Some thoughts.

As usual, I have thoughts bouncing around my head like a bunch of rabid weasels that refuse to just settle down and behave. So what the hey, I’ll write a post about them instead!

One of the things that happens sometimes, within the communities that I hang out in, is getting asked, “So what do you write?” and my default, instinctual answer is something along the lines of, “I don’t”, or, “Nothing really,” anything along those lines.

I have a complicated relationship with words.

Obviously by the fact that I have this blog at all, the aforementioned statements aren’t particularly factual or true; instead they are a reflection of my notions of self-worth, they are a mirror of how I tend to view my writing despite time and time again of people telling me otherwise about it. Even when I admit to the fact that I write things, be it this blog or my assortment of poetry or my seven trashfire nanowrimo drafts (yep, seven; and I still moderate a nanowrimo chatroom on IRC but in recent years haven’t produced anything remotely resembling a story let alone a novel) most of which I would prefer to never see again, I have a very difficult time seeing myself as a writer.

Part of this in turn stems from the difficulties that I have with composition. A lot of what I write is exceedingly short, and I’m not talking about the whole myth that “shorter is better”, either. The posts I write are short because I run out of the ability to string the words together and make them say what I want to. They don’t look the same on the screen as they sound in my head and I get frustrated and more often than not I close the window and do not post anything at all. I leave windows open for hours on end (like I have this one) and don’t come up with what I want to say.

There’s a solution to this problem for me, but it’s a solution that comes with its own round of problems. That solution is pen and paper. I’ve always felt better and felt like I have more of a compositional flow when I’m writing with pen and paper. However, I have a whole host of problems with doing that as well.

I hold my pen too tightly, and writing more than a sentence at a time often physically hurts. Additionally, one of the most abiding and severe manifestations of my obsessive compulsive disorder happens when I am writing on paper. I have a very difficult time coping with the natural differences in letter forms, and every letter has to be perfect and look like every other letter on the page. I cannot switch pens in the middle of the page. If I misspell a word or make a mistake or my pen slips I have to start over from the beginning. If my pen runs out? I have to start over from the beginning. Sometimes mistakes are so upsetting that instead of writing I end up focused on tearing up what I made a mistake on, or shredding it, or burning it. I start writing in notebooks and then three days later put it aside and do not continue, which is made worse by the narrative that I’m wasting paper— I don’t want to be wasting paper, and I really do care about trees.

Shopping lists are a particularly fun part of this. I end up writing shopping lists two to three times just to get them to look neat and so that the foods are organised by type and aisle and store, and gods above forbid anyone else writes on my shopping list. Then I redo it again.

So of course, the solution to that is technology. Write on a computer, they said; it’ll be fun, they said; it’ll solve all your problems, they said. And maybe for someone else it will solve all of their problems, but it hasn’t yet solved mine.

A lot of things that I write I still work out on paper first and then type up after I have the idea of where it is going. But most of the time I’m not willing to deal with the entire process of writing or the frustrations of writing, and so that’s the reason that most of the time, I’m not willing to call myself a writer.

Some thoughts.

Up and coming this weekend!

This weekend I will be at FOGcon, which is a wonderful literary and things convention up in Walnut Creek. I have been several times in the past and always thoroughly enjoy it.

This year I will once again be on panels, as well. I’m definitely excited although it comes with the standard helping of imposter syndrome and feeling as if I am unqualified to be at the front of a room speaking about these things. Even when I know that’s untrue, and one of the best ways that I’ve found to conquer this particular version of imposter syndrome is by actually doing the thing that’s making me anxious. Damn brainweasels always getting into everything… Saturday evening will be When It’s Friends who are Hurting You and on Sunday morning I will be on Ancient Myths and Modern Culture.

In any case, now it’s time for me to shut my computer down so that I can pack it into my backpack. Even when the trip is just a few hundred miles across California in my own car, I enjoy getting the chance to hit the road.

Oh, and for those of you who already know me: my hair is teal now.

Up and coming this weekend!

Reality sets in.

Today is my last day as a bus operator with my current employer. I put in my resignation notice earlier this month when it was becoming increasingly clear to me that it was time to move on. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I should stick it out, or make it a year or two years. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I’m being overly hasty in my decision making process.

None of those accusations are true.

At the very least, the point remains that I am an adult and it’s well and beyond time that I can make my own choices as to my career path. I put a lot of thought into it, into whether or not I could stick it out, before deciding that it was in my best interest not to try to. I learned a lot while I’ve been with Metro, about driving buses, about interacting with the public, but most importantly about myself. The things in this post are just a few of the reasons I’m leaving.

I learned I absolutely hate the uniform pants. They’re made of an itchy polyester fabric that I have had nothing but problems wearing. Polyester doesn’t breathe, which is a particular problem here in California where the weather tends to be on the warmer side. The uniform requirements are probably one of the things that contributed to my choice to not stay at Metro any longer. I thought that I was going to be able to cope with the polyester pants, but I was wrong.

I’m looking forward with my next job (which is mostly lined up and a subject for another post) to a more relaxed dress and appearance requirements than what I’ve had to deal with in the past. I’m looking forward to being able to wear clothing that I already have instead of finding out that there’s an expectation to sink hundreds of dollars into uniform clothing. One of the first things I’m going to do this week is go and get my hair cut and coloured— I am planning on purple and possibly teal. The rule that Metro has against supposedly “unnatural” hair colour and style has been stifling. (Some time in another post I should probably write about the general culture of “if you look like that you’ll never get a job” and the impact that it has had on my generation, but again, I’m getting side-tracked here.)

I learned that I really can learn the script for interacting with people. It’s a good thing to be able to do, but just because I can learn the script doesn’t mean that using it doesn’t absolutely exhaust me. I’ve always been an introvert. The constant repetition of interacting with people while driving the bus was wearing in all of the worst ways. Moreover, it took a toll on my interactions in the rest of my life.

Work was taking all of the energy and leaving nothing for anything creative. Work was also taking all of the energy and ability to have a conversation and interact with people. At the end of the day (and only working part time, my days weren’t actually that long) there was nothing left. I would get home and it would be at a point where I couldn’t easily have a conversation with my parents; I couldn’t stand the sound of voices and I couldn’t figure out how to make words come out of my mouth.

One of the most frequent interactions that I had with people on the bus was the constant question, “Are you a boy or a girl?” It was followed shortly thereafter by, “Are you even old enough to drive this bus?” or “You don’t look old enough to be driving a bus.”

Although I am aware that I’m not going to escape those sort of microaggressions entirely by leaving this job, there will be less of them. That’s important to me, too.

So now it is time to move on to the next adventure. After I post this, I’m getting dressed, going to work, and going to drive the route for the last time. This evening I will turn in the items that are issued by work, and leave the property for the last time. Tomorrow I’ll call the recruiter I’ve been working with from the trucking company, and get the ball rolling.

Here’s to the road ahead.

Reality sets in.

Feelings and commercialisation.

Today is Valentine’s Day, otherwise known as the day in which the internet abounds with cheesy rhymes and outpouring of mostly romantic feelings.

roses are red
violets are blue
this is a poem
I think.

The holiday can be difficult for a lot of people, for a variety of different reasons. Maybe you’re asexual or aromantic or maybe you’re just not involved in a romantic relationship right now. Maybe you’re still getting over a break-up. Maybe the relationship that you’re in is abusive and you’re trying to get out of it. There are so many maybes here, but I think that is enough to start with.

And then on top of all of this along comes this holiday all over the television and radio that encourages people to show their significant other how much they love them! But wait, how are we supposed to show them?

Since you asked… the media would have you believe that love is expressed by spending money. We are spurred to buy cards, to buy jewelry, to show him or her just how much you care. And the clear subtext is that if you are not able to make this monetary effort, or if you do not make this monetary effort for any reason, you clearly don’t care enough. It’s plain wrong and distinctly untrue, but the subtext is there nonetheless and pervasive enough that it is yet another one of the pressures on people who live with financial stress.

So I’m going to divert from the narrative here and reiterate that it is entirely acceptable and okay to not be able to spend money on someone else just because a Hallmark holiday says that you should. It doesn’t mean you love them or care about them any less. And there are a lot of expressions of care that do not require extra expenditures, like a nice night watching movies at home with a nice dinner, or if you cohabitate, offering to do a chore that the other person dislikes doing but does anyway. There are so many things that do not involve spending money that is allocated to something else in the budget.

If you do care about someone, the best thing to do is to just tell them (in which I am a gigantic hypocrite but that’s probably material for another post once I have all these pesky feelings figured out). Don’t just tell them on Valentine’s Day, though, or when you feel obligated to tell them. Tell them every day, or every week, or when you go to bed, or when you wake up— but maybe not all of those.

Or maybe yes all of those. Whatever works for you.

Feelings and commercialisation.

The not so simple answer.

As stereotypical as it sounds, I have pretty much always known that I am not a girl. Or at least, as long as I can easily remember, and I really don’t have very many concrete memories before when I was around eight years old. From what I can remember, I was never as comfortable being a girl, or with most typically feminine things.

From middle through high school stumbling around the internet, I came across trans narratives in a lot of places, and reading these narratives made a lot of the jumble of feelings going around in my head start to make sense. According to my logic at the time, because I wasn’t a girl, I clearly had to be a boy. I identified very strongly as transgender and moreover as male. There were and still are a plethora of resources around for transgender men, and for a long time this seemed an answer to my question of gender, and a very simple answer at that.

I was in search of the magic ‘passing’ for a man, and that goal gave me a guideline on what clothing I should buy and wear, on how I should wear my hair, on how to walk and talk.

As time has gone on and for reasons that I am still working out, the simple answer has proven to be less and less absolute. Part of it probably stems from the multitude of ways that toxic masculinity pressures masculine-identifying people, and a desire that if that is what it means to be male, I don’t want that either. A gender role that is centred around violence and a lack of emotion isn’t what I was going for. Another part of that stems from the fact that while I have gotten to watch many of my friends go through the joy (and often pains) of self-discovery, and getting on hormone replacement therapy and figuring it out, hormones have always been just out of reach for me. I am admittedly a little bitter about the fact that it is quite likely that for health reasons (better discussed in some other post), hormone replacement therapy will never be a viable option for me.

However, the other thing that has happened is that nonbinary gender has become more prominent, and more discussed. This is the direction where my identity has been shifting, and this is the direction where my experience of gender has always been, perhaps.

I get asked a lot of the time, especially by strangers and children, “Are you a boy or a girl?” When I do respond, because sometimes I’m just too busy or not in a mood to engage, the answer flips between yes, and no, and both of those answers feel valid and relevant at the moment. I’m not a girl, but I’m not a boy either, and more importantly, I don’t have to be either one.

It is still difficult most days to figure out what being nonbinary means for me. Trying to figure out whether something makes me look too feminine for me to be comfortable, too masculine, or some Goldilocks balance of ‘just right’. Similarly, I haven’t figured out the sort of effortless confidence that I see from many nonbinary people on the internet, mixing items from clothing typically considered feminine and clothing typically considered masculine without so much as batting an eyelash. But I am slowly managing to be at a point where I feel comfortable wearing lipstick or eyeshadow, or wearing a dress and combat boots.

And being able to say that for at least that moment, I don’t care.

The not so simple answer.

Thoughts/content.

This is a fairly quick post, in that I’ve been thinking for a while. I think I’m going to publish some of the poetry I have, here.

For one thing, it’s additional content for the site. But for two, while I do submit pieces to various publications there are also some pieces that are inherently personal and that I want to control perhaps a lot more. Pieces that I feel more comfortable with putting out here than sending out during submissions.

I may or may not also occasionally post some short fiction that I have. For now, the poetry is the main addition to the blog. I doubt anything will change about the frequency— this is a side project that I write when I have the time and inclination to do so. But if it does you’ll be the first to know.

Thoughts/content.

Self-care and moving forward.

With the inauguration of a man who is not my president, who does not and will never stand for me or any of the communities I belong to, right around the corner and drawing nearer, I think it’s important to talk for a minute about self-care. To talk about taking care of ourselves so that we can get through this, so that we can survive this, so that we can resist.

I know that many of my friends and other people I talk to on Twitter are talking about feeling hopeless.

Feeling anxious.

Feeling angry.

And at the same time, our daily lives don’t stop. We still have to go to work, we have to interact with other people, and we cannot just curl into an introspective ball. The policies that are threatened are too real for that.

What we can do, though, is take care of ourselves and be gentle with ourselves when we need it most. This can take many forms, which have been documented time and time again on the internet, but I thought I’d throw a few of them out here for everyone to take with you into your day. (If none of my suggestions strike a chord, do a Google search for self-care! There are a billion and one lists out there and one of them is bound to have something. Plus, the time spent looking at it is a few minutes spent not actively beating ourselves up.)

Curl up with a blanket and a hot drink. The comfort factor is real. A blanket (or two or three or four depending upon), and a warm cup of your favourite tea can help bring you into the moment and be grounded.

Take a bath or a hot shower. Wash away at least the current moment’s worries, and a hot bath or shower also helps to relax some of the tension that settles into our bodies and can cause physical pain.

Walk, hike, get outdoors. I know that this one isn’t possible for everyone due to varying physical health, but sometimes what helps most is a slight change of scenery and some fresh air. Anything from going outside to your porch, to going on a five hour or five day hike through nature. Our planet is important, and I use it as a reminder that we belong to the Earth and we are obligated to fight for her in whatever way that we can.

Do something on your to-do list. It sounds somewhat counterintuitive, but if I’m struggling with something else, I often find that I can take some pride and accomplishment in getting a lurking task from my to-do list done. Sometimes this is the dishes, or the laundry, sometimes it’s just putting something out to be mailed the next day. Whatever that task I get done, though, it’s no longer hanging over my head and adding to the black cloud of worry.

Ask for help. While it can be really very tempting to tough it out alone, we are stronger together.

It’s okay to ask for help, whether that means reaching out to your social media networks and asking for people to say some nice things to you, or whether that means calling a counselor or therapist or clergy member and setting up a time to sit down and talk. None of this invalidates the struggle that you are going through, nor does it make you weak.

And finally,

Be gentle to yourself, if you can. The negative voices are real, and they significant, and they are hard to deal with. And saying “be gentle to yourself” doesn’t magically make anxiety or depression go away or be less horrible. But find the little thing that makes a big difference to you, and do it.

Self-care and moving forward.

Winter.

This entire thing is kind of ironic, given I live in southern California, and everyone knows the joke about winter here. However, when I search for excuses as to why I haven’t written a post in almost a month, that is the only one that I come up with.

It’s winter, such as it is; the season is taking its toll.

I hope everyone will bear with me patiently until the sun comes out again. (I need others to be patient with me, because when this sort of thing happens I’m less capable of being patient and gentle with myself.)

Winter.

Basic bus etiquette.

While these things seem like common sense, one of the things that I’ve learned while driving the bus is that common sense is anything but common, unfortunately. So I wanted to suggest a few things that will make everyone’s day run smoother.

Most of these are drawn from my experience as a bus operator, but they’re widely applicable no matter where you take the bus. They’re applicable whether you take the bus every day during your commute or only once in a blue moon going out somewhere.

Posts out there that discuss etiquette on public transportation come mostly from the point of view of being courteous to your fellow riders, but it’s important to be courteous to the bus operator, too. Wherever you are, they are just trying to do their job; that includes collecting fare and dealing with passengers all while driving safely and watching out for hazards on the road. It can be a lot to deal with all at once, and discourteous passengers just make it more challenging and a lot less pleasant.

Have your fare ready.

Riding the bus, have your fare ready when you step on. Have your card out already so that you can tap it, or have the exact change for your fare. Pay your fare quickly, and then step further into the bus so that the rest of the passengers can continue boarding. If there is a line of people out the door of the bus while one person fumbles through their purse to look for change, it holds up the bus.

If you don’t have your fare ready, let the operator know, step inside, and let everyone who does have their fare ready pay. Doing this allows the bus to keep moving. Which brings me to the next point of public transportation etiquette…

Don’t use speakerphone.

Especially, especially at the farebox. Speakerphone is useful for a lot of instances, but when you’re getting on the bus and having a conversation on speakerphone, it broadcasts your business to everyone else on the bus. Moreover, continuing to have a conversation on speakerphone while paying at the farebox is just downright rude. Additionally, it means you are likely to be focused on your conversation and miss any instruction given to you by the bus operator. In fact…

Don’t play your music on speaker.

At all. Just don’t do it.

Wear headphones! Always wear headphones. By wearing headphones and keeping your music at a low, reasonable volume, you can both block out the noise of the bus— after all, buses are big vehicles full of people and that can be really noisy— and you can be considerate of those around you.

On most public transportation systems, loud or disruptive music is not only rude, but it’s additionally against the rules. It’s posted, and that means that you’re really better off obeying it. If your music is too loud, other passengers and the bus operator are all within their rights to ask you to turn it down. And if someone does ask you to turn it down, it’s to your absolute advantage to listen.

Don’t smoke at the bus stops.

Putting your cigarette out right before you get on the bus or right as the bus rolls up to the stop means that I’m holding my breath trying not to cough and simultaneously trying not to breathe in the smell of cigarettes. Not only that, but in some cities smoking in public places is illegal and carries a hefty violation fine. Lastly…

Let passengers exit first, before boarding.

I’ve entirely lost count of the number of times I’ve pulled up to a bus stop, opened the doors, and people just barge straight in. Meanwhile, there’s someone trying to exit the bus who now has to wait for people who just got on, and it’s the equivalent of a traffic jam in a narrow road.

When the bus arrives, wait a minute and let people exit before boarding the bus. By waiting, you actually save time and help the bus continue on schedule. Although the common rule should be that you board through the front doors and exit through the rear doors, there are instances in which this doesn’t work out, especially when the rear doors of the bus are a little farther from the curb, or open into bushes or uneven ground. Potentially, the person trying to exit through the front door could be elderly or have small children with them. Whatever the reason, it all basically comes down to this…

A little bit of courtesy goes a long way.

And if you’re uncertain of something while you’re riding the bus? Ask the bus operator a question. I might not know the answer, but if I don’t, someone else on the bus might.

 

Basic bus etiquette.

A note on mortality.

Content note: this post talks about car accidents, and about death.

Every so often, something happens during my day job that is important enough that I want to talk about it.

Today, nearing the end of my second bus run, at what was supposed to be my next stop, there was a car accident. I was running a little bit late, as often happens by the end of the route, and there was traffic backed up a few blocks. Then we heard sirens, and as I got over the bridge I was able to see why. The street was blocked off with police cars, emergency vehicles everywhere, and to describe it as initial chaos would not have been inaccurate.

One brief detour later as I was starting my last bus run of the day, I found out from passengers who were getting on the bus that a minivan had sideswiped another car, and run up onto the curb, ending up between the bus benches and the building. I found out that he had hit a person, although I didn’t find out the specific details until the end of the day when I was able to search for it and find the news article linked to above.

The bus benches he ended up at were the benches of the stop I mentioned, where most people get off of the bus. Quite likely, the only reason that I was not there when it happened was because I was running late. If I had been running on time. Well, it’s the sort of speculation that you can get lost in, the sort that is not good for a person.

Most of the passengers I picked up at my first stop had seen the accident. They were shaken. Many of them got off their previous buses at that stop, or walked by it minutes before the accident happened. Hell, I was shaken.

But part of the job driving the bus is to be able to project the air of calm and reassurance that is necessary in times like this. It took me a bit to manage. It’s the first time where I’ve had to be the adult in the room, so to speak, and in and of itself that is a difficult thing to do. To reassure people that they were going to get home safely. To reassure them that it was going to be alright— whether or not I necessarily believed it at the moment. And something that one of my passengers said stuck with me.

He reminded everyone on the bus to hug their loved ones when they got home.

It’s a message that seems only appropriate and more than just appropriate but necessary to pass along. Hug your loved ones (and that can mean your family members, or your friends, or anyone you care about) tonight, or in the morning. If hugs aren’t your thing, tell someone you care about them, and reach out; anything at all to make that connection. Don’t put it off because you never know what might happen tomorrow. It sounds trite most of the time, but then an accident like this happens and it suddenly becomes real.

Los Angeles is a big city, with a lot of traffic accidents and a lot of fatalities every year*. It’s easy to continually view it in the abstract of statistics and numbers on a page, things that you hear about on the news. It is entirely different when these things happen right in front of you and become part of the fabric of daily life.

For me, writing this is my way of coping with what happened. Plus, I have tomorrow (I guess at this point, tomorrow is now today) off of work in order to relax. Then on Sunday, it will be back to driving the bus.

*I looked up some statistics while I was writing this post in order to try and get a better grip on how much ‘a lot’ is, most of which you can find here (for California) if you are so interested.

A note on mortality.