Of course, I'm nervous as hell. I build up social anxiety when I think about meeting new people (versus when it's just spontaneous and informal, which helps cull my anxiety). It's also a bit intense to realize that within the span of two and a half days, these people will know me in truly intimate ways. I have a hard time opening up to close friends and partners. There's something different about strangers -- I don't have to see them again, I don't have to let them in on a regular basis -- but I also know that workshops like this are about pushing my boundaries. That, in itself, makes me fucking nervous. And excited. Trepidatious.
The organizers always ask that we sit and reflect before the workshop. The first day at Easton, we talked about what drove us there -- why we felt called, what made us choose that path, and what drove us to overcome the hurdles to get there. I know that question will arise again. I'm in a much different place than I was a year ago. At that point, I was still very immersed in the pain of my last breakup. I was feeling really lost, and I wanted to reclaim myself, my sexuality, and purge some of the emotional baggage that made getting out of bed on a daily basis very difficult.
Now, I find I have totally different desires.
The first day of one of my classes this semester, the professor had us pair off and answer three questions. I don't remember them exactly. But it was something like this... What are your ultimate career goals, Why did you choose this grad program, and What drives you in terms of your career. It's funny, after seventeen years of school, I'm not sure anyone has asked me that outside of an entrance essay. I'm not sure anyone has asked me it outside of school, either. But I found I couldn't even vaguely answer the question. What the fuck do I want? What are my priorities, past finishing school and paying my bills and cooking dinner? Hell, I'm not sure if I cared enough to answer the question, which made me feel even worse.
While I have some strong ideas -- I really want to open a sex shop in NOLA, and I really want to create a queer/trans health clinic -- I also want to make some changes to my life so that there is room for long-term goals and plans. Right now, I can't see past next semester. I don't want to be that short-sighted, and I want to invest in the things that matter to me. School will be ending soon (after I pick out a thesis topic and, you know, write the damn thing). What do I want after that? Why did I put myself through three years and $15K for a grad degree -- what do I want to do with it, with my time, my money, my energy? I don't expect to find an answer next week. But I do want to create space for finding those answers in my life.
I also realize that I need to let go of some of my need and desire for control -- control over my body, over work, over my environment, over what people know and think about me. A lot of the time, that control is an illusion. The rest of the time, it's a way to shield and protect myself or someone else. Either way, it's unhealthy. I don't like to close myself off from people so tightly. I realize that I put off people because I don't give them a chance to get to know me. I short myself by not letting people in, not letting them get close. And when I do invest, I let myself get frustrated or saddened by someone else's actions too easily.
I remember distinctly the expansive, fragile, and powerful way I felt after the workshop. I remember radiating energy. I remember feeling overstimulated, but if I plugged myself into headphones with a song that I found comforting, then everything was ok. I remember learning to breathe, working toward opening up without getting defensive or scared. I hope to find those feelings, those experiences, again. I hope to find love and life in the city. It's been a long three years since I've been back. A part of me wants to see the Golden Gate bridge since I missed it due to the fog last time. I definitely want to see the bay; I am drawn to water in a peculiar fashion. I want to wander the city at night, stop in small restaurants, blow a kiss to a trolley. I want to connect with queers, I want to talk identity, I want to push the boundaries of how I understand myself. I want to feel the rush of exhilaration that comes from getting on a plane by myself and shooting off to a part of the country that I barely know. I want to take a few days to clear my head, to forget everything I know about my life in NOLA, and to see what sifts out as important after doing so.
And right now, I want to fall asleep, dreaming of flying over the Sierra Nevada mountains, dreaming of the sun setting over the bay, dreaming of laying hands onto someone else's body in healing, and dreaming of that high, that incredible fucking high, of just really, truly, intensely letting go.