732 Days

I went through yesterday knowing very well today would hit hard. I spent time at work talking to people about anything other than the weekend, purposefully avoiding the topic and changing the subject (yeah, it was awkward and uncomfortable at points). When I came home from work for a few hours, instead of isolating myself in my room, I kept myself busy finally hanging up curtains that I’ve had for a week and I spent time cleaning up the house. The distractions kept coming and I was grateful for them. I went swimming with two extremely silly kids and on the way back to their house, one pointed out all of the street signs on the freeway while the other mentioned the rainbow empowering the sky.

So there went my distraction. I still managed to keep myself together though! I made it through a brief conversation with their foster mom, got to my car and instantly turned the radio on hoping for something cheery, loud, or upbeat to bring the distractions back. Naturally that wouldn’t last long because as soon as I turned onto the freeway that rainbow was still there. Why does a rainbow matter? Where do you look when you think of heaven? Up. You look up from the pothole filled streets and see this beautiful combination of colors made from light reflections. I went on a small road trip deeper into Washington paying attention to the sky and watching it set over the river and having that rainbow fade away.

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So I cried thinking of the very moment I found out 732 days ago. Two years ago I was at PCC Rock Creek sitting in building 7 waiting for Josh to show up with my lab manual that he accidentally grabbed instead of his own. I was there early and pulled out my phone, seeing missed calls and new voice mails. I put my phone on silent from my class beforehand and so I never heard it go off. When I unlocked my phone the last thing I left open was Facebook, and sure enough that’s when I saw.

Braden wrote a status about his condolences and the amount of shock he was in and me being the person I am didn’t believe it. All of the messages were from friends in my hometown breaking the news to me and I lost it. I could feel bad for the poor people who were in the hallway I was in when I broke down, but I don’t. That’s the most shock that I’ve ever experienced. I remember seeing Josh walk down the hallway (biology lab partner for three terms) and when he saw me he started running toward me. Immediately we went outside, I didn’t say anything just handed my phone to him with one of those awful voice mails playing. I didn’t feel the hug he gave me and I don’t remember the exact words he said trying to comfort me.

I skipped that lab and the rest of my classes that day actually. When I got to the Cornelius Pass and Skyline intersection the road had been reopened. The fastest way home was down the pass and I would have to drive past the crash site to get there. I remember seeing Brandon walking back  to his car that was parked at the store. I knew exactly where that drop off was that she went down. I can still see the dirt that got pulled up from when they towed the car back up in my head. I told myself that I wasn’t going to look at anything but the pavement for the remaining eight minute drive.

I knew exactly where that drop off was that she went down. I can still see the dirt that got pulled up from when they towed the car back up in my head.

I got home and went straight to my bedroom in the basement. I screamed, cried and it sent my dad running down the stairs. The only word I could use to describe my reaction is crumbling. They had a vigil at Branches in Scappoose that night and I remember finding Liz and just holding her for a really long time while we cried together. We listened to stories from other people, had Chance pray for us and eventually around two in the morning I found myself in bed as a total wreck.

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That day hits me hard when I am reminded of the amount of life Kerrigan Clark gave to my small town. She wasn’t just someone I went to school with or shared friends with, she was one of the best listeners and could give the best affirmations on the worst days. She had this super dorky smile that she would make during our awkward eye contact in choir while singing some song we both weren’t incredibly fond of. She put on Natasha’s headset one time when I was venting about nothing important and had me laughing and calm again in a matter of minutes. There’s just so much about her that I hold close and growing up in a small town really only makes a deeper connection.

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I used to hear songs like “See You Again” and  I couldn’t listen to them without getting upset or mad. Not mad because I didn’t want to hear what the song was saying, no condolence would bring her back. I got mad because I was going to have to wait to see her again. I was going to have to think of our old memories instead of creating new ones. I was going to have to watch old choir videos in order to hear her sing again. It all drove me up a wall and I hated the world for it. I hated that she was gone and I hated that our last time talking together was only for a brief moment. There’s something about getting someone who helped lead you to God taken away that really just ruins life for you.

I got mad because I was going to have to wait to see her again. I was going to have to think of our old memories instead of creating new ones. I was going to have to watch old choir videos in order to hear her sing again.

I am grateful for the days when small things bring thoughts of Kerrigan to my mind. I’m thankful for the sticker on the back window of my car that reminds me of her love for coffee and how her eyes would instantly brighten as she drank a cup of it in the morning. I’m thankful for her mom for making herself available to talk to when people are having a hard time, or for posting happy memories on Facebook when it’s so easy to post the deep stuff. I’m also incredibly grateful for those hard posts that really just hit you with how loved this girl is by people all over the place.

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It’s been 732 days, I miss you.

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The Many Phases of Josie

Sometimes I wake up late and literally throw myself together for work and it never really bothered me because I knew that I wasn’t trying to impress anyone. I didn’t always not care about how I look, it’s actually a touchy subject with me. My image used to consume every thought I had for myself and it was never positive.

In this post you’re about to read and catch a glimpse of the poor idea of beauty I had throughout my lifetime thus far. Enjoy the embarrassing pictures, because I don’t pull them out very often.

Little me:

When I was a small human, I didn’t care about anything besides how many times my older sister got in my way. My great-grandma was my idol and I was surrounded by people who loved me. Back when I was the youngest in the family I didn’t focus on comparing myself to others naturally, because I never had anyone to compare myself to. The only thing that mattered then were toys, pets and driving my sisters up the wall.

Still little, but older me:

Like I said, enjoy the pictures. At this point in my life I saw how my dad treated differently than my sisters and how much of an outcast I was. We can call this my tom-boy phase. I was so obsessed with trying to make my dad like me. Nothing I wore matched unless picked by my mom. All of those makeup gifts my sister got I would be disgusted with. I listened to Elvis Presley and the Princess Diaries soundtrack more than anything else because it was all I ever remember liking at the time. This is where the unhappy times really started for me. I went to school with these girls who were obsessing over Avril Lavigne and I wanted to be just like them. If Avril wasn’t about wearing dresses than neither was I!

Middle school me:

At this point in my life I took my image into my own hands and did a lot of stupid things with it. I wore clothes that didn’t fit, rocked makeup for the first time (got made fun of for it almost instantly when I went to school), and huge out around girls who put their looks first in everything. They were all interested in boys at that time, but I wasn’t. All I wanted at this point was to fit in with other people. Eighth grade into my freshman year would be what some might refer to as my “emo phase” … Yeah, I had one. Actually, my mother (bless her soul!) never let me dye my hair black like I wanted, so I guess my wardrobe just turned into black and grey tones and I listened to more angry music.

I also joined dance team. My sister did it and was a captain, she wanted me to follow in her footsteps and it was honestly a nightmare. I’d like to give a shout out to the individuals who had to deal with me on that team because I really had no clue what I was doing. This was also another step to getting my dad to like me (Yes I realize that I’m roasting him currently, just wait). With my mom, I already knew she loved me and wanted me to be happy, she gave me huge amounts of her time and attention. That being said, I expected my dad to treat me the way my mom did.

High School me (part 1):

Okay, so my hair was never black, but it was definitely dark and had a purple tint to it (accidentally left the dye in too long on multiple occasions). I also went from feeling like a chubby middle school student, to having what I thought was a healthy weight. I was on swim team, played softball, finally got into a relationship, ect. Athletic me had a lot more friends and I felt good about myself. I didn’t make it on the dance team and it was probably for the better, I had a lot more free time and got to participate in more things with friends.

I also thought I was the queen of editing pictures. This was the time of Myspace and you bet that my custom html would make other teenage girls get crazy jealous. Thank goodness that didn’t last long!

High School me (part 2):

At this point, I had got out of a really bad relationship thanks to my friend Kyle. I also gained weight, drank way too much red bull and spent most of the remaining time I had outside of class building a lighting program in the control room of my schools auditorium. I stopped interacting with certain people and was back in a bad spot.

See, I remember comparing myself to my sister and how my dad would go out of his way to see her at dance competitions and how through all of my swim meets or plays, he rarely showed. I also basically gave up on trying to spend time with him meaning that our lack of communication went from little to none. Having freedom in that made me realize that he never actually knew about my shows or meets because I would never tell him, so every time I got upset I never had a valid reason. He does care, he just isn’t great at showing it and that’s where the flaw was. I was too consumed in images to actually see what was going on with people.

College and onward:

Bad relationships that I never should have been in and the battle with comparing myself to others ended my senior year and into college. I pretty much wrote off most of the people I grew up with who made fun of me, lied to me, or they did so to any friend of mine. I stopped trying to impress people as much and wanted to work on my future more than anything. The way I look only matters to me on certain occasions. The growth I’ve noticed from this isn’t so much from my image, but it’s from my attitude. I can look like I just woke up after getting hit by a bus and as long as I have a great attitude, it doesn’t matter to anyone but me.

I’ve worried for so long about what other people think of me, and all that’s actually got me is nowhere. I look back mainly at the person I was in high school and I’m mildly disgusted that I did that to myself. I guess it comes with growing up or leaving the town that started it all.

Holy Moly, Adulting…

Being in your twenties there’s the running joke about learning how to adult in life. I hang out with kids all the time, so sometimes it feels like I’m lacking in the adult category. I have a job, pay my bills, ect. To me, that’s always been my contribution to the term “adulting.” When people start pointing out things you do that are somehow filed in the adult category, I’m always skeptical. Fun fact, that all changed this week!

 

Over the past five days I’ve created a list. In this list are milestones that most adults hit at some point. I never would have realized them without having a conversation about things old people do that are weird with an eight year-old.

Monday: All I feel that I do anymore is work and sleep. This is actually hilarious because I can barely sleep at night but napping in the middle of the day has become incredibly easy!

Tuesday: A few family friends are on vacation for a few weeks, so why are there other cars parked in their driveways! Yes, I’ve finally started paying more attention to the neighborhood. I feel like that old lady who sits in her window all day scoping out changes (except I can’t get home without passing their houses so it’s out of habit to look). I was also informed that these new cars just belong to their relatives.

Wednesday: After seeing a huge amount of hate being thrown around on places like Facebook, Twitter and even my Instagram lately, I decided to cut myself off for awhile. I don’t need to read the drama of other lives that I’m not involved with, and it’s incredibly frustrating watching some poor person trying to defend themselves because some troll won’t leave them alone. Not only that, my phone is glued to me most of the time and it doesn’t need to be. Now I can be that adult that shames people at dinner for being on their phones the whole time.

Thursday: So when I’m pretending to sleep, so are my dogs. They sleep most of the day actually, but at night time they’re not totally out until around 9:30. Thursday night they were in bed before 9:00 though and it was weird. It’s like tucking in my children and having time to myself? Because that’s what adults do apparently!

Friday: Two words: Wind storm. Roads being blocked by down trees or power lines? No problem, because somehow my sense of direction kicked in! Driving back to Vancouver from Beaverton would regularly take over an hour in the traffic caused by the weather we’re having, but today I rerouted myself and made it home in less than that! I’ve actually become pretty good at dodging traffic in general, not just today. Who needs interstates when the back roads got me covered!

 

It’s only been five days of concluding that I can indeed adult in ways I didn’t realize. Some of these “milestones” aren’t a big deal, but at least I’m confident in it! I’ve been told that I have an old soul, but I still dig Saturday morning cartoons like any other child of my generation. The parents of the children I teach tell me that I have a huge amount of patience, I consider it a virtue though. Then there’s things like my Apples to Apples cards that always tell me I’m a heartless European (literally every game). Who do I even believe anymore!

The moral to this is that now I have minimal things that I can point out to people who only see me as some 90’s baby. I’m not perfect at adulting and don’t always want to, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t! In the words of the dear Walt Disney, growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional.

What College Taught Me

My oldest sister was dedicated enough to get her masters degree a few years ago and recently my other sister has finished her final term of college and now has a bachelors degree in communication. My mother has also been in school working on getting her bachelors in dental hygiene. I couldn’t be more proud of them with everything they have accomplished. As for me, I hate college. I deeply admire the people who love it and get excited to go. I might be more excited about it if I knew what I wanted to pursue.

When I initially started going to college, I applied at two schools. I wasn’t accepted to George Fox and later learned that it wasn’t a good idea to go there anyways because it’s slightly outrageous when it comes to tuition. So I ended up going to the second school I applied to with just about 60% of the people I graduated with which was Portland Community College.

PCC was cool at first. I mean it might be saying something since I definitely broke my shoe on the first day of classes. Nothing like going into Spanish with one shoe on for the first day… Thankfully, I knew enough to get by for the day. PCC Rock Creek is laid out with giant numbers on their buildings and it’s relatively a small campus which made it easy to navigate. There are four parking lots and if you know when to time it, you can always get a good spot. PCC Cascade isn’t as user friendly, you never actually have to worry about parking at Cascade once you find the underground parking lot that nobody knows about. Everything is well hidden at this campus and it has been known to go into lock down from events occurring in the neighborhood. Rock Creek and Cascade were the campuses that I spent the most time at and it didn’t take long to figure them out.

So what did I learn? I’ve learned that nobody is actually listening to you when everyone is supposed to go around and introduce themselves to the class on the first day. I learned that buying textbooks at the campus bookstore will cost a small fortune. I learned that only taking classes twice a week will save your gas. I figured out that if you’re not taking an 8:00am class, parking is nearly impossible because all lots will be filled by 9:30am. The funny part about my first year is that I kept quiet and didn’t ever talk to anyone unless it was in a group project for a class. I remember running into an old friend and going crazy, letting words just spill from my mouth and one of my classmates nearby just dropped her jaw while looking into my soul.

Things that teachers tell you but students will not:

  • The tutoring center works wonders (maybe at other schools, but when I know more about trig than the math tutor, we have a problem).
  • If you have an old version of the custom edition textbook, you can still use it (It’s all a giant lie).
  • You will use the textbook (If I ever used the textbook it was for a mere two-three pages depending on the class).

Things students will tell you:

  • Which teachers are the better ones (RateMyProfessor.com has saved me from many miserable experiences).
  • What events are happening (This goes along with the clubs at school that they desperately try to make you join).
  • Where to buy cheaper textbooks.
  • If you will actually need the textbook for a certain instructors class.

There are more things I could list, but we’ll keep it short for now.

Also, group projects… If that statement weren’t enough, let me tell you what it is like to carry a group of delinquents on the top of your anxiety driven life. It’s a nightmare. There’s a special place in the depths of my fire burning mind that hosts the list of people who have let me down and took all of my work, time, and effort just to get the grade that I deserved. To the individuals in my Public Speaking group, it really is not difficult to talk about something like Maslow’s Hierarchy, but you’re welcome for making the detailed enough power point for you to read word for word multiple times in a row.

It wouldn’t be right for me to leave out the broke college kid meals. Note to the incoming Freshmen, if you plan on saving money, don’t buy food from the school. A $9 slice of pizza will not satisfy you, especially if you thought it would taste good after sitting in the cafeteria all afternoon. Oh, and coffee! Let me tell you what it’s like to order something relatively simple to make (especially given that it’s a commonly purchased drink) just to get a hot cup of milk with little to no coffee in it. I can’t tell you how many coffee snobs burn in rage when looking through the foam at their cup of scorching hot milk. It was college that taught me how black coffee can rejuvenate your soul.

Plus sides to being a college student:

  • That ID card that gives you discounts or free entry.
  • When you’re at school for 12+ hours and there’s an event running where they give you free food (This is where I lost most of the members for my group projects who were dying of starvation).
  • Having the same people in multiple classes with you. Yay for not having to meet new people!!! (My Spanish crew knew what was up).
  • Those teachers that spend more time playing videos than they do lecturing (Can also suck depending on what kind of learner you are).
  • The Wi-Fi being faster at school than it is at home (For some of us at least).

If it weren’t obvious enough, college is expensive and paying for “extra” things like a parking permit or printing in the computer lab is a joke. I finished my Associates at PCC and I can’t be more happy to be done with it. I had my phase of dropping most of my classes because I couldn’t keep up. I also had my phase where I was overly dedicated to a subject and kept going back to it for my major.

Since being in college I have changed my major four times. I went from being a journalism major, to a psych major. After taking way too many psychology classes I thought I was going crazy and changed my major again, but this time it was for education. I work with kids all the time. It’s great and I don’t have to do anything special to impress them, they’re hilarious, and if they have a problem it’s usually something minor that I can help with. If you were to ask me if I wanted to work with kids for the rest of my life I would laugh, probably cry a little and start saying no repeatedly. Needless to say, my major changed again. While deciding on what to change it to, I spent a solid half an hour talking to an adviser who seemed to know my situation all too well. We agreed that I have a thing for how the human brain functions and that being a psychologist was probably what was best (especially according to my transcripts).

So what schools have excellent psychology programs? Just about every Ivy League school in the United States which I know well enough not to apply for. Where else? Several schools in California. Do I want to go to California? Absolutely not. Why? Out of state with my funding was out of question. What about in state? I’m working on it. I’ve applied to Western Oregon and Portland State. The problem is trying to pull myself together enough to just finish the program and move on with my life.

College has taught me that no matter the time, money, and effort you put in, you can only get so much out of it. Sure, I’ve met a lot of people, reconnected with people from high school, finally declared a major that I won’t allow myself to change again. All at the cost of not knowing where I want to take it next.

Lesson Learned.

Meet new people they said. It will be fun they said…

Fun reminder to those who actually participate in reading the cringworthy things I write, I am known to not like people. Being social was never my strongest quality. That being said, this should be humorous for you (I imagine lots of eye rolls and if so then I’m doing something right with this one).

When I found myself lacking in the friend category back in November, a dear classmate of mine who I often vent to, did something odd for me. Never in my life would I ever make a profile online meant to meet new people. 

Things like my Facebook, Snapchat and the MySpace I forgot existed are all private. It wasn’t until recently that I opened up my Instagram to the public because I stopped caring who I shared my photos with. Even my Tumblr (yes, I still have one) isn’t a secret. I stopped caring what certain strangers would say when seeing something I posted publicly. 

I thought that was enough for me. I didn’t really see the point in adding a bunch of suggested friends because let’s be real, if they weren’t already my friend online, did I really want them to be?

Back to my initial story. While giving this classmate a ride back to Washington and venting about my lack of friends at the time, she downloaded Tinder on my phone (she was originally just playing a game because her phone died). Once upon a time I wrote a research article about online dating and different websites people use. So yes, I am aware that 78% of the people on Tinder are just looking to sleep around or to desperately search for a relationship that likely won’t last long. 

She was just playing Color on my phone, when she asked for my password to the app store and said it was so she could get a different game, I believed her. After dropping her off and heading home, my phone notifications were being blown up by the newly installed app on my phone. That girl (yes, we’re still friends and she’s not being named for a reason) swiped around for our 30 minute drive home and matched me with a bunch of male strangers who I never would have talked to. 

The awkward part about this is that some of these people were starting conversations with me (because clearly that’s what happens on this app) and the anxiety going through me was outrageous. No, I didn’t want a relationship with any of these people mainly because I knew all about Tinder from my sociology paper. How are you supposed to act casual when talking to a bunch of random people who you have no information about besides their name, age and distance from you? 

At the time I felt awful because some of the people talking to me were literally just there to talk and didn’t seem like they were being flirty in any way, and I didn’t want to build any sort of new friendships. After speaking with the dear friend who downloaded this anxiety driven app on my phone, she said it was just so I could talk to people and stop hating on every male that managed to talk to me. 

Had I really complained that much? Were my problems transparent? After our talk I decided to give it a shot. If it really was everything my research paper made it out to be, then I could always delete it later. I didn’t swipe for anyone for weeks, but still had my phone blown up with Tinder notifications. I don’t know how many people my friend had swiped right for, but we can agree that it was too many. I filtered through the matches, figured out how to unmatch people, talked to a few others.

That was the beginning of December though. Some of the people I’ve met on there are actually decent humans (I know what I sound like, just deal with it temporarily). Not all, but a select few have managed to make it to my Facebook friends list. Some of them talk to me all the time and tag me in funny relatable things on Facebook frequently. Some of them have really good taste in music and attended the same concerts I did last year (found out they were actually feet away from me at one of them). 

So my experience hasn’t been all bad. I’ve hung out with a few new people. Had a few model for my portrait series (actually a super cool project that’s boosted my ego ever so slightly). But in the end I’ve found that I’m done trying to impress people in order for them to like me. 

I can filter through and avoid perverted people. I can also deal with the people I know who laugh about being on Tinder when suddenly their profile pops up on mine (yeah, I see you). This is nowhere near what I would usually do to meet new people (hiding behind a keyboard and then seeing how you’re really judged in person, no thanks). 

The cool thing is that I can be honest especially when not trying to impress anyone. New friends are great, or at least the ones I’ve met thus far. It’s also made me realize that I’m not as lonely as I thought I was, I just needed to open up a little more and quit hating on the world so much. 
The funny part (if my awkwardness wasn’t enough) is that Tinder was just the start. Suddenly groups I joined ages ago at school were getting together and I was a part of their plans. The people trolling my portfolio (just kidding, they’re judges) started inviting me to events. Talking to people didn’t feel like a customer service task anymore and it was eye opening. 

I genuinely hated people, and categorized pretty much everyone. I could trace it back to growing up in a small town, but I’m not going to go far enough to discuss it. It just took graduating from college and being thrown to the curb by a few people for me to realize that I don’t need to struggle through being myself. 

Let’s Talk Disabilities

The story my family tells me is that I just couldn’t walk right as a kid and that was how they determined that I have a genetic disorder passed around on my dad’s side of the family. 
It’s referred to as spastic paralysis and what that really means is that I have leg cramps in the calves of my legs 24/7. The thing about it is that I used to think it was normal and when I really did get a cramp it would temporarily paralyze me. I remember my freshman year of softball, we were running lines in the gym when it happened. Having people run over with icey hot, forcing my leg to stretch out, while I cried in pain in front of my entire team was probably one of the most embarrassing moments in my life. Two of my coaches carried me out to my mom’s car that day because walking, let alone standing was impossible. 
The cure to this disorder doesn’t technically exist yet. There are multiple research studies going on, and before you recommend something, believe me, I’ve likely already tried it. Something that doctors gave me while I was growing up were leg braces. I don’t actually know who came up with the idea that leg braces would help me, because they honestly just made my feet heavier and made me drag my feet more. 
I have countless battle scars from tripping and falling on my face. If my embarrassment wasn’t enough from walking weird, I also had teachers confront me. In third grade I got a chair that was shorter than everyone else’s in my class because my feet couldn’t touch the floor. That chair followed me through 4th, 5th and 6th grade. Just to add, my old theatre director gave it to me as a graduation present (I couldn’t keep it, he just brought it to the scene shop and helped me get my name off of the bottom). 
Leg braces: hardest article to cover up to the public; also known as ankle killers, and cramp inducers. I’ve had them since I was kid and they never seemed to have an actual effect on my leg pain. 
There’s the people who offer their concern, and then there’s the people who bluntly say things like, “pick up your feet.” (As if I’m not trying to). If I could give you an actual number for the amount of shoes I’ve literally walked through, then maybe it could be a better example. We could talk about how my older sister has a growing shoe collection where at one point I had one pair that didn’t actually have holes in them yet. 
I get asked frequently if I’ve hurt myself because I’m limping or dragging my feet. The answer is no. I’m fine, I’m literally just walking and as long as I’m going in the direction of my destination, then it doesn’t actually matter how I get there. I appreciate the concern, don’t get me wrong, but then comes the whole, “have you tried (insert some expensive therapy here).” 
Medications? Had them. Muscle relaxers? Yeah, don’t expect me to move after one finally sets in. The point is, I might have a disability, but I wouldn’t ever consider myself disabled. I’m still functional and over time, it has gotten better (not cured, but better). 

The point is, I might have a disability, but I wouldn’t ever consider myself disabled.

I could tell you about the comparisons between my condition and other relatives in the same blood line, but truth is, we’ve all experienced it differently. This one could be for the people who can still live a “normal” life with carrying around some variety of disability. 
I have a great understanding that not all disabilities can be covered up and have a worse condition, like I said, my relatives have experienced this whole passing of genetics differently. This is not meant to belittle, degrade or expose people for how they get through life. 
This is a reflection of personal growth. I drag my feet and can still hold my head up and pretend like I’m not thinking about the amount of people who could be judging me. My pain is nowhere near what it used to be and when it does get bad, I know it won’t last as long. I can run, swim and do other things that other people do. 

My Trans Experience

Let me start off by saying that people can do what they want in life and there’s nothing you can do about it. People are allowed to make their own decisions and live how they want. I’d also like to note that I got approval from the individual I’m talking about before posting this.

Now, that being said, keep it mind throughout the remaining story.
In 2011 I met someone who one day would be one of my best friends, but I didn’t know that until 2014 when they finally started working at the same pool with me. During our time working together and hanging out outside of work, I developed a huge crush on said person. Which after months of me trying to flirt and trying to make it obvious that I had a thing for them, he finally noticed. 

It was awkward because he didn’t actually have feelings for me and I just kind of accepted that nothing would happen between us. That was until I got a text one night of him confessing that he really  did like me. Eventually at 2am we finally concluded that we were dating, but we didn’t actually tell anyone. Instead we just posted it on Facebook and waited for the reactions of friends and family. 

Working together wasn’t really all that awkward either. I’m not one for public displays of affection because of how uncomfortable it makes people feel, so the people we weren’t friends with on Facebook didn’t actually realize we were a thing. Which was funny to me because people would tell me how attractive they thought he was and I just kind of laughed it off and waited for them to figure it out. 

We were together for over a year and even though it wasn’t very long, it felt like longer (likely because we worked together almost everyday and those shifts just blur together with the amount of time I’ve spent working at the pool). Things started changing and I didn’t really notice or put it together in my head. Things like him shaving his legs (lots of swimmers do that) or growing his hair out (the man bun is trending). More things have happened but like I said, I never put it all together in my head. I had other things going on that were more time consuming.

It wasn’t until just before Thanksgiving that he told me that he didn’t want to be a guy anymore. If I’m honest, I didn’t have the best reaction and was totally against it. We didn’t talk for a couple days and during that time I started adding it all together, he’d been transitioning for months, I just hadn’t realized it. When we did talk again, he told me that he was “testing the waters” with me. It didn’t make up for the fact that I’d known him for years, been dating him for a while and now had to accept him as something other than a man. 

We broke up. I felt that him changing and me staying with him would be changing my identity and that’s not something I wanted to do. It was rough for everyone involved, especially since when we broke up, it was during Thanksgiving break. I was in a house with 20 of my family members and he was at home by himself. 

Time went by, people learned that we were no longer together and it was awkward. We agreed to put on happy faces and try to be friends because I really don’t like making people feel awkward or uncomfortable. Everyone at work was understanding and eventually she came out as a girl to our coworkers who hadn’t figured it out already. 

I was proud, it was a huge step, but I also wasn’t feeling great about the transition process. Her and I talked about it a few times and overall I didn’t actually understand what she was trying to achieve or why she felt the need to change. It wasn’t any of my business though, people can do what they want. That didn’t change the fact that I felt entitled to answers that didn’t actually exist (they weren’t anything I actually wanted to hear). 

It was easy to fake it at work or at school. It was easy to pretend that I was nothing but supportive of it all in front of people who should also feel like it’s okay. The hard part was when we hung out or when she first started wearing makeup. What really hit hard was when I saw her in a one piece swimming suit for the first time. I felt like the whole time I spent holding myself down and together just ended. She hadn’t made any huge transition with her body yet, and from what I understood didn’t plan to. 

It was too much for me. It was too much for a few other people that were going to have to get used to the change just like I had to. I’ve known other people who now identify as trans and I never had a problem. This was such a different experience though, I dated this individual and thought I knew them inside and out. I was wrong though. I was wrong with thinking that things would just go back to normal and I’d be fine. I stopped thinking about my own feelings when I tried to make others feel comfortable with what was happening. 

Let me tell you why it’s unhealthy to not think of yourself while pouring into others. It’s unhealthy because you don’t actually realize what you’re saying to other people and if you do, you may or may not realize that you’re lying to yourself and pulling far away from the truth. It’s unhealthy because people are seeing you in a “happy” state of mind when in reality you’re miserable. Everything turns false and when you finally do express how you feel to the person it’s all about, you sound transphobic. 

Maybe I’ve come across as transphobic, change has never been easy for me. I’d also like to point out that I’ve done my best at being there for other people and trying to help them understand that change is okay. I’ve tried extremely hard to be there for her. I’ve talked her through things, helped her with how to change her attitude so that the world wouldn’t seem against her.

The thing is, she didn’t see me in a positive light anymore. She didn’t see me as a friend anymore. I didn’t really know her anymore and couldn’t relate with anything. I told myself that I would respect her as a human being and that even of we were only coworkers, I wasn’t going to judge her identity because I wasn’t a part of it. 

It took a mutual friend talking to her in order for her to understand what I felt. All of my explanations she asked me for just went right over her head until this mutual friend confronted her. It took four months for her to apologize to me for breaking up with me in a poor situation (over a text, in front of my whole family). The relief I felt was incredible. That all changed when her actions didn’t match up to her apology she texted me. She got really good at expressing herself behind a keyboard, but in person things were the complete opposite. 

I still have trouble, but I will still respect her as a person. People can do what they want and there’s nothing anyone else can do about it. 

Now before you go telling or thinking that I’m being dramatic, think about it this way: I’ve never been so close to someone who identifies as transgender and I’ve never dealt with the transition process, I’m one of those people who thinks about the before and after, not the in between. Over time I do imagine myself getting past the struggle to accept what has happened, in the meantime I’ll do my best to keep a smile on my face and cope through the process.