Big Beautiful Bisexual

Cross-posted from my Facebook.

As most of you probably know, I’m bisexual, and if you didn’t know that up to this point, well, congratulations, you know now. Bisexuality doesn’t often get covered in LGBT issues, which is probably why I don’t bring it up much, most likely because bisexual people don’t get the same sort of oppression as the LGT slices of the pie – we have the unique advantage of being the fox in the henhouse. Until I decide to marry a woman, my constitutional rights really aren’t infringed upon.

However, I feel the need to point out that this doesn’t mean being bisexual means being free and clear of any sort of scrutiny, whether intentional or otherwise. I know no one actively goes out to insult someone who is bi, but there is some stuff I’d like people to be aware of that has happened to me, for educational purposes, mind.

NUMBER 1: My being bisexual is not “a phase.” I’ve known I’ve liked girls since I was 7 years old, but it was confusing because I also liked boys. I actually thought something was wrong with me until a former friend of mine came out as bi in high school. I practically cried knowing that there was a name to what it was I was experiencing, but it took me eight years to get there, and it’s thirteen years since then, so it is definitely not a phase. I still like girls and boys. Thanks.

NUMBER 2: Bisexuality is not “fake.” I got this a lot primarily from my friends who are gay, surprisingly enough. I understand the stigma because it’s hard to relate to someone who can switch over to what is considered “normal” by society seemingly on a whim, and there are plenty of girls who pretend to like other girls just so guys will want to fuck them, but that does not mean bisexuality isn’t a thing. It is just likely a thing that you cannot understand. Besides, I can’t get guys or girls, so if I’m bi just to get laid, I must be doing it wrong. WHICH BRINGS ME TO THIS NEXT POINT:

NUMBER 3: Being bisexual does not make you a whore. Believe it or not, people of both genders are statistically less likely to date bisexuals out of fear that they’ll be left for someone else of the other gender. Um, no. That’s not limited to bisexuals. Those are just shitty human beings. And this ties into 2 because you kind of can’t expect to think that bisexuality means all these dating doors are open for you, because in reality, being bi is less likely to get you a date. So there’s that. Regardless, my morality and my sexuality are not dependent on each other – I’m not a shitty person, nor am I a whore, so no, I actually wouldn’t ditch a person I was dating for someone else because that’s just a shitty thing to do that has nothing to do with sexual preference.

I will, however, admit that threesomes are fine by me. I like the FMF kind.

Also, my dad and my aunt can’t see this because no one on my dad’s side knows I’m bi. It’s fantastic having conservative Republican family members, and people who tell them shit.

This has been an educational announcement for the day.

A Tale of Four Keys

Ladies and gentlemen, a story.

I’m not a fan of purses. They’re cumbersome and uncomfortable and a magnet for things I don’t even really need. I use them for the practical reason of they hold my wallet, and my phone on days when I’m not wearing jeans (which is like…twice a month on a good month). But since I walk to the store from home here, I’ve gotten into the habit of wearing my hooded sweatshirts in lieu of my peacoats so I can stick my wallet and any other accouterments in the big front pocket. I needed to go down to Wilko today for some householdy goods, so I loaded up with my wallet, my phone, my iPod, and my keys, and set out on my way.

It’s a beautiful day in Headingley, cold, but not rainy, clear, crisp, and blue. With my iPod blissfully filling my ears with the sweet sounds of Satriani, Sublime, and Santana, I made my way down to Wilko without issue and stopped off at the Superdrug afterwards to treat myself to a bottle of my favorite perfume (Obsession, by Calvin Klein, btw. Just for future reference). I made my way back home, wallet lighter, hands fuller, head clearer, when it occurred to me once I got to the neighborhood to check my big pocket for my keys.

They weren’t there.

I dug around in that pocket in a panic, with a modicum of conscious acceptance right away that my keys weren’t there, and there was no use in fretting, but now I had to come up with a solution. My landlord would charge me 25 pounds for a new set of keys, since they’re an unusual make and I have four of them. My flatmates upstairs would have to let me inside since Sara is at work. I left the door to the flat itself unlocked as if I had made some sort of unconscious effort to abate the more detrimental effects of my future blunder. I knew going back to look for the keys would likely be fruitless, since the area was busy. I’d only just resigned myself to the inevitable headache of all of this when something else occurs to me.

How stupid would you have to be to keep your keys in that pocket? Along with your wallet and phone, no less, two things you’d have to extract more than once. That’s just asking for it. Could I have been that dumb??

The answer was no. Keys were in my back pocket. Duh.

The moral of the story, my friends, is that I am not always an idiot. Only sometimes.

Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby – It’s About More Than Just Birth Control. It’s About Control

So the SCOTUS ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby today, vis-a-vis their religious right to deny access to birth control to their employees on religious grounds. The internet is, unsurprisingly, shitting a collective brick, and I’m just sitting here noticing that liberal media coverage of this sad day is not only shooting themselves in the foot, but they’re practically blowing the damned thing off. This is why we can’t have nice things!

I prefer not to associate myself with certain labels when it comes to my personal and political beliefs, and I wish people would do the same, because not only does it feel like we’re boxing ourselves into our labels, we start blindly following the leaders and the media who identify themselves the same way that we do. So while my personal beliefs are widely considered to be liberal, I don’t identify myself as one, and it’s allowed me to take a much more objective perspective. And that objective perspective has led me to realize that the liberal media is full of shit, and it’s no wonder this country is still so fucked up.

For those of you who have only read the titles of articles discussing the SCOTUS ruling in Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby, you may not actually know that the ruling allows Hobby Lobby to deny only four of the twenty available types of birth control that its insurance plan otherwise covers, namely emergency contraception that they believe is akin to abortion (whether or not that’s true is not the point). Employees are still free to seek out these four forms of birth control elsewhere, and honestly, they’re not particularly costly. So what’s wrong with that? Well, nothing, if you look at it on the surface, but the issues run much deeper, and the liberal media is actively fucking that up.

Every liberal article I’ve read about the SCOTUS ruling states that Hobby Lobby is now able to deny contraception to its employees. Think about that. Contraception. Not some forms of contraception, but the whole goddamned spectrum. Now anyone who decides not to read the whole article is going to think that Hobby Lobby is denying all forms of birth control to their employees, and those who do read are going to go in with tainted judgment. Liberal media is doing what conservative media does all the time – cherry picking information and using buzzwords that convolute the underlying problems they’re covering so as to put their own agenda in the forefront, and thereby widening the gap between liberalism and conservatism. So the focus is now shifting back to not what the SCOTUS ruling means, but about the us versus them black and white mentality that has kept this country at a dysfunctional standstill.

So what does the ruling ACTUALLY mean? Well, let me take a crack at it.

October of last year, I was still working at Peet’s, and thereby had Kaiser as my health insurance, before the ACA went into full effect. I had, up to that point, been debating for some time about getting an IUD, because I’d had one too many scares using condoms, and the pill was becoming increasingly difficult for me to keep up with because I was working two jobs with inconsistent schedules. So I finally decided to do it, thinking I was going to have to put down around 500 bucks to have something that wasn’t any bigger than my thumbnail wedged up into my ladybits to lock down my uterus for five years, because if there’s such hubbub about birth control pills, how could this completely voluntary procedure be covered by my insurance? I mean, my birth control pills were partially covered, so why wouldn’t I have to pay full price for an IUD? Imagine my surprise when I found out my company-paid insurance policy actually covered the full cost of my IUD, so I paid nothing out of pocket beyond my 20 dollar office visit copay. I thought that wow, maybe we’re actually learning in this country that a woman’s rights to her reproductive health are important and worth the investment. But then SCOTUS ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and I realized that I was wrong.

The problem that I have with the SCOTUS ruling is the same problem that everyone else has with it – that once again, the rights to a woman’s body and her reproductive health were put in the hands of men who have precisely zero right to interfere with them. The base argument is, of course the usual “Pay for your birth control yourself then! Don’t have sex if you don’t want to have babies! How would you feel if we made you pay for something you didn’t believe in?” et al.  And to a certain extent, I agree with it.  A woman should have control over her sexual health, and it’s not anyone else’s responsibility. If you want to have sex and not make babies, the burden of responsibility is on YOU AND YOUR PARTNER, not me. The problem with this ruling, however, is two-fold. One, it grossly interferes with a woman’s ability to access birth control,  and second, the problem isn’t what this ruling is on the surface, but everything that it REPRESENTS.

The dichotomy between men and women is pretty obvious to anyone with half a brain, but along with the societal implications, we also have to consider the biological ones. Men do not carry babies. They can make them, but if they decide to cut and run, what on earth is a woman going to do about it? That’s why I emphasized earlier that sexual responsibility is the duty of the two consenting partners, not anyone else. But once a woman becomes pregnant, her decisions are shackled to that pregnancy because she is the one carrying the fetus – the man can choose to stay, or he can choose to leave, because he’s not physically connected to his offspring at any time. Sound unfair? Well, it is, but it’s biology. There’s not a whole lot to be done about it. So while a man’s burden of responsibility doesn’t necessarily end at conception, he is now presented with the choice of whether or not he wants to take it. A woman’s sexual responsibility begins the minute she becomes sexually active and remains whether she is pregnant or not – she doesn’t have a choice, nor is she ever presented with one. It’s easy to say that a woman should just not have sex if she doesn’t want to get pregnant, but no one tells that to men, now do they? That’s because, once again, a man can make the decision to forgo responsibility for the child he sired, and women shouldn’t be denied the same joy that is sex and intimacy just because they never are presented with a choice. It’s an argument that reduces women to second class citizens because it revokes a second right on top of the one they already lost simply by being born with a vagina. Removing or inhibiting rights to birth control is just a reinforcement of the idea that women should not be allowed to experience sex or pleasure because they are not equal to men, but in fact are meant to be baby factories with no choice or say in the matter. So it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for women to be sexually responsible when you start taking all of her ability to be sexually responsible away.

So what does this have to do with Hobby Lobby winning the right to deny emergency contraception? The problem is that it’s going to be the groundwork laid down for more conservative men to continue the sad trend they’ve been on for the past few centuries – legalized sexism. The legitimate right to reduce women to second-class citizen status under the umbrella term “religious rights.” It’s opening the door to all kinds of religious whackadoodles who run corporations to deny their employees equal protection. One corporation could deny all forms of birth control because it’s against their religious beliefs. Another can refuse to extend insurance to the same sex partners of their homosexual employees because their religion condemns homosexuality. It’s taking the small amount of progress we’ve managed to make in terms of equal rights and representation and undoing it with interest. It’s giving another legal platform to those who want to set fire to the constitution and continue to put this country under the jurisdiction of heterosexual(ish) Christian men. So Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby isn’t just about giving a corporation a right to practice its religion, which is completely wrong on its own. It’s about white male Christian America trying to take back control.

I’m Going to Stick My Boobs in Your Husband’s Face for Spite

Have I mentioned how goddamned sick I am lately of marriages?

I have nothing against the celebration of love and the idea of an equal and supportive partnership between two consenting adults. It sounds great in theory, and believe it or not, I do know my fair share of people who have that. It’s fantastic. What I’m sick of, more specifically, are the people who don’t, and how much bullshit they feel the need to broadcast to other people about how lousy their marriages are.

So I read this absolutely fucking RIDICULOUS blog post written by a woman who either needs a therapist, or a good dicking (or both), and apart from the fact that she represents everything about the female end of the gender discord spectrum, she also raises one of my biggest issues with marriage.

If there are problems in your marriage, deal with them. Don’t hang your dirty laundry out, and expect someone else to wash it.

I think this struck a particularly hard chord with me because I and a bunch of my friends are stuck in a broiling shitstorm that is a couple of former friends’ marriage. I won’t get into the details of why their marriage is failing so fucking hard that’s it’s almost embarrassing, but what pisses me off is that instead of working on their issues, they’re too busy policing everyone else who knows about them – dictating who out of who else was involved that we can be friends with, what we’re allowed to talk about pertaining to it, etc. In other words, they’re doing everything they can to avoid actually fixing their marriage, and are effectively alienating their friends, whom they’re using as scapegoats.  The fact of the matter is, when you push your marital woes on others, like my former friends and the dumbass behind that idiot blog post, you’re blatantly disrespecting your friends, your peers, your spouse, and yourself, and this is why no one wants to be friends with you anymore.

So in other words, some people just don’t deserve to be married. There, I said it.

Fact of the matter is, marriage is between two consenting adults, and no one else. I’m not married to you, and neither are any of your friends. You’re married to your spouse and vice versa. It is, of course, not uncommon to gripe about your spouse to your friends when he leaves his underwear on the bathroom floor, or she maxed out your credit card on shoes, but when you have major difficulties, you do not, repeat, DO NOT drag your friends into it. You can go to them for emotional support, but you do not get to involve them in your marital issues, because what you’re doing is creating other smaller problems that you get to deal with so you don’t have to deal with the major problems in your marriage. It’s scapegoating, and it’s disrespectful. I mean, how goddamned idiotic is it that the sad little girl trapped in a 40-something-year old woman’s body is crying about how pretty young girls make her feel bad about herself, so can we all stop being younger and prettier so her husband doesn’t leave her? Whether it’s insecurity issues like this, or major issues like my former friends have, the moment you start dragging others into it, you’re reinforcing the fact that you’re not mature enough for marriage. And the next time you try to police what I say, or what I do, or how I look, because you have marital issues, I’m gonna stick my boobs in your husband’s face for spite.

The Double-Edged Sword

I have a rather depressing confession to make. I don’t really consider myself a feminist.

Now, before you start, I have a very good reason, and it’s as follows:

I’m not REALLY a feminist because I don’t like the term “feminism.” I prefer the term “equalist.” “Feminism,” to me at least, and please feel free to disagree with me, just evokes the image that we as women are trying to raise our station above men. I’m not downplaying the incredible injustice and imbalance in the status of women versus men, but that’s also exactly my point. The problem with gender dichotomy isn’t JUST that we paint women and men as deserving dependent on their sex, but ALSO because we, as a society, love to pit men and women against each other. Historically, not awesome. So, in other news, I like the idea of feminism, I just don’t care much for the label. I worry that we get so caught up in making our own voices heard that we may forget that men, too, are victims of misogyny and violence, both by other men and by women as well. And if we forget that fact, we as a society will never achieve equality.

But anyway, getting to the point of all of this. I know everyone is aware of the horrific tragedy at UCSB two weeks ago, so I’ll spare you the details. The act itself was a terrible atrocity, but the reaction I’ve seen since then has been almost as bad – namely the sheer amount of misogynistic douchebaggery of the internet proclaiming that if some gutterslut had just done her job and slept with poor, deserving, permavirgin Elliot Rodgers, then those six people would still be alive. If that doesn’t highlight exactly what’s wrong with society, then I quit the internet.

Ally Sheedy in “The Breakfast Club” had it right when it came to women and sex:

“It’s a double-edged sword. If you haven’t, you’re a prude. But if you have, you’re a slut. It’s a trap.”

It’s unfortunately a mantra that has withstood the test of time, from the days when cavemen dragged their wives by the hair to copulate, to the fifties, when a woman would be fined for having a bathing suit cut too high above the knee, to now, when women who don’t give up sex to anything with a third leg are hateful prudes who are just out to ruin lives of poor, deserving gentlemen like Elliot Rodgers and the MRA movement. It’s a reminder that sex does not belong to women, but to men, and no matter what we do, women will be scorned for ever having anything to do or not to do with it. Sounds illogical? Well, you’re right. Because it’s a trap. Either way, we can’t win.

I’m of the personal belief that women should guard their own sexuality more carefully because sex is a dangerous game to play – STDS, unwanted pregnancies, all sorts of things that are badges of honor for men, but stigmata for women. But that’s just me. I don’t give it up to just anyone, but that is my choice. I’m not going to demonize or put down the woman who decides she does, in fact, want to go out and get anonymously laid, any more than I will eschew a woman in a figurative chastity belt. I believe in sex before marriage, but I respect those who don’t agree with me. I often pay them very little mind because their religious rhetoric about sex often bores me to tears, but people, men and women, have the right to their own personal sexuality.

But what about men and sexuality? It’s true that it’s a terrible shame that we’re equating women who do or don’t have sex with some kind of negative connotation, but we’re also doing it with men in a way that is really the biggest underlying issue to the whole thing, when you think about it. We teach boys that if they’re not having sex, then they’re failures. We’re equating sex with machismo, virility with male worth, and success with whether or not a man can manage to get sex. Just as it’s a horrible shame that we only associate women’s accomplishments with whether or not they’ve successfully landed a man, we only associate a man’s value, or at least within the male strata they do, with a guy’s ability to get laid. Is it any small wonder then, that groups like the MRA exist? We’re teaching boys that sex is what makes them men, and not getting it makes them less so. We’re telling them that it’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the ultimate goal in life to accomplish – not love, not respect, not personal success, but sex. Sex equals happiness, and if you’re not getting laid, then obviously, you won’t be getting any happiness.

So in a way, and please feel free to flame me, but think about it for a second, I do feel a certain degree of pity for Elliot Rodgers. Not because he wasn’t getting laid, but because he was so indoctrinated into this notion that he was only going to be happy if he was having sex, and that women owed him sex so that he was somehow a failure for not getting it, that it drove him to mass murder. I’m not saying he was in any way justified, and what he did remains, regardless of motive, a horrible, senseless act. I’m just saying look at the monster we’ve created.  Sexuality is a double-edged sword, not just for women, but for men as well, and Elliot Rodgers is the poster child of that idea.

This is part of the reason I prefer the term “equalist” to “feminist.” The detriment of misogyny and the skewed perspective of sexuality may be significantly more applicable to women, but we also need to stop and think of what it’s doing to our men. It’s creating a legion of men who rape because they feel entitled to sex, and a legion of men who have to be feared by women because of the actions of their rapist peers. We teach men that being emotionally open is feminine, and therefore weak, and in one fell swoop, we equate women with weakness and create men who are emotionally repressed – and then wonder why they are more prone to emotional outbursts, or seem to lack any sort of empathy. We teach men that if they’re physically, sexually, and/or emotionally abused by women or other men that they need to “man up” and deal with it or ignore it, even though it creates even MORE double standards.

So can we stop splitting ourselves into two camps based solely on what our genitals look like? All it does is create a society of double-standards that end up creating boys like Elliot Rodgers and the assholes that support him. There should be unity, not disparagement. Gender roles, sexuality, and misogyny -it’s all a double-edged sword.

Let’s Gripe About Relationships

Warning: If you’re either sick to death of my perpetual cynicism concerning relationships, or you’re a hopeless romantic not actively seeking a pin to pop your bubble of pink fluffy dreams, you may want to give this one a pass.

It’s no secret amongst my friends and maybe even my enemies that I’m not a fan of relationships. I’m a hard-boiled, galvanized-steel cynic when it comes to things like love and romance. You’re probably thinking that I’m most likely jaded from a bad relationship history. And you’d be right. I’m not a stranger to love, or what it feels like. Like so many others, I’ve been in love, and I’ve been hurt. And while this is going to sound like emo-whining of the highest caliber, my biggest problem isn’t so much that I don’t know what it’s like to romantically love someone else; it’s that I don’t know what it’s like to be romantically loved by someone else.

Apart from the fact that I was raised to think that relationships need to be handled more like a business deal, the fact that I have very little experience in the relationship department other than a seven-year disaster in which I allowed myself to be subjected to various forms of emotional abuse really reinforces my tendency to look at all situations logically instead of emotionally. And that’s great, in theory, but it also makes me a horrible person to ask for relationship advice from. My philosophy is that if you’re not happy, fix it. Don’t give me excuses for it, because your excuses make no sense to me. Fix it or ditch it. It’s so elegantly simple, but it certainly does get me a lot of dirty looks. When people complain to me about how they feel like they’re not getting enough from their partner, whether it’s emotional support, sex, or contribution, they always end their tirades with “oh well, I’ll just learn to deal with it,” while I’m thinking “but why would you settle for less?”

It’s also kind of important to note that I’m a selfish person. I admit it. I’m not even remotely ashamed of it. I like doing things for myself. I like spending money on myself. I like being able to do what I want with my time, when I want, and where. I don’t want to have to give it to anyone, be that a partner or a child. And that’s okay when you’re in your early twenties, but honestly, I thought that notion would start to go away the older I got. I used to have all of the same fantasies of eventually getting married and having children, but those dreams are what started to fade away, and my desire to stay single and childless only grew. I just couldn’t see what was so much more important about romantic love than other kinds. It does not help to be raised in a world where romantic love is something that is constantly shoved into your face, like the best thing you can ever accomplish with your life is finding a romantic partner, getting married, and sacrificing your wants and desires for the wants and desires of another. Thankfully, movies like “Frozen” and “Maleficent” are starting to eschew the importance of romantic love and focus more on love that has a certain kind of substance – the love between siblings, between family members, between friends. And that’s been pretty great for me, because now I feel like people are starting to understand where I’m coming from, in that there are more important things in life than romance. I’m sure that romance is a very nice sentiment, but again, I have no idea what it feels like, so maybe I’m the worst judge of that sort of thing.

But now I’m starting to wonder, and I’m starting to worry, that maybe I am just jaded. I’ve had a few casual relationships over the course of my twenties, but I’m really starting to understand why I have a tendency to ruin them. It should be easy for me to keep things simple if I don’t really want to have a relationship, right? But I’m realizing that when I leave the house of whomever it is I’m sleeping with, I find myself missing them, and not just for sex…I miss the comfort of arms around me, the feel of a good, deep kiss, the warmth and tenderness of another person…even if it’s just for a little while.

Goddamnit. I have an addiction to the comfort of other people. That SUCKS.

When you’re sick to death of the prospect of relationships and horrified by the idea of self-sacrifice and risking the best years of your life for heartbreak and misery, the idea of being addicted to closeness to people is just pathetic. Being in the grey area between “single” and “in a relationship” is sometimes the best place in the world to be, but I’m starting to realize that it might also be the worst.

I know this post is horribly ranty and lacking in a lot of cohesion, but I’m seriously starting to feel lost here. I don’t want a relationship, but I don’t want a life of celibacy. I like people, I just don’t want to give them the ability to dictate any aspect of my life. It’s a huge conundrum, and I don’t know what to do. I guess I’m asking for advice, for a change. Maybe an emotional choice, in this case, would be better than a logical one. Maybe.

An American Girl in Leeds: The Beginning

Life in your twenties is never easy, as I’m sure most people are aware. We’re sort of divided into two camps; the ones who are trying to figure things out, and the ones who think that they have things figured out. Me, I am the former. I spent a good chunk of my twenties thinking that I needed to conform to certain societal norms: finishing college, getting a job, getting married, pushing out kids. And I certainly spend a good amount of my time being reminded of that by people who are supposed to be my friends, and my family. The latter two were always a popular topic of conversation, as if I had somehow already managed to fail adulthood because I wasn’t married, even though most of my friends were, and I had absolutely no interest in having any kids. Never mind the fact that several of those same said friends were also already divorced, and some had kids that were all monstrous little shits; somehow I was the failure because I had yet to accomplish either one. And of course, I use the term “accomplish” extremely loosely, because you’ll forgive me if I don’t think that getting knocked up and/or managing to land a man is the pinnacle of human achievement.
  You can probably tell from my not so subtle cynicism that I no longer think that this is the sort of thing I have to accomplish anymore. I’m 28 years old, and I give much less of a shit now about marriage and children as I did when I was 21. I’m not saying that it’s outside of the realm of possibility for me, I’m just saying that it’s no longer something that I actively want to pursue. And I’ve long since convinced myself that I’m not a failure for not wanting those things, for now or ever, regardless of what other people seem to think.
You’re probably wondering what on earth this has to do with the title of this post, and rightly so. I do have a tendency to ramble when I’m giving exposition. But this goes back to what I was saying at the very beginning of this whole thing. I spent 8 years trying to figure out what it was that I wanted to do – I went to college, I graduated, and I got a job. Things should be simple and I should be happy, but I still feel that there’s something missing. And I think the biggest problem is I talk a much bigger game than I play.
You probably have gleaned from this blog thusfar that I have a serious case of wanderlust. I’ve wanted to globetrot ever since I was old enough to know that there was a world beyond my playground. I couldn’t really reconcile with the fact that there was so much of the world out there, and that I was only seeing a small, almost miniscule percentage of it. And that’s all very well and good, but intention doesn’t take you nearly as far as action does. I had all the intention in the world, just not the initiative. I have always planned at some point in my life to see as much of the world as possible while I still have the time, while I wasn’t anchored to a man or a baby.
And of course, I had to be realistic. I didn’t have the money to just jet off wherever I felt like, much as I wanted to. I was working full time and going to college full time and I was barely making enough money to feed myself and keep a roof over my head, let alone satiate my desperate desire to travel all over the world. When I was still at San Jose State University, I thought that my opportunity had shown up at last in the form of a study abroad program for a semester in Bath, England. I was already taking out student loans to fund my college education, so what was a few thousand more dollars in order for a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit countries that I’ve only ever dreamed of? But, of course, fate conspired against me. By the time I was at a point where I was eligible for the program, it was canceled, due to, ironically, lack of enrollment.
I graduated from college with the reluctant understanding that my chance to go abroad was now limited by the strength of my paychecks. And since I work as a teacher with over 15k in debt, you can imagine that my paychecks aren’t particularly powerful. Oh sure, opportunities were there, dangling precariously out of my reach – an offer to teach English in Japan for a year, a chance to apply for international internships, learning about travel hacking (a worthwhile venture if ever there was one). But all of these fell by the wayside, not just because of lack of organization by the people who had extended the offers to me, but, as I soon came to terms with the fact, that I was afraid.
I don’t know if you all know this, but the prospect of going overseas for an extended period of time is daunting as hell. There’s a real fear of the unknown, of being separated by the comfort and safety of the familiar. But it’s the price you pay for dreams. When you want to see the world, you can’t take your whole life with you. Part of you has to stay behind.
When I first heard about the University of Leeds through a friend who is currently attending, I had no plans to take my education past my bachelor’s degree. English majors rarely benefit from a graduate degree, so I filled out the application on a whim, more concerned about the idea of being abroad than being a student. So I strayed a bit in the application process, because I couldn’t reconcile the idea of putting myself even further into debt with my dream of going abroad. It just seemed like too much money for what I couldn’t consider a worthwhile reward, especially considering the tremendous issue of student debt that the American economy is currently facing.
But the university hadn’t lost its interest in me, and a few months ago, I was contacted by their department about submitting the documentation needed to complete the application process. I still had my doubts, but I was also facing yet another unfortunate effect of the economy, as well as the flaws in the American higher education system – I couldn’t get a full – time job, and I didn’t have the job skills or experience to distinguish me in a competitive job market. It’s true that I am making more money than I had been before graduation, but that job will offer me no growth or stability in the long run. I took the time to research the university’s MA program, and the more I read, the less my doubt became. I still had the concerns about the cost of the whole thing, as well as the prospect of being separated from my family and friends for a year, but that was soon outweighed by my increasing desire for the degree, and the chance to have the kind of adventure I had always dreamed of. I’m nearing the end of my twenties – I no longer have the time for fear.

So I submitted the documentation. As of April 29th, 2014, I have been accepted into the University of Leeds as a graduate student in Publication and Performance.

Looking back, making the decision was the easy part. Telling my mother that her only child would be leaving her for a year was hard. Understanding the amount of money and preparation needed to make this happen was hard. Knowing that I will be separated from my cats for a year was hard. Knowing that I will likely be absent from the birth of my best friend’s first baby, from Daniel’s first words and first steps, from my cousin’s high school graduation, from the most important people in my entire life was almost beyond bearing,

But I can’t think of it in terms of what I will be losing. I have to think of it in terms of what I will be gaining. Even though I’m coming back with 36k more in debt, and with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities missed, I will be coming back with not just an MA, but with the kind of experience I’ve always dreamed of having. And there will be another part of the world that I will have seen. And that’s what makes it worth the fear.

I’ll be leaving for England September 16th. Meanwhile, expect me to do quite a bit of documentation about the millions of things that I have to accomplish first.