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.

*sigh*

“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?

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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, pt. 1

2 out of 10 or 11 schools have been visited and now i have a weekend to rest, reflect, and spend time with friends and family before i visit 2 more on monday.  so many adventures have already been had and we only left the bay area on tuesday.

the school year closed on June 15.  June 18 was a teacher work day.  June 19-21, t & i went to art trainings sponsored by the school district.  while t was learning about a whole year’s worth of art curriculum, i was off learning <a href=”http://selfassuperhero.com/students.html”>how to turn myself and my students into superheroes</a>, through a workshop run by the <a href=”http://www.ahc-oakland.org/index.html”>attitudinal healing connection</a>, one of the many fun activities i’ve participated in in the bay area that makes me vaguely concerned i’m joining a cult.  but the workshop was fantastic and i had a great time and am excited about how to use all of that in the classroom.  and i mean, it’s rare that i get to spend 3 days making art.

friday…  we did more things, i don’t remember…  saturday and sunday were about packing and socializing, and then monday was crunch time.  a lawyer appointment (student loans are already separate when you get married and war tax resistance debt is illegal so it can’t be covered in a pre-nup anyway, so we don’t have to get a pre-nup, thank you <a href=”http://www.milesfamilylaw.com/about.html”>dylan miles</a>), a gps purchase, an oil change, shoe exchanging, prescription pick-up, and a car drop-off all meant for a busy day and very little sleep because there was still cleaning, sorting, laundry, and packing to do.  and a bag of split peas to spill all over the floor because that’s just fun at 1 in the morning.

tuesday morning, i got up and biked as fast as i could to the vet to pick up secret’s thyroid pills and then back home.  then i walked as fast as i could to the pet food store to get cat food and litter but it wasn’t open yet so i walked back.  i finished up the laundry and other bits of things, and then went back to the pet food store, ran home, stocked up the cat food, and changed the litter box.  we dashed to our flight, and after t and i stood around waiting for them to find a female security guard to frisk t because she didn’t want to radiate the baby, we finally made it to our flight just as they were calling our name on the intercom.  this was particularly tragic because we hadn’t refilled our water bottles or gotten extra food for the pregnant lady.  but we made it onto the flight, hurray.

after a transfer in atlanta that seemed ridiculous because we would be renting a car to drive to atlanta (and where we finally got properly hydrated and fed (we DID get t as much water as possible on the plane, don’t worry)), we got on the next plane.  in line in front of us was friendly chatty woman and a young man.  the woman engaged us all in conversation and the young man wound up telling us all about how he had just gotten back from teaching english in china.

we made it to rdu at about 11 at night.  as we were going to baggage claim we found our english-teaching friend surrounded by his parents, covered in “welcome to the usa!” paraphernalia, smiling ruefully and sweetly into a camera one of them was holding up.  it was totally charming.

i sent t off to the rental car place while i waited for our luggage (which only got checked because we were so late and there was no room in the overhead bins).  when i got to the rental car place and found her, she was standing next to a giant SUV.  GIANT.  it was totally hilarious to me, and potentially hilarious to t, but currently terrifying and annoying.  fortunately they’d told her she could return it the next day and probably get the economy car she’d requested, so we headed off to quickly stay the night at the house of my good friend, j from the internet and her lovely husband.  the house is an absolutely adorable home with a screened-in porch in durham, nc.

then in the morning, we poked around getting ready, probably a little too long, and then got on the road back to the rental car place.  it took them awhile to find us our promised economy car, but eventually we had that and were really back on the road.  after stops in random places for things like soup at panera bread, gas from gas stations, and coffee from coffeehouses too far into town, we arrived at athens, georgia at 7:01 for our 7:00 dinner meeting with a grad student from the language & literacy education department at uga.  The food and conversation was lovely, and we talked a lot about the lower cost of living.  one topic was the price of traffic and parking tickets, and so it was funny when we got back to our rental car and found a $10 parking ticket on the windshield.

then we drove to lawrenceville, a suburb of atlanta that i’d visited before, to stay with one of my lovely friends from college, her husband, and her stepdaughter.  we had an entire little basement suite, and there were friendly cats and a fridge stocked with string cheese and luna bars just for us.

the next morning, we went back to athens where i met with three professors from the lled program.  they were all fantastic and great to talk with.   i got fed and everyone was just super friendly.  i think athens could be a really good fit for our budding family and uga would be an excellent place to go to school.  there are still questions about the livability of the funding, but t & i were pretty excited by our second day’s visit.

then we drove through the famous heavy traffic, to gsu in atlanta.  as we were driving up, a woman leaned into a cop car and started talking with the officers and then walked in front of them and a whole bunch of other fast traffic.  i was there to speak with grad students from the special education program.  i’ve been realizing more and more that special ed programs are frequently about interventions and quantitative research which is wonderful and important but maybe i’m more of a critical theory person.  the students i spoke with at gsu were wonderful and friendly, but i started to think that maybe i wasn’t looking at the right program there.  then i went outside to wait for trisha and observed some sexual harrassment, had someone creepily ask to use my phone, and saw the same 2 guys walk around the block multiple times.  i finally went back inside because i really needed to use the bathroom, and then after passing the gauntlet of a couple making out against the bathroom door, there was another guy trying to get me to give him my student card for him to use….  when i told t that maybe gsu wasn’t for me, she was relieved, because she’s just spent that whole time battling the traffic.

we went back to the little suburb and after trying to find a publix with the gps and instead driving to the publix warehouse, we went to dinner with my friend and her family.  that was great.  after some family tv watching, we all went to our bedrooms.  i took a shower and then trisha took a shower, but as she was showering, it sounded like the toilet flushed, and then the water that had been building in the tub also went down the drain.  after she got out of the shower, the whole floor from the bathroom through half the kitchenette was covered in water, and so we cleaned that up, washed our feet and went to bed.

the following morning i had a meeting with the dean, who is the brother-in-law of one of the members of the sf quaker meeting and who sounds like a paragon of integrity.  i was told by the quaker brother-in-law that he would be honest about all of the schools i was looking at so i sort of used the time to go through my list with him.  unfortunately he couldn’t find a bad choice on my list.

after that, t and i met with some grad students at the home of the professor who was sort of hosting this trip, and we went out for food, and then gave us a lot more information about the program.  i am absolutely sold on the program and trisha was absolutely sold on the town.  the only flaw was the funding.

then, as we were driving out and the gun shop billboards started to fly past, she got a little more nervous, but we are in agreement that even if we choose athens and uga, it doesn’t have to be forever.

we got back to the car rental at 11 again, and j from the internet bravely drove us back to durham in a giant wind storm.

i’ve been emailing professors at schools like crazy, and it’s stressful but also a lot of fun in many ways.  it’s nice to have people helping me out and talking with me (and taking me out for food!).  it’s a great way to spend a summer.

Published in: on 30 June, 2012 at 4:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

this past saturday was the teachers for social justice conference.

rewind a little for me to tell you that, um, i quit my job. you know, the one i’d been glowing about not too long ago. i still love the agency, but in terms of skills and interests, the position wound up not being a good match for me. i spent some time feeling elated and free after quitting and then there was a deep crash in motivation and self-confidence. i found a job rather quickly, and i’ll probably be starting that on friday, but the climb out of mild depression is not as swift as i would like. i’m fine, but it’s weird going from Having a Purpose to Um… What Should I Be Doing With Myself?

but the teachers for social justice conference was a help in that.

funnily enough, both of the workshops that i went to had something to do with transformation in the title. it absolutely wasn’t intentional, but you know, that’s always been one of my interests. the first was on transformative life skills. the job i’m starting soon is as a paraprofessional (which means a classroom assistant, usually with special education students), and the workshop seemed like it might give me some good tools to use with students one on one, especially those with attention issues and stuff. it was all about breathing and centering and stuff like that, so it kind of was about being a quaker. it was interesting how the workshop was both about helping kids find ways to calm down and about helping us educators be calm. (they did a great impression of educators frantically trying to get kids to calm down. “settle down! SETTLE DOWN!!!”)

the other workshop was “Message to Transformative Teachers: The Process and Potential of a Culturally Empowering Pedagogy.” i picked it out of a ton of inspiring looking workshops, and honestly, the number of wonderful buzzwords in a lot of the descriptions became sort of a blur to me, and i couldn’t tell if i was going to this workshop because i understood what it was about or because i didn’t. but it was pretty amazing. i took tons of notes and part of me is tempted to put them all up here. but the gist of the whole thing was how we need to really understand where youth are coming from and not blame them for being who they are. it was particularly for working with high school aged youth of color. i don’t work with high school aged youth, but the workshop still felt applicable. the presenter, patrick camangian, was hugely inspiring and great to listen to.

the thing that’s stuck with me most is just the offhand comment that he made about how “thuglife” is actually an acronym. i had no idea. i guess it comes from tupac, and it stands for “the hate you give little infants fucks everybody.” it’s pretty amazing. it’s been going over and over in my head a lot since then, informing my thoughts on the systems and institutions in this society.

yesterday, i had to get a tb test, and i went to the public health clinic that i usually go to. i tend to go to the transgender night, but this is the second time i’ve had to do a walk-in during regular hours. i arrived 1 hour after they opened, the number that was showing on the board was 66, i pulled number 79. i sat for 2 hours and watched as the number crawled up to 69.

this place is ugly, doesn’t seem totally clean, and the bathrooms smell really bad. the people who work there are tired and grouchy. the people who go to the clinic are primarily people of color, and since it’s a public health clinic, they are all pretty darn poor.

after two hours i stepped outside and called around to other clinics that had been referred to me for this process. i finally became convinced that the “adult and travel immunization clinic” would actually work for my work tb test, and wow, it was actually the same building. the front door this time instead of the sketchy back alley entrance. it’s clean, there’s carpet, there’s music playing, the receptionist smiled at me, and i got seen in half an hour. the people around me were mostly white, and seemed mostly middle class.

in the first clinic, a man came in and not finding a place to sit, sat on the trash can.

today i was talking to a friend and she said, “do you think infants get hated often?” and i said, “maybe not directly, but institutions are constantly telling them and their families that they are garbage.”

after i got my tb test yesterday, i took the bus home. a man and woman got on the bus carrying full trashbags. i think they were full of cans. i was reading, but soon i noticed that an african-american woman was yelling at them. something about how they had insulted the way that she smelled, but it’s them that smelled. the woman with the bag and the african-american woman threatened each other. the woman with the bags got up and started yelling, “i’m not afraid. i’m not afraid.” she seemed chicana or native american. i got off a stop early because it was crowded and i was freaked out. as i was walking home, i saw basically everybody get off at the next stop, and the man punching the window of the back door of the bus, yelling “you better get off that bus right now” the glass was broken, and spit came flying out.

the hate you give little infants fucks everybody.

me saying that has elements of appropriation, and it’s definitely been used with more violent rage than i’m comfortable with, but it’s true and it’s big.

what am i going to do about it, i’m not sure yet. i really want to, though.

and if you can remember… keep smiling, keep shining, knowing you can always count on me, for sure…

this past weekend was san francisco monthly meeting’s annual retreat. last year, before i’d been going to meeting for a year, i responded to an announcement about the need for a co-registrar for the retreat, and i got to learn about the job of registrar while assisting the registrar. this year, i was the registrar– on my own in a lot of ways. though, as always feeling a tremendous amount of support.

the week leading up to the retreat was pretty stressful. i got some sad news about job prospects for the fall, i had to write a plan for all six monday workshops i’ll be leading with my summer job, and i had to assign a bunch of people to rooms and beds– and count them all over and over and over again, while fielding questions and worrying that i would put too much on the building manager for our meeting who was acting as a sort of collaborative assistant manager (which meant sometimes dealing with problems before i’d ever heard of them) and worrying that i’d given away too much scholarship money and worrying that i’d screwed up in some weird way that i wouldn’t even be able to guess ahead of time… this on top of my current jobs and the young adult friends group with its dwindling attendance…

that sounds terrible. it wasn’t. there were terrible moments. i think if i added up all of the times i felt terrible and really stressed out since the registration forms went out in the april newsletter, it would add up to about an hour. a lot of those involved dealing with other people’s stressed out phone calls and responding to questions i really didn’t know the answer to.

but deep down, i knew that short of my accidentally setting the place ablaze a few hours after everyone arrived, i was going to do fine. because, really, it’s that sort of job– where everyone is going to an amazing place with amazing people and amazing food, and everybody’s going to be pretty happy to be there.

and it was true. i got a lot of thanks and praise for my good work, and i hope i accepted it graciously, but honestly, it was a very easy job, and while i’m glad that people are glad that it happened, so much of my work was based on what was already a well-oiled machine. the cook was the same, the place was the same, the time was the same as its always been. i just had to make sure it all still happened. and that was work, but it was basically easy.

what i really want to write about though is the retreat. the way that we all get to relax and be with each other in a really authentic way. we get to be goofy and sing songs and be silent and coo at children and have deep talks and walk together and eat delicious food and smile and remember things about each other and accept each other and meet new people and see the redwoods and smell the dirt on the children and sit in front of the fire and applaud each others’ talents and laugh a lot and blow bubbles and tell each other we love each other and see each other in our pajamas and help each other and listen to each other and hug and forgive and clean together and share books and ask questions and talk about the bible and contemplate god and so many other things.

there’s a part of me that is suspicious of my love of this retreat. retreats seem so classed and inessential. we could be Doing Other Things with that money and that time. but sometimes, i think we just need time to Be with the people we love and the people we want to love, so that we can learn to do it better and remember what it feels like when it’s just easy.

i worked to make sure we could still go on the retreat, that it would still be relaxing, that everyone who wanted to come could, that the food would be delicious and enough, that people would get the rooms that they wanted… but it wasn’t me that made those other things happen. it was all of us together and it was god. that’s what friends are for.

(that song is my right now very favorite thing in the whole wide world. i sang it so many times on the retreat. it’s so schmaltzy but it is also just how i felt… “and i never thought i’d feel this way, but as far as i’m concerned i’m glad i got the chance to say that i do believe i love you.” and to me the weekend was about being open enough to admit my love of ridiculous songs like that, and to share the goofy joy i feel from them.)

Published in: on 27 May, 2008 at 10:13 am  Comments (4)  

our goal should be to figure out our role within the context of the whole

my therapist said, “you were unpopular growing up, of course you like having such an accepting spiritual community.”

this was in february or something. it sticks with me in the paranoid moments. she didn’t exactly phrase it that way, like, “i know this fact about you that i’m going to bring up as you are telling me a joy,” which is what it looks like. we were just talking about this or that, and then she brought up that or this.

if god is love is community, and i want community because i was lonely once, where does that leave god?

but not always. because it’s not always that simple.

i finished the rob bell book, and in fact it did get all “marriage is between one man and one woman.” it never got “and so not two men or two women or 5 people of various genders and definitely no intersex people or trannies.” but it seemed strongly implied.

and sometimes his descriptions of love and holiness were so Good and right on and just right, and so i want to scream at his smug way of sliding past me and slamming the door.

because no matter who i become, what i look like, how much i pass, who i’m with, i’m still queer, and i think of that as a blessing. i like that part of me. in the same way that i like the weird ways my middle fingers bend away from each other and the color of my eyes and my musical taste. it’s how i fit here. and i’m not about who i sleep with or how i identify, but it’s still there.

dear rob bell, how is it that the way that i love less holy because i can’t make babies?

dear god, and why is it that i can’t make babies?

i saw juno on christmas night. i went to the swedenborgian church and st. gregory’s episcopalian on christmas eve night, and then i went to the quaker meeting and the potluck after that and then i went home and i sat down on my bed, and then i remembered i’d wanted to see juno at some point and so why not now. the secret is that as i was sitting at meeting, i was getting some mean menstrual cramps because i’ve been taking progesterone this week to get some stuff out of my system that’s been building up for the past year. so going to a movie about a pregnant teenager on christmas while i was bleeding was surreal on a whole lot of levels. i’ve got a bad case of baby fever, and the film didn’t help.

there was a point to this other than some sort of weird “this is what a tranny’s life is like sometimes” moment, but it’s true. sometimes, you feel weird and unnatural because you are putting the hormones that your body would naturally be producing in your body instead of the ones that feel much more right. and you ask yourself a lot of questions about that, especially if you’re me. but i’ve had this minor crazy feeling this past week. all unsettled and off and crazy. and it’s reaffirmed my trans identity, even though there’s a part of me that is viewing it as ridiculous. how is it that i only feel at home here (here=in my body) when it’s got this stuff in it that my body does not make (or makes in lower doses?). i don’t know. but that is the state of things right now.

charles gave me a photocopying task this week. he knew that i wasn’t working at the school and so he offered to pay me for photocopying this beautiful old book of edward burroughs’ works. it was published in 1660something (i think 1662) and has all those beautiful elements– multi-sized fonts, the long s that looks like an f, the slight indentations from the printing. and misnumbering like crazy. 346, 347, 843, 349…. 561, 572, 573, 564, 565… etc. but it always eventually sorted itself out and the numbering was correct again. is there a metaphor in this?

i did not do the photocopying in quaker silence. i broke out my ipod (someone abandoned a charger cord at my house just before i moved in and we’ve officially declared it unclaimed, so when i have access to a computer, i can charge mine!), and listened to some of my favorite things that i haven’t heard in ages. kimya dawson, the mountain goats, christina aguilera’s back to basics, the idlewild soundtrack, le tigre’s “keep on livin'”! and i danced! and i turned the pages, gently pressing them down against the glass as i bobbed my head and kicked my feet, and i thought about joy and life and love and how much i like liking myself. how much i like “keep on living” because it reminds you that you are worth something, even when you don’t need to be reminded. how much i like the mountain goats because they are always so sad and yet there is something hopeful there. how much i like kimya, because her music and her life are these giant inspirations because she’s been through shit and she’s still here and she wants to give people what she’s learned because it’s important. because the world is beautiful and we have to remember that.

and then i got home and i looked at my livejournal, and there was an entry from kimya about hitting 9 years of sobriety. and i thought about how hard it is to live, to not self-destruct sometimes, and how grateful i am to not be there right now. and if god is love is community and that is how we survive and how we thrive, what more is there? what more can there be but the things that make us remember why we are alive? except then it got so so so sad because someone she knew died and and and… that is part of life too. part of living and loving life and getting through it and pushing past the self-destruction is learning and relearning and relearning that there are people that will stay there and eventually they will leave and it’s not your fault and it hurts.

and where does self-help end and religion start? of course it is god, but when god is love is community BUT also those moments of deep deep aloneness that is not aloneness that is indescribable but is part of yourself… what is it? what is it what is it what is it?

this past week’s on faith question is about hr 847, the house resolution about christmas. i read starhawk’s response today and found it to be a very loving but challenging answer, going into what christmas is and what it means and how our current politics reflect that meaning… or don’t. the comments were also interesting, too.

that’s all. good night.

Published in: on 30 December, 2007 at 12:35 am  Comments (4)