Turning 30 and Being Brave
[written on March 7]
So here's the deal. I turned 30 today.
I'm not worried about getting older. I'm not uncomfortable about my age. I'm really chill where I'm at, and the rate at which I'm aging. That's just life, baby!
But birthdays have always been a big deal to me. It's rooted in some childhood garbage that isn't worth getting into here, but they're a very big deal. Mine, others... they matter! And for my own birthdays, I try to do something fun, unique, special every year just for me. Something that is exciting, challenging, pushes the boundaries. Because life is for living!
As I have mentioned before in posts, I'm sure, I grew up in a super religious/borderline cult-y home & community. Where a woman's body is a shameful thing that must be covered at all times. Everything must be designed to make men comfortable and keep them from stumbling, and to not dishonor God (insert a whole rant about how it makes no sense that God would be dishonored by a body they theoretically created). I was sent to classes on etiquette, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" was required reading as a pre-teen, and there were church-related meetings where good Christian boys would bravely say how being able to see a girl's thighs, or bra straps, or outline gave them impure thoughts, causing them to sin against God with their mind, then everyone applauded and talked about how awful women are for doing that to the poor, poor men who are just trying to live a Godly life (barf). I was chastised for wearing a skirt that came to the top of my knees, or just appearing too short because I was tall. I was called out as a slut for wearing tee shirts that were fitted. I was constantly reminded how impure and problematic my body was, from a disturbingly young age. Youth groups regularly did sermons about women dressing like whores (you know... wearing shorts, or the presence of mid-drift, or god forbid... cleavage!). This, of course, ties into the whole sex and purity concept. How a woman is used up and worthless once she's no longer a virgin. How her body in any form is only to attract a mate to father her offspring (and then stay with forever and ever and ever and oh my god kill me now), otherwise she's a whore trying to lead men astray and ruin their lives like some sort of mythical sirin. And as much as I knew it was just my family's weird culty bullshit, it actually kinda messed me up.
And while I guess I can see some sort of religious-logic in all that if I squint real hard and turn my head just right, the end result was a powerful, badass woman who is overcoming obstacles, running businesses, pursuing higher education, working to make the world a better place, taking care of people, advocating for civil rights issues, running educational programs and platforms, supporting all manner of science and art, pushing for progressive legislature, and speaking to huge and small crowds alike about a variety important issues.... who spent her entire life being completely convinced that she was hideously ugly, and being ashamed of her body, held back by the knowledge that she was a broken, dirty, worthless mess. That's me, in case you didn't follow.
Like... I always knew I was okay-ish. I mean... I'm not totally repulsive, maybe? But definitely not beautiful. I've always been "the smart one" and not the pretty one. I fully support women's expressions, from wearing religious garments to full nudity. I do not see other's forms as dirty or shameful, but rather beautiful and courageous and empowering and strong! But my own has always been a different story. And it's been a long journey to move past that. And it's not exclusively all the religious-bullshit to blame. Society makes it hard for women to feel good about how they look. And I'm a weird, awkward, bookwormish nerd who's never socialized well and is ALWAYS the odd one out in any situation. So that certainly didn't make me feel more comfortable in my own skin. I have PTSD, anxiety, depression. They don't help either. And of course, while we all know that I'm #DisabledAndCute as hell, it's hard to feel sexy when you're disabled. When your body is fighting you all the time. When you have to relocate your vertebrae and pop your knees back into place, when your skin and blood burns, or your heart races then sloooooows waaaaaaayyyyy ddddoooowwwwnnnn randomly. When moving is hard. When you can't do squats to get "dat ass tho" because you've done super well to get in and out of your car by yourself. When your pain causes extreme chronic fatigue so you always look half-dead, and your digestion is constantly a mess so you're just grumbly and in (more) pain. The struggle is real. Feeling sexy when you're disabled is fucking hard. Especially when you're already a hot mess.
So, bringing this all back around, I turned 30. So I decided that this year the thing I would do for myself is push some serious boundaries, take an express flight out of my comfort zone, and do something fucking empowering! So I did.
I was super nervous going into this, I won't lie. But this was an incredibly empowering and fun experience. My photographer, Marilyn Riel of Menagerie Photography was so supportive and encouraging, and (obviously) has an amazing eye. She managed to capture my tough, serious, kick ass, take no shit side, my nerdy, quiet, book-worm side (yes, that is my lovely vintage microscope... and my books... and my doctor's bag.. and my lab coat), as well as my softer, gentler, more romantic side. As it turns out, rolling back to that whole non-duality conversation from earlier this year, a gal can be both. Fierce and soft. Strong and gentle. Beautiful and bold. Feminine and masculine. Smart and pretty. Sexy and whole. And to be totally honest, this is the first time in my life I've felt this way. So shout out to Marilyn for helping find that in me, to my girlfriend/partner-in-crime/work-wife Alicia for going with me and encouraging me/talking me out of backing out about 100 times (and helping me apply that beautiful dark lipstick, because I am the most makeup-challenged person on the face of the earth), and to myself for being brave and sexy as hell.
I have chosen not to start this brand new decade out with all the garbage I lugged through the last two. There's some carryover, sure, but I'm systematically working on letting that shit go, being bolder and freer, and really embracing all sides of me without a single fuck given about what others think. So, think I'm a whore? Cool story, bro. Think I'm a totally hot piece of ass? Neat. Find this story and my work inspiring, empowering, uplifting? Awesome (consider supporting this blog and my disability advocacy work!). But regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, it doesn't actually matter. I'm endeavoring to just go right on being the wholest, most authentic, most badass, most compassionate, most stoic, most strong, most beautiful-in-all-regards "me" I can be. Sorry not sorry.