in recent years

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to the stars

I love space.

I have always known that I would never go to space.

I was an uncoordinated, fat kid who didn’t trust the military (Of course there are civilian astronauts. Lots of them! Neil Armstrong even, technically!) and I knew I would never have the discipline for it.

But I have always wanted to be part of the space program.

More than any other dream I’ve ever had — publishing a book! writing a movie! — I wanted to help explore space. It was my second dream job — edged out by paleontologist because, dinosaurs are amazing obviously — and the first I knew, almost as soon as I dreamed it, that I could never do.

Space is incredible. Vast and beautiful and endless. Every single thing we learn about space teaches us something important, but also opens us up to even more knowledge, to an even more expansive universe than we previously imagined, to an infinity so broad it’ll break you if you think about it too hard.

And I wanted to be part of it more than almost anything I have ever wanted.

And I knew I never, ever could.

Math and I have always been enemies. My lowest grades were always math. I had to repeat high school algebra. I preemptively took the ACT, well before I took the SAT, because I’d heard that the math was easier and I was T-E-R-R-I-F-I-E-D that my SAT score wouldn’t hit the minimum to avoid college placement tests. (It didn’t.) I didn’t want to struggle through at least 3 quarters of remedial math before also struggling through college algebra. (My ACT did.) I had to take a no-credit in my college algebra class because I couldn’t hack it. I ended up taking a logic class to satisfy my one single math requirement. I don’t think my final grade was very good. I excelled in sciences until they required math — here’s looking at you, high school chemistry — and I knew, deep down in the dark cave-like places where disappointment lives, that it would never get better. I would never make it through anything harder.

I took physics in college anyway, probably through a fluke of class requirements, availability, and timing, and it was torture. I understood the concepts, the ideas, the big stuff, the theoretical. I understood it and I liked it. I cared about it. Physics is… as close as humans get to magic. But the math bewildered and confused me. I tried. I read. I studied. I have never been a good studier, but GOD, did I try. I tried. And I just… couldn’t.

After putting in my second lackluster test performance, my very smart, very kind professor — a woman who worked for NASA and JPL and took students to the Marshall Space Flight Center and the Kennedy Space Center every year — asked me to stay behind after class.

I think I’d gotten a D and I was unhappily resigned. I wouldn’t call myself an overachiever, but with the exception of math, school had always been easy for me. Not just easy, but natural. It has always felt like learning was what I was supposed to be doing, the only thing I’ve ever been particularly good at.

This woman looked at me with this awful kindness, the kind that strips you down when you’re not expecting it, and she said, “You just. You can’t do this math, can you?”

And my breath caught in my throat because I’d had teachers who sympathized with my struggles before, ones who tried their best to help, but no one had ever, ever looked at me like they actually got it — that I was trying my absolute fucking hardest and I just could not do it.

And I just nodded.

She smiled at me, soft, and she told me she would do everything she could to give me partial credit so I could pass. And she did. And I did.

I took an astronomy class with her later, a class I anticipated and dreaded in almost equal measure, because I still loved space and because I wanted to learn about it, and she smiled and nodded at me when I took my seat at the front and some of the dread faded because I knew she still got it and I knew she had my back.

I cried after that class a lot. Because I love space. And learning so much about it — it was a surprisingly in-depth class for even an upper division entry-level — was moving, but also devastating because I knew this would be the end of organized space education for me. There was nowhere else for me to go.

She told me once, about midway through, as we went over a test after class that she had never had a student who so clearly and easily grasped and engaged with conceptual information, but who couldn’t do the math. It was the kindest, most flattering knife I’ve ever had through my heart.

I’ve always told people that, if the opportunity arose, even if I knew it was a one-way ticket to certain death, I would go into space. This is true every single day. This has never, even for like, one minute in my entire life been not true. To reach into the rich dark and see the limitless sea of our existence, to leave the bounds of earth, I would give my life. In a heartbeat. In a nanosecond. In a Planck second.

I won’t set foot on an airplane, but any space vessel will do.

The privatization of space exploration pains me. The increasing incuriosity of the American public and their unwillingness to fund NASA and further exploration of our universe is nauseating to me. We are so small in the scheme of everything and we have so much to learn. We are a species built from survival instincts and yet our curiosity compels us to do so much more, to learn so much, to seek out the edges of our universe and understand them.

Math may have defeated my dreams of exploiting that curiosity to its fullest. It may have even crushed my dreams, but it can’t stop me from learning. There is always more to know. And if Opportunity could outlive her mission by 14 years to teach us as much about Mars as she possibly could, we can be curious enough to learn something from her and curious enough to care about what comes next.

The static from your television is 1% residual radiation from the Big Bang. You and I and everyone we love, we are made of star stuff. We are the universe, walking and talking and seeking. Stay curious. Don’t stop learning.

totally top five 2018: the other stuff

I started this post the same way I start most of them: with too many words and a lot of unnecessary information, but I got tired about halfway through because it’s been a hard month and enthusiasm meter is on E. And that bummed me out! Because I consider myself an enthusiast and I don’t like when that’s taken from me!

So instead of dwelling or letting this post feel like a chore, I’m going to make it (kind of) short on words and (pretty) long on stuff.


crys & ash at panic in mpls being rained on with confetti ash screaming while being rained on by panic! at the disco confetti
ash and crys with the members of ludo


Previously

2K12 | 2K13 | 2K14 | 2K15 | 2K16 | 2K17

glasses raised, we all say cheers

The new year can be a hard time for people, a lot of people, myself included. There’s pressure to renew and to change and to feel suddenly refreshed, to be a blank slate because the new year has come. But even more so it’s because we live in a world steeped in diet culture, in fatphobia, in orthorexia and impossible beauty standards and so there is immense pressure to make this the year you finally become the person you are told you should be. It’s exhausting and it’s stupid and you shouldn’t do it to yourself.

You were great last year and you’re going to be great in the next.

And if there ARE things that you want to change about your life, don’t let the pressure of the new year shape your goals.

Years are arbitrary! Months are made up! Time is fake!

Change or adjust or do things on whatever time feels right to you.

I have fallen prey to the new year a lot in my life, sometimes the new month, often even just the new week. It’s always a chance for a ~FRESH START~, right? Always a new chance to erase your mistakes and start over. But in 2018 I tried to remember that each mistake makes me better and my history is too valuable to be erased. I have woken up today; I couldn’t have without yesterday. I’ll keep trying to remember that.

Regardless, I think resolutions are ultimately mostly okay, if we can divorce them from the social standards and pressures and really think about them in terms of our own ~growth.

In 2019 I’d like to read more (30 books!) and write more (every day!) and watch and listen to new things. I’d like to keep journaling and use my planner more efficiently and reach out to friends more often than I do.

But most of all, I am going to try to focus on my ~word for the year, like I did in 2018.

2018’s word was unclench, which I tried to interpret in all the ways I could: physically and mentally and socially. To calm down and relax and release. It went alright. I definitely got better at noticing how physically tense I was and eventually getting better at releasing that tension. I got pretty okay at letting go of petty grievances and I made a valiant if minuscule effort toward unleashing myself on other people when the opportunity arose. Mild successes that I will gladly celebrate.

2019’s word is fortify.

While journaling and trying to listen to myself in 2018, I realized that I have felt desperately diminished in recent years, as though my personality has faded and shriveled, starved out because we live such an isolated life here. So this year I’d like to fortify myself, to shake out the husk of my once bombastic personality and try to figure out what that person looks like here and now when I stop unintentionally reining her in.

I want to fortify my mental health with journaling and meditation and the organization tools that keep me calm. I want to fortify my relationships by reaching out more often, regardless of the response, and getting back in to sending cards and letters. And I want fortify my cultural knowledge with new media, books and tv and movies and music.

I want to strengthen and secure and encourage myself and the world around me. Including you!

I hope 2019 is kind to you. I hope you feel love and joy that makes the pains and losses worth it. I hope you find peace and comfort. I hope you always know safety. I hope you grow in ways that you like. I hope that you’re able to summon the perfect, biting “Fuck you” when faced with someone or something that deserves it. I hope you share a memorable meal with someone you like. I hope you have a really fun nostalgia spiral about something you loved with all your heart when you were young. I hope you smile more than you cry. I hope you laugh so hard your body aches. I hope you remember that you are worthy of life and love and comfort and pleasure even when the world or the mean voice in your head is telling you otherwise. I hope to see you ring in 2020, whole and happy. I love you; I like you; I believe in you. 💜

intrusive religiosity

For about a year in the late 2000s, I became intensely devoted to crossing myself whenever I passed a cross.


 
This started with a steeple cross that was visible to me from the freeway on the drive home from my college. I often sat in a little clutch of traffic near it and it was lit at night, so I noticed it frequently, hovering over the wall that separated the speeding 210 from the neighborhood beyond.
 
I’m not religious. I’ve been to church less than a dozen times in my entire life. I’m unbaptized, un-saved, uncircumsised. I’ve been to Catholic mass once and I spent the entire thing staring at how super naked Jesus seemed on the cross, hanging morbidly above the Filipino priest’s head. I’m religiously curious, so I know a lot about rites and rituals. Plus I’m a writer and I like characters of faith, so I’ve done a lot of research over the years. I’m an atheist though. No waffling here: I don’t believe in god and I have no interest in church.
 
But this cross, it haunted me. I could feel the pull of compulsion each time I passed it, the little tug at me, like there was something my body, my hindbrain NEEDED to do, but I wasn’t getting the message. It probably took a month of this drive, two or three times a week, for me to figure out what it was. My right arm wanted to make the sign of the cross.
 
This is 1. hysterical because with all that lack of religious upbringing, I had no idea how to accurately make the sign of the cross, and 2. disturbing, because it was a compulsion with an intensity I had not yet experienced. I’ve had intensely intrusive thoughts my entire life (flashes of sudden injury, the desire to drive into oncoming traffic, having to back up from a rail because I wanted to jump – all the regulars!) but this was not that. And it wasn’t like the compulsive need to touch and smell things that I inherited from my mother. (Thanks, Mom!) It wasn’t going all the way back to my apartment or dorm door to make sure I locked it. Twice. I knew there were consequences if I left my front door unlocked. I didn’t have any identifiable fear or consequence of NOT crossing myself, I just realized that I had to do it and I had to do it real, real bad.
 
So I did.
 
It became a thing. I drove by this steeple, I crossed myself. Probably incorrectly, but it got the job done. I felt compelled first in my upper arm, then my elbow, then my fingers as I neared the cross. I’d cross myself and I’d feel the minor flood of elation at having satisfied the compulsion. I only crossed myself when I was traveling on the westbound side of the freeway because, I don’t know, these things just happen and the universe in which I live has all kinds of rules I just obey because that’s how it is. I also always did it with my fore and middle fingers extended, which had no reasoning either. It just felt right.
 
It was weird, but it wasn’t dangerous and it was only once a day, twice a week!
 
But then it started happening when I was eastbound as well.
 
And then it started happening any time I passed a large cross. Then any time I passed a church. Then any cross. Then cemeteries.
 
I was living in a Los Angeles suburb and commuting into the Inland Empire. I spent a lot of time in the car and I saw a lot of crosses and churches and cemeteries.
 
I knew it had become a problem when I had to come up with a way to cross myself SECRETLY.

I had started crossing myself so frequently (There are more than 40 churches just in the town of 40,000 where I lived.) that doing it with other people had become unavoidable.

I have been an outspoken atheist since I was thirteen years old, I couldn’t let my friends and family think I had suddenly become weirdly and confusingly Catholic. Also, I still – despite having access to the entire internet at my fingertips – had no idea if I was crossing myself correctly and being seen doing it incorrectly would have been HUMILIATING, obviously. I think I didn’t look it up because the compulsion didn’t want me to. My crossing was organic and it wanted to stay that way.
 
I had learned in like, the third grade, that crossing your fingers for luck came from persecuted Christians giving each other the what’s up, so I tried that. I didn’t like it. First of all, it’s not really an action, it’s an adjustment. Second of all, it didn’t satisfy my elbow or my shoulder. My fingers were okay-ish with the deal, but the rest of my right arm was Not Having It.
 
So I started drawing a cross on my thigh. It allowed for the motion of my entire arm, it seemed semi-holy, and it was pretty easy to do inconspicuously. And I did it A Lot.

The best way to end this story would be to tell you that someone busted me and I had an embarrassing breakdown about how I was an adult woman who couldn’t control my own weird, compulsive, faux-religiosity. Or maybe that the compulsion started to make me feel too out of control and so I forced myself to break it. But, sadly, this story just ends the way most idiot problems I have do: it just went away on its own.

#crashrocketship


soundtrack for this post

Today is six months since Crystal and I got hitched!

I am still honestly amazed by how much I L-O-V-E-D getting married. A group of forty people I really love who all showed up in the same place at the same time to stare at and listen to me talk? What a fucking dream!

I honestly don’t know how I got lucky enough to not only find a woman who has loved and adored me for more than eight years (and finally got her shit together and figured out she was actually in love with me eight years ago this month!) but also agreed to stand up and declare her love for me in front of a big group of people and then also promised to stay with me forever? When she hates public speaking and attention focused on her? What a champ, what a gift, what a wife.

And forty people who showed up to Las Vegas on a Friday the 13th for a 7pm wedding to cheer us on and throw confetti and get drunk and eat mad delicious burgers with us until midnight? I’m drowning in heroes over here.

The year of planning up to the wedding was mostly fun, but also torture. I learned a lot of stuff in that year, most of which can be summed up with: shit happens. And all those things that seemed huge and difficult at the time ended up either working out fine or not mattering at all in the end. EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY.

If you’re planning a wedding I have only one piece of advice: ELOPE. J/K. Mostly. Fuck it, nail it! It’s something I saw on a wedding blog (A Practical Wedding, probably) and immediately wrote on a post-it note I stuck to my computer where it still lives. It’s sort of become my life mantra, tbh. Need to make a decision? Say “fuck it” and nail it down.

And if you’ve found your person and you want to marry them? Do it!

PS: I uploaded a million more pictures and planned to make a way longer post with vendor info and all that jazz and I will (truly!) but we’re house-hunting right now and it makes me wish I lived in a cave with wifi, so you’ll have to forgive the continued delay! plz&ty you are the best