Category Archives: Not strictly school-related

In which the light never goes out

Death and its associates are constantly on the forefront of my mind as a Shelleyan, as a student of the Gothic and as a recovering Catholic. Death has been a passively familiar concept to me to the degree that I’ve felt almost completely numb to its nuances and only moved by dead people’s archaic reactions to death in their time (a la Mary Godwin in the absence of Mary Wollstonecraft or Percy Shelley). Outside of the page, death has been a backburner reality: an ultimate (and necessary) destination, unavoidable at its base and not-here-soon-enough on Some Bad Days.

In short, death has been a neutral, sometimes pervading, constant in my life–whereas life itself? Well…

I started thinking about life when Lou Reed died.

I was absolutely desolate and inconsolable. I spent at least 8 of the first 24 hours (according to the number of play-throughs of Transformer) submerged at the bottom of my bathtub (which was only possibly 1/500th filled with my tears but most definitely 110% me drowning in sorrows).  It hurt. It hurt so much. Dino Stamatopoulos succinctly summed up why in this tweet:

 

Lou Reed lived, no, survived as an openly queer man, as a godfather of punk rock, as a Jewish-American and as a heroin post-addict. Lou Reed could and would have died at various stages of his life from adolescence onward due to abuses wrought unto him by others or by himself. But Lou Reed lived. He lived for 71 years. For approx. 11 of those years, he was an icon to me: an accumulation of admirable assets that appealed to me as humbly as a fan and impactfully as a cross-generational protege.

And yet I feel that’s infinitely too short and radically robbed.

Since October 27th, there’s been a gradual evolution in re-evaluating and re-inventing my lifestyle and perspective, most of which has been documented on this very blog.

A few days ago, when Peter O’Toole died, I was arrested into crippling sobbing, yet again. Much of the same assets of Reed were true of O’Toole. The NPR spotlight celebrated O’Toole as a hellraiser, but to me he only personifies endurance in the faces of addictions and prolonged-and-stacked illnesses and passion as the faces of iconoclasts. Though I forwent The Film Major what now feels like a lifetime ago (read: 4 years ago when I transferred majors after a Life Changing Event with the late Ken Russell), Eli Cross remains my patron saint of doing everything the best in the best way with little regard to the mores and socially acceptable functions of industrialized intellectual productivity.

Though O’Toole also outlived the odds and has thoroughly documented a lifetime of doing so in his leading roles, his passing still feels tragic and wrong.

Which spurred the moment of self-actualization for yours truly:

I don’t want to die. I actively do not want to die. I honestly want to live.

So settles the fear, the paranoia, the anger. How do I live? When will I die? How could I possibly have wasted so much of my life either actively anticipating death or passively disavowing life? 

It’s not that I was ever lacking in productivity. Certainly I’ve been active. I have a full CV to prove it and a litany of inside jokes and anecdotes. But how proactive have I been? How much can I reflect on myself and chart a lifetime?

Between point A and point B, Johnny fuckin’ Marr asked me what I did with my life and probed me beyond stammering superficials about my credentials. Johnny Marr was seeking the life in me. Johnny Marr believed it was there. And now I believe it’s there, too.

But is it possibly too late?  When I go to the doctor after years of having been off medication and dragging myself to the brink of self-induced trauma and shock, I dread the potential of hearing that my own negligence, my own passivity or, even worse, my own active damnation marred my body with considerable, possibly even irreparable damage. What opportunities have I skipped out on? Where could I be now? Who could I be now?

I have to trust that whatever life is in me is valuable and worth fostering–however much longer it lasts.

At the Johnny Marr show, I burst into tears during “There Is a Light,” cognizantly because of its feature on my Shelleys mix because of their own death-focused love affair. But upon reflection? Those tears were mine. They were for me. They were for me and the others I shared the floor with in that moment. They were for Johnny. Every single one of us carries a light–a guilding light, a hailing beacon for everyone in our remote vicinity–that never actually goes out, even when we’re snuffed out. There will always be those lapsing embers, those glistening wispy halos of smoke. Lacking them in some capacity might make it harder to navigate–but we were always captaining our own ships, anyways.

Rather than feeling deprived by death, I have to start learning to feel privileged by life.

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Filed under Not strictly school-related, Out of the field

Recovery begins with the letter ‘I’ [tw: disordered eating]

My life, up to this point, was something I regarded as a string of accomplishments and mess-ups in no determined order of priority or relevant impact to my own existence. My unique forays into excellence and my individual tragedies have often been co-opted (rather than empathized) into my peers’ graduation speeches, or my colleagues’ credentials, or even my supposed loved ones’ dating profiles.

I’ve lived with the knowledge that my exes and ex-associates have been using my byronic fanaticism and  my academic achievements as *their* selling points in half-baked pick-ups.

Years before that, I learned what while my parents’ love was unconditional, there were some obvious lapses in the honest continuum of maintaining that truth. The unconditional love was considerably more loving  when my excellence was above average.

But then along the way, I’ve had smatterings of friends who haven’t gone the way of the dodo who have certainly not been hollow in their praise of my excellent qualities. However: 1. most of these friends have only been acquired during or after the foundations of critical self-loathing have been laid, 2. most of this praise is perceived as acting in defiance of my put-upon circumstances, rather than the actual result of them.

The way of the dodo: on a ship, sailing to exceed in the New World while I'm left shriveled and alone on an island surrounded by an ocean of my own tears

The way of the dodo: on a ship, sailing to exceed in the New World while I’m left shriveled and alone on an island surrounded by an ocean of my own tears.

Someone in my life recently praised me, telling me that I’m the most humble person they know, “even though [you] try not to act like it.” That was mortifying. Compliments to my supposed humility in this nature terrify me. They blatantly smash the life lessons from the Kanye School of Self Esteem that I try to implement in my day-to-day presentation—the ones that I put into practice to specifically scare people away from the horrible truths that 1. I’m not actually a god, and 2. I identify with this sequence more than anything else in the history of cinema.

Obviously this isn’t so simply said that “I have zero self worth and that’s why I can justify abusing/neglecting/actively sabotaging myself.” The problem is that I have worth, but that I don’t deserve it and it doesn’t belong to me, because while I’m some kind of Post-Modern Prometheus, it’s infinitely preferred that I’m a decidedly Bound Promethean.

If you are inclined to continue after the cut, please be conscious to the frank discussions of self-harm-inflicting behaviors that will follow and do not subject yourself if you can be potentially triggered by the implications! Safety first! [to bypass all of the ED-talk, please hit ‘ctrl (or cmd)+f’ and search for the sentence ‘And that’s where the line needs to be drawn’]

 

 

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Filed under Important post, Intro post, Not strictly school-related, Out of the field

In light of earlier tattoo talk…

Yesterday’s daily prompt fills me with the compulsion to share my newest short-term goal.

I’m no stranger to ink, nor am I a stranger to discussing my up-and-coming body mods on this blog. The POLITICAL JUSTICE chest piece remains my long term goal and tattoo dream, and/yet it is completely co-dependent to my overall transition. Between now and then, I have a number of piercings that I’ve scheduled to ornament my face at various transitional stages of my scholastic advancement (in honour of my first facial piercing, my septum, being done immediately before my first Oxford semester/my first semester of graduate school).

The desire to “mod up” is directly proportionate to my growth as an academic and as an overall person. Each addition signifies a new set of responsibilities and marks the permanence of what I’ve accumulated thus far.

My piercings and tattoos do and will continue to serve as evidence of my constant evolution.

Image

Though maybe I should reconsider that phrasing…

I anticipate to get my next tattoo between the close of this Fall semester and the start of Spring–most likely after the MLA conference in order to maximize the potential of healing without aggravation from snug, abrasive winter clothes. Because I intend to get matching thigh pieces:

Two mirrored banners starting from the mid-front of my thighs folding inward with ‘GENERATE!’ scripted on each.

The dueling ‘Generate!’s are the title of a track from Johnny Marr’s first solo album, The Messenger:

The Messenger as an overall concept self-consciously challenges and celebrates the relationship of humanity with the advancement of technology, and “Generate! Generate!” particularly teeters on a very Romantic edge between rational and sublime as well as hubris and brilliance.

“Generate! Generate!” serves as both a motivator and as a reminder of checks and balance that will prove sobering as I continue to advance on a research track and on a track of digital humanities. At no point can I ever undermine or sacrifice the significance of my work, but nor can I forget what grounds me to it. The ribbons on my thighs, after burning excruciatingly for the initial recovery period, will cooly remind me of the significance of preserving the past to advance the future–not merely my future, and not merely the future of other academically minded persons with niche fores in Shelleyana.

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Filed under Mundane academic, Not strictly school-related

Things You Never Dreamed of Do Come True

Never in my weirdest, creepiest lucid dreams did I ever manufacture a scenario where I would be telling Johnny Marr just how many Smiths songs made up my various playlists dedicated to Frankenstein/the Shelleys/Romanticism. But I did. And I did because Johnny Marr personally voiced a legitimate interest in my person.

For a brief moment, the roles were switched. Johnny Marr, guitarist of the Smiths, approached me after his jam-packed Orlando show.

Johnny Marr, greatest British export of musicianship and songwriting, pulled me out of a group to do display adoration.

Johnny fucking Marr, accomplished celebrity, asked me “What do you do?”

When I meekly stammered that “I’m a grad student! Two Masters!” I hardly expected him to actual inquire what those degree tracks were in–I never anticipated him to care or to become so personally invested in what one fan was doing with their life track, to ask so many detailed questions.

But he did.

And the experience was honestly just-as-if-not-more nerve-wracking and soul-amplifying than viewing the Frankenstein manuscript.

The Smiths as an entity have been integral to my personal identity and, by immediate proxy, to my academic identity. Marr’s jingle-jangle has been my top cheerleader through my most intensive readings, my toughest assignments and my most arduous papers—as well as the soundtrack to numerous hypothetical Community College AUs (though I was tactful enough not to disclose that much detail). Johnny Marr has been an unwitting assistant to my research–until now, in which he is now a conscious contributor. Johnny Marr is a conscious contributor to my academic success.

Those seemingly-eternal four minutes of standing in downtown Orlando enclosed in the very same arms that just played “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” (track #2 of YOUR PRETTY FACE AND ELECTRIC SOUL) as they interrogated me with legitimate interest about the historical couple I was crying over during the chorus was a total fantasy in open, uninhibited discourse: the very manifestation of the anarcho-socialist extremist jargon I push in the name of total freedom to the sharing of information across the broadest audience possible.

Query: Would it be Totally Creepy if the next time (because there is going to be a fucking next time, oh my goodness) I see Johnny Marr, I ask him to sign the manuscript of my thesis? The answer is probably yes–but I think we’re at that level, considering:

Literally BFFs who text each other when they make it home safely tier

Literally BFFs who text each other when they make it home safely tier, nbd

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Filed under Not strictly school-related, Out of the field

The New Workout Plan

Approximately a month ago, I announced to the world (ak.a., the 230 people I’ve permitted into my world on Facebook) that I would be initiating a new workout plan. (The exact christening of the day was ‘The Day Augusta/s Cordelia Leigh Stops Being a Shrimp of a Husk of Human Being and Gets Ripped as Hell’.) This is definitely not the first attempt I’ve made at working out, but this is the first time that I’ve dedicated myself to the cause to the degree of publicly announcing it. Now I’ve no choice but to hold myself accountable by either 1. sticking to the plan and wowing my adoring public with my new hot bod, or 2. failing to keep up, thereby admitting my pratfall to all invested parties (i.e., anyone who “liked” my nominal life event).

Already, multiple obstacles have arisen, as well as multiple opportunities to drop the ball (figuratively, of course, as my workout plan does not utilize an exercise ball). I’ve caught multiple seasonal bugs. I’ve relapsed into depressive episodes. I’ve found myself bed bound until way-late into the early evening. Normally, this would be enough to pack it in and ‘prioritize’ other aspects of my life into generating my wellness.

But not this time.

This time around, my wellness is dependent on the necessity of my fitness routine. Because this time around, I have a vision, which I’ve informally announced to the universe (accounting for the slightly broader audience capacity I have for my twitter feed):

For the uninitiated into Trans*gender affairs:

“Top surgery” is the catch-all term for any gender alignment/conforming surgical procedure that alters the contours of the chest to create a “passing” silhouette/physical appearance. Though the term can be (and is) used for breast augmentation procedures, “top surgery” typically is the colloquial swap-out for a double incision/bilateral mastectomy or a keyhole/peri-areolar incision reduction procedure to create a more masculine chest.

My case beckons for the latter.

My ultimate goal is not necessarily to become uniquely masculine–as I do not identify as a trans*man, but rather, as a non-binary pangender-presenting person. However, I do intend to reconstruct my body into an idealized androgyne: fit in form and stature. The FTM Top Surgery Network recommends that before top surgery, one should:

Eat a healthy, balanced diet and exercise regularly. Increasing the muscle on your chest will provide more contour for the surgeon to work with, improving aesthetic results

Because this surgery is so life-altering and so expensive (most insurance companies do not cover the procedure, labeling it ‘cosmetic’), I want to have the finest possible results.

I took weight training/cardio as an elective in high school for a Phys Ed credit, but now my personal wellness is truly married to my academics. My gender and my career track are equally weighted in My Life.

It is so particularly important to me that I graduate into my Final Form at the same time as I graduate from my Masters and ascend into my PhD track. This gives me a timeline of approximately 2-3 years to get into shape and save up. As an androgyne, I don’t intend to undergo hormone replacement. However, I do intend to change my gender to the neutral option when such documentation hits the American shores as it has in other nations. While, due to costs, I have not yet legally changed my name, I have already professionally begun to introduce myself as and have registered for MLA 2014 as ‘Mx. Augusta Leigh’–sometimes ‘Augustas’–in preparation for the commencement ceremony where I’m formally announced and hooded as Augusta Cordelia Leigh, scholar.

Actual chart of my transition progress.

So, I’ve been pushing myself: past the sickness! past the crippling depression! past the sticky bedridden stays! Because this time, the way I present myself to others is everything. I have to maintain. I just have to.

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Filed under Important post, Not strictly school-related, What's a gender??