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A Letter to 2005

I found an old diary on a disc in an old box full of other pieces of nostalgia and since it is my birth month, I’ve decided to be a little self-indulgent. I’m going to write a letter to my younger self: you may learn something about your humble author.

Greetings, Amanda!

Who am I kidding, it’s 2005. You’d respond only to Aiko. You barely used your Western given name at all during those years. I am from the future: 13 years into the future, in fact. I found your diary. I wanted to address some of the concerns you had in that little novel. You filled page after page with feeling, with heart and with anxiety. Your diligence is admirable: the best I can do now is update a blog somewhat regularly.

Firstly, thank you for all for all the references you kept in your diary. You were very worried that I’d stop liking anime by the time I was older. I have good news for you: you’re still a huge anime fan. If anything, being older probably only made you a bigger otaku: nothing like a little bit of regular spare time and a bit of disposable income to fuel a raging anime addiction.

I hear you loud and clear. Back then, your family life was…something. I have some news about that. Be prepared to watch your relationships with your aunt completely flip upside down. Not everyone who is your enemy stays that way and your biggest allies may not remain that way. You were in so much pain back then and you felt so alone: things do improve. It isn’t always easy but things do improve. You do the thing you are best at: you build a family wherever you go.

You still cosplay: if anything, you may be better at it than you ever were back then. You still get harassed but things are getting better. You have an excellent set of bodyguards now.

You still write. You didn’t stop and I kept my promise to you that you would write for as long as you are able. It’s a little less fiction nowadays but don’t worry, that part of you hasn’t gone forever.

That boyfriend you kept writing about…well, he’s no good. You do move on and you do find other people who will come to mean the world to you: you get really close to happiness. You aren’t there yet, trust me, I’m doing my best but being secure and healthy is better than being in a string of toxic relationships.

Speaking of toxic relationships, your friends. I am sad to say that many of them didn’t make the cut. But you have built a network of friends that are very important to you and would never betray you. You found a family and you love them: you are not alone. You also are getting more comfortable with silence: I know back then that was scary but now it isn’t so bad.

The future is…well, there’s a lot more to do. But your interests sort have remained the same. You’re still the same Madame President you used to be: you panel now. You’re actually pretty good at it. You are an ally and a proud feminist (you get over some of that misogyny grilled into you).  You find words for the feelings you’ve had about yourself for years: they’re valid and they explain a lot.

I’m happy to say you do achieve your goal of being taller than Edward Elric: I’m 5’2’’ now. I’m quite proud of that, figured it would be good news for you, too.

You don’t get any less wonderful or weird as you get older. If anything, the older you get, the truer you are to yourself. So those worries you had about selling out and being your aunts, no need to worry.

You do join the Bruce Wayne Orphan’s Club. You’re handling it okay.

The current world is a scary place but so was 2005! But we’ve made tons of progress since 2005! We had an African-American president and he was great and almost had a woman president but we’re not going to talk about that. Same-sex marriage was legalized and it’s never been easier to be who you are…most of the time. You are as free and as liberated as you want to be.

And that’s a pretty hopeful vision of the future.

Little one, if I could put your mind at ease, I would. I remember feeling that helpless and scared. But you are so so strong. You are doing the best you can. You did the best you could even back then.

Thank you for this time capsule. Thank you for letting me see who I was back then and seeing who I am now.

Thank you for writing down even the mundane things like having lunch and the weather and what you were listening to.

I promise to take good care of this diary.



Why I’m On My Phone While On The Bus

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” ― Albert Einstein.png

There’s a woman on the bus route I take into work because I refuse to drive and face the evils that is downtown traffic. She’s an older woman and she’s very nice. When she catches me before the sun rises on my way to work, I’m normally on my phone, with my headphones on. She usually compliments my dress: I have to pause my music to address her and we smile and nod and go about our day. One day as she praised one of my many dresses, she said something that stuck with me.

“Go back to your little world.”

That phrase hit me like a ton of bricks and not just because it was dismissive. It did so because if you were anything like me as a teenager: you’ve heard this before. My aunt would often chastise me for being on my phone or listening to music (then with the help of an iPod or CD player, yes I know I’m old)  in car rides or during any time of stress. There was a lot for me to tune out back then.

So hearing that from another person honestly was emotionally hurtful. I never mean to appear aloof (except for all the times I do). And in that spirit of explaining myself because this blog is where I air my laundry,  Here are a few of the reasons if you see me in public that I may be on my phone.

I’m Avoiding Unwanted Attention

I’m fortunately enough to be only passably attractive which means I do not get catcalled often but the times that I have were exhausting, demeaning and tiresome. If I’m on the bus early in the morning, I do not have the time or energy to deal with a man who wants to chat with me or a woman who wishes to chat about the wonders of a certain flavor of Jesus.  

The World is Loud

There is a certain social contract that reads if the sun is not up, thou must not rant about thine boyfriend’s sister’s hairdresser. The world is noisy and loud and by the time I lug my undead corpse from my apartment, I do not want to deal with such things. I face enough noise in an open office: my morning and evening bus rides are a great time to decompress and get ready for the day or for bed.

I Am Anxious

I’ve joked about getting one of those little vests that some small dogs get that say “I am Anxious”. I would love one of these. I’ve been very candid about having anxiety and the world is terrifying. The noise is scary, my own thoughts are scary, existence is scary: Swedish EDM and Pokemon Go make the world a little less scary. It gives me something to do. I can sync my heart to the beat of the drums and I can focus on catching  Pidgey rather than did all my bills get out okay or if my parents are resting comfortably in the afterlife.

As a social media manager, I’m always worried that I am not present enough. I worry that I’m too attached to my phone because I know proper etiquette means not being on my phone all the time. I give my little cousin a hard time for being on his phone while also swiping messages away from my smart watch. I want to make memories that last and sear images into my mind that will remain with me for the rest of my days. I also want to play Jurassic World Alive and save the dankest of memes.

I will continue to try and find a balance between staying alert and protecting my mental health. In so many ways, the screen is just another buffer. One of the last arguments a former friend and I had was over the fact that I was active on Twitter while I didn’t talk to him. I flat out had to say it didn’t take effort to post on Twitter while it did to speak to him. Introverts like me do not gain a ton of power from people and noise is exhausting and takes up a huge amount of my energy. I regain some of that power by disengaging via podcasts, audiobooks, writing, reading or playing games on my phone.

Escapism isn’t new but that doesn’t mean I will be rude. If someone does address me, I speak to them. I remove my headphones. I make good eye contact and I do all I can to keep my phone off while at meals, especially if I am with someone else. I don’t play Pokemon Go unless I am with someone else who is playing or I am by myself and I tend to only reply to messages and then promptly turn my phone face down on the table again. It’s a good compromise just in case I need to answer a call or message urgently (a hangover from having chronically sick family members all my life) while also forcing myself to be present in the moment.

So, to the woman on the bus who told me to “go back to my world”; I will, happily. Like Alice in her return to Wonderland, I will return to a world that is more comforting than the one I currently face. Like the teen I was who used music to hide cruel things said by family, I used a tool to help ease some of the pain of my current reality.

There’s a little bit of insight as to why, if you ever catch me out in public, I may be on my cell phone if you. 

On Celebrity Suicide

_Let not the friends of these poor melancholics.png

I’ll take this moment to say that I know this topic is difficult to cover and I struggled with this all during the process of writing it. But know that I would never post something without giving in a great deal of thought and I think it’s a narrative worth exploring. I am sorry for those who are affected by topic negatively and my goal is never to cause emotional pain. I’ve been touched by the specter of suicide in my life, I’ve lost someone close to me this way; know that I am not writing this for the sake of a hot take or just because I can. I gave this post time to become what it is. I left it, came back to it and returned to it before deciding it was worth discussing. Once more, I apologize if this post finds you in crisis and I sincerely hope that you find healing and comfort.

June 8th, I got a lot of messages on my phone. It wasn’t because I was paneling, it wasn’t because I was at A-Kon, it wasn’t because I was back in my corner of Texas: it was because one of my idols died. Anthony Bourdain meant the world to me. Even in death, he still does. But I got messages from those I love and that love me asking if I was okay. There’s a bit of a terse statement that suicide is contagious and in so many ways, it is. It’s like a virus, a miasma that lingers in the air and poisons those who are most vulnerable to it.

I wanted to talk about celebrity suicide in an attempt to help me work through some of my own grief.

Celebrities ending their own lives is not new or recent. Unfortunately, many famous people leave us through accidental means like car wrecks and accidental overdoses. But far too many leave us intentionally. And when I say “celebrity” I’m willing to be very open in this definition so this covers anyone who is “famous” and “important”. Bourdain’s death hit especially raw after the recent suicide of Kate Spade.  And the flood of support that comes and then quickly leaves after the suicide of someone famous is almost just as exhausting as the grief that comes with that loss. Suddenly, folks who normally would have much more puritanical views on suicide and mental health are “advocates” only to return to their staunch views once the zeitgeist fades and moves on to another Kardashian storyline. And that’s what makes celebrity death so frustrating. When Chester Bennington died, I was distraught. His music helped me work through some of my own dark demons and knowing that he suffered so much in plain sight was disheartening.

But there is one thing that the recent string of celebrity suicides is that it has brought to light a very ugly aspect of supporting those that are mentally ill: sometimes, the illness is too much. The suicide rate in the U.S. has been steadily ticking up for the last several years and the amount of celebrities that unfortunately take their own lives helps shed a light on the countless others whose death did not make a large ripple in the pool.  It’s one of the reasons 13 Reasons Why is so intoxicating, to people that are not mentally ill, it’s a valid and important part of the conversation. To people who are mentally ill, it’s just another television show that does a damn good job at glorifying suicide which is a dangerous game for anyone who has danced with those thoughts before.

This time seems different, though. This time around seems different. It has seemed different since Robin Williams died. We lost such a funny and bright man. How could he experience any sadness at all? But his death reminded us that oftentimes, it’s the people smiling the most who hurt inside. Bourdain was similar: so many said that he had never seemed happier.

Even writing this post was really difficult and I had to ask more than one person about the ethics of writing about such a thing. It always seems a little egotistical to write about such a subject after someone dies. It’s the main reason there’s an Avicii post deep in my document cloud that will likely never be published: it all just feels like a way to turn tragedy into narcissism. That isn’t my goal, however. I’m a big believer in fighting stigma by confronting the evil (most of the time) note that I was glamorize or glorify the act but I will continue to prop up the people who we have lost. Because each death is a tragic loss. There is a void left behind knowing that Anthony Bourdain will not be able to enchant us with tales of exotic lands. There’s a void left knowing Kate Spade will not design another piece that perfectly encapsulates what it means to be a woman on the go. I am sad knowing Robin Williams won’t make another generation laugh like he did mine and the one before mine and I am heartbroken knowing that Linkin Park will never be the same. That pain is valid and sure, it’s egotistical going through and writing about it but I am hoping that  in talking about it candidly will start a conversation and in my opinion and experience: a conversation can be life-saving. Check on your friends. Check on all your friends. Be there for everyone that you know and love.

Know that I am here for you even though I’m far from a professional.

I’ve seen this sentiment echoed a lot recently so I’ll mimic it here: I won’t share the hotline number. If someone is really in danger, they can find it. It’s not wanting to find it. Instead, I’ll offer again my love, my support and my empathy. I’ll offer my heart.

And to Mr. Bourdain, god, I am so sad that there will be many who don’t get to see your special brand of cynicism, wit and humility.

I’ll end on one of my favorite quotes of all time, it’s one of yours, Mr. Bourdain; and it’s one of the few quotes I’ve ever considered permanently putting on my body.

“Happiness is the absence of cynicism.”

Rest well, Mr. Bourdain and to all the others that have joined you in your rest. The world is a little less awesome because of your collective loss.