Posted on December 29th 2021, 10:07 pm
We're coming up on the new year again, and you know what that means! At least...wait...do you know what that means? You do? No? Yes? This is a one way system, you say? Ok well, it means it's time for my annual goals post! Here goes!
Last Year's Goals
Oh yeah, last year I did this whole goal category thing. I remember now...
1. Cut back on social media / YouTube / couch time or at least manage it better - Fail
I need to be kind to myself and just admit that this was a hard year. There was still a lot of isolation and we're still in a pandemic. I would say I got out more often than 2020, because we had vaccines this year. I got to go do things like go to Las Vegas for the first time and see family after 1.5 years. I also got to do a number of social things that were great, but when I was home, I was often still potatoing the couch, because it's hard when you live alone during a pandemic.
2. Continue: crush my physical fitness / health with an emphasis on body positivity - Sigh, fail
This was a tough year. I discovered I had a persistent ankle injury that required a lot of healing time. That's now better, but because of it, fitness was difficult. Plus, I'll be honest. It's been hard to get motivated this year. I would really like to change that, because being fit for me is actually super helpful for mood regulation. At least I've stopped weighing myself though. So...small wins.
3. Run in an actual 5k race - Again, fail
It's hard to run when you have tendonitis in your ankle. It took about 6 months to recover and I can only now safely run again. So, this was a fail, but there wasn't much I could have done to change it other than what I did.
4. Take a ton of photos and share my photography - Success
I took a lot of photos this year and it was great. Replacing my camera equipment for up-to-date, professional gear was a huge factor in making this fun for me again. I still have a ton of photos to go through that I've taken over the year, and I hope to get to that soon. I'm quite proud of what I've taken this year though. I expect this to continue.
5. YouTube Channel - Make 10 videos over the year - Hard Fail
Lots of ideas, but little energy. I did get to help produce two videos for work, which did allow me to express my video interests a bit. However, it's just tough to find the energy to work on heavy projects like this when I already have a demanding full time job. So we'll see. Maybe this coming year.
6. Be bold with makeup, clothing, activities - Fail
I would love to say that I did a lot with this, but COVID has really limited activities still. So makeup has not been frequent. There's been no real need for fun clothing except on rare occasion. I've gotten to do a few fun activities, like friend parties, the redwoods, some hikes, and I visited Boston. But not on the regular.
7. Continue: Pare down stuff including clothing - Fail
I didn't do much of this at all. I haven't grown too much in my collection of stuff aside from what I needed to acquire when I moved. I still don't collect trinkets, but I haven't put direct effort into paring down much. I really would like to go through my closet though. So maybe soon.
8. Throw out less food - Mixed
I'll be honest here. My behavior hasn't changed much. I would say I've gotten a bit smarter about what I buy, food wise. So I'm throwing out less in that regard, but I still waste a lot. Not much else to say.
9. Get going with the Amazons...after COVID - Mixed
COVID is still going. So I've held off. However, I can say the business entity exists and is fully tax exempt now. So that's a success. Otherwise...things haven't really gone anywhere.
10. Write Book One - Fail
11. Fall in love again - Fail
I'm trying, but I'm not in love yet. I've dated / am dating. In truth I've actually put a lot of effort into this, but I'm not yet in a place where I can call this a success.
Final Verdict on 2021 Goals
It's been a tough year. There's not much more I can say about it, really.
This year I'm creating different categories to have goals fall under.
The Year of the Build
1. Lots of R2-D2 Progress
I've been working very very slowly on R2 since 2015. The past few years have seen marginal progress, and I made the decision recently that by the end of 2022, I want a mostly functional droid. So to that end, I've already started buying more parts. I have a plan to pick up a bunch of what's remaining in January. So I see a lot of progress ahead.
2. Two complex cosplays
I enjoy cosplay a lot, and I haven't really put enough effort into it lately. So my plan is to build out two new cosplays this year that are more on the complicated side. I'm hoping to do a Samus Aran cosplay and a Mass Effect N7 armor cosplay, but really as long as I get some cosplay done this year, I'll be satisfied.
3. Build that Tricorder
I bought a Tricoder prop replica kit that arrived early in 2021. I didn't touch it most of the year. However, I'm excited to make it happen. So I want this project to be finished by next New Year goals post.
The Year of the Long Term Plan
4. Have an answer to where I'll live long term
I live in California right now, and it's very expensive. I really want to own a house again, but I just cannot afford it here. I have a lot of ideas of potential moves, but I really don't have a solid plan. I would like to know this answer by the end of 2022.
5. What are my long term goals and desires?
I had this seemingly unachievable, aspirational goal of getting to work at Google. That was a background goal for me, and I viewed it as impossible, but something to work towards. Well...now I work there and it's left me with...well...what's next for me to work towards? What do I want for my next 10 years? I have had a hard time trying to figure this one out and I'd like some answers also by the end of 2022. It may even inform the previous question.
6. How do I get from there to here?
This goal is breaking a bit of a rule since I normally don't like dependent goals, but this section is about long term plans. So with that in mind, when I have the answers to the prior two goals, this goal is to lay out what my plan is to get there. That seems a reasonable ask. I'll accept even the start / framework of a plan for this one.
The Year of Mental Health
7. Focus on my overall mental health and wellbeing
I'm not going to lie. This has been my worst mental health year in recent memory. Particularly over the last half of the year, my mental health took a dive. It's been fluctuating a lot between ok and really not ok. So I want to find good ways to solve that. I would love to learn to be kinder to myself.
8. Take PTO and Vacations
I've been really bad about doing this throughout my entire professional career. I'm starting to get to the point where I have enough PTO to take real vacations, and as long as COVID does not prevent me, I'm going to take trips this year. I plan to travel every month, as long as it's safe to do so. I've already got January booked, and I'm going to start looking at Birthday trips for February. So we'll see what happens.
9. See family and friends
This goes along with the prior goal, but I've been feeling so isolated. I need to feel connection regularly again. I want to visit family and friends regularly this year. So I'll be including that in my travel plans. Another trip to Boston is in order. I want to visit my friends in the Twin Cities, too. Hopefully it's safe to do so.
10. Be kind to myself
Regular readers of this blog will know how mean I am to myself. It's been an ongoing struggle to change my mental narrative about myself. I see a therapist regularly and I do my best, but gosh, it's hard. I don't know how other people do it. I will do my very best towards this goal.
It's been a long road getting from there to here. I hope by the end of 2022 I'm no longer mentioning COVID in my goals. I hope things improve. I hope I improve. See you all soon. <3
Posted on July 25th 2021, 9:30 pm
We’re just past mid year, and I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about writing a blog post update but not a lot of time actually writing. So there’s a lot here. It's well over 5000 words. I've put an index up top. Sorry sections aren't linked. The HTML sanitizer stripped my anchor ids. Feel free to jump around, but the last two topics is really beefy and core to what’s going on in my head these days.
My mental health has been vacillating a lot lately between pretty decent and pretty depressed. Before you get concerned, yes, I have a therapist, and yes I’m seeing them regularly. Let’s talk about the highs first.
When I’m in good spirits, I think about how happy I am with my career, my accomplishments, and my own personal confidence growth in myself. I never saw myself getting to where I am right now. I’m working at a company I thought unreachable on a team I looked up to years before ever joining the company. I now call these folks my colleagues and teammates, and that’s crazy to me. It’s also a place of discomfort as I feel like there’s a ton to learn from these folk, which is exactly where I should be. It’s exciting and I enjoy my time at work.
I compare this to where I was a back over a decade ago at my first job, when I was deeply struggling with making ends meet and completely unsatisfied with my career and job. It’s truly night and day. While I definitely miss the creative place I was shooting towards with a career in video production, I don’t think it’s impossible for me to get that experience now, too.
On the personal confidence side, I’ve found myself gaining a sense of self confidence in who I am and even how I look, which long time followers will know has been extremely challenging for me. It’s taken 40 years for me to finally be able to look in the mirror and see myself, and not some distorted, weird looking person. Although to be fair, I’m probably still seeing some body dysmorphia that will always be there, but I’m seeing through some of it now, which is a huge win. I’ve never been in this place before, and I need to take advantage of this somehow. More on this later.
OK, and now to talk about the lows. I’m feeling a deep sense of isolation and loneliness. While the COVID restrictions have lessened and I’m fully vaxxed, life is not back to normal. My circle of friends in the Bay area is significantly smaller than my circles when I was in Boston. I haven’t really been able to grow that at all during this time, and I honestly think it’s really getting to me now. I really miss seeing people regularly, and now with delta and lambda variants rising, I expect this won’t change any time soon. I live alone, and that compounds these feelings.
Aside from that, there’s some family health related stuff happening that has me thinking a lot about life, mortality, and the fact that I live so far away from my family as a whole. There’s been a lot of existentialist thoughts going on in my head during this time, and I feel so powerless to do anything about it because...there truly is nothing I can do.
Scarlet has had some health scares, too. She just turned 13 years old, and I suspect something is going on in her brain. She recently had a potential seizure and issue with her inner ear that had me thinking she had a stroke. I’ve noticed issues with her right eye that suggest more serious problems. So I expect I likely have less time with her left than I had hoped.
I haven’t been forthcoming with the internet world about some recent medical things going on with me that I’ll be intentionally vague here about, but I had some things happen recently that did not go as expected and have left me a bit frustrated and depressed. If you’re curious and you know me well, you can ask me directly via messenger apps, and I’ll talk about them. I’ll leave it at that, but it’s definitely had an effect on my mental health overall.
There’s also some very dystopian feelings going on in my head that I will share more about later in this post, but they are certainly making things far far worse for me when I’m in my lows. Hope is at a minimum these days, and it’s not great. For now, let’s move on to other topics.
I very recently took a trip to Las Vegas on an invite from some bay area friends for a birthday. The company was great, but I have to say that Las Vegas as a whole isn’t for me. I wrote down some of my thoughts as I was sitting in the Vegas airport waiting to fly back to the bay area. Here’s what I was thinking at the time.
I’m writing this from the Las Vegas airport, after 2.5 days in Vegas for the first time, and I have thoughts and feels. Vegas is not for me. I struggle to figure out why people like it, honestly. I went to several different casinos and hotels while here from Paris Las Vegas to Mandalay Bay to the Luxor, and every single one of them had the same exact looking room with the same machines and same people staring at them with no smiles repeatedly pressing a button. The games don’t even have followable rules. No one really pays attention to what’s happening. They just press, and when it blinks that they won some paltry amount, they immediately push the button to get that dopamine hit again. It’s just so exploitative and catering to addicts.
I have very little to say about the sex industry here. I have zero problems with sex work as long as it’s not also exploitative. I have friends that do sex work. I fully support their career choices as they have shared with me that they have full control over how they run their business and feel empowered by it. The group I was with went to a fancy burlesque show, and the performers flat out said they loved their work during the Q&A session at the end. So as long as that’s legit, I think it’s fantastic.
Everything else in Vegas was mostly shut down. No shows to see, unfortunately. It was mostly tourist trappy, chotchkies, trinkets, and overpriced food and drink. Don’t get me wrong. The food was good and the drinks were too, but worth the exorbitant price? Debatable. Oh and also, Vegas smells like a bowling alley. The lingering scent of cigarettes is disgusting. I have mostly lived in a time when smoking is not allowable inside any establishment, and I bet this is just how everything smelled back in the early 80s and before. So gross.
I will only ever go back to Vegas for specific events, like Star Trek: Las Vegas, for example. Otherwise, it’s a no go for me.
Sweets and Diet
Let’s talk about diet. I have experimented several times over the past couple of years with periods of no added sugar. I have a huge sweet tooth, as I was raised on American foods in the 80s. Through those experiments, I’ve broken the addiction, but also learned that the sugar addiction isn’t why I eat most sugary things. It’s because the flavors are familiar and part of my culture growing up. So it’s incredibly tough to just be like “Nope...no more.”
I’ve managed to cut out a few things fully from my diet over the past decade. Soda, for example, is something I used to drink every day, and now I really only drink coffee and water, with the very rare instance of some alcoholic beverage. I also very rarely touch pure sugar candy, though many other sweets have been a part of my diet.
The truth is that I know that sugar is one of the worst things for health, and I really need to do a better job of cutting back. I had a realization maybe a month back that if I really wanted to be healthy, I needed to make permanent diet choices and not temporary ones. Diets are not something you do for a month and stop. So I’ve made some choices.
I had a fruit snack thing going on, where I always had some form of fruit snack brand in my pantry as my go to snack. Fruit snacks, despite their marketing, are just sugar and candy. So I no longer buy them. I also don’t buy candy with one exception: dark chocolate. Dark chocolate doesn’t seem to make me want to binge sugar like other sources of sweet. So I’ve made that exception because cutting things out entirely is very hard.
So, I go for natural sugars, like fruits. I also allow myself a few exceptions. I can’t buy sweets, but I’m allowed to make them and eat whatever I make. This is because I love baking and don’t want to remove that hobby from my life. I also acknowledge that all things must be done in moderation, including moderation. So once in a while anything is ok. Also holidays, special events, and when I’m out with friends...these are times where restrictions are out the door. This also applies to intermittent fasting windows.
A lot of my lazy lunches and dinners over the past several years were honestly...breakfast cereal. Most breakfast cereal is trash for health. So I’ve also made the decision to cut that out of my life, too. I’m trying to eat more thoughtfully at lunch. Salads are delicious. I’ve been making things like eggs for lunch, which I never used to do. So much better for me and filling than cereal.
Also, I’m trying to add more whole grains, meaning less grocery store shelf, sugar laden “breads” and more real breads. I’ve even considered baking my own breads again, because it’s just so much better for me than the stabilized garbage on store shelves.
I also recognize that all of this is a lot of change. So I’m trying to be forgiving for any mistakes and slippage that happens here and there. I’m not doing this to lose weight. I just want to be overall healthier. So far, it’s gone very well and I think the earlier experiments in no added sugar have made this much easier.
Project and Goal Progress
Looking at my annual goals, very little progress on all fronts is being made. I have had tendonitis in my right ankle all year, which has hampered my fitness goals, though not stopped them. I don’t think I’ll be running any time soon, unfortunately. My YouTube plans have been hindered by a number of factors, like what’s going on in my family and well...the fact that it’s just hard to do stuff as involved as video production outside of a full time job.
Photography was going well at the start of the year, and I’m looking to do more of it soon. I need a good storage solution, though, which I’ll be hopefully building in the next few months. I have made progress on the Amazons, but not enough. I also have been remiss at doing any of the things with clothing, makeup, and everything else in the challenge goals section.
What have I been doing? Well, oddly past goals have been surfacing. I’m working on a sewing project right now. I’ve also worked on my R2-D2 a bit and have plans to do more of that since I can work on it now in my current space. I plan on spending a bit of money to get some more parts soon, and I was lucky enough to recently snag a pile of another builder’s parts that saved me a bunch of money on the final project. So it’s been fun to see that moving forward.
I’m trying to ride this feeling of productivity in areas like this, because it feels nice. It’s ok that I’m not making progress in areas I had planned. Things rarely go as planned. I’m making progress in other places, and progress doesn’t have to be the goal in life.
Dating and Romance
As per usual for me, I’m doing none of this, but I’ve thought about it a lot, especially lately. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had a lot of newfound confidence, and I feel like if I’m ever going to meet someone, it’ll be now with this confidence. Of course COVID is still in the way, but I think it’s not out of the question, if I put effort into it. I’m just not sure what that effort looks like right now.
Speaking more specifically about that confidence, I’m seeing through a lot of my former dysmorphia and feeling actually like I like my body now. What a thing that is! I’ve also shared some things people have said to me that have been very far from my own self identity re: attractiveness before, but some recent experiences have been interesting too. Like, one of my friends at work said to me recently that whomever I’m attracted to and express interest in must be like “Sure, yes. Absolutely!” just on my attractiveness alone. And I’m like...whoa...that’s what this person thinks of me. Wow! Before you go telling me to ask them out, they’re in a committed, long term relationship. I’m also monogamous. I also recently was making jokes with other friends in a random environment that implied “I’m a snacc!” and their response was essentially “Yes...everyone knows that, Jess” in a very dry, matter of fact way, which took me aback. I’ve also gotten the occasional drunken DM from friends on Facebook that clearly just saw a photo of me and want to get to be more “friendly” with me. So I’m doing my best given my recent confidence to try to integrate these statements while not letting them go to my head.
I want to talk a bit about some frustrations though. Since discovering the fact that I’m somewhere on the asexual spectrum, it’s been tough for me to figure out how dating will work or even what my attractions are. There are different kinds of attraction, platonic, aesthetic, romantic, sexual, and a few others. The big question for me is what actually are my attractions? I know aesthetically what attracts me (feminine, nerdy women), and of course there’s nuance there. I often find myself now thinking “is this romantic attraction or still just aesthetic attraction?” which...let me tell you...is hard to tease apart and very confusing. As someone who is not driven by sexual attraction, it’s really quite challenging.
If you’re curious, I do experience sexual attraction sometimes. It’s just rare and never the first thing I experience with attraction. I’m not sex repulsed, like some folks in the ace spectrum. I just need it to happen organically and not be expected of me all the time. Expecting and demanding sex is a quick way to get me to lose interest in someone. Also, I separate things like kissing / making out from full on sex. I like kissing and other PDAs. If there’s one trend I’ve noticed with me and sexual attraction is that it seems to be at its highest during the honeymoon phase of any relationship and then wanes as the romantic attraction takes over. At that point I want closeness and strong emotional connection over anything else. In all the ace labels I’ve seen, I’ve not found a label that applies this way. Demisexual doesn’t work because that implies sexual attraction after getting to know someone. If anyone knows of an ace label that my pattern fits, please share it with me. I’d like to know.
For me, I seem to be initially drawn to a person by aesthetics, then I seek emotional connection. Similar interests will make my interest pretty strong and will make or break a relationship for me. Romantic feelings will come along with those two things, and that’ll make me want to continue with a relationship. If we have nothing in common, I’m going to lose interest. If we have lots in common, I’m in it to win it.
The complicating factor is that as an introvert, I need space. I also have PTSD and abandonment issues. So I need someone who understands these things and is willing to be patient with me on that front. Of course, it also goes without saying they have to be ok with the fact that I’m trans.
So with all that in mind, I’m thinking about attempting dating again soon, but I just don’t know where to begin. I don’t really want to be on the apps. No one likes them, and they’re just such a terrible way to meet people. I just don’t see an organic way to meet folks right now just yet, as the COVID risk is rising again. I welcome suggestions.
Also...quick rant. I’m so tired of attractive straight women in relationships sharing with me their “girl crush” on me. 1) “Girl Crushes” are just crushes, and it’s just a way of phrasing a crush in a way that makes a person who identifies as straight feel a bit more comfortable with having feelings towards someone who is of the same gender identity. Instead of telling me you have a girl crush, dump your partner and ask me out instead. Is that too much to ask? Yes, it is. They’re almost always married. 2) It’s really unkind to say such things to a single, queer girl. No one likes being teased.
Also, another quick rant. I’ve realized recently that many queer women over the past years have been interested in me, but have been unwilling to actually ask me out. I’ve gotten many compliments. We’ve hung out as friends. I’ve gotten DMs, but I am pretty sure they’re always either thinking that I’m not interested back or they’re waiting for me to ask them out somehow? In truth, I’ve just been very similar to what Neil Gaiman has said about writers and flirtation in that I’ve just been clueless in the moment. I hate that women are often too shy to ask a girl out. I’ve probably missed the opportunity to date several folk I’ve been attracted to because I thought they just wanted to be friends with me and were being kind. What’s worse...I’ll probably be just as blind in the future. They’re better off sending me a note that says “YOU ARE INVITED TO A SEDUCTION”. Ugh…
Also to add to this confusion is just how many times I’ve actually misread those cues and thought they were interested when they weren’t. That’ll make things awkward really quickly...and it has in those situations.
I’m 40. I want to buy a house. I can’t afford one where I live right now. The Bay Area is absurdly expensive. Unless you had some sort of fancy exit out of a startup, started working here back 20 years ago, or have a partner in tech after multiple years, even the crappiest house here is far out of reach. In the area I live, I get mailings about houses for sale and the smallest of these are over a million dollars. I feel like anywhere I’ve ever lived, the idea of owning has always been out of reach for me at whatever stage of life I’m in at the time, and it’s just extremely frustrating. I’m tired of moving, dealing with landlords, having to worry about rent increases, and not being able to do what I want with my own home.
California is really pretty, and there’s definitely some upsides to being here. It’s a very diverse area and it’s obviously a queer centric area. But despite that, so many downsides, I’ve already mentioned cost of living, but combine that with drought, ongoing fire risk, and the transient nature of the community here, it’s really questionable about how long I want to be here. By transient, I mean a lot of people come here for work and don’t stay after they’ve been here a few years. The age of the community skews younger because of that. I may look like I’m in my 20s, but I’m not. So I will slowly relate less and less to those that live here.
Now that we’re entering a world where full remote or even working from offices in the world not tethered to one area is an option, I’m starting to think about where I could potentially live that isn’t here where I could also buy and settle. It’s a really difficult thing, because I no longer know where “home” is.
I do know what my dream home looks like. So let’s discuss that quickly. I imagine in my head a home that’s surrounded by wooded nature. I don’t want a city home. I want to see birds, deer, and other animals. I want to hear leaves blowing and not traffic noises. I want to see the stars at night, and not deal with light pollution. At the same time, I don’t want to be so far removed from a city that fun activities are hours away and no one will come visit me. I want to see hills and mountains, and I don’t want to hear my neighbors. I basically want an affordable alcove in the forest.
My house itself would be contemporary / modern. I’ve never been fond of old, so called “charming” houses because they just scream at me as requiring a lot of work to get simple, modern amenities like decent electrical, insulation, and what not. I’ve always gravitated towards modern, clean, etc. I want probably 4 bedrooms, 2+ baths, a big kitchen with an island, a comfortable living space, and a great entertaining space that allows me to have parties and friends over easily. I also want techie things like ethernet wiring and smart home stuff. I want lots of windows, an easy look out into nature from inside the house, an attached garage, and all that. In my home state, this is all easily achievable, but….well let’s talk about that.
I grew up in Wisconsin, but I can’t live there anymore. Politically it’s a mess. I just don’t feel safe there, and I’ll never find a partner there. I’ve thought about maybe going back to Boston, where I have a giant set of friends, but then I’m back in New England, which has so many aspects about it that are really frustrating (driving sucks, general rudeness, ancient homes, lack of Krispy Kreme, Patriots fans, etc).
I’ve considered Minneapolis, as I have family and friends there, but it’s also a place where I just don’t know. The midwest is politically all over the place. It would be more rebuilding, and I’d also lose a lot of acceptance and diversity that I have been surrounded by since moving to each of the coasts.
I’m starting to look at other parts of the country that I’ve never lived in before, too. I’ll be visiting Portland, OR soon, since I have a number of friends that live there, and it offers a lot of what I love about the west coast with less of the downsides of the Bay Area. For example, I love mountains. The landscapes out here are just stunning. Portland has a lot of the same kinds of landscapes with less of the concerns about drought than CA has. It’s much more affordable, has a climate that’s less static than CA, which I’ve learned does matter to me. I actually miss rain and snow. I like living where there’s actual seasons. Who knew? I’ve also thought about Colorado, Tahoe, Seattle, New Hampshire, Maine, and a few other places, but they have to be genuinely queer friendly no matter where it is.
Aside from that, I genuinely have no idea what the plan will be. The only thing I have set in stone is that I’ve given myself just under 2 years to make a decision and move. I’ll renew this lease one more year. The only exception will be if they jack my rent, I’ll step the decision up and go sooner, which means I have to figure things out in the next 6 months, or so. No pressure…
But there’s more to this story, which brings me to my next topic.
Cynacism and the Future
Weird topic title for really what is the meat of this entire post, but here it is: I’ve been really struggling with feeling positive about the future. Not just my future, but the future in general. I know I’m not alone in this, too. My home country of the USA feels like it’s headed downhill. The current administration is fine, but I don’t expect it to last. Fascism in the US, and I guess other parts of the world, is on the rise. I expect in the next set of major elections, based on current goals of the far right, we’ll see more fascists elected. I think we’re going to see significant backsliding of progress in the country and long term...I’m not sure what will happen here. It does not feel like a safe place to be in the long term, and I’m honestly not sure what to do about it. I know many of my queer and non-white friends are all feeling this, too.
For those of you reading this that fall in to the cis, white, and straight category, many of us queer folk have been discussing the future and the fact that we have to make contingency plans for our safety. With the overall direction of the far right, we’re not just concerned about our rights and freedoms, we’re concerned about our lives. And it’s scary! In fact it’s the most scared about my personal future I’ve really ever felt.
So that brings me to the question: Do I stay here?
I’m more and more disappointed with my home country. We have a lot of people with dangerous mentalities. So much blind patriotism that says shit like “this is the greatest country in the world” and other nonsense. To me, patriotism is totally different than that. Seeing flaws and wanting to fix them is a part of what patriotism means to me. I’m also looking at the levels of extreme selfishness and lack of empathy towards those less fortunate, and it just makes me genuinely angry. People saying shit about “but my freedoms” drives me mad. We’re a country that prides ourselves on freedom while being significantly less free than other countries.
I do not see any of the issues we truly face here getting resolved. I see more division, violence, and inequality happening here. I expect that this country is on its way to falling apart in the next couple of decades, and I also see it as a direct result of division fomented by far right propaganda. The country the USA is today is not at all in alignment with my own values and beliefs. I want to be in a place that aligns with my values, and that’s been on my mind a lot.
I’m seriously considering emigration, but I’m not 100% sure where or what that would look like for me career and family wise. I’ve thought about Canada many times over the past decade or two. I’ve been thinking a lot about New Zealand, but there’s some challenges there. Namely, it’s SO far away and remote from everything I know. Still, I feel that NZ aligns most with my beliefs and values. I plan on checking a lot of options out once travel restrictions are lifted. New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, and I guess...I’ll look into others.
One of the things that’s been on my mind with emigration though is this thought in the back of my mind of “Am I willing to say goodbye to everything I’ve ever known?” I think the answer is yes, but it’s been tugging at me. Sights, smells, cultural things like food, sports, etc. Holidays… and to add to that, if anything would require rebuilding friend circles, emigration definitely does. I’d be more removed from friends and family than I’ve ever been. I may be happier with my safety and values, but I’ll also be the most alone I’ve been in my life, at least for a time. It’s much harder making friends as a 40+ person than in your 20s. So I’m not sure what to do yet.
On the cynicism side, I used to think that in this country, people would do the right thing when faced with a big, giant problem, because we’ve done that in the past. For example, I expected that when a global pandemic hit, people would be responsible. I expected people would follow safety protocols, quarantine, and get vaccinated, because that’s how we solve that problem. Instead we have *gestures vaguely* this bullshit from the right wing. Anti-science and far right propaganda has brainwashed such a large swath of the country, and it’s destroying us.
I’ve also been seeing reports of the 1970 MIT study about the future, and the predictions of when society would collapse. They predicted the mid-21st century, and based on recent evaluations, we’re on track for that, closer to the 2040s. That’s 20 years from now. We have 10 years to change course. Blunt honesty...we won’t change course. With this in mind and that future ahead of us, it’s hard to think positive thoughts about the future. I truly don’t believe humanity will act to do anything about climate change until we’re well past the point of no return, if we’re not already there already. I’ve lost faith in humanity, and I honestly am uncertain whether we really deserve to be here as a species. There’s also the whole reality of what any of this current existence matters if it’s all going to shit in 20 or so years.
Acknowledging this fact has put me in a very unpleasant mental state.
So...what does this all mean? Where do I go from here? How do I cope with these feelings? I’ve been struggling with answering these questions for a while now. I’m not sure how to move forward, and certainly being alone sitting with these thoughts has not been good for me. I really do welcome your thoughts and suggestions, but please leave the toxic positivity off the commentary, as it doesn’t help me. If anything, it just adds to my frustration. I just hate feeling isolated and alone while sitting in these thoughts and feelings.
So that’s where I am right now. It’s a weird mix of feelings that are all over the place. If you read this far, you’re a champ, and also, I love you, truly. You’re a wonderful friend, and I don’t say it enough. Thanks for being you. If you want to comment or discuss any of this, feel free to do so on socials, or just send me a message, and we’ll chat. Until then, stay safe and healthy.
Posted on January 1st 2021, 10:00 pm
Here we are finally in 2021 after a year that everyone has agreed was The Worst™. I'm going to be very kind to myself with the assessment of last year's goals, because with a global pandemic, most of my goals, and probably everyone's goals, were tossed. Let's just get right to it.
Last Year's Goals
1. Get rid of half of my stuff - Mixed
I actually got a solid start on this, but of course the pandemic got in the way. I donated a bunch of stuff at the beginning of the year, and I went through and identified all the stuff I want to eliminate. Unfortunately with stay-at-home orders and businesses being closed, it just was impossible to take any of it anywhere. So I've essentially just put this goal on hold for now.
2. Do a big planned thing once a month - Obvious Fail for Obvious Reason
I was so ambitious with this goal. I started a meetup. I actually planned out the full year of events. I put together a shared Google calendar and invited people to each of the events. I actually ran my meetup's first event, and it was a great time! This goal was well on it's way to success, and then it hit the pandemic wall. I think this is the goal I'm the most sad about, because it was going to be amazing! I know that the pandemic isn't even over yet, and I can't really even consider this a 2021 goal. So I'm hopeful that this might end up a 2022 reboot.
3. Improve my relationship to food - Uncertain
It's really tough to say that this has failed or passed. Over the course of the pandemic, I feel like my food habits did change a lot. I didn't actually drink that much and my food intake was pretty consistent. Consistency doesn't necessarily mean quality though, and I know that there's a ton of room for improvement yet. I cooked nice meals on the weekend, but during the week I was often quite lazy. There was also a period of a couple of months that I had to eat terribly for reasons I shant get into here. Yes...I said shant.
4. Break my sugar addiction - Mixed
I started the year pretty strong with this and went all in on the no sugar diet. I lasted 2 weeks before I couldn't do it anymore. That might seem like a fail, but...I noticed that as the pandemic set in, I largely wasn't eating as much junk as I used to. While I think the sugar addiction is still present, it's not quite as strong as it once was. I feel like if I attempted the no added sugar diet again, I'd succeed. I know the addiction will probably never be fully gone, but I think it's more acheivable than it used to be.
5. Maintain a healthy weight - Unexpected Success
Weight is a very interesting thing for me. As I mentioned last year, body dysmorphia is a constant in my life. I just don't really know how I actually look. I relied on a number on the scale to tell me, and in 2019 I was obsessed with making that number lower thinking I looked better thinner. I now look back on those photos and am like "Wow...I look unhealthy." This year I gained weight. In fact, I'm 20 lbs heavier than I was when I moved to California. However, my fitness level is in a really great place, and that weight has moved around for a number of reasons. I actually am finding that I am pretty happy with my current weight as is. So I'm now maintaining a healthy weight for me, which is a different weight than I thought it would be when I started the year. Not what I expected at all.
6. Find a fitness buddy - Mixed
It's hard to have a fitness buddy at all with stay-at-home orders. Over the course of the year, I've had multiple folks that I've either checked in with or regularly reported my daily fitness to. I had a physical therapist for a few months that I worked with to resolve my knee issues. I have had a couple of friends that have checked in via socials to see how I'm doing. One of my colleagues has been remotely been fitness buddying in the last quarter of this year. I also have been posting some info out to facebook via a fitness buddy list and twitter just in general at certain points with updates on fitness. I don't have a singular fitness buddy. I have a few folks, but I largely have been doing a decent job of keeping myself motivated on this, which is something I'm proud of.
7. Reduce my spending - Meh
This is one of those things that's just hard to criticize myself for when I live alone during a stay-at-home order from a global pandemic. I spent money on things that made this time bearable. I have zero regrets about that and I'm not going to judge myself on this goal.
8. Learn a language - Hard. Fail.
There's not much more to say. I didn't.
9. Solve my loneliness - Meh
This is another one that just involves kindness to myself. A global pandemic is what it is. I've found some great online groups that have helped with loneliness, but despite many attempts, I cannot change reality. So being stuck at home alone has been my experience most of this year, even during big holidays. My hope is that this changes as we approach the reality of vaccines and the end of this pandemic.
10. Take a real vacation - ಠ_ಠ
Final Verdict on 2020 Goals
There's not much to say here other than everyone's world was not normal in 2020. I hope we never see another global pandemic in our lifetimes. I hope this new year is going to be a better year and a better world for everyone.
This year I've decided to create categories that may or may not help me. We'll see how it goes.
1. Cut back on social media / YouTube / couch time or at least manage it better
I have made goals like this in the past. In fact, this kind of goal is what triggered the R2-D2 project. I know I need to be kind to myself during the remainder of this pandemic, but I just don't enjoy how much I sit and watch a thing or doom scroll on social media. I know that we all need time to relax. So I need to keep that in mind. I think my biggest concern is the addictive nature of social media algorithms with searching for that next dopamine hit. I'd like to find ways to address that in my own life. I don't want to not engage in socials at all, because there's a lot of people I stay in touch with via social media only. I just don't want the socials to control me. This is a tough to measure goal, but there's data I can analyze to assess this at the end of the year. Plus, I believe I'll know definitively even just on my own if this has changed.
2. Continue: crush my physical fitness / health with an emphasis on body positivity
I was honestly quite surprised at how awesome my physical fitness and health was in 2020. I honestly don't think I've ever been in as good of shape as I was around June. I had to take a fitness break for a while for reasons, but I'm back to it now. I honestly never thought this was the person I would be, but it really does improve my confidence and happiness. So I'm going to stick with it. Plus, it makes me feel like a badass, which is nice.
3. Run in an actual 5k race
I also never thought this would be me, either. I used to hate running with a passion. I have never once ran in an actual race, and I would like to. I want it to be an in person event, and that likely means waiting until much later in the year. However that's perfect, because I had to take a cardio break. So I need to train back up before then. I look forward to reporting on this goal at the end of 2021.
4. Take a ton of photos and share my photography
I love photography, and I think a number of things have made this hobby a stale one for me over the past several years is the fact that where I live makes it hard to get me interested in it. I love nature photography, and apartments / urban areas just make that hard. Furthermore, my camera is just old. I have plans to replace it very soon, which I know will spike my interest again, and I'm also planning on moving to a new place that isn't an apartment. So, I'm hopeful I'll have more things to photograph, which I'm going to share regularly via several social media channels. Watch for that.
5. YouTube Channel - Make 10 videos over the year
I have an idea for a YouTube channel that I think will help me acheive many of my goals over the year. I don't want to burn myself out. So I'm keeping my count of videos produced to 10. That's under one a month, which should be doable. I don't want to share too much about the idea, but watch for it. I've really missed video as a creative outlet. So I'm excited to do more of it again.
6. Be bold with makeup, clothing, activities
If there's one thing that I've always been too shy to do is to approach my appearance in the ways that I've always admired. I'm pretty sure this is due to growing up in a more conservative midwestern town, but I aim to change that. I know that I gain confidence when I feel like I look good. So I want to make bolder choices that make me feel good about myself. This might be something like wearing crop tops or more revealing outfits. With makeup, I shy away from bold colors thinking it's too much. Or sometimes I'll be like "this is very bold" and then put on my eyeliner and realize it's not bold at all. I want to be more adventurous. It's hard to do this when I live alone during a pandemic, but as the COVID restrictions lift, I intend to make it happen.
7. Continue: Pare down stuff including clothing
Last year I made a list. I need to follow through on eliminating the rest of that list. I have regularly pared down clothing over the years, but I need to be more aggressive with it. There's still a bunch of clothing that is either old, falling apart, or I just don't wear. I need to toss or donate a lot of it, and I just need to do it. As I get more bold with my prior goal, I'm going to have to make room in my closet anyway. So let's make it happen.
8. Throw out less food
As someone who worked for a company entirely focused on food waste reduction, I'm embarassed to say I throw out more food than I'd like. As a single person, it can be hard to cook when recipes are designed for 4 people, usually. Sometimes it's as simple as I buy fruit and veg that just goes bad before I get to it. That will probably always be a risk, but I just want to do a better job of this so I don't throw out as much as I do.
9. Get going with the Amazons...after COVID
The Amazon group is something that I've been slowly working on for years. It's shown up in prior years' goals before, and I've not made as much progress on it as I'd have liked in the past. This time is a little different as I've officially created the non-profit organization now. I have federal 501c3 status, and while there's still some paperwork yet to do, the only thing stopping me from getting this going now is COVID and my own effort. So as this pandemic winds down, the Amazons should be able to wind up.
10. Write Book One
I don't recall if I've ever mentioned this before in this blog, but I've had an idea for a fictional superhero type story for over a decade now. I've slowly developed it in my head and in some writing. I've written out several scenes and I've gotten nothing but positive feedback, to put it mildly, about these writings. So I want to make this a fully realized story. My plan is to dedicate blocks of time throughout the year to just write. I know what I need to do. I just have to do it.
11. Fall in love again
This goal again?!! Yeah, I know. I'm the only person in my way here. It would seem that despite how I think about myself, other people seem to think I'm pretty cool and attractive. It's weird and I don't understand it. You'd think my treatise on why I'm an ugly, awful, garbage person (aka this blog) would be enough evidence for them, but they keep telling me I'm wrong. Also friends, please know I'm saying this in jest... or am I? Anyway, I just need to find the right one for me, which is always the hard part. I also need to make room in my life for love and allow myself to be vulnerable again. That's also a very hard thing. So we'll see how it goes.
2021 is finally here after what can easily be called the worst year in most of our lives. Let's never talk about 2020 again. We have so much to look forward to right now. There's finally some hope. Let's focus on that and make some cool shit happen. Happy 2021, all!
Posted on March 15th 2020, 11:00 pm
What’s my deal? Sorry...too general. Let me rephrase…
What the fuck is my deal? There...that’s better. Much more clear.
I’ve been attempting to date for...six or seven years now, and I just can’t seem to succeed at it. This is not because I can’t find dates. I have had many women interested in me over the years, and even several short lived girlfriends. If I so desired, I would still be in one of those relationships. The problem is my interest fades, and I can’t figure out why.
Recently I went on a date with an attractive young lady. I even was the initiator. I gave her my number. We went out and it was nice. Yet almost the entire time I was on the date, I was feeling that I just kinda wanted to go home. I’ve been struggling to put my finger on why. This is not an isolated incident. I went on multiple first dates last fall after I moved, and each time I was like “Sure she’s pretty, but I feel nothing.” It’s getting tiresome because I worry that I’m turning into a misanthrope hermit.
I have several theories as to what’s going on.
Theory 1: Overactive self-preservation instinct
This also falls into the category of “emotionally unavailable”. I was deeply hurt years ago when my fiancée left me. I was probably hurt in ways I didn’t even realize at the time. When she told me that the big reason she was leaving was sex, at the time it didn’t seem to really affect me, but I think I’m realizing now how deeply that cut me. Feelings of inadequacy have been pervading my mind since then.
I think the inadequacy leads to me closing off and shutting down any potential for me to get hurt, which earlier on in my recovery from that incident happened later than now. My first couple of relationships after that happened resulted in me experiencing moments of panic after misinterpreting a partner’s actions, and my brain shut down all of my feelings. It resulted in me no longer even being attracted to the person I was with, even if I was very much so weeks before.
I feel like perhaps that “shut it down” mentality now has creeped earlier and earlier in the process for me, and now won’t let me feel anything towards a person even on day one, despite prior to their interest me being attracted to them. Essentially the moment there’s mutual interest, my feeling disappears.
So after that match, it feels like I’m just going through the motions. I get on the date. They’re all excited and what not, and I have to remind myself “Oh yeah, make sure to return the compliment about how nice they look” rather than what used to happen when I was like “Oh wow...so pretty!”. Feeling like “alright, let’s get this over with” is just awful, and I don’t want to do that anymore.
Theory 2: Self Worth and Body Image
I wrote about this in my recent posts, but I’ve had body dysmorphia issues for a while now. There’s also been some gender dysphoria tied into it. I’m sure there are a ton of people who look at me and see a gorgeous, supermodel-esque, confident woman, but I struggle to see anything appealing about myself. Body dysmorphia results in me seeing parts of me as exaggerated and strange. My face looks oblong and horse-like, to me. I see the inverted triangle body structure very prominently. My brain focuses on my shoulders, rib cage, feet, lack of hips, etc. I can’t see anything else.
Unfortunately all of this is tied to my confidence levels. I see an unattractive person, and I can’t really feel all that confident about myself. Even with my ability to logically deduce that I’m wrong doesn’t help me. I KNOW I’m wrong. I can tell that by how people interact with me, what they say about me, etc. That logic doesn’t change what I see and how I feel about what I see.
Fuck, I mean, people have referred to me as “a knockout”, “the perfect woman”, and how I’ve “ruined them for other women”. I’ve been told people wish they were me and really admire me. I hear all of that...openly disagree with it, and in fact usually am shocked and agape at someone saying that kind of thing to me. It’s SO FAR away from how I view myself. I hear all of it, and continue to tear myself down. I tell myself that “They don’t see the REAL me”. The me that I see every day. That’s a lie I tell myself, and a lie I believe.
I think my self worth issues have prevented me from doing a lot of things. I’ve convinced myself many times I’m not good enough to do various things, like continue fencing, start a community, reach for goals, go to things that I want to go to, and so on. Unfortunately I think my self worth issues run deep, too. I think they go all the way back to early grade school, and it’s going to take a terrible amount of work to fix, if it’s even possible.
Theory 3: Attraction or Envy?
This theory is probably less likely than the rest of them, but there’s a part of me that even wonders if I’m even attracted to the person. What if I’m not, and it’s just envy? It’s the classic “Not sure if I want to be her or be on her” thing. But what if that is the case?
I guess it’s possible to be both of those things...attracted AND envious. If I analyze my feelings, I certainly have known when my heart has fluttered in the past. In fact there have been many situations in which I have been so attracted that I can barely speak. So you know what? I’m wrong.
This theory is hereby invalidated.
Theory 4: Seeking Perfection
We all settle. There’s no perfect person. We all have our standards, as well. In the past, I’ve often dated people because...well...they liked me. Prior to transition, I was the shy kid most of my crushes thought was adorable, but would never consider dating. Rejection was just a reality for me. I was never someone’s choice, at least that I was aware of. I’m sure there were a number of folks that were very interested in me, but I was very blind to anyone looking my way.
After transition, dating became even harder. My dating pool got a lot smaller, and rejection just for being trans was commonplace. So after a while it became a thing that regardless of my attraction level to them, I’d date them. It gave me companionship, but my interest would fade. I settled a lot just to have someone.
My therapist has pointed this out to me as a possible source of my lack of interest.
One aspect of this may be that I’m very attracted to women that present how stereotypical cishetwomen present. The gay and queer community often sees woman presenting more masculine as part of culture. Let me just say...flannel is not attractive to me. So a lot of lesbian woman are often not attractive to me.
I find a lot of folks I’m very attracted to around me. So many! The problem is they are all straight. Every one of them. If they’re not straight, they aren’t into femme women. Or they’re hypersexual. Or they’re transphobic. Or have kids. Or married. Or a coworker. Or 15 years too young. Or immature, manipulative, objectifying, unintelligent, sociopathic, and so on. And so on. Actually scratch a few of those, because if they are a few of those, I’d never be attracted to them in the first place. You catch my meaning though.
I’m sure what you’ll say to this is “Jessica, those are standards, not perfection.” You’re right, but if no one meets those standards, are they too high? My attractions are narrow, and frustrating. I am so envious of pan folk.
Theory 5: Fleshy Meat Bags
Dissociation is common for me. I view the world as an ephemeral experience involving weird chemicals and electrical impulses that drive a fleshy, watery, meat bag machine to do things. My brain chemistry tells me that I’m hungry. It tells me I’m attracted to someone or not. I am controlled by my calcium wrapped neuronic lasagne noodle casserole’s whims, and sometimes the casserole reminds me that everyone else around me is nothing more than ugly bags of water and flesh.
It may be a form of external body dysmorphia, if that’s a thing. I don’t know. But people I was attracted to can literally in another moment be unattractive to me and back. It depends on what’s going on in the casserole at the time. Maybe it’s impacted by theory 1. Maybe when the overprotection instinct kicks in, I dissociate a bit and see the world as absurd and humans as a fleshy part of that absurdity.
I mean...look at us? We’re pretty disgusting. We’ve got this weird tuft of fur on our heads. Also...we have heads. Weird limbs and a chunky torso thing. We have noisy, gross processes that require us to shove other organisms into one of our openings, in which slimy secretions destroy it and turn it into something to make parts of the meat sack function more efficiently. Then later the unused junk gets excreted out another opening while producing odious gasses. And the rituals we’ve made up to make ourselves more appealing to others? Also absurd.
You know what else is absurd? Physics. Gravity. Consciousness. All of it. The entire experience of being here. Ridiculous. It’s all arbitrary. Am I describing nihilism...eh...somewhat. Nihilism is more about “Yes, asburd. So fuck it and do something that makes you happy.” Mine’s more “Absurd...no but seriously...ABSURD! LIKE WTF?!!”
So yeah...maybe that plays a role. I dunno. What do you think? About the only thing I can really conclude is that it's really a mix of everything that's playing in, but mostly theories 1 and 2 with sprinkles of 4 and 5. Otherwise, I got nothing.
If you read this far, leave a comment about what you think is absurd.
Also in case you’re wondering and missed that I mentioned my therapist already once, yes, I have a therapist, and yes, I go every week.
Posted on January 22nd 2020, 6:00 am
Jessica stared at herself in the mirror in her Santa Clara, California apartment. She just finished up her makeup and was just about ready to head to work at her fancy new job. Before she attached her Google employee badge to her jeans, she looked at it, still in awe at it being a real thing. The fancy lenticular 3D effect made her nose look really strange, but she was pretty sure everyone’s face looked weird in these things. As she clipped it on, she felt a sense of pride at her accomplishment. She grabbed her purse and headed out the door, stopping to pat Scarlet on the head on the way out. “Have a great day, little girl!” she said as the door closed.
You may be asking yourself “What?...Google? California? Is this real?” and the answer is...yes. It’s real. But before that...let’s Tarantino this blog post.
At the beginning of 2019, I was in a pretty good place. The holidays had just happened and I was feeling really good about everything in life, really. Good friends, great job, and all in all, just happy. I had made some big choices to love myself for who I am. I realized and accepted that I’m ace. So many positive things.
It all changed when the fire nation attacked…
In all seriousness, it really feels like my entire world has changed, and that has caused a lot of things to get stirred up emotionally. As a heads up, this is likely going to be a very long post. I’ll do my best to break it up and put in headings. So if there’s something you just don’t care about, you can skip it. I’m not going to put a TL;DR section though as it kind of defeats the purpose of a blog.
I had no intention of changing jobs. I’ll put it that way. Early in the year, I was in love with my job and was thrilled to see it go where it was going. I’m going to be intentionally vague about what changed that because some of it is internal to that company, but I want to be very clear that I really loved that job and still love all the people there. Seriously. I love you guys, Spoiler Alert! I miss you, too.
To be succinct about what happened, some stuff occurred that increased my stress level to a bit of a breaking point for burnout. For a short three month to four month window, I was unhappy just because of how much was on my shoulders and how high expectations were. I’m really proud of the work I did and how well the team I lead handled things. They were all rockstars and still are.
During that period of high stress, I got an email from my Google recruiter. To back up again, I did my first phone screen interview with Google something like two and a half years ago. It was right before I took my job at Spoiler Alert, and I hadn’t expected to do well, but I crushed it. They invited me to the onsite interview, but I declined because I had accepted a job offer. So, they’d essentially been checking in with me every 4 to 6 months since then. Every time I’d received their email prior, I’d been quite happy and just said “No thanks, but feel free to keep checking in, if you’d like.”
This time was different. I had my shields down, as it’s been put. In other words, I was in a vulnerable place, and it was perfect, or imperfect depending on how you look at it, timing. I thought about that email for a full week before I finally responded with a “Let’s talk”. Honestly, I was getting lots of other emails, and I had declined all the rest of them. It took Google to really break through that armor, ablative, of course.
From there, the call happened, things got scheduled, and I started preparing. I studied for two months. I read two algorithm and data structures text books, one of which was graduate level, which admittedly was too math heavy for me. Some of it helped but a lot went over my head. I also did upwards of 50 practice questions and 12 mock interviews. Of those mock interviews, 2 were in person on a white board, 2 others were with Googlers that do interviewing, and the rest were all with other engineers online. It was a lot of prep work, and even with all of that, I still didn’t feel like I was going to do well.
Come the day of the interview, I was very nervous. I went in, did all the interviews, and I distinctly remember thinking about half way through the day of interviews that I was very confused, because it seemed like...it...was going...well?!! I remember solidly solving my final interview, and afterwards being like “Huh...what just happened? This is not how it went in my head. I’m supposed to bomb this. How is it possible I’m not?”
Seriously. I did not expect I would end up doing well let alone making it past the hiring committee and executive review. I expected that I’d return to my job at Spoiler Alert feeling downtrodden, but ready to continue on feeling like I’d at least done my best. Instead, I found myself with the prospect of having to put in my notice, pack up, and move.
Hmm, the way I’m saying this sounds like I wasn’t absolutely blown away, thrilled, and incredibly excited. So just to be clear, HOLY CRAP! I got a job at Google!!! I NEVER thought I’d be good enough to get a job at the company I’d aspired to be at for so much of my career. Not only that, I was hired as the senior software engineer level! This entire experience has been incredibly surreal and it still feels that way months later. Over the past several months, I’ve asked myself many times “What is my life right now?!!” because it’s just so hard to believe that THIS is what has happened.
So…after accepting the job, the next several months were a whirlwind. There was a relocation package, which really helped make things go smoothly. It was definitely the easiest of all my moves, but it was definitely still stressful and hectic. I had to deal with wrapping up all the things in Boston, throwing a going away party (which was amazing!), donate a bunch of stuff, throw out a bunch of stuff, pack things, ship things, book hotels and flights...it was a lot. And then suddenly...I was in California. Unlike previous cross country moves, there was no driving for days with a wailing cat. This time I flew...also with a wailing cat. I was put up in corporate housing for a while and then in late October, finally got moved in to my actual home for the next year and a half, at least. Now I’m finally settled in. What. A. Journey!
With all this change, you may be wondering...Jess, how are you holding up? And you know what...that’s a good question. I’m doing ok, sometimes...maybe...I guess… I really don’t know. I said goodbye to all of my friends...again. I’m feeling a bit like a fish out of water. I went again from being a big fish in a small pond to being a small fish in a pretty darn big pond. I have zero clout and tenure at my new job. I have to earn all of that again. On top of that, everything is so different and there’s so much to learn. I keep having to remind myself that this is one of the biggest reasons I came...to grow and to learn. Growing pains are hard.
There’s definitely strong feelings of loneliness. I have more friends in the bay area than I had in Boston when I initially moved there. I knew my Aunt, Uncle, Cousin, and Tiff. That’s it. In the Bay, I know quite a few folks. The unfortunate thing is that I live in South Bay, and they all live in San Francisco proper. That may not seem like a big distance, but it’s actually pretty far, especially with traffic. We’re talking on average an hour to an hour and a half distance by car. So I don’t see them as often as I’d like.
That means I often don’t have anyone to hang with during the week or on the weekends. I have essentially used that time to focus on getting settled. I’m seriously moved in faster than I’ve ever been at any place I’ve lived. I even have artwork hung on the walls already. I took this move as an opportunity to replace a bunch of furniture that was getting old and really needed to be replaced. So a lot of my place feels completely new. My apartment is fancy compared to Boston, but it’s also way more expensive. I definitely miss midwestern rent prices!
As I’ve run out of things to do with my moving in and getting settled, I’m left with very little to do, and I’m finding my energy is gone. I’m feeling isolated, numb, and periods of light depression. I am definitely feeling less like myself. I’ve noticed I’ve had a harder time connecting with people. I smile and feel like I don’t have access to my full emotional range. I’m not smiling with my whole self. I can feel it on my face, and I’m certain others sense it, too. I had a moment the other day in which I smiled and immediately felt it drain off my face, which really made me worry since it’s a sign of depression in me.
All of this has made me feel more awkward than usual. I feel like when I’m at my fullest, I’m very charming, funny, and social. I post a lot of silly stuff online in those situations, and I haven’t been doing that. I know you all probably don’t feel like I’m awkward, but I have genuinely felt awkward the past few months. I feel like such an oddball. I think if I were to pick an appropriate meme, it’d be “Why are you like this?” I’m not sure how to combat it right now either. Maybe all this travel and holiday time will help, but I have no idea. I don’t have New Years plans this year, and I wonder how I’ll feel that night being alone.
Update: I did end up having plans on New Years, which resulted in some feels. Update in a future post.
The last time I posted was about coming out as asexual. I was ok with not dating at the time. It was all about loving myself for who I am, and for a while, that was true. I’ve had a hard time with it lately, and really that shouldn’t be surprising given how much has changed in my life lately. I’m working on it, but as I just mentioned in the previous section, I’m likely going to need some help to work on that. So dating…
Before moving, I was pretty ok with not dating. I was very happy with my personal relationships with friends and what not. I was also very focused on job, career, HEMA, and studying for my interview. So there wasn’t really any room for dating anyway.
After moving I got a notification on my phone about Facebook Dating launching, and I was like “What the heck...why not?”. So I created a profile and haven’t really seriously engaged with it. I have next to no expectations with it. I’ve chatted with a few folks and gone on a few dates, but really...I’ve had very little feels about the dates in general. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve been lovely women and I’ve had a good time, but that’s about it. I don’t feel a strong motivation to keep going.
Yet, I’m still on the dating app and still am chatting with people. What’s with that?
I’ve noticed that while I am attracted to women, my attractions don’t last. I don’t know if it’s a “Why am I even bothering?” feeling or just that my current semi depressive emotional state is what’s causing this lack of interest.
There’s a strong feeling that I have that’s like “You’re just so different with so many things to deal with...being ace, being trans, having a weird button phobia, having interests that aren’t what the average femme female is interested in.” I’ve talked about this feeling before, and I know it’s not valid, but it’s still a feeling that’s present that I’m having to deal with. I think it’s really impacting my confidence and my self worth.
I know no one knows how to date, but I feel like I’m exceptionally bad at it. I don’t know how to flirt and get super nervous / awkward when that opportunity occurs. Being ace, when people get all sexy times flirty, I just find myself not knowing what to say. I feel like when that happens, my date / person interested in me feels like I’m not that interested, and I don’t know how to circumvent that. Even with people telling me otherwise, I just feel like such a weirdo. I don’t know how to get around this.
I think the real reason I may be on this dating app is because of loneliness and the desire for true companionship, and of course...that’s why most people date, right? I just struggle with seeing my own value in a relationship and the fact that I just don’t know how to flirt. Again...I need someone to help me work through this because I know it’s not healthy.
I do really wonder if I should even keep this profile active and whether I should even bother with it. I feel like I’m wasting the time of the people I’m going on the occasional date with, and yet I’m still going on them. I really don’t know what that means. I welcome thoughts and input knowing full well that I’ll probably have to figure it out on my own.
Update: I disabled my profile.
My time in Boston was short, but good. It felt longer than it really was, I think. It’s hard to believe I lived in Boston about as long as I lived in Des Moines. There are a lot of things I will greatly miss about Boston and a lot of things I really wont miss. The driving and constant sound of car horns is something I’m so glad to be away from. As bad as traffic is in the bay, drivers at least have common sense and courtesy, for the most part. It’s really like night and day. I also won’t miss the sports fan attitudes in Boston, with the special focus on Patriots fans. To those of you who are taking personal offense by that, I can already hear the comments about how everyone else is just jealous, blah blah blah. Seriously, you’re obnoxious. Cut it out. I don’t even like football.
I also won’t miss the accent. I know some people like it, but to me, it is off putting. New England is not known for being a very friendly place, and I think the accent just reminds me of that… and every stereotype Boston mob / cop movie ever.
I certainly won’t miss my commute and the traffic. That was awful. I remember how excited I was to live in a city with “actual public transit”, but now I’ve come to realize that there really are no American cities with good public transit infrastructure (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong here).
The things I will miss though...the friends and family. No question. I miss you all deeply. While Boston isn’t known for being super friendly, I feel like once they do warm up to you, they’re the most loyal people I’ve ever known. You guys are great and I promise I’ll visit as often as I can. Google happens to have an office there I can work out of once in a while, if I so choose. So rest assured, it’ll happen...when it’s warmer out.
I’ll also miss the HEMA scene there. So much cool stuff happening in Boston. My friends at Boston Armizare...there’s no other club like you. Thanks for giving me my confidence back.
I also miss my Boston GDG folk. The stress of that is something I’m happy I don’t have to bear anymore, but I loved the community and the folks involved. I’m still in touch and will likely see them all here and there in the bay area, but I do miss seeing them.
Surprisingly...I do miss the weather. Crazy, right? I love the California is so beautiful most of the year, but there’s something to be said for seasons changing. Thankfully lately it’s felt a bit more like fall, and I’ll be doing a lot of holiday travel. So I’ll get to enjoy the chill for a few days, which is enough.
Oh yeah...I definitely don’t miss Dunkin. California has Krispy Kreme, which is orders of magnitude better than Dunkin.
I’m sure there’s a lot more I miss, but that’s what stands out to me right now. More as it develops.
Topic Change. Preface: No...I’m not anorexic. However, I was headed that direction. Don’t worry. I realized my relationship to food was unhealthy and I’ve started changing that relationship. Let’s talk about what happened.
I’ve mentioned in prior posts that I have body dysmorphia. I think that’s a common experience for trans folk. Earlier this year...back when I was still dating Anne, I had a situation in which I noticed my weight fluctuating up in a direction that was not normal for me. I couldn’t figure out why, but I panicked about it. So I started changing up my fitness routine and my diet to try to control it. I didn’t want to regain the weight I had spent a bunch of time losing over the past two years.
I started by following my friend Bobby’s lead and began intermittent fasting. If you’re unfamiliar with this trend, it’s a method of limiting the hours in which you eat food during the day. It’s common to do a 13 hr or 16 hr fasting window followed by an open window in which you can eat. This is supposed to prevent you from eating food during periods of the day when your metabolism is lowest, like late at night, and force your body to start burning fat for fuel.
This actually worked pretty well for me. I was doing mostly 16/8s with the occasional 13/11 and 20/4 fasts. For the most part this got things under control for me, but I also got it in my mind that I would probably lose the gained weight faster. I had recently gotten involved with HEMA again and was going one to twice a week. Unfortunately, an accident occurred that left me with a broken right thumb, which severely limited my ability to fence.
So with that gone, I decided to do something I thought I would never do: run. I figured that I no longer had a gym membership and didn’t want to spend a bunch of money to get another one that I likely wouldn’t use. Running is free and I essentially just needed to throw on some shoes, workout clothes, and go outside. I very quickly went from being unable to run for a mile without gasping for breath to running 5ks twice a week.
I was actually really enjoying it and I saw a big difference in my weight. I was monitoring it daily and dropped weight pretty quickly. I then saw some problematic mindsets start to set in. I thought to myself “Well...if I lose five more pounds, when I fluctuate up to THIS weight, I’ll still be happy with how I look”. So, I cut calories, started fasting more strictly, and I lost even more weight.
Here’s where things got really bad. After I hit a goal, if I ever saw my weight fluctuate up even a half a pound, there was a voice in the back of my brain that was screaming “OMG you’re going to undo all your progress!!!” So my goal would shift to “Never see this weight on my scale again”, and I’d work at losing just a couple pounds more so I’d not see it again. It was an unhealthy feedback loop.
At the time of moving to California, I was at my lowest weight that I’ve seen since high school. I was at 143 pounds. I’m 5’11”, and while technically 143 is still within a healthy BMI, I was definitely on the low end of the BMI spectrum. Side note, it seems some BMI scales are not the same. The one I’d been looking at suggested at 5’11”, I’d have to have been 135 lbs to really hit into the underweight range, which seems ridiculous to me as far as getting that small. Yet when I had my new hire health assessment at my new job, I was teetering on underweight according to the BMI scale they had. It really made me question things.
It was at this point that I stopped losing weight. I was in the gym twice a week and was probably gaining muscle, but all the free food at Google resulted in me gaining a bit of weight each week. My brain was seeing this on the scale and freaking the fuck out. I was trying to count / cut calories even more. I did three 20/4 fasts in a row to keep my weight below 145, and I was hungry all the time. I would deny myself food that was satisfying and then come home and binge on junk food.
Then October rolled around and I had to fly to Minneapolis for my best friend’s wedding. My parents met me there and when my mother saw me, her first comment was “You’ve lost so much weight! Oh my god you have no butt!”, and it really made me start to question everything. I largely was really happy with how I looked. I had a 4-pack stomach, working towards a 6 pack. I was able to do 5 full pull ups. I had some really toned arms, shoulders and was loving it. Most people were telling me I looked amazing, yet the people closest to me were a bit concerned. I was starting to get concerned, too. It’s weird having society tell you all this positive feedback about how you look when meanwhile, you’re unwell.
I think something that was telling to me about my dysmorphia taking over...if I ate any sort of reasonably sized meal, I just saw a giant food baby on me. To this day, I don’t know if it was truly there. I think maybe my brain was enhancing it to the point that I THOUGHT it was giant, but really it was tiny. My guess is that no one else even remotely saw it. I definitely found myself trying to hide it after a meal.
I was constantly engaging my core to hide it. Meanwhile I was hungry all the time and was constantly thinking about my weight and food. I would emotionally beat myself up when I succumbed to cravings and was thinking constantly about how I “just needed to fast longer to compensate for the junk I ate”.
I’m not exactly sure what changed, but in mid November I was just so tired of being hungry, was genuinely concerned for how much I was thinking about food. I was worried that maybe I was on the verge or even had an eating disorder. So I gave it all up. All of it. The diet. The fitness. The weight tracking. Etc. The only thing I continue to do very loosely is intermittent fasting, and I’m not logging it anymore. It’s only a mental background thing just because I know people in general shouldn’t eat too late in the evening for all sorts of reasons.
I feel better. I’m not hungry all the time. I’m also not as cranky. I also look fine. I know the one time I weighed myself since this decision I was already back up 5 lbs, and I’m ok with that, at least for now.
I’m also running an experiment. At the very start of the year, I had my hormones adjusted for the first time in probably 15 years. My doctor just wanted to play with my levels for various reasons. I was concerned about sex drive, and she thought maybe it might have an impact on that. Here’s the impacts it had on me: 1. My patience decreased. 2. It was harder to focus while meditating. 3. My costs on my prescriptions went up. 4. My anxiety increased. 5. I got migraines, and lastly...just a theory of mine… 6. I think it decreased my metabolism. My weight only started to fluctuate about a month after my hormones were changed. Hormones can have big impacts on metabolism, even with small changes. I wondered if maybe this is what happened.
So...I’ve returned to my previous levels. It’s been about a month now since then, and I feel like my weight is stable. I haven’t been measuring, but when I look at myself, I’m not feeling like I’m seeing much of a difference. I’m also feeling more hungry, which is a good sign. So I think this was the right move, and given that it’s the same hormone level I was on for 15 years or so, it’s perfectly safe.
So my goals now are different. The honest truth is that I absolutely loved seeing 4-pack abs and the definition in my arms. I really want to return to that fitness approach because I honestly would look at myself in the mirror after a shower or after a workout and be like “Damn! That’s cool!”. I was very proud of my gains, my strength, and I’ll be totally honest: my flat tummy. I just want to approach it in a healthy way. I think I’ll either hire a personal trainer again or a nutritionist...or both. I’m also going to head back to see a therapist again because this needs to be discussed with someone, as it certainly wasn’t healthy.
Society is fucked up. Being praised because you look thin and fit is contrasted with unhealthy body image. I certainly valued myself more the lighter I got and obsessed over everything body related. Body image should not be tied to self worth, and I’ll probably always struggle with this issue. I know there was a part of me that was like “Someday I’ll give up, eat everything, and immediately gain 20 lbs” and “Can I really maintain this lifestyle for the next 10+ years?”. The true answer is no, and nor should I.
Even more fascinating is how powerful body dysmorphia is. Just the other night I was talking about this with friends, and I looked back at some of the photos I took of myself at my lightest, and for the first time I saw a person that looked unhealthy. Prior to that moment, I saw myself in the photos as fit. I couldn’t see anything else but a flat stomach and tone. This time, I saw an emaciated figure that was in dire need of food. At that size, there’s no surprise I would always see a food baby on me as huge. There was no mass on me at all. I genuinely do look healthier now, and I need to remember that. 150 to 155 is when I look and feel the best. I should never be below that weight again.
If you’ve followed me on social media, you’ve most likely seen photos of my cat. Scarlet is a very sweet little girl, and I love her to bits. She is, however, getting older, and that comes with some health issues. She’s also gotten very demanding in her later years. Friends come over and see how social she is, and they love her to bits, too. However, they don’t see what she can be like when they are not there.
I’ll be blunt. Scarlet is a very whiny cat. She loves water from the bathroom sink. If she doesn’t get it when she wants it, she meanders around yelling until she gets it. If she’s feeling particularly bored, she does the same thing. If she just left the bathroom, doesn’t have fresh smelling food, isn’t getting pet in her preferred way, can’t find a favorite toy, etc etc etc...she gets very loud. It’s not just a few seconds of meowing. It’s literally every 5 seconds and doesn’t really stop. It gets annoying super fast, and it’s especially so when I’m trying to sleep.
Yelling at her doesn’t help, of course, and in fact, any sort of attention given to her just reinforces that if she yells, she’ll get what she wants. So all I can do is ignore her and somehow try to reinforce non-vocal behavior, which doesn’t really turn into anything. I suspect she’ll be this vocal for the rest of her life. I’m not going to lie. There have been times where it’s gotten on my nerves to the point that I’ve considered re-homing her. I love her and don’t think I could actually do it, but it’s certainly a thought I’ve had. She’d miss me and I’d miss her. I’d never forgive myself.
I really do wish there was a solution. I often wonder if there are just things that hurt, and that’s part of why she complains. She has asthma and I know the coughing fits she gets sound uncomfortable. I’ve had her treated various times for that, but it’s not going to just go away. So it could be a source of chronic pain for her. It may also be something else, like arthritis. I’ll need to find her a new vet in California and see what they suggest. No matter what, though, when she’s gone, I’m not getting another pet for the foreseeable future. I need some time without responsibilities over another life.
Update: (It’s taken me literal months to write this post) She may not actually have asthma after all. She recently had ear problems, which have been recurring for the last year. It’s her right ear. Periodically she’s had a floppy ear and has pawed and scratched at it. Each time she’s been given drops by the vet, and that’s helped. This time, my new vet told me that given her symptoms, she may not actually have asthma. She may have a persistent inner ear infection, and that might be draining into her throat causing her to cough a lot, which has possibly surfaced as the appearance of asthma. The telling sign that this may be the case was when she had an upper respiratory that got infected this past spring. She got a two week antibiotic injection, and this caused the coughing to miraculously go away for a time.
So now she’s on oral antibiotics and ear drops simultaneously. The vet and I are hoping that this takes care of the inner ear infection once and for all. Apparently they are notorious to treat. So, we’ll see. She’s still a whiney cat, but her spirits have been higher, as has her energy, since starting treatment. Her cough is gone, too. So maybe she’s been crying because her ear has hurt this whole time, and I’ve just been a bad mom and not realizing it. I’ll update at some point about her status.
Update 2: She’s completed her antibiotic round and ear drops, and her cough is gone. Her ear is back to normal. She’s not making regular swallowing noises anymore, either. Her energy is high again, and that means more whiney attention grabbing noises. But hey...that’s a good sign. She’s got a full appetite, too. I’m really happy to see her this way. Hopefully this is the last time I’ll treat her ears.
I got to experience something this past October that I was proud to be a part of. Chris, my best friend for many many years, that has been written about in this blog many times...got married. I was his best person. His wedding was organized by his friends and was a wonderful affair. I flew in to Minneapolis to be a part of it about a month after moving to California, which means I had no PTO. So it was a short trip. I was truly honored to be a part of it. I got to give a speech, which went very well. I was told that it was the best of the speeches, but I’ll leave that to others that were there to judge. I certainly had fun giving it.
Being a part of that wedding was bittersweet. Chris and I have often joked about our dating curse in that when one of us is in a long term relationship, the other is not. I guess this means that I won’t be dating anyone for the foreseeable future, which is not surprising given where I am right now. Imagined curse aside, I’m both proud and happy for him and his husband.
In direct contrast to that, I’ve had a lot of thoughts of sadness on my mind this past year. I have an uncle that has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and another uncle has a form of blood cancer. It’s something that’s in the back of my mind at all times. I think often of my Uncle Mike, who inspired me at a young age. He got me interested in aviation, which, along with my long time love of Star Trek, pointed me in the direction of engineering. The honest truth is that I probably wouldn’t be where I am today without having had him in my life. So seeing him going through this has been hard. When I went to Chris’s wedding, I got to see him, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was the last time. Hopefully I’m wrong.
And then there’s Daphne. I have friends all over the country and the world. I was excited to meet and hang out with some of my long time Facebook friends that live in the Bay Area. Daphne Dorman is one of those friends. We didn’t speak often, but we did know each other. I’d watched her journey into stand up comedy and connection to Dave Chappelle. When I got to CA, I was excited that maybe we might meet up. After a tiny earthquake on October 5th, I commented on her post about it. She hadn’t realized I moved to the Bay and we talked about setting up a time to meet up for coffee. I was looking forward to it.
Not even a week later, on October 11th, Daphne took her own life. It was a shock to the community, and to everyone that knew her. I still think about her, about what happened, and I feel truly saddened by what happened. I’ll never get to meet her and get to know her more. The world is lesser without her. We miss you, Daphne Dorman.
Let’s pivot to something completely different. California has been an experience so far. It’s simultaneously exactly what I expected, while also being not at all what I expected. Let’s start with the things that were expected. It’s expensive. Hmm...I don’t think that really captures it. It’s REALLY expensive. I knew what I was in for, but wow...it’s a lot. I thought it was going to be next to impossible to own a home in the Boston area. In California, it actually pretty much is impossible. I could buy two reasonably sized midwestern homes outright for the cost of what I’d need just for the down payment for a smaller home here. In Iowa, I rented a 3 bedroom, two bath house with a full, unfinished basement, two car garage, and a lovely yard. Here in California I have a one bedroom apartment in a complex for triple the rent I paid in Iowa. You read that right. Triple. Everything here is more expensive: gas, food, taxes, utilities, etc. Even with cost of living income increases, it feels like I make less.
It’s also very pretty. I’m not going to lie, I love the mountain views. I love the temperatures, even when it’s chilly. We’re in the rainy season right now, and that means that it might rain once a week for a few hours. We had a real, legitimate rain last week that was the only full day of rain I can remember since moving. I look out my apartment window and see palm trees.
Traffic is awful...BUT...Boston was worse in a lot of ways. You may not believe this, but people actually give you space let you merge when you put your blinker on here. I’m sure my Boston friends are like “What? Why would you do that? You’re supposed to speed up to cut the person off!” I kid. I kid...or do I? Meanwhile, my midwestern friends are like “Yes, and? Why is this a surprising behavior?” Also...midwestern friends, rush hour is when it takes an hour and 40 minutes for your commute instead of 45, not when it 20 minutes instead of 15. ;)
People here are very nice, but very hesitant to commit to doing anything. Meeting friends is slow going. My typical approach to making friends in a new place is to go to meetups, but unfortunately there aren’t that many here in south bay. There are a few tech related ones, but I’m not interested in making tech my entire life. I have found Davenriche for HEMA, but I haven’t yet committed to how often I’ll be going. I hope that turns into a good collection of friends.
I guess to sum up, so far California has been a mix. It’s both beautiful and isolating. I really hope that changes.
I guess to wrap things up, if it hasn’t already been made pretty clear, I’ve got a lot of emotions going on these days. I’m seeing a therapist again. I’m having a hard time being happy with both myself and my life presently, despite the cool job. There have been a lot of times I’ve found myself questioning whether I made the right move. While I was burned out and in need of some sort of change when I left Boston, I left a job that I really loved with people I genuinely cared about. I miss them deeply. I left some of the best and most amazing friends I’ve ever made. I cannot express how much I feel the emptiness of them being so far away and the loneliness that it’s left me feeling now. I took a chance on a dream that I really hope was worth it. Only time will tell. I know this isn’t the upbeat ending to this incredibly long post that you may have been hoping for given the start of it, but it’s probably the most accurate to my current feelings that I can really be.
If you made it to the end of this, please let me a comment hug on whatever social media you found this post through. I could really use it.
Crap...I never wrapped up the Tarantino’d beginning!
As Jessica walked to her car to head to work, she thought about all her accomplishments and adventures over the past year...and really over the past decade. To think that ten years ago, she was just beginning a brand new career transitioning from a video producer to a self taught engineer. She never thought she’d end up here. Who knows where the next ten years will take her.
She sat in her car, pulled on the seatbelt, and started the engine. As she put the car in gear, she thought to herself, “Let’s see what’s out there. Engage.”