Field Notes In/On Transition.
Phoenix Rising (yet again)
Obviously, I have been forging a new life for a couple of years now. And for all my hewing and crying, and real depression, real malaise, it is a better life I am making. It’s been awhile since my last post on this blog. My daily life has been so packed with things, that my creative outlets have again fallen to the wayside a bit. So now for the billionth time or so, I am reaffirming my creative outlets and trying to get my mojo back.
If you recall my posts from the spring, I was pretty depressed about my dwindling hours at the video store, and my lack of ability to find some sort of reasonable replacement gig to pay the rent while I pretended to work on my novel, but most of my creativity at that time was going into my daily ‘painting ritual’ with my Ipad. I did something like 68 days in a row of taking out anywhere from 45 minutes, to a few hours to create my primitive little ‘paintings’ I think a lot of them are really awesome. I have even sold a few, and actually turned a profit on printing etc costs. Interestingly, that’s about the same amount of daily work (60 odd days everyday) that I put into the first draft of my novel, last fall. Hmm maybe there is something to getting past that 2 month burst of creative energy.
I feel like these outlets are actually crucial to my transition, just as crucial as back in the day, writing poetry, and doing open mics, making short movies, and so on was crucial to my life in and out of the closet with being trans*.
So why has my creative output stalled? Well, I ended up accepting a layoff at work, as They couldn’t really afford a full time manager, and I was/am so burnt out of doing retail. I am glad now, that early in my transition, I was on the front lines, in public everyday. It was hard to deal with all the early misgenderings, and the weird ideas people had/have about Trans* folk. But I think for me it was important to really be out there, and to learn to accept who I really am, as much as it was good for others to see someone go through a transition right in front of them, and be able to see how much happier and free I became as time went on.
Before I got laid off, I bought a plane ticket to visit Toronto (and the outlying area) to see my family in person for the first time since I started Transition. In April I took my first trip outside Vancouver since starting transition, a little trip to Victoria, where not one person misgendered or was weird to me, I was ma’am, Miss, or Mrs, the whole time. I used public Ladies rooms, on the ferry and at the terminal, and wasn’t freaked out on by anyone, or even taken note of, as far as I could tell, at all. It was nice to have those fears allayed, and it made it a bit easier to go through the whole airport thing.
My flight was almost completely turbulence free, though I arrived a bit late, and boy Toronto airport is confusing, I followed some folks out what I thought was the right way, but nope. I got a bit lost, eventually though I found my Mom, My sister in law, and my niece, all waiting for me, with a big handmade sign, with my name - Josie. it was covered in butterflies, and cute stickers and drawings. I definitely cried a little bit.
It took some time for my immediate family to get used to calling me Josie, and using correct pronouns, but they really tried hard, correcting themselves even when I said nothing about it. It means more than I can say to have heard my Mom call me Josie, in person. I am in (happy) tears right now as I write this. I had a really relaxing visit with my family, staying in the city a few days as well, and getting a chance to see some old friends (and maybe network them to do some work together) and catch them up, and for me to catch up on them.
All my cousins, who have been super supportive on facebook, were just as supportive and awesome in real life, and it really felt like I was accepted by all, even those who maybe were having a hard time with it, or didn’t understand what I had been doing. (not everyone is on FB as much as some of us are) The trip back east might have been something that I can’t afford, now that am on EI and have to watch every penny, but it was the most important thing I have done all year, in a year of big moves.
Speaking of moves, that is something, that I also had to do, given my layoff. This caused me as much stress as anything, maybe, ever. Definitely, it caused me as much grief as if someone had died. I lived in my little expensive one room basement suite for almost 7 years, which is as long as I have ever lived in any one house, or apartment. I decided, just after officially being laid off that I would have to lower my rent as well as curb other spending habits, once I was on EI, and even if I kept working, likely, as I have been over budget every month for a couple of years, due to transition expenses, and a carefree attitude about eating out and so on. I don’t do bars anymore, so dinner out, coffee out, are my big expenses, these days.
Intimidating as it is to be a nigh on 48 year old Trans* woman looking for work, and a place to live (trifecta of silent discrimination going on there) I forged ahead, and right away noticed that a fellow Trans* Woman, and someone who was one of the first folks I met, going to “group” when I first started transitioning, she was looking for a room mate for the main floor of a big old pre war house, near the skytrain.
So before I left for Ontario, I gave her two weeks for July, and upon my return I started moving my stuff into the new place, slowly, giving myself permission to get rid of a lot of ‘stuff’ I had collected over the years. I gave away over 3/4’s of the books and graphic novels I had collected over the years, as well as bags and bags of clothes gone back to the charity shoppes whence they came. I still have/had way too much stuff. But I could only part with so much. I hired some local movers to move the rest of it. I didn’t do a great job packing. I have always moved with friends, where it wasn’t an issue but these pros constantly whined that I didn’t have everything packed in flat boxes, and ended up charging me much more than I was quoted, as it took them so long to do. I had been recommended the company by several people, and they did a good job, but I felt a lot of disdain from them, so I won’t be passing on that recommendation.
Luckily I just barely had enough money (after going to the ATM) to pay them off, and start the whole unpacking, redecorating thing, which for me, is the only joy in moving: remaking your private space.
In fact the uprooting put me through more stress maybe than anything in my life. I twice, bawled my eyes out (for half an hour) in my empty former home, which was really the first place in my entire life, that I felt was “My Home.” I can’t even put into words how much grief I have at that particular loss. But you have to pick up and keep going, right? So, I am now in the midst of getting my room feeling comfortable, and finding space for all my stuff.
Doing this move has made me revisit the idea I had of perhaps going back to school and taking some interior decorating or something like that. Though school doesn’t really feel like my next move, it is an option. I looked into what EI will cover for training, industrial work, not ever what I will do, computer graphics (been there done that, nobody pays you) or aesthetics, aka lady work. They have a really snobby view of what people who want retraining want or should do. I don’t want to work on your stupid pipeline, it is not the future, it is a disaster waiting to happen. So maybe I will go back to school, but I am not someone who can handle bureaucracy very well, so I may not be able to handle that whole “trying to explain to bureaucrats why I don’t want to become a welder or cabinet maker” (nothing wrong with those jobs, but why is that all there is).
As far as job hunting goes, I am trying to be realistic. I never got the Library job, which still irks me, rigged tests and all. I responded badly to that scenario, and am now apathetic to the idea of working somewhere where they make you take a test that has nothing to do with the actual job, really. I tried to do some copywriting, but that was so not for me. Uggh. No more sales please, unless it is my own product (art).
More recently, I applied for a Projectionist gig at a local arthouse theatre. This is something I have done in the past, though my skills are of course now obsolete, as it’s almost all digital. I am hoping that the arthouse, which does sometimes show prints might take on someone with old school experience. Apparently the things I am skilled at are all obsolete: projection, poetry, video store management, on, and on. That’s my focus right now. I will not go into further debt for schooling, retraining. I can’t afford my debts now, making it worse, training for no guarantee of work. I tried that back in the 90’s with Trebas - Computer graphics, design, website stuff. I tried freelancing, no one wants to actually ever pay you, yet will drive you nuts looking over your shoulder, telling you how to do things, and changing deadlines at the last minute.
I don’t want a high stress environment, and have no clue why people think that is a way to get shit done. Yammering at me does not make me move faster, or work harder, it makes me lose whatever respect I had for you. I want to do something that is valued, and paid for at a reasonable rate of exchange, something I can leave behind when I go home and do my real work, which is writing, drawing, painting, filming, editing and so on. Creating art is all I really care about. I can fake or even have real enthusiasm though if a job and workplace are not stressful places to be. Aside from somehow finishing and publishing, and actually selling enough copies to feel successful.... (I have no idea how many that is, but it’s more than I have ever sold of my three poetry books) I really do not know what ‘job’ I will, or can do next.
One thing I have realized is that my usual reaction when people tell me that i need to concentrate my time on one area of my creative endeavours to be successful, is to almost immediately do something new. I have a lot of artistic interests, and at various times feel more empowered to work in one area, than in another. I am tired of feeling bad about that, like I am failing because I can write, paint, make films, perform. I am an artistic factotum, is what I am. I do a little bit of almost everything. What my goal is these days, is to coalesce all these talents and skills into a way to make some money, not a lot, but it would be the most satisfying thing in the world to me, to be able to even pay part of my bills with my artistic endeavours, or at least use those skills in some kind of ‘job capacity’ to pay the bills.
Oh the last thing I want to talk about is something of a confession, I have always wanted to be able to sing, but have been told that I am a terrible singer. I was told not to sing as a kid, pretty much every time I tried. But like any kid, I sang along with records as much as anyone. Out of key, always, never in harmony. I never went to a school that ever had a music program, never learned anything about music. I never have been able to learn or understand music theory, or how to play an instrument, despite having owned and banged on several nice guitars in my life. I still love to sing.
In the year or so though, as my voice naturally, through living being the woman I am, has started to ‘sound more feminine,’ more like a woman, especially with strangers, or on the phone. It was something that some family members noticed, when I was talking to clerks, out shopping with them, that I had a different voice with strangers. I have been practicing for ages, when calling late people at the video store. It’s not that much higher, it’s just more naturally in the rhythm and pitch of a woman’s voice, is all. And it is really hard for me to sustain, if it’s noticed, or if I am with people I have known a long time, I fall back to a more “Joe” vocal presentation, than a Josie one. I kind of balk at taking lessons (aside from the cost) as I am not good at keeping up “practice” as I noted earlier I can do something every day for a few months, then on to something else.
Anyhoo, last month I was at one of my best friend’s places (who sadly I no longer live kitty corner to) and she was playing her new ukelele and singing along in her very lovely voice. For months while listening to her sing, or when she unabashedly dances around her apartment, I have wanted to join in. So afraid, But I had had a drink or two, and started singing along in what I have been calling my Josie voice (my real voice struggling to come out), and while it was obviously not always in tune, (I really don’t know if I can tell a note from another) I did actually harmonize a little bit. She was very encouraging to my feeble warbling (xoxo Leanne) and I felt really empowered. Since then whenever I put on some singable music, I have been singing along, feeling so good, doing so, but still nervous someone will hear me and tell me to stop, which was every time when I was young.
So hard to get to the scary point. Last night on FB, a friend of mine posted a link to a local all levels of singing style choir, that specifically is looking for diversity in the group, and doing a membership drive. I applied. I am scared to death of being rejected or told that I can’t sing at all. But I don’t think that is going to happen. They practice weekly, and do some performances here and there; but it’s a group that sounds like it’s all about community, and that as well made me fantasize about joining all last evening, and it was the first thing I thought of when I woke up. So eventually I found the link again, and applied.
Life isn’t just about work, or transition, or where you live, sometimes it’s about finding some accidental harmony.