Biological Honesty

I was at home having great time talking with my dad and younger sister around the kitchen table when suddenly, the symptoms of “day one” hit me.

And I tried to act like it didn’t feel like someone had started scraping out my abdominal cavity with a serrated spoon. (Which didn’t really work.)

Being female really sucks sometimes, and on day one, I tend to feel like we female body types received the rougher biological allotment. Not that males don’t have it rough in other respects. But menstrual cramps, man. I’ve once heard it described as giving birth to the lining of one of your internal organs, which I feel is accurate. I try to pretend I’m all intense, bleeding and hurting and whatnot and being like, “Psh, this is normal.”

But on day one, when the cramps are worst and ibuprofen-resistant, I just kind of mill around dead-eyed and think, “Why?” Heaven forbid it happens on a demanding day—which, sometimes, it does. And that’s the worst.

So yesterday, I put off going back to school longer than expected because I didn’t want to drive 45 minutes with the distraction of my internal organs creaking and groaning like wood about to crack in two.

My little sister suggested a heat pack, so I planted myself in the living room with said device across my middle. It felt good. My dad was also in the room. A part of me thought I should remove myself from his presence or continue to pretend I wasn’t hurting. Because who wants to face blatant signs of everything menstruation means?

But the thing is, he knows what it is, and he doesn’t seem too worried about the nature of this weirdly taboo subject. American society talks about sex all the time, why should menstrual cramps be something to be ashamed of and tough out in silence? I mean, I wasn’t whining excessively about it. I was sitting quietly on the couch with a heat pack, typing away on my laptop. I was dealing with it. This was normal.

In high school, in the early days of this feature of female biological maturity, I used to get bad cramps for a good two or three days of the cycle. And one day my friend, who happened to be a boy, noticed I looked like I wanted to die, and he kept pressing me if I felt all right, trying to figure out what was wrong. I said I didn’t feel good, but he didn’t want to accept such ambiguity, because he was worried about me.

Still, I couldn’t bring myself to admit it—though I assume he got the message eventually. Now, I kind of wish I had told him outright. Because I was ashamed of it back then. I didn’t want anyone to know. Like no one seriously believes that women face this monthly process.

I felt like crap because my uterus was freaking out. I shouldn’t be ashamed. None of us should be ashamed.

Obviously, puberty is strange and horrifying so I can’t really beat myself up too much about those days. But still, I’ve started to appreciate honesty quite a bit.

Including biological honesty.


I came here to work, so why am I not working? This has been repeating in my head for a good two days at least.

Seniors are told to “finish the year strong.”—a phrase that feels more and more thwarting every time it dances saccharinely through my recollection. It brings me more restlessness than motivation. A threat that perhaps I’m not doing as well as I should be.

Luckily, no one has seriously said it to me, but I think it every now and again as the countdown to graduation begins. I look at the next three months: book writing, art school application, finishing my first book and seeking publication, planning a month trip to Costa Rica, professional preparation, preparing to move to a different state after graduation….


Finish strong.

Can’t I wheeze by? Doesn’t that count?

For most of my classes—formatted to small, intimate groups of people studying a subject in depth—wheezing by will make me the obvious weak link. The one who isn’t willing to work anymore and therefore sabotages the experience for everyone.

And I’m familiar enough with myself that I know I’m far too proud for that.

But is it really that I’ve lost all desire to work? I’m entering life, for crying out loud. How can I lose all desire to work now?

I’ll have to start structuring my life again, time managing and discipline and the like—which I get a little dark, whiny feeling inside just writing that down. Resorting to the life survival tool of time management feels like admitting defeat for some reason. Like I’m not really in control and can only try to organize the storm. That classes this semester are going to take over my life so I have to start putting up walls, making priorities, taking sides.

Like: Do I want to sleep or complete my novel? Or: Do I really have time to doodle babies right now…?

JHSbabies   I understand I’ll be better off if I buckle down and work now, but why does it have to be so hard?

Why am I so incredibly unmotivated to the point where I’d rather go to bed early than do even what I love to do? Where things are feeling so repetitive and tedious that I simply can’t be bothered to care anymore? These days I feel like only my underlying perfectionism, this drive to excel and succeed and finish what I started, drags me along like dead weight on a string.

I blame stress. It usually freezes me up. Also, burnout. The undergraduate life is wearing on me.

In light of all this grumbling and muffled whining noises, I have spent the day organizing things, washing dishes, cleaning my room, doing laundry…things I have been putting off that have been slowly stripping my wires over the past week. I learned the three colors of acrylic ink I purchased are compatible with my dip pen. I also made pancakes and eggs and drank coffee from a mug with a map of Middle Earth on it. So that was cool.

All that to say I’m figuring out how to reconcile pride with necessity and find some kind of enjoyment in the middle ground.

Because I can’t stop here.

That one time I went to Florida for science

I keep thinking it’s been ages since my last blog post, but I realize it was only 10 days ago. This week has been really busy and downright exhausting , albeit beneficial—and I find myself a little uncertain of what, exactly to comment on.

West Palm Beach            Two days after New Year’s Day, I flew off to Florida to attend the SICB Annual Meeting 2015 (SICB = Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology), where I was to spend four days listening to research talks and present my own research in a student poster symposium.

And I began the meeting utterly dead.

I entered the travel day yet again with 2 hours of sleep not wholly of my own volition (I was aiming for about 4), and I finally arrived at the hotel in West Palm Beach at 1am. 8 hours later, I was at the conference center, trying to maintain consciousness and motivation because I was presenting my poster at 3:45 that afternoon.

After listening to a great many talks, I ventured up to my poster right on time (I wasn’t going to stand there any earlier than I had to), and the first person that came to hear about my research completely grilled me. But it helped jog my memory and the rest of the 2 hours went more smoothly. Somewhere along the line, the epinephrine woke me up.

Our advisor signed us up for a “best poster” competition, which I was apprehensive about, because that meant we were going to be judged. But the judge was a very sweet little lady with bobbed gray hair and a pink sweater, and we ended up fangirling over the thermoregulative properties of toucan bills (even though my research was on hummingbirds). So it was fun, overall.

Then we went back to the hotel and passed out for 3 hours before actually going to bed.

Fortunately, the next day was easier.

Our supervisor gave us the freedom to plan our days, provided we didn’t ditch the entirety of the conference—which would have been lame. So one day my three other lab partners and I walked to the beach, and on the last day, some of us went to the zoo—which was a lot of fun after filling my head with what I could list out by name but for the purpose of succinctness I’ll just fondly call science.

My head was filled with much science, and it was a nice cap to the bulk of my experience as a research intern.

I was chronically surly and unmotivated for most of these days, because I really didn’t like feeling so dragged around. When we finally made it to the zoo, I was worried my irritability—and general notion that I shouldn’t have spontaneously decided to brave public transportation and walk around the zoo in business attire—would dampen things.

As my lab partners and I sat at the zoo café, surrounded by American White Ibis who wanted our food and honked at each other when food was bestowed, listening to male grackles having a display-off for a female rooting around in the brush and trying to decide who was the fittest, along with what neurological triggers and tradeoffs played into their behavior, I decided I was glad I came.

photo (4)All throughout the meeting, I was interested in learning about hormones, genetics, and comparative ecology, so I attended quite a bit of those when not following my lab partners around because I sometimes wasn’t interested in striking off on my own. I tended toward simply planting myself in a full session instead of dodging around rooms for specific talks on different overarching subjects. I learned so much. If you want to hear more details on what “so much” entails, I’d be happy to to tell you about it. (Seriously though. Science.)

This last six months have been highly taxing, as I’ve been fighting with an extreme shortage of social energy/interest, patience, and motivation. So traveling like this rudely launched me out of where I wanted to be, and I highly doubt I was the easiest person to spend a significant amount of time around, especially for my more socially-enthusiastic friends (who are also my lab partners) [Sorry guys…]

But my friends dragged me along like grumpy cousin Draco, for which I really am quite grateful. I got more out of the experience that way.

On the voyage back, we came extremely close to missing our connecting flight to PDX. I could go into detail about how everything just kept getting worse, but I’m sure anyone who’s traveled much by air can imagine what we went through. (It was my first experience like this, and in Washington DC, no less.) And then on the plane I had an unexpected intimate moment with God, which consisted of no actual words, only memories and impressions. Like an arm thrown around my shoulders, pulling me into a hug and gently holding me there.

I wasn’t even actively worrying about anything. But it happened. Simple and subtle, a reassurinphoto (6)g “I’m still here.”

I haven’t had a moment like that in such a long time. In fact, I didn’t even expect to be receptive.

My last semester begins Monday, and it is shaping up to be so much busier than my surly, dormant self would like.

But, all things considered, I think I’ll be all right.

2014 in the world of brooding sweatered corner-dweller (aka me): a recap

Summaries are hard. Which is perhaps why I write more novels than short stories.pajamas

But this year was certainly an interesting one, so I’ll attempt it before the clock strikes midnight.

2014 brought a significant season of moving forward in my creative pursuits. I have edited 6 total versions of my first novel, which will be ready to submit for publication hopefully sometime in the first half of this year. I officially began writing my second novel, of which I am 485 pages in. It will likely end up split into two books.

I incorporated drawing classes into my academic load, which provided my first introduction to being part of a community of artists, and to being brave and letting people much more skilled than myself examine and critique my work. I have contacted my top art school choice, and am working on the application for the MFA program for Illustration, even as I make initial movements for marketing myself as a professional artist. Throughout this crucial preparatory phase, I have been learning to take myself seriously as a writer and an illustrator, despite the fact that I’m nowhere near as experienced as I want to be.

In May, I went overseas for the first time. This year, my travels took me to South Korea, Hong Kong, and Vietnam, which landed me more confidence in traveling, learning and navigating new systems, and grew me in ways I’m not even completely sure of. God willing, May 2015 will see me back to Costa Rica, making my first voyage outside of the United States unaffiliated with academics.

This year also brought biology research—physiological and ecological studies on hummingbirds at high elevations in the mountains of southeastern Arizona. This was unlike anything I’ve ever done, as I know I’ve said before. Excruciating heat, all-nighters, 6-hour DLW sessions in the disgustingly early morning, strange living conditions, wrath-invoking bugs, harrowing work hours, and a terribly inconvenient visit from the BBC. My lab partner and I were just a couple of derpy kids left without a supervisor for three weeks in the middle of nowhere—but we nailed our research anyway. And those six weeks taught me so much about pulling through, of doing whatever it took to woman-up and show up and find gratification in the work I had accomplished.

And by the end of the summer, my lab partner had become one of my closest friends. (Which is a story I’ll have to tell another time, ‘cause it’s a good one.)

I seriously wanted an easy fall semester. But the latter half of this year brought a cold season spiritually, and a persistent state of social exhaustion—juxtaposed with an increasing passion for alleviating the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, and a quest to reconcile my more traditional religious foundation with what I have come to believe regarding gender and sexual identity.

By the end of the year, I ended up retreating for maintenance and recuperation—recognizing limits and taking care of myself and trying to let go of the crippling insecurities that had made this new journey so stressful. As the new semester swiftly approaches, I am still feeling out where I am, and looking to treat this new year like a blank page.

On the verge of a new year, with new adventures and experiences and challenges, I want to thank everyone who has held a part of my life thus far. I am truly affected and honored by all your love and support. Thank you so much. I wish you the best this upcoming year.