Creatives

I left for PAX drenched in a crazy amount of social anxiety. My kickstarter was funded as I was on my way to the airport which was phenomenal and completely unexpected. It all suddenly became very real (but simultaneously completely surreal). Sometimes I think the scariest thing is actually succeeding. Like in Neil Gaiman’s speech, just waiting for someone to come by and say “nope, game over, we’ve found you out” for having the audacity to create publicly and wanting to be able to like, eat and stuff while doing it.

I’m scared of failing, really really really scared of failing, and for the better part of the week, I was terrified of admitting it. But it’s driving me crazy and into a not-good anxiety spiral, so here:

I am terrified. I am really fucking terrified that I’m going to fuck this whole thing up, I’m terrified everyone who backed me will hate me because I suck, or I didn’t do things exactly how they wanted, or because life happened – as it does (for instance, I came home to water leaks in my living room and studio, and now I need to replace the broken equipment as well).

So then the Q&A’s with Mike and Jerry (Gabe & Tycho) happened. They touched on anxiety, and valuing their work, and just doing it anyway.

These songs happened on Saturday and I realized something really important:

What I’m feeling, and this (increasingly volatile) cycle is normal, and I’m not alone.

Introversion and Drive

I watched the panels and the musicians, and I realized I was just one of many socially awkward, introverted, and insecure creatives in the room – including the ones on stage. I realized that the more creative I am, and the more I put myself out there, the more introverted I become, because I feel like I’m living so externally already and it’s an incredibly vulnerable feeling.

The more of myself I put into what I do, I feel like, the less barrier there is, which is awesome – authenticity is something I value and I get really irritated if I feel like I’m not being honest (hence: this post) and it starts eating away at me. It’s also really really scary, because everything feels so much more personal.

But, as much as that is, as much as I feel the need to invert and crawl into myself, I can’t escape one this drive.

This drive to create, publicly, and live, publicly. Every time I go to a con or see a panel or performance, it’s one of those things where I know I belong up there, creating things that I love, and other people love and want to know about. Like, it’s different somehow, and it’s an inescapable drive and something that I’m kind of moving toward.

I think this is a plight of creative people – especially creative people who tend to become introverted or socially anxious. Creating and sharing that creation calls to us and drives us and we can’t escape it; so we do it, because it matters to us and we don’t really have a choice, it is us. I think that’s okay.

I think it’s okay to feel anxious when you’re putting your heart on the line because it’s scary.

But I also think that I need to fix my anxiety, because it becomes crippling.

I wrote this up a few months ago, when I was just remembering all of it, and wanting to scream because I’ve always felt that no one really understands or understood my vehement desire to remain childless, or why every time labor or pregnancy (or children, for that matter) come up in a conversation, I start raging. The emotions of this are still raw, 11 years later – and what follows is still raw and vivid, I still feel livid about it sometimes, and scared (and for the faint of heart, there is strong language. I don’t usually use it here, but it’s an adult blog, so adult talk is allowed – in the future, read at your own risk ’cause I’m not going to disclaimer everything anymore).

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Growing up in a religious conservative circle taught me this ever so explicitly. They would try to water it down and say “no you’re equal, but different” the place of women is in the home, in the kitchen, pregnant or raising children. Not in the “world”, not working, not doing anything that would in any way put her in equal standing with men.

This article makes me sad – no, angry because it’s true.

People very close to me believe, truly, that women are in some way stupid and need men for guidance. I was taught that women are “easily mislead” and thus need men to teach them and “lead” them the right way. Like we are animals to be trained, or horses to be broken. It follows that women, once they reach adulthood, should not be listened to – that it’s okay to completely write them off as “emotional”, “misguided”, or “hormonal” – it’s all too easy to take anything anyone with a vagina has to say and instead of taking them seriously, say they’re just whining, not happy, or one of those evil feminists not worth listening to.

It’s taken me years to come to terms with my womanhood, with the fact that I have the horrible ability to reproduce within my body. It’s taken longer to accept the fact that I am human, and that as a human I have value – that isn’t reliant on whether or not I have a penis on my body.

Unfortunately, I still find myself in circles, exposed to the lies of my youth – who believe that women are for reproducing, teaching, cooking, cleaning, and if you’re lucky, making things and maybe having an in-home business selling house-wifely things like sewn goods, jewelry, or food.

I take issue with the god I grew up with. The god who decided that as part of “the curse” women will be in horrible pain during their reproductive cycle, while men just have the “curse” of pulling weeds or  “hard labor”, and the snake lost its legs. I can’t separate the misogyny of the religion of my youth, with what may or may not be true about christianity. I can not see god as loving when he inflicts half the population with a lower status, half a life of pain, and sets them up for being written off and told they’re stupid until the end of the earth.  People say Jesus raised the status of women, which, in the culture of his day may be true, but people who are supposed to be “like Jesus” massively fail and take the easy way of misogyny as written in the apostles over the example of the deity they claim to love and serve with all their heart and soul.

Women are “equal” in the sense that they are “people”, complete the largest chunk of reproduction, and in christianity have “equal access to god”. But in practice? Women are less, women are challenged and put down when they say things or step outside of the box, they’re labeled and personally attacked when they “make a crack in the glass ceiling”. Because  women being assertive is not allowed, still. Women having a voice, or control over their own body is still frowned upon.

Things I thought were resolved with the suffrage movement and the right to vote are resurfacing in this election and it hurts. It makes me feel ashamed to be a woman (scared, even), having been born with boobs and without a penis makes me feel trapped. I feel like everywhere I turn I hear old men, and some women trying to fit me into a box – the box I worked so hard, and wrestled with and tore myself apart over to escape. The box I’m still trying to completely escape – because completely leaving a gender box is more than just one process – it’s many, over a lifetime.

I don’t talk about feminism, womanhood, or anything like that very much, because a large part of myself has rejected the idea of gender. Because gender does. not. matter. At the very least, it should not matter. We are all human. We are all entitled to the same rights and opinions and control over our own bodies. We all have the right to say no – we do not deserve to be stepped on and half of the population does not deserve to be stripped of their rights just because their genitalia is different. Women are not more prone to misguidance or stupidity than men, nor vice versa. People are prone to flaws. People ARE flawed and we all have traits that are unique to our personalities, not our gender.

I’m tired of being subtly told I’m less, of being subtly hinted to that I should live in a box. I’m tired of watching men in power debate over whether or not I am smart enough to decide what happens to my body and when. I’m tired of people protecting the embryos that my body painfully destroys on a monthly basis, to the extent that it lessens my value and my rights as a fully existing person. I’m tired of people telling me that I’ll “get over it” and want to reproduce, I’m tired of people frowning at and judging me because I’m different and do not fit in the box I was supposed to belong to. I’m tired of people treating me as though I am the same clone, as though I’ll come around and find my rightful place in the stifling box of conservative womanhood. I’m tired of people thinking that they can speak, act and think for me because I cannot think for myself.

I’m tired of people lessening my value as a human being because I have decided not to have children – or trying to justify it because I’m young and I’ll “change my mind”.

All these messages, all the subtext just continue to beat me down, to tell me that my past was right, I am less because I am woman, I am even more less because I reject that being female dictates the way I live my life. It doesn’t matter how much you verbally affirm “women are equal (but different)” when you say, believe, and act in a way that demonstrates otherwise. Women are equal when they live in a box, but that is not equality at all, and I thought we were past that.

I have a secret language that I speak inside my head. When I’m feeling brave, I write this way. It’s my own kind of prose, words have a rhythm and sentences flow. Phrases turn and swirl into what I like to call my butterfly language. When I’m honest and I write like this, I feel like it looks weird on paper screen, I’ve only gotten a few good responses when I use this language – I’m afraid it doesn’t make sense. Which is why most of my writing style is more train-of-thought like.

I’ve been introspective lately, and vulnerable – not in a bad way, just….my heart keeps emerging from my chest and wanting to place itself on my sleeve. It’s fluttering about looking for a place to land, leaving me feeling insecure and causing awkward (to me) social hiccups which I, in turn, overcompensate for.

It’s a new stage of me, just like a caterpillar coming out of a cocoon and realizing it’s a butterfly.  The confusion, the vulnerability of feeling so open and exposed, and yet so alive. The first few moments of flying, or attempting to fly probably result in somewhat embarrassing moments – colliding with the earth and bumping into plants, I imagine they feel a little over apologetic too, in this growing stage.

But I realized, as I’ve had a lot of time to think, that this is a good sign. It means I’m evolving, I’m becoming myself and growing. More importantly, I’m growing braver, my masks are coming off and I’m still flying a little awkwardly, still fighting oh so many insecurities that come with exposing myself, my soul coughs and makes messes, but that’s okay.

I am in a vulnerable existence, but one that is very much alive. I will use my prose voice and wax as eloquent as I wish, because…..why not?

Sometimes I feel strange because all of the major life events happened to me before the normal life stuff. I graduated at 15, which I thought was cool at the time. I find myself now, questioning whether or not I was actually ready then. A lot of the outside-of-school skills most people learn in high school, I didn’t learn until after I was married. I don’t feel like I earned graduating that early, which might have something to do with finding out I graduated after getting home from a trip and expecting I had to catch up on math before that was even an option. It was welcome and as far as transcripts are concerned, I graduated with over 30 credits, but deep down inside, I don’t trust it. I don’t trust the education I gave myself because I feel so ill-equipped in real life, with people, and jobs, and not homemaking.

If I grew into the adult I was raised to be, I’d probably be pregnant or have a child by now, I’d be cooking meals and taking care of spawn or becoming a planet and looking at homeschool curricula. I would feel perfectly capable, maybe.

But I’m not that person.

I’m a geek who doesn’t get math jokes unless they involve pie – I don’t know what the Mandelbrot set is, but I like the song. I didn’t have an actual or good job experience until after I was married, when I was 18 (the one job I had in high school lasted a month, but it had nothing to do with me).

I’ve slowly been realizing that all the bad things I was told happen to marriages where women have jobs that involve being outside the 4 walls of their home haven’t happened, and are mostly lies.

At 21, sometimes it feels weird to have crossed all the major check points and still feel woefully inadequate, inexperienced, and ill-equipped.  But maybe everyone feels that way if they’re doing the things they like doing?

Everything I’ve done, I’ve been learning as I go – and I have no formal training or anything, I read a lot of blogs from people who’ve been there, I research things I’m unsure or curious about, and I spend a lot of time doing. Which explains a lot of my failed attempts at successful etsy business-ing, but also my successes as data entry specialist and now web administrator for local non profits (child of the internet, ftw).

When I remind myself how far I’ve come and the things I do, I can sometimes remember to be confident. But the struggles I face in my brain just doing simple things and relating – I second guess myself too much, I over think and spend hours inside my head replaying events and hoping I didn’t sound stupid or boring or anything, sometimes I’m almost frozen with insecurities and I never used to be.

But I love the things I do, and I love the opportunities and the friends and experiences and everything that’s so new and exciting that’s happened over just the last 5 months. I love that I get to work with non profits doing things I’ve been acquiring skills for (unwittingly) since high school, I love I get to make videos and that people like to see them, I love that I get to play new games and try new things every Thursday, and I love that I’m actually part of a community.

So maybe it’s normal, when you’re flooded with things that you like doing and opportunities to make money and get help and feedback from people while doing them, to feel insecure. Maybe it’s normal to feel ill-equipped because things are moving faster than you imagined. Maybe it’s normal to be a little scared and dizzy. Maybe that’s all okay.