Thoughts on 31

My 31st birthday was on Monday, and it’s been a good birthday week so far.

My parents came down on Saturday. We had brunch, picked up my birthday present (a new air conditioner), went to a movie, and ate pizza. It was a nice day.

Sunday was a lot of hanging out and tidying up the apartment. That night, we hosted a friend of a friend and his adorable dog on their way across the country. (Waking up Monday with a dog in my apartment was definitely a highlight.)

Monday I worked from home, both because it was my birthday and because I was hoping the maintenance guy would come and install the new AC. That didn’t end up happening before I had to leave for therapy, but it ended up being fine. Therapy was heavy, but good. I came home to find that my partner had picked up stuff for tacos, which was a delightful end to the day.

Tuesday I called off work. I wasn’t feeling great when I woke up, and I was still trying to get the AC installed (it took some pestering, but it did end up happening in the end). I spent a fair bit of the day processing what I’d worked through in therapy Monday night. And then, Tuesday night, I had songwriting class, which is always great. (I didn’t love what I’d written for this week, but that’s not the point of class. The point is that I wrote something.)

Yesterday, I went back to work. It was a pretty nondescript day, work-wise. But last night, I got myself over to Volumes Bookcafe in Wicker Park for an author conversation between Sarah Gailey (author of American Hippo, which I wrote about here a couple of weeks ago, and whose novel Magic for Liars was just released Tuesday) and Ferrett Steinmetz (who I was unfamiliar with but turned out to be super cool). It was a delightful event that reminded me how much I love learning about other creative people’s processes. I also had an exchange about names with Sarah while they were signing my book, where they told me they got to watch a young non-binary person use their name for possibly the first time at the signing the night before. It felt good to be recognized, especially because I’d been feeling like I was maybe not presenting queerly enough last night.

Tonight the great week continues, as we’re going to see Mary Gauthier in concert at the Old Town School.

Thirty-one feels pretty good so far. More settled than 30, but also maybe a little more willing to grow. It feels like it’s going to be a year of integration – connecting past iterations of myself with my present, listening to what I need and what I want and hopefully addressing those things. I’m looking forward to seeing what this next year holds!

Running Late

This has been a weird week.

I am the sort of person who is consistently early. Ten to fifteen minutes if I know where I’m going and who I’m meeting; half an hour if I’m especially anxious. But this week has not been going that way.

I haven’t really been late to appointments, but I’ve been having such a hard time getting up in the morning that I’ve been consistently late to work. Not in a way that’s bound to get me in trouble – I’ve still mostly been the first person on my team to get there. But late by my usual standards.

Right now as I’m writing this, I should be walking up to my office. Instead, I’ve just made it to the bus stop.

It’s frustrating. I feel like I’m glued to the bed when I wake up, like no amount of sleep is ever enough. It’s not so much of a problem once I’m up, it’s just the getting up that’s really hard.

My birthday is next week. It feels like it snuck up on me. I don’t mind being another year older (I’m grateful that I made it this far), but I am fighting the impulse to feel like I’m not enough of an adult, that I haven’t accomplished enough, that I don’t have my shit together enough to be 31.

But the more I look around and talk to folks, the more I realize that a lot of us are in that boat, right? So maybe I’m okay after all.

Start Another Year

On Sunday, I turned 30, and I can’t imagine having a better time doing it.

I woke up a little later than I’d planned, but still early enough to write my morning pages before the day got underway. We went and got breakfast at Smack Dab, one of our favorite local breakfast and coffee spots, and it was a delicious way to kick off the birthday festivities.

Next, we walked over to our neighborhood farmers’ market and picked up a bunch of fresh produce.

After the farmers’ market, we went home and listened to podcasts while we knit. It’s something of a weekend tradition at our house, and it was lovely and relaxing to incorporate our routines into my birthday.

After a couple hours of knitting and podcast-listening, we decided to walk to the restaurant where we were getting lunch. I got to indulge in my favorite gluten-free beer and an incredible gluten-free fancy grilled cheese sandwich.

Our final outside-the-house stop was at Women and Children First, where we each ended up picking up three books and decided to make a pact that we’re not allowed to go back there until we each finish the books we bought.

The rest of the evening was spent with more knitting and relaxing. It was truly a lovely day, and between the day itself and all the sweet messages I received on social media, I felt very loved and very ready to enter into a new decade of my life. Thanks to everyone who made me feel so special!

And as a bonus, I leave you with a picture of the completed LEGO set my partner gave me as a present, which we assembled together last night:

LEGO “Women of NASA” set

Farewell, 20s

Sunday will be my 30th birthday, and, antithetically to what seems to be the larger cultural narrative, I feel ready.

My 20s have been a decade of self-discovery. It’s been…a lot. I’ve come out many times with a variety of facets of identity. I graduated from college after very nearly dropping out, and found and kept my first real jobs. I’ve spent most of the last decade learning how to live independently and how to share my life and my space with someone else. I met my partner (with whom I continue to be smitten); we got through a long-distance phase of our relationship and then moved to Chicago together. I’ve gotten all of my current tattoos in my 20s. It’s been a decade of a lot of hard work, and of lessons learned, and I’m grateful.

But I’m also ready to move on. I don’t know what my 30s will hold, but I feel like now that I’ve gotten things a bit more sorted with how I relate to my body, it’s time to look at what I still want to learn, at what I want to do, at how I want to impact my world. It’s all quite terrifying and exciting all at once.

Age is definitely just a number (after all, I’m about to turn 30, but I’ve been an old man for years), but the start of a new decade does feel like a good chance at a fresh start. I look forward to seeing what 30 holds!

Birthday Reflections

As I mentioned in last week’s post, my birthday was on Saturday, and as a present to myself, I took a five-day weekend. I feel like I managed a pretty good balance between packing in the things I wanted to do and taking time to take it easy. Here are some thoughts and highlights from my birthday week:

  1. I got a ton of things done around the house. Not quite as many things as I was initially planning on, but I still made some significant progress. I’m pleased with and proud of the work I did.
  2. Friday was the day of celebrating with friends. I got breakfast with a friend from work who had also taken the day off. In the evening, I met up with some friends for drinks, and then some more folks joined us for pizza and sangria. It was fantastic, and I felt (still feel) very loved.
  3. Saturday was the day of celebrating with my partner. It didn’t go quite according to plan (the weather was threatening thunderstorms that never came but that made us want to stay closer to home), but it was a really lovely day.
  4. Sunday, I went to see Wonder Woman. I have so many feelings about Wonder Woman, but a lot of them are summed up in this lovely tweet that’s been floating around the interwebs:

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    “I’ve lived to see my childhood princesses become generals.”

  5. Monday night, I had the privilege of playing an Acoustic Explosion show at Sylvie’s here in Chicago, along with three of my songwriting classmates and a couple of other cool acts. Four of the seven performers had June birthdays, which added to the fun. I went last (at 10:30 pm – way past my bedtime), which meant I was two drinks into the evening before I got up on stage; apparently, that is the magic number for me to relax enough to perform my songs at a reasonable pace. I actually had to cut a song out of my set because I hadn’t blasted through all of the things I’d prepared! Below are the two new songs I played in my set; the rest of the set was older material that’s already elsewhere on my SoundCloud page.

Pre-Birthday Musings

Tomorrow is my birthday.

In some ways I feel like it snuck up on me this year. On the other hand, it’s been on my mind for the past week or two, so maybe it didn’t.

I don’t have super strong feelings one way or the other about being another year older. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but I think I should be more grateful than I am.

The truth is, I still don’t know how I made it from 16 to 17, and so the last decade and change, when I think about it, sometimes feels like borrowed time. My junior year of high school was a special sort of hell that somehow has yet to be matched for awfulness in my adult life (possibly because it left me better equipped for what came later). I don’t hate my life anymore, and I don’t hate myself, and while I’m not at all where I expected I’d be at age 28-minus-one-day, most days I feel like I’m doing okay for someone who hasn’t hit 30 yet.

It already feels like 28 is going to be a big year…I have a lot of plans, and I’m never sure how my plans will work out.

On that note, here’s a song I wrote based on the first card of tarot’s major arcana: The Fool, who is all about striking out on a new journey despite (or sometimes in oblivion to) the risks. Enjoy!

Birthday Week Music Break

Yesterday was my birthday, and while there are many things I’m reflecting on as I look back at another trip around the sun, I’m not quite ready to write about them yet. So instead of a typical post, here’s a song I wrote a couple of months ago that I just recorded this week. Enjoy!

A Week of New Beginnings

It’s been a week of beginnings, and of reflections on beginnings.

Last Tuesday, I did something scary. I went to an Aikido dojo, and watched a class, and wound up signing up for membership for June and buying a gi. Sunday, I went to my first practice. While the fact that I never quite managed to execute anything perfectly was frustrating, I surprised myself by sticking with it the whole practice and not taking breaks. Everyone was really friendly, and there was a minimum of awkwardness around pronouns, and no one questioned my presence in the men’s changing room, so that was great. I intended to go back yesterday morning (it’s another Jewish holiday, so I wound up with two free days this week), but I caved to the desire to get some extra sleep. I will be going back tomorrow after work, though. I’m going to try to make two practices a week for the month of June, and if I decide at that point to stick with it, I’ll probably try to work in a third in coming months. (For the record, as I am writing this three days after the fact, I am still sore in places I didn’t know I had. I still plan to go back. This is a big deal.)

This Tuesday was my birthday. I am now 26, which is not a particularly exciting age, but it’s a new year, and there’s always something to be said for the beginnings of things. I never would have imagined, looking ahead as I turned 25, that the year would hold so much change. I got a new job, which has been infinitely better than anything I had hoped to find, and which is teaching me new things and giving me opportunities for growth every day. I’m working in a field I’ve always been interested in but never thought I would pursue for a career. There are certainly things about my job that are frustrating, but hey, that’s just kind of part of life, right? I have a great manager, a great immediate supervisor, and a work environment where I can safely be out.

Which brings us to another big change that’s happened since my last birthday: I started on testosterone. When I hit 25, I was only just barely starting to consider testosterone as a possibility, and I assumed it was going to be something in the distant future. Prior to last spring, I had written it off as something I should never try, because I was terrified of the possibility of my fairly well-managed Bipolar brain being destabilized. By August, I had been destabilized by the dissonance between my mental image of myself and the reality I saw in the mirror. I had panic attacks whenever I thought about going out in public. It felt like a snap decision when I made the appointment to talk with my doctor about testosterone, but by the time I started, it was clear that it was a necessary choice for the sake of my well-being. And I can gladly say that I am so much happier and more comfortable in my body now than I was a year ago. I can stand the sound of my own voice (I even enjoy it sometimes). I have some scruffy facial hair, including sideburns that my partner predicts will rather resemble Hugh Jackman’s sideburns as Wolverine when they fill in more (I can dream, right?).

I also started songwriting classes in the last year. I wrote songs in high school (quite a few, actually), but they were all pretty horrible, and I’d only made a couple of attempts since then, none of which were particularly great. It’s been fascinating to watch my progress as I’ve gone through 20-some weeks of classes. I can honestly say I’m proud of a couple of the songs I’ve written, and I can see myself growing less and less afraid of experimenting as time goes on. Between the weekly songwriting assignments and the weekly commitment to keep up this blog have been great for my sanity. I need creative outlets in my life, and it’s been so, so good to have them consistently.

As I take my first tentative steps into this next year of life, I am particularly aware of the fact that I have no idea what the future holds. What I do know is that I am excited about the year ahead. I’m in a much better place than I was a year ago, and for that, I am grateful.