A Loss for Words

Hey, friends! I’ve been extremely busy lately with school and work, so I’m happy to finally be writing a post! To be honest, I’ve also felt like my words lack weight lately. I feel like everything I say doesn’t really matter or make sense. I feel like I’ve been a lot more emotional and delving into my work, and talking a lot less about myself. I felt an overwhelming need to journal yesterday, but didn’t want to risk writing anything down and it being found (and yet I’m typing this to be on the Internet. I make no sense.). I feel a bit lost within myself at the moment, and feel like I don’t have the words to intelligently describe what’s going on. I feel like I can only point at what “hurts” like a child and not describe it or analyze it. I try to find solutions, only to ignore my conclusions and find more work to do and do that instead. I miss working out, I think that that was helping me relieve some stress and extra feelings. I’ve also been really wanting to learn an instrument– I’ve wanted to for my whole life (even though music is one of the only things that feels impossible to achieve for me), but I feel like since I can’t find words to say how I feel, maybe music could help me. I always wanted to learn the violin, but I’m thinking of getting a guitar and dedicating some time to try to learn at least a little on my own. We’ll see. I get easily frustrated, but feeling as if I can’t even speak has been really hard. So maybe this’ll be the exception.

I wanted to take this post and turn it into a space where I brainstorm and try to figure out what’s going on. I don’t think it’s any one thing that’s impacting me. I’m really excited for the summer. 1) I can’t wait to be off and taking English classes and planning for next year, but also 2) Summer weather makes me happier than anything. Being in the sun, sitting outside at sunset, picnics, going on adventures– really, I can’t wait to just walk in the warmth. I’m definitely tired out from work and the end of the school year (my first year teaching, wow) approaching doesn’t help. I want to have survived this year and process it over the summer and come into next year more prepared. School is overwhelming at times, so that’s tiring as well. I feel like I have no free time. I get excited for the weekend, and then I spend it doing work all day. It sucks.

I’m also falling back into my struggles with clothing. It’s getting harder to find something I’m happy wearing. It’s getting more difficult for me to suppress myself while at work, dressing and presenting as someone I’m not while my students are trusting me with their true selves. However, I’m getting new glasses very soon and I’m really looking forward to that. I’ve always wanted red glasses, so I feel like that will make me feel a bit more expressive. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to refrain from buying clothes and other extra things for the year, but I’m thinking of breaking that to get some rad spring/summer clothes.

Home has also been a source of stress for me. I look to home as a place where I can talk and others will be patient and understanding, but that hasn’t really been the case. I find  myself being scolded or ignored when I need to vent, and that’s made me feel unimportant and not worth listening to. I feel like I’m too much work for others, and that’s been making me really mentally tired.

I think overall, I’m tired out. I don’t want to say “burned out,” because work brings me so much happiness and fulfillment. But I’m definitely doubting myself in all aspects of my life. I feel like an inadequate teacher. I feel like, because I don’t know how to say how I’m feeling, I’m too much of a mess to try to talk to my friends. I want to talk to people close to me about how I feel about my gender and I want to vent and tell them about my thoughts and fears, but I feel unintelligent and too confusing to have anyone even believe me. I know none of these things are true, but I just feel like I’m not enough. I can’t find a place where I can be completely myself without having any sort of filter. And I’m tired of wandering around looking.

I know I’ll be okay. I know the sun will come out. I just need some hugs and an ear or two. And I know they’ll come. It’s just the home stretch, and I feel stretched myself. I hope I’ll come back soon with a super perky post to help you if you’re in a funk like I am now. In the meanwhile, be good to one another and listen to a friend.


My Dysphoria Life Hacks

Hey, friends! I hope you’re all doing well! I’m extremely happy today because it’s my first day on winter break and it feels SO GOOD to be off from work for a week. After the intense month I’ve had, I’m happy to sleep in and eats lots of chocolate chip pancakes. I got the idea for this post today when I randomly found one of my favorite shirts in a pile in my closet (I’m the neatest teacher and the messiest human). A while ago, I watched Rainbow Friend’s video on his strange but effective dysphoria hacks and finding my shirt today inspired me to do the same here. Just to clear up the concept of dysphoria for those of you that might not know, “dysphoria” is a term used to express discomfort (usually extreme discomfort) that one experiences regarding their body. Often the word is paired to form the term “gender dysphoria,” which means that one’s biology doesn’t feel quite comfy given their gender identity. This is most commonly associated with binary trans people (binary meaning male or female, aka FTM [female to male] or MTF [male to female]). You might recognize gender dysphoria as an experience when people are uncomfortable with their underparts, although there are so many other parts of the body that one can be uncomfortable with (and are allowed to be more uncomfortable with than their underparts). Although I’m not FTM, I do identify as nonbinary, which technically does fit under the trans umbrella. No trans person needs to feel dysphoria to be “trans enough,” nor do those with dysphoria NEED to get any sort of surgery to prove their worth or change their body. As of right now, I don’t see myself obtaining any surgeries to change my body. However, there are some hacks that I have for making myself feel a bit more comfy in my skin. I’m most uncomfortable with the upper half of my body, meaning my chest, my shoulders, and my hair for the most part. I also tend to be extremely aware of how I smell. So, without further ado, here are my hacks!

  1. Olive green. This sounds insane (I warned you), but wearing olive green just makes me feel SO GOOD about myself. Really, wearing any kind of green just makes me feel so rough and tough and cozy. I also love wearing yellow, black, and shades of gray. These neutral (as in gender neutral, if we’re going with stereotypes) colors may not change how I actually look or how anyone sees me, but it makes ME feel completely different.
  2. Going with the first hack, my second hack is shopping in the men’s clothing section. Again, because my discomfort primarily lies in my upper half, every top I wear (except for work clothes) is from the men’s section. I’ve especially come to love Uniqlo’s men’s clothing (their flannels and waffle sweaters got me looking fly af) but, in the summer when I was still afraid to step into the men’s section, plain men’s Hanes t-shirts from Michael’s did the trick (and they’re SO CHEAP. Like two for five dollars. And they have so many colors. And you can roll the sleeves or iron stuff on. YES.). I could care less about my bottom half and, because I wear dress pants to work every day, I’m a huge fan of leggings (although I DO like shirts large enough to cover mah booty). I like men’s clothes because they tend to be loose on me, which helps with my chest. (I have a small chest anyways, so if I just wear a bralette with a men’s shirt, I’m relatively flat. I used to bind with sports bras but it killed my back. I still would very much like to wear a binder, though.) I also love men’s clothes because they usually have high necks, and I’m HERE for high necks.
  3. Chunky watches. For my entire life, I was terrified of large watches. Every girl I knew was able to pull off a huge Michael Kors watch, but I have such skinny wrists that I used to wear super dainty watches. I finally took the plunge and got a super adventurer-esque olive green watch that changed everything. Since then, I upgraded to an Apple Watch, and it’s just the right size to feel super dapper. Again, this is something that doesn’t really change how people see me, but something this small changes my whole aesthetic in my head. I absolutely love chunky watches on guys, and so I wanted to channel that into my style.
  4. Wearing my hair down. This one is (again) insanely strange. For my entire life, I’ve HATED my hair. I’ve tried cutting it every which way to make myself fall in love with it, and it’s never worked. I constantly wore it up, even though people said I “looked like a man” because my hair would instantly get flat and look like trash. All of a sudden, I got my hair cut this summer and it was too short to put up. So I curled it all wavy-like and wore it down. It was a huge, wild mop and I ADORED it. Ever since then, I actually hate wearing my hair up. I try to use minimal products in my hair and not blow dry it (and always carry a portable hairbrush), and it’s helped with the inevitable flatness. I’ll put my hair up when I’m home or especially hot at work, but my hair ALWAYS has to be down in some way. Again, this is super strange because you’d THINK that wearing my hair down would look more feminine and kind of mess with the whole “not a girl” thing (although there isn’t a way to “look nonbinary” and I actually think that the overall masculine trend can be a bit oppressive, if that’s the right word). I just feel so free with my hair down. I feel more raw and wild and channeling my inner skater/surfer boy is my life goal.
  5. Slip-on sneakers. Before school started this year, I got the cutest Betsy Johnson white sneakers (with embroidered eyes on the back, which I found very Dr. T. J. Eckleberg) on clearance, and I FELL IN LOVE with them. They quickly fell apart from me wearing them religiously so, for Christmas, I ordered Michael Kors slip-on sneakers (again on clearance) and I can’t explain how much these shoes have changed how I feel. They’re cute enough to wear at work, while also keeping with my masc-ish vibes.
  6. Backpacks! Even though I use a tote bag for work, I absolutely hate purses (ask me why I keep buying them though *rolls eyes at self*). Three years ago, I splurged on a Longchamp mini backpack and (I’ve said this about every item I’ve bought that’s on this list) it really did change everything. It’s the tiniest thing but it holds SO MUCH. And it doesn’t look dainty. Again, it helps me carry my stuff without feeling super uncomfortable.
  7. Minimal jewelry. Although I’m a jewelry hoarder, I’ve been wearing only my Apple watch and MAYBE a necklace as jewelry. I also only wear earrings in my second holes for now (it probably looks crazy but I like it). I definitely want more piercings and some tattoos in the future, but I just feel a lot better about my arms without bracelets dangling.

All in all, I’ve been learning to cope and feel better about myself and my presentation. By no means do I present as masculine, but the little things that I’ve done to control my appearance have made me feel a lot more attractive and comfortable in my body while also expressing a bit of my insides on the outside. Note that I don’t conform to these rules while at work and it doesn’t always feel so great, but I do what I need to and often completely forget about my discomfort because I get so invested in my work. Also, I still really would like to invest in a binder in the future just to see what it’s like. A bralette or sports bra can only help with being flat so much, and I’d really love a super flat look, especially in the summer when I’m wearing a tshirt (AND I COULD FINALLY WEAR WHITE! You don’t understand how much I miss wearing white. A nude binder could finally allow me to wear white after YEARS of not being able to because of ultimate discomfort). I have to emphasize to you that these things have actually helped me immensely. One year ago, I cried every morning while getting dressed. It took me so long to get dressed each day. I changed outfits countless times to find something I felt comfortable with. Now, I feel great on the first (or second) outfit. It’s incredible.

For homework, compliment someone. You never know who’s struggling. Just make sure you watch your words and labels. A safe and always welcome compliment is “you look so good today!” Always be careful assuming how people want to look– may it be pretty, handsome, fit, professional, etc. Unless you know for SURE, keep your compliments general! But yes, show someone that you care today. Your kindness will mean so much and make its way back to you when you need it most.

Meditation and Gratitude: Day Twenty

Hi, everyone! Happy month two of 2018! So far, I’ve had a great year. I haven’t been as bummed as I usually am in the winter. Work has been going well and I keep working to make it better. I just started my second semester of grad school. Things are going well! And what’s been really helping with that is what I wanted to tell you a little bit about now–meditation.

I never really meditated before going to yoga about two years ago. I used to go at least once a week, and now go about once a month, so I felt like my fitness and mindfulness practices went down the toilet. So, twenty-six days ago, I decided to quickly meditate before bed. Earlier that day I was going down a YouTube hole and found a great video that motivated me to try meditation on my own. So I sat on my bed for three minutes tops and breathed, using the YouTuber’s loving kindness chant. I started doing this every night, taking ownership of my night routine. (After all, once I go into my room and turn off the lights, all of my time is mine!) I turned the chant into my own, which I’ve used for about twenty days now:

  • I first think of “support,” which to me is the earth supporting me–it makes me feel weightless and assisted, instead of heavy and burdened.
  • Then, I think of “room,” which I interpret as always having room to grow and space around me.
  • On each third breath, I think of “love,” which I envision as warmth pulsating towards my heart and then from it.
  • For each fourth breath, I’ve recently added “kindness,” which I imagine as a red glowing burst from my heart.

After doing three to five rounds of these grounding breaths, I move to a series of invitations, such as “May you be happy, may you be healthy, and may you be peaceful.” I also turn my grounding words into invitations, like “May you be supportive and support others.” or “May you recognize the room to grow and take advantage of it.”

Finally, I turn each “may you” statement into an “I am” statement, and then I close my practice with one or two deep breaths. Meditation has helped my sleep (and frequent nightmares due to stress) incredibly. I haven’t woken up in the middle of the night once in this time period. I definitely think of sleep as a treasured time (instead of deprivation from work) after my practice. I feel better about myself and any stressful situations that occur, too.

Something that I also started twenty days ago was my gratitude practice. I got the inspiration for this from the same YouTuber (Alayna Fender is incredible). She was working on a bullet journal for 2018 (one of my goals for 2019) but I knew I would get too stressed this year about taking on such a feat when I’ve never kept any sort of journal except for this passion post-filled blog. So I took my favorite part of her journal and made it my own. I took a favorite little notebook of mine that I didn’t know how to use and dedicated it to be my gratitude book. Every day before my meditation practice, I sit on the floor near my light and write three things I’m grateful for each day. They can be general things or specific moments from the day. This really helps me recognize the positive things in my day and even go back to see how great the previous days were. They’re like little snapshots of each day while also preparing myself to get into a positive and open mindset for meditation.

So it’s been twenty days and I haven’t skipped a day yet! Of course there are days when I’m so tired that I really don’t want to meditate, but I’ve always found that the moment I start my gratitude and meditation practice, I’m so thankful I did. I forgive myself for the days that the breaths may have been rushed or for when my mind keeps going no matter how many times I try to invite it back to the moment. I’ve found comfort in the stability and reliability of this practice, and just feel generally awesome for doing something for twenty days straight. I couldn’t recommend this any more. For homework, try part or all of this practice–I promise that you’ll find yourself doing it again tomorrow.

How Dreamy!

This long weekend has been LOVELY. I spent it pretty much procrastinating all of my work (I actually don’t *think* I have too much right now– it’s mostly stuff that actually has to get done AT WORK, like working with students on our play and such) and hanging with my loved ones. I got breakfast with my love this morning, and then I went to the movies with my parents! We saw The Post— it was really good! I DID get my period right at the beginning and spent a good amount of time grimacing in the bathroom waiting for my Pamprin to kick in, but it was definitely really interesting! I really liked how I put it when telling my boyfriend about it: “It was very reminiscent of young Michelle.” In other words, the core idea of the movie was the question of the purpose of the news. Should it be censored, or is news for the public? Of course, spoilers, but they realize that news should always be for the public and it’s a really cool, satisfying ending. But it really did make me think a lot about my younger self’s dreams.

I ALWAYS wanted to be a writer. For most of my younger years, I wanted to solely be a writer. I wanted to work from home except when I needed to meet with my publishers or illustrators. I could decide my own hours and not depend on others when deadlines were near. Then, I eventually realized that becoming a book author is really difficult and having that as your sole income is near impossible, so I decided that I would get into journalism. I thought about that for a long time (and even still entertained the idea in college). I was obsessed with Melissa Joan Hart as Sabrina the Teenage Witch and seeing her rise up in the journalism world was the exact motivation I needed. Every morning on my way to high school, we’d pass the New York Times building and I’d always tell my parents that I would work there one day. Now, hardly a history buff and trying my best (but usually failing) to know what’s going on in the world, I realize that journalism might not be best for me.

I pretty accidentally and conveniently fell into teaching at a time when I had no idea what I was going to do. In my first whim of passion in over ten years, I changed my major to English without having even taken more than one English class in college (and I got a C on my first-ever college English paper, giving me an A- in the class. I HATED ENGLISH.). Close reading was something I despised and saw no purpose in. I hadn’t read for fun in over a decade. But I was good at writing. And I loved it. And I felt like, for the first time, I wanted to work for something that I knew I wasn’t good at. I was going to conquer it and figure out my future later. Well, a year into my English major, I was randomly called by my old high school principal and she offered me a job out of nowhere. Now, I had previously considered teaching high school. When I was in my senior year of high school, I wanted to be a math teacher. I had wanted to be an engineer (and specifically a Disney Imagineer), but decided that I needed a job that had me interact with people. So I went into college as an elementary education teacher…and dropped the major in a panic (and at a really low point for myself in college). I had been working at my college’s writing center and had to choose between my major (and the time requirements for lesson planning and observing) and my job. Probably the more popular choice would’ve been my major, but 1) I couldn’t leave my job at that point in the semester and let down my students, and 2) I loved my job. So I dropped my current education class (and my major) almost *too* quickly and picked up English. Then, definitely too quickly, I decided that I would get my PhD in English, not realizing the extensive knowledge that was needed to even apply for a PhD program– knowledge I tried to obtain, but couldn’t possibly learn in the year-and-a-half that I had to start and finish my English education. So, in another panic, I decided to be a teacher. And, about a month after that decision, I got the call.

Now, before you think otherwise, I LOVE MY JOB. And I thought I loved my job at the writing center. And I did. But my job warms my heart (and has helped my personal growth) in a way that nothing ever could. It’s extremely difficult and tiring and annoying sometimes, but it really is worth it. And, since getting this job, I haven’t thought about my distant future. I’ve always been planning for the next thing– but finally, I’ve been content. I really am. But I’m also learning that having dreams is okay. It doesn’t make it seem like I love my job any less– only that I really value my limited time. And so that’s what I’ve realized my time as a teacher is. Limited. It hurts to even think about, but I know that I’m not going to be a teacher forever. I do want to teach for years to come, and I would like to rise to some place of leadership and make some changes. But I also want to use what I learn as a teacher to help others.

If you read these posts somewhat regularly, you know that gender studies is really important to me. It’s part of who I am, and it’s something that I’m genuinely interested in. The little that I do know about gender is from my own research, mostly Internet research. I’d really like to step into the formal graduate classroom and learn more about gender and identity. So that’s why I’d really like to earn my MA in Women’s and Gender Studies. I’d like to pursue a sexuality track, but there’s also a super rad literature track, so we’ll see what happens. You can actually take three classes outside of your track– that should help me with my indecisiveness. You can also join a separate writing track and have workshops with student writers from all forms of graduate study– that would be really cool as well. I’ve said this before, but gender has always really interested me– even when I didn’t understand the concept. Studying English helped me understand these ideas (and myself) immensely. The first time I heard about “othering,” every lightbulb in my brain burned bright. I’d known this feeling from my own experience and from things I’d read and seen– and THIS is finally the word for it. After starting my gender education journey, I even wrote one of my last college papers entirely on forcing binary genders on trans people and, in the process, was able to somewhat confidently explain these ideas to my class. I told them about using “they” as a gender neutral pronoun, and the possibly disturbing nature of gender roles or biological terms for body parts, and they were so happy. One of my classmates, a freshman, publicly told the class that she wanted to write like me when she became a senior. HOW COOL IS THAT. I was so proud of that paper, especially because my reading of the main poem went against that of my professor– and actually changed my professor’s mind on the poem that she’d been teaching for years. That moment was one of ultimate transformation for me. I could talk about gender AND be an academic. And I want that again, but more. I want to learn; I’m so hungry to learn. I want to walk in and have no idea what anyone’s talking about, a feeling I rarely have. I want to learn and look at the world differently.

So, I’d really like to get my second MA (currently working on my MAT to become a certified teacher) after this program, which hopefully means in two years. I’ll hopefully still be teaching then and working my way up in whatever school I’m at. At that time, I’d also like to be volunteering at an animal shelter (maybe as one of the ASPCA guides that helps match people with pets, but I’d be fine with cleaning cages or administrative stuff too). As the years go by, I’d like to start working at an LGBTQ+ nonprofit for teens, possibly starting as a volunteer but eventually transferring to full time. My current job has taught me that I *need* to work with teenagers. They are the perfect age. They have a great sense of humor, can be mature when they want to, but can also be totally silly and enjoy the little things in life (like the rubber duckies I gave my homeroom for Halloween). [I’m not really thinking about my personal life in the future for this post, but I’ll probably be married at this point. Go me!] As I transition out of teaching for the time being, I’d probably go back to school for some nonprofit or other business-y information while also working on writing. And for my final form (or at least my mid- to late-thirties), I’m just initially maybe considering becoming a gender therapist. Seeing a gender therapist is currently required for any trans people to undergo physical transition, and tons of other people questioning their gender go just for their personal development! I’d really like to be part of the helpful transition team that helps people of all ages finally live their truth. To do this, I’d need to become a certified therapist/counselor. To be real dreamy at this point, I’d like to do some office work and other work free as a clinic volunteer.

Now, for the real dreamy stuff. Since I’m spilling my guts here, might as well go all-out. All of my far-fetched dreams include writing a book. I’d really like to write young adult literature, with possibly some adult or child’s stuff on the side as well. Really, having a TV show or movie based off of my books would be cool as well, but even publishing one book (getting real dreamy, a series) is the ultimate goal. I’d love to casually go to conventions here and there and speak at panels and do readings and just talk about my characters and their adventures and struggles. It would be so cool. Another far-reaching dream of mine is to write a play or musical. It would probably never see the light of day, but I think writing something so detailed and extensive would be a huge accomplishment for me and finally prove to myself that I can be a writer and write more than my thirteen-page story from when I was eleven.

So there ya go! My guts, all spilled out quite neatly on the platter before you. You’re in the loop now. Print this post and ask me to sign it when I’m a quadruple threat: gender therapist, novelist, playwright, and certified teacher. Till then, take even the smallest step towards your dreams– I’m going to do the same.

Roaring Representation

Hey, friends! So I was overcome with a quick bout of passion (NOT WHAT YOU THINK) to write, and I had a really great idea for a post that I have actually been thinking about (but not completely aware of) for a while. Not too long ago, my first semester of grad school ended. And, during my last class of one of my courses, I totally went against everything I tell my students–I spaced. (Hey, I’m human.) But I did a nerdy Michelle space. Not a fan of my current degree program, I started doing research for my dream degree, an MA in Gender Studies. I was looking at the available courses for spring, just finding course upon course that I would love to take. One class about trans literature specifically stood out to me. At first, I expected the course texts to be recent memoirs. However, once I clicked on that class, my mind was blown. Texts that I KNEW were on that list. Stuff I’d read. Stuff that was written years before being trans was discussed in the depth and understanding that it is now. Stuff that was trans but not written intentionally to educate or represent a trans issue.

Although I knew a few texts on the list, the one that roared (you’ll get it soon enough) at me was The Roaring Girl by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker. I read this Shakespeare era play in my Early British Drama class, which I adored (I mean the class, but also the play). The play is about a lady named Moll who’s the ultimate bro. One guy (I can’t remember the names) wants to marry this girl but his family disapproves of her. So what does he do? Asks Moll to be a bro and pretend to be his girlfriend. We’ll learn about why soon, but of course the family disapproves of Molloy and loves the man’s true love. Moll is the coolest. At a point when gender started getting fuzzy (think about Shakespeare and his all-male players that were cast to roles of all genders), Molloy freely dressed like a man and walked about the town. Because she felt like it that day. She was also super comfortable with her sexuality, dressing femininely when she wanted, and even openly admitting that she “sleeps on both sides of the bed.” Of course, written by two men, Moll can be somewhat problematic if she has to be a “man” while sleeping with a woman (still enforcing heteronormativity), but STILL. A person that’s gender fluid AND bi? My little queer heart was soaring when I read this. I was nowhere near exploring my gender (although I definitely resonated with Moll and her mix-and-match sense of self), but the fact that we were openly discussing bisexuality in class as part of an academic conversation was incredible. I was too terrified to discuss that topic with anyone, so having to even say the term “bi” in class was really freeing and important to me.

So many people in my class were confused while reading the play. “So she’s a man, right?” one person would ask. “She’s just doing this for attention. She wants the men to like her.” another would say. Comment upon comment rolled in, not meant to be disrespectful, but each one applied to me as well. Having been a junior (I think?) in college at this point, I was deeply questioning who the heck I was and what it meant to my identity, my core being. I loved Moll. She did whatever she wanted. She was an outcast, yes, but she could care less. At a point when feminine purity and virginity and gender conforming behavior were a must, she threw up a middle finger, donned a suit, and did her thing. I understood that then, and it made me really happy. But it never completely hit me until I saw it on the syllabus for that trans lit class. This could technically be an early trans text. There are so many close readings to be done regarding Moll’s inner workings. I have so many questions. But I’m really happy to.

Like I said before, The Roaring Girl is a trans text, but it wasn’t made with any specific “agenda” behind it. I think many texts need a goal besides entertainment. We need queer education for the masses– for the homophobic people and exploring queer peeps alike. However, the representation that seems almost latent in The Roaring Girl is satisfying. Moll’s just doing her thing. Yes, this play is supposed to kind of be funny, but we really are supposed to love and root for Moll, as odd as she might be. And she’s herself just cause. People weren’t calling for a character like her. The playwrights just thought her up. And that’s a cool thing. She’s what you might call a naturally occurring character. She wasn’t forced into existence. However, because we really do censor ourselves in this age of fear (not that it wasn’t like this then too), we kind of can’t just wait for characters to naturally occur. We need a call for action. We need queer characters that survive. We need queer heroes. We need queer royalty. We need characters that exist in and of themselves, and not just to come out or make the hero feel uncomfortable or reinforce some sort of stereotype. And I want to help in this process. Besides all the stuff I want to do in my life, I really do want to write. And that was always the goal of this blog– to motivate me to write creatively. I also couldn’t be more excited to further investigate the Gender Studies MA. I know that at least checking it out will benefit me. I really would like to be in the literature track and go back to my English roots AND study my passion. We’ll see what happens. There are so many things I want to do and so much that I want to become. And I don’t have to do it all now, but I do need to take more action. This is off-topic, but I think it’s so strange to think about watching TV or YouTube. I’m a HUGE YouTube fan, and it’s useful and good for breaks, but you’re literally just sitting. I’m great at taking breaks, but I think I need to work more on the things *I* want. And I’m going to do my best with starting that today. For homework, do something that you’ve been wanting to do. Even if it’s small. Go for it!

Obligatory NYE Post

Hey, friends. I’ve thought of so many different ways to start this. I love holidays. I’m the biggest supporter of Halloween and Christmas lights never fail to make me smile. But I’m the Scrooge of all Scrooges on New Year’s Eve. I can’t stand the reflection posts (which I’m writing right now, of course) and the expectations that are never met. We count down from 5, cheer for a moment, and then we realize that nothing has changed. New Year’s Eve is the day we hope things will magically change if we just hope hard enough. I’m all for magic and intentions, but NYE seems way more shallow than that. And I always feel awful, because the filter of social media gives me the impression that this is the night for wishing and dreaming and new beginnings–but I just don’t feel it.

Truthfully, on so many levels, we’re so ready to leave 2017 in the dust. I see so many people sharing their memories or their Instagram “best nine” and I feel torn. On one hand, I’m bitter. How can we, as a collective, possibly say 2017 is hard to move on from? However, on the other hand, I do see the personal significance 2017 has had for me. 2017 messed with me REAL GOOD. Yes, okay, I recognize I’m being bitter and I haven’t felt great for the last few days and that’s possibly why I’m being grumpy. But 2017 and I definitely had our share of interesting times. This was the year that I came into my own. I finished my thesis, took my honors exam, started to accept myself enough to be comfortable and be me, graduate college with a major I loved and a major I never thought I’d be able to do, and my post-undergrad plans completely fell apart.

I’ve never been so comfortable with myself. I’m mentally out to myself, which was quite the hurdle. I definitely have low days, but I’m not having a panic attack every morning when I try to get dressed, so I consider that a victory. I had to go to my last choice of graduate school in order to accept my dream job. Grad school is turning out okay (I aced my first semester), and my job is amazing. It has its stressful parts, but I’ve never felt so confident and whole before. I never knew what made me tick, what made me an individual. Now I can have complete conversations identifying my likes and dislikes, my beliefs and opinions. I was never able to do that before, believe it or not. I enjoy standing out and being different, making fun of myself, and commanding the attention of a room. I love how hyped my students get over a story. I love how easy the love for characters comes to them. It’s awesome. And 2017’s also the year that my love for gender and sexuality studies blossomed. I distinctly remember getting tired of my thesis (which was cool, but definitely not the best I could have done) and falling down countless YouTube holes. I’ve learned so much about labels and identities, and the complexity of language when it comes to describing those certain aspects of the human experience. I’ve even already started saving for my MA in Gender Studies. I have at least two more years until I finish my MAT, but I already want to get started on my writing sample and learning as much as I can.

But, you see, so many of us are thanking 2017 for this. We’re using active verbs, saying that 2017 “brought” us that new partner or that trip to Hawaii. But did it? Did it really? We got to 2017 thanks to humans, and it’s up to us to do things. To make things happen. Time ticks on, but we are the ones that fill it with activity. So I’m going to try my best to not be a grump. But I’m also not going to see 2018 as a new beginning because I don’t want one. I want to continue. I want to get better, but I want that at all times of the year, and today isn’t going to make me any more or less active in pursuing betterment. But take responsibility. If you had an amazing year, don’t thank Father Time. Give yourself a pat on the back.

BUT, as annoying as I find NYE, I’ll never pass up saying:


Music…and a Bad Day

So originally, I wanted to write about my change in music taste. And that does make for an interesting post. However, I’m also having a really sad day and I wanted to kind of journal my feelings too. So let’s start with music and see where this goes.

For the longest time (I’d say from my early years until about sophomore year in high school), I was obsessed with being invisible. I wanted to be the “clone,” to be just like everyone else. Now I realize that that is near impossible for anyone to be, especially for me, but then I was really concerned with fitting in. So I listened to the music everyone else liked. This was predominantly pop music, basically whatever was promoted by Disney Channel or the latest movies. When I became a junior in high school, everything in my world was shaken up. I had just gotten out of my first relationship, I was preparing for college, and I needed some solace from this whirlwind of life. I start listening to indie pop rock (particularly Fun.) extremely often. [I remember that, as a way to keep my spirits up, I’d listen to Michael Buble’s “Haven’t Met You Yet” to restore the hope that I’d find a partner someday. I used to listen to it on my iPod every morning while making my bed. I stopped listening to it the day I met my current partner. I always distinctly remember that because I really don’t consider myself reliant on music at all, but the moments of starting and stopping listening to that song really hold importance to me.] So I knew every song of Fun.’s to a tee. I even bought an original iPod and used it to death. I bought an R2D2 sticker cover for it and even sewed a case for it that looked like an iPod. I remember always cooking dinner while jamming to Fun., and the positivity in their music really helped me during a rough time.

In college, I started listening to pop punk like Panic! at the Disco. It was the angsty teen music that I never got to listen to as a kid, because I never got to be that angsty teen in the first place. [I see myself more as an unfortunate case back then, and really don’t like that chapter of my life story. Sorry if this post is getting really sad.] So I listened to pop punk and still do. It was a way to relieve my stress and stay motivated while doing my work. I also REALLY loved soca in college, which I’ve found that I’ve started to not enjoy as much anymore. But I think that that partly has to do with the people I spend my time with and my thoughts/feelings. College was a happy time of self-exploration, and I had extremely close friends that listened to soca. Now, I’ve converted to predominantly listening to heavy metal. I know, what a transition. Well, my partner’s had a car for three(???) years now, and always plays his music, and it’s become comforting. I think the particular moment when this hit me was when we had gone to an Iron Maiden concert over the summer and Ghost opened for them. Ghost’s music is heavy metal, with hints of pop, and just overall sexy music. (And I never use the word “sexy.”) But their story is super rad (check it out), and their music isn’t scary and scream-y. It’s fun and spoopy (enough) and their beats (I don’t know any technical terms) are hot. I fell in love with them, and Iron Maiden was really a fun experience. I was always convinced metal had to be scary with huge, hulking fans that were hardcore and mean. But that concert was so sweet and welcoming and fun. And so I listened to Ghost on my drives home from work and, since then, I’ve found quite a few bands. My favorite songs are ones with the lowest voices (the lowness is just so yummy; I’ve always loved raspy voices). “Born in Winter” by Gojira and Ghost’s cover of “Nocturnal Me” are my absolute faves at the moment. They just feel so GOOD to listen to. I also love heavy metal because I find that I don’t concern myself as much with learning the lyrics, which means I can listen to it while working or writing (like now). If I know the words to a song, I mentally sing along and get distracted.

As a transition, I think I also got into Iron Maiden slightly because I had gotten a shirt from the concert and wore it obsessively over the summer because I loved its color and badassness and how it fit on me. This summer, I had incredible difficulty in getting dressed and feeling good about my body, and that Iron Maiden shirt really helped me with that. I wore that shirt religiously. So that kind of brings me to my mood today. It’s probably nothing, but I feel like today has just not been good for me. It’s not that it’s a bad day per se, because nothing really went wrong today. I’ve just been feeling really down all day. I think this partly has to do with the weather, as it’s snowed for the third time now in two weeks and it was dark and cloudy all day. It’s also the last stretch before Christmas break, and it’s killing me. I had such a long work week this week (long hours every day) and I’m so so tired. But (and I always feel like trash for talking about this, even though this is my rendition of a journal and I shouldn’t put myself down) I know gender is involved with this. Some days I feel super attractive and good about myself. I get those highs and ride them like an expert surfer. However, today I feel like utter crap. And usually I won’t. I just finished my period, and usually that’s when I start perking up. But today, nothing was happening for me. I got a nice amount of work done, but I’ve had no appetite and all I’ve eaten all day is cookies (and I don’t even want to, to be honest). I’ve lost a good amount of weight, which is good because I gained a fair amount after I started my job), but I think that actually didn’t help me. Having that tummy felt good. But then I started feeling self-conscious (because I wear pretty form-fitting clothes at work), and then felt the need to wear chest-augmenting clothes to take away from my tum. And I was fine with that for a while. I started to feel good and confident about it. And lately, I’ve gone back into this anti-chest slump. But then I feel weird if I bind. I feel awful about my hair, even though I don’t want it short again. I just don’t feel good about my body, but the worst part is I don’t even know what I want to do with it. In all honesty, some days I really can’t wait until I can live on my own. I want two cats, cute furniture with an exposed brick wall or one brightly-painted wall, and, most importantly, to buy clothes that would make me feel comfortable. I’ve always been lucky enough to be free to buy clothes from any gendered section. My parents have always been open with that, except for the occasional comment (and an unspoken understanding that it doesn’t go “too far”). Sometimes I wish I could move away and wear men’s briefs and bind and get cool piercings (I really want a nose piercing as of late) and a few tattoos and teach in a super accepting, chill school and maybe even go on T to have the voice I’ve always wanted. I think about that sometimes. And that’s a really hard thing for me to admit and put out into the universe (and hope no one sees or, if they do, rejects me for). I just wish I could play more. I wish I could talk freely about all this mess that’s in my head and not feel like I’m being obsessive or bothering anyone. I wish there were some things that “no” could suffice for, and questions didn’t have to keep getting asked or jokes cracked. I feel like I’m going to burst– in a good way. I feel like I’ve been so deeply buried within myself that, now that I’m starting to understand that and invite me to emerge, I’m going to burst and be myself whether it’s oaky or not. But that’s also terrifying. I try my best to not hide myself, but there are very clear limits that show up in my life. In all reality, I can’t be myself. Not in my current circumstances. And it kills me. But I’m also happy now. So do I just put it on hold? Do I keep hoping it’s a phase? Do I wait three years to go to school about it and hope that things are different by then?

I think one thing that’s particularly hard for me is the inability to talk to someone else with these experiences. YouTube is my safe space. I turn to YouTube religiously to learn more, to change my language, to further my understanding and “meet” new people. But at the same time, I’m scared. I’m scared that I’m not queer enough or that I’ll be rejected or made fun of. I’m afraid of being invalidated. As I’ve become more comfortable with (mentally) calling myself nonbinary (although I won’t dare divulge that information in person), I learn more about the controversy of nonbinary technically being under the trans umbrella. And I’ve cried a lot over that. I know I’m not a guy, and I know that I don’t want to change my body. I like my equipment, and I’m super thankful that I’m not dysphoric about anything physical (except my chest, but I still *want* it, and maybe the words that typically may be used to describe my body). But that’s still a hard thing to digest. Of course, the awesome thing about all of this is that language and labels are up to you and vary in meaning from person to person. But I’ve actually been mentally digesting that “trans” label, and honestly? It’s not as terrifying as it originally seemed. I don’t feel the need to fully transition (what does that even mean anyway?), but I definitely feel at least a little affinity with it. In other circumstances, I would consider going on T for my voice (which is a thing). I want to transition the language used to describe myself and my body. But this is the most terrifying shit to say. And I’m not even saying it. But the fact that someone I know could read this is like being naked in front of someone. It’s not a good feeling at ALL. So that’s where my brain is today. I want all the soup and cat cuddles and cheese. I also really want to get into learning music, but I don’t really know where I want to go with that. I’ve always loved the violin, but it’s not something I can casually buy and learn. I’ve considered getting a uke but I really hate riding trend waves. So I’m not sure. I also want to genuinely learn about working out and pick up a schedule. I have a gym in my building, so I really have no excuse. I know muscles will help me feel better about myself. Bulk and physical strength would really help. Well, *sigh*. I feel like I’ve brain dumped quite enough and you’ve definitely stopped reading by now. I promise I’ll be happier soon. Go hug someone that needs it. ❤

Brain Dump

Hey, friends! I just wanted to do a little brain dump to get everything off of my chest and clear my brain before this weekend really gets started and I do a ton of work. Things have been great! Although my job can definitely be trying at times (mostly the planning and extra hours/responsibilities), I absolutely adore it. Especially this week, I’ve gotten a TON of positive feedback from my bosses and my students. I got to have some serious chats with some of my students this week, and it was so nice to genuinely talk and be a 3D person with them (someone that has a life outside of just work). It’s only December, and I’m extremely close to my students. They’re an incredible bunch, and it means a lot to me to be the one helping them succeed. My seniors are receiving thousands upon thousands of dollars in scholarships, and it feels great to be the person that helped them get there (and have the confidence to apply in the first place!). I’m so happy that I finally just let myself make a rash decision or two to study English and accept this job and really get comfy with myself.

It might sound crazy, but my job has really helped with that. Feeling better about myself. I was talking to my partner today and I was telling him that I finally feel like I’m not acting anymore. One of my former teachers (and now coworker) still uses an outline I made for presentations and my students, who finally realized that I’m the person that made it, came to me telling me how I’ve helped them even before I met them. And one of them gave me a copy. I finally had time to read it, and I came to a really affirming conclusion.

I often consider myself as very different from my elementary and high school selves. In elementary school, I wanted to badly to fit in, and it didn’t work. I couldn’t speak Spanish, so I couldn’t be in any of those cliques. I wasn’t a pretty popular girl and, once puberty came, the boys didn’t want to hang with me anymore. In high school, I was determined to come out on top. I was always over-the-top perky and positive. By the end of college, I finally started to come into my own and I’m continuing to do that now. I realized that the perkiness was all a way to distract myself and bury my self-exploration of being queer, which makes up a huge part of my identity now. But the fascinating thing is that, despite the masks I’ve been wearing for years, that writing from my junior year of high school is still ME. The voice behind that writing (something I was convinced I was unable of even having until the end of college) is the same I have now. I was there, crawling to the surface, struggling for breath after staying under layers for such long periods of time. I have the same focus on using everyday language to explain complicated ideas, on inserting humor and wit into my writing. Five-and-a-half years of writing education and my little baby voice is still here, but more self-aware. It was just really satisfying for me to see that. At first, I was happy when I felt no connection to my past. Then, I saw all the early signs that led to my present and looked back with pride. But now, I see an evolution, none of which is bad, but all of which is growth and development and a light that has been brightening so much so that now it can spread to others.

I’ll write more soon because I’ll be off for a good few days. I just wanted to get that out of my system. For homework, look back a little and smile. It’s worth it.


Hey! My name is Michelle and I’m OBSESSED with stories. It definitely fits, then, that I’m an English literature teacher. (It’s totally personal preference, but I’m not a fan of “ELA teacher.” Yes, I teach writing and language, but my teaching style is rooted on and based in literature– although I like that “literature” can be a super flexible term.) So that parenthetical mini-rant pretty much explains why I’m here today writing to you. I’m literally paid to talk about words all day– and I effing love it. And you wouldn’t have ever thought that if you scroll deep into this blog. I was (and still am) so in love with math for its (at least seeming) exactness. I still love math because I see it as a puzzle to be solved, but I think I needed to realize a lot of things about myself and my world before developing a love for the vagueness of language. English lit always seemed like a precise act, almost like cracking a safe or walking between laser beams. One wrong move and you’re toast– literally. But after sorting through all of the ambiguity in my life (and getting some kickass English professors that are part of the movement that’s shaking up the English lit world), I learned to embrace the process, NOT the product. After throwing myself into tutoring writing (and quickly realizing I knew nothing about writing), I learned SO MUCH from reading countless papers and talking with students about their writing process. And then, not even a semester in, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Without having taken any English class besides the one that was required for freshman, and without any guarantee that I would even be good at it. But I loved it for a reason that didn’t have to do with the novels. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of reading. What sparked my love for literature was the lack of language that we have as humans.

At this point you must be thinking, “What? How does that even make sense? Why study words when you think they don’t really work?” Well, what first caught my interest was the writing process. Every single person I worked with came up with a different way to approach their text and piece. And, as much as they may have tried not to, every single experience that composed that individual’s life influenced that process. And then there I was, trying to elicit that process from them with questions (we were only allowed to ask questions). In order to learn about that process, I had to learn about the person’s life and way of thinking. And even then, words could never quite capture what they wanted to say. I soon found out that even the words that could work, like “literature,” were truly so broad that it was beautiful.

I found beauty in inexactness and sloppy attempts at trying to put your unique human experience into words in order to try to simulate and replicate said experience. And that’s the core of literature and language to me. We tell stories using the symbols we know to reproduce an experience that only one person (or, in fiction’s case, no person) has experienced. It’s never going to be perfect. We interpret words differently. We make assumptions and have misconceptions based on our life histories. Every piece of literature is an inexact simulation. And when you start thinking of the “greats” that way, they become extraordinary in the word’s most literal sense– they become incredible people that are just like you and I. They are dethroned and brought to our level. Like I wrote in a post about Shakespeare two summers ago, there’s nothing to be afraid of in literature, because 1) the authors are just like us– human and only grasping at what it is to replicate experience, and 2) litcrit makes us the boss.

Litcrit, the cute shortening I came up with this week (and probably everyone else came up with decades ago) for literary criticism, is my absolute most favorite thing in this universe. Literary criticism lets us use different colored glasses to see what we want to focus on. Put on some green glasses for postcolonial criticism so you only focus on the struggles between races and attitudes towards colonialism. Put on blue shades for psychoanalytic criticism if you want to look purely at the relationships between family members. Or, my favorite, don some purple lenses to take down the gender binary using gender studies and queer theory. There are endless interpretations to a work as long as you follow your process and provide evidence– and “doing” litcrit is all about that method. Your end product is valued as a series of steps in a method and, as long as your method is strong and precise, you’ve probably discovered something new and really cool!

This is all put in pretty basic terms (it’s not you; I think it makes no sense to use fancy words if you can’t communicate your meaning– after all, language does need to be useful; that’s its point), but where I was intending to go with this was to end with describing just why I’m so obsessed with gender. Despite my own struggles with gender (and I think that definitely does play a role in my constant research), I absolutely love gender because of its sloppy inexactness. This doesn’t mean that people’s identities are sloppy (although they can be, and mine for sure is); in fact, people’s sanity and happiness sometimes relies on the exactness of a term. However, the discussion of gender is such a fascinating topic. I promise you– go check out Ash Hardell, Kaitlyn Alexander, Jack Jupiter, Chandler Wilson, Chase Ross, and the many other front runners in the LGBTQIA+ activist community on YouTube. You’ll see just how extensive the discussion of gender (and sexuality) truly is. Anything goes in the most beautiful way possible. The rules that you think exist are just what you’re used to. When you realize (when you TRULY realize) that you can do whatever you want, dress however you want, be called what makes you feel super fantastic and hot, the world opens up into infinite options and combinations. There are countless terms just to describe gender. And even “gender” is a term that has different meanings to different people. And all of these words and discussions are just TRYING to share one person’s experience to help another understand. I can never get you to fully understand how I feel, regarding my gender or even how much I love sunflowers. I can tell you how I feel– I can use metaphors or similies or hyperbole or hand motions, but you can never step into my body and feel exactly what I feel, as a combination of sensory and personal experiences smushed into one organism. Even if we did switch bodies like Freaky Friday, you STILL wouldn’t experience how I feel because you’d be bringing your thoughts, memories, and perception with you.

In summary, I frickin’ love words because they can’t do what they’re supposed to, and they never can. And I love looking at other people’s attempts to share their experiences to call for equality and representation, and I admire my fellow humans that have put their words into the universe to be analyzed and enjoyed for centuries to come. I am a sucker for storytelling, especially the sloppiest kind, because those stories are the filled with the addictive passion that makes me hungry for more.