Troubleshooting Identity & Forgiving Yourself For Not Getting it Perfect on the First Try
I've been feeling empty lately. It creeped in around the beginning of June: a dull, persistent aching that left me sad and feeling kind of purposeless in my own heart. So I started throwing different bandages at the wound - maybe I need a change of scenery? A new zine to work on? More time with my friends? Restless feelings like this are what I call "Vague Cravings" and for me, they usually just apply to food. You're starving, you need to eat, yet you don't want just anything. Except all you have to go off of is a hunch of a mystery flavor or a texture or a region. Like okay...you're craving "cheese" but does that mean nachos? Does it mean mozzarella sticks? Pizza? Cream cheese frosting? Nothing feels right yet satisfaction never stops seeming at least halfway attainable. Honestly it drives me insane and I hope this metaphor doesn't sound too contrived.
I didn't feel like I was gonna be sad forever, I just wanted to start feeling full...
And then I thought. Maybe I need love - not romantic love, solely - but the love that rises out of you from creating, from arriving, from being present. I'm starting to think of this feeling as indicative of a Transitional Period in my journey. I don't think I'm outgrowing my friends or my life, but I am starting to feel imbalanced. The Vague Craving for a something else that doesn't seem to have a name. It's been scary to say that out loud. I worry that in the process of chasing after this feeling, trying to satiate it...will I alienate myself from loved ones? Will I ruin things in pursuit of an ethereal happiness? Am I being selfish? More importantly: Am I truly happy? Do I like myself? Will I like myself at the end of this - will I feel better?
If it sounds incredibly existential, it's because that's how I process my emotions. All the time. So I'm working on it.
In seeking balance through my projects, environments and broader networks of support, I've been musing lately on both love and this idea of the elusive "community" I am so direly in need of.
Towards the end of Pride Month, which was in June, I felt a sort of stirring within myself - this desire to really actually take Pride in something about myself that I don't really give much voice to or talk about in depth. I think that was a huge shift for me and how I look at myself - this idea that maybe I need to nurture things about who I am that I've suppressed.
Fun fact: for literally the last like 7-10 years, I've grappled on/off with questions about the nature of my own sexuality, attraction, and kinks and tried (disastrously) to navigate that in my dating life. I ultimately traumatized myself in the process, occasionally fell prey to semi-dangerous situations at times, failed to protect myself, and internalized a lot of guilt and unhealthy habits + baggage. But every day, I seem to shed a skin and heal from a lot of that. (Not entirely on my own, of course.) It's a process.
Part of that healing is me trying to find the strength to say to myself, You don't have to hate yourself anymore. You don't have to feel broken just because you're different.
(Side note: I got teary typing that out so I think even making this post is healing.)
The way I see myself - and consequently how I translate and perform this 'self' to / for others - is usually fragmented by my artistic passions and my 'identity'. In other words, I look at myself through the activities or subjects I align with (writing / art / organizing, etc) vs the inherent things about me (race, culture, my location + its influences, gender / sexuality / kink). These are so many intersections, and often I keep each one of these things separate from the rest and seek friendships in which I can explore only one element of my identity at a time. As a result, I have writer friends, I have Caribbean friends, I have friends who are queer...but not all at once. There isn't always an overlap.
Up until this point, it's been a great coping mechanism to say, "Well I want to focus on THESE things about myself, and in the meantime let's pretend that those OTHER things don't exist." So sometimes I only get to be a sliver of myself at a time. Compartmentalizing is totally my thing!! But I feel like, suddenly I am finding myself at a point where this is no longer what I desire. I don't want to be elements of the equation, I want to be the sum of everything I love and am.
Suddenly, I felt not only estranged in my current relationships but within myself, as well. Lacking a core unit of folks with whom I might indulge dormant aspects of my neglected inner self has created a riff. The only way to further growth, in my eyes, is to build bridges. To find places and people to grow into and to nurture each connection so that it may go both ways.
Something about 2017 Pride has shaken me up and woken this newfound urge to embrace myself. But Self Love is so much bigger than thinking good things about yourself. It's about security in the knowledge that people love you, flaws and all. It's about being able to stand up for yourself in ways you previously couldn't. Being able to say no, to reclaim ownership over your body and feel comfortable existing beyond public (male) consumption. It's about me celebrating things I used to hate and wanted to change. It's about me crying sometime that it took so long to get here. Ten years is a long time.
I do feel scared. I'm scared that the person I'm involved with might think I care for them less just because there might be parts of this journey that won't always include them. I'm scared that I won't be able to bring together all the special people in my life in a way that will fulfill me. I'm scared that maybe it's too late for me and I'm making a mess. It's heavy! It's weird! I don't know what's going on!
But I feel like myself, I think. I go out and people seem Drawn To Me in ways that maybe they weren't before. I feel Capable. I feel Powerful and I feel Loved. I want to be happy(er) so I can be a stronger pillar of support for the people in my circle. I want to be the best possible version of myself. And I feel like I'm on the way there. I am hopeful and full of gratitude.