Today is very bittersweet for me. November 30 marks the end to NaNoWriMo, a challenge taken on by the most determined and amazing group of writers I have ever met. NaNo has come to mean so much to me in the last five years. But this year, this year I just couldn’t.
School has been kicking my butt this semester and I started falling behind early on due to mental struggles and emotional plight. I’ve been dealing a lot with things that are going on inside of myself that I am struggling to find the words for. I so wanted to jump into NaNo – even part-time! – to get back into the groove of writing and finding ways to express what was going on.
But some days, even making it to class was an accomplishment. I have been more exhausted these last months than I can ever remember. I am tired of being so different that people don’t really know how to help me.
But still I know that I must continue to do things as only I can, or my life gets voided. If I become like the masses, I cease to matter. One big grey blob of similarity and blending in will never be beautiful.
What is beautiful are those who walk their own way. Those who color themselves differently. Those like who I have met because of my years doing NaNo.
I have been so inspired by those I have had the pleasure of writing alongside and those I have learned from. I cherish each and every writer, study partner, accountability partner, and encouraging friend who has ever shared in my journey as I wrote through my novels.
Today, I want to celebrate my fellow writers. Their victories, whether by hitting the 50,000 word mark or just creating a character they love or a perfect scene to be used later. You are my inspiration and though I missed out this year, I will be back with a vengeance next year.
This year has been hell. Figuring out a separation that I never wanted because I still loved them. And a flood, literal and figurative, as my apartment flooded taking away everything that no longer mattered. Mental strain meant depression and anxiety. My whole world felt like it was crashing around me.
And it kinda was.
But I had people, friends, who came to my aid. Who held me up when they had no clue what was going on. I have been a hurricane and they were caught in the eye. And yet they stayed, just talking to me and being there for me. I needed them and they were there.
These friends. They are different than anything I have known.
I don’t expect you to understand what they are or how they live. You don’t need to understand it. It isn’t for you to experience. But we all respect each other’s experiences. We let them have their own experience in this life. We don’t try to change each other.
I love these people closest to me because they have become a part of my own experience here. But not only that, they have become my happiest memories.
I’ve been searching for that since I left home. And finally I found it. I wanted to bring home some of that happiness to share with my original family only to see that they would not welcome it.
Too different, they said.
Sinful, they called it.
Sometimes I wonder if sinful replaced happy. Can no one be happy anymore without being sinful? Is happiness a sin?
Because if it is, I don’t want to be on your side. I don’t want to be alive if it means that I will never be happy. So instead, I’ll stay on my side. I will shine my own light and let others celebrate with me. Because in this light, I can be my purest form. I can be most happy with others who celebrate me as I am.
Maybe I am too different. But here, that isn’t a bad thing. And for that reason, I am staying here.
For most of my life, I’ve been known as outgoing. Always surrounded by friends or family and almost always talking. But under the surface, I’ve been hiding major parts of me because they didn’t fit with what I was seeing around me. Most of middle school I spent writing in class because it was an escape. I could be anyone on the page and I could create an environment of people in there that loved and supported me despite my oddities. My characters always greeted me with open arms of love and acceptance. It didn’t matter that I had created them and they weren’t in the “real world” as so many people reminded me. These characters were very real to me and their support got me through many difficult times.
I am here today though because I have found people outside of my own head that love and support me. It has taken quite some time to voice what I’ve been hiding and it was terrifying to say it out loud. But I have been greeted with love that I could never have imagined. To be so completely free around these people has been the most amazing feeling in the world.
But it wasn’t around everyone that I could feel this way. Around some people, I was still afraid that they would disapprove or ridicule me so I stayed quiet. I bit my tongue as much as I could. But little by little, I started speaking up a bit more. Little by little, I grew more brave. I found the courage to talk to more people. I found love in some cases and unfortunately others decided they needed to leave. It’s been a hard journey so far and it won’t be over anytime soon.
I present myself to you today as myself. I do not fit into the socially constructed gender roles. I am not a lady, proper and clean with intentions of starting a family because my birth certificate says female. I am not a tomboy wishing to play sports or be active and full of testosterone. I am not confused and I do not need to make a decision of one or the other to fit the society gender binary. Some days I wake up and wear hand me down boys clothing in order to hide a frame that is built small and feminine. Other days I wake up and put on a dress that fits that form. But my favorite days are when I wake up and pull on whatever feels comfortable without worrying how people will perceive me.
Because of this in myself, I disregard gender ideas and normal perceptions when looking at everyone else. Instead of boys and girls, I see kids playing on swing sets and running around. At college, I don’t understand the check boxes that sort people into male and female. I see everyone as a person with completely unique ways that will differ from every other person on the planet because no one else is like them. I strive to always see people like this because it allows me the most open and accepting place to start getting to know a new person from.
I completely love who I am when I’m being free and honest with myself. I love being able to share that with other people. Hiding myself has never been in my nature. It makes me literally sick to my stomach when I feel like I cannot be myself around a person or group of people. I’ve had many dark days struggling with this issue. Not because I am unsure of myself but because of how I expect people to act when I say things or just present myself to them.
So here I am. I will be as honest with myself as I can be and I will do my best to always present that to others. I love myself and nothing can take that away from me. I hope you will continue in my journey with me. They say it gets better from here and I believe them. Life is beautiful and full of wonder and I never want to stop exploring it all.