Making the Choice, Part 2: Screw it––it’s a New Year

Well hello there.

I was recently doing some journaling and after a while I stared at the pages I had written and realized that the real reason I started this blog oh, so long ago was to share (true) stories like this one.  If you’re someone who’s read this blog in the past, I’m still here!  If not, welcome.  Here’s my story.

Cold, snowy days like this one lend themselves to self-reflection.  I spent some time cleaning my room this morning, which is really just an excuse to pace around listening to music without being questioned.  It’s good to do that every once in a while, to block out everything else and sort things out in your head––or pull them out of place, throw them around, and challenge them.  It depends on the mood.

I’ve been doing that quite a bit lately, much more than usual.  I’m not sure if it’s because I have more time or more things in my head, or whether i should be scared by the possibility that I’m starting to make time for it.

It’s usually late at night, but it’s not always exactly the same.  Honestly, it depends largely on what kind of music I’m listening to.  Sometimes it’s nostalgic alternative rock with hints of musical soundtrack and jazz (on rare occasions), and others it’s trashy pop and four-on-the-floor dance music.  The variety of genres take me to different places, indulge different fantasies, replay different memories.  It’s almost as if the music is what enables me to collect data for some sort of giant dissertation on myself––past, present, future, and outlandish alternate timelines.

Part of why I treasure this time is because it’s time for me to be a raw, unfiltered version of myself––or, rather, of myself on the “other side.”

Here’s what I mean: When I’m getting down late at night to songs I;d never publicly admit to loving, I can be anything.  I truly believe I can be anything even when people are watching, but I express the hyper-ambitious, studious, and sometimes fearful part of myself (the part of me known to be able to “do anything”) enough publicly that sometimes it gets boring.  When I’m wide awake at 12:30 AM, strutting around my room in running tights and a T-shirt, I can be everything else: a fighter, an explorer, a slut.

Sometimes, when these parts of me shine through (for no one but myself to see, of course) I feel more authentic than ever, as if that person is me.  But that’s not wholly true.  My more sensitive self, the one who would prompt me to record my feelings as I am doing now, almost always gets the last laugh.  Because of this self, I can’t allow those trashy beats I love so much to grace my ears as I do this; this is too important to me.

Is that to say that the weightless feelings I get when I block out the world aren’t legitimate?  The tragedy (maybe) is that I refuse to say so.  If I knew someone like the self that only comes out at night I might pity him, but as a part of myself I love him.  He may not value outward appearance, others’ opinions and feelings, or social norms as much as more “respectable” people, but deep down he is as much “me” as the more demure, bookworm-ish boy that others see.  Both are just trying to figure the world out.

The dominant self explores the workings of the world and himself through writing; the other through speech, movement, and thought (or lack thereof).  I think that’s always been why I write, even though I wasn’t fully aware of it as a child.  There was so much I didn’t know, but I like to theorize.  There were things I did know, only some of which I shared––some not even privately with myself on paper.

As I grew older and the dominant self grew more uncomfortable and awkward, learning through experience things one can’t just realize by reading a book or reflecting really hard.  He became aware of the other self and the intimate connection he had with him.  The pages of journals were too precious to the dominant self to be tainted by the mention of anything having to do with the other self, though.  He silenced him, and with him, a part of himself.

It took tremendous strength and a liberal mindset for me (that is, the union of the two selves) to realize a few things: First, that I am unquestionably and incurably homosexual.  Second, that that’s totally okay.  Third, that I reject all things in my past that ever told me otherwise, which, unfortunately, are some of the same things that shaped my dominant self.  Fourth, that I must never close my mind to anything.  I almost wrote that I must never hate, but I’m still working on that one.  It’s difficult not to hate those that tear you down, or those that simply block out everything outside their parochial field of vision.

I’m trying instead to feel for these people, as I get the whole “blocking-out-everything” thing.  But I can’t stop there.  I need to talk with them, engage them, try to open them up to everything the world can be.  But I musn’t force them; I would hate anyone who took my journey of self-discovery away from me.  (I guess that’s where the whole “no hate” resolution ends.)

This journey, the battle between my superego and id, has been the most enriching conversation I’ve ever experienced.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Sometimes I would worry that my inner struggles were signs that I was “broken,” as if society had permanently molded me into something I was not––and I would never break free.  Now I know that, though I wasn’t always this comfortable with myself, I am nothing but me (the real me).  I, the combined self I’m continually growing into, is the center of the two selves I love so much.  The difference between myself and others, or myself and a version of myself born into different circumstances, is the distance between the poles of my opposite selves.  At least, that’s what I’d like to believe.  I’m an idealist.

The internal conversations I’ve known as constants for so long have given me a profound appreciation for communication.  I am a storyteller.  And now, I can write about my own, totally comfortable with myself and confident in my abilities.  I attribute much of that to being gay.  Having to go through such emotional, romantic, and social struggles forced me to look at myself as different from the norm, giving me a much richer understanding of what the norms are.  I worked with them, took them apart and tried to use them to compartmentalize myself just like society taught me.  While I might now argue that I never had to, I’m so glad I had the experience; it’s helped make me who I am.

I guess that’s how I justify dancing around my room at night to top-40 hits.  I’m just doing what makes me happy, and I will continue to do so.

Happy 2013, y’all.

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Making the Choice, Part 1: Being Happy

*Part 1 of a short series of posts on how I improved my life and outlook on the world simply by making a few choices, and why you should, too*

The Choice: Being Happy

There’s this kid at my school I used to hate. He mostly fulfilled the stereotype that comes with being openly gay; he was flamboyant, would always dress nicely, and absolutely adored theatre. I didn’t hate him because he was gay. In fact, my negative feelings towards him showed up only when I began to question my own sexuality (more on that later). I didn’t know where my dislike for him came from, especially if I was thinking I might be able to relate to him in a way most people couldn’t. After a few weeks I finally figured it out: He was happy.

See, it wasn’t even him or anything he was doing that upset me. He was a happy, confident go-getter that knew what he wanted, and, for whatever reason, I hated him for it. It didn’t matter what his sexuality was or what he wore. Disgusted with my feelings (How could I hate this boy? There was nothing wrong with him!), I tried to explain them. I ruled out jealousy, and came to a conclusion I didn’t want to admit. I couldn’t like him because I couldn’t like myself.

It all seemed so stupid. What was so wrong with me that I couldn’t make myself happy? The surprisingly simple answer was nothing. There was nothing inherently wrong with me; the only problem was that I allowed myself to inhibit my own happiness.

Wow.

This shocked me. I thought I did everything right: I got great grades, took care of myself, and spent an awful lot of time trying to please people. But what are good grades if you don’t celebrate them? How can you take care of yourself without taking time to make sure you’re happy and enjoying your life? Why can’t you be pleased, too? I asked myself these questions and realized that I could do what others expected of me, thought was “right,” and make others happy, or I could do what I wanted for myself and make myself happy. The choice was that simple.

I vowed to make my own happiness a priority. Once I started making small changes I noticed that I began to hate this boy less, and the less I hated him the more like him I became. No, I didn’t dress like him or act like him, but I was similar to him in that I was more confident in myself, more aware of myself, and excited to be myself. Simply put, I was happy, and I’m getting happier all the time. No more do I see someone joyful and lash out––I share the happiness, get inspired by it.

For anyone out there who feels like I did, please realize that a big part of happiness is making a choice. Don’t wait for reasons to be happy. Find them in yourself. A part of growing up is finding your identity, something I thought I had to have clearly defined in my head before I could be happy. There is a magic about the process, though, the journey. Celebrate it. You may find it brings you closer to your goal, or you might realize you were there all along.

Stay happy. 🙂

Exposed

We’re in the theater rehearsing our winter play. It’s a delightful comedy.

She misses a cue. This is the girl who is so involved, so passionate about so many things. Constantly under pressure, using theater to escape. Despite her reasons, she’s a great actress. Just not in that moment.

She breaks down. Crouching down on the stage to hide her tears, her character melts away. The all-seeing eyes of the director suffocate her, squeezing the tears out. She picks up the pieces of her composure––a mosaic of distress, sorrow, and defeat.

It was never supposed to happen; it was a mistake. But as I passively observed her breakdown in the theater she was more herself than I had ever seen before.

True story.

Struggling with Equality

Here’s something you may already know if you have some knowledge in the social sciences:  Certain criteria must be met for a society to be considered “civilized.”

Government, a given, is required to keep social order.  Some argue that a religion is also necessary to explain the way of the world, but it isn’t required.  A system of writing for recording things such as government records, historical events, diaries, and works of fiction is crucial.  Fiction ties into the next one, the need for arts and architecture.  A society’s art and architecture express its values in a creative way, and reveal what the society thinks is beautiful and strong.

There are several other less obvious characteristics of civilization, but the one that strikes me as the most important (and somewhat disturbing) is the necessity of social classes.  Today in America there are distinct classes–upper, middle, and lower, based on income.  It’s a bell-curve, with most of the population falling somewhere in the middle.  Classes don’t have to be based on money; in older societies class was determined by social status, which was determined by one’s job.  Government officials were at the top, followed by artisans, merchants, peasants, farmers, and slaves.

Karl Marx (1818 – 1883)
Image via Wikipedia

Conceptually, social classes can be broken down into two realms: those with power and those without it.  The government will

always be on top.  The other social classes organize themselves according to a society’s values and ideologies.  This shows that in order to be “civilized,” a society needs to allow itself to be ruled.  This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it means that ideas of equality from great thinkers such as Karl Marx might be pure idealism.

So, government is necessary for structure, and inequality is necessary for stability.  I’m totally not against government, but as a person with liberal beliefs it saddens me to think that some people will always be socially “better” than others.  I do believe that no person is really “better” than anyone else.  Because of this, I sometimes become skeptical of those who are in positions of power.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” – John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton

This is why I believe in democracy.  No one is better than anyone else, so no one person should have absolute power over everyone else.  Even though social differences exist in democracy, it allows everyone’s voice to be heard.  I’m not trying to preach about government…but given that a completely equal state may be impossible, a political system that involves all people the best it can is the best bet.  We are equal, yet we must be unequal.  Chew on that…