Carnival of Aces: April 2018 “My Unexpected Future”

[This is my Carnival of Aces submission for April 2018 under the topic of “How did your (a)sexual and (a)romantic orientations impact your (expected or imagined) future?” Hosted this month by demiandproud. For more information about the Carnival of Aces, to view past topics, or to volunteer to be a future host see the master post on The Asexual Agenda blog.]

As soon as I finished paying off my first go at college I set three goals for myself for the following five years:
1) be financially stable, 2) get started on my career, and 3) be in a “meaningful” (meaning “romantic”) relationship.

As they saying goes, “If you want the gods to laugh, tell them your plans.

Five years later I’m “financially stable” in the sense that I’m flat broke, I’m going back to school to change careers, and surprise! I’m an aromantic asexual.

I’m flat broke. But that’s because I’m paying for classes out of pocket, so it’s okay?
I’m almost 30 and I still live at home. But I pay rent, so it’s okay?
I haven’t started “my career”. But I like my current job for now, so it’s okay?
I’ve never had a “meaningful relationship”. But being queer means I basically have life-time membership to an awesome club of people as weird as I am, sooo it’s…okay? I think I’m okay.

“All the birds have begun nests except me and you, what are we still waiting for?”

Well, if you know anything about birds, it might have taken a looong way to get there. Several bird species are known to migrate.

One thing about growing up in a small town that I thought was super weird was people who went to the same elementary school, same middle school, and eventually the same high school would hook up and marry young. Like, ew? There’s a major city with a population of 1.5 million just 35 minutes down the road. Seriously, ya’ll could have shopped around a little. My elementary school only had 300 students when I went there.

Both of my parents “migrated”, so to speak. They met in Denver. My mom had always dreamed of living in Denver, so she packed up herself, her few processions, her dog into a car and drove there from Indiana. My dad moved to Denver almost by accident as he and his cousin were passing through with the intention of looking for work in Montana, but he found a job in Denver instead that hired him on the spot. Its always seemed odd to me when people don’t have a “migration” aspect to their love story like “met while away at college” or “Met at comic-con” or something.

I attempted my own migration of sorts. I lived out of state for two years and traveled all up and down the West coast and the Pacific Northwest coast. Noth’n, natta. It wasn’t until a few months after I came back to Texas that I found out asexuality was a thing. You’d think it would have come up sooner in my travels at least.

I’m not really sure what I’m going to do. I can’t exactly date other people because whenever somebody asks I get super twitchy and uncomfortable. I don’t want aro-ace to be a deal breaker, but having to explain ace/aro/agender to people before I’m ready definitely is.

The last time somebody asked me out it turned into a mess and I was very uncomfortable. It pissed me off that he just assumed I was straight and I didn’t know him well enough to come out as ace because he didn’t give me enough time to build up any trust. I don’t understand the whole “dating to get to know them” concept. I would need somebody to know before hand that I’m asexual, aromantic, and agender before I would be comfortable enough to even try to be emotionally close to another person. That’s what I’m missing in my life right now; somebody willing to understand and accept all three. Not even my family can do that.

I’ve tried using ace apps and websites to meet more aces, but there somehow always seems to be a snag. “But, you’re biologically female right?” was a memorable one from Acebook. Ugh, *shivers*.

So, I wouldn’t say I’m “waiting” for anything, but rather I’m still in the “migration” phase of my life. I guess some people (like my former kinder classmates) are like blue grouses and their nesting spot is right next door while others, like me perhaps, are more like Arctic terns.

arctic terns in a migration flight

We gotta looooooong way to go yet.

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Carnival of Aces March 2018: Sleep Hygiene

[This is my Carnival of Aces Submission for March 2018 under the topic of “Physical Health and/or Our Bodies” hosted this month by luvtheheaven. For more information about the Carnival of Aces, to see past topics, or to volunteer to become a future host please see the master post on the Asexuality Agenda blog]

It’s no coincidence that I’m dead tired as I’m writing this. Currently my sleep hygiene is terrible and I should know better!!! It wasn’t always this bad. I never pulled all-nighters to finished projects or study for test. Instead I would go to bed and wake up just a little bit earlier to finish what I needed then. Since I abstained from all-nighters I would do better on tests than the majority of my peers, I would FEEL better than the crammers and I could retain and recall the information better. In fact, I barely studied at all in school crediting a good night’s sleep for the cause of my good grades.

Now that I’m finishing up school and working more hours to prepare for a new career I’m finding that my stress and current lifestyle isn’t very good for sleep.

First things first, for anyone who doesn’t know:

sleep hy·giene noun
  1. habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis.

I participated in a small sleep study a little while back. The study asked participants to change up to three habits to see if their sleep improved. All across the board, no matter what habits people picked up or changed, just being aware of their sleep hygiene and making small changes to their bed-time routine improved their sleep.

Here were the suggested habit changes:

  • Avoid caffeine after noon
  • Exercise for at least ten minutes each day
  • Avoid naps, especially naps longer than 15 minutes
  • Set a consistent bedtime
  • Avoid screen time (phone, computer, or TV) within 30 minutes of going to bed
  • Spend ten minutes engaged in meditation or mindfulness practices within two hours of going to bed

I’m going to be honest, I do none of those things. I did when I was participating in the study, but that was also before I decided to pick up a second major that I need to finish before the fall. I logically know that doing these things will help improve my mental and physical well being, but putting it into practice is hard. I could write six paragraphs of why I’m not doing these things, but I don’t think that would help anybody.

I use a program called f.lux for my computer to block blue light at night and that really helps me fall asleep faster after I use it. I recommend it if you’re tend to use the computer late at night. There are also equivalent apps for phones if you like to spend time on your phone at night and kindle fire has a similar program built in.

I also recommend investing in a comfy chair. I was looking at websites with sleep improvement tips nearly all of them recommend using your bed for sleep only (well, sleep and sex, but…) So, don’t read in bed…like I do…every night… these tips are hard. Another tip that I actually can vouch for is if you’re lying in bed and can’t sleep because your mind is racing; get up and sit in a chair. A really comfy reading/relaxing/thinking chair will give you a place other than your bed to do non-sleeping activities.

I was hoping to do more research for my post with facts and sources and all that good stuff, but I’m going to end it here. If this post at the very least gets you to start thinking about your sleep hygiene then that’s good enough for now.

In the meantime here are some TedTalks to fill in the gaps https://www.ted.com/playlists/223/talks_to_inspire_you_to_go_to

Pretty much all the experts say that a good night’s sleep is key to good mental, physical, and social health. Sweet dreams everyone!

 

Carnival of Aces February 2018: Mental Health First Aid

[This is my submission for the Carnival of Aces for February 2018 hosted this month by Sophia on the topic of “Mental Health“. You can find out more about the Carnival of Aces, read previous topics, or sign up to become a host by visiting the Carnival of Aces master post: https://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/a-carnival-of-aces-masterpost/ ]

I’ve actually been really lucky when it comes to my mental health. I was struggling to come up with a topic that was ace-related, so I’ll just talk about this really cool certification you can get.

Lots of people have taken a first aid class so you probably know what to do if someone has a broken arm or if someone is choking and you might even know CPR, but do you know what to do if someone is having a panic-attack? A PTSD flashback? What if someone you know is showing signs of depression or one of your friends has an eating disorder? Do you know what to do then?

I had to be certified in Mental Health First aid for one of my previous jobs and I felt it was a valuable experience. Just reading this post isn’t a substitute for the certification so if you’re interested please check out their website and find an instructor near you.

ALGEE.png

I’ll be going over the 5-step action plan. The course uses the acronym A.L.G.E.E. to help students remember the steps. Unlike with regular First Aid courses these steps don’t have to happen in order, the ALGEE acronym is used primarily as a memory tool

Step A: Assess for risk of suicide or harm.
This step is very important. If you think someone is going to hurt themself or someone else, drop everything and dial 911 (or your country’s emergency number). You only proceed to the next steps if you don’t think there is an immediate threat to life or safety and you can always come back to this step if you need to.

Step L: Listen nonjudgmentally.
This is the hardest step so I’m going to go into more depth. Whenever someone has a problem we have this knee-jerk reaction to a) want to help and b) give advice. There is a time and a place for that, but you might actually do the most good just being an attentive listener. Sometimes people just need to vent and they need someone to understand.

Say, for example, your friend just randomly says, “ugh, I feel fat.” Your first instinct is to be like “No! You’re not fat!” and “You’re prefect the way you are!” because they are your friend and they are wonderful, but by doing that you just completely discounted/dismissed their feelings and shut down any hope of a conversation.

A better response would be, “Why do you feel that way?” or “Why do you think that?” Asking open-ended questions continues the conversation and allows you to probe for warning signs. Maybe your friend ate two donuts for breakfast because traffic was hell and they were late to class. Maybe they have deep anxiety about their body image or an eating disorder. The only way you’ll know for sure is if you hold back on the advice for a minute and really actively listen.

I was watching a really good video on YouTube about Mental Health resources. It’s an hour long, but it covers some really good general information. One of the speakers was talking about “Remember to be human”. Ask probing questions like, “How are you doing?” “Are you getting enough sleep?” “Hey, do you need me to stop by with some breakfast tacos before your exam?” This is an easy way to check up on somebody’s mental health. Eating too much or too little, sleeping too much or too little, body aches, headaches, heart palpitations, and feeling out of breath are all physical signs that could point to a mental health problem that people could miss or dismiss if they aren’t actively listening.

Step G- Give reassurance and information.
This is different from giving advice. You’re assuring the person that you care about them, that you support them, and that you’re there if they need it. Don’t give advice, give information like:
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
The Trevor Project Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386
National Domestic Violence Hotline : 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/mental-health-resources/

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a really good website to check out for information and links to resources.

Sometimes it takes a long time before people are ready to seek out help. That’s okay. It’s not a race to get better. The important thing is to be there for them and be ready with information when they are ready to seek out professional help. Keep referring back to steps A and L.

Step E: Encourage appropriate professional help.
Step E: Encourage self-help and other support strategies.

Whenever someone thinks “mental health” they automatically think “shrink”. Psychologists and psychiatrists are few and far between, very specialized, and can be very expensive. What a lot of people don’t know is they can go to their primary doctor for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. There are even some specialized nurses who can write prescriptions for medication.

What ends up happening is people wait weeks or even months to see a specialist when they could have gotten the same service faster from a primary care or family doctor. Social workers are another community resource that have special Mental Health related certifications. These folks will probably be your first point of contact and if you or your loved one needs a specialist they can help you find a good and affordable fit.

You can be proactive and look for resources in your community that might easily be overlooked. https://www.nami.org/Find-Your-Local-NAMI

Maybe now you’ll want convince your work or school to host a Mental Health First Aid course, but for the moment take some time to become better prepared to support someone else or your own mental health by checking out and exploring the NAMI website. Write down or save some of those important numbers for someone who might need them and check out these resource pages:
https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/LGBTQ
https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/mental-health-resources/

I’ve been super lucky when it comes to my mental health, but it’s still a load off my mind to know that there are some places I can go to or numbers I can call if something ever comes up.

Carnival of Aces January 2018: Identity and Control

[Hi folks! This is my submission for the Carnival of Aces for January 2018 hosted this month by Ace Film Reviews with the topic of “Identity“]

Aromantic, Asexual, Agender, Wants Tea. “Describe yourself in five words” is probably my least favorite ice-breaker question. Five words isn’t enough to describe millions of years of genetic mutation and evolution. Five words doesn’t describe my culture, my beliefs, my experiences, or my habitual actions. Five words doesn’t tell you that my family has a history of depression, diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure. Five words isn’t enough to describe how little control we actually have when it comes to our “identity”.

The question of identity is really three questions:

The first is, “Who am I?” Are we the sum of our experiences or are we defined by our actions? How much of “me” includes physical traits, beliefs, personality, attributes, culture, ability, and virtues?

The second question is “What defines personhood?” Are we a person the moment of conception? First breath? First coherent thought? Are we still considered a “person” after physical death? What about after brain death or ailments like dementia? Is there a crime or action so terrible that it invalidates what it means to be a person?

The third question is about continuity. If a wooden ship is slowly replaced piece by piece overtime until none of the original parts remain, is it the same ship? Well, yes, because the “old” ship and the “new” ship share a continuity. We’re not the same person we were ten years ago, but our past self and current self share a continuity. That continuity is also part of the identity.

So, how much of our identity is actually under our control? Well if neurologist Robert Sapolsky is to be believed, and I highly recommend listening the podcast, we don’t actually have agency. Our actions, our identity, is determined by context, both biological and environmental, but if you’re looking for the one gene, the one hormone, the one region of the brain, the one childhood trauma that makes us who we are, you’re not going to find it. We are the result of an extremely complex symphony of causality.

Try to describe yourself in five words; How many pieces of that description was a result of your agency, the direct result of actions you took to produce that particular result?

For my five words, none at all. My first three words -aromantic, asexual, agender- are beyond my control. I’m aromantic because I don’t feel the pull that others do to form romantic attachments. I can’t order my body to feel romantic attraction and expect it to obey. The same is true for asexuality. I can’t force my body to feel attraction towards another person.

When it comes to gender I understand intellectually (now anyway) that many people self identify and feel that they have a gender. I don’t have that feeling and I can’t magically make it appear out of no where. There’s no corner pocket in my mind where my gender is hiding, waiting to pop out and surprise me. It actually took me a long time to even intellectually understand what gender is because I have no personal context for it.

As for wanting tea- Tea is the 2nd most consumed beverage after water. It has a rich history, is a key elements in many cultures, and it feeds my caffeine addiction as a healthier alternative to soda which is something I need to consider given my family’s history of health problems. So, there’s not really a whole lot of agency there either.

As I get older I realize that I’m less my own person and becoming more and more like my parents. I’ll do something or say something and realize in that moment I’ve become like my mom or dad. I could try to fight it, but it would be a losing battle. My race, my religious beliefs, and my cultural quirks all came from them. The American Dream preaches “pulling yourself up by your boot straps”, but a lot of financial success (or lack there of in my case) boils down to good, old fashioned luck. My all four of grandparents were working class, so it’s no surprise that I’m a member of the working class.

My identity is beyond my control, but I’m not worried about it. I can’t control how people perceive me, but worrying about it just makes it ten times worse. I can’t control my body, but I can keep up proper hygiene practices and eat healthy when I can. Since I’m pretty much doomed to be like my parents I can at least be self-aware; I can celebrate the traits I love and ask for help (possibly even professional help) on managing traits and habits that are less desirable. It’s pretty miraculous actually that with the infinite amount variables that “I” even exist. I think I can be happy with that.

Carnival of Aces December 2017: Alienation & Belonging

[This is my submission for the Carnival of Aces for December 2017 under the topic of “Alienation & Belonging” hosted this month by http://curttu.tumblr.com/]

In media: Is there types of stories you feel leave you out?

Pretty much all of them, but that’s also because I’m aro and agender too.

I really don’t want to bash on any films because a lot of time, effort, and money go into making a movie and you really never know until it all comes together if it’ll work out or not. I have never ever seen or watched a film or other media that directly addresses asexuality and asexuality issues/topics. I’ve heard of a few, but I haven’t actually seen them so those types of media aren’t actually accessible to me. In light of that I’m going to talk about some non-ace related media that I’m aware of and what works or doesn’t work for me.

One film franchise that has never really resonated with me was the Harry Potter series. Part of the problem is I didn’t grow up with the books like most fans did. I read a LOT of fantasy as a kid, but I wasn’t exposed to HP until middle school and by then I had discovered Anne McCaffery and I just got two words for you, SPACE DRAGONS. I will overlook sex, romance, and weird scifi tropes for space dragons because SPACE DRAGONS. Also, TALKING DOLPHINS and mini-space dragons. I want.

Anywho, aside from a major dragon deficitcy I also have a few other problems with the HP series.

  1. White male protagonist.
  2. White male “chosen one” protagonist.
  3. Male British private school student, chosen one protagonist. Yeah, I can’t really relate there.
  4. Fantasy racism. (this is my same beef with LoTR)
  5. Do they ever address the blatant child abuse by family members? Because I never actually got past the first chapter of the book nor the third film and that’s a pretty heavy topic you should probably address especially in a children’s book.
  6. The power of true wuv vs. doesn’t-know-wut-wuv-is-so-must-be-evil thing.
  7.  And as an aro-ace the whole the Lily, James, Snape and the “Always” love triangle just goes right over my head. Just all the love triangles.

In contrast I ADORE Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them because:

  1. White male ginger protagonist (It’s like space dragons, I have no excuse)
  2. Non-tradition masculine protagonist: Unlike the standard action hero, Newt’s super power is his nurturing nature. Forget the magic sword, just throw a cockroach in a tea pot!
  3. Still about the power of wuv, but a more palatable flavor. I totally can sympathize with a main character who just wants to save endangered animals and closeted minors.
  4. They address the blatant child abuse.
  5. “Because I like you. Because you’re my friend. And I’ll never forget how you helped me, Jacob.” *squeeee!*

So I have some really high hopes for the next film coming out in 2018 as long as there’s no executive meddling.

This totally could have been a post bashing every romantic comedy ever made, but honestly I don’t even watch romantic comedies so there’s really no point. I don’t relate to stories like Star Wars (I haven’t seen anything made after the prequals) with the chosen one thing, the rescuing the princess thing, and always killing off the mentor character thing. My favorite Star Trek series is TNG. I’ve seen the ones made after TNG, but none of the episodes from the later series stuck with me like TNG episodes did. I recall entire episodes of TNG, but just barely remember the overall premises of the later series. BBC’s Sherlock is fantastic for the first two seasons at least, but I don’t find myself relating to any of the characters least of all the title character (and I actually like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot better as a detective character). It’s just really hard for me to find a story where I don’t feel left out. Thankfully there is one.

My favorite movie of all time is Denial (2016).

f4317-denialheaderThe film is a courtroom drama about the libel suit brought against American historian Deborah Lipstadt by British writer David Irving after Lipstadt called him a Holocaust denier and an anti-Semite in one of her books. British law places the burden of proof on the defendant in libel cases. Lipstadt has to prove that she did not slander Irving by saying he created false evidence and misinterpreted existing evidence to deny the truth of the Holocaust.

Reasons I adore this film:

  1. Jewish female red-haired protagonist. (No space dragons, but redheads are cool too)
  2. Romance? What romance? Not even as a subplot, yay!
  3. I’m a sucker for courtroom dramas.

This film proves that you can have a compelling story without a romantic plot or subplot bringing it down. I just wish I had access to more stories like that.

Carnival of Aces November 2017: Questioning, Exploration, and Mislabeling

[This is my Carnival of Aces Submission for November under the topic of “Questioning, Exploration, and Mislabeling” hosted this month by Sock.]

How did you realize you were asexual? What made you realize you felt differently from others?

I didn’t realize I was asexual until I was 25 because I didn’t realize asexuality was a thing before that. I realized I felt differently because I was 25 and I had never dated ever. Before that I always thought the reason I had never dated was because I was busy with work, school, and family drama, but when I turned 25 (like literally three months after my birthday) I realized that if I had really wanted to date somebody, anybody, I would have found a way. The urge just never came.

Continue reading “Carnival of Aces November 2017: Questioning, Exploration, and Mislabeling”

Carnival of Aces August 2017: “Post-Fact” and “Alternative Science”

[This is my post of the Carnival of Aces for August 2017 hosted this month by Asexual Research. The topic this month is “Asexuality and Academia“]

I really shouldn’t have struggled with this topic as much as I have since I’m a) asexual and b) a student. For my post I’m going to write my reaction to This Article titled “In Post-Fact America, Alternative Scientists Put Belief Ahead Of Fact” by secondnexus.com.  I originally saw a link to the article on twitter.

My biggest issue with the article is this part-

“…this alternative science — that is, science based solely on opinion supported by no evidence or proof — is gaining influence and demanding equal access.”

“Science” that is not based on evidence or proof is NOT science and should not be called as such. The article is both criticizing and legitimizing pseudoscience by calling it “science” and its practitioners “scientists”. My concern is that media outlets are, intentionally or otherwise, legitimizing “alternative-facts” and a “post-fact reality” by how they talk about them.

My favorite movie of all time is Denial (2016), a courtroom drama based on the book History on Trial: My Day in Court With a Holocaust Denier by Deborah Lipstadt. It’s not really a “how-to” when it comes to dealing with post-fact individuals… actually, I’m going to do like they do in the film and call them what they are: liars. The film isn’t a “how-to” when it comes to dealing with liars and falsifiers, but it presents the problem in a “dragons can be beaten” kind of way which is something that I need on occasion.

Liars have it easy. The common man isn’t going to take the time to fact check, especially if there’s a grain of truth to what is being said. It takes tremendous time and effort to get to the bottom something. Researching is a learned skill and it’s not a skill I personally learned easily or willingly to be honest. I hated doing research for classwork because the emphasis was on the process, not the necessity. 

I realized research was a necessary skill when I had to sign my own medical consent form for the first time and the form said in plain text, “Medicine is not an exact science.” I looked at the receptionist and asked, “What do you mean ‘medicine is not an exact science’? Shouldn’t it be the oldest and the most exact science there is?” It’s no wonder that shortly afterward that I discovered asexuality by doing my own digging. I realized that I needed to seek out information relative to me. I had to start asking my own questions without relying on the answers being spoon fed. Research became necessary.

Unfortunately there is so little research about asexuality. 1% might not sound like a lot, but redheads (like me) make up about 2% of the world population and there are some very important, medically relevant quirks doctors need to consider when treating a red haired person. It really sucks when I’m in the middle of a dental treatment and the Novocaine is starting to wear off.

I’m worried that media outlets are fueling the “alternative-fact” mindset. I’m worried this will hinder asexual awareness efforts. I need asexuality to be taken seriously for my own health and sanity, but I have to wonder if the truth of asexuality is enough to compete against the much louder, more controversial, and perhaps more news worthy beliefs of liars and falsifiers. I also have to wonder, do they outnumber us?