Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Pursuit of Happiness

I had an interview this week to continue the job I’m in right now. It’s interesting, because on the one hand, I like my job and want to stay. On the other, I really miss California. I miss my friends. I miss the waves. I miss walking down the street and just feeling small.

Keep that feeling in mind because I will address it later.

I really think I just miss the possibilities. After leaving my previous employers, I tucked my tail and got the hell out of Dodge. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I wasn’t sure how to continue. Instead, I followed safety back to Tennessee. That lead me safely to Missouri, where I remain.

Los Angeles, when you look at the big picture, is a big step. The city lights. Everyone is trying to make it. When you begin to break it down, it’s a series of communities pushed together, rows of apartments, and in each one is someone different with a story. When I think about my friends alone, I realize that 2 are on a reality tv show, one is working with Chelsea Handler, one is designing lingerie for an independent label, and then two couples are going through all the same arguing and petty bullshit that the rest of us face on a daily basis. It’s all pretty normal except that their careers are just a little more.. “unreal”. However they’re all amazing and absolutely normal. They’re great at what they do. They followed their passion and that’s where their passion took them. It makes me wonder where I would be right now if I just driven the two short hours to LA and couch crashed until I found a job.

What would I be doing? Would I be happy? I’m happy now, but about different things. It’s unreal how one decision can change our lives in such drastic ways. East or West. That’s all I asked myself, and here I am.

I met up with two of my good friends from College last night. Girls that I met Freshman year, and that I remained close with throughout. The one thing we talked about was the thing that’s been on all of our minds. Adulthood.

Lo is a television broadcast reporter in Texas. While she enjoys her job, she is missing something. Sam just got an amazing opportunity to move to L.A. She is going to work on a feature film and help edit another on the side to kick start her already existing career in film and television. However, she too is missing something. So am I. So is Rachel in the Ukraine, and so many other young women I went to school with.

We’re missing each other. In school we argued over who had to walk across the quad to the other one’s dorm. We complained about climbing three sets of stairs to hang out. I would climb a set of stairs all day to have us back together again. When we don’t know what we have, we take it for granted. That’s why I encourage each of you to assess what it is that you have in life, and everything that you want. Appreciate what you’ve been given and how many experiences you’ve been able to enjoy.

I mentioned on twitter “You spilled your coffee? Got Toothpaste on your pants? Your scarf got caught in the car door? Wow. You’re blessed. You can afford coffee, toothpaste, and a car.” We have to look past all of the disappointments in life and put a positive spin on them. Our attitudes are the attitudes that will be adapted by the next generation. We have the capability of making a difference in the future, with as little effort as a positive outlook. You have to experience life as long as you’re living, so why not enjoy it?

If we started that mindset early on then we would be much more productive. I truly believe that a person’s demeanor is a reflection on how successful they can become. (Not how successful they are, and not in every case.) Some people with terrible attitudes, get really lucky and become extremely wealthy, but it’s rarely an emotional success. Others become monetarily and emotionally successful, but are then jaded by the industry they perform in. Some people however, dream. They dream big. They smile, and they work hard, they love and they grow. These people are the ones that I suggest we emulate. What you’ll find, is that these are the happy people. Even if you’re never as wealthy as Oprah, what is wealth if you don’t enjoy it. I had rather be emotionally blessed than rich. I want to be happy.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Belief, understanding, and everything in between.

New York. 1970. Hippies. Peace. Love. Living life based on a dream, and a no bull shit. Don’t care. Live my life attitude. The thought of it literally takes my breath away. Can you imagine? It’s difficult for me sometimes to understand how I can miss something that I’ve never experienced. I yearn to be a part of history, and the shaping of our world. Technically I suppose I am, but who wants to be a part of their nation’s demise?

Families are starving, the cost of education has skyrocketed, the rich are richer and the poor… Well.. The poor are scrambling to survive. It reminds me in a way of the movie “In Time”. Will we reach a point where people just pass in their homes, dying of starvation? It’s happened before in this country. It’s interesting to me that we are supposed to be one of the most successful and influential countries in the world yet we are slowly digging our own graves. We have become greedy for wealth and power, and now both are slipping from our grasp.

 Wednesday night I sat with two lovely ladies over dinner and they rehashed for me their experiences in life. They WERE a part of the NYC movement. They lived out the 70’s in a time where camaraderie and happiness went hand in hand. A time where people were less afraid of each other, and more afraid of the authority. They told me tales of floating job to job, supporting themselves, but living to find or experience their passion. One was a musical theater dancer/ actress on Broadway, the other tried her hand at marketing before she ventured out to find herself in something new.

 When I asked the second if she ever really found herself out there she replied, “For a long time I was ashamed to tell people that I wstill hadn't settled into one position. I never reached that acceptable level of success determined by society. I didn’t have a high level corporate job on the “right track”. What I found eventually was that I could measure my own success in a different way. I started measuring it based on what type of person I was. Whether or not I had done any good in the world that day or that week.” How many people can say that they genuinely like the person that they are, or the way they portray themselves? I’m not saying that they must like the way that other people perceive them. That’s an opinion, and frankly in the words of my mother “Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one.” Not the most profound statement, but true none the less.

I think it’s important to have an opinion, because it means that you’re thinking. It means that you feel something. I don’t think however that you should base what you feel about yourself on what someone else thinks. Who cares if you don’t have a 6-figure corporate job in engineering or economics. You’re a pottery painter? Perfect do you love it? Great. Do you apply yourself to your craft and strive to develop it in an original way? If you can say yes, then isn’t that successful in it’s own right? You are making the most of life and THAT is what’s important.

 My mother became a nurse the year I was born. It was 1989 and our economy was picking up. She said that she could remember the first time she sat down in a nursing class. The professor told them that very few of them would have what it took to graduate. The number of hours they would have to apply to studying was minimal compared to the hours they would be putting in when they actually got into the field. The medical field is an industry that never slows down. You never have time to catch up. There is always an epidemic or tragedy. Someone is always sick or hurt. She had a career where people’s lives were literally in her hands and she loved it. She has always been a caretaker, and she was passionate about helping people.

She told me that at that time you found more often than not, most of the people in that field were there because they loved it. They wanted to be the best at it. There were a few who did it for the paycheck, but the work was so hard that they could find something easier for more money.

 My grandmother just moved into a nursing home. Her Alzheimer’s has become unmanageable. My mother has been retired for many years, but still does what she can for the family when needed. She went with my grandmother to move her in, and she was horrified at what she found. The young women filling the position that she once filled were astonishing. There was lack of friendliness, lack of protocol. Often they would be late on her pain medication, and never once offered to fluff her pillows. The common courtesy that one human being offers another when they are being paid to care was out the window. My mother sat and cried because she wanted so badly to shake them and tell them “this isn’t how it’s supposed to be done. How can you care so little and be so cruel?” Of course if my mother shook someone there would be a lawsuit to support that need for instant gratification and entitlement that I have spoken of before.

It’s fine for employees to mistreat those that they care for, but if a patient complains then they’re labeled as “problematic” and overlooked. It’s sad. How do we care so little? How is the best interest of EVERYONE not the common practice?

I'll never understand.

Remember me, I'm Tennnessee

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Greater than existence.

As a child we are sheltered by our parents and/ or the government. Until the age of 18-21 we are directed by an existing plan devised to help us “succeed”. We are monitored in high school. Required to attend a number of days. Legal actions have to be taken to “opt out” of that pre-devised plan. Most parents encourage you to follow a series of rules to guide you from point A (kindergarten) to point B- graduation (high school and/ or college). During this time, most of us complain that we want more freedom. There is a steady uneasiness during that age to be out on our own. To grow up. The last few weeks before graduation a rumble settles in to your stomach. When you cross that stage to adult hood, reality settles in like a haze, lingering above our independent minds. Some of us at that point have used our scheduled lives to determine the future. We know, by our structured existence “this is what we want to do”. What most of us still don’t understand is how expensive rent is, what it’s like to fill out all of our own paperwork, how to adjust our time in a schedule that we have to come up with to accommodate our newly self-managed life. Long story short…

 Life is hard, and no one baby’s you in the real world. I think I first realized this when upon graduation I was swooped up and taken in by my previous internship employers. I lived in their home during my stay, and while they backed me financially, I was required to do all of the groundwork. Not long after, I began managing their lives as well. It quickly hit me that this was it. The end of my childhood. However I still wasn’t “in charge”. They told me where to go. What to do. How to act. How to speak. On one hand I know that they were simply giving me a crash course on how to pursue the career that at the time, I believed I wanted. I had this idea that I was going to live a fantastical life amongst celebrities and be envied by all, but when I achieved that, I realized all I really wanted was to figure it out on my own.

Now I’m about to contradict myself. Yes, I wanted to figure it out on my own, but as I sit here now I often wish that life were simple again. That somewhere out there, someone would look out for my best interest and tell me how to live my life in order to maximize on all it has to offer. I long for that imposed structure. I think we all feel that at some point or another. Many of my friends are going through the very same thing. Teetering on the edge of adulthood. What I’ve found is that the difference between childhood and adulthood (besides the obvious) is that with adulthood you can have mentors who offer guidance that you can still choose to ignore. More than not, I wind up following that guidance, yet it’s nice to have the option. The freedom…

I’ve been very lucky. I can easily count at least 5 successful women who to this day would set aside an hour or two to discuss with me the options of my future. One of which did just that yesterday at lunch. We sat down at my favorite restaurant here in Columbia. Bleu at the tavern. It became my favorite by default. My best friend is the daytime bartender, so on my bad days, off days, or just days when I don’t have anything else to do I will go there to sit and chat with her. Yesterday was all business however, so my mentor and I were guided to a table by the window and slowly, but surely devised a formula for my success. I’m not saying that after one conversation with her I am going to uproot my life and hang on her every word, but I must admit that with everything I gave her to work with she came up with a pretty good plan. All of my likes and dislikes were calculated alongside the facts. All of the factors of my life each played a small role in the abyss, until out of nowhere sprang a tangible plan.

“What is it?” you’re wondering. Well unfortunately I’m not quite prepared to divulge that information. I still have a few more meetings, a lot of research and deep contemplation before I decide to chase that dream. And it is just that. A dream. If I chose to follow this path it would be the hardest, yet most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Which is the real point of this post.

What makes you tick. What is your passion? Are you settling for a life or career just because it is “realistic” or have you thrown common sense out the window and said to yourself “Why not?” Why can’t you be great? Why can’t you be the best? You can. Not everyone is big city bound. Not everyone wants to change the world. I get that. But even if you are sitting on a box stool day after day making soap, is it because you have to? Or because it pays the bills? Or do you REALLY just love making soap. The way that it smells. The looks on the faces of the consumers as they rummage bar after bar through your extensive selection.

 What makes you tick? Without passion there would be no rumble in your stomach. The good and the bad would blend recklessly together until you were void of emotion. To exist isn’t enough. The definition of existing is “To have life.” Do you want to just have it? Or do you want to LIVE it to the height of your ability. We’re all in this together, and that is something that is so untouchably incredible. We’re here. So let’s live.

Remember me. I’m Tennessee.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are...

I have known all week what this post would be about. I also knew that it might be my most difficult post thus far. As a lesbian (one who has a lot of Lesbian followers) I have decided to cover a very disturbing issue. It is something that most of us go through at some point or another. When I did it, it proved to be the most difficult time of my entire life: Coming Out. Specifically I want to cover coming out to family members. I know that I have skimmed over this issue in previous posts, but now I would like to go in depth, because recently a friend of mine has been going through the same thing and I am trying my best to help her through it.

We will call her Macy. Macy went to a concert with her father this past weekend. She is fairly close with her parents, so occasionally they will come into town for special events or activities. Usually, at some point her girlfriend tags along even though until this point they had been told that she was her “best friend”. Macy has been with said girlfriend for a little over a year now. They are undeniably the most stable relationship, gay or straight, I have ever seen. Their compatibility is incredible, communication skills admirable, and their overall outlook on life and love is astonishingly ideal. For this event however, the girlfriend stayed home. Macy went to the concert. Her ex boyfriend (this is her first “lesbian” relationship) was there. He called her several times, her father as well, and after a while her dad told her that he was really glad she was no longer with that guy. The next morning the two of them went to breakfast and he asked her that awfully dreaded question. “Are you dating a girl?” (Specifically her girlfriend.) Being the incredibly honest and exceptional person she is, she told the truth. “Yes.” Dad was silent for a moment, and then replied with the most well-put response I’ve ever heard. “I accept you. I don’t want you to think that means that I accept the wrong thing you’re doing because it isn’t wrong. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m glad that you are happy.” She was relieved.

 When she arrived home she told her girlfriend about her father’s response. The two of them embraced for what seemed like forever. I congratulated her on coming out. I have been there and I know how much courage it takes to even contemplate telling people, much less your parents. The source of your comfort and love. The ultimate expectations which people spend most of their lives trying to live up to. I was astonished. The next day I went over to check on the two of them. When I walked in, I immediately knew something was wrong. Her girlfriend sat at the kitchen table with a perplexed look on her face. Macy was outside on the sidewalk crying on the phone. Her girlfriend put her head in her hands. “It’s all my fault.” I could not imagine at this time what might be her fault. Did they wreck a vehicle? Spill something on the carpet, and wouldn’t get their housing deposit back? Maybe she deleted Macy’s undergraduate thesis by accident. “What is wrong?” She then told me that when the father got home, he shared his new found information with Macy’s mother who (nothing short of) went off the deep end.

 She couldn’t accept this type of “behavior” from her daughter. It must be in the water where we live. Better yet, it’s because they let Macy go to college. The type of liberal education she received OBVIOUSLY brainwashed her. That’s it. It’s a mental disorder. They would get her help. All of a sudden dad began to “see the light”. Mom was right. Their daughter was sick and they needed to help.

Take a minute to breathe. Not every case in coming out is this back and forth or extreme. Some are better, some unfortunately are worse. If you are reading this post, the last thing I want you to do is think that you can’t come out now for fear of rejection. I simply want to educate you on the possibilities and hopefully help you cope with the reactions that you might experience. Much like I am trying to do with Macy right now. She is a mess. She hates that she has disappointed her parents, and hates even more that they think she is sick.

 Her mother “outed” her to her 17 year old sister as well as her grandmother, both of whom are taking it surprisingly better than the parents. While Macy is angry about this, I warn you that sometimes this is to be expected. When people have fear of something, they often counteract that fear by triggering what you fear most. You made them uncomfortable, so now they’ll do the same to you. By telling her family members, I believe her mother was trying to make Macy so uncomfortable that she would “take it back” or “change her mind” about what she was doing so no one else would find out.

When I came out at age 15, my mother and I were in a very similar situation. We had been driving to a tanning salon when I got that same dreaded question. (Yes I tan. Yes I know it causes skin cancer. Yes I know many people believe that allowing your underage child to tan should result in losing custody, however if that is something you want to discuss further, leave a comment and we will debate it at another time.) I, much like Macy, couldn’t stand the thought of lying to my mother. She was my closest friend. I knew without a doubt that she loved me and believed that our relationship could endure anything. “Yes. I have a girlfriend.” I even took it one step further. “I’m a lesbian.” She sat stunned for a moment, and unlike Macy’s father, burst into tears. Now immediately I went into hyper-panic mode. For a brief second I wanted to take it all back, however releasing those words from my lips was much like deflating a balloon. All of that built up pressure came bursting out of my heart and for a second I felt like I could breathe.

 I quickly snapped back into reality. “You’re not allowed to see her. Do you hear me?” Those were the first words to come from her mouth. Wait a minute. This isn’t right. I was honest. I told the truth. I trusted her. Isn’t that type of behavior supposed to strengthen a parent-child relationship? Isn’t there some unspoken parental guidance law that states if you have a good kid, you should treat them well in return? She cried for the next three days. I had trouble looking at her. I didn’t mean to hurt her, but I had hurt for so long hiding who I was. I just wanted help understanding what I was going through, and all I received instead was hate and a lack of acceptance.  I didn’t even attempt at the time to tell my step-father. She told me that I wasn’t “allowed” to be a lesbian. I quietly stepped back into “the closest” and kept my pain and frustration to myself.

A few months later my friend Allison and I made a grave mistake. We had been keeping a journal that we exchanged back and forth between classes. She was older than me so we only saw each other in the halls, and while she was straight, she was also very open-minded. I had come out to most of my close friends, but for fear of the same rejection I experienced that day with my mother, chose not to tell everyone. After all, the last thing I wanted was for one of my cousins to find out, or for someone to tell my dad. Allison and I were on our way back from a field trip, and sat in separate seats. However half way during our trip, we put both of our bags in one seat and moved to the other so we could talk during our bus ride. High School is often a mean and unforgiving place for some people, so when  bags are left unattended, there seems to be no respect for one’s privacy.  A young man, (who ironically came out to me later) pulled my notebook from our belongings and hunkered down in the seat to read it aloud to his friends. That’s all it took. A few journal entries later, and I had been outed. They knew who, where, and for how long. The emotional roller coaster I had been shoved onto was teetering on the edge of disaster.

When I walked down the hallway that day I heard whispering from nearly everyone I passed. The stares and the giggles followed. Finally one kid yelled out “Hey Dyke. That’s what you are isn’t it? A big fucking Dyke?” I wanted to puke. The anxiety clumped in my chest like a lodged apple core. I was choking on fear and humiliation. This was it. This was the end of my life as I knew it. What I didn’t know at the time was it was also the beginning. Unfortunately in BFE Tennessee we didn’t have a queer straight alliance, there was no “It gets better” campaign for me to research. I had no one to turn to, and nowhere to go… except home.

When I walked in that day, I saw the look of recognition on my mother’s face. She knew I was hurting, and she had guessed why. Although she didn’t understand, the last thing she wanted was for me to hurt. I told her what happened and she sat there in tears again. I told her that it was time I told my father. She protested at first, but decided it was better he hear it from me than someone else. When he got home I asked him to sit down. When I told him I was gay he got a confused look on his face. He had joked that I was a lesbian since I was 9 years old and I yelled out gleefully from the back seat of the car “Chase ‘em down Dad!” about a car full of girls my brother had been gawking at. I hated how they had teased me, and even began to see being gay as a huge negative. I was raised to believe it was wrong.

When he spoke, I expected a similar reaction to my mothers. What I got was much worse… “I might be going to hell but at least it isn’t for sucking dick. No kid of mine’s gonna be a queer.” Had I heard him correctly? Yes. He stormed out of the house, and stood on our front porch. My mother followed him. By this point I knew that there was no turning back, and I’m really an all or nothing kind of gal. I was right on their heels. “One of your kids is a queer. That queer is me.” My mother asked me again to wait until I was 18 to make that decision. It wasn’t a decision. I didn’t wake up one day and say “I think today I’ll be a lesbian”, like some young women decide to change their hair color. The only decision I made was to be true to myself, and honest to my family.

It took my parents a while to come around. My mother started to understand that the only thing that had changed was her opinion. Not the person who I was. I had stayed the same sweet girl I had always been, I just loved differently than she did. Once she grasped that concept, it became easier for her to accept. She is now one of my biggest supporters and an advocate for LGBTQ equality. My father and I bonded over a Carrie Underwood music video. (We both have an appreciation for toned legs.) He too realized that who I loved didn’t change how he loved me. My life began to develop normalcy. I had contemplated changing schools, but decided not to. I wasn’t going to run. I had never ran from anything in my life and I wasn’t about to start then. I held my head up when I walked through the hallway, and whether they accepted me or not, people had to at least tolerate me. It was by no means easy, but as I got older I moved away and found peace and structure as well as love and acceptance. Columbia Missouri has been a great place to grow, which is why I wasn’t shocked that Macy’s parents blamed it for her liberal “condition”. The only thing she “caught” here was freedom and individuality.

Ultimately I believe myself to be lucky. Some people never find that acceptance. Others never learn to cope with the hate. We’re reminded of this every time another gay suicide occurs. All I can offer are my thoughts. All we can do is continue to educate. I was presented with a few articles by some friends of mine that I would like to share with you. Hopefully they will help you along your journey.

I’m Christian Unless You’re Gay-

A Teen’s Brave Response to “I’m Christian, Unless You’re Gay”-  

A special Thank You to Linda at PFLAG of Mid-Missouri for sharing the following information with me as well.  

PFLAG "Coming Out" PDF-

PFLAG "Coming Out to Your Parents" PDF-

Sexual Orientation Is Not A Choice-

Our Sons and Daughters-

I wish you all the best of luck. If you aren’t going through this, but know someone who is feel free to pass along my blog and/or these articles. Finally, I am also willing to back it up. If you have any other questions or comments, or just need someone to talk to who understands what you’re going through, feel free to email me at  

Remember me, I’m Tennessee.