Sunday, March 26, 2017

With Perspective

It's easy to forget, in the bustle of the village and the occasional chaos of the classroom, just how isolated we are here in White Venice. Sure, there are only 400 people. But 400 people, clustered together, seen through the lens of work and social visits, can feel bigger than it is. Add in the endless stream of duties, coupled with a good WiFi connection, and the vastness of our removal doesn't feel as immediate. But there's one place I can never forget it.

The laundry building behind the school is separate from everything else, a peaceful bubble of whirring washing machines and humming dryers to which I gladly retreat once a week with a book and a few bulging bags of clothes. From the balcony that abuts it, facing away from the village, the tundra extends in enormous nothingness to beyond the horizon. No houses. No snowmachines, No yapping dogs. No pretense. Just hundreds of miles of frozen white plain. Standing on that walkway is a like careening on the end of the world, abyss ahead and civilization behind. That's when you feel the weight of living here. That's when you get a sense of what it is.

I learned a long time ago not to sugarcoat reality, because sooner or later a reckoning with the truth must occur, and delaying that reckoning has a way of making truth bigger and scarier than it was to start out. So here it is: three weeks in, I'm lonely. Everyone I know is 4,000 miles away, I'm seeing the same faces and doing the same things day in and day out, and the yearning for friends and conveniences to which I was accustomed pulses like a tiny ulcer. I knew that would likely happen, and I made the decision to come here fully aware of it. But still.

I'm lonely.

I'm the kind of lonely that makes you remember things as better than they were, that makes other loneliness stand out in sharper resolve. In missing what I did have, I find myself longing for what I've never had; how, I've wondered, am I to meet a man? That was something I could never do back home anyway, but now the absence of this hypothetical person is even more acute.

"You know, God led you up there," said Livia, my priest, when we spoke by phone earlier this afternoon. "I've always believed that, from the first time you told me about it."

And I have, too. So much, in prayer, in Bible reading, in life, seemed to all be pointing in the same direction, and then this opportunity opened up in so unplanned a way. It was hard not to see the hand of Providence in that, hard even for a priest of the Episcopal tradition, whose members tend to regard the color beige as a little too loud and to judge the veracity of holy visions based on whether those visions interrupt brunch.

"You just have to have faith," she told me. "You just have to be patient. That doesn't mean you sit around and do nothing, or wait for Prince Charming to waltz into your life. But it means you do what you can do, and believe that God will let that moment happen when it's supposed to. Patience can be hard. But I have no doubt that is going to happen for you."

"Unless that's not His plan," I laughed, an abrupt sound. "Unless His plan is for this to stay a party of one,"

"No," she said, her voice firm. "The Bible says God gives us our heart's desire. I don't believe you'd have these feelings unless you were supposed to. Unless you were supposed to meet someone. You just have to believe. You will be okay."

And in any case there's no alternative. I do believe I was meant to come here, do believe that it is far and away the best professional option I have. So in the difficult moments, I endure, always with an eye to where the moments of joy can be gleaned from that endurance; always with a mind to what the long-term plan is, even as I live in the present. God brought me here, and I have to trust He'll lead me where He intends me to be.

So that's where I am. Planning and praying, trusting and withstanding, making room in my head for little pleasures and optimism about the future amid the tedium of daily lesson plans and strolls about this very tiny town. At this juncture, it seems likely I will begin the 2017 - 2018 school year in another district, one here in Arctic State but not in White Venice. And of the six weekends remaining in this semester I will spend two away, one in Riverville and one in Iceport. Decisions to be made. Excursions to be savored. Plans to be laid.

Now also seems like a good time to mention that the names I use on this blog are not the actual designations of people and places in the real world. Back in 2008, when I started this site, I borrowed the tradition from another blogger of using pseudonyms to protect mine and others' anonymity. Nine years after the fact, the practice has stuck, so I leave it to you to divine the real places behind the made-up monikers. Arctic State and Iceport will probably be easy enough to decipher, but if you manage to ferret out where White Venice is then you deserve some kind of award.

I very much appreciate the number of you who read and commented on the last post. I'd been away from regular blogging for quite a while, and the warm welcome back was heartening indeed. I'm looking forward to following your journeys as you follow mine.

It seems we're going such interesting places.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Landed in the North

Up until the moment I got on the plane, it didn't feel real. I'd spent weeks packing, weeks saying goodbyes and transferring accounts and preparing for the journey, weeks telling people I was moving and then watching their mouths drop when they learned where. But somehow it was still an abstraction even that morning.

And then I was airborne. And then I was here. Three weeks on, the fact of here is still vaguely surprising, but what's more surprising is how quickly "here" has become the same as any other place; just a place. Only this afternoon I caught myself remarking on "what a nice day" it was because the sun was out and the temperature had gotten all the way up to 13 degrees. Wherever you are you fall into a crowd and into a routine. And then very quickly abnormal becomes normal.

That was not, of course, the way I saw things when in the early-morning hours of March 2 I arrived in Iceport, a surreal city perched on a frozen harbor and surrounded for hundreds of miles by wilderness. The nighttime flight out of Coffee City, on the West Coast, was four hours over unbroken darkness. In that black ocean, Iceport glowed like a constellation set in deep space.

My two days in this metropolis, which is far and away Arctic State's largest, were spent gathering critical winter-gear items and enjoying my last taste of urban amenities before I departed for a place with no such things. No Starbucks. No Dunkin Donuts. No fast food or streaming Netflix. No roads.

This transition, though dramatic, was done in gradations: from Iceport to Riverville, a regional center of about 6,000 people; then from Riverville to White Venice, the little village of 400 souls where for the past two weeks I have been working and acclimating.

Acclimating to a lot, by the way. It's hard to explain how different it is here, if only because the differences are so many, both in kind and in quality. There are no grocery stores or pharmacies, which means residents make ample use of online retailers and the bush-delivery services in Riverville. Calling up a supermarket 100 miles away and asking them to deliver your loaf of bread by Cessna is completely normal here. They even have an 800 number for it.

All of the food is frozen. All of the supplies are ordered in bulk. Creative solutions to culinary problems abound, and one's capacity to be delighted by small things greatly expands; within about a week, I had come to appreciate the palette-pleasing nuance of powdered milk and freeze-dried strawberries.

All of this is to say nothing, of course, of the cultural differences I have encountered in this Native community where English is a second tongue, hunting remains the primary means of livelihood, and the only white people are those working for the school system. Differing perspectives on life skills have presented a challenge, as have the lingering effects of what amounts to a colonial presence; issues with poverty and alcohol abuse pack a big punch here, as they do in Native American communities across the United States. A very high number of these children come to school with worldviews shaped by addiction and violence, by the existential crisis of trying to honor an old culture for the sake of tradition while needing to embrace a new one for the sake of survival. That's hard.

All of it has been made a lot less hard, however, by the other teachers, who in an isolated environment have pulled together to create an exceptionally warm community.

I met Auburn-Haired Girl, a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher, when both of us were stuck two nights in Riverville because poor weather delayed our flight into White Venice. We took advantage of the occasion to get drunk together in a surprisingly well apportioned hotel room, then just continued spending time with one another after we made it to White Venice on March 5. I've passed several evenings in her house, petting her dogs and making halfhearted attempts at cooking as Sunrise, a 50-year-old elementary teacher, prepares one warm meal after another in the cozy kitchen she and Auburn-Haired Girl share. Yesterday, Sunrise taught me how to make stew.

Have there been hard moments? You bet. Lugging my things to the school to shower each morning has not been fun (there's no running water in my house), and cultural differences have caused some frustration. I still wrestle with my fears, and on one difficult afternoon I called home crying. Some of that is unavoidable. Overall, though?

I'm doing pretty well. I'm figuring stuff out. And I'm finding that I'm actually equipped to do that.

I worry every single day about my future. Whether I'm being effective at reaching these kids. Whether I can satisfy the needs of my school district. Whether I'll ever meet a man while I'm living in a village on the edge of the Arctic. How I overcome my insecurities if I'm lucky enough to find him. And what does a date look like when the nearest restaurant is reachable only by airplane? I still don't know.

But the view from my kitchen window is stunning.

An open white vista across a mile-long river that's frozen solid, over the frosty face of the tundra and on to the low mountains forty miles away. In the afternoons after I've finished up at work, I cradle a coffee and sit by that window, letting the pale winter sun bathe my face in heat through the pane.

Just then, it feels like everything is going to be okay.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Send-Off

My thirteen-year-old sister and I trudged over the undergrowth and into the huge cornfield that lay behind our mother's house.

"Come on," Pie said, pushing down a piece of rusted fence wiring with a rubber-soled sneaker. "You just lift your leg over and then you step in."

It had been a few years since the last time she'd talked me into trespassing on the neighboring farmer's property, and then as now I was impressed with the sheer scope of the plot. It extended acres across, endless rows of fallow corn stalks marching atop hills and breaking for the occasional clump of rocks or trees. When we arrived at one of these outposts, Pie turned back towards the house and wistfully surveyed her domain.

"I'm going to miss it here," she said. She's shot up in the past year and a half or so and is now tall, taller than even her mother, but the unrefined softness of her face gives her away for the child she still is. I mimed punching her in the cheek.

"Whenever you're starting something new and leaving something else, there's always some sadness involved," I said. "But think of everything you're coming to."

Pie will be fourteen this summer, and begins 9th grade in the fall.

"You're about to start high school. You're going to have a new house where you'll make new memories. You'll meet people who will become a huge part of your life, friends who will be like sisters. One day you won't be able to imagine not having them with you. And you don't even know they exist yet."

The wind tore with cold fingers.

"It's tough to leave somewhere you've been happy. But you're moving forward. Moving forward is always good."

The last few weeks have been a curious mix of giddiness and nostalgia, with the former having a decided advantage over the latter. My father's family were all naturally thrilled to learn I was moving to a sinking ice fortress 4,000 miles away, and at once convened an impromptu party that matched Pizza Hut with Pinot Noir and involved Aunt Crazy regaling the assembled crowd with the story of how she'd once convinced my very young father to kick a neighborhood boy in the groin. Dad was about five years old at the time. Aunt Crazy was a grown woman in her 20s.

"He did it, too!" she laughed. "Oh, that was funny. And that boy deserved it."

Surprisingly helpful gifts, obtained by chance, were also a feature of this event.

"Oh, Sweet Aunt," I said as I unwrapped the ice-cleats that I still can't believe will be a part of my wardrobe (they are, for the record, intended to stop one from slipping on frozen walkways during blizzards). "This is so thoughtful."

"No," she shook her head ruefully. "No, it's not. Your Uncle Mustache got that as a gift during a Christmas party last year."

"But why would someone...?"

"We didn't really understand it, either. And then after we talked to you a few weeks ago we knew they had the perfect home."

"Well, I appreciate it. You're really helping me out."

"We got your cake for free, too."

Festive one-on-one get-togethers with friends, from old standbys like Peruvian Girl to new acquaintances like Iowa Girl (a former co-worker at Native State Public Relations) have also abounded during the last fortnight.

"We should exchange letters!" Black Dress Girl said, her eyes glinting over a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. "It's not like you'll have Internet. Or electricity. Or plumbing."

All patently untrue.

And then there's been the other side of it. The side that is--and should be--the junior component of this whole thing, but that is there nonetheless: the acknowledgement that, as something is beginning, so other things have definitely ended.

My stepmother Marie happens to be preparing for a move herself, something that made today's stop at Mountain University to obtain a copy of my official transcripts all the more poignant. A long stretch of freakishly warm weather here on the East Coast broke today, such that my stroll through this college town occurred under grey skies and chill breezes. It reminded me of the fall of 2014, when I first started there.

"You know, graduate school was such a weird time in my life," I remarked to Viking Guy, a 24-year-old undergraduate and one of the many kind, interesting people I met during my two years here.

He looked around at the display of yellow-brick buildings and quaint shops.

"I'll bet," he said. "To go from the Goldlands to here must have been jarring. And it's a weird town, anyway."

I nodded.

"It felt like stepping back in time. Especially because I'd done stuff between my bachelor's and master's degrees. I'd been living in the real world and all of a sudden I was a college student again. I enjoyed that."

For all the pain that occurred in this house (and there was plenty), I will always be thankful for what my time here gave me. I arrived destitute and broken. I left with a career path, with a piece of paper I thought I'd never earn and that I cried when I held today. That piece of paper opened so many doors. And that house was where I got it.

Thomas and I wandered from room to room, surveying bare walls and plastic boxes, remarking on parties and victories, on many late nights and new steps.

"Remember our first night here, we had the whole house to ourselves and we slept on the futon in Pie's room?" he asked.

"I do," I replied. "And the sky was so beautiful the next morning. Like a painting."

I had three birthdays there. I obtained a master's degree. Thomas became a young man, Pie a teenager. And our family ended.

"You know, Powell came here the other day," Thomas said, referencing the wayward 27-year-old brother who has struggled now for many years. "I think he was kind of upset, looking around. This is the last place we all lived together. Mom and Dad divorced. He moved out. You moved out. Now I'm moving out, not going with Mom to her new place."

He seemed morose.

"We had some fun here. But we've done this so many times that now in my mind this is just one more place I'll never come back to."

Thomas faces an uncertain path. He's 21 and not yet settled into a career, 21 and leaving a mother from whom he feels increasingly distant. And he's worried.

"There was always something about this house," I told him. "Even before we moved in."

"Yeah," he said. "Even looking at the pictures, we were all kind of drawn to it."

"I think it was a way-station," I responded. "We all rested here for a bit. We all got something we needed. And then we left with something we didn't have before. Even you."

He shot me a skeptical look and I took his shoulders in my hands.

"Because you're going to have to figure this out, so you'll figure it out. You're taking a new job because of this, and that job will lead you to other opportunities. This is going to give you your independence. This will lead you to your career. I really believe that five years from now, you're going to look back on this as such a blessing. Even though it's hard and scary now. And I get that it is."

My brother isn't one for emotional displays. But every now and again he does something that reminds me how he still straddles the line between boy and man, though manhood comes ever closer like a rising tide. The boy in him needs help right now. I'm glad my divorced father and stepmother seem willing to give it, in their way.

My own situation, however, is happy--even joyous in moments--and that is where my attention should be. That is what I decide to focus on. I learned the hard way that it doesn't do to dwell in the past. Forward, always forward, is the only way one can move, and it so happens that my forward is brimming with opportunity. I have chosen to assess that opportunity with a realistic view as to the challenges that accompany it, to be cognizant, as it were, that I am moving to a Native American village on the edge of the frozen ocean. I chose those challenges, though. Chose that opportunity. And I'm happy to take them on, good and bad, day by day.

"I'll give you one thing, BB," my brother remarked, leading me out to my car as I left that house for the last time. "I always said you'd be here 'till you were 30. And hot damn if by 29 you didn't move across the Earth."

There's more than a little truth in that.

Tomorrow will be occupied with checklists and packing, throwing away pieces of the past and planning for a fast-approaching future.

On Wednesday afternoon, I leave for Iceport.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Waking Up

I think this is where I come back to you. 

Over the course of the last year or so, and especially over the last few months, I went quiet. I didn't do that because I was withdrawing from the world; I did it because I was occupied in the world. In the world and in myself, seeing truths and admitting faults that had long needed to be unmasked and accounted for. I needed time to discover where I'd been, and why. I needed time to discover where I was going. 

And I honestly still don't know. I don't say that in a directionless or conflicted way; I mean that the last couple of years, and the last year in particular, have taught me life is an uncertain thing full of constant change. I am fortunate enough that some of the changes thrown my way, beginning about last summer, conferred a degree of self-awareness I'd sorely lacked before.

But in terms of the specific track of the thing, of my life? Who in the world knows?

As recently as last August, I believed I was going to work at Native State Public Relations, forging a new path in communications as opposed to education. As recently as October, I knew that wasn't true. As recently as December, a master's degree was conferred on me and my path turned back to teaching. As recently as January, I was reveling in the job interview that had gone so well, the one I thought I'd probably nailed. As recently as three weeks ago, I was weeping with happiness because of the glowing phone call from an assistant principal that I was the right choice for the position. As recently as two weeks ago, I was headed back to Southern State, to the Goldlands from which I came, to take the position I was so happy God had put before me. As recently as one week ago, I was broken by a single e-mail. What does taking a position "in a different direction" even mean? As recently as five days ago, I saw gloom.

Who would have predicted I'd be pulled not south, but as far north as north goes? Not to an Old Dominion, but to a Last Frontier?

That's a big part of why I haven't written: cognizance that ever-shifting possibilities needed time to settle. When the most concrete of the teaching opportunities I've yet gotten came my way, it was almost a fluke. It also, like many things of greater import than might initially be apparent, started as a joke. A friend in graduate school was from Aurora City and I cracked that we should apply for work there because "they [didn't] have any people" and needed the help.

This turned out to be true, and in light of the competitive salaries and the fascinating nature of the region, I decided to start an initial fact-finding mission, my sole intention being to determine if a job in that part of the world would even be something I'd want. I was on my third informational interview with my second school district when the director of personnel pulled a fast one.

"Not to put you on the spot or anything," he said by way of putting me on the spot. "But we have a vacancy we actually need to fill right now."


"Think about it," he laughed. "It's a lot. Just a mull it over."

I can always interview for the job, I thought. No harm in that, and I don't have to take it.

I spoke with HR via Skype, then with the school principal by telephone. He told me he'd offer me a contract if I wanted it, and I told him, thinking my ticket to Southern State was a sure thing, that I'd take the weekend to think on it. That was Friday. Southern State went "in a different direction" on Tuesday, and by Tuesday night my weekend to think about it had led me to some unexpected thoughts.

Three days ago, an official offer came from a school district 4,000 miles away. I accepted.

The actual contract, which I will actually sign, will likely arrive by e-mail tomorrow. So there's uncertainty in all things, but less uncertainty here than in other things. After all: how many teachers will they find willing to move to Arctic State in February?

That this will constitute change of a very dramatic nature is undeniable. That it will present challenges both logistical and personal is, of course, inevitable, too. Already I am rushing around to switch my banking, to pack my things, to assemble lists of winter supplies. Already I'm e-mailing a roommate with whom I'll soon share a house on the edge of the sea. Already I'm calling family and friends, people I love dearly, to arrange last hurrahs before a long flight north.

But this is the right thing to do. Even knowing I may fail, it is the right thing to do. Opportunity comes when it comes, and at some point living in fear has to give way to living with reasonable risks, if living is to occur at all. 

So I'm going somewhere new, in many senses. I hope that, as in years before, we can follow each other across different frontiers.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Time Was

Though now her lamp is burning low
Time was it fired bright
Though now its beams are ebbed and weak
Time was they lit the night

Though now her voice is withered down
Time was it shook the sky
A ballad roared like freedom's bells
Of Liberty on high

Though now she turns her head from fact
And hums a broken tune
Time was she strove to heal the sick
Her banner crowned the moon

Though now the Golden Door is closed
The Exiles' Mother screams
Time was one island was the port
Of all man's hopes and dreams

Though now her people huddle scared
Before an ersatz king
Time was they stood with trumpets bared
With soaring songs to sing

Though now she backs down from the world
Time was she was its might
Its starry soul, its arsenal
Its hero and its light

Though now the maiden can't recall
Her shot heard 'round the world
That sound, most glorious of all
Cast waves that long unfurled

Time was on shores of Normandy
In peasants' dirt-stained tears
In countless small men's dignity
There was that sound revered

Though now the crown falls from her head
The eagle from her arm
The shield from freedom's heaving breast
Conviction from her song

Though now her gaze is glassy eyed
Into submission hurled
Time was she was a shining queen
Time was she raised the world

Monday, September 5, 2016

A New World

Einstein was really onto something with that theory of relativity. "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour," he quipped. "Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute." It's funny how two years in a graduate program can seem to have passed in one long sigh, while five months can feel like a decade. Five months can reveal a lot. Five months can change you. Five months can make a different person. 

Back in April, I was completing the second half of my student-teaching requirement and contemplating what a job in a classroom would mean come the fall. In retrospect, in light of the way things actually went, that seems laughable. We plan and we plan, and sometimes our plans work out and other times God throws us delightful surprises. He certainly surprised me. Back in about May or so, maybe a month after we last checked in, I was completing a difficult second student-teaching assignment and also wrapping up my stint working with a local public-relations company part time while in school. I decided, due to some longstanding reservations, to put in a few applications for communications positions outside education and see if anything materialized. I'd received some positive but non-committal responses when I departed Mountain University for Northern State in the third week of June. 

This two-week trip, to a monastery on a bend about one hundred miles from where the Holy River leaves the City of Fate, was one of those rare moments that actually changes a life. What happened to me in that place deserves its own post, and will have one. But you should know it was a gift, delivered in a deeply painful package, that taught me important lessons about people and important lessons about myself, that forced me to confront some of my own worst predispositions. I walked down to the shore of the Holy River, sobbing, and told God I didn't understand. I asked Him not to hate me if I had to leave for a while, take some time away from my relationship with Him. And then there He was. Shimmering off the glassy surface of the river. Blowing over to caress my tear-streaked face with a warm summer breeze.

It's okay, He seemed to say. You're still mine. I still love you.

I wiped my eyes. Staring out into the afternoon sky, I took stock of the things a visceral new wound had taught me and realized what a profound gift I'd just been handed. I thanked Him and turned back to the monastery, and a day later I was on a train bound south for Mountain State. A week after that, I was on a highway headed to Native City.

"This might be a great conversation to have over lunch," the man's friendly voice enthused through my cell phone speaker. His picture had been intimidating, and I remember being surprised that his tone wasn't more gruff, maybe more menacing. Lincoln, they say, had a high, reedy tenor, not the baritone people usually assume from photographs and from his stature. It was the same here.

"Sure," I said. "When would you like me to come by?"

This was just another turn in an improbable chain of events. Earlier that week, I'd been perusing through regional public relations companies to see who was hiring, and in glancing over one with no vacancies I noticed that one of its senior officers was a Russian speaker who'd spent time working in the former Soviet Union. Purely academic interest led me to send an e-mail asking him about his experiences, and not too much later we were on the phone organizing an impromptu meeting. That meeting, incidentally, went well, and included the man, his colleague, delectable coffee, Netflix-centered conversations, and halting exchanges in Russian. "Your accent is good," he laughed. "Mine's getting rusty." I'd no sooner gotten home than another phone call awaited me.

"Listen, BB," the man said. "I know this is kind of out of the blue, but we were really impressed with you. We've just brought on some new clients and have more business than we anticipated, so I'll get right to the point: we'd love to have you come on board. Are you interested?"

And so a random man became Ivan the Great (Boss), at least on my blog. Isn't it weird how things turn?

After a hasty move to Grand Ma Normal Family's house--"It makes sense for you to save some money at first, and this way you don't have to worry about finding an apartment before you start work"--to take a position that neither employer nor employee had planned for, I began work as a junior account executive with Native State Public Relations on August 22. The photo above is the view from our conference room. Me using a conference room. How bizarre is that?

A few weeks in, I keep wondering how in the world I lucked into this. Ivan has been incredibly supportive and, noting my challenging commute, has allowed me to work from home two days a week and operate on an eight-to-four rather than a nine-to-five schedule. My co-workers, most of whom are in their twenties, have been friendly and warm, and my immediate supervisor makes clear her very reasonable expectations, offering appropriate feedback as needed. I'm writing, editing, researching, gladhanding. I wear a suit jacket three days a week and leave my house at six-thirty to sit in rush-hour traffic on the highway. I love it.

And I'm getting paid, which, after years of underemployment or the unpaid internship gigs that everyone seems to now have, seems like some kind of incredible luxury. This salary, mind you, is not glamorous. But it would be sufficient to live on my own, if modestly, and with the money I'm saving staying with my grandmother it's more than enough to cover everything I need to cover and then have plenty left over. And that's a new feeling.

As is the case for anyone, my current situation is not without its challenges. My contract is a trial one that runs from August 22 to December 31, and while Ivan has expressed a desire to bring me on permanently effective January 1--"as long as you're happy and we're happy with the arrangement"--it means that there is at least the chance this position will end in the New Year. I am also waiting to hear from a company who was considering me before Ivan made his offer and is still weighing my application. So, on Native State PR's end and on mine, there is a bit of uncertainty.

It's also become increasingly clear that the mysterious ailment from which I began suffering during graduate school is Hashimoto's disease. This autoimmune condition, which I inherited from my father (though he himself does not appear to be affected), involves the gradual destruction of one's thyroid by one's own immune system, which goes haywire and, mistaking the thyroid gland for a foreign body, does everything it can to kill it. My exhaustion, hair and eyebrow loss, weigh gain, forgetfulness, delayed reflexes, and episodes of slurred speech are all classic symptoms of the disease, from which my grandmother and cousin also suffer. Far more frustrating than the symptoms has been the experience of dealing with medical personnel who are often shockingly ignorant about a condition that affects tens of millions of Americans. When they finally thought to check me for the antibodies that are the marker of the illness, and for which I've now tested positive four times, they downplayed the extent of what was going on.

"You may be one of the lucky few who has this disease but never becomes symptomatic," one told me brightly.

"But I am symptomatic," I said. "That's why you ran the test in the first place."

"Your lab numbers are on the high end of normal," another informed me. "So it may be that the disease has not progressed very much yet."

It took my calling her professional organization and requesting their official guidelines to learn that she was wrong. The numbers weren't normal, not even close. She just hadn't known. And when I sent her an e-mail citing her own group's guidelines, she didn't care. I'm seeing a third endocrinologist on September 16 and keeping my fingers crossed that he's well versed in the realities of the disease with which many of my family members have been afflicted. With medication it's very manageable, and I want to begin that management as soon as possible. So not everything is great. But some things are great. And everything is better than it was.

Finally leaving the home of my destructive and disrespectful stepmother, finally working a real job and earning a real salary, finally making a stab into the world, is so much better than rotting away in a prolonged pseudo-adolescence. Sometimes it's scary. Sometimes I miss things I know I shouldn't miss, or people I know were bad for me. Some days I am sad, some days worried about the ongoing progression of a serious illness that two physicians have declined to treat. But every day, I know I'm doing the right thing. Every day I'm aware I'm investing in myself, taking an important step. Every day I remind myself that I'll make new friends, date new men, grow in my career, spark with the right partner, find a good doctor, get better. Every day I'm thankful. And every day I take another tentative step forward.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

I'm Still Here

If anyone is still left here, after four months of silence on my end, you probably think I've abandoned you. I haven't. I've just been going through some changes--rapid, broad, profound changes--that have been good for me even when they've been painful, and the scope of those changes required some stepping back. After eight years of having an audience I needed, even if only for a little while, to not have one. I'm not sure how much longer I'll be away, taking care of things in the real world of BB, but I will come back. I am, after all, a storyteller.

And there's so much story to tell.