lessons from my 29th year around the sun

Today is my 29th birthday. Last year was the second worst year of my life–only second to the year my dad died. This year has (thus far) been the best year of my life.

A few years ago, on my birthday, I jotted down a few lessons I learned, and now it has become a tradition. It doesn’t wield any great wisdom, necessarily; I’m too young to be full of much wisdom, and I’m not nearly smart enough to say anything that’s going to blow your mind. Although I play at arrogance, I don’t actually possess enough hubris to delude myself into thinking that there’s much here that’s going to change anyone’s life. It’s a practice for me, in this process, to remind myself to be humble, and to remind myself of the value of the time between birthdays.

Here’s what I learned this year, largely thanks to the generosity, insight, and support of the many people in my life who are infinitely patient and brilliant and kind:

  • Sometimes you have to go backward to go much further forward–to really learn what you needed to learn before you can grow.
  •  Care is a verb. Love is an ethic.
  • What other people think of you is none of your business–and the only person you need to impress is yourself.
  • Never negotiate with emotional terrorists.
  • Love the people you love fiercely. Let go of the people who don’t love you back. You can still save a place for them in your heart, even if they can’t hold a place in your life.
  • The value in the vulnerability of trying something you’ve never tried before–in trying something you’re skeptical of–cannot be overstated. Whether it works out or not–the trying is the key.
  • Sometimes you have to say goodbye to other people to say hello to yourself.
  • Sometimes you have to say hello to new people to say goodbye to your former self.
  • Reacting immediately is great for short term survival, but not so great for longevity and sustainability (professionally, interpersonally, emotionally). Wait. You have the time. Wait.
  • Take the knife out of your back. Tend to your wound. Put the knife down. Keep it as a reminder; do not use it to stab anyone else–not even the person who stabbed you. Do not use it to stab yourself again, either.
  • You aren’t anyone else’s show pony. Don’t entertain on demand. Don’t entertain for affection. Don’t let being performative become more important than being you.

One more year to thirty. I can’t wait.

a dead man’s day

As many of us know by now, our relationships don’t end when one party dies. I’m not even sure it ends when both parties die, because the lessons we’ve learned, the common language we cultivate, the individual culture we’ve fostered with them spreads out, permeating our extended community in ways that cannot be measured.

My father and I loved going to the theatre together, and I remember one year, when I was maybe nine, we were off to some fancy show in downtown San Diego. We took a cab from some place, possibly the train station (this detail now lost to the natural fuzziness of memory that inevitably develops with time) to the theatre, and the driver, a staunchly blue collar type, was asking us where we were headed. They chatted, and the man went on about how he loved the language of Shakespeare, even though it was hard for him to understand. Not a stranger to early pretension, I remember being skeptical of his interest and judging him for it. “What a stupid reason to love Shakespeare,” I thought.

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THE GHOSTS OF JAGUAR SHARKS PAST

Acceptance is a small, quiet room.
-Cheryl Strayed


When I arrived at the building, I was ten minutes late, and the short winter days had already caused darkness to fall in the early evening. The rain came down upon the red-brick building, and I let myself in the unlocked front door. I walked down the long, thin corridor, passed the mailboxes, and into the back of the building, only to realize that I had missed the stairs, obscured by a heavy firedoor right by the entrance.

There was a couple already looking at the apartment, and although in another circumstance I might find them charming, pleasant–potential friends–they had become The Competition for this four hundred square foot space that I was determined to call my own. I succeeded at securing the apartment by throwing the application fee, in cash, across the property manager’s desk, and telling him, “You’ve taken my money. It’s mine now,” while laughing. He’s not sure what to do with me (I’m rude), but he does what I say. Four days later, the place is officially mine.

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FUCK A YEAR IN REVIEW POST

I’m currently sitting on my as of yet unsold couch in a robe and sipping on a glass of scotch while waiting for the hot curlers in my hair to work their glorious mane magic. Just like the rest of you basic bitches I am assessing the year that has passed and I have concluded that 2015 was a motherfucker, but the kind of motherfucker that I’ve always liked.

Folks have always been telling me that as you get older, you give less fucks. I’ve gotten a little older, but it turns out that I still give a lot of fucks; I am a tried and true fuck giver every single fucking time. “Give less fucks,” is terrible advice to a hyper empath and person with Big Feels, as it typically fosters an inevitable shame spiral:

Oh god, I give too many fucks! And now I give a fuck about giving fucks! And now I give a fuck about giving a fuck about giving fucks! And then I find myself scratching my nails off the brick walls of this fuck-filled room I’ve sealed myself in and I’m coughing on the fucks so hard that I start to puke and suffocate on my own vomit and then I’m fucking dead (and without fingernails, which is gross).

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POSTSCRIPT: WHEN YOU’VE RETURNED

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My first night in Sacramento is spent lying awake in the dark listening to the rain fall. My legs keep getting caught in the sheets; the sound is comforting, but I cannot sleep. Everything feels wrong. I’ve lost even more weight in the last two months; the clothes in the closet were already slightly too big, but now everything is unwearable. When I last left this place, the heat was still in the hundreds. Now, a deluge.

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THE WAYS IN WHICH WE MEET

I had planned to go NY > Boston > possibly Florida > either NOLA or Austin, but my plans changed last minute. I wanted a little more time in Oakland, and after an incredible week in Wisconsin, I realized I hadn’t had my fill of the Midwest. Enter Indianapolis.

Four or so years ago, when I was fetish modeling on the regular, I was searching about Tumblr for something or other and stumbled across brilliant photographer Rachel Schwebach. Her work was glorious and she was seeking models; I contacted her only to discover that she was nowhere near California. Over the years, we sent each other the occasional letter or postcard. Once she even sent me a gorgeous vintage black slip in the mail (we have an intersection of interest when it comes to the erotic–it only seems fitting that lingerie would make its way into our exchange).

I’m not sure exactly how I came to the conclusion that Indianapolis should be on my roster, but it popped into my head, and as I was entertaining it, dear Rachel decided to host an art horror extravaganza in Peoga, which, according to Wikipedia, is an “unincorporated community” in Indiana. Clearly, the timing was right: This was not something to be missed.

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