I have a new big kids job, across the country,I have friends who I love more than anything, who I know will be in my life for longer than a season and I am genuinely pretty god damn happy. But about that growing up thing, for the past few months I have found myself becoming more and more bored by what I was doing with my life. I have fallen into a routine: the same bars, the same rotation of groups, and active dating life that had some amazing highs but ultimately kept on feeling wrong or lackluster. Everything felt like a colossal let down. For the fist time in my New York life, I felt out of place. I would go to parties and feel like I was watching from behind a piece of glass. My mouth would instinctively work on autopilot but my brain was a million miles away. I was a million miles away. My feet knew the path they had to take me on everyday, and so I got where I needed to go, where I was supposed to be, but I was essentially wandering. I also wasn’t writing.
“‘You don’t love me like you say you love me.”
To which my response was:
It’s like constantly showing up late to a party; my life that is. A party where everyone else already knows each other. They have inside jokes and stories, have known each other’s partners, had dinner with each other’s parents. A party whose guests accept you yet don’t really know you past the game of flip cup you just played together.
I have always felt late to the party.
My family is my family. There is no confusion in my heart or head that the people who adopted me as an infant fill the roles of mom and dad, of aunt and uncle, of grandparent. They talk of a past that isn’t mine. My ancestors weren’t Russian immigrants. My birth family were never called kykes or denied jobs because they were Jewish. They knew no Holocaust.
They looked like me.
Black like me.
My parents divorced when I was still a baby, and both remarried. Two new families where I felt the outcast. My dad and his wife had a child together and suddenly my life at home was divided. I was a tag along. The third wheel of a family whose house I happened to share. I was a target, and on my own. I threw myself into friends, people who had known each other since they were babies. This was the suburbs, you had your friends from childhood but I was new. I came from the city, wide eyed and mystified by these tight knit circles.
Late to the party once again.
I squeezed in. Loud, opinionated, but soft hearted and funny; it was never hard for me to hop from group to group at school.
I never opened up about my family. My friends were from cookie cutter homes with moms who cooked dinner and dads who played basketball on Saturday mornings with them in the driveway. But every family is good at pretending. Every kid goes to school with secrets slammed behind their locker doors. In reality so few of our families were perfect. So few marriages were working. But being an outcast at school, would make being one at home too even worse.
What does it feel like to have people tell you that you look just like your brother? Have the face of your mother? Your fathers laugh and your families knack for sports?
Tall and black. Thin and athletic. Emotional and sympathetic. Scared and anxious. An extrovert with overwhelming needs to be alone. They are not like me.
My acting teachers always said that I had excellent projection. My dad and his father are easily better than me. Anger that resides in me results in words on paper. Either reading or writing, for me the fighting gets done between a book cover. I want to talk to you for hours. I want to your voice, your past, your choice, what led you here. Why that thing I did triggered you then. And when and if it happens again, how to deflect the tension. Amend it. Jesus would they yell. To see red in someone face as they storm around and pace. My dad would throw tantrums like a child. Break things and curse like a fuming bull charging through the streets. And then he would break. And sigh and often cry and hold me.
If this is the party, I would like to leave.
We deal with death. But we really never deal with death. If life is a joke, death is the punch line that went over everyone’s head. Everyone should feel the feeling of being on a roller coaster without a harness. Because as you feel yourself falling, grieving, twisting and screaming, you realize that you’re going to be ok.
I don’t know what her last words were. But I can guess her thoughts. Summers spent outside painting each other’s nails. Christmas stockings whose contents overflowed on to the mantle. Trips to bookstores where hours were spent, where I was allowed to roam and explore. The smell of coffee every morning as we shared the bathroom getting ready. Flowers.
Always fresh like Spring. Colors like a Pollock. A laugh that was louder than most car horns. Eyelids that were always ready to shed tears. Arms always willing to cuddle. A mouth unafraid to sound off. Love times a million the kind that radiates from so deep within, that you wonder if their is a trap door.
Fall off that coaster into darkness. But realize that breathing eventually becomes easier and the wind around you dies down. As you finally touch down.
I miss you at the party.
If I ran into one if my siblings on the street, would they notice me?
Have we ever crossed paths?
We have the internet now. This is could be so easy.
But do I want it to be?
Do I want to crash another family? Another group that’s had it’s history. Who know each other inside and out and maybe have always thought about; that baby that left them years ago. Maybe wonder how that kid came to be and if they had grown, tall like their father. If they have laugh lines like their mother. Passing thoughts as they have moments alone. But not enough to press the issue. And what about my other set of parents? The ones whose genetics make me into whatever it is this body can be.
Sometimes I walk for hours to quell my anxiety. If I leave town for a day or two when I get back the mundane will feel new. I often feel like a polka dot. The literal black sheep. I fear that they can’t hear me, that I showed up too late for them to get me. I am a vortex of change in every way. My gender picks up where nature left off and strays. My sexuality is magnetic towards so femininity and beauty. The men of my family are so different than the boi I’ve come to be and we all know there’s love there. But it can be so hard to show it.
The backgrounds of our slide show keep changing so rapidly. The projection of his light and not my light and the colors don’t exactly feel right when they bounce off the wall together. Yet they have been told that they are bound and belong together. So they stay illuminated for the party.
Waiting for the guests to leave.
This piece is a compilation of many feelings. Of many thoughts. It is the pouring out of the things that have been going through my mind for the past 5 months while interning. They have all come to a head now that I have left my internship feeling no more connected or accomplished than I did when I started. The length of my internship had no limit or minimum. Other interns had been there for going on a year. Seeing no employment opportunities within. The company I worked for was lovely and our work atmosphere was amazing. But the underlying fact is we were working full work days without pay. In a city like New York it is almost impossible for 20 something’s to make ends meet with entry level jobs. Never mind no source of income. Does “experience” really override monetary payment? I worked at a pizza place in high school. I had no experience working in a restaurant. I quickly learned how to answer phones, make pasta dishes, top pizzas, and handle money. I also received a paycheck every week. I gained experience while earning. And to this day can still make pretty delicious Italian food. In 2013 only 37% of grads who worked unpaid internships received jobs from the companies they worked for. Who can afford to work for 6 months to a year for free? That question is mainly rhetorical as we all know the answer is: The Rich.
Many jobs now require intern experience as a prerequisite to being hired. Entry level which is what an intern used to be is now a notch above being an intern. Which means in many fields you should expect to work for free well after graduation without anyone thinking anything about it.
New York is a city that will test you in ways that you never even thought would come across. From judging the correct way to side step the person yelling at you on the subway, to dealing with a bug bed outbreak in your apartment. New Yorkers deal with shit daily that would break most people down. But we keep on grinding. You don’t move to New York by accident, you’re here for a purpose. To fulfill some dream no matter what it may be. The problem with dreams is that sometimes they are just that. We all imagined our lives going towards a certain trajectory. If we put the time in, networked with the right people, and worked our asses off we would get to where are parents always told us we could.
Right off the bat I will say there are some factors that immediately get in the way of my trajectory going as planned.
1. I chose to work in the arts and activism.
2. I’m black.
3. I’m transgender.
4. I think way too many people are full of shit.
Let’s attack each of these bullets.
The Arts and Activism/Non Profits
So you’re a musician, a writer, a designer, an actor, an artist, a…you catch my drift. This world was not made for you to make a shit ton of money. You’re a professional activist? Good fucking luck. No one is trying to pay you. You’re fighting battles because the government and mainstream don’t give enough of a fuck to. Which means you will forever not have enough funding and will be climbing what will feel like a metaphorical Mount Everest for the rest of your life. Some artists get lucky. Some musicians and actors go on to fame. And some writers find themselves in great positions. But those are the very small, fortunate, lucky few. Activists much like teachers will always fight the biggest fight and always make the least. That’s it.
I mean I don’t even know how much of this I have to explain. More often than not when I talk to an older white person they look back at me and reply: Well aren’t you articulate? I’m surprised good for you.
I think that about sums up what my skin color attracts and pushes away.
Remember puberty? Remember how shitty that was? PUBERTY WAS THE WORST. Now let’s imagine shall we coming out of the closet, and also realizing that the gender you were born wasn’t the gender you wished to be. This happened for me around 20 and for the last 4 years I’ve ben trying to piece together who the hell I am and how I want to present to society. Which let me tell you, is super fun. I haven’t changed anything legally. My ID still has my very feminine birth name and says Female. I however present as a male. This causes daily anxiety and fear. Now the good thing about New York is that for the most part people are either too preoccupied with their own shit to care about yours or are extremely LGBTQ friendly. But that does not mean that a percentage of ignorant individuals and homophobes does not exist. And those motherfuckers, well they are motherfuckers.
When I apply for jobs online there is always a moment of hesitation before I send out my resume. If I land an interview how will I explain within the first few moments meeting that I am trans*? Will the interview than shift from my skill set to my gender? Will it kill my chances of getting a job altogether? And if I do get it, what will life in the office be like? How often will I have to correct pronouns? Or have awkward conversations?
Do not think for a second that I pity myself. I don’t. I pity neither being gay or being trans*. In fact I am thankful. I realize for instance that my climb in the nightlife world would not have been as easy as a straight person. Being gay often is horrible but if you tap into your community and win their support you will thrive. It is a lot easier to be a big fish in a little pond. Being gay and trans* in New York definitely makes you a big fish, but as a big fish you are also a bigger target.
The Shitty Ones.
The quicker you learn how many people are full of shit, the easier your life will be. This is not to say that there aren’t wonderful beautiful people out there. There are. Treasure them. But in a city of dreamers, in a city of people working towards fame, money, power, or all three you are bound to meet a lot of assholes. A lot of them who will use you and manipulate you as they see fit. Someone can use you and not be an asshole. Those are the trickiest kind. You know who are the trickiest users? Companies using your wide eyed dream having self as an unpaid intern.
First of all working and not being paid is only ok if you are doing charity work OR helping out a good friend or family member. Which even than has its limits. But working a full work day without payment is a crime.
Are you paying for my meals? Or commute? Or housing? Are there jobs open at your company for me at the end of my internship?
Would you date someone who brought absolutely nothing to the table but the promise of CONTACTS and EXPERIENCE? Look I won’t say that internships don’t provide some base of experience of course they fucking do, you are working a full motherfucking work day. Which you should be compensated for. Since when did experience overshadow payment? This isn’t an apprentice position. This is what used to be an entry level job position, that companies realized they could hire rich college or post college kids to do for FREE.
Note that I said rich. I also forgot white.
When I was a wee gay I had a huge problem with the word queer. It felt incredibly exclusive. It felt incredibly high and mighty. It felt incredibly white.
I now feel very similar thoughts to the word “intern”.
The kids who were using this word: queer. Were those whose parents were ok with them going to school for poetry and gender studies. They were white liberals with money who had the patience and time to let their kids find themselves. Which is great I guess; an amazing education is something that should not be snuffed at. But none the less these kids have always made my skin crawl a bit. These same kids who I would later in life be invited to parties with and see what I had thought all along the word queer did in some ways means white. Want to see a party with little to no black people? Advertise it as queer.
This is not to say that queer black spaces and queer black people do not exist. But it has taken some the for the word to spread past the halls of liberal arts colleges and lofts in Brooklyn.
How do I say this without – ah fuck it black people were slaves for long enough. Working in offices for white people for no money just hit very close to home for me. I realized that most of the people around me had parents that were still funneling money into their bank accounts. They could work 40 hours a week for free because some way or another they were being paid for it.
I also realize that I am in a different situation than most black people my parents are white (twist). Granted I did not have a fairy tale childhood, but my family are liberal open minded Jews. My entire life I have been told by black people that I was too white and by white people that I was the whitest black person they knew. You’ve heard the story before so I won’t preach it again. My point being that just like being trans and gay me being black with Jewish parents has lead me to opportunities that I do not think many other black people my age with similar life stories can say.
Black trans people go through hell. From their families. From society. From within the black community. Of all of the people you would see interning in an office in Manhattan a black trans person is probably dead last.
So I guess I’m lucky. Yes I am lucky, lucky in the sense that I am able to navigate through a very white world. I understand this. I understand that I will probably never meet another me working in an office. Because other “me’s” were never afforded the chance. I feel grateful while also feeling angry; feeling sad, feeling used, and being broke.
These are as I’m sure you can imagine a mess of feelings to be feeling while also starting the process of going on Testosterone.
New York is a whirlwind. No where else do people have roommates well into their 30’s. No where else is Happy Hour essentially mandatory at least twice a week. And totally excusable every night of the week. Drugs of all kinds are norms. Adderall to get more work done. Xanax and Ambien to calm the fuck down. Alcohol and cocaine because you either have way too much money and it’s making you sad or way to little and it’s making you sad. Marriage? Children? You didn’t move here to fall in love. This isn’t Paris. You came here to make it. There is something about New York that is beautiful. The amount that people hustle, the communities that flourish here that would not be allowed to exist anywhere else. The food, the entertainment, the breathtakingly beautiful people you see everyday. But New York wears you out. It’s like the rope swing in gym. It takes you years to get anywhere, and you often feel like you’re just dangling in the wind. Waiting for something either really good or absolutely horrible to happen. You get higher eventually, and closer to the top, but what the hell do you do when you get there? To the end of that rope? The ceiling. Are you now the master of your own life? Or have you just spent years climbing to meet a wall?
I want to take you to a place that I used to know well.
I want you to feel what I feel in my bones.
The place that gives me hell.
It takes awhile to get to this place.
It takes awhile to look in the mirror and be ok with the face –
that stares back at you and realize that the person your heart beats for doesn’t make you a sinner.
When everyone is telling you that everything you feel is wrong.
When everyone song you turn to is about heartache and break and holding on –
you lose yourself in the moment.
You lose motion.
Because you are too flooded with emotion.
Please don’t be afraid.
Those voices in your head are just telling you to love.
And in love there is no wrong or right way.
I am so sorry that not everyone sees it that way.
And I am so sorry that you may lose friends and family along the way.
But stay –
stay true to who you are
look into mirror after mirror until you can’t help but smile back.
Opinions of others are opinions of their own.
What is factual is that you are a human full of love.
Who wants to be loved.
And will be loved.
Because there are a million of us out there.
Who you can walk to with open arms.
Look this world can be shit.
I know and so do you.
But it can also be so bone crushingly beautiful.
You can have these moments where you swear some part of you must be in pain.
Must be about to break.
Because everything in that moment is The Most Beautiful.
It can come in the arms of a beautiful girl.
It can come in the arms of a beautiful boy.
It can come from the best meal of your life.
Or realizing that you just met the person that is that.
Is your life.
I wish that I could sit down and show you a crystal ball.
One that shows you the future and how this time will fall.
It will be a distant memory and a hardship that once happened.
But it won’t cut as deep.
When you are laying in bed realizing that you have no more secrets to keep.
You are young.
You are gay.
And baby you are free.
You see it’s only half way over but this years felt like a few years if you know what I
If you know what I mean
Summer winds are blowing and all I can think of is that winters on its way
And all I can reason is maybe it’s time to leave the east coast
Friends they’ve been rolling back and forth
And I’ve been dragging on for far too long
My brain is vibrating
As my body paces
Up and down the city
Home feeling a bit strange
Out of place
Little escapes set your heart on fire
But your heels are stuck in the mud
a city of concrete and you are in lake of quicksand, gun powder, and fire
So tell your heart you’re trying your best to keep up
Tell your heart that it’s ready to fall in love
Whether it be with a city or with a girl
Whether it be for forever
Or for the moment
Every moment was once your future
And you did tell yourself yesterday that tomorrow would be the day
So today maybe you should take a chance
Even if all it means is that a door will slam
You can take it
Night creeps in
But it’s only sometimes that the moon joins in
You forget the stars exist in the city
Your forget that nighttime can be peaceful
Stars and black skies
That make you want to lay out on lawns and smile
I guess it is safe to say that I have no idea what I want
But it does need to be said that from now on I will only visit haunts
My past is there
And it used to bring me to my knees
But my past has passed and blaming anyone in my future leads to no leads
Maybe I will show you my heart
Maybe I will give you a summary
But here I am
And you see I’m not worried about whether or not you or they want me
I only worry that I will give up on me
There are these kids. These kids that I know. They give life all they’ve got. They slack off more than anyone I know. These kids man these kids get so fucked up. They drink and they rage. They lock themselves away. The write and create. They forgot how to love. But I am pretty sure they forgot how to hate. I don’t know if what we’re doing makes sense. I guess I’d judge us. If I didn’t know us. But then again why are we all so stuck on trying to figure everyone out. I haven’t given up. No one ever told us that living was a sickness. I thought I was running towards nothing. But maybe that was always the point. I see no end but I’m always thinking about it. The. So scared of dying. Drunk off living. But they say – every morning is a new beginning.
I prefer you shut off the lights.
There are a million stars in the sky
Some I know that I’ll never see
I used to think of those stars like people
And if I didn’t see them all – I was missing everything
I’ve got this infinite crush
It’s an insatiable craving
I need without being needy
I know satisfaction
But I know it rarely
I crave uncertainty
Because it understands me
My trust in life lays in the millions of stars
I watch them flicker
And I know them to be my heart
I am as focused as I choose to be
Lay in bed
Stay with me
Hold me down
I have always run
I know nothing but packed bags
And overnight stays
I need some stability
Is that safe for me to say
I want more than I will ever say
I look back at countless mistakes
Dead end after dead end
That nearly destroyed me
But stars they die
And yet the night sky
Still manages to stay
I want something tangible
I want your hand to hold
I don’t know what the future is
I was never taught
I was never told
Forever is a fairy tale
But I have always loved stories
Forever is in the stars
The wind that shakes me
The rain that would hit my face
When I was doing nothing but pushing a board down suburban streets at a hellish pace
When I didn’t understand consequence
When I wanted to know love
My wheels would slip and my feet would skid on pavement
And all I could ever think was you can’t stop
You’re going to make it