A little writer with a long way to go

Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

What’s really in a name?

Over the years, I tried out different names for myself. I started out of course with the name my parents gave me. At one point I changed up the spelling of it for fun. And now I go by Ryn. But names are more than just fun for me, they carry a lot of weight.

To me, a name is the biggest representation of yourself. It’s how you introduce yourself to others and it’s how they reference you or call for you. Your name is pretty much one of the most important parts about you.

When people get married, it’s common for them to share a name. This, to me, is a promise. It’s a shared bond. It’s literally saying, this name is now a part of both of us. Whether you take on the name of your partner, they take on yours, you hyphenated, or you take on a new name, you’re sharing a major part of your identity with that person now. And it’s simply beautiful to me

You may think then, that I’m against those couples who don’t share their names. Actually no. Not at all. Some people want their identity to stay the same and their bond isn’t shaken by that. These people stay who they are despite being in a relationship and that’s beautiful as well.

These sorts of name changes are common but no one really gives a thought about them. Until you want to change your name as an individual.

Most people never have the urge to change names or never even think about names at all. But I think about names all the time. As a writer, I’d say the bulk of my time writing is figuring out names. How do I want to represent this character? What connotation does this name have? What does this name mean to me? How does this name resonate in the story?

To want to change one’s name is extremely significant to me. It’s not abandonment of your past. Quite the contrary. Changing one’s name is starting over with yourself. It’s a promise to yourself to start over. Give yourself a clean place to start from. Whether you change around a few letters, adopt a nickname, or completely change it, you’re giving yourself the freedom to recreate yourself.

Clean slate or a complete awakening or rebirth. You are making a new way for yourself.

If anyone ever tells me that they are changing their name, this is what it means to me and I will treat it with the utmost importance. I will immediately start calling them by this new name – unless they ask me to hold off or refrain for whatever reasons. They will become a new person to me and the old left behind.

The new person will have to clean up any mess left behind by the old one, but under a new name there will be new light shed on those old ways. A new name is a promise to yourself to do better than before.

So if you ever change your name, or even want to try it out for a short while, do it in a way that attempts to be better than before. Forgive more people, clean up old messes, tie up loose ends. But more than anything, under this new name, be more honest with yourself and above all, love and respect yourself more.

I definitely will. Your new name is a promise to yourself and to anyone you share it with. Be it marriage or through introduction, you have something new. Wear it with pride and honor.

And to anyone who refuses to notice that this is what you are changing your name for, I hope they aren’t around for very much longer. I know what it’s like to have people refuse to see the new you. Give them time. They might still see it as abandonment. I don’t know. Maybe share this post with them. Maybe I can enlighten them a bit. And if you are someone who hasn’t adapted to someone else’s name change, consider everything I’ve said here. Maybe it’ll change your mind about things. Don’t beat yourself up about it, just try your best to understand their reasons and do better from now on.

Good luck and best wishes to all who read this. Names are important. What are you making of yours?

The Stove Might be Hot

I grew up ascribing to a religion that I didn’t fully understand. At this point, it hardly matters which religion because I think this happens to all of us. We are taught whatever religion or belief system that our parents believe and by the end, I’ll wrap up why I think that is both a good and bad idea.

So, my parents, just like yours, taught me what they believed to be true. I participated in holidays and traditions important to those beliefs, read from a book of those teachings, and followed in the family norms of the believers. I grew up thinking that this was how it was supposed to be and was happy enough to follow this.

But somewhere around middle school, I learned that our belief system wasn’t all that there was out there. Other people believed and acted differently. Throughout high school I would be taught that this was wrong and bad and I needed to save these people from the bad teachings. It seemed good enough in theory but it felt wrong in practice.

Underlying every thought I expressed was a sick feeling in my gut that this wasn’t good. I was made to believe that I was worried so much about their downfall but it wasn’t that. Instead, it was my gut saying that I had no authority to judge what they were taught, what they believed, and what they valued in life.

So I went without religion for quite some time. Maybe if everyone just stopped believing in these religious teachings, we can find harmony in the world. We’ll stop having wars over which god is true or which culture is right. Maybe a world without religion is a good thing. So I set about encouraging people to abandon religion completely. But this was met with the same sickly feeling as trying to convince them to come into my religion. And in a way, I realized I was still trying to get them to believe what I believed, even though I thought I was freeing them from religion altogether. Same thing.

I was confused. What was I doing wrong? With religion, I felt I had to change everyone to my way of thinking. Without religion, I thought I had to free everyone from a forced belief system – and over to my new way of thinking. Where was the problem then.

Now might be a good time to mention that I have spent an unhealthy amount of time contemplating this dilemma when the answer is so freakishly simple.

Think about it this way: when you first enter the world, you are a blank slate. You know nothing. You have two ways of learning things. You can learn from others: what they say, how they act. But you also can go out there and try it all for yourself. You can learn from your mom, “Don’t touch the stove, it’s hot” or you can touch it and discover it for yourself. Either one is a valid way of learning the same message: the stove is hot. You reach the same conclusion.

One though, comes with the pain on your hand, the other one comes with trusting who is telling you the information. In my eyes, these are both a slight cost. Early on in your life, you’re probably more apt to do both. Your mom tells you the stove is hot, you then touch it to find out. This works to do a few things at once. You learn to validate the information of others by testing the theory yourself. The more often you validate the things your mom says, the easier it is to just take her word for it that she does indeed know what she is talking about.

Bringing this parallel to religion, the people who tell you things, have often gone through their own chain of validation. They have learned to trust certain people and have taken what they say as true, or they have tested theories directly. Anyone can do this. So when your parents or people tell you “I know what I’m talking about, I’ve been through this before,” basically, they are saying, “I know what it is to take someone’s word for it and I am extending you the option of taking my word for it so you don’t have to hurt your own hand.”

It’s all in good intentions really. Looking back on my life, I understand this now. My parents were just trying to save my hands. Whether they were going to burn on the stove or in some version of hell, they wanted to protect me. For that, I cannot fault them.

My life has been pretty crazy so far. I’ve stopped trusting people so much and had to burn my hands a few times too many because I really don’t know who to trust or what to believe. I’ve read up on a lot of religions and belief systems and I can’t find one that I fit into. I like messages from each. I like the spirits in every living thing from pagan type beliefs, I like the self empowerment from new age teachings. I love the idea of sacrificing oneself to save others that a lot of the major religions believe. The ideas of reincarnation and nirvana seem to make a lot of sense to me and karma seems pretty plausible. I believe that we aren’t the only ones out there but I think we’ve fallen out of harmony with the universe and the source love. I meditate often to get right with myself because at the end of the day, I am all that I can guarantee to myself. I may use different terms for things than you and others but we all do in the end.

I could ask five people to pick up paper and they could all pick up a different kind of paper. One has a notebook, another a legal pad, someone else picks up card stock, another makes their own paper, and the other has index cards. All technically still paper and yet all represented in different ways. Of course, we’re going to disagree on bigger things than paper. Especially when none of us were there at the beginning of the universe and technology hasn’t created a time machine to go back and check to see if their calculations are in fact the truth. Some ideas sound more plausible than others but does it actually matter?

In the end, the only thing that’s going to matter to us is what we think is important. Whether we think religion is important to us or not is something we have to decide individually for ourselves. In the end, we each have our own lives to lead and no one can change our minds unless we want them changed. Maybe I wanted to walk away from religion five years ago to see what else I could find. Maybe I really was searching for the truth.

Did I find it? I think so. What is it? That’s going to be a different answer often. Today, I’d say my truth is of living in harmony with the earth, doing my best to leave the smallest carbon footprint that I possibly can. Tomorrow, I may find more truth in being a part of a community where we can all be interdependent and connected to each other. And still I might say my root truth or at least the truth of me that pertains to everyone else on the planet, is to let everyone fin find their own truth. If there is anything that I think might be strong enough to want others to learn, it’s respecting everyone’s right to believe as they feel is true.

Sure, in parenting, this might be harder to do. You still need to protect those little hands from the stove. I think it still comes back to the choice. Tell them the stove is hot and let them decide whether they want to believe you or not. If they need to test it for themselves in order to more trust you, then go ahead and let them. You’ve done what you could. But if you fight so hard with them to keep them from ever touching the stove for themselves, you may have saved those little hands but now they might always doubt whether what you say actually has a basis in truth or if now they think you were lying because you wouldn’t let them verify it.

I respect the religions who teach their children the values that they believe and then give them the space to go out into the world and try other things before committing themselves to the religion or whatever.

Whatever you do though, you know how you came to believe what you believe now. Remember your journey, remember your doubts. And then, extend everyone else the freedom to discover what they need to in the ways that they need to hear it. If the stove really is hot, you can bet they’ll learn to stop touching it eventually. But if you discover yourself to be protecting them from a cold stove, that’s not very fair. Remember that the stove does cool off. We can all learn this along side knowing when the stove is hot.

Setting Goals and Celebrating Life

This last year has been a crazy hectic year for me with many changes and pitfalls.

My spouse and I decided we needed different things in life and have parted ways.
My old apartment flooded and I was displaced.
I moved in with a new companion and her cat. Both very loving and supportive of all my quirks.
I have decided to switch almost fully over to gender neutral terms for my gender identity.
I have decided that gender does not matter for my identity so any pronouns are fine (she, him, they, though I do like being Sir)
I have come out as gender blind and accepted myself no matter who might reject me because of this.
I am selling most of my possessions in favor of a much more minimal lifestyle.
I have added a Philosophy major to my studies.
I have set goals for a Library Science focus to one day open my own used bookstore or library.

With each change brings new paths or forces me to carve a new path through the trees. But with each path, I have become more true to myself and who I want to become. Sometimes life feels short and I feel like I have a lot to do with not a lot of time to do it. But I try to focus on one day or one moment at a time and not just do what I have to do but do what I need to do to make sure that what I am doing is helping me to become this being that I want to be. To become the Ryn I need to be.

I have some changes yet to finalize and some plans left to execute, but I’m definitely on the right track. I may get stressed and overwhelmed by having so much adult stuff thrown at me at once, but I’m doing well overall. I have great friends and family who support me and keep me thinking positively on those darker days.

And I do still have those days. Days where I would rather not exist. When I think I take up too much space. Days when I feel like this world is going to fall and I have no power to save it. I have dark days and some days it’s all I can do to just sit there under blankets, sobbing, making sure someone knows that I’m struggling. Because it’s hard to be vulnerable. To let someone know that despite all the progress you are making that some days just crush you. You want to be strong and to not fall backwards to where you used to be. But I assure you, everyone trips. Some of us fall harder than others. Others just don’t show it. But if you are struggling, if you are trying to be your own savior when all you can think about is not want to exist, please reach out.

This is the number for the US National Suicide Prevention Hotline. If you have no one else, give it a call. You are not a waste of space. You are made of the same elements formed in the stars that you wish on.

From someone else who has suffered, give it another chance. Make it through one more day. And if you do, make a goal to reach for tomorrow. Set small ones first. Finish your homework for class. Make it through a day of work to keep getting that paycheck. Apply for one job today. Simply finish your résumé. Do one thing today that will set you up for another step tomorrow. Make it as small as you need to so that once you reach it you can look back and say that you did something that might make tomorrow a little easier. From taking a walk to clear your head or cleaning off your desk so you have a place to work, there are a billion things that can set you up for your next steps. Hell, even making a list of what you have accomplished thus far is good enough! I did that at the beginning of this post.

But more than anything, remember that simply making it until tomorrow is a feat in itself and should be celebrated. You are to be celebrated. Every day.

Dancing for the Core

Clearing the floor, I turned on my favorite music. I took the center spot and ensuring my door was closed, I spun around in my room letting my new dress twirl around me. My movements were sporadic and haphazard along with the rock violin sounds of Lindsey Stirling.

Despite the fact that I committed to dance lessons for ten years, I never really thought of myself as a dancer. Maybe because I never really practiced it. For me, dancing was more like an expression of one’s mood in the moment. Not something you practiced to make perfect.

But my sister came from the other school of thought. And I very much enjoyed watching what came from her practices. She was angelic and graceful unlike how I saw myself. I wonder now if I didn’t stick with dance for so long just to try to impress her. But I couldn’t commit to it like she did.

As with any master of craft, watching them made you feel small. Like you’d never be where they are. And it’s true. There’s no way I would ever learn to dance like my sister. In order to do that, I would have to be her. And that was not my place.

And so instead I just watched. I watched her perform and let her inspire me. Not to dance, but to do what only I could do. I don’t think she’ll ever really know how much watching her inspired me. And not just watching her dance. I watched her simply live.

To this day, I think of her often. We live miles apart and live very different lives. But when I dance around the house or clear a spot in my room to dedicate to the freedom of movement, I think back to those years we danced.

Not many people know that I danced. That I took classes and performed on stage. I hid my dancing days because I was trying very hard to not be so feminine. I wanted to be accepted as one of the guys and become more masculine in my everyday life. But masculinity didn’t really work out for me. There’s a lot on that side of the coin that I don’t ascribe too. I couldn’t give a care about sports, cars, or how much I work out. And I’ve struggled a great deal trying to find my place along the gender spectrum.

But my dancing days were great days. Moving around the floor in synchronized movements with the rest of class was a fun challenge. Not to mention an energy burst that I could scarcely find elsewhere.

I haven’t thought about dancing for some time. But I do find myself moving along to my music as I walk around campus, changing my pace to keep the beat of the song playing. And moving around in the kitchen as I cook with some background noise. Or even just swaying along as I sit in front of my computer, my fingers finding the beat as I type. Dancing is quite innate to me. And dancing doesn’t have a gender.

For me, dancing is the expression of a soul. Yesterday, I cleared my floor by setting my mattress upright against the wall to give myself the space to dance. It’s quite hard to move a king size mattress by yourself. And yet I did that simply so I could give myself the space to do something I hadn’t even thought about for years. And I’ll now be looking to replace my bed for something more manageable for this rekindled love of dancing. Because after I danced, I felt peaceful again. I felt more like myself and I’ve kinda been losing that lately.

Dancing there in my room with some of my favorite music. It was just bliss.

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