Letter To Myself

Dear 15 year old me,

Let’s get the hard stuff out of the way. You’re almost 25, and you haven’t done much. A decade has gone by and we’re not too different. Wish-lists and to-do lists, weighty goals combined on loose leaf pages of notebook paper stacked in little piles, they don’t amount to much. I’m making the same lists now, jotting them down in journals and scribbling them in the margins.

You always have some idea of what life will be like in the future. Some blank slate that you may project your ideal world onto. A film projector showing repeat showings of fantasy-you. It’s been this way as long as I can remember it. From five to ten, ten to fifteen, fifteen to twenty, every so often I stop to think what have I done that I said I would do? Not much.

It is easy to think that the inability to check these things off means some you’re some sort of failure. That the inability to keep the promises you made to yourself a decade ago means that you did something wrong. But you haven’t. If I were to look at these lists in another ten years, which I will, I will know what guided me. I will see the dreams that I had and what encouraged me. I will think about the things that woke me up every morning, the things that pushed me out the door. I will know what collective dreams bottled up to make me, me. Explore the world, learn french, become very good at something I enjoy. I haven’t done these things, but it took getting older to realize that you never really do. They are all a process. They are all a sliding scale of mastery. I cannot give these things a final checking point because they are always in progress. It is the process itself that makes me who I am, not the completion.

You don’t just wake up one morning and find that you are who you want to be. You always want to be more, different, better, you always have some point to look forward to. When we get small pieces of the things we want – graduation, a house, a car, a new friend, a new love – we move forward, but it’s hard to tell. You cannot understand the scope of life through a series of things that happen to you. There are always more things.

I understand that it is hard to think that a decade went by and, here I am, telling you that there are no real moments in which I could say you might find extraordinary. It is lucky for you, however, that you find all these seemingly mundane moments so special. Conversations, new connections, the feeling you get when you look certain people in the eye. Little trips that beg the desire for more and bigger trips. You will take photos and look back at them and want more. It is the cloyingly sweet truth – not the destination, but the journey. I’m sorry to put it to you that way.

If I could advise myself of one small thing it would be to not try so awfully hard to want of the future. It’s coming every moment and there is no earth-shattering sound when it arrives. It is here now, and now, and always coming faster.

In these lists you can look back and see what it is you tried to grasp along the way.

Sincerely.

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The Feminist Grief

Everything is a script, and I’ve been studying my role since the day I was born.

It’s an exhaustive conversation to have. I feel like the more I repeat myself the less the words have meaning. What does it mean to be a woman, and how are women pushed into being more… womanly? I was looking at a friends photos on Facebook. She is very religious and has been her entire life, and there was never any doubt that she would be anything except a happy christian woman. I enjoy her. She is always very positive, happy, she has good energy. There she is in her wedding dress. Her and her husband have pretty typical banter. She hasn’t cooked dinner yet, but the laundry is always so clean and smells so good he can hardly blame her. She’s just so good with kids. He’s had a hard day at work, so glad to have a loving wife to come home to. She works, she’s independent, she has a career, could survive on her own. But she’s his wife. That’s her thing. That’s the most important thing. It makes her beam.

One time we had a lecture about marriage that struck a cord with me. It’s one I forget a lot because I feel like it doesn’t apply to me. The less I need to use something, the easier it is to forget. The professor was discussing wants and expectations and how that can correlate to satisfaction. If you go your entire life believing that you are going to grow up, marry a man, and become a wife, you’re more likely to be happy when all those things happen to you. If it’s consistently reinforced throughout your life that women grow up, marry men, and become wives – and you see your family as models of this –  you are probably more likely to want it, to desire it.

I think sometimes my life would be easier if I could slip into the role I’ve been taught to play. What if I gave up bisexuality in preference for men? What if I was contented in monogamy, for the rest of my life? What if the idea of finding one person and spending the rest of my life with them was not both terrifying and way too much responsibility but something that made my eyes glisten with dreams of pinterest boards and cake tastings? What if I wanted to be called someones “wife” and what if I wanted to get married and have kids? What if I wanted to get a boring job because I needed income and, even though it hurt, I went anyways and just kept going? What if I never asked for more, never wanted to be a nuisance? What if I never questioned my role as a woman? What if I behaved femininely all the time? What if I wore more makeup? What if I spent more on clothes than I did on books?

This isn’t to say that people who stick closer to the script are somehow ignorant, or taking the easy way out, or are secretly something other than they appear to be. My friend is perfectly happy, and the greatest strength of feminism is letting women choose the way the way want to live. But I do think wonder, for myself, how it would feel if I stopped fighting all the systems that I rest within. If I just gave up and let myself melt into the plastic form. If I did everything that everyone around me, and everything inside of me, is saying you’re supposed to do. Would there be some sigh of relief that sank down through my pores, down into each and every cell?

Or would I be instantly overcome with the grief of a life not lived with intent?

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Things I’ll Never Be, And Haven’t Been Yet.

No one has ever thought to ask me “were you always bisexual?” But I ask myself. I wonder sometimes in small moments of silence how my own sexuality progressed. How it took shape. If it was always there or if I created it myself, or if I am a product of my environment.

I often speak with the knowledge of someone who is heterosexual because I feel like I used to be heterosexual. Was I straight, or was I only straight because I had not yet realize that I was bi? There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to your own personal experiences with sexuality. Some people say they always knew.

I can look back at a series of events and say that I was most certainly less-than-straight as long as I have memories. But am I simply applying this knowledge that I’ve accumulated onto those memories? Am I viewing my heterosexual youth through bisexual glasses? I felt straight. I did. Until I learned what being bi-sexual meant. And then I had a new label to use, and that fit too.

Later on I learned what “sexually fluid” meant and I proclaimed with absolute certainty that that’s what I was. Fluid. I was never straight or bi and I wasn’t gay, I was fluid. Later I learned queer, and after researching it on the internet, I realized that’s what I was, queer. But then I met some people who were queer and I never felt quite queer enough. Had they shaped that label to exclude people like me, or had I never really belonged there to begin with? Was there some new word waiting around the corner?

I can relate to heterosexuality because I spent the first 18 years of my life as someone who was heterosexual. That’s the easiest way to put it. I certainly don’t think I became bisexual but I hadn’t figured that all out yet. Can you be bisexual if you aren’t being bisexual? Or, better yet, are you being bisexual even if you don’t know you’re bi? Oh, now we’re getting confounding, what does it all mean?

Labels only have meaning once you take them on. Until you take that label on, you can’t possibly be judged by the collection of your behaviors, your mentality. You can’t be judged by your dating history or your sexual resumé. It just allows judgement to seep in through the cracks. It allows other people to say “Well, I can do the math, you’re definitely gay. Look at your male to female sex partner ratio!”

So I was living hetero, but I don’t think I ever was hetero. Does that make sense? It was a comfortable place for me to be because it was what I was taught was normal. I could easily slip into it. Not everyone can, and not everyone does, but I did. And then when I grew up and got wiser I began to have the ability to explore all those other things that were out there.

Labels are tricky because you don’t always fit into them just right. Sometimes you’re this, sometimes you’re that. I feel like I’ve been all kinds of different people crammed into just this one little body.

I have never been gay, I will never be trans. I won’t know what it’s like to take hormones. I’ve never been kicked out of my home, and my risk for homelessness is very small. I’ve never done drugs, never been an addict, I’ve never known what it’s like to lose someone to all. I don’t like to drink to forget who I am. I don’t smoke. I’ve never been beat. I’ve never been abused. I’ve never had a penis, nor have I ever had the brain of a man, with all these different hormones. With all these different experiences. No, never lived as a boy. Never had to confront my masculinity. I’ve never had to act stronger than I really was and I’ve never had to hold back tears. I’ve never been poly, I don’t think, not really, although I tip toe on the line and I wonder what it would be like. I wonder if I’ll ever be there. Not “there” as in progress, but “there” as in a different place. A different destination. I’ve never been black. I’ve never been latina, asian. I’ve never been handicapped. I’ve never felt like I didn’t belong in the country that I live in. I have all my limbs. I am mostly sane, as sane as can be, I think. I’ve never won any real awards, not really. I’ve never had some high paying job. I’ve never felt like money wasn’t an issue. But I’ve also never felt hungry. I’ve never felt worried I wouldn’t eat.

There are a lot of things I’ve never experienced a lot of things that I will never experience and the only experiences that I can talk about are my own. The strange bout of heterosexuality, the discovery of bisexuality, the confrontation of my somewhat-queerness. The serial monogamy, and the ethical non-monogamy. The desire to learn more and more, the frustration that knowledge cannot be calculated, that wisdom is worth so little. I can speak as a college student, as someone who writes, as someone who had all these little bits of experiences. I’m white and I’m cis and I’ll always be those two things. I am frustrated by my privilege because I never know how to properly confront it. How to admit that I am both so lucky and both so tired all the time, because I know others are more tired than I am.

No one has ever asked me why I am the way I am or when I figured it out, and that’s probably because I’m still figuring it out. But I do know all these things that I’m not, will never be, or have had the great pleasure of avoiding so carefully thus far. And I know that every experience is different. I know that the stories people have are important. That each story can add something new. Can teach you something. I know that I am the only person that is capable of telling my story, and you are the only person capable of telling yours.

WIthin the small little details of what you eat for breakfast and how you manage to make it to the end of the day is some greater lesson about how we become to be who we are.

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The Mistakes I’ve Made

1. Not being clear about what I’m able to do

The first mistake I ever made, I think, was not being completely up front about what I was able to do within the span of my open relationship. There was lots of interacting with new people and then, in the midst of flirting, oh, I’m in a relationship, but it’s cool. Sometimes oh, let me see if this is okay, I’m not sure. If I wasn’t feeling secure in what I could do or what my own boundaries were, or if I wasn’t able to express them clearly and from the start to someone else, I was doomed to fail. On more than one occasion it lead to people being confused about what was going on, or what would go on, or what could go on. This was certainly a side effect of establishing boundaries that worked and being secure in those boundaries, and it’s a side effect I rarely think of now that things have settled into a more comfortable place.

2. Jumping, when I’d just as well not

Some people would rather have any experience and learn if it is good or bad from there. I’ve always been someone who would rather be completely sure that I want to have an experience before I have it. More than once, though, I’ve jumped into a situation I was iffy about just because I wanted to see what it would be like. Most of the time this involved doing something (playing, dating, etc) a person that I had not felt that initial spark with. My logic was that perhaps I wasn’t being fair enough, I wasn’t giving them enough of a shot. Could I really judge if I was interested by a first date? This led to me, unintentionally, leading people on when I really should have said I wasn’t feeling any connection.

3. Not expressing my lack of interest

That brings me into my third lesson. When you don’t like someone, let them know. There have been a few dates in my past where I’ve been oh, yeah, lets hang out again sometime when really I should have said I’d love to see you again but I didn’t feel any romantic or sexual connection, if you’d be interested in being friends I’d love to hang out again. It can be hard to say these things, especially when you meet under the pretense of a “date.” But it’s fair – and it needs to be said.

4. Not going with the flow more frequently

When exploring the open community specifically you’ll encounter all kinds of people with all kinds of relationships. They have their own rules, boundaries, interests, kinks, fetishes, preferences for date spots or times when they’re available. Sometimes it can be beneficial to just go with the flow at the start and not expect your two separate lives to click together. For instance: If you’re looking for a guy who you can see regularly but he is also in a relationship and can only see you semi-regularly. Is it possible that you can change your own expectations to allow him in your life as a semi-regular friend or partner? Would you be satisfied still? Is that a compromise you want to make?

5. Closing myself off to new and interesting people

Though I do believe it’s important to pick people you’re actually interested in meeting, I have made the mistake of not responding to people who I feel were probably pretty interesting people. There is always the frustration of not wanting to meet someone and give them the wrong impression (that you’re really interested) but also wanting to give them the chance to see if you are interested. I think the solution in that is being open about what you’re expecting or what you’re looking for throughout the entire encounter. From first message, to post-date. You may meet someone super-sexy that you would have said no to otherwise.

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