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.