My new apartment is so restful. I was thinking about naming it “Nap Central.” That’s a big thing in white kid culture around here, naming your punk house. I didn’t live in a punk house in college but I did live in a house with 4 boys my senior year, who were into hip hop and skateboarding and improv comedy and leaving a truly disgusting amount of trash in the kitchen. Someone left a graffiti tag on the side of our house that said “The Jungle” so obviously that was what we called it. I loved The Jungle and the boys I lived with. We threw epic parties and barbecues. My senior year of college was a good year- I had become an A student, I had a boyfriend, I had some pet rats, I had decided I was going to law school to be a labor lawyer and felt generally smart and ambitious and capable. The Jungle was disgustingly filthy but I lived in a huge room on the top floor with my own bathroom. I took so many baths that year. Took baths, read a lot of comparative religion books, played with my rats, listened through my floor to the boys having little freestyle circles, had a lot of sex. At the end of that year I got Laila, my beloved beagle-basset hound mix, and then me and that boyfriend moved to North Carolina so he could go to grad school.
North Carolina sucked a fat one. It was so lonely. I didn’t drive and we lived in this dumb apartment complex that was close to town, but had no sidewalks around it. That boyfriend was real self-centered and I was a total pushover. It hadn’t clicked for me that I was responsible for designing my own daily life, and thus responsible for insisting that my partner do reasonable work to at the very least not interfere with my process of building a nice daily life for myself. Like say, not signing a lease on an apartment without us visiting North Carolina so I could see whether I could get around town from the apartment I’d be living in. Anyways, he led that relationship, I was a pushover, then I had a lot of reasonable resentments build up and had no interest in fucking him. I was down there for a year, I came back up to Ohio to do a year of law school while he stayed in NC to finish up grad school, and in that year he started cheating on me with his best lesbian friend and then right before my second semester finals broke my heart. I went from a top ten student to a top thirty student, which I know sounds like a lot of whatever, but I was pretty fucking pissed. Ha, I’m still pissed. Fuck that idiot. Dropped out of law school (which I actually still consider a great choice), started standup, moved to Chicago, turned gay, had that whole rape joke debacle happen- you don’t need all these biographical details, let’s just say my twenties had exactly the intensity you’d expect from a traumatized ADHD girl.
Back to the Jungle. Here have been my favorite living situations- The Jungle, the house with two queer ladies I lived in when I moved to Chicago for standup, and the one bedroom I had right before I took off for Cali. The cleanliness of the places followed my maturation trajectory. The Jungle was disgusting, the queer girl house was still pretty disgusting but a lot cuter, and my one bedroom before I moved to California was clean and convenient but also decorated like a crazy person lived there. Sparse walls until I started testosterone and hung up a bunch of pictures from this gay men’s underwear catalog all over the walls. Oh my GOSH I was SO DELUSIONAL about what my body could look like. So IN IT- IT being these fantasies of who I would become. Modern medicine actually cannot turn a fat-assed lady into a male underwear model. I know the trans community likes to highlight the trans guys who made something like that happen- they did not start off as fat-assed ladies, ok? I dated a trans guy in California who was pretty ripped and muscular. He started off as an extremely thin, no hips, no ass, no breasts, hardly any body fat gymnast girl. His transition was really pretty much a success, between the hardly any body fat and family business he could work at. He was happy. Sometimes he’d talk about how he wished lesbians could identify him as one of them instead of them reading him as a gay man. But besides that he had a nice life set up.
I lived in two places in Cali. The hippie house, in the basement room with the spiders and the dust and the story from my new Cali comedy friend about going home with a man who used to live in that room and him showing her the needles full of adrenaline he had in the bathroom just in case someone OD’ed with him. UGH IF ONLY I HAD KNOWN THAT KIND OF SHIT HAD HAPPENED IN THAT ROOM BEFORE I GOT ON THE PLANE TO CALIFORNIA. I don’t think my hippie roommates even knew. Oooooff that room had bad vibes. Ooooofff I am so glad I don’t live in that room anymore!
Then once my hippie roommates and I fell out I had to scramble for a new place. I interviewed at some queer houses, using “he” and being open about my trans status, but the young hip queers were not feeling me. Then I gave up on that and started using “she” and interviewed for a room for $500 a month in this lady’s house. Let’s call her Bernadette.
Moving into Bernadette’s house was the best thing that happened to me in California. I really needed some comfort and some beauty around me, especially since I lived there while at the rich dude club and at the terrible trans clinic. She was a divorcee who lived in Oakland, and she was also a painter, and she kept the cutest, most comfortable little house, with a cute little garden in the back. My room was tiny, but it got a lot of sunlight, and she left for work before I did most days, so I would sit out in the garden with my coffee with the stray cat who Bernadette fed. Oh it was a thing of beauty. Getting out of that basement and into that cute little garden. Oh, truly, truly, truly, Bernadette was a goddess-send. I never told her about why I moved to California. I just went on a lot of runs and the only talk between us was small talk. Small talk can get you pretty far.
I liked Oakland so much more than Berkeley. I was close to Lake Merritt and I would run around the lake all the time, and people would actually smile at me. People with babies, people with dogs, people doing intense workouts, people smoking pot- but all kinds of smiles for me. No one ever smiled at me in Berkeley. Oakland felt a lot like my hometown, and the people in Oakland were like a woker version of the people in my hometown. My hometown is much more segregated though. I hate California but I love Oakland. (JK, I know I hardly saw any of California. I do hate Berkeley, a lot. Totally serious about that one.)
When I came back to Ohio and back to school in one of my classes we took a vocational values assessment, which is supposed to identify what would make you happy in a job. One value of mine that I didn’t know about was it is very important to my happiness that my workplace is pretty. The other therapists in training in my class pretty much all had this value too. The person I am, the kindness and gentleness I have access to, is much different in a pretty place than in other places. It’s a weird thing to know about yourself. I need beauty around me. I will be a better person for this world if I have beauty around me. It makes sense but before that vocational values assessment I never considered it might be ok to make your life choices based on being in beautiful spots.
When I came back to Ohio it was the beginning of two months of really rough winter. The roads were so bad it didn’t make sense to leave the house. It was exactly what I needed, because I was in no shape to socialize and try to explain why I wasn’t trans anymore and why I was such a mess. I’m also grateful for that bad winter because this past winter has been balmy in the extreme, and there’s some suspicion in my mind that we’re not going to have real winters anymore. So I’m glad I got one last one in. (Hopefully next winter I can laugh about this suspicion while snowed in.)
My family keeps very uncomfortable living spaces. I didn’t really understand that till recently. Both my mom and dad are sort of disconnected from their environments, and also frankly pretty disconnected from their bodies. They have just accepted a level of daily physical discomfort that I would really like to avoid in my own life. Maybe it’s just a personality thing, or maybe it’s an intergenerational trauma thing. I think there’s a lot of disassociation which is totally normalized in this society. I think it’s because this country has a TRAUMATIC goddamn past and present.
It’s taken me a long time to accept that daily life should feel good. That it should feel good to be in your living space, feel good to be at your job, feel good to be in your body. That you should have something you’re looking forward to every morning when you wake up. That the people you’re around should make you feel good. That the food you eat should make you feel good. That the way your hold your body should feel good.
That HEALING feels good. That healing isn’t a matter of big gruesome medical procedures, it’s rest and baths and massages and lotions and good times. That life will throw hard stuff your way but you really don’t need to seek hard stuff out. You’re allowed to make money and have a nice bed and have good coworkers and enjoy yourself. You’re allowed to cultivate being comfortable as your default state. What a funny thing that for so many years I didn’t know that.