2020 Has Been Absolutely Bat Shit Crazy So Far, Thanks For Asking

It has been far, far too long since I’ve written for this blog. I miss it, honestly. It was such a nice sounding board for the thoughts that piqued my attention. (Fun fact: I’ve probably only published about 50% of the drafts I’ve started writing for this blog. The other 50% are ideas that I thought were worth writing until I started writing them. Then I changed my mind. Haha!)

It’s been such a whirlwind of a year – for the world and for me personally. There was so much going on that I just didn’t have the time, energy, or mental fortitude to write about it. But!! I’ve been keeping a checklist of ideas that have crossed my mind that I want to throw up on this blog and my new goal is to write one post per week, Starting with this one. At the top of that checklist is a recap of my year so far. It’s been fucking crazy.

So I guess I’ll begin a little bit before the start of the year. Late December, 2019. I found out my then-partner was cheating on me. This was particularly devastating to me for 2 reasons: 1) We were very serious. We had met each other’s families, talked about marriage, co-parented dogs, and planned to move in together. 2) His response upon my confronting him was to gaslight me, calling me crazy and telling me I was overreacting and had no idea why I was so angry. I didn’t even get closure when the relationship ended. He couldn’t even own up to anything.

I was a wreck. It was around New Year’s that my ex-partner has persuaded me into giving him another chance. I started 2020 in tears, fighting with him over something stupid. We had a lot of underlying problems in our relationship, you see, and now they were all coming out.

For the better part of January, we tried to make it work. We even went to couple therapy. But, many, many buckets of tears later, it became clear there was no coming back (or moving forward – whichever phrase you prefer. Despite their having objectively opposite denotations, they amusingly are synonymous in this instance!) from this. I ended (really ended, this time) our relationship in late January.

I immediately launched into surrounding myself with people, both new and familiar, to help me cope with the pain of loss. I have such fond memories of Harry Potter movie nights at my friends’ place during this time. I also started seeing a therapist. She’s been fantastic.

In the midst of this, I still had to be a PhD student. It was the Spring Semester of my 2nd year and I was TAing a class and taking two courses myself. To be quite honest, I have never felt so detached from the classes I was taking – at least, not all of them, at the same time. The course I TA’ed was very much the same story. Detachment. There was one noteworthy point during the semester when I was having some problems with a student, but learned some great pedagogical lessons from the process. (I now think quite highly of this student.)

But my most important task – the sole thing I had the energy for that semester – was my Master’s thesis. It’s difficult for me to understate how difficult it was for me to slog through this project. Every single aspect of it – from assembling my committee to choosing a topic to trying to churn out a working draft to meeting with my advisor – was its own struggle. After crying to my advisor about it (yes, literally) I came to grips with the necessity of lowering my standards. With everything going on in my personal life, I just didn’t have the energy to make this paper good. I was aiming for passable. And I got that. My thesis was unanimously approved, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t leave more to be desired. Nonetheless, I did it. I defended (via Zoom) in early April.

During my spring break in March I went to go visit my sister in Hawai’i. I flew out just barely before real concern had started to set in about COVID. For the most part, we spent it working in cafes. Her spring break was the week after mine and she still had classes, and I had my Master’s thesis to work on. But it was so nice to spend time with her there – regardless of what we did. It was during my stay in Hawai’i that people had really started to panic about COVID. On one of my last days there, I received notice from my university that Spring Break would be extended another week so they could make decisions about how to proceed.

The shift to quarantine and social distancing was…hard. I lost motivation, had trouble focusing, regularly slept an average of 16 hours a day, and stopped working out. And I did basically zero work aside from my MA Thesis. (Not that I wasn’t already doing basically zero work on account of dealing with the aforementioned breakup and emotional abuse.) In fact, I’ve only just (“just” being early July) turned in my final term paper for one of my classes. The paper for my other class has yet to be completed. I’m about halfway done with it right now.

I was pretty depressed during the first couple months of quarantine. Not like mood-depressed, but action-depressed. I just…didn’t really do anything.

And then George Floyd was murdered and the Black Lives Matter movement exploded onto the streets and the media. I feel like that was what woke me up. The monotonous days of quarantine had thrown me into a stupor and this finally made meĀ feelĀ something again. I was angry. And I started signing petitions and sharing articles and – probably most significantly for me – speaking up to my family.

The older generation of my extended family are total brainwashed Trump supporters. Like, Obama-lied-about-being-a-natural-born-citizen-and-global-warming-is-fake kind of Trump supporters. With BLM at the forefront of everyone’s minds, politics was inevitable. The family group chat got heated. I honestly think this is the most anger and tension that’s ever been outwardly expressed between us.

As much as I tried to be a black ally – to focus on the Black Lives Matter movement and put a spotlight on black liberation without centering the narrative on me – these conversations with my family were personal for me because their sociopolitical views directly affected me too. At least in discussions with my family, it was difficult for me to completely separate the Black Lives Matter movement and my own feelings towards the subject. I was angry all the time. At certain points, I was even driven to tears.

I realized this wasn’t sustainable for me – let alone healthy. I needed to focus on something else. A change of pace. A change of scenery. A change of people. Eventually I came to a point where I just knew that going back home to be with my nuclear family was the right move for me. All of my siblings had left their respective universities (they’re all in college) to come stay with my parents already and I wanted to be there with them too. I flew back to California in mid-June and stayed with my parents for three weeks.

Being home was good for my heart. I got to spend time with my siblings and cook with my mom and see some friends, reunite with my childhood dog, and eat at a handful of the restaurants I’d missed so much (takeout, of course). My mom’s garden is flourishing (literally the envy of all my plant-parent friends) and my dad is slowly but surely making progress on remodeling our front yard. It’s looking good!

Throughout my stay with my family I did a lot of work on myself. I was still regularly meeting with my therapist (through video chat) and being around my family brought up a lot of emotions she helped me start sorting through. I’m actively and successfully working to improve my relationship with my mom. I wish I could say the same about my dad, but he’s a lot more stubborn and unreasonable. I flew back to the east coast just a bit after the 4th of July.

Unprecedentedly, I’ve been doing super great since I got back. I’m keeping my space clean, building my savings, consistently working out, staying on top of my work, and keeping the procrastination to a minimum. Like, I’m doing really good right now in pretty much every aspect of my life. Sure, the world is still a chaotic mess and I’m worried about the upcoming school year, COVID, and the November election, but everything I can control is controlled. And that’s really all I can ask for.

One of my quarantine goals now that everything is more manageable for me is to start writing for fun again (hence, this blog post). I have so many thoughts that have been half-baked or bottled up and I can’t wait to dive into them and share them here.

Shroominations

I recently took a couple grams of shrooms and felt the urge to write. I figured I’d share my unedited, unfiltered, trippy thoughts:

We are simply the amalgamation of experiences that happen to us.

The universe pours parts of herself into each of our bodies and makes something special. Once we realize we are just expressions of the universe, it is up to us to be open to whatever she wants to fill us with – whether they be experiences of pain or love or loss, or connections with man or woman, or philosophies which go against what we have previously been filled with – whatever it may be, we need to be open to being filled with them. They become a part of who we are. To live cautiously, to live closed off from experiences that our Mother wants to fill us with, is to deny ourselves the opportunity to grow.

It is our responsibility to remain open; it is our responsibility to allow ourselves to grow. We need to love ourselves enough to allow for experience in any and all directions that we feel pulled.

Does the past hurt? Of course. But still, we should thank the universe for the parts of herself she has chosen to pour into us. Thank you for making me the individual that I have grown to be. Thank you for your stories. Thank you for choosing this body to tell some of your stories.

When I am here I crave connection to other selves. To other bodies that the universe has poured other parts of herself into. In forming bonds with others we are simply gaining a better understanding of ourselves, as a whole. We want to know others to know ourselves better. To know the universe better.

This is new to me but others have come before me and have already reached this level of understanding. This is not a path that others have not yet tread. This is humbling.

But this is also exciting. Who are those that have come before me?

The Ethics of Attraction

I think I have a view different than most of the people I tend to associate with when it comes to dating preferences. At the base of my view is the idea that you can’t really control who or what you’re attracted to, and that’s okay. So long as you’re treating everyone with respect, you’re not doing anything wrong if you don’t find yourself attracted to certain features of a person (and therefore, the person as a whole).

We can find some insight into why I hold the views that I do about attraction by looking at same-gender attraction. It is widely acknowledged that gay people cannot control the fact that they are gay. Furthermore, it is quite common among people who experience same-gender attraction to fail to realize they do until later in life because heteronormativity is so ingrained in today’s society. That is, due to overwhelming societal influence, they believed themselves to be straight. (To add some weight and credibility to these statements, it’s worth noting that both of them apply to me.) Both of these things we generally take to be okay, i.e., it is okay to be gay and it is okay to mistakenly think you are straight. Also noteworthy is that we do not pressure straight people to critically examine their feelings to make sure they are genuine and not merely the result of societal pressure.

My unusual views (within my circles, at least) on dating come from generalizing this analysis of same-sex attraction.

Thus, failing to be attracted to fat people, refusing to date a man who isn’t over 6′, not wanting to date a trans woman as a straight male, preferring that your female partner have shaved legs or your male partner have a six-pack, not finding yourself attracted to a specific race, and finding blue eyes to be the most attractive are all permissible to me. At the very least, I suspend judgement on their wrongness. This may seem unpalatable to many, but I fail to see how these cases are significantly different from what is described with regards to same-gender attraction above.

That is, we ought not blame someone for failing to be attracted to a fat or trans person because they have been influenced by the fatphobic or transphobic attitudes of society, in the same way we do not blame someone for mistakenly believing they are straight because they have been influenced by the heteronormative culture of society. In all cases, we ought to just accept it. (The same argument goes, mutatis mutandis, to the other things I’ve mentioned.) It is even puzzling what the correct course of action would be if we didn’t accept it – as evidenced by thousands upon thousands of testimonies from gay people, attraction is not under our control. It cannot simply be demanded that we alter our feelings of attraction (or lack thereof) towards any person or group of people, nor is it plausible that there is some sort of process we can undertake to change our feelings overtime, as evidenced by the failure of conversion therapy.

Again, the key point is that, regardless of who or what we are attracted to, we still treat everyone with respect. This means supporting people’s right to use whichever public restroom they identify with, denouncing body-shaming done under the guise of “concern for their health”, defending women’s right to do what they want with their body, standing up against the racism propagated by the Trump administration, and the like. So long as we are being good members of society in this respect, our dating/attraction preferences are not the appropriate objects of moral scrutiny.

We do not owe our attraction to any specific group of people, nor are we required to critically examine and consequently change our attractions. How could we be? This seems impossible.

I will admit that one phenomenon I have not managed to completely square away with my intuitions regarding attraction is that of fetishization, e.g. white men exclusively dating Asians precisely because they are attracted to the feature of “Asian-ness” (often referred to as “yellow fever”). As a preliminary response, however, I will say that this sort of attraction seems phenomenologically different from the ones listed above. We might also say that in the case of fetishization one is failing to see an individual as a person, whereas in the aforementioned cases it is merely a failure to be attracted because of some feature of that person, so the former is necessarily dehumanizing while the latter is not.

If I were trying to make my argument conservatively, I would say that at the very least there is some tension between the way we regard some instances of selective attraction in comparison to others, and there is at present no principled way in which to distinguish them. However, I am more inclined to take the stance I currently have, and tentatively suggest that there are ways to address the fetishization problem. More work needs to be done on the topic, but the point is that work can be done. I do not think this is an insurmountable problem for my position. And, if it were, what are we to say of same-sex attraction? It seems any route we go which deviates from mine runs into problems.