Status Update: I ain’t dead yet

03/14/2010

Zombie Mushroom

Yeah, I know. I’m not even going to apologize for not posting for so long or promise to post more. It’s just bad juju in general and always seems to precede someone completely failing to live up to the promise and I was no exception.

So what happened? Life kicked my ass. I’ve been putting off hormonal transitioning until I get back to the States and I’ve had some nasty flare-ups of gender dissonance in the meantime when I haven’t shaved down or when I looked in the mirror before shaving my chin.

More critically, my master’s thesis project imploded. Problems communicating with teammates on the project and some nasty delays in preliminary steps left me feeling like a fraud and a failure while I found myself just burned out in general on school. So I was feeling like I was behind and failing on my project at the same time I was losing the burning passion that drew me so passionately to grad school.

So was I losing what had attracted me to the world of science and mitochondrial research? Not really. I didn’t know at the time, but I pretty much had my master’s degree breakdown. Pretty much everyone in a graduate program has had at least one breakdown. The thing about science is that experiments will often fail and the thing about grad school is that it is an intense program that allows people to pile on additional pressure on themselves.

Most people seem to have a new type of crack-up or downward spiral in the process of getting the degree. I was no exception and while I’m no stranger to being crazy, the novel ways my collective minds were breaking up were something of a distraction.

It also didn’t help that my grandmother got sick and died on Christmas Day adding an extra piece of drama and despair to the pile.

Luckily, I’m out of that personal pit now with some major developments.

Grad School

I’ve taken advantage of a school program deliberately designed for student’s whose research projects fail through no fault of their own. Test tube refrigerator failures, sudden loss of fly populations, or my personal drama. I’m set to finish it on May 1st and defend it mid-May. I’ll also be scrambling to take advantage of as much free health care and other subsidized services as I can before I return to the Free Market Clusterfuck that is America.

While it means I’ll be pretty busy for the next month and a half, it’s also a really awesome thing. I’ve got direction again, my advisor is really happy with the direction I’m going and has been super-supportive and super-apologetic for not helping as much as he could when my original project fell apart. I’m no longer beating myself up for being a “fraud and failure” cause I realize now it was just me being way too rough on myself and using myself to take out my general frustrations.

I got a new Writing Gig

Now normally this would be a big problem, an additional responsibility to fail at during a time when I’m already overworked on my Master’s thesis.

But I dunno, it came at a time where I feel more confident and the offer came entirely without my asking for it based entirely on the (assumed, the fools) quality of my writing.

Plus it was a job writing for a blog that I have closely followed owing to my obsession with the sport of football.

In short, I am currently writing for World Cup Blog, the national team partner of the great english language football blog The Offside on the topic of the Danish national team as they prepare to go to the World Cup.

It’s a great honor and immersing myself in it has been great for immersing myself in a good amount of feel-good stories at a time when political struggles have been their usual long-struggle, slightly depressing selves.

I mean, my last post was about the national team planning to visit their old elementary schools and first squads to promote universal literacy. That’s the kind of uplifting random aw moments that we often forget when we’re slogging through the hard work of getting ourselves from the injustices of the past to the slightly better world of the future.

Coming Home

Denmark has been awesome, but I’ve been home-sick for the support of my family, partner, and friends and flawed as it is America is still my home. Having an end date regarding my Master’s thesis also means I can start planning my return trip home back to the States.

Planning that has also invigorated me. While I’ll mostly be recovering and scrambling for enough work to feed myself and pay rent, the opportunity to take a small break from grad school has given me some ideas about some projects I’ve been tossing around for a little while now. I’ll announce more when they’ve become concrete, but I’ll keep you posted when they’re more fleshed out.

I’ll also begin more of the traditional physical transitioning process which should be really awesome.

My Partner being Awesome

Well, that’s always been the case. My partner has been supportive for the entire time I was slipping down and made sure I kept enough bearing to keep on going and trying new things even if it felt painful up to really recently.

So it’s not a new development. But it was a new development that in the course of being awesome at life as well as kicking butt in her own graduate school adventure getting an MFA in Poetry at SFSU, she wrote a powerful new poem.

And I wasn’t the only one who thought so, several writing friends convinced her to send it out to be published and she did, leading it to be picked up by Forth Magazine, an established national poetry magazine. So not only is my partner a poet, but now an officially semi-pro poet. She’s even been invited onto the local radio to read some poems on air and recently won some money at a local contest for best dramatic narrative.

So, big deal already, but even cooler is that the poem she got published is a really powerful poem about us and she gave me permission (months ago, but I’ve only now gotten around to it) to publish her on this blog and “out” her.

So without further ado, Transition Period by Keely Hyslop.

I am a lucky damn woman.

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5 Responses to “Status Update: I ain’t dead yet”

  1. John O said

    I have newfound respect for you, and I found your situation very interesting and intriguing.

    Frankly, I don’t know if I could do it emotionally, but I certainly can intellectually.

    So, love your comments out at BJ!

  2. I read your partner’s poem. I too have respect for you, and your partner, and the life the two of you are building together. What a wonderful thing it is to live freely.

    (Here by way of your comments on Pharyngula.)

  3. vanitas said

    Your comments on the Pharyngula thread on a variety of topics have always engaged me but the recent outpouring on We Have Seen Evil…were truly impressive. Thank you for your beautiful writing-you express it the way I wish I could.

    Good luck with your studies.

  4. MikeG said

    I just read your partner’s poem, and I think I might be starting to understand. I don’t think I ever really can understand intellectually, but I can viscerally. I wish you the best in your studies and your personal struggles. Humanity needs more perspectives, and one as well articulated as yours is especially valuable.
    Thank you.

  5. Mona said

    Hi, Cerberus! I followed a link here. Your comments made me more conscious of the difficulties affecting asexuals. Why did I unconsciously assume “Not interested!” would work on rapists!?

    I might be able to offer some practical help on your thesis-writing crisis. Part of it might have been a stage in the normal writing-project cycle. I’ve been writing non-fiction for years, mostly in project three to eight months long. Every project has similar emotional phases: excitement at starting out, wonder of discovery at learning the material, greater or lesser puzzlement about how to organize it, steady productivity at putting it together, and then despair that it will ever be finished, followed by surprise and pleasure as it all comes together and doesn’t look so bad after all. If thesis advisers would only tell their candidates to expect those phases and keep slogging, get a good night’s sleep or go for a walk and then do a short manageable task, the crisis might be less severe.

    It’s very daunting to start writing without a clear plan and hoping to have everything down by the last page. It’s like setting off one day to walk across the continent. To help keep it manageable, I suggest outlining the topics and sub-topics of the thesis and then roughing each one out with a few sentences & a note of any illustrations or references. You can run such a plan past your adviser to make sure you’re on the right track. Then, with the logical structure in place, it’s easier to fill in the details. It’s more like riding to the next town, checking your itinerary, and buying a ticket to the next town–except that you don’t have to do the sections in order. Fill them in when you have the information or the inspiration.

    I hope that helps (similes and all)!

    Good luck to you and your awesome partner.

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