Thursday, December 24, 2015

Having Feelings in Public (& Other Themes of 2015)

I didn’t mean to alarm people with my Facebook statuses; I just wanted to share. But perhaps there’s something in the genre of Facebook status writing (and Instagram selfies, apparently) that is not well-suited to the kind of self-expression I’m trying to achieve. I try to invite you into these thoughts and feelings that I’m having, but in a brief status – that you’re reading while scrolling – I can’t show you the whole thing. I can’t show you what it means to me and how I’m holding the experience. Moving to New York has been daunting and exhausting and downright lonely, for sure. But I’m okay with those feelings. I’m having the feelings, but I’m okay. It was going to be hard. Things can be generally good (new job! new friends!) but not always easy. There’s complexity in change and loss and risk. And also, it has been exhilarating and inspiring to experience this city, to connect with people, and to navigate the job that brought me here in the first place.

Meanwhile the world is crumbling and crashing in on itself more and more each month. And I’m engaging with that in new ways, too, as I delve into the world of HIV-prevention with LGBT youth, particularly trying to make the work we’re doing inclusive and affirming for young people who are transgender or gender nonconforming. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my role in all that, and what it means for me to be me while doing that work. And I’ve also been yearning for ways to re-engage in other kinds of work I’ve done in the past: sex education, curriculum development, sexual assault prevention, with public schools and college campuses and youth development programs. And blogging! So at least I’m getting back into that – hoping that this makes more sense than a few lines on Facebook.

If 2014 was the year in which my life tore apart at the seams, then 2015 was the year in which I started weaving it back together. I’m weaving something newly livable, something softly familiar yet utterly surprising, at times terrifying and at times glowing with beauty, something to hold onto within an overwhelming whirlwind of opportunity and pain and possibility. In taking the risk of being more connected to my own truths, I’m finding more and more access to authenticity, and I’m finding within that authenticity a kind of vulnerability that feels both scary and strong, and that allows for real closeness with people who care. I’m discovering that people care about me as deeply as I care about them. I deeply, passionately care about them (you). And I can act on those feelings, although there’s risk in that, too. I’m becoming more attuned to the differences between danger and risk, between terror and courage. I’m becoming more attuned to my own needs, including my need for joy. Past numbness is now thawing. I’m trying to weave something that will keep me warm, so I can keep sharing warmth with the world.

In 2015:
·      I defended my dissertation and got my PhD. 
·      I packed up the apartment I’d lived in for five years.
·      I started my post-doc. 
·      I found and set up a new apartment in Harlem. 
·      I turned 30, and I went alone to an awesome Pride dance party in Brooklyn. 
·      I made an OKCupid profile (and used it). 
·      I analyzed data, conducted focus groups and interviews, wrote papers, and planned for grants I want to write. 
·      I nourished new friendships, exploring new ways of connecting and showing up for each other. 
·      I reshaped existing friendships, adjusting to so many changes to find ways to continue to show up and be close.
·      I made time for my own thawing and reflecting, nourishing myself and finding out that I can really show up for myself, too.

One thing I learned this year, especially this fall, is that I cannot repair the world in isolation. My self care and my connection with community are what allow me to invest in my work as an activist, to build relationships that will facilitate and propel change in my own life and in the systems in which I work. I can't do it alone. I can barely do anything alone. Isolation is the opposite of social justice. We need each other, to build together the world we need, the world as we want it to be. We need each other radically and holistically, not just for call-outs and accountability, but for hope and healing and joy and wonder. We need each other so we can hold complexity together and make space for all that we're feeling. This is hard to do in a big city where it takes a lot of effort and coordination to just physically put ourselves in the same place. But it's something I'm really committed to. Showing up, to talk and feel and sing and dance. To care and question. So hard but so needed. 

I will keep seeking community, I will keep hosting events at my place, and I will even keep going to Brooklyn to see what people are building there. Let me know your other ideas, hopes, dreams, visions, suggestions, etc. I’m in it with you!

You. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my village this year. Family of origin and family of choice. Best friends, old friends, new friends, people who weren’t yet my friends but welcomed me with warmth anyway. You are the reason I can do anything, you are the reason I could write my dissertation and finish school and get a job and move to New York. You are the reason I could start a new job and take on new projects and set up a new life. You are the reason I have hope for myself, and you are the reason I have hope for the world.

Sending you warmth this winter, with so much hope and so many wishes for care and love and justice in the coming year.

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