Monday, April 20, 2015

A Birthday Filled With Promise

The following is an excerpt from my personal journal, two days after my twenty-seventh birthday.

April 12, 2015

I turned twenty-seven years old on Friday, April 10, 2015, and had a very pleasant weekend, indeed. The first thing to strike me was the fact of my age: that I am actually three years from thirty, actually a decade past seventeen and six years past twenty-one. What I've realized, however, in all this surreality, is that what any age means is, developmental considerations aside, completely arbitrary. I don't need to be where anyone else is at twenty-seven; my twenty-seven is what I make it. And so as a twenty-seven-year-old I am serious and sober, funny and fun loving, responsible and reserved, goofy and garrulous. I am a series of contradictions that add up to something lovely.

The passage of another year is, of course, a time at which I naturally reflect on where I've been and where I want to go. Of late, perhaps exacerbated because my twenty-nine-year-old cousin Perfect just gave birth to her first child (a little girl), I've felt a great yearning for companionship and then children. Children aren't something I desire in the immediate future, mind you, but they're something I can just see on the horizon, something by the time I am exiting my early thirties I imagine I'll be very ready for. I dream all the time of those children, of what they'd look like and what personality qualities they'd have, what their interests would be and what kind of life I would provide for them.

And I dream too of a husband. Of a boyfriend first, but definitely of a romantic partner. Someone who'd hold me and tell me I was beautiful, someone to whom I could confide anything, someone who would hear my victories and my sorrows and care for both, and someone whose victories and sorrows I would care about in turn. Occasionally I wonder if I'm holding out for the perfect man, searching for something I can never find, but then I ask what's so unreasonable about wanting a man with whom I'm compatible. What's so unreasonable about wanting a man I'm attracted to? What's so unreasonable about wanting a man with career goals? If I can find those three things, I figure I'm in a very good position. I'm so scared we'll never meet. I ask God every time I pray to bring us to one another.

I hope one day I will have my little daughter, the daughter I've dreamed of so long. I hope she might be joined by a few others.

The long-term considerations are what they are, but the actual weekend of my birthday was unequivocally nice. Mom was away all week, and so on Friday night Thomas, his girlfriend Jewess, and I hosted my friend Redbeard, his girlfriend Lithuanian Girl, a classmate of mine, and Peruvian Girl for a night of white wine, meat-lover's pizza, raucous talk, and inappropriate jokes. Everyone got pleasantly tipsy and by about 12:30 in the morning everyone had left. I don't think it could have gone much better. In fact, it went weirdly well between Thomas and Redbeard, the latter turning out to be a metal fan of some seriousness, and the two of them chattered on about this band and that while we womenfolk exchanged looks of desperate boredom. Saturday was quiet and filled with reading, and then today came a perfectly suited late birthday present: Hillary Clinton announced that she is running for president.

The big reveal came via a campaign video released on social media, and marked in my view a major break from the approach she took when initiating her 2008 bid for the presidency. Then, she was seated at home at the mansion Whitehaven and boldly proclaimed she was "in it to win it." Now, she has affixed her seal to a two-and-a-quarter-minute campaign piece that doesn't show her until a minute and a half in. The focus is instead on a group of representative Americans: a Hispanic woman raising her young daughter; a black couple expecting their first child; a white retiree and a white factory worker; a gay couple preparing for marriage. What they all have in common is that they are all trying to build lives. Her promise to them, and her rationale for running, is that she will help.

Overall I thought the piece was savvy. She seems to be courting what she is intelligent enough to realize is the emerging demographic and cultural coalition in this country, and she's doing that not just by featuring them in her ads but by considering them in her policies; at one point she concedes that despite the gains of the Obama years, "the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top."

Even eight years ago that statement (and the cast beside which it was delivered) would have been considered controversial, maybe even radical, but we've moved into a different time. I don't trust her. I think she has at her core good motives that are sometimes compromised by her personal ambition. That being said, Secretary Clinton's propensity for maneuvering to wherever the votes are could be, in terms of practical outcomes, a very good thing provided she understands where in fact the votes are. It is the new coalition that will dominate. If she sees that, and molds herself to them--to us--then she'll have pursued a good agenda for impure motives and that, all things considered, should be seen as a win for everybody involved.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Seven Years

Today marks seven years since April 7, 2008, when on the advice of a friend I created a blog and published my first post. The intervening time has been a blessing to me in so many ways; I've enjoyed great personal change, have been able to chronicle that change in a medium that captured a magical time in my life, and, of course, have been privileged enough to meet all of you. In the last seven years things have shifted, as they're wont to do. Readers have come and gone, friendships have grown and withered, and acquaintances have blossomed into something more. The balance is clear: blogging has been a hugely positive part of my life, and without it the last seven years would not have had the richness they did.

So for those of you who don't know or would like to be reacquainted, my name is BB. I am a 26-year-old graduate student pursuing a master's degree in secondary social studies education, and am already plotting the move that follows graduation next May. I live in Mountain State with my mother Marie and siblings Thomas (age 19) and Pie (age 11). My brother Powell (age 25) lives with my father David, a destructive man whom my mother wisely divorced last fall. It's been a busy year. Let's recap.

April 2014: I turn 26 years old.

May 2014: After considerable debate, I choose to pursue a master's degree and begin fulfilling my undergraduate prerequisites for the program.

June 2014: I proceed through summer classes at Mountain University and plan for the fall.

July 2014: I score within the 87th percentile on the MAT, a general graduate admissions test, and am officially accepted into the master's of education program.

August 2014: I begin taking graduate courses at Mountain University.

September 2014: An expanding friend group lends itself to delightful opportunities for socializing, quelling my doubts that I might not be able to enjoy the same kind of broad interpersonal network I'd had at Major University as an undergraduate. My father David moves out of the home our family had shared together.

October 2014: My first teaching observation, at a middle school, is a source of great happiness to me. I decide to eventually pursue a second master's degree following the one I am currently earning.

November 2014: Thanksgiving is happier than it has been in a very long time. David's departure becomes permanent and I effectively disown him, severing a longstanding source of pain and conflict in my life.

December 2014: Our Family has its first Christmas without David. The day is peaceful. In the afternoon I drive to Decaying State and spend Christmas Day with my birth-mother, Anne, for the first and last time in my life. I conclude my first semester of graduate school with a 3.5 GPA.

January 2015: After more than a year of failed resolutions, I bear down on losing the significant amount of weight I gained following my suicide attempt. Major progress follows. I begin my second semester of graduate school. I determine that my second master's degree, as yet several years off, will be in Russian studies. On January 4, I am officially baptized into the Episcopal Church, following both my heart and a centuries-old family tradition.

February 2015: By the middle of the month, I have lost nearly twenty pounds and am hammering away at a challenging academic load.

March 2015: A spring visit to my birth-mother Anne opens my eyes to a sad truth: often, people don't change. My decision to disown her, less than a year after doing the same thing to my father, removes yet another major locus of discord and negativity.

The last year has been very good to me. This time in 2014 I wasn't even sure if I was going to enter the graduate program; now I'm halfway through and already learning Russian in anticipation of the second graduate program. I'm thinner than I was last April. I'm happier. I have more friends. I have better direction. I have God, and for the first time in far too long He has me.

Thank you, as always, for the pleasure of your company and the helpfulness of your insights. I will resolve to write a bit more here than I've been doing, and I will look forward with great excitement to recording whatever this year has to bring.