Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Thus Far in the New Year
Underneath everything, I'm still the same person I was when we first met. Sure, some things have changed. Some plans have been rearranged, some goals reassessed, some ideals cast aside and new ones taken on, all to, at least by my thinking, positive effect. But I'm still me. And that's why it's so nice to be in the position I am now, because in carrying the little boy I used to be inside me I've come the closest I can to going back in time and letting him know that eventually, down the road, he'd manage to find a path.
I'm one of those rare whack-jobs who makes New Year's resolutions and then sticks to them with fanatical purpose. In 2009 that brought me a social life. In 2010 it brought me a record deal. In 2014 it got me into graduate school. And this year, as I walk forward with a perspective sharpened by the twin crucibles of trauma and achievement, it's brought me a realization: a great deal of my life is within my power to influence. Some things, granted, are outside of my or anyone else's control. Other things, however, can very much be turned to one's advantage if one simply endeavors to turn them, if one decides upon a goal and refuses to conduct themselves in any fashion that falls short of what is required to meet that goal. That's become my mantra: I decide.
Look at where I was a year ago: lost, devastated, unsure of my place in the world, hiding in my house and piling on weight as I tried to pretend away what had happened to me. Then look at me now: fresh off finishing my first semester of graduate school with a 3.5 GPA, embarked on a second semester with a clear career path ahead of me, and building positive relationships and a positive conception of self-worth. That happened in a year, and it was because I decided it would. So why not decide upon some other things?
This year I decide to return to my university weight. This semester I decide to do well academically. This year I decide to do what must be done to accomplish several other ambitions that are dear to my heart. The knowledge that there is no secret, that all I need is to do what must be done, has been immensely empowering.
Yesterday was the first day of spring semester classes, and by noon I'd reached a critical decision: the inner conflict I'd felt, between obtaining a PhD in either Russian history or Southern U.S. history, was resolved in favor of the Russian field. The reason is pretty straightforward; both subjects interest me, but those holding degrees in Russian studies can serve the U.S. government in lucrative analyst positions.
"I did that in the '80s," Russian History Professor confided. "I got out of school and went to work for the CIA, although you can work for State or any other number of places. It was a tremendous amount of money. With things heating up over there again, they're looking for good people, and you only need a master's to start."
Academia is nice and I see myself there eventually. But the opportunity to reap handsome financial rewards for immersing myself in a subject I love is too good to pass up. The upshot is, of course, that I'll have to learn to speak Russian before commencing my second master's program in several years' time. The thing is, though, that I decide to do it. I will learn Russian, I will earn a master's degree in Russian studies, and I will go on to analyst or consulting work. And that's that. It helps that I already know the alphabet and have at least a rudimentary background in the language.
In the nearer present, I was pleased to be baptized into the Episcopal Church on January 4. I was raised in an irreligious household yet nonetheless always felt a connection to God, and from the time of my early adolescence I searched for the church that was right for me. When I came across the American branch of the Anglican faith and learned of their commitment to accepting and loving all people, including the hellbound gays, I knew I'd found my spiritual home. As far back as 2009 there was no question in my mind that I'd never encounter a more compatible religion, but for various reasons I put off making it official for another five years. Why wait, though? I think in my head I'd wanted baptism to come once a number of other things were in order, but I can only be stronger in pursuing those things with my faith and the community of that faith behind me.
Selecting a church and publicly committing myself to it has been a major step in recovering from the false virtues that were imposed upon me by outside oppressors. In choosing to join such an organization, I am in a very real way proclaiming that I at least nominally hold its values to be my own. I'm pledging myself to something greater than I am, but I'm also declaring just the kind of person I intend to be. Another thing I've decided to do this year? Wipe away the legacy of those who wronged me and deny them their emotional power over me any longer. Given my sensitivity, understandable in light of the history, to aggression or perceived aggression, this has been one of the more difficult things to stick to, but when I need to I remind myself that my worth is independent of others' opinion of or conduct towards me, and that that worth doesn't need validation from, well, anybody. The only being fit to judge my value has "created the Universe" at the top of His CV, and He doesn't care if my tennis shoes don't fit with the latest trends.
In the vein of establishing myself and rejecting anyone else's definitions of me, I will either this year or next be exchanging the common name my father chose for me from a 1980s sitcom for the meaningful one my mother took from the annals of Roman history. To all of you, I'll still be BB.
I am thankful for all of the opportunities and revelations that have come my way recently, and for the path they have paved for my 2015. I'm thankful that you guys have hung around through some black days and some long absences. I'm thankful for my growing circle of acquaintances and my group of really great close friends. You'll notice the glittery plastic monstrosity above. Black Dress Girl and I, bored on New Year's Eve, could not figure a way to stream CNN's coverage of the Times Square celebrations, and so to compensate we wrapped a yoga ball in garland and threw it off the balcony at midnight before immediately taking shots. That seems an auspicious beginning to me.