Privilege Punch

I’ve been trying to wash my clothes all weekend but every machine has been consistently filled with someone else’s underthings. I just checked again and, sure enough, all four machines are full of clothes in varying states of dry, sopping, and left-so-long-they’re-molding. I was a bit annoyed– I just want clean clothes, is that so much to ask? Why can’t my neighbors just come downstairs and collect their garments? Right as I was cursing the unknown laundry-dalliers, the skies split above me and in a display of biblically unrealistic vengeance, I was punched in the face by the mighty fist named Privilege Check.

Let’s just take a moment to unpack how much I totally suck in this moment. Literally the worst thing that’s happened to me this weekend is that I’ve had to wait an extra day or two to use machines that will wash and dry my clothing. Like, I own enough clothing that  I can fill a washing machine with wore-it-for-a-day dirty clothes. And when my little basket is full of my ‘dirty’ clothes, I open a door in my apartment, walk into a room full of magical machines, dump my stuff in with some soap and then gallons and gallons of clean water are sloshed around until my cotton blends come out smelling mountain fresh. And then- because that’s not even the end!- I pile all those mountain fresh linens into another machine and an hour later I have soft, dry sweaters. The entire concept here is so disgustingly wasteful and convenient, but I am enough of an asshole to be annoyed by the fact that I didn’t have instant access to these ridiculously awesome, totally unnecessary first-world gadgets.

I know I’m over-using italics here, but sometimes I really need to emphasize the unthinkably privileged soiree that is my life. Most of my problems are completely insubstantial and inconsequential. Sure, I have serious issues happening in my life, like everybody getting Stage 4 cancer all at once, and that chronic depression that likes to pop up at inconvenient times, and that minor allergy to the sun but, good lord. I’m a middle-class white lady going to graduate school (for a, let’s face it, pretty bullshitty degree) in the quaintest, whitest town in America. I have a home, a stupid amount of possessions, plenty of food, a gym membership, and I deserve to be punched in the face every single day of my life, because I am one of the most privileged pieces of shit around. The world has opened up for me in unfair ways because in our fucked up society, my race and class advantage me. I can’t change those things, but I like to think it’s better to Check Your Privilege than go around thinking the world owes you things–washing machines, for instance.

I was taught about Checking My Privilege pretty early on in life. When I was seven years old, I was standing in line at the public library. My sister and I were checking out American Girl books. I said, “I like Molly, even though I don’t think she’s very pretty, because she has glasses.” My mom turned around and gave me one of those Mom Looks that makes you feel like the least worthwhile being to ever exist. Then she said, “You know what Lydia? Most people in this world don’t think you are any kind of pretty.”

At first I was like, “Woah, Mom, I hope you realize that the next twelve years of my life are going to be spent with crippling insecurity and self doubt and the first (second, third, billionth) time some dude tells me I’m beautiful I’m literally going to laugh in his face, because you told me yourself that people don’t think that about me.” But then I was like, “Ohhhh. Woah, Mom. I am totally acting like a pint-sized princess. I really do need to stop sucking as a human, immediately. Thanks for that tough love!” My mom never tolerated any kind of high-horse riding. She was always proud, and supportive, but she did not let our egos inflate, and she did not let us forget what incredible lives we had.

Also, I had glasses by the end of that year which is probably what I deserved for being such a judgmental jerk. Also, I’m sorry American Girl Molly. I think you and your glasses are adorable.

When was the last time you were punched in the face by the mighty fist called Privilege Check?

Good News Is… I’m Back!

The last time I was here, I was in the middle of trying to sort out how to have a Professional Academic life without giving up my Personal Blog-About-Feelings life. I was pretty sure I’d found a way to balance the two… and then I stopped sharing my writing for an entire semester. At the beginning of the semester, my personal blog (the one you’re reading right now!) kept coming up in one of my classes. It was in a harmless way, but made me feel uncomfortable all the same. There were a lot of comments like, “Lydia, you blog a lot, tell us about…” or “When you blog, how do you…”. There’s really nothing wrong with that, but I had just met my grad school cohort and I didn’t want to be known by my blog. I’m not ashamed of the things I share here, but I don’t like the idea of acquaintances reading my stories without really knowing me. That seems like a silly reason to stop writing, now. Good news is: I’m back! For now, I’m going to briefly cover some of the important things that have happened in the last three months.

I am one-quarter of the way through graduate school! The last semester was a total trip. Graduate school is completely unlike undergrad, but it’s really hard to articulate exactly what’s different. It’s more work in less time. I feel like there are more obligations than can actually be fit into the small time-frame we’re given.

A bit of a downer thing I’ve found in grad school… MFA-ers are mean. At my school there’s a really ridiculous sense of elitism. Maybe it’s just the people I’ve met this year- I hope so, because I hate to think that the program somehow breeds this competition- but the folks in the MFA program are downright rude to us lowly MA-ers. I wish I was being hyperbolic, but the poets and fiction writers are high school style rude to the creative non-fiction writers (CNF is an MA not MFA… another weird school quirk), RhetComp-ers, Literature, and Education majors. It’s baffling and troubling. My writing is completely dismissed and devalued because I’m not pursuing an MFA. It’s so absurd that it sounds like I’m making this up, but I have an entire semester’s worth of nasty comments about my/our inferiority.

This is probably another reason I let my blog sit untouched for so long. I’ve always struggled with claiming writer as an identity of mine. I’ve always felt outside of some elite club, and this semester I had members of that club forcibly pushing me out. But as I’m sitting here writing this, I feel totally comfortable being a writer. I took a poetry class this semester. It oscillated between ridiculous and incredible. I challenged myself in a lot of ways, took a lot of risks with my writing, and left feeling like I had stretched and grown as a writer and human. I was lucky to have a very encouraging professor. I know it’s silly to need validation (I sometimes feel like I need constant validation) but I really needed that poetry professor to tell me I was just as good as the MFA-ers who told me I wasn’t.

I have an awesome job. Yesterday, I was really busy at work frantically editing some code on a course website, trying to beat a deadline and I paused for a moment and thought, “I really love this job.” And I do! The job I had as an undergrad paid too much to quit, but was soul-sucking, left me feeling constantly depressed, and was overall an atmosphere of utter negativity and dismay. At my new job, people are friendly, kind, supportive. I feel like I’m part of a team that strives to do good work. I don’t dread going to work; I look forward to it. That’s such an incredible feeling!

I’ve been a vegan (in diet, anyway) since September! One day, I decided I didn’t want to eat animals anymore. I’m really lucky to have awesome vegan-for-years friends who showed me the ropes. They’ve been like my vegan fairy godparents, teaching me how to navigate health food stores, how to be a vegan in public (even if it doesn’t look like it, most restaurants have tons of vegan options!), and how to live a healthy life. I feel like I have a lot to say about this new facet of my life, so you’ll probably see a more detailed post sometime soon.

I’ve become obsessed with New Mexico. My vegan fairy godparents are from Albuquerque. In October, they took me home with them for the International Balloon Fiesta. I have never experienced anything like that. Hundreds and hundreds of hot air balloons inflate on a giant field, take off, and float in the desert sky. I can’t do the experience justice in a paragraph-blurb, so look for a photo-filled post soon! (I’m sure giving myself a lot of writing projects here!) I went back to Albuquerque with my friends for a week at Christmas. It was wonderful. I’ve been to a lot of places, but none quite like New Mexico. It has a lot of problems, and ranks pretty low on a lot of lists (high crime, poor education) but it’s enchanting. It has character and diversity and culture. I really am obsessed.

And then there’s the matter of, uh, my love life?? I’ve refused to talk about my relationships for my entire dating history, because, privacy. But I’d just like to take a moment to acknowledge that dating is difficult and strange and confusing. And nobody ever tells you how to navigate all those difficult, strange, and confusing situations. Like, nobody ever told me that sometimes you kiss a person and that’s That, The End, you’re still friends and nothing is weird. But sometimes you kiss a person and everything is awful and awkward and ruined. And my mom definitely never taught me what to do when someone tells you they love you. I still don’t know quite the right way to tell someone that the way they’re treating me is Not Okay. This is going to seem utterly obvious to all of you, I’m sure, but it’s a novelty to me:  I’ve recently learned that it’s not anti-feminist to have your heart broken. You can fall into and out of love, and it’s going to be wonderful and terrible. Having emotions doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. But my #1 New Year’s Resolution is still to be a Fortress of No Scrubs, because damn, there have been a few too many s-c-r-u-b-s in my life these past few months!

I think that’s a good recap of my life. I’m so happy to have my blog back. I’ve really missed writing, sharing, and connecting with this community of writers. Special hello to my dear friend and faithful commenter Katherine. She came to stay with me for a few days in December, and it was AWESOME. Plus, today is her birthday!

So often I feel like a shore, with tides of happiness, depression, struggle, and joy constantly cascading over me. This year, especially, was trying. But through it all I’ve been blessed to have Good People bring love into my life.

SOS Blogging Help!?!

Hello, friends!  I’m about to run out the door (this semester = no spare time!) but I am in dire need of some opinions and feedback.  It’s time for me to start thinking about Professionalizing- creating a professional online identity.  I know this is important for my future/career…but it’s also part of my grade in a class, so I don’t really have an option.

Here’s my dilemma:  I know that I need to use my name for my Professional/Academic Blogging site.  That’s the only thing that makes sense.  But…as you may have noticed, I house my mad ramblings here under my name.  I don’t know if I can merge the two– do posts from Rhetorician Lydia really line up with posts from “I’m Trying to Figure Life Out Lydia” or “Here Are Some Recipes Lydia” or “I Like to Pretend I Can Write” Lydia?  Part of me wants to keep them all together– these are all salient aspects of my identity.  Another part of me recognizes the importance of maintaining a focused and uncluttered professional space.  Also, when I’m presenting myself in a professional setting… I may not mind if my vegan recipes are on display, but I don’t think I want the “Let’s Talk About My Abusive Dad” stuff tangled up with my self-presentation.

Should I stop writing about those things publicly?  I don’t want to- it’s therapeutic for me, and I’ve received lots of emails from folks who are dealing with the same or similar situations, letting me know they’re grateful they’re not alone.  I think Truth Sharing is good and important.  But it doesn’t really have a place in my Professional Identity.  So, friends and readers– what do I do?  Should I move this blog to another name, and maintain two sites- one for personal ramblings and one for professional compositions?  Is it fair to ask you to move to a new home with me?

To further complicate matters… I need to figure this out today.  So.  I’d really appreciate your thoughts?!?

(Ugh, I’m seriously in the middle of a blogging crisis…how nerdy am I??)

A Bizarre Ring/Door Disaster

I went to campus early this morning for a sunrise yoga class at the rec center.  After an embarrassingly lazy summer (I have a vague memory of possessing visible muscles once…) and a super stressful first week of school (I’m juggling three jobs right now, but that’s another story) I really needed to spend some time centering my body so my mind could calm down and refocus.

There was a bit of yoga babble that made me cringe.  I’m too staidly and rational to really embrace spirituality.  It seems like a nice idea, but I can never envision a ball of light floating through my body.  Still, I left feeling so great.  The tension I’m always carrying around felt so much lighter, and my whole body felt energized and ready for the day.

Then, because the universe hates my happiness, I had a bit of a mishap.  It was such a weird accident that I’m not sure I can accurately describe it, but I’ll give it a shot.  You know when you’re walking out of a door and you hold it open for the person behind you without stopping?  Your body stays in brisk motion but your arm lingers behind propping the door open until the next person grabs it.  It’s a really brief thing, and I do it every time I walk through a door in a high-traffic area.  I don’t even think about it.

On my way to class, I was walking quickly and let my arm meander along behind me, holding the door open for the fellows behind me.  And suddenly there was an overwhelming sensation of pain.  My body was going forward but my arm wasn’t coming with me.  I felt like my shoulder was about to be dislocated.  I had a ring on, and it had somehow gotten caught on part of the door.  When I walked forward, it stayed behind.  It cut into my finger so deeply I had to pry it out of my skin…but that was after the awkward run-in with the guys I’d been propping the door for.  They were confused about why I’d just turned around into them, and I don’t express pain in a very outward way (I kind of inhaled sharply, but didn’t vocalize my extreme discomfort) so I’m sure I just seemed crazy.

Typing this out, I’m realizing that it seems very minor.  It doesn’t feel very minor.  The part of my finger the ring was around turned black, but where the actual ring had been (where I had to pry it out of my skin) was the shade of white scars usually are.  I went to class but wasn’t very present.  I was trying to massage normal feeling and color into my finger, hand and arm.  I have this absurd fear of losing limbs, so the whole time I was envisioning my new fingerless life, a la Margot Tenenbaum.  I was trying to figure out if I should pop over to the campus health center, but I don’t even know how I’d start that conversation.  “So, hey.  My finger is super swollen due to this weird ring-in-door thing, and there’s this sharp pain shooting up my entire arm… do you take care of that here?”

It’s been a few hours and my finger is still swollen, but the color looks mostly normal.  There’s an angry red oval where the ring was, but it seems fine… I guess?  There’s still that pain shooting up my arm.  I know I should probably go ask a professional, but I’m counting on things being fine in a few more hours.

There’s really no point to this post.  I suppose we could talk about how we deal with pain, and what it means that I didn’t sit and cry, or go into class and ask my new friends what I should do.  Mostly, I just want you to tell me that you’d still love me, even if my finger had stayed black, even if had been torn completely from my body, even if I had a fake Margot Tenenbaum finger for the rest of my life.  That’s such a stupid thing to want to hear, but as the pain pulsates throughout my arm… it’s bizarrely the only thing I care about.

One last thing:  the ring that caused this whole debacle is completely mangled.  Instead of having a nice round ‘o’ shape, it’s totally misshapen.  Kind of like ‘o‘, but even more slanted and twisted.  It’s a really stiff metal, too, so I’m feeling really great about how much brutal force my poor finger took to bend it that way.  And, I don’t really want to put a ring on any of my fingers right now (hello new ring phobia!) but losing that one sort of sucks.  Most stores carry size 6 and up, but my fingers wear a size 5 which makes finding jewelry that won’t fall off practically impossible.  I’ve devolved to inane whining…can I make the argument that this lingering pain is clouding my Good Blogging judgement?

Margin Notes

Literally things I scrawled in the margins of my Ecopoetics notes.  Maybe something will materialize.  Maybe it’s done growing.  Hard to say and know.

——-

the leaf on the tile floor

wheels and rails
metallic grind
over cricket cries

I feel your eyes glance skyward
as you silence my rings
I imagine your relief
when the return call
timed to miss me
is unanswered and
I hear your annoyance sighed
when my name flashes on
your screen once more

I am so unprepared for this world.

You read poetry aloud
drowning the room in
the slowest pour of gravel.
I feel it rise, steady,
into the caverns of my chest
“entering the bare body then
Not merely through the ears but through the skin”

You told me not to touch
the wound
would heal itself.
Unacknowledged it festered
abscessed, excised, scarred.

I am filling
page after page, my namesake
soaking in still wet ink
and you are writing a to-do list
mapping the week’s tasks.
I am sending
my words
into the ether now.
I want you to hold them, but
no part of these pages
merit your holding anymore.

You loved me so much
until you crossed the room
and realized me
beyond your imagination.

I recognize you only by the ink suspended in your skin.

When Love Arrives

This week has been a series of tides.  Highs and lows arrive unbidden, tug me under and away, insistent and demanding.

I’ve had so many moments of almost almost crying but not quite managing.  Crying is a human thing, a normal thing, a feel-better thing…but I’m rarely able to cry when I need to.  Sometimes my eyes fill, but I can never convince my brain to let them spill over, even when I know it would relieve a lot of pressure.

This week has been full of feelings.  I’m still processing them, and while I know writing it out will help… I’m not quite ready yet.

For now, I just want to share this with you.  My beautiful Katherine posted it and it made me have about a billion more feelings.  I feel like I could almost cry in good and sad ways.  Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye astound me.

Being Nervous is Great!

 

This time next week, I’ll be in a Night Before A New School Year panic.  It would be nice if I was sleeping at 1:15 AM, but I’m going to go ahead and assume my insomnia won’t cooperate.  Going to graduate school has me feeling nervous.  I read this bit of an interview with Amy Poehler, and it made me feel better about my nerves.

“I think it’s glorious to be nervous.  Being nervous is great! How often do we get nervous on a daily basis? Being slightly nervous means you care, and you’re alive, and you’re taking some kind of risk. Hooray for being nervous! A friend told me to substitute the word ‘excitement’ for ‘nervous.’ That way you acknowledge the physical feelings without putting a negative spin on things. So to answer your question, sometimes I still get so excited about ‘Weekend Update’ that I want to throw up.”

I can’t stand when people aren’t passionate about things.  Not caring is this really cool, hipster thing to do right now.  It drives me crazy.  Of course you should care.  I feel like Not Caring is a defense, some sort of protective barrier against embarrassment.  It’s easier to Not Care and Not Participate than to go for it and look stupid doing it.  So what if your hair sticks to your forehead or you end up with visible sweat stains?  That’s awesome.  Good for you, you should be reveling in the miracle of your existence.

I’m nervous for school.  I’m nervous about meeting new people and being awkward.  I’m nervous that nobody will find me charming or endearing.  I’m nervous that my comments won’t be the most intelligent in class, or that I’ll misinterpret theories.  I’m nervous about all of those things.  But I’m mostly excited.  I’m excited to go do this thing I love, and meet new people and talk about/become a part of this super cool academic field.  And if that sounds nerdy or uncool, it doesn’t matter because I care and I’m alive and I’m willing to risk embarrassment for something I’m so passionate about.

Photos Terrify Me

I had my hair cut this weekend; it’s been this overgrown mess for too many months:

All I said to the stylist was, “I’m starting graduate school and I was hoping you could make me look like I belong there.”

I think a big part of looking like I belong is not making that face.

Brief aside:  Every time I have my hair cut I end up with these absurdly long bangs that are “fashionable” but are a total pain and poke me in the eyes and obstruct my vision. I don’t understand fashion and trends.  I’m okay with not understanding those things.

I have to send a picture of myself to one of my jobs (for a Who Works Here bulletin board sort of thing) but I’m aggressively un-photogenic. More so, I really hate being photographed and feel incredibly awkward and uncomfortable whenever a camera is pointed at me.  You can just see the fear in my eyes.  Bless my sister for taking a million pictures of me over the past few days.  Literally none of them turned out, but bless her for trying.

I apologize for this painfully pointless post.  I didn’t use a single metaphor.  I feel like such a failure.

Home

“Where are you from?” is a question I dread.  It’s also a question everyone asks within the first few moments of meeting someone new.  I always ask this question, too.  I’m a genuinely curious person, and a bit of an awkward conversationalist, so it’s a good and safe bet.  But I hate being asked this.

I’m not from anywhere.  I don’t have a hometown where the local dentist has watched me grow up and the librarian remembers seeing me move from picture books to chapter books.  There isn’t anywhere I can go where someone in the grocery store will recognize me and want to chat about my Life and Goals for fifteen minutes because they remember when my parents sent out my birth announcement.

My family is scattered all across the country (and globe) but I’ve never lived with any of them.  I usually respond to this question with, “My family lives in Maine!” which isn’t actually an answer but is true.  I’ve never lived in Maine.  I would never consider myself from Maine, but it’s a better response than any other.  Perhaps the truest answer is, “I’m from the internet.  Land of the meme, home of the lol.

I’ve lived in a few different places in my life, but always on or near a military base.  Bases are worlds unto themselves.  You can live on base in a thousand different cities without noticing a difference.  And when you live somewhere just because the military says you should, it’s hard to feel like you belong in that place.

Where I am now feels more like home than anywhere else. I chose to live here, and that feels significant.  But I can’t say I’m from here when people ask.  When I leave, I’m sure I’ll cite this place as my home, but even that won’t be true in the traditional sense.  When I leave here, I won’t leave anyone behind, and it seems that the people waiting for you to come back are a pretty big factor in your Home.

Of course, Home is an abstraction.  Home is when you’re on the phone with a friend and everything is funny.  Home is wherever you put your bookshelves.  Home is holding your friend’s free hand while she hold’s her boyfriend’s hand.  Home is that feeling of complete contentment and acceptance that comes from loving whomever you’re with- even when you’re alone.  Of course all of that is true.

But when I meet someone new and they ask me where I’m from, I can’t very well go and say all that.  There’s simply no good way for me to address this question.  I don’t want to give a laundry list of my life’s locales.  I don’t want to explain my history to perfect strangers.  I usually stick with Maine, but sometimes I run into people familiar with the state, and it’s quite awkward when it becomes apparent that I don’t actually know anything about it.

We can’t control our histories.  A lot of people are from places they hate or are embarrassed to be from.  A lot of us aren’t from anywhere.  We can still have homes, we can make them wherever we go… but that getting-to-know-you question is never anything but strenuous.

Long Distance Friends

Maintaining a long-distance relationship takes a lot of work, and I’m not even talking about a romantic partnership.  When you have friends and family you see once a year or once every three to five years, you have to work much harder to grow and cultivate your relationship.  It’s far easier to have a friendship with someone you can meet at a cafe on a moment’s notice.

Distance is not a deal breaker.   I’ve met a lot of folks (mostly those who’ve never had to move) who simply don’t believe this.  It’s enormously disappointing when you put a lot of work into maintaining a relationship, because you really and truly care about your friend, only to find you’ve fallen victim to the “out of sight, out of mind” clause.  I have a hard time not letting this get to me.  I care about people so deeply (probably a little too deeply) that the dissolution of a relationship, the slow fade from friends to acquaintances to strangers, is a gutting experience for me.  Friend break-ups are a lot harder for me to grasp and recover from than romantic break-ups.  Sometimes I get so upset I just want to yell, “I’m glad this friendship meant so much to you, Mark BrendanaQUITS!!!”  …Parks and Recreation helps me feel better.

Especially this summer, as people I love jettison off into their post-college lives, I’ve been focusing on letting go of the folks who don’t want to put in the effort.  Because it is a lot of work, and I know lots of people aren’t interested in it.  Despite the difficulty, almost all of my best friends live impossibly far away.  There’s Charlie in Britain, Chelsea in California, Katherine in Texas, Meg in Nova Scotia- not to mention my entire family in New England.  All of them are such vibrant and meaningful individuals.  I wish we could all live together (at least in the same city) but I don’t feel like our friendships have deteriorated or become inauthentic as a result of distance.

You just have to get a bit creative.  We share video blogs, and tweets (newly added to this blog!), we read each other’s blogs, and have Google Hangouts.  We write each other letters, send text messages, and have long phone conversations.  We collaborate on creative projects and encourage each other’s individual endeavors.  We’re great friends, we just don’t see each other (tangibly…we see each other through screens quite a bit) as frequently as we’d like to.

I’m still sad about the handful of friends who weren’t and aren’t interested in staying friends.  I think I’ll always be sad to have lost them, or to be ditched by them, truthfully.  But it helps me appreciate the amazing people who are in my life now, those who live across the street and those who live across the world.  It takes a lot to make any relationship work, and I’m glad to know people who are willing to be creative, commit their time and build something beautiful.  (I’m such a sentimental sap.)

Here’s a good example of making long-distance friendship work:  My friend Paul is a massively talented artist.  He just moved a few states away for graduate school, but continues to grace me with his hilarious and adroit advice and friendship via phone, email and postal service.  My day was made when I found this nestled in my mailbox.

“Ask any bartender how awesome and cliche I am” – Local Fixed Gear Bike Rider