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Monthly Archives: December 2013

I’ve never really been one to do the whole “New Year’s Resolution” thing. If there’s a change that I wanted to make, I always figured, “Why wait?” Given how much I can and do think about things, this means that when I go ahead with something, I tend to stick with it. I’ve always been good at setting a goal for myself and following through.

By sheer coincidence, as 2013 closes two things that have been on the back burner for some time are moving to the front, well on their ways to becoming my next goals.

One of these has to do with my dating life, or lack thereof. I’m getting a little tired of being that stock comedy character: The mid-20s loser who has never been on a date in his life, and never even kissed someone. At this point in my life, the closest I’ve ever been to a relationship is the four-year crush I had on a girl who, when I told her how I felt, requested that we remain just friends. You think that’s bad? I told her how I felt after four MONTHS. Isn’t it amazing how our feelings refuse to listen to little things like logic and reason?

I know, I know: Don’t measure yourself by someone else’s ruler. Just because “they” say that someone my age got his first kiss in his teens and has been on dozens of dates by the time he graduated high school and only added to that total in college doesn’t make it so. In fact, I’m willing to bet that the actual number of people whose lives play out like that is very small; they’re just so vocal that we mistake them for the majority. Okay, fine, I get it: I’m not “normal”, whatever that means. But dammit! I’m lonely! Sure, I have friends. I love my friends. But sometimes they’re not enough. I’d like to try the whole falling-in-love thing again, only this time with someone who reciprocates. (For the record, that girl I mentioned? We’re still friends, and have been this whole time. And things only got awkward occasionally.) I’ve tried the loner thing; it’s nice once in a while. I want to try the “us” thing now, as in being part of a couple. Maybe I’ll find out that I’m happier on my own, but how will I know until I try?

There’s one little snag with this whole plan: I’m terrible at meeting people.

No, really, I am. In high school and college, I would avoid parties because it meant that I actually had to talk to people that I didn’t know, or were only passing acquaintances. When I started each of my two volunteer jobs (at the local zoo and local natural history museum), I didn’t say much until other teens took the time to speak to me, usually some comment on how much or what I read. Sometimes this lead to decent conversations, and in a couple of cases to lasting friendships, but more often than not it just meant a couple of remarks made to pass the time before talking to the visitors once more. If it seems strange that I couldn’t carry on a conversation with someone my own age but could happily interact with random strangers…. well, I guess it was. But at least with the visitors I knew what I was talking to them about, be it an animal, artifact, or other touchable item. Those conversations usually followed something of a script, and I knew my cues. Also, I rarely had to interact with the visitors for more than fifteen minutes before they moved on, so if they questioned my gender, I didn’t hear about it.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I worked a lot with kids, and as anyone can attest they are not shy about saying things like, “Are you a boy or a girl?” However, in the case of visitor interactions, I often had several options. Most frequently, the parent(s) would admonish the child, saying something along the lines of “Don’t be rude.” (My favorite was a mom who asked her kid, “Why does it matter?”) If there was a crowd, and there often was, I could simply pretend that I didn’t hear the question. If I didn’t have a fellow volunteer nearby, I’d ask the child “What do you think?” and went with whatever their answer was. Of course, if a fellow volunteer was next to me, I knew what my response had to be.

Yes, most of my crowd anxiety back then stemmed from the fact that I never knew how I was being read by the other people. It’s funny to think about it now, because so many of my friends have since told me that they believed that I was a guy until someone “corrected” them. Needless to say, these friends were not surprised when I announced my Transition.

Thankfully, testosterone therapy went a long way to relieving a lot of the anxiety about being in a crowd. I’ve had many experiences in the last four years where people on the street address me as “sir” or “young man”. Meeting new people is no longer quite as nerve-wracking, as the visual cues they look for now place me firmly in the “male” category. Yet I still struggle with meeting new people and making friends.

I think of this as social inertia. “A body at rest (or moving in a fixed direction) tends to stay at rest (or moving in that direction) unless acted on by an outside force.” In high school and especially in college, I started out with only a couple of friends, people who took the time to get to know me on my own terms before becoming that “outside force” and introducing me to other people. I’m forever grateful to these people, because without them I’d still be the shy kid who hangs out in the shadows, always watching, never participating. Years of habit are hard to break.

Now that I’m living on my own, I find myself falling back into old habits. Making plans with friends, while fun, is time-consuming, as factors such as travel time must be taken into consideration. Plus, if I’m out with friends, I want to spend time with them, not talk to random strangers. If I’m out on my own, I keep to myself, not wanting to be the creepy stranger.

So how to go about meeting a potential girlfriend? As much as I hate to say it, I’m starting to think Internet dating may be the way to go. That, or signing up for a class of some kind. Heaven knows I won’t meet someone by sitting at home and typing on my computer.

Which brings me to my other goal. As I’ve said before, I enjoy writing. I publish fanfiction, and have even gone so far as to submit a couple of original pieces to literary magazines (one was rejected, and I haven’t heard anything yet about the other). It’s long been a dream of mine to write, to follow in the literary footsteps of people like Heinlein, Robinson, Rowling, Zahn, and others. My hope is that by continuing to hone my skills, I can one day make a living with them. Towards that end, I think I need to add a designated writing time to my daily routine.

So I have two goals/New Year’s resolutions:

1) Get a girlfriend.

2) Practice writing daily.

This should be an interesting year. Good thing I like a challenge!

Happy New Year everyone!

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This last week has been an emotional roller coaster: up and down and so turned around I lost all sense of direction.

First, the up. Sunday night, I attended my first trans-pride-type event! A local organization hosted an indoor pool party for area trans and gender-non-conforming folks and their families. When I first received the Facebook invite to the event, I RSVP’d as a “maybe”, my default response to these kind of things. I don’t do well in social situations, never have, and try to avoid them, especially when they involve large groups of people that I haven’t met before. I know that part of my dislike stems from the days when I constantly worried about how people perceived my gender; I was  hyper-aware of how I held myself, how I acted, and how others responded to me. Anyway, over the years I’ve gotten a little better, but I still prefer smaller groups for first meetings, or just hanging out with my friends.

So why did I go to the pool party, then? Well, it wasn’t completely me coming out of my shell. I previously wrote about how I wrote part of the curriculum for a trans youth Peer Mentorship Program (PMP). I’ve since become a participant in the program, and one of the requirements is that each peer mentor has to attend an LGBT event. The pool party fit the bill, and it was an event where I was reasonably certain that I wouldn’t be stuck making meaningless small talk with people if I really didn’t want to; after all, if worst came to worst I could just swim laps for awhile and make my escape. Once I realized that there would be people there that I knew, though, I knew this scenario would be unlikely.

I don’t know what other people’s experiences are/have been, but I’ve not had too many negative pool-related experiences. Granted, most of my swimming takes place at my grandparents’ place at the Lake, where pool dress codes don’t exist. If you looked at the myriad of family photos from vacations at the Lake when I was younger, I’m always wearing a one-piece swimsuit and, once I reached the age of about nine or ten, shorts. Once I began Transitioning, my swimming outfit changed to swim trunks and a swim top made by the same company that made my binders. Since top surgery, I happily go swimming in just the trunks.

So I carpooled with Ray, a friend from the PMP, to the pool party. The athletic club where the party took place was shutting down as we pulled in, which meant that our party had the place to ourselves. The locker room was huge, and none of the few members still there looked twice at me, even when I ducked into a stall to change.

The party only got better from there. Not only did I get to reconnect with some old friends, I also met plenty of new people. The swimming was great, and I got to play with the kids of some of the other attendees. In short, I’m very glad that I went.

The happiness of the pool party was a nice contrast to how emotionally stressful my life has been this past week, all because of one little phone call. As I’ve written previously, I’ve been searching for a new job. As part of this task, I sent off several cover letters and résumés to area school districts this past August, hoping to hear from one or more of them before the school year started. When I didn’t, I merely shrugged, said to myself, “There’s always next year,” and dove back into the job hunt. This past Monday, I got a phone call, out of the blue, from one of the districts to which I had sent materials: “Would you be interested in a long term sub job?”

I managed to remain coherent for the rest of the conversation, asking for details about the job, like what grade level and subject would I be teaching (5th and 6th grade science) and when would they need me (ASAP, but no later than after the holiday break). Through the entire exchange, my emotions were all over the place; from excitement (they’d apparently looked at my résumé and set it aside for potential future openings), to confusion (why hadn’t they called me sooner?), to terror (they want me to start when??? How will I explain this to the lab? We just worked out the holiday schedule!). Finally, I managed to schedule a half-day visit to the school to observe the classroom in question and to have a formal interview with the building principals.

The week between the phone call and the visit brought an emotional maelstrom. The morning after the call, I handed my boss a request for a vacation day. He had no qualms about granting it (he even wished me luck with the interview), but I could also see the concern in his eyes about losing another employee during a busy time. I, too, was worried, primarily about how my work would get done in such a short space of time. See, twice a year, there is a mandatory meeting for everyone that works in my department, which takes an entire afternoon. Of course, it was the week of the interview. Now, instead of four and a half days to get all of my tasks done, I’d have only three and a half. And of course, we’re short staffed right now. On top of that, I also felt nervous about the upcoming visit, worried about how my life could potentially change in the next couple of weeks, and a little happy that I might soon be leaving the lab. To prepare for the big day, I printed off fresh copies of the most up-to-date version of the résumé, checked that my teaching portfolio looked good, and made sure my good suit was clean. As it happened, the pool party took place the night before my interview, so I carefully laid everything out and set my alarm before heading off to the fun. That way, when I got home all I had to do was shower and fall into bed.

Monday, I woke up just before the alarm went off, and made it out the door on time. I overestimated how much traffic there would be, and arrived at the school twenty minutes early. There was some confusion at first about which classroom I was to observe, but once that was sorted one of the principals walked me to the appropriate part of the building and introduced me to several teachers, including the current substitute for the classroom, Mr. F. The students arrived shortly thereafter, and I spent the next four hours observing, asking questions of both students and faculty, and even assisting a few sixth graders with their biome project. I was impressed at the resources available for use (Smart Boards in each classroom, laptops for the students to use for their research), and liked what I saw of the teamwork between the teachers. Around noon, I headed back to the main office for my interview with the principals.

My nerves came back as the three of us began to talk, but I managed to keep them under control. I thought things were going rather well, until one of the principals said something about the regular teacher returning in February. From my phone call the previous week, I had been under the impression that this job would be until the end of the school year, and I said as much. “Well, maybe we can work something out,” one of the principals, Ms. W, said.

To make a long story short, I didn’t take the job. Not only could they not guarantee me work beyond that of a day-to-day sub once the regular teacher came back, but they also wanted me to come back for a second day this week to teach a half-hour demo lesson. Given how busy my week is already, I politely told them that, unfortunately, my schedule wouldn’t allow for it. In my head, I was screaming, “You couldn’t have had me do this when I visited TODAY???” The HR person agreed that she would keep my things on file, and would keep me in mind for when they open a new school next year, so the experience wasn’t a total loss. Now that the emotional roller coaster is done, I can honestly say I’m relieved. Yes, I want a new job, but given my experience here, this clearly wasn’t right for me.