Updates, good and bad.

Left off here on a rather ominous note, I suppose. It’s been a busy few weeks.

No sugar coating it: my manager is trying to fire me. Claims he’s not, but that’s shit. I was a good employee with a stable record until I landed on his team, and within 24 hours I was on a PSP (Performance “Success” Plan–what they do to under-performing employees) and my trajectory never recovered. There’s no statute of limitations with this man. Every mistake you make is with you forever, and then they’re looked at in aggregate to make a “pattern of under-performance.” He’s trying to fire me, and I don’t care what pretty lies the senior management spins to cover his ass. I wrote a letter to HR about what was going on, and a few days later I saw him returning to his desk from the front office with a sick look on his face. It was better for a while after that, but I think it just made him craftier. I’m on two separate final written warnings at the same time. Didn’t even know that was possible. I’m looking for another job as fast as I can. Hope to find one soon. I’ll leave if I have to, but I don’t want to be fired. I hate this feeling of helplessness, of not knowing when the ax will fall. I need to save up enough money to be able to move back down to the Bay and be with my sister.

(Oh, by the way, I have a sister now. She’s wonderful. The queer tradition of a chosen family didn’t make sense to me until we decided to be siblings.)

On a brighter note, I have been awarded a scholarship to attend the Cascade Writer’s workshop this year. I’m very excited. My main fear is that my situation up here will fall apart and force me to flee to California again before I have a chance to attend. There will be other writers there, serious, committed artists. I haven’t had a group like that since college.  I can’t wait. There will also be professionals from the publishing world. I look forward to learning a lot from them. I have to say, as well, that it is immensely rewarding to have been awarded a scholarship. It was in part based on need, but a part of the application was based on a 1000-word sample I submitted. Someone I’ve never met who has no reason to care about me decided that, among those who submitted applications, I was the one they wanted to support. It gives me hope.

I’ve been submitting my application to agents. Nothing but rejections and silence so far. This is to be expected. No serious writer gets through life without  a thick sheaf of rejections. Still, having something, anything, break my way is very nice.

My cousin seems to be having trouble. It would be quite dramatic to say that madness is the family curse, but no. We live in a more civilized age, where mental health is more sterile, and better classified. We’re not mad. Simply depressed and scared. No matter. I’m pulling for you, cousin. I wish you all the best.

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This is Why You Must Survive

I have been told that this blog is so depressing that some people have stopped reading it, which seems almost funny to me because if anything I soft-pedal how unrelentingly bleak my life can be. For instance, I have not mentioned my habit of telling myself, as many as a dozen times a day, that I am a bad person and that I am stupid. I do this as a reflex when I do something sub-optimal, or worse when I remember doing something sub-optimal, especially if it was of a social nature. That’s the background radiation of my life; that’s what happens to me on a good day. Some mornings, it is a real fight to get out of bed.

Things are looking up, though. For the first time in a long time, I have a real path forward to something better. Even after the euphoria died down, I still kept writing. Now I’m at 56,000 words. I should have a complete manuscript by the end of the year. More importantly, a friend of mine wants to write a intro to PHP book with me. He’s a pretty good programmer, and I’m a pretty good writer, and together we should make a pretty good book. The best part is that I’ll be able to use it as a portfolio piece, and hopefully start picking up some technical writing jobs. Once I have some professional credits and references to my name, I’ll have the start of an honest-to-Goddess career on my hands. There’s something even bigger and better in the pipe, but I can’t talk about it because I don’t know what I can say without jeopardizing things and I’d rather err on the side of discretion.

Socially, things are…choppy. I lost a good friend. She’ll stay lost until she can realize what she did wrong, and why her “apology” didn’t cut it. That might make for some strain with my other two main hangout friends, but I’ve got a third who might be developing in that same circle, and I think I can branch out to find more, as well. It feels a little mercenary and gross to be evaluating friendships for their potential contributions to my mental health and stability, but that’s part of my life now. If I lose a friend, I have to be on the lookout to pick up others or grow closer to ones I already have, or else I could enter a tail spin and have a hard time pulling out. I will die in the dark if I let myself be alone.

So I don’t let myself be alone.

I’m not long for Beaverton, anyhow. One way or another, I’m leaving next year. The Portland area is where I plan to retire; I can’t stand to live here in my youth. Or maybe I’m just restless. Last year I hopped from place to place, constantly in flux. My housing situation was unstable for the vast bulk of the year, only settling out in November. Life changing decisions had to be made regularly, sometimes in a matter of hours. It was survival living, hand to mouth. Maybe I acclimated to it. Stability, at least up here in Beaverton, doesn’t agree with me.

Or didn’t, at least. The restlessness is fading. I feel like I could fall into a rut here. That scares me. Is it because I’ve made the decision to move, or is it because I’m re-acclimating to stability? (Is stability banality? Should I fear it as much as I think I do?)

I am in a liminal space. Not the desperately scrambling “I’ll try (almost) anything” way that I was at the depth of my homelessness, when I was seriously looking for a time and place to experiment with drugs because hey, what’s the worst that’s gonna happen: I end up homeless? This is a more prolonged, and perhaps somewhat more penetrating, evolution. It’s not just new experiences I’m searching for. I’m thinking about where I’m going to be in five years. Who I am going to be. My career is on the runway. My social life is in turmoil but not exactly falling apart. Geographically, things will change in a big way soon. Everything is shifting, some parts faster than others.

I feel good to be alive, even despite all the shit. This is what I survived for. I know I made the right choice in refusing to die. If I’d let myself go, nothing would have changed. My life would have ended in such poor conditions. You don’t stay alive because things are guaranteed to turn out well–although things are up from where they were last year, everything could still fall apart for me, and get even worse this time. You stay alive because if you die, nothing will ever get better for you. How you died in the end, that will be it. But if you survive, you retain the blessings of uncertainty, and of potential.

When things are at their darkest, remember, this is why you must survive: not for false hope. Simply to see if things will change.

Feelin’ like shit

My depression is coming back feirce after the fight I had with a friend on Tuesday. (Well, not so much fight as she said something disgusting and unconcionable and wouldn’t take it back, and I yelled at her before leaving the house.) I haven’t heard from her, or the other friends who were there at all since. I think I have been excommunicated.

I thought I was over it. I am not. My thoughts keep returning again and again to that night, and when I’m not replaying it in my head I’m mulling over how disgusting and wortheless I am so of course they’d take her side even though she was in the wrong because how could anybody want to back up a pile of shit like me.

I don’t hate myself. I hate being myself. I want to be someone else. Someone valued, and useful, and confident, and beautiful. And when I say beautiful, what I mean is cis and conventionally attractive. Nobody escapes the beauty standard, I guess. I can’t look myself in the mirror with my shirt off anymore. My face isn’t too bad, for a boy’s, but my torso is hideous and makes me sick. My hair, which I’ve grown out to look more femme is gross and lank and I don’t know how to wear it. My voice is…hopeless.

Every little demon and bug I’ve hidden away and thought I’d defeated is coming back stronger, and hungrier, now that I’m alone again. Mostly these problems aren’t related to what happened. Mostly it’s just a Greatest Hits compliation from last year.

I try to remind myself that professionally, things might be looking up for me next year. I have real prospects coming up. And my writing is going well, too. When I write, I can forget who I am for a while. I need to write more. I always need to write more.

But there is only so much that this can help me. I think I’m just going to have to fight through this one. I’m never done fighting. I never get to win.

My Stupidest Habit

I get jealous of fictional characters. All the fucking time.

I’ve often had a hard time separating reality from fantasy, and so when I see depictions of people, they can be as real to me as the people in my life. Even now, as an adult, I have difficulty separating my emotional reactions to fiction from my relationships with reality.

So smart, beautiful, healthy people who don’t have to watch their dreams crumble to ashes and make peace with their limitations– you know, protagonists– sometimes really piss me off. So, for example, here’s this girl, who is valued, powerful, can make decisions based on what she wants and not what she needs to survive, has a gorgeous body (which in my head is still code for “is cis” because I will never be free of my self-loathing) and oh yeah has fucking super powers and I instantly go to hate mode. Especially if she commits the sin of being written to whine about how she just wants to live a normal life.

(Oh yeah, and of course I never get jealous of male characters. It’s just women who, despite being made of ink and paper, I perceive as being better than me, and rubbing it in.)

I can only really enjoy characters who have fantastic abilities if they feel like shit about themselves. It is not a coincidence at all that my favorite comic book is Empowered, an ongoing series about a C-list superhero whose potent abilities are undermined by their unreliability. Emp gets humiliated far more frequently than she saves the day, and even when she kicks ass she almost never gets the credit she deserves. At times it’s only her broken, maladaptive coping mechanisms to her childhood traumas that keep her in the superhero business, a career path with limited options for advancement, and endless opportunities for injury, death, and disrespect at the hands of villains and other heroes alike.  Her co-workers are all stronger and more respected than she is, and for the most part are just as emotionally malformed, but in a more outwardly malignant fashion. Her friends are broken, too. Of the main cast, only the demonic hellspawn from beyond time and space, currently trapped in an alien prison that is stored on Emp’s coffee table, isn’t a shambling mess of a person. It is heavily implied that, with perhaps the exception of Cyndablock, Captain Rivit, and The Goddamn Maid Man, most of the supporting cast have issues that run just as deep. The world of Empowered is one where everyone is a hollow wreck, and the protagonist is dealing with the same problems everyone else is, but with fewer resources. Beacuse of this, Emp isn’t threatening to me. I can root for her.

But, say, Supergirl? Yeah, not happening. I’ve tried reading stories that star her. I can’t finish them. Ever. She makes me want to burn down buildings with rage. How heroic can somebody be if they don’t have to fight themselves to get out of bed sometimes? And I bet she looks down on regular folks, too. How dare she not hate herself. Why does she get to be so special?

So on. So forth.

You can see this in the characters I write, too. My protagonists are either riven with insecurities and self-loathing, or arrogant, malicious, narcissists who teeter on the far edge of likability because hey, if you were that awesome why wouldn’t you be an asshole? You can be powerful, moral, or self-confident: pick two. The only character of my own creation that I can imagine putting into a mainstream superhero comic would be a girl with everyday problems who gets intensely jealous of the superheroes around her. Yes, that’s right, my self-insert is just an avatar of envy. When other people do self-insert wish fulfillment, they make themselves the guy who can beat up Superman. I make myself the chick who is pissed that Zatanna isn’t miserable like everyone else.

To a much lesser extent, this same effect applies to real people. They don’t have superpowers, so I guess that earns them credit in my eyes. But still, when I see pretty, talented women online or on tv or in real life, I get pangs of despair and envy. I try to control and dismiss these feelings. Mostly, I am able to with real life people. As you can tell from the blog, I am pretty open about a lot of stuff, but this is the one thing I really do keep quiet, and I won’t be discussing specifics about this one. Sometimes I slip, but not often.

But there is something about larger than life characters from fiction that gets to me over and over again. No matter how much I try, I can’t stop asking why do they get to be pretty? Why does the thing that makes them stand out as different and strange get to be something awesome, like being able to fly or do magic? Why do they get to be strong? Why do they get to feel strong? Why do they get to be valued, and respected, and maintain their autonomy?

And why don’t I?

Oh that’s not even fair!

Last night I had a nightmare. I was in grad school again, trying to work and take classes at the same time. I was stressing on how I was going to study, and the classes cost more than I make in a month. Then I woke up and I felt really stressed. About grad school.

I AM HAVING NIGHTMARES ABOUT PROBLEMS I DON’T EVEN HAVE.

What bullshittery is this?! Who was the asshole who decided this fuckery was okay? I want his balls on a plate!

Looking Forward, Looking Back

2011 was the worst year I’ve ever had. It seems cliche and self-pitying to recap the reasons why. For the past week I’ve been wrestling with how to write my year end roundup, to meet my obligation to be touching and profound at the turn of the year. Fuck it, I can’t. I’m just so tired. Tired of everything. Tired of the titantic struggles that marked my last three years: get into grad school, get a Master’s, survive being homeless, transition.

So this next year is one of modest ambitions. No big picture shit. No major life achivements. The goal of 2012 is to clean up the wreckage. I’ve finished tying off the bloody stump of my academic ambitions, and settled into a comfortably dead end job. Now I’m giong to learn how to keep my apartment clean. Learn how to cook at home five nights a week. Change my name. Get some new clothes. Little things. I don’t think I could survive another string of failures like the one I had between 2009 and 2011.

I need to be healthy, and to be healthy I need to get my life under control. I want that to be second nature. In my darker moments, I wonder if it ever can be. There are people who work here at the call center who have been doing this for ten or fifteen years. I’m scared of ending up like them. I’m terrified to think that even that might be too much to dream of.

Despite it all, I still harbor a great deal of ambition. I want to go places, and do things. I want to be someone who matters to the world. Even just a small part of it. I want to be more than a drone on the help line. But those are dreams for next year. First I have to conquer being a drone.