Ace Awareness Week!!

So I learned yesterday afternoon that this week (Oct 26th-Nov 1st) is Ace Awareness Week!

asexual-flag-5070-pAce is a popular nickname for “asexual.” When applied to our well-known Homo sapiens, this means someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Asexuality is a spectrum, within the larger overarching spectrum of human sexuality in general.

And as an asexual myself, I wanted to write something. I’ve been meaning to broach this subject on my blog, but never found a good opportunity. I suppose this is as good a time as any.

If not better, actually—because this week is about awareness!

Spreading awareness is very important. If a dear friend of mine hadn’t started talking about asexuality several months ago, I’d still be waiting for my sexuality to “click.”—when I would finally understand why sex was so desirable to everyone when I myself had never struggled with lust or felt any desire to engage another person that way. Why I never even got true crushes. I thought I was a late bloomer. At 21 years old, I figured I could safely assume I was sexually mature. So whatever absence of sensation or desire was probably representative of my sexual identity. And it was a relief to come to that conclusion.

The day just two months ago when all the pieces—memories, impressions, personal research—finally fell into place and I realized I could call myself asexual…I was actually extremely depressed. I couldn’t stop thinking that I’ve been different my entire life but had just now realized it. But I also felt free. Because I could finally stop waiting, stop wondering. Stop forcing myself to play along and pretend I understood the appeal of our highly sexualized culture.

Turns out I don’t connect with the world that way. It’s just another piece that makes me who I am, and it’s a beautiful thing.

And when I come into contact with other aces, I get really excited. Because we seem to be such a rare breed, there are people who don’t believe we exist. A common response is, “You just haven’t met the right person.” But that’s not it. Too many factors from my current life experience point to something different, something more fundamental.

Many people haven’t yet heard of asexuality, and they might think they’re broken or strange in a society full of more sexual individuals. Awareness combats that in showing them that their experience is valid and there’s nothing wrong or strange about it, and also by assuring them that there are other people like them.

Because it’s comforting and inspiring to know there are people who understand and share similar experiences. Not just on this topic.

But it is Ace Awareness Week!
So spread the word, familiarize yourself with terms and such, hug an ace if you know any. (But just be careful you don’t inadvertently out people who haven’t made their orientation public!)

Solitary (or…In which I get dramatic)

In the first draft of this post, I kept the context ambiguous, because who wants to read whining? But then I decided it was lame to just keep alluding to something undisclosed, like posting an evasive outcry of a Facebook status that tells people absolutely nothing.

The purpose of this blog post is not to vent, I swear. But it is something I have been thinking about a lot. And a thing happened that helped a bit.

The last few days, I’ve been feeling the heavy weight of forever-aloneness. A senior on a small private Christian university campus, I can’t help but feel an unwelcome stab of bitterness whenever I see people with linked hands, finding new relationships, taking steps further in others. Romantic relationships are a commonality of the human experience.

One that I have yet to find for myself. And that sort of annoys me.

I’ve rationalized it so many times over. I like being single, which is true. Right now, I’m a little too intense with personal projects and concentrating on the next step to look for a significant other. So if all that doesn’t find me, it’s ok. Maybe later.

But still I see a couple walking by, fingers interlaced, looking like the most fulfilled individuals on earth and I feel the stab. A prick which, if not for the sheer number of times I endure it, wouldn’t be that bad. But it’s like someone’s always looming behind me, tapping me on the back of the head every time I encounter something that pertains to other people’s romantic relationships.

There’s no way I’ll go rogue and try to sabotage everyone because I occasionally feel bitter. I’d rather deal with my own insecurities than want people to stop what they’re doing, especially if it’s good for them.

But I still haven’t been able to rationalize away the stabs—the carefully-stored-introvert-energy-draining thorns in my sides I have to try to brush off so many times just walking to and from class every day. Right now, much more than a significant other, I just want to be able to find peace with this. To locate that part of myself that is still whining and scraping for something I can’t yet have and smother it.

I wonder if part of this pain is because romantic relationships are so beautifully common. And I feel indignant at the phenomenon, because it’s just one more place where I don’t quite fit.

But this blog post isn’t really about this—or it wasn’t meant to be anyway. I needed to cover some context, so as to refrain from endless sideways hinting at vague inner restlessness and instead be honest about what it is that led me to march out of my house in the dark Saturday night and over to the track where I did something I haven’t done of my own volition in months. Physical exercise. (Gasp.)

Most of my ardent hobbies are sedentary, so I remain likewise for the majority of my free time. However, I do like being active. I just don’t like feeling watched, judged, appraised. Also, I don’t like dealing with being sweaty or heating up a room, so this already undisciplined area is further discouraged.

But in the dark, the world is quieter. Less stimuli, less stress. And I feel like I’m traveling faster than I actually am—which is a plus. Usually I like to feel like I’m going somewhere, but on a dark, mildly deserted track, I feel unconstrained, so it doesn’t matter. No one can see me very well. Nobody’s staring at me. There’s nothing to prove. No social pressure. Just me and God and my moving body. (And frustration at how out of shape I’ve become, but that’s beside the point.)

At night, the track is just dark enough that I can give in to my feelings of invisibility. During the day, I feel exposed. I keep my head down, my gaze on my phone. I greet people I know, but other than that, I get to class in as expedited a manner as possible. I don’t linger, because that might look weird. During the day I can feel so invisible it hurts.

But in the dark, I can admit to it. I can stop pretending, stop telling myself I’m fully visible. Because in the dark, I’m not, and I can embrace it. I can let it permeate me and stop worrying what people will think or not think when they see me.

So running in the dark was lovely, endorphin-generating aloneness—like doubly effective introvert recharge.

I didn’t push myself hard Saturday night. (I didn’t want to hurt myself.) But I sprinted when I felt like it, beating out my frustrations by simply running until my muscles fatigued and my lungs struggled in my aching chest.

After finishing one such sprint, I followed a whim out onto the center of the empty football field, positioned right in the center of the track. I just stood there for a while, where the lights were brightest, watching my breath billow translucent clouds into the night air.

I thought about the implications of what I had just done. Most of the time I just want to be invisible, to exist in the shadows where nobody has to acknowledge me if it’s inconvenient for them. But on this occasion, I had walked straight into the light, very much deliberately.

If anyone passed by, they would see a lone individual standing in the football field. And I didn’t care. Let them look, let them wonder, let them recognize me if they could.

Earlier that afternoon, crowds of students cheered from occupied bleachers, watching the game taking place on the same turf. But now the whole complex was empty, save for one individual. One who had not been there earlier, because she would have felt desperately alone amongst so many people.

I stood pensively in the light, the stars faint above me and the silence filling the tangled void. The dark clouds dissipated for the time being as the restlessness burned away and the endorphins spread through my system.

And I reminded myself it was ok.

It was ok to be seen.

It was ok to be solitary.

Compatible

            I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing this last week, but not nonfiction. I had meant to share occasional excerpts of my other work, and it just occurred to me that I have yet to really do it.

            So for today’s post, I thought I’d provide a bit from the beginning of the book I’m currently writing:

~

The line was moving along fairly quickly, but Patrick wasn’t in any hurry to get back to English class, where reviewing grammar rules for the umpteenth time made him want to tear his face off.

But standing in line for a mysterious medical exam, with no one to talk to and nothing to do was pretty boring as well—and it made him nervous.

Still better than grammar, though.

“I think I heard somewhere they’re looking for some kind of virus,” a classmate said to his friend in front of Patrick. “I wonder if it’s really contagious.”

Another student exited the locker room ahead, where the line of highschoolers waited to be screened. The girls were lined up at the other locker room across the gym.

“Hey,” the student behind Patrick caught the newly liberated teenager’s attention. “Did it hurt?”

“Nah,” the latter responded. “They just took some blood.”

“Did you have it?”

“Nope. All clear.”

“Mr. Nielson, get back to class please,” the teacher overseeing the line ordered.

The student complied, leaving Patrick to continue listening to the general murmur, his dark, curly-haired head just one of the many in the thread of teenagers waiting to be examined. The school administration had been pulling students out in sections all morning.

What did they do if someone tested positive? Was it something to be worried about? None of the faculty seemed particularly knowledgeable about what was going on either.

“Negative or positive?” Patrick’s classmate asked as yet another student emerged from the locker room.

“Negative,” he responded, relieved.

Maybe they wouldn’t find what they were looking for.

After a minute, the student preceding Patrick returned.

“Negative,” he sighed.

Patrick would probably be negative too. But he was still somewhat ill at ease as he responded to the attendant’s disinterested, “Next!”

The locker room was partitioned into three sections with portable white curtains, and Patrick found the station to the far left empty.

“Go ahead and sit down,” the man instructed, reloading a clear cartridge into a small white device with a 90 degree bend at the top. Patrick complied quickly.

“Give me your finger,” the man continued briskly. “It’s just a finger prick. Shouldn’t hurt too much.”

“What are you looking for?” the words had escaped Patrick’s mouth before he could think better of it. He extended his hand, his face burning.

“Don’t ask questions, kid,” the man replied, steadying Patrick’s hand and fitting the device onto his index finger. With a modest release of air, the device detonated and bit into Patrick’s skin.

Then the attendant lost attention for him as he waited for the device to give the verdict.

It began to beep repeatedly, like the fretful chirping of a bird. The man’s eyebrows furrowed as he examined the device in what Patrick guessed was incredulity.

“What does that mean?” Patrick asked anxiously.

“Hold on a second,” the attendant said, pulling out the cartridge and clicking in a new one. “It could have just malfunctioned. Give me your hand again.”

Patrick obeyed, too uneasy to really worry about the discomfort of an extra finger prick. The device discharged, and the man waited. The same chirping bubbled up from the device. The attendant loaded another cartridge.

“Next!” he called.

Patrick stood up slowly.

“Stay in here for a minute,” the man instructed. “I just want to see something to make absolutely sure. I hope you don’t mind me pricking your finger one last time.”

“No, that’s fine,” Patrick murmured.

The next student entered, and the man ran through the same process with him, except on the first test, the device beeped flatly and flashed a simple red light.

“Negative…thank you. You can go,” the man said. He reloaded the tester and turned to Patrick. “Ok, lend me your hand again.”

The device chirped as urgently as before, and Patrick watched the green light, burning loudly and confidently just to the side of where the red light had appeared.

“Wow…fancy that,” the attendant said, staring at the device. He turned his attention on Patrick. “What’s your name, kid?”

“Patrick Everhart, sir,” Patrick stammered, worried. He had tested positive. Out of everyone, he was the one infected. Of course.

“Well, Mr. Everhart,” the man said, cracking a one-sided smile. “You’re Compatible.”

“Is that bad?” The last thing Patrick’s parents could handle on top of Erin and Lisa’s college loans was medical bills.

“No, it’s not,” the man replied, discharging the cartridge into a separate plastic bag. “Go ahead and return to class. Come back as soon as school lets out for the day and I’ll explain a bit more. For now, we have to get through the rest of the student body to see if there are any more like you.”

As soon as Patrick left the locker room, he could feel the students’ eyes on him.

He returned to English class and quietly found his seat. Testing positive wasn’t bad, apparently—but that didn’t make it good either. Had they even wanted to find someone “Compatible?” As the teacher droned about punctuation, Patrick considered the three bandaged fingers of his left hand. They throbbed softly.

The attendant had taken great pains to make sure it was true.

Tortuguero

I sat silent and introspective on one side of the motorized boat taking us down the river. Below us, the dirty water sloshed dark and brownish, and above us, rain fell from the purple clouds, which occasionally burst to life with lightening, followed by the throaty growl of thunder. Other boats traversed the river that night, but not nearly as many as during the daytime.

It didn’t even feel like we were on earth anymore.

“It’s like a Ghibli movie,” one of my classmates remarked quietly from the other side of the boat, gazing out the transparent plastic covering keeping us dry.

I smiled. Yes, it was exactly like a Ghibli movie, that sense of fantasy and wonder, of gorgeous landscapes and storylines that leave much for the viewer to discern. This landscape spoke strongly of something, but all I knew was that it spoke. I couldn’t understand what it said.

Before long, we dismounted on a grassy spit of land near the beach, where the green sea turtles would be coming up to lay their eggs. Hopefully we would see one. We waited near an abandoned airstrip—a wide expanse of cement extending into the humid darkness, under the surreal expanse of luminescent thunderheads.

At the near end of the airstrip a small, silent building kept us from the rain. A skeleton of cement, without doors or windows. There was a stone bench or two, large rectangular extensions of the wall.

We waited a long time for the scout to spot one. During that period, we saw a large, colorful frog, some huge locust sort of thing, and an unfortunate opossum, who found itself surrounded by another group of tourists (while I stewed in indignation on the other side of the building.)

The guide talked quite a bit, and asked us all sorts of questions in a mix of Spanish and English. He posed a scenario to which there were two answers. When it came my turn to speak, I ended up giving the answer no one else had chosen. Unexpectedly, he jumped on it, pressing me to explain myself. In Spanish. Needless to say I choked. I thought I had said something wrong or offensive or horribly ignorant. But no, not really. The answer I provided for the scenario was true for some seasons, and very valid. But perhaps because I had answered differently, he kind of picked on me the rest of the night.

And we all know how I love standing out…

Finally, the scout rematerialized with good news, and we ventured out over the wet grass and onto the sand. We walked down the beach a bit, the dark sand bleached purple and gray by the storm. In the lights flashing in the clouds above, I spotted the green sea turtle retreating back into the ocean—large round shell, heavy flippers moving over the sand, head faced only toward its destination, as if nothing else mattered. The guide thought it must have been a young one, as they are more easily spooked, or they fail to lay their eggs properly.

I stood awestruck as I watched her retreat. I kept reminding myself I really was standing there. In Tortuguero, in Costa Rica in the middle of a thunderstorm, reasonably close to a creature I had never met in real life. I looked out on the sea, turbid ink stretching forebodingly to the horizon. I tried to take it all in.

What it said, what it meant. What I was supposed to do with the sheer overwhelming fascination beating in my chest. I couldn’t wrap my head around any of it.

And even a year and a half later, I still can’t.

Exposed

What will you think of me?

I know I can’t please everyone. I know I shouldn’t even think this question.

But still, this has been one of the most crippling questions in my life.

What will you think of me?

If I tell you the synopsis of my book? If I change in a way you don’t expect? If I stand for something, or if I don’t? What will you think of me?

Growing up, I never felt I fully fit in, but in those formative years, I suspect a persisting sense of naivety served as a buffer for how I viewed the rest of the world. A lack of thought of what might ensue should I express myself a certain way, or an ignorance to the polarization going on around me.

I tend to be an idealist, a romanticist. I lean further toward the idea that humanity is beautiful in its fallenness, and I often forget how incredibly awful this fallenness can be.

But as I have grown up, I am seeing more of the dark side of human nature, and it is increasingly difficult to keep my faith in humanity.

If not for my friends and family, I may have completely lost it by now.

As I’ve been stepping into social justice issues this semester, the selfish question of peer opinion has risen up stronger than before, and I feel its cold hands around my throat, squeezing my mind and trying to drag me back out of the light I find myself in.

What will you think of me? If I open my mind to the point of risking being wrong? If I align myself simultaneously with two polarized groups? If I push for something better, something more audacious, something far over our heads? If, despite all the insecurities buffeting me, I choose to stand? If I become hated for fighting for what I believe in, something you may not agree with? If I deviate? If I do something drastic? As I grapple with unanswerable questions and take action to try to seek reconciliation and connection, what will you think of me?

Will you hate me?

Will you be embarrassed for me?

Will you support me?

I can’t expect applause. I can’t depend on approbation.

But I don’t want to hurt anyone. I’ve always been a people-pleaser, but a passive one. I avoid stepping on toes as best as possible by instead hanging in the background, far away from where the dances are taking place. The causes, the arguments, the opposition. If people want to argue, let them argue. But I won’t get involved.

But will anything get resolved that way? Aren’t we all called to be peacemakers in some respect?

And as I move into matters I’m definitely not prepared for, I am increasingly aware of the option of my dark corner, a band-aid refuge of ignorance and apathy. In light of recent happenings overwhelming and distressing me, I feel exposed, and I have been glancing that direction quite a bit.

Is it too late to turn back, I wonder. Is it too late to pull away and pretend none of this turmoil ever happened? Most of the time, I just want to run.

But once an idea is formed, it cannot be unmade. There are too many things we can’t unsee once our attentions have been brought to them. While I could retreat, I would forever squirm under the restless frustration of having been able to do something, but of staying silent in favor of self-preservation.

So I stand up.

And the insecurities assail me:

They will hate you.

You will drive people away.

You will destroy the pretty illusion of your sheltered life.

You will lose hope in humanity.

There is no point to your involvement.

You are alone.

Expendable.

Ineffectual.

Embarrassing.

Unimportant.

Ill-fitting.

Weak.

Selfish.

Invisible.

           

But still I stand here.

Exposed.

Tentative and terrified, but I’m not running.

Senioritis and writing and stinkbugs

I think I’m hardcore infected with senioritis. If that’s the case, this state of being will probably only get worse. Which makes me whine a bit inside. (Actually a lot.)

I’m not doing anything I’m supposed to do. And I simply don’t care enough to convince myself that things have deadlines.

And keeping up blogging twice a week has been the first to suffer. I’m always in a mad scramble to catch up or keep up. This week, it’s catching up that’s the objective. But so far it’s been a haphazard attempt.

In light of my current inability to think in any organized manner about the soul-searching floating around in my brain, I thought an overdue life update would be appropriate for today’s post, so here goes:

 

Editing my book has taken a short hiatus simply because I haven’t been working on it as diligently these last couple of weeks. Instead, I have been writing like mad on the next book and making good headway. I am almost to a part I’m really excited to get to, but after this point I haven’t fully worked out all the plot points. I tend to cycle through inspirations in my creative pursuits fairly regularly.

My illustrative endeavors have mostly amounted to digital doodles and sketching during my senior capstone lecture. I have been trying to do the inktober challenge, in which participants make one ink drawing per day during the month of October. Currently, I’m behind on that too. I don’t know if I’ll ever catch up at this point. I just started a larger traditional project, and it feels good to sit down and not be as haphazard once in a while.

Last week, I pretended to be an adult and called an admissions counselor from the art school that I hope and pray I’ll get into. Despite procrastinating for three weeks before actually making the call, I found her easy to talk to, and she was very helpful in answering my questions. She also sent me the portfolio requirements for the graduate admissions application, and it’s sounding like I have until April to get everything in. I’m excited to start revamping/reimagining art pieces, making new ones, and choosing which existing pieces to possibly include in my portfolio. Currently, I’m planning to apply for a Master’s program in illustration with a comics emphasis—and I still think I’m a little insane for planning to move to a big city out of state and pursue art school.

But I’m also really looking forward to it. And I’m so tired of science-major level cramming, academic journal articles, presentations and research projects. I just want to pursue my creative passions full time and try something new.

But the season hasn’t arrived yet, so I must wait.

Aside from updates on long term life happenings, sweater weather is not coming nearly as quickly as I need it to, our house has been invaded by stinkbugs, my car’s working great, I’m turning in my homework on time, and milk tea is still the best.

Welcome to Arizona

I had been traveling abroad for three weeks and I only had less than 36 hours with my family before leaving again for I didn’t know how long. And that was ok I guessed.

I was running on two and a half hours of sleep when I traveled alone to Arizona, but that was ok too.

az_toEC
Traveling to El Coronado Ranch, in the Chiricahua Mountains

The airport was a three-hour drive from the airport, and my professor and I ran errands within that time, making it take even longer.

When we arrived at one of our two study sites, the path up to my lodging was too torn up for a car, so I had to carry my suitcase up a gnarled gravel path and up this little dusty switchbacking hill to a cabin in the back.

The next day, I would have to get up at 4:45am to conduct a six-hour data collection session without a break.

The cabin I was to stay in that night and the next didn’t have a real toilet—it was just a toilet bowl over a hole in the ground in a closet of a bathroom.

But it was ok.

I had made it. I was shifting gears. I was ready to hit the ground running.

That night, as I talked with a couple of my lab partners, I realized I would be working 8-10 hour days, 10 day weeks with maybe one full day break between them. And I would likely be too exhausted to really do anything substantial when I did have hours to spare.

I had expected research would claim quite a bit of time, but I wasn’t ready to surrender quite that much. I needed my summer for my creative pursuits. My more ardent passions.

Research had to share. It couldn’t do this to me.

But it was ok…I was there, fully prepared or not…

What have I done?

Shortly after this conversation, I figured I should deal with my sleeping arrangements, so I initiated a perusal of the two bunkbeds. The bottom bunks were taken, so I had the choice of one of two top ones. None of the beds had pillows, and the single blankets were more undersheets than blankets. But I could deal with that.

There were mouse droppings on the first bunk I checked. A little grossed out, I switched to the other, to find the same thing.

This gave me pause. I didn’t know exactly what I would do, but I would figure something out. Because somehow I had to sleep that night.

Or maybe I would just never sleep again. That seemed viable, right?

I deliberated. Mouse droppings weren’t that big a deal, but, admittedly, I was running severely short on emotional stability. I was exhausted and trying to hide how dismayed I was. Because I had just learned my summer was no longer my own and I was probably grieving a little bit.

But I was holding myself together well enough.

One of my lab partners, sweetheart that she is, offered her bed. She proposed to sleep on the floor, because she was comfortable sleeping practically anywhere.

Then she got an idea. Maybe she didn’t have to sleep on the floor after all. She could flip the sheets inside out and sleep on the bed that way.

As I stood by rather limply, relieved that my sleeping arrangement problem was mostly remedied but feeling bad to have imposed so much upon someone else, my lab partner pulled off the sheets to the top bunk above her former bunk.

And rat poison went spraying out all over the floor in front of me.

At that point I just backed up, sat down on top of my suitcase against the wall and brought my hands up to my head. I succeeded in not crying, but it was overly apparent to my lab partners, still just acquaintances, that I was definitely not ok. They weren’t quite sure what to do with the newcomer on the point of losing it. They wished they could help, but there was nothing for them to do.

Throughout my general college experience, I have learned what I need and what I can go without. If something runs through a meal one day, that’s ok, I’m not entitled to regular meals. If balancing academics and my passions results in sleep deprivation, that’s fine. I’m not entitled to a full night’s sleep either. I’m not entitled to anything, really, and I can make do.

I wanted to show my lab partners that I wasn’t going to be the high-maintenance one of the group. I was in the field and I could rough it with the rest of them. They had been there for a good week already and I couldn’t possibly have been so naïve to assume this experience would be comfortable. (Which I wasn’t.)

But that night a line was drawn, scratched jarringly through any sort of gracious composure I still possessed. The freedom to pursue my passions was being severely threatened, and someone had stuffed poison under my contaminated bed.

So I just sat there, asking myself over and over again What have I done?

I don’t remember much about the remainder of that night. I folded up my sweatshirt as a pillow. A box fan belted white noise from the window, and come the middle of the night, the cabin got very cold, so I froze and couldn’t sleep very well with my paltry blanket. The rat poison stayed in the middle of the floor the remaining two and a half days we spent there.

The next morning I got up at 4:45am, did what I went there to do, and I was allowed a nap after lunch before getting back to work on other projects. The next day was another early morning, and the work continued on from there.

My experience that week was not so much “hit the ground running” as it was “thrown from a moving vehicle,” but I acclimated to the pace well enough. Every day became a little easier as I caught up.

Incidentally, though I worked quite a bit, I also ended up finding a great deal of time to be productive and work on what I needed to work on.

The following six weeks were full of interesting experiences, including but not limited to lengthy IR camera sessions, trekking around the baking forests of the Chiricahua mountains, driving off road in a rental car, being left in Arizona without our advisor for three weeks while my lab partner and I continued work, pulling several all-nighters for nighttime metabolic measurements of hummingbirds, getting to use my Spanish with a cashier at a Walmart next to the Arizona-Mexico border, forging a deep friendship with the lab partner I worked closely with, getting to be on a show on the BBC, and celebrating my twenty-first birthday with chocolate cake at a hotel in Tucson the night before our flight home (after pulling an all-nighter and packing up the lab straight after)

When people ask me how research in Arizona was, I usually tell them early on it was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. And I tend to start off with this story.

It was hard, and those first four days were the roughest.

But I did it. And I’m glad I did it

Still, I can’t understand why anyone would think it was a good idea to stuff rat poison under a mattress.

~~

IR camera setup at El Coronado ranch
IR camera setup at El Coronado ranch
SWRS_lab
The lab at Southwestern Research Station, our second study site. This is where the all-nighters took place.
AZmoth
A huge moth we found on one of our all-nighters
SWRS_bearcountry
Most of our temperature sensor transects ran through bear country.

Sweater Gender

“Do you want to be androgynous?”

When my friend asked me this, I paused. I had never considered it before.

I’ve never been particularly feminine, nor particularly masculine. I grew up climbing trees, playing in dirt, playing pretend (never house), catching bugs, exploring, and drawing and writing things. My favorite color for a long time was pink. I’m not super good at putting on nail polish, but I’ll do it anyway if it’s black. I’ve preferred my hair short since I was nine years old. I only recently started wearing makeup—mostly just black eyeliner. Honestly, I wish I could draw other things on my face and not have people question my life choices. I don’t shave my legs very often, mostly because it doesn’t serve a functional enough purpose for me to regularly invest that time. Though I will complain about the cultural paradigm that makes this decision something for women to be self-conscious about. (Because it’s dumb. People shouldn’t care.)

I’ve always identified as female, but with regards to gender expression, I find I’m rather neutral. So when my friend posed the question, I really began to wonder—am I agender? Would I rather be androgenous?

I feel I’m in the right body anatomically. Since I was a kid, I’ve periodically asked myself whether I’d choose to be male or female if I had the choice. And the answer has always been female. These days the answer to that question remains the same.

Overall, I’m satisfied with my genetic allotment. But its role in procreation is not nearly as important to me as being human. With a mind and a personality. And I can’t stand when I’m categorized, objectified, or stereotyped because of the anatomical and physiological result of two X chromosomes instead of one.

My physical container keeps me tethered to this earth and it serves me well, but I don’t want to be labeled and pushed into a mold because of it. Some people are good at fitting into the traditional gender binary. Some people are comfortable in it, and love identifying as either a man or a woman with the traits typically assigned to males and females. There’s nothing wrong with this.

But I do sometimes wonder what it feels like to fit.

I’ve always just wanted the features of my biological sex to stay out of my way. I’ll deal with menstruation for good measure, because I really don’t know what the future holds. At any rate, I just want to be able to navigate through life as who I am, doing what I do and not because I’m male or female. But because I’m a human being. Female, sure, but human.

For now, my gender expression is big sweaters, deep thought, converse, and fiction. Whether that’s female or not, I don’t know. Gender identity means different things for different people. In my case, gender and biological identity line up in my mind, so I comfortably identify as female. But I’m aware that our culture has compartmentalized and constructed restrictive tropes of what male and female gender expression is supposed to look like.

Gender is a fluid spectrum, the lines of which depend on sociological constructs. Same as the question of what is “normal.”

But we’re all human. That should be a key point of reference—but, sadly, it is something we assign and segregate away in many more issues than just gender identity.

The way things are going, I hope we’re coming to a place where we can stop categorizing each other and differentiate between preference and necessity, and that we can identify and learn to embrace who we are, whatever that looks like.

Because given our wild, creative, boundary-defying Creator, I’m pretty sure that would be more amazing than we could ever understand.

The Question

“What’s your book about?”

I appreciate this question. It shows me an individual is interested in my work, and I have the chance to share a bit of my heart with them.

Except, most times, I can’t bring myself to do it.

I come up with an excuse, or, after a long, uncomfortable hesitation, I say, “Well…essentially, it’s about mad science and stuff.”

And I’m hyper aware that that says absolutely nothing.

If I’m pressed for details, I’ll eventually open up. A few have drawn the full description out of me, but the majority have been polite enough not to pry further. They’ll find out when I publish it, I suppose.

I still haven’t quite figured out how to verbally give a synopsis of the book in everyday conversation. And it tends to come up a lot—as people ask me what I’ve been up to and I often answer truthfully: “Editing.” But when they ask for details, I shy away from taking up their time talking purely about my work and the world and characters I quite frankly think about all the time.

And for some reason, I don’t feel like I’m important enough to be claiming that time? When they themselves asked the question. It’s weird and backwards and insecure, but perhaps that’s why I’m writing about it.

Maybe I hesitate because it’s so incredibly personal. Yes, I’m going to be publishing the book and I want people to read it. My name’s going to be on it. Currently, if people ask to read it, I will gladly send a tidbit or the entirety of the latest draft, depending on how close I am to the individual.

But being asked to describe my book is like being asked to explain in depth what I think are my greatest qualities. Not that I think my book is my greatest quality, but like anything about me, I’d rather they experience it and see for themselves—pick out the meaning and let it resonate with them as it will. I’m terrified that whatever paltry synopsis I offer will turn them away from it, or make it sound odd and indulgent. Because anyone can write a book. And perhaps too many people are very self important about the pursuit.

For me, strangely enough, writing a book doesn’t feel like too onerous a task. Sure, it takes a great deal of effort and time, but I’ve been obsessed with the activity since I was a kid. No matter how busy I am, I’m always writing, always creating. If I don’t, my heart begins to suffocate. To stay healthy and sane, I must create characters and tell their stories.

So I’m at a point in my life where I’ve finished a book and I’m working on getting it perfected for publication. It’s a source of frustration at times, but it’s what I do to unwind and recover from everything else. It feels very much normal for me. Writing lengthy fiction is what I’ve always done. And sometimes I realize it isn’t a common reality for most people. So then I feel like I’m bragging, and I shy away from being in the spotlight.

Normally, I’ll enjoy occasional moments of attention, taking part in a conversation, letting my presence have bearing. But finding someone suddenly preparing to give me their full attention as I explain the workings of my heart and mind…It’s terrifying.

I freeze up.

I deliberate.

I war between wanting to be honest and brave, but being so excruciatingly uncertain of how my exposition will be received.

So I end up lamely brushing off their request. And that bothers me a bit. I feel like I’ve denied them the answer to a very innocent, well-meaning question—like I don’t trust them enough to be even slightly open with them.

But it’s my heart. Even if I know they’ll be gentle with it, I am afraid to show it. I’m afraid to be completely forthright about what it entails. What it has created, what connections it has sought to foster, what efforts it has made to benefit the world.

I easily open up with people about pretty much everything else—my struggles, desires, fears and insecurities. I’ll often end up steering one-on-one conversations toward deeper matters if given enough time and attention, because I feel like knowing what other people struggle with helps us find support in each other. It helps us humanize each other.

So ask me about what I’m insecure about, and I’ll tell you with little reservation.

But ask me what my book is about—and you may be handed something disappointingly vague.