, we went and got some gas, but that, too, became an occasion for stress and honking due to confusion about the location of the gas tank.

finally we made it to state college, which i decided must be like “stars hollow,” where “the gilmore girls” takes place.  our hotel was a decent chain hotel, with a friday’s out in the parking lot.  after unloading the car, we looked up vegetarian food, and there weren’t a ton of options, but a pizza place sounded good, so we went there.  i loved it in its salty, greasiness, but it turned out to be wrong for the pregnant lady.  we watched “friends” (on nick at nite, what!?) until we fell asleep.

the following morning, i went to my appointment at penn state, and was delighted by the kindness and enthusiasm of the professor i was meeting with.  she showed me around the impressive reading camp they were having (which made me think that: a) i am a terrible teacher and b) i was woefully ill-prepared in a practical way), and actually said out loud that she wants me to come to the program, so that was nice.  sometimes, though, i feel like i’ve tricked people when they say things like that to me after only a few emails and conversations.  anyway, i was impressed with the program and could be happy in it.
t and i met back up for lunch with a couple who i’d gotten in touch with via the lgbta grad association.  i’d emailed them and explained our situation, and was told that this couple had a similar situation.  they were kind and sweet and open, wonderful to talk with, and we learned a lot about family life in general, queer family life in specific, and how to connect with good doctors.  also, when i noticed that they both wore crosses, i asked about queer friendly churches, and soon the quakers were mentioned.  when i said i was a quaker, i was told that there was a wonderful quaker working at this bookstore/cafe, so we went there and i was introduced to a woman with vibrant and goofy energy, who i shyly and awkwardly greeted before t and i dashed away to get back on the road to the city of brotherly HOOOOONNNK! so she could catch her megabus back to new york.

my impression of the town and school was that it was quaint and old-fashioned, though with a definite college student presence.  later, discussing with t, who had been wandering around the town, the college student presence was very strong for her.

at the hotel, i’d bought t an extra megabus ticket for an hour later than our original booking to make sure she wouldn’t get stuck without one.  this was good, because we got there just after our original booking had left.  then, there were decisions about how much time the pregnant lady should stand out in the heat while waiting for the bus.  once we’d committed to standing out there, the bus wound up being about half an hour late.  i’d made an appointment for dinner with <a href=”http://robinmsf.blogspot.com”>robin</a&gt; and <a href=”http://chrismsf.blogspot.com”>chris</a&gt;, so i ran back into the station as soon as we saw t’s bus coming.

the city of brotherly HOOOOOONNNK! quickly became a maze of confusion transit options, and i wound up getting on the wrong one.  eventually i found robin, though, and we took the train to the house that her family was to move out of in a week.  ironically, the only other time i’d been to their house was right before another move.  my traveling dazedness made for some awkward dinner conversation, but i was treated to some delicious cheese and stir-fried vegetables, as well as a welcome popsicle.

then back to the train station where i settled in to a book before getting on my overnight train to boston.  it was an eight hour ride, which seemed perfect in theory, but since i could never get into a comfortable position for sleeping, and there was a teenager behind me histrionically vacillating between schmoopy phone calls with her boyfriend and angry conversations with her family who were on the train, i didn’t actually get much sleep.  but i think i slept through connecticut, so i don’t think it’s fair for me to really say i’ve ever been to connecticut.

i navigated the boston transit system much better than the one in philly, despite feeling exhausted, filthy, and unkempt.  i ordered breakfast at a diner with a young man who called me all those funny masculine names that i don’t understand (i don’t think he called me “chief” or “big guy” but it was things like that),  and while it was being made, i changed clothes in the bathroom.  i felt moderately less gross after that.  then, i went out into the heat to wait for the shuttle bus i’d been told about, but after waiting for an hour, i decided it must not run in the summer, and i got into a cab that had been sitting there the whole time.  the thing that stalled me the most from getting into the cab was that i only knew the name of the building i wanted to go to, not its actual address, but the cab driver knew what i meant.

boston college has free wifi for guests, which was nice, so i sat in a comfy lobby and de-sweated while i waited for my appointments.  i met with one professor who was very nice and then the really enthusiastic and friendly student who had organized my visit.  then, i got to sit in on the only class of this whole college tour– critical race theory, and wow is that something i want to do.  the professor of the class was poised and brilliant, and the students were open and also brilliant, engaging with the topic and each other in wonderful ways.

it’s hard because so many things i’ve experienced on this trip have not swayed me exactly from one school to another, but just further and further towards excitement about grad school.  i want to have those deep conversations and engage with people in the way that this trip has been opening up.  but there has not been one clear winner so far.

i took the megabus back to new york.  this megabus came to the regular bus bay, and so it was more comfortable than waiting in philly or new york.  but one megabus cruelly came and left 10 minutes before our bus was supposed to leave, and then the next bus came 45 minutes later, so i got into new york very late at night.  but t and her bff had delicious food waiting for me.

the truth is new york feels like love to me.  every person i know there is tremendously sweet and takes wonderful care of me, making sure i knew where i’m going and how to get there.  there have been few people angry at me or even angry near me.  sure, the subway rocks a lot, and the ground is disgusting, but i feel oddly buoyant and impermeable in new york.  it is clear, though, that t does not feel that way.  and that is fine.  i have such a romantic vision of new york, it is probably best to keep it that way.

my last bit of new york included visiting carroll gardens and getting swept away by cute shops and cafes.  i am easily swept away by cute shops and cafes.  the next day, t flew back to san francisco, which was very sad and i didn’t want to stop touching her belly.

i’d accidentally flaked out on some vague appointments because i got my dates mixed up, but i was able to reschedule one of them.  so after t left, i took the subway to another friend’s apartment away up in washington heights.  we set up my new air mattress on the floor and then went and got amazing pizza.  then we went looking for a place to get a key for me and to wander around central park.  sadly there was no key to be had.  but the wandering was nice.  eventually we went to columbia, where his office is, and i sat in the lobby eating snacks and using the internet late into the night.  this was funny to me, because i’m not looking at columbia.

the next day, i went to washington square and got a dosa and sat down at a park bench.  then i realized that speed levitch was giving a tour right next to me.  he was commenting on the sexualness of the arch.  i was amused because he spoke at new college a few years ago, and felt like this moment would have really impressed my 21 year old self.

then i went to the coffeehouse where i was going to meet an nyu student.  i sat in a seat near the front and watched the door.  i had the odd advantage of her google+ picture popping up on my email screen, unbidden, as i reread the email.  unfortunately it was arty and shadowed, so i only knew to look for glasses.  i saw someone with glasses go up to another young woman who shook her head no, so i went up to the woman with glasses, who barely registered me, i think because she thought my name belonged to a woman (this has happened a lot on this trip, btw).

we went back out to a park bench and she told me about nyu.  she was very serious but very friendly and answered all of my questions thoughtfully and enthusiastically.

i wandered around the area a bunch, slithering illicitly into bookstores (i’m not really allowed to buy books right now) as it started to rain.  one of my daydreams of new york life involves working in a bookstore again.  i miss it.

i met back up with the friend i’m staying with, so i could buy what he thinks are the best bagels in new york.  then, i went to my meeting with a cuny student.  we met in a two story diner with a waiter with a wry sense of humor.  the student i met with was very friendly and fun to talk with, and also very enthusiastic about the program.

i have a better feel for new york than i do for the two programs.  in some ways the websites for the programs are so vast that it’s hard to get a true handle on things.  but i’m excited about both, nonetheless.

and then yesterday, after 5 hours of sleep, i got up and went to my plane for seattle, stopping in salt lake city, utah, which was a shockingly pleasant experience.  the airport had a bike cop, easily accessible sharps containers, recycling, veggie burgers served by people who made sure i knew what was vegan even though i’m not vegan, and deep fried pickles.  land of contrasts, indeed.

so now i just have to decide.  admittedly, p.j. harvey’s rendition of peggy lee’s “is that all there is?” is sort of rambling through my head today.  there are schools i’m definitely, unquestionably excited about, but the adventure time is over and now it’s just negotiating applications and decisions, which is less fun than a trip up the east coast.  there are viable options for sure, but there was no clear winner, especially in the “where to live to raise a family” category of decision making.

i thought i would spend the flight to seattle poring over my notes and materials, but instead i’m kind of consciously taking a break from thinking about it, letting my subconscious shake some stuff out first.  we’ll see where it lands.  for now, i will just be here in seattle, thinking about my past, and planning for the wonderful wedding of two lovely friends.

confessions of a professional grad school applicant, part 2

i started out, thinking that i’d write about schools two at a time, but that hasn’t really happened.  i’m really actually near the end of my trip now, but the insights changed.

as you probably know, i fell in love with UGA and athens. georgia, and did not fall in love with georgia state.  both of those responses were deep and gut-level.

we both spent a little bit of time in durham with j from the internet.  then t and i went and visited with her family out in rural raleigh, where we were well-fed and t and her tummy were well-loved, and then t and her dad and her dad’s girlfriend drove off to carolina beach and i stayed with j from the internet.

the following day, i got together with some of my loveliest friends from college, and they gave me the “pretend i live here and want to walk and bike to as many places as possible, where is the best place for me?” tour of carrboro.  they also brought me to this store in chapel hill with a shrine upstairs that made me feel like i was taking a tour inside francesca lia block’s fabulous glittery head.

that night my mom arrived from her trip along the blue ridge parkway from asheville, where she had been visiting to unsuccessfully escape the florida heat.  she was pleased to be in a house with cats.

she drove me to my appointments at unc-chapel hill and north carolina state.  i hoped she would find a place to park and wander, but the lack of free parking, understandable navigation, and cool breezes made it less of a fun adventure for her than i’d hoped.

my first appointment, at chapel hill, was with a professor who was meeting me with permission from his wife, who makes sure he spends enough time off and with the family.  i wasn’t sure how to read him from our brief emails, but he was very friendly and someone i could definitely work with, and the program sounds like what i want.  unfortunately, funding sounds like it’s very iffy and very year-by-year, which is not how i see my budding family thriving.  more recently, on the bolt bus from dc to new york, i quietly talked on the phone with a recent grad who talked to me about all of the pros and cons of the program, saying she was glad she went, she grew, and that the program is in a better place than it was when she started it– but that she had to spend some serious time educating some of the faculty about african-american and feminist issues, which is of course a red flag for me.

next i met with a faculty member at north carolina state.  t and i are much less excited about raleigh than chapel hill, so that’s the starting point for that.  i entered campus and immediately found a student yelling from the bible under a tree.  i walked for half an hour through north campus before i found the building i needed to be at and then found myself chasing up and down stairs to find the professor who was moving offices and to whom i’d accidentally sent a confirmation email with the wrong time on it.  she was very friendly and excited and convinced this was the perfect program for me.  after i left she connected me with more people and resources, so that’s awesome, too.  funding is slightly less iffy, but i’m just not sure about raleigh.  all of that area seems so spread-out and car-necessary, which is not at all what i want for my life.

then we drove to carolina beach where we spent time with t’s family.  one day, t’s dad took us out for a boat ride down the intracoastal waterway to the boardwalk area, and after we got donuts and walked down to the beach, i took off running, abandoning everyone to just get in the water.  having a pregnant lady in my life makes me think some about swimming and the womb, and the deep connection some of us feel with the ocean.  the next day, my mom kidnapped me for a day at the beach in front of her hotel.  there has been less swimming this summer than i would like, but that day made up for a lot of it.

we went down to florida to see more of t’s family and then we flew up to washington, dc.  as soon as i got off the plane, we hightailed it on the metro to the foggy bottom stop so i could meet with a professor at george washington.  he was wonderfully friendly and answered all of my questions, and the program sounds great.  i’m also really enamored with all the brick oldness of that area.  to me, birds of paradise are a little passe, because i grew up in florida, but old brick buildings are exotic and fascinating.  for t it’s the opposite.  i had another appointment, this time with a student, the following day, still feeling good about the program.

but one of the best things was the childhood support network that t has there, family friends who love her.  i think it would be really hard for us to find affordable housing, but we’d have people who love t around us, which is very important.

i took a train to delaware to visit the university of delaware in newark.  one of the things that struck me about dc, besides the old brick buildings was the comingled diversity.  i saw this on the buses in newark as well, but it had a grittier more industrial, poorer feel than the diplomats and doctors who bustled around me in dc.  the campus looks like what books and movies make you think colleges are supposed to look like, and i ate yummy food.  the professor there was wonderfully friendly and helpful, walking me up and down stairs and showing me all sorts of rooms and people and labs.  i think it could be a really good program, but between arranging the appointment and going to the appointment, t had pretty much vetoed delaware.

the next day, we took the bolt bus to new york.  before i met t, new york to me was the new york of crocodile dundee, dangerous, gritty, and full of angry executives in fancy clothes and angrier punks with leather jackets and enormously tall mohawks.  but the new york we always go to is the brooklyn loft of her bff, where we sit around and chat and eat for ours, and go on mini-excursions that are remarkably unstressful and always delightful.  this trip has been no different.  one day, i got together with a friend who went from student to faculty of cuny recently, and he gave me a tour of the bright hallways and closed darkened offices of the graduate center.  his partner had a bad experience at nyu, so she gave me the jaded tour of those blocks.  but my head is currently full of a fog of daydreams of a quietish new york spot for our family, and trying to make it work without feeling like a broke kid in a candy store.  it is entirely impractical, and reminds me of those crushes on dangerous boys in high school that feel so compelling and necessary to one’s blood at the time.  but like dc, what new york has is people who love us.  and although it’s fast in its way, it has yet to be overtly rude to us.

well, we are coming into philadelphia on our megabus, and then we are going to get our rental car for penn state.  it’s an odd time to visit, but so far this program seems to be one of the most promising for all of the bits of coziness, affordability, nice folks, and close to people we love.

Published in: on 16 July, 2012 at 9:58 am  Leave a Comment  

if, on a summer’s day, a traveler…

my computer lost its ability to connect to the internet a couple of days ago.  i’ve been traveling all over the place, using internet in hostels, homes, trains, and buses.  then, when we came to our brooklyn homebase, the apartment of t’s bff, i discovered i couldn’t connect to his internet.  then i learned i could connect to no one’s internet.

somehow, right when i was thinking of going on a solitary field trip to an apple store to get my computer fixed, my brain did something like:

busy saturday–> sunday’s free–>  go on sunday–>  quaker meeting!

so for i made a 2:00 appointment at an apple store and then looked up the closest quaker meeting to where i was staying– the brooklyn quaker meeting.  i learned it was just a couple of stops from where i was.

so this morning i woke up, went to the subway, went downstairs and sweated like crazy.  in the train stations here, i don’t even recognize what i feel as heat, but my forehead immediately starts streaming sweat.  i got off at the hoyt-schermerhorn stop, and started my walk.  fortunately, i started off in the right direction.  i passed the friends school family center, a teacher supply store, and the criminal court, and then knew i was in the right place, because i saw some foliage and a man walking a bicycle through an open gate.

i was enthusiastically welcomed into the beautiful old building by a young woman, and then walked up the stairs to the worship room.

before today i’d been to this meetinghouse, i’d participated in sunday morning worship at 3 meetings: whitby, england, in early 2001, san francisco regularly for the past 6 years, and the berkeley friends meeting once about a year or 2 ago.  possibly because of that, or because i’ve been in “soak up my surroundings mode” for the past few months, or maybe just because it’s how i’ve been in worship lately anyway, i spent most of the meeting contemplating my surroundings and the people in it.

one of the first things that struck me was that there were a few people of color there, who all seemed to feel at home, which is something that our meeting has continuously struggled with.

i also noticed that the doors never closed.  i liked the welcoming feel of that and didn’t think it was distracting, outside of the fact that i was distracted by everything anyway.

the other thing i noticed as i was scoping the room for my place to sit, and then afterwards, was that it had the old-fashioned benches, with the mysterious “facing benches” i’d mostly only ever read about.  i remember when i first started coming to the sf meeting.  the chairs surrounded an old braided rug.  i decided that the people closest to the rug must be the most insider type people of the meeting, so i sat on the fringes (and even though the rug is gone and i’ve been told the rug means nothing, i still tend to do that).  i couldn’t figure out the meaning of the facing benches at the brooklyn meeting, so i decided to just steer clear of them.

the meeting was good.  people spoke.  my mind was far too busy.  the children’s program made a cute quaker village out of cardboard boxes in the social hall.

… and then back to the subway for the apple store appointment.  i walked past some cop cars and some police officers and some more police officers and a newsstand and kept walking until i realized i must have missed the station, so i turned around and found it, right at the newsstand.   like on the initial ride, i sweated like crazy, but i eventually got out at my stop, 14th street.

i walked past the 16th street exit, and the 15th street exit, and then got out on the right side of the street but then accidentally walked up to 15th anyway.  i walked up to 9th and found myself at chelsea market with some time to kill, so that was fun.  and then i got my laptop fixed.  it took 4 minutes.

except then back at our homebase, it’s still not working.  so it might be the connection here.  but i know what he did to make it work there, so i will try it again with another connection.

after i got back, we went to the brooklyn museum.  and as per their tradition, t and friend took me up to see judy chicago’s the dinner party. and even though i’m not a lesbian anymore and i know that the vag doesn’t make the lady…  that may have been the most spiritual moment of my day.

or maybe i was just geeking out with my feminist b.a. in religion self, recognizing names and histories and references and connections.  proud of what i knew.  probably still thinking too much.

Published in: on 15 July, 2012 at 7:21 pm  Leave a Comment