Friday, April 15, 2011

decision day

Today is, appropriately, April 15, a day is pretty much always associated with heightened stress levels (tax day, oh-shit-yesterday-was-mom's-birthday day). It's also the deadline for accepting offers from graduate schools. Read: the day that you can't put off deciding which grad school you want to go to--or even if you want to go to grad school at all--any longer. By now I'm a little too familiar with this date and its ridiculously looming "end-all, be-all" aura of certainty. Last year, April 15th found me adjusting to the idea of living in pretty much the only city in existence in which i could never imagine myself functioning happily or healthily. (Lo and behold.) And this year, i'm preparing to move across the country again--third time's the charm--because I accepted an offer of admission & financial package from Arizona State's Women and Gender Studies PhD Program.

Shockingly enough, it was a fucking hard decision.

Since I moved, I've been in this lovely state of flux, reinventing myself and figuring out my own desires and maintaining my own well being. I applied to grad schools pretty halfheartedly--I needed a distraction (albeit a very expensive one), and it worked. I was in such a tumult, though, I didn't expect to get in anywhere, and I started collecting reasons not to go to grad school, ways to disassociate myself with the thing entirely. I took trips around the country, visiting friends & family doing a million other awesome things besides going to school. I partied my ass off and decided I deserved to take advantage of my youth, not lock myself in at 23 to the competitive hellhole that is academia. Going to grad school was someone else's plan, now I could recognize that and decide what I really wanted to do with my life--and where I wanted to do it--for myself. Besides, the activist in me always sort of wondered how I could ever actually take down the patriarchy as an academic--don't you have to get your hands dirty and work with real people to get shit done, not just talk to white kids whose parents pay for them to go to college and hope for the trickle down? Anyway, I interviewed for internships, applied for jobs, and did some serious research about which awesome city I was going to move to. I got excited about the opportunities that were opening up for me as grad school became a lesser and lesser option in my head. I even came up with a legitimate Plan B that I was ready to swing into, full-force. right when I'm getting ready to do just that, of course, grad school came a' knockin'.

ASU offered to put me up so I went and took a look around, ended up feeling right at home--talking to grad students & professors, going to classes. Many students were already published, and I spoke to many faculty members doing research that aligned with mine pretty precisely. Not to mention the campus was gorgeous--and summertime for basically 11 months out of the year is particularly convincing, especially to someone with a somewhat intrusive case of seasonal affective disorder. There was even a large demographic that traveled exclusively by scooter! Very reassuring. they offered me a good amount of money (tuition/insurance/stipend), the chance to work a smaller program where I would get uber attention (and further research/funding opportunities) from a dedicated WGS core faculty, and the reassurance that not only would I get to do what I want to as a grad student there, but that the work I've already been doing is interesting, important, and necessary. As a part of the School of Social Transformation, not only does the PhD program have security in the conglomeration (from getting cut--a real possibility for programs that some don't consider "real" disciplines) and is on the good side of the higher-ups (who support the school-based reorganization), it also brings to the forefront my worries about academia remaining far too removed from the issues of oppression we're trying to alleviate. It didn't feel like an ivory tower out there, it felt like a place I could get my hands dirty. I was really struck by the passion of everyone there--students, faculty, staff--who really loved and believed in the program. It reminded me a lot of CofC WGS--an amazing, transformative, close-knit community of scholars and activists basically kicking ass and taking names. Small but mighty--and getting shit done.

So I said: I'm in.

And now, April 15 feels different. It still has its stresses, as moving across the country to a new place by yourself inevitably will. But I'm resting easy knowing that not only do I have a plan, but that plan is to do something with my life that I am 100% qualified for and totally enamored with. It's all happening. And I did it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

negativity busting

I had a wonderful summer--rent-free, responsibility-free, and basically carefree. It was a great way to ease into post-graduate lifestyle. However, I then very abruptly jumped into what I've taken to calling "my new life," which includes things like: deciding which of my books are important enough to carry across the country with me, studying for yet another a standardized test, buying very, very expensive plane tickets home for Christmas, learning how to budget vacation days, living in an apartment building with neighbors whose ceilings are our floors, being a pedestrian and public transit user in a city made for cars, the list could go on forever. Mainly, with the sudden influx of responsibility that comes with having a "real job" (well, sort of--more on that later) and various adjustments, I've recently found myself sometimes treading, sometimes drowning, in much more negativity than I'm used to.

This tells me a number of things. That I had a really amazing past few years that I pretty much thoroughly enjoyed--at least enough to consider myself "optimistic" throughout the majority of them. That adjusting to new places is pretty hard, but attempting to be a grownup in the process is way harder. But most importantly, that I will now welcome any and all sources of positivity-boosting, no matter how big or small.

Which brings me to the point of my little, sad-excuse-for-a-much-needed-life-update-post: Marcell the Shell with Shoes On. I'm sure this is not new to anyone (except maybe you, Mom) because it's been out a while. I'm sure everyone has seen and loved it. But I love it because when I first came across poor little Marshell--I apparently needed to be reminded of the power of laughter in boosting my mood. Who would have thought I would ever forget that?! And now whenever I am feeling overwhelmed, this video will undoubtedly cheer me up and keep me in perspective. Marcell/Jenny Slate's genius, I love you. Thank you for keeping me sane.

Friday, April 9, 2010

houseplant anxiety

Maybe it's a control thing. Maybe it's just that I like to watch things grow, and I don't know what to do when they don't. Maybe it's my lack of actual knowledge about the subject. Maybe it's my natural, instinctive, urge to nurture. Maybe I'm just getting used to a new hobby. No, it's definitely a control thing.

My houseplants.

The backstory: My mom's house is full of plants. My grandma's house is full of plants. They are both gardeners. Excellent gardeners, might I add, who keep SUPERB houses and whose houseplants are always green, full, and thriving. So when I was at home for Christmas, enticed by green thumb I thought would be inherent in my blood, I collected a bunch of cuttings from my mom and my grandmother. Then, when I got home, I planted them in my new Ikea pots bought especially for the occasion, and assumed in a matter of weeks I would have plants just those found in my home and peeking out from the tops of bookshelves and bedside tables on pretty much every Apartment Therapy home tour I've seen.

But that's not what happened.

Well, I don't actually know what happened, but there were no full, thriving plants to be found in my home. There were sad and brown, and what little leaves they had were in tatters--and I'd like to think that wasn't all because of Starlee eating them--I did at least attempt to move them out of her reach. Anyway, I immediately assumed failure. Which didn't sit well.

I could think about absolutely nothing else. I started obsessively worrying about the condition of my houseplants. Researching on the internet, adjusting their placement around the house, asking people for advice, calling and texting my mom--sometimes more than once a day. I spent literally hours wondering if I should water them more, water them less, fertilize? Constantly agonizing--what was I doing wrong?

As it turns out, I wasn't doing anything wrong. What I was doing really, really well was exerting every single ounce of energy I had lying around to taking control. Of something. Anything, really. Because this is the most out of control I've been, over huge life/future things...soon, no more school, no job, no idea where I'll be living for the next few years at least, while Kaylee is off all over the country visiting schools making the biggest decision of her life thus far. And there I was grasping at straws, desperately trying to make my silly plants just grow--that's all I wanted. Because that's all I could do. Until she visited everywhere, and we talked, weighed options, and made a decision together, all I could really justify worrying about were my plants.

Now, I'm starting to regain control. I brought my plants to my grandma's house for a little TLC over Easter weekend, and things are actually looking much better. They are green, leafy, and (on the road to) flourishing. I got lots of helpful advice from all the plant-growers in my family. And, I now know where I'm going to be living next year. (Well, what city, at least). I still can't really believe how my anxiety manifested itself, but at least it wasn't too unhealthy. And it's getting better now--I probably spend less than an hour a day worrying about my plants! Because they look awesome now. Just like my future.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


This was my submission for CofC NOW's Look Book, our activism project compiling people's stories about their bodies. Available soon at a (yet to be determined) location near you!

I got my first one when I was eighteen, and it literally shocked my mother into silence. She stopped speaking to me for several days. Not all reactions have been quite as strong since then. They usually garner some concerned looks, a variety of complements, frequent questions—what does that one mean?

Each one tells a story. There’s the lotus on my back that I got in my hometown, surrounded by women who love me, to represent the rebirth I felt when I came out. The equal sign on my wrist from Seattle, with new friends. The radish from Portland, Oregon, reminding me that change should be radical, always beginning at the roots. And of course, the fateful four-leaf clover on my foot that may once have expressed teenage rebellion but now reminds me how lucky I am to have the countless good things in my life I do—including a concerned mother and a family that cares about me as much as mine does.

They represent what is important to me—important enough to permanently attach to myself—and they let me speak my mind without ever having to open my mouth. My tattoos represent me taking a stand about what goes on my body. No one can decide that but me.
Most days I love them. I’m glad they’re there, showcasing my ideals to the world even when I don’t feel like talking. More than anything, I like that they show everyone I have the ability to make my own, life-changing decisions for myself. Yep, I did it, I don’t regret it, and I’m not looking back.

Occasionally the thought passes my mind that maybe getting these tattoos was a bit of a rash decision—what about when I get old and saggy? But thoughts like that are fleeting and always overshadowed by the fact that I made that rash decision myself. It’s empowering.
In a world that’s constantly trying to make me feel like I am utterly incapable of that, that I’m better off with other people making my decisions for me—about my body, who I should love, what I should say, how I should act—it’s a reminder that I need. My tattoos are my autonomy, evidenced right there on my body—for me.

Photo credit to Wesley Laudeman, photog extraordinare.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


My most recent Etsy purchase is evidence of me attempting to take the fast-approaching New Stage Of My Life head-on. I'll soon(er than I'd like) be moving away from my house, my school, my friends... most likely very, very far away from all of them. I'm contemplating new cultures and communities, and trying to decide how much I really need to care about changes in climate, cost of living, and (stereotypical) general disposition of the people I'll be interacting with on a daily basis.

I think because I'm not going to this new place with a particular purpose already laid out for me--no job, spot in a grad school, geographical calling--I'm thinking about the nuts and bolts stuff a lot more. What's will transportation be like? Is there an activist community? How will we arrange our furniture in our new place? Will we even be able to find a new place we like? Where do the gay people hang out? Is there an Ikea nearby? Will I be able to ride my bike? Do yoga (affordably) anywhere? Will the move make Starlee go crazy? Am I still capable of "making friends"? Theses are things I think about, often with about a million others, in rapid succession, while I attempt to fall asleep at night.

To give an idea of just how little I can actually compare the places I could possibly be living next year, here are the places that have offered Kaylee admission and $$:

University of Arizona (Tucson)
University of Minnesota (Minneapolis)
UNC Chapel Hill
Syracuse University (NY)
University of Washington (Seattle)
University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)

But wherever I end up, I know that there will be at least one person who loves me there, and I'll have a book full of the rest of them only a letter, phone call, or email away. That's a nice feeling.

i heart activism

Welcome to another edition of: I thought of blogging about this week(s) ago when it was actually relevant, but just now getting around to doing it and so it's a little outdated but maybe I can still make it worth something. How long ago? Think Superbowl. Maaaybe there are a few of you out there who still haven't seen these...

First, watch this:

Gross, vom, ack.

Then, watch this:

Yay! Take that.

I like this combo because a) it shows the relentless exploitation of gender stereotypes for capitalist gain, and b) how even that can be co-opted by activists. To make a pretty awesome statement, I might add. The turnaround on this was practically immediate--I think the response was posted the day after the ad aired (during the Superbowl) and the message is pretty obvious. I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes good activism, since I find myself surrounded by it--tons of different kinds of it--and those are two things that I think are totally necessary: timeliness and accessibility. So, mackenziefegan, you hit the nail right on the head as far as I'm concerned.