I Blinked and it was Over

Well, 2019 has certainly been a year. The last time I updated this blog was on this exact date, 2018. And then I just… stepped into another dimension.

A year ago, I was writing in my journal about how 2019 doesn’t seem like a real year. 19 itself has never seemed like a real number. Even my 19th year, age-wise, was certainly a year. It’s not that 19 is an unlucky number for me… it’s barely a number at all. 19 is a dimensional shift. It’s a state of temporal flux. Age 19, 2019, both were surreal. Even as a child, each age meant something different to me, except for 19. 15 was quinceñera. 16 was driving. 17 was graduating high school. 18 was adulthood (psht, barely). 20 was decade numero dos. 21 was getting wasted. Everything after that was grown-up nonsense. But 19? It was shrouded with mystery, a dark gray void swirling with cosmic gases. It’s not a real fucking number.

So what has happened to me in this past year that made it feel surreal? A change of occupation is one thing. There was already some fuckery going on as we rang in the new year, but shit started to hit the fan in March. On Sunday, the CEO made a frivolous decision based on her own pig-headed ignorance about how things worked that completely changed the nature of my job description. On Monday, the education director was fired for standing up for her team. On Tuesday, my supervisor was fired for standing up for us. That’s when I really just checked out and stopped giving a fuck about what was happening there. I didn’t enjoy or take pride in my work anymore, and it was clear the organization that I once believed in had become a dumpster fire. I was there strictly for the paycheck and health insurance. But because everyone and their mom was either quitting or getting fired, I had to pick up the slack. Thus, I got swept away in the drama and the stress it brought along with it.

I became more dysfunctional. It became difficult to take my medications, and things REALLY started to unravel. My mind was consumed with obsessing over things I had no control over, both in the workplace and on the planet itself. The panic and anxiety I had kept at bay for several years returned with a vengeance. I ended my romantic partnership in a most unceremonious and insensitive fashion, because my brain could not even comprehend the added responsibilities of that interpersonal dimension. I went into a sort of survival mode where I had to take life one day at a time, and not look too far ahead into the future.

Yet I did look a little ahead, because I knew I had to get out of that place. I considered following my brother’s footsteps and heading to medical school. However, after I determined what my GPA actually was, I realized it wasn’t a likely possibility. So maybe I’d do nursing. I re-applied to my university as a post-bac to obtain the credits I’d need to apply to an accelerated nursing program. But whatever it was I decided on, going back to school seemed the right thing to do… especially because of the health insurance. It’s expensive, but it at least meant I could safely quit my job (I have too many medical needs to go without).

I quit the day before school started, the day after submitting my two-week notice. I submitted the notice, but decided, “Fuck them.” I had expressed over a month prior about wanting to quit before school started, but graciously waited for them to hire a replacement. Well, they lagged on hiring that replacement, and now school was about to start. Fuck them! They had all the time in the world to hire someone and have me train them, but they gave so few shits about what my team did there that it wasn’t anywhere on their priority list. I also requested a 30-hour workweek, and that was rejected. They really expected, knowing that I’m autistic and mentally ill, that I would work 40 hours while doing school at the same time. There’s just no way. Every single fuck I had was gone, so I went in on Sunday, packed up all my stuff, turned in my key and ID, and fucked on out of there forevermore. I received many entertaining updates the days thereafter from an inside source about how shit hit the fan when they realized I wasn’t coming back, that there was no replacement for my duties which, because they hadn’t hired replacements for my other former colleague or myself, literally nobody else knew how to do. ZERO. FUCKS. GIVEN. I have a lot of love for many of the people I worked with, but the place as a whole, especially the administrative part, was incredibly toxic. I had to break free. I have zero regrets.

Nevertheless, I am autistic, and change doesn’t come easily. I got incredibly ill that first week of school. I regressed to a state of anxiety and fear that I’d had as a small child, and went several days without a wink of sleep. The only thing that worked, but only for a couple hours, was my mom sleeping next to me. I was legitimately afraid of dying in my sleep. My blood pressure was through the roof. I thought I’d have a heart attack. The build-up of stress was just too intense, and now that I had at least some space to express it (not having to be at work 40 hours a week), I sure as fuck expressed it.

But I survived, and the anxiety eased up. My body finally realized NONE of the bullshit that had been stressing me out was relevant anymore. I could give all of my attention to school. I had already fallen behind, but managed to catch up. I was taking three classes that were required for the accelerated nursing program: microbiology, nutrition, and an online sociology course. Sociology was a breeze, but microbiology was taking a significant amount of resources. Nutrition ended up requiring more effort than I had considered putting into it, but I was so caught up with microbiology that it fell by the wayside. In the end, I received an A in both sociology and microbiology, and a C in nutrition.

And in the course of taking those courses, I realized, once and for all, what my path shall be: not nursing, but biology. The initial dream which I had to give up on at age 19, because at the time I did not have the mental capacity, study skills or concentration to study that level of science. Getting a degree in psychology was exactly what I needed to accumulate those skills, and now it’s time to put those skills to the purpose they were always destined for. Science and math doesn’t come effortlessly to me like it seems to for some, but I certainly have the motivation now that I didn’t have a decade ago.

Feeling more at ease in life, I re-initiated my previous romantic relationship and have made some efforts at strengthening my social connections. But that’s still the hard part, which I will certainly work on in 2020 and beyond.

Ultimately, what I have going into 2020 that I didn’t have going into 2019 is clarity and purpose about what I hope to accomplish in life. One year ago, nothing was certain: I had a psychology degree, but no idea what to do with it. I had a job, but it was unrelated to my career goals, which were non-existent. I had my left politics, but unsure how I could be of service to humanity. Therefore, I had no resolutions, no goals other than to coast and hope I survive. Now I know: I’m going to be a biologist, and I’m going to study the effect of our resident microbiota on our mental health. I’m going to be a writer and help to radicalize others by clarifying revolutionary ideas that have been muddled by capitalist propaganda. And primary, above all else, I’m going to become the person I need to become: more patient, more open to human connection, and hella gay. 2020, the year of my Golden birthday, is my Golden year.

Hopefully you’ll hear from me many more times before this time next year.

Until next time,

K

Silver Hairs

I think I’m goin’ back
To the things I learnt so well in my youth
I think I’m returning to
Those days when I was young enough to know the truth

Within one lifetime, we live many lives. We become many different people. Our egos die a number of times before the final breath. We are fluid beings. One decade ago, when I was planning my 16th birthday party around the theme of childhood nostalgia, the physical components of my person were composed of an entirely different generation of cells than those living in the present. The whole of the sum of those ancestral cells were permeated with the consciousness produced by neurons living in a more primal cognitive landscape. That primal cognitive landscape was a dark, twisting maze with existential horrors lurking in every shadow. Monsters, injustice, suffering, loneliness, failing, aging, death. I wrapped those horrors in a whimsical bow and threw a celebration that I hoped would reverse the clock.

Now there are no games
To only pass the time
No more colouring books
No Christmas bells to chime

I committed to never losing my youth. It was what I called a Peter Pan Complex. My future was so unstable and unimaginable that it was difficult to accept I even had one. I wanted my future to be the present forever. I wanted the moon-bounces and sleepovers. I wanted to hold on to the exhilarating recklessness of young love. I wanted to sustain the predictable annual cycle of school, summer, school, Christmas, and the daily cycle of class to class to class to home to bed. I couldn’t imagine a future in which three half-assed jumps on a moon-bounce would wear me out, and maintaining close enough friendships for platonic sleepovers was a distant memory. I didn’t want to imagine getting to a point where I was too emotionally wary to dive into love head-over-heels. I didn’t think I would ever be capable of making adult decisions for myself, or of withstanding the many inevitable major changes of adulthood: going to college, moving out, getting a job, making my own doctor appointments. I might have preferred to die than endure it all, and in a sense that person did.

But thinking young and growing older is no sin
And I can play the game of life to win

And from the ashes of ten years of hellfire emerges the person I am to the core. This person is familiar, reminding me of a more authentic self, many selves ago, before being molded and contorted by shame. This person can be comfortable in the present while planning for the future. This person can dream big while living simply. This person is open to connecting to people, and not being afraid of seeing my own reflection in others. This is a person I am content with being. But I also accept that this person will not exist after another ten years of experiences. These cells will wither and die, making way for a new generation, a new way of life, a new perspective.

I can recall a time when I wasn’t ashamed
To reach out to a friend
And now I think I’ve got a lot more
Than just my toys to lend

I’ve begun removing the masks that once substituted vulnerability with normalcy. I had swallowed my heart that I once wore on my sleeve and it got stuck as a lump in my throat. Now, through a series of social Heimlich maneuvers, I’ve managed to dislodge some of the fear that has suppressed authenticity, and at a time when authenticity is needed most. I have things other people need: my compassion, my skills, my resources. A lot more is at stake than just my ego. Self-doubt, self-restraint, self-righteousness, self: pulling off the layers for the sake of our shared humanity. I am more than an I. I am part of a we.

Now there’s more to do
Than watch my sailboat glide
And every day can be
My magic carpet ride 

Life is hopping from one stepping stone to the next from the day I was born, and the harrowing future promises sharper stones across turbulent waters.  The weight of the world does not rest squarely on my own shoulders, but the responsibility is nevertheless enormous. At the same time, there is little use worrying myself sick. I have a job to do, and that is to balance on the stone I stand on today. And when I’ve found my balance, I can reach out my hand to another’s and help them cross to safety, knowing that someone would reach out their hand to me.

And I can play hide-and-seek with my fears
And live my days instead of counting my years

My mother sees a silver hair on my head glistening in the sunlight. For a moment, the lingering existential horrors threaten to unravel. Yet my mind is now less like a maze and more like a storage cabinet. Rather than lose myself in a series of hypothetical dead ends, I can unpack. Here’s a box overflowing with medical knowledge. There’s a box jam-packed with coping mechanisms. I compare this information against the silver hair, and oh look, it’s really not a big deal. My body is keeping track of time so I don’t have to. I am here, now, content in my mortality.

Then every one debates
The true reality
I’d rather see the world
The way it used to be

Navigating relationships is complicated in this culture of manufactured isolation. Gone are the days of communal togetherness and extended families. Gone are the days of villages working as one for common goals. Our neighbors want to cut our throats. Our leaders would leave us to die. The dogged individualism of my adolescence was untenable. In a sense, making human connections has become a moral imperative. I can no longer gleefully attempt to corrupt people; they must be uplifted, validated, loved. I cannot write off personal ethics as something for sticks-in-the-mud. I need to reach back, back to a time before nothing seemed to matter, when everything mattered. Because it actually does.

A little bit of freedom’s all we lack
So catch me if you can
I’m goin’ back.

My passion comes from my strength; my strength comes from my relationships. My being is inextricably tied to other beings. We can dream of more peaceful days enjoyed by our ancestors and work for more peaceful days to be enjoyed by our descendants. All that’s needed is keeping in touch: with each other, with our own authentic selves, with our nature. If I can reach deep within myself, I am reaching out to all. And one decade from now, when my hair is flecked with silver, I’ll think to today as the day when I finally made peace with my own humanity.