Accepting

It’s been nearly seven years since I had a stroke. My entire left side was paralyzed, and I spent several days in intensive care before finishing out the week in a hospital bed; from there, I was moved to an inpatient rehabilitation center. That was my home for three weeks. During those three weeks, I basically did not leave the facility grounds. I had a lot of visitors, a lot of physical and occupational therapy, a brief stint of speech therapy until they decided my cognitive abilities had made it through intact. Seven years later, and I remember it all as if it just happened.

One of the things I remember the most, though, was a shifting in perspective. When I first arrived at the rehab center, the focus was on healing. Working my ass off to try and get better, going all-in on tasks that would have once been done without a thought; things that, in those weeks, took every ounce of effort I could muster. I remember when my arm started swinging wildly at my suggestions again. I remember punching my occupational therapist, Stephanie, in the face three times in one day. She took it in stride. I had to learn how to sit up, how to stand, how to use a wheelchair. I had to learn to walk, with varying support devices.

I remember very vividly a shift in perspective, a shift in focus, in the final days before my release. Up until then, my every moment there was spent focusing on the goal of regaining function. It was a dedicated effort, from myself and from the doctors and therapists helping me. I was there for one thing, and one thing only: to get better, to return to my old self piece by piece, to retrain my damaged mind. I was there to fight the things that had struck me down, to push back and find myself again. On not-quite-release day, I remember being told something new and different.

I was told to accept “the new normal”.

It was such a beautiful and grotesque thing to hear. “The new normal”; at once a hopeful recognition of how far I’d come, and a condemnation of how far I’d never go. It was one of the first times I’d been given a message of anything other than pushing myself to repair; this was a message of accepting limitations that could not be overcome by the methods employed at this place. By methods employed at any place. Yes, I was still there to get better, but I was also being told that I had to prepare myself — mentally and physically — for a challenging existence outside of those bleached-white halls and nurses on call. I’d be taking a wheelchair home. I’d be wisely instructed to buy a walker or a cane. My physical therapist strongly urged that my family and I move; we had a two-story townhome, and it was hard to know when I might make it up the stairs to my bed, my shower, my child’s room.

Accept the new normal. Know your limitations, know your boundaries. Manage expectations, and make peace with the barriers that won’t be coming down.

It felt like an impossible task, to simply take at face value that this was as good as it would get. Of course, even after being released from the facility, I was back inside three times a week for outpatient therapy sessions. Exercise bikes, treadmills, weightlifting equipment, electro-stimulation. Still pushing myself, and still being made aware of where the limits were. After a few months of this, the calendar turned to a new year; with that, the medical bills began to pile up again. I’d already been ruined by being unable to work, and simply could not afford to go. I stopped seeing the physical therapist after receiving January’s bill.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and not just in terms of my still-present physical limitations. While I’ve recovered probably 95% of my function, that last 5% is something I’ve had to accept is just gone. My left arm’s dexterity isn’t going to magically return, though I can use it well enough to type, play video games, tie my shoes — all things I had to learn again at 27. My left leg is much the worse for wear; I’ll never run, dance, hike, or jump the way I once did. That’s simply the way it is, and I’ve come to terms with it well enough. It’s the new normal. It’s my reality.

Sometime between the medical bullshit and today, I had enough time and exposure to ideas to piece together that I’m transgender. That, too, is a new normal; it’s as much a part of my as my unresponsive foot, as real as the toes I can see and feel but can’t bend. It’s as much a struggle to grasp as the rings and pegs my therapists had me working with my left hand when I was trying to learn to be me again. It gnaws at me in so many ways — not the least of which is my financial and societal holdups that prevent me from being the me that I see within myself. Unless, of course, these are the convenient lies I tell myself to force myself into acceptance of this new normal. I can’t tell the difference.

The new normal, too, extends far beyond some physical or mental sense of self; it’s not just who I am, it’s the world in which I live. It’s accepting the hate and bigotry that exists around me, that I must accept as real if I’m to stand within this place and ever say or do anything meaningful. It’s the way I cast aside the small joys I used to love when I find myself spiralling, because I begin to feel selfish and undeserving. It’s the whispers in the back of my mind that maybe all the hateful shits in the world that say that being who I am is nothing more than a mental disease, a desperate cry for attention from an entitled child in an adult body. I can’t deny feeling this way a lot, nor can I deny feeling unable to outright reject the feelings. After all, if that was really who I was, wouldn’t I find a way to put that face forward?

Never mind the fact that my job is changing, and I don’t even have anyone to go to right now for scheduling time off to see a doctor. Never mind the fact that it terrifies me to show up to work one day dressed in the clothes I wish I owned. Never mind, of course, the fact that I have no funds to buy those clothes because of the summer crunch of childcare costs. Or how horrible I’d feel if those children faced bullying at the hands of cruel children who saw what I was and used this as ammunition. The confusion my own children would feel seeing their dad all done up, the stares from strangers and coworkers and former friends. I know, of course, that I have support. I have love. I cannot and will not deny it, but I also cannot deny a certain trepidation, a fear that it might slip away if I swing too hard into the person I want to be.

Accepting the new normal. Recognizing limitations. Finding boundaries that will not be crossed. The edges of my own reality are sometimes constraining, even when the logic behind their formation is clear, the reason for their existence recognizable. Not every mountain is meant to be climbed, not every shore is meant to be reached. It’s becoming harder for me to know which ones are which, to tell the difference between where I cannot go and where I am subconsciously holding myself back. The lines between where I cannot go and where I simply will not are blurred and I find myself receding.

Sometimes I want to burn down everything I am to see what rises from the ashes; sometimes I know the dangers of even thinking this. I wish that I could tell the difference between accepting the new normal and placing unnecessary restrictions on my own existence. I wish that I could simply wake up one day and feel like the skin I’m wearing is what I want. I wish that I had the words or the wherewithal to be open and honest about this anywhere but here. I want to push myself, to learn and grow into the person I want to be, but every time I try I find myself plagued with doubt and insufficiency.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. I don’t know if these words will help anything, or if it’s just another scream into the void. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

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Media Matters

So, let’s just start this off with a bit of a disclaimer. I spent the first thirty years of my life not feeling like I “fit in”, but ultimately still living as a hetero cis white guy. Media was sculpted to fit me in that mold. I was the audience to which it panders; I saw “myself” in a lot of the characters in the shows, comics, and movies that I gave my time to. As I’ve grown into where I am today, though, this has diminished. Where I once “connected” with these nerdy, pale-skinned, scrawny heroes, their plainness and mediocrity is now laid bare for me. This doesn’t change how I felt growing up, but it changes things now.

So, when not long after I “discovered” my real self, Netflix put together an ambitious show that highlighted a diverse cast of protagonists, it clicked with me in a way that nothing really had before. I’m talking about Sense8; in particular, one of its eight leading roles — Nomi Marks, portrayed by Jamie Clayton. The connection is pretty plain if you know much about me or Nomi, but I’m going to say that not everyone does. So, let’s take a minute to familiarize ourselves with the character and some particular things about her that resonated with me in a way that other characters simply can’t.

See, it’s rare enough to see a transgender character in … well, pretty much any mainstream media. Rarer still are those done well, or those portrayed by actors and actresses who’ve lived that struggle in their own lives. Right off the bat, we’ve got a character that I can connect with if for nothing more than this — but wait! We’re not done yet. Nomi, you see, is in a very committed and pretty awesome relationship with another series regular, Amanita Caplan, as portrayed by Freema Agyeman. This is damn near unheard of for any transgender character — either part of it, really. A transgender woman who is in a happy, well-rounded relationship with a woman? I don’t know that I’m aware of this happening anywhere else.

This, then, marked a first for me in my newfound identity — there was a character, a leading character — who was like me. A person with their own struggles and complications that was still heroic and beautiful, while also dealing with the trials and tribulations that come from being transgender and gay. I don’t know if I can reasonably explain to anyone that’s not a part of a marginalized group what this meant to me, what it felt like to turn the show on and see someone that honestly felt like they shared some of my own confusing, confounding experience. Nomi was a character with depth, and Clayton’s portrayal of her fears and joys was fantastic and affirming.

So, when Netflix formally announced today (the beginning of Pride Month, no less!) that Sense8 would not be returning for a third season, I was … let’s say upset. No, fuck that. I was devastated. Maybe, in the midst of all of what we’re dealing with in the world today, having such strong feelings about a damn TV show is stupid or petty, but I don’t care. It hit me like a ton of bricks, enough that I spent some time at my desk today fighting back tears. Actual tears. It wasn’t an issue of the show’s cliffhanger season two ending — though that’s pretty shitty, too — it was the feeling of having this one thing, this one stupid goddamn thing that made me feel good in the midst of all this, taken away. It was seeing the only character I’ve ever felt this connection with get kicked to the curb. Why?

Well, to hear Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings tell it, the cancellation was for one simple reason. No, it wasn’t ratings, it wasn’t the cost of production, it wasn’t difficulty in the show’s globetrotting filming process — it was that Netflix simply doesn’t cancel enough shows. That’s it. That was his fucking excuse; that “[their] hit ratio is way too high right now” and that they “have to take more risk” because they “should have a higher cancel rate”. This is, perhaps, the most bullshit line I’ve ever heard from any content-creating executive — and that is saying a shit-ton, given the track record of people in such positions. The one goddamn instance of someone like me being represented in mainstream media, given the axe just because something had to be.

Now, this is just my own perspective, of course, but it’s a tale as old as media. The cis/hetero white guys at the top cut the content that speaks to the marginalized; the people of color, the queer, the socially-maligned, for whatever stupid reasons they care to cough up at the time. I’m far from the first to suffer this indignance, and I’m certainly not going to be the last. I’ve tried to speak up, where my voice has any meaning, on these sorts of things, because I knew it had to suck. I knew it was a shitty feeling, to have your heroes stolen away by real-life villains who simply don’t see you as enough of a demographic to keep on making things for you.

I don’t know when, or even if, I’ll ever see a character like Nomi Marks again. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to turn to my TV and see someone there that I can share that connection with. Honestly? I’m not holding my breath. If Netflix, the “difference maker” in the television-content equation, can cast that aside while making a living out of resurrecting tired old IPs and the cast-offs of more conventional networks, then why would I let myself hold on to that hope? If the one fucking instance of this happening can be kicked to the curb simply because “something needed to be” is insulting and really, really disappointing.

Anyway, if you haven’t watched Sense8 I definitely encourage you to do so. Without going into specifics, there were several times that the show made me cry — and mostly tears of happiness! Seeing a reflection of myself out there, being done well, and getting to live a good life in spite of the struggles was a pure and awesome joy for me, and there’s plenty more to like about the show. Yes, it’s going to end with a bullshit cliffhanger that’ll never be resolved, but trust me when I say the journey to that point still has interesting and good things to say, and a beautiful person that will remain a hero of mine even if her story has been left on the cutting room floor.

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Clarify

Okay. So, I’ve written a few pretty heavy pieces lately. I’ve talked about the struggles I’m going through on the absurd battlefield of my own mind. While that’s all well and good for getting some of the difficult words out, it also paints a bit of a picture — and not a happy one. I wanted to take some time today and discuss the same topic here, through a different lens that isn’t quite so dire. After all, despite whatever internalized challenges I’m putting myself through, there’s still a pretty great and simple thing I can say: I am happier now than I have ever been.

This isn’t, of course, a way of saying I’d never been happy before now. I’ve had a pretty good life — there’s been times of trouble, sure. There’s been the down-and-out periods of feeling like it wasn’t worth going on. The valleys, though, have their peaks as well. I’ve benefitted, generally, from a good family; we weren’t wealthy by any stretch, but we got by and our home was full of love. I’ve got a divorce in my past, but even that came from a relationship that wasn’t necessarily bad, and taught me the things I’d never have learned about how to be in a relationship and get it “right”.

So when I’m writing about the things that are difficult for me, it can be easy to lose sight of the positives. As I mentioned in my last post, the toughest part of my journey so far has been recognizing the years I spent not having a name for my uncertainty. I have that now. I have a word for this piece of myself that I barely understood until relatively recently. I don’t know if you, fair reader, have ever had that experience; if you haven’t, let me tell you: it’s pretty great. Does it stop the churning thoughts and unease? No, not quite so simply. But that’s not the point. Knowing what something is does not “solve” it, but having the language to describe and examine it is a huge step up from simply having something that gnaws at your soul.

Beyond just having the words, though, I’ve got something even more important — I’ve got support. Friends, both local and otherwise, that are there to encourage me and remind me of the good in our world. My wonderful wife, who’s taken this whole thing in remarkable stride; one of the things I’ve read a lot about with regards to people who “come into” transgender identities later in life is that it often destroys their existing relationships. That didn’t happen to me. Hell, I didn’t even give her a “heads up” when I came out — she just got to read the piece in which I did so before anyone else. Since that moment, she’s been nothing short of amazing (not that she wasn’t already, mind).

So, sure, I’ve got times where my own identity seems to be chewing up my brain and making life more difficult. I won’t deny that, but hell – it’s always been there, anyway. Now I have a grasp on why. That’s no small thing, to get a handle on the root of severe insecurities. It’s no small thing to have wonderful people backing me up, to have a wife that helps me find my center in this maelstrom of introspection. To have someone who married me for the man I was and yet still continues to love me for the woman I am, willing to help me with makeup or trying on new clothes or any of the other trappings that would easily trip up many others.

Maybe I don’t know how to be myself in the ways I want to just yet. That’s fine; these things are often referred to as a “journey” for a damn good reason. It’s not like I can wake up one day, hop in the shower, and wash off thirty-plus years of assumed male-ness. I can’t see my own face in the mirror and ignore the years I’ve spent with it, or the baggage that not having a name for myself brings with it. What I can do, though, is recognize that I’m closer now than I’ve ever been, and that I owe a lot of that to the amazing and supportive people around me.

Life isn’t meant to be easy, but it’s also not meant to be a constant uphill battle. While I still have plenty to work through, and a lot of progress to make before I’ll be able to say I’m really comfortable with myself, I know I’m on the right path now and that I’ve got the company that’ll make it so I can get there. Even on my darkest and most dysphoria-riddled days, I can take some solace in the fact that, whatever I feel about this stupid hairy meat-bag I’m inhabiting, there’s someone beside me who loves it and loves the person inside of it.

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Being

I’ve talked a lot — a LOT — recently about my being transgender. For quite a while, this was just a thing I’d talk about on the internet; my Twitter pals, some Facebook friends, the occasional blog post. I’ve been mentioning it more and more in “real life” lately, and talking about it more through the lens of what impact this has on my life; admittedly, right now, it’s not a whole lot. That’s what brings me here today, because the reason I’ve been talking about it more is that I’ve been thinking about it more. And when I’m thinking, I’ve gotta get some thoughts out from time to time.

One of the effects I’ve noticed from being more centered on these thoughts is that I seem to be feeling more and more dysphoric. Every day, I’m getting a little bit less comfortable in my own skin. More aware of all the ways I’m still “presenting” as my assigned sex rather than my gender. More acutely disdainful of my own lack of convictions and methods for changing this. My body hasn’t changed, but my mind keeps pushing forward to the next thing while the meat-sack it inhabits lags behind.

I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t know how to cope with feeling like I’m not really being myself out in the world, or how to approach changing it. I’m struggling and wrestling my own thoughts in circles. I can see it happening, feel my own mental health degrading as I focus more and more on the flaws I feel in every inch of my own flesh and skin and bone; it weighs on me during every day, like a shoulder-slung sack of stones I’m dragging along with me. It’s staring back at me in every mirror, a twisted visage that’s the same face I’ve always known but wish wouldn’t greet me with its sneering, saccharine grin.

I’m objectively aware that it’s not something that I can tackle alone, but I don’t know where to start. I don’t know where to turn or who I can open up to, I don’t know what I can do to try and start doing something about it. It’s chewing away from the inside, consuming my mind’s idle time and distracting me from other things I should be focusing on, things I should enjoy. And somehow, still, underneath all of that, I’ve still got that gnawing doubt that refuses to let go. Maybe it’s all in my head. Maybe I’m making up this feeling to give myself something to stress about, since life’s been pretty good to me. Maybe I’m just trying to be someone else because I don’t like me very much; maybe I won’t even like who I find on the other side once I get there.

Of couse, the more likely reality here is that because it took me so damn long to piece together my own identity that I’m just getting to the awkward teenage phase of it all. I think most transgender people deal with times of intense dysphoria; that’s pretty well the case from most stories I’ve read. It’s something that pulls at them from an early age — I didn’t have this experience. Not really; not in the way I always read about it or see it in media portrayals. Maybe that means I’m doing it wrong, or maybe it means the media’s full of shit. Maybe both of those are true.

What kept me from discovering this aspect of myself for the first thirty years of my life is something small, simple, and not even sinister. My own worldview was narrow; I wasn’t raised to be intolerant of other views, mind you. Just sheltered from them. I didn’t know that “transgender” was even an option; I didn’t really understand the idea of gender being something separated from biological sex. I wasn’t told that these feelings had a name, so I didn’t have any label to apply to them. In retrospect, the signs were there. There were small things I did, looking back, that paint a picture of a me that I didn’t even know I was trying to become. I hate myself for this ignorance, not because I think I should have come up with a name for it myself, but because I was so goddamn blind that it was only in the rear-view that the pieces of the puzzle made a coherent picture.

I remember having my mother paint my nails. I remember trying on skirts, and being drawn to silky fabrics, and never ever not even once feeling like “one of the boys”. Of course, I never really felt like “one of the girls” either — was that because I was clinging to some sort of half-baked bio-essentialist view, or because I wasn’t really any of these? I’d like to think it’s the former. I want to tell myself that it took me so long to know myself because I was just in the dark, that I was blind to the possibility, that I was so unaware of what it meant that I couldn’t possibly be expected to see it in myself. I want to believe that, because it helps to validate my current view. I want to believe it because it means I’m not a fraud.

And, of course, this is damn near impossible to really articulate. Even here, I don’t know that I’m capturing my thoughts in a way that makes even a lick of sense. I don’t know if I’m finding the words to express the way I want to express myself. It feels stifled, somehow, like even the person writing this is still working through the fog of doubt and uncertainty and just choking out cliche after cliche instead of making any useful headway. Like this is just another piece of the cycle; I’ve got to write to get the thoughts down, but they’re not changing, not moving towards any particular end. I don’t know what else to do, but I can’t stand to simply do nothing. Even if what I’m doing right now is nothing; just a pat on my own back to say, “nice work, friend, you’re taking care of yourself”. It’s like I’m trying to convince myself that any of it has meaning while the chorus of subconscious thought chants over and over that it’s all meaningless.

Maybe I am just spinning my wheels, but I honestly do not know what else to do. They say that people who’re in the midst of a mental health crisis don’t often reach out — usually because the nature of such crises is the prevailing sense that it’s not worth it. Nobody cares; we’ve all got struggles, and we’re all trying to work through them as best we can. Maybe we just don’t know where to reach out to in order to get anywhere; maybe sometimes, all we’ve got is self-depricating evaluations of our own psyche in the midst of whatever storm we’re weathering.

I just want to be me.

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Word Therapy

This is going to be one of those things that I write for myself. It’s being put here because, quite frankly, keeping my journal open to the world is part of why it works for me. It lets me vent my thoughts and put some pieces together in a way that helps me make sense of myself. It presents an opportunity for conversation with people who want to engage in it. It allows me the chance to just get things off of my chest and try to find some sense of solace, despite the raging sea of enormous confusion that our world has become (or always has been, or always will be — I’m not so sure). It’s a method for me to resolve some self-turmoil and find out things about myself through exploration of my own psyche; like a one-way conversation with a digital counselor. Here we go.

It’s been a few years now since I came out as transgender. I didn’t even use the term at the time, because I was still trying to find out where my place in the whole miasma of gender-identity was; I knew that I felt feminine. I knew that I wanted to let that be a part of who I was known as. I knew that I wanted to say, “Hey, this is me,” and hope for the best — because, quite frankly, it was a gamble. It was a shot in the dark, to see if the people around me could even deal with the idea that I’d been living some kind of lie and just decided to up and tell them about it. It was like a secret that I’d kept from even myself.

So I said “fuck it” and let that secret out, and you know what? It went over pretty well. In fact, it’s become such an intrinsic part of myself that most of my (online) friends couldn’t imagine me without it. And that’s what brings me here, today, right now. I’m still living a lie, holding secrets from myself, being something that I’m not. It’s a cycle that pulls at my head every single day and makes me feel distracted, worthless, and inadequate. This isn’t quite the same kind of lie, though; it’s ultimately one that’s probably more sinister.

So here’s the deal. If you’re reading this — and especially if you’ve read my other posts or follow me on Twitter — then you know I’m transgender. Great! Did you know, though, that since my coming-out, I haven’t really … done anything about it? I started shaving more of myself, and doing so more regularly. I sit down when I pee, because it is something I can do that is small and entirely for myself and makes me feel “feminine”. I got some pictures of me, face all done up in some pretty makeup, to plaster on my social media profiles. It feels performative in contrast to the rest of my life.

Maybe it’s stupid to think that I’m being “performatively” msyelf, but that’s just it — my life, day in and day out, remains largely unchanged. I haven’t updated my wardrobe or learned to do my own makeup. I haven’t found a way to really express the person that I am, and I can’t bring myself to do much about it for a number of reasons. The biggest one, or what I tell myself is biggest, is the cost. Buying new clothes, gathering lipstick or other things — these aren’t inexpensive endeavors. I don’t even know what would look good on me, and I’ve got no frame of reference to try and figure it out. So I just don’t bother.

The apathy in that is probably the biggest problem. Maybe I’ve just become comfortable plodding through life in the body I was given, draped in the half-thought outfits that society expects to see it in. Maybe I’m scared of being attacked or harrassed if I step outside of that norm; more likely, I’m using an imaginary fear as an easy excuse to keep on seeming like a somewhat-effeminate guy that’s otherwise pretty normal. Maybe I’m ashamed of the idea that wanting to be who I am would require these sacrifices. Maybe I’m just twisting myself in knots because, deep down, I still struggle with the fact that I feel like an imposter.

I feel like I’m treading water. I feel like I’m co-opting the struggles of people who, far braver than I, have not only found their identity, but embraced it openly and been persecuted for it. I feel like I don’t deserve the happiness of knowing who I am if I’m not going to put in the work of making sure others know it, too. And that’s probably an incredilby asinine statement — after all, being myself isn’t about doing anything for anyone other than me, right? Yet still, every day, I see myself in the mirror in the men’s room, feeling out of place and wrapped up in the wrong skin and the wrong clothes and the everything is just … wrong.

So I retreat to my online space, the place where my physical trappings aren’t important. The place where I’m known by my words and a single prettied-up picture that I wish was really me. The place where I know I’m safe to shout long and loud about the person I feel is me, and still feel welcomed. The internet has always been where I belonged; it was this when I was young, finding people around the world in Yahoo chat rooms and just talking about whatever. It was there when I was playing online RPGs, hiding behind characters I created — most of them female, of course. It was there in the persona I created as my “player”-self in those same games, another assumed identity that was just a performance I played for the sake of expressing things I wouldn’t grasp about myself for fifteen years.

And so it comes around in circles, looping back around on itself — which of these two faces is actually me? Am I the person that I put forward in the spaces where I feel secure and supported? Am I the face that walks around my city in poorly-picked clothing, much of which is older than my ten-year-old son? I’d like to think I’ve changed and grown and, dare I say, found out who I really am — but if that’s me, then why the hell is it so hard for me to want to do anything to show it? I twist back and forth between feeling like maybe I’ve just invented some persona to play online, and feeling like the persona I play is the one that walks into work every day with poorly-shaved stubble and ragged-edged t-shirts that long to be replaced by something new.

And hell, let’s be real — sometimes I feel like this internal “struggle” is a bunch of bullshit all around, and that I’m just making up problems to obsess over because I’m looking for excuses to explain away why I’m not constantly content. My life is pretty damn good, after all, and while I’ve got my share of the standard problems that most people deal with, it’s not an overwhelming heap of issues to slog through. I am, for the most part, doing well and able to help provide for my family, but we’ve all got that swirling discontent that lives within us and sometimes I feel like I’m clinging to something that makes that feel justified — which is, perhaps, ridiculous, since there’s literally no reason that I should have to find something to “justify” my own emotions to myself.

I guess the point of this is that I really want everyone to know that, sometimes, I feel like a giant fraud. In fact, most of the time. I don’t quite know what to do with it, and it’s been a huge knot in my stomach for months or maybe years as I’ve searched to find new ways to try and actually be who I am. Putting all of this into words, I think, is helping me find a way that I can try to address some of my own insecurities, but the end result is going to be the same: I’ll keep being these two people, keep digging at myself for failing to reconcile them, and then eventually I’ll wind up back here throwing a thousand words of self-pity together in some vain attempt to collect myself and soothe the disquiet that I keep dredging out of the corners of my own mind.

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