“I thought you weren’t coming.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You specifically said you had other plans.”
“No, I said I might have something else going on. I wasn’t sure.”
“Do you not want me to be here?*
“No, it’s just…”
“I get it. You didn’t want me to come.”
“No, no, you just said…”
“It’s fine. But I’m here now, so I’m going to stay for a while.”
“Unless that’s not ok.”
“It’s fine. You do what you want.”
“Can you believe her? I don’t get what the big deal is. I wasn’t sure I could come. Then I could come. So here I am. Why does she care?”
“Maybe there’s someone here she wants to meet.”
“And she thinks I would get in the way of that?”
“Fine, ok, I get it, I am a little…”
“Overbearing? Overprotective? Jealous?”
“I’m a good friend.”
“And a crappy girlfriend.”
“We aren’t together anymore.”
“I know. That’s the point.”
“I can’t believe she came.”
“You can’t control what she does.”
“But I didn’t want her to come.”
“Did you tell her that?”
“Well, then you can’t be mad at her for being here.”
“I know, it’s just...it sucks.”
“So you avoid each other all night. It won’t be that hard. She’s not hard to miss.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”
“You didn’t come together?”
“We aren’t together.”
“Shit. Since when?”
“A week ago? I don’t even really know.”
“Yeah. I mean, sure. Yes.”
“Hey, fuck off, man, I don’t know. It’s complicated.”
“It always is.”
“So, you looking to find someone new or what?”
“Isn’t that what parties are for?”
“I don’t think we’ve met before.”
“No, I don’t think we have.”
“So, uh, how do you know B---?”
“Oh, uh, this is B---’s house?”
“Oh, right. B---. Yeah, I don’t know him.”
“Do you have other friends here, or…”
“Oh, yeah, I know J---. We go way back.”
“You know J---? She’s over there.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I know her.”
“Oh yeah? It’s weird we haven’t met before.”
“Oh my god, did you see her talking to T---? I cannot believe her.”
“Chill. It’s a party. People talk.”
“Yeah, but to T---?”
“She is not going to take her away from me.”
“Dude, no one is taking anything. They’re not even talking anymore.”
“Besides, weren’t you here to meet new people?”
“Um, K--- told me about you and J---. That sucks. I’m sorry.”
“So, uh, can I do anything?”
“You can tell the universe to stop messing with me.”
“Hey man. That's just what the universe does.”
“I can’t believe you didn’t want me to come.”
“I never said that. You said you weren’t coming.”
“It doesn’t matter what I said. It matters that you don’t want me here.”
“Would it have made a difference? Would you have not come if I asked to?”
“I met T---. She said you two ‘go way back.’ What does that even mean?”
“Uh huh. Why didn’t she know who I was?”
“She didn’t know who I was.”
“So if you two were such good friends, why didn’t you ever introduce her to your girlfriend?”
“I can’t believe you.”
“What? Noooo. We were just about to play a game!”
“Sorry. I just can’t with J--- anymore.”
“She’s not even here. I saw her leave with S--- ten minutes ago.”
“I thought you left.”
“Are you following me now?”
“B--- said you left.”
“Her? No way.”
“Not your type?”
“You know she’s not.”
“We can’t keep doing this.”
“It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Does it make you happy?’
“It makes me crazy.”
“No, just crazy.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“So this is it, huh?”
“It would seem so.”
“Well, that sucks.”
“But probably for the best.”
“Do you want to dance?”
Miriam-Webster defines identity as “the distinguishing character or personality of an individual.” While I believe that a person’s essential character or personality remains the same throughout their life (unless they suffer a trauma), there are many aspects to one’s identity that can change, and often do, as they continue to learn about themselves and their relationship to the world and their communities.
I wanted to write about some of the intersections of my identity; about what has informed my personality, how things have changed, and how I describe myself.
I am white. This isn’t something I was always incredibly cognizant of, or thought about much. Before we moved to Southern Oregon, we grew up in a very diverse area. I had friends who were Black, Asian, Latino, Indian. I thought this was normal. It never occurred to me that my friends might be experiencing racism. I never saw it. But as I have grown older, I have educated myself, and have recognized the ways in which I have benefitted from white supremacy. While I may not consider myself racist, I still experience instances of unconscious bias. While my personal experience was one that allowed me to experience and witness more diversity and inclusion, there are many ways in which my life has been informed by a society that promotes white supremacy. This isn’t always obvious. It’s pervasive in the way stereotypes linger, or in the representation we see in movies and television. And while I am still learning how to combat the racism that exists and thrives today, I have a better understanding of how my race and ethnicity have given me an advantage over my childhood friends. Other sections of my identity may put me in a marginalized position, but because I am white, I will always experience the benefits of white supremacy while it remains a foundation of American society.
I am queer. This is a term not many people in older generations like to use. It used to be a derogatory term, and I can understand some people’s aversion to it. But I like it, and I like to use it to describe myself, because it is a word I can use to describe my identity more broadly. When I thought I was straight, it didn’t even occur to me that I might be anything other than straight. I enjoyed spending time with guys and it felt fine to date them in high school. For a brief time, I thought I was bisexual, before I finally came out as gay. I never liked the word “lesbian.” Then I spent many years self-identifying as gay, and because coming out can be an arduous process, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about my sexual identity outside of that. But after a few relationships that didn’t quite work out, I realized I wasn’t sure if I only wanted to date women. So now I think I’m back to identifying as bisexual. Pansexual would probably be more accurate, because I am generally attracted to people that land anywhere on the gender spectrum, but bisexual is sometimes a little easier for people to understand. But I went on a date with a guy recently, and as we were eating brunch, I had this very strange and uncomfortable feeling. I didn’t like the thought that people might look at us and assume we were straight. So while I am still interested in exploring my renewed interest in men, I will always be queer, and that’s how I like to describe myself and want to be known.
I am genderqueer. This is also a term not used often. Most people use non-binary or gender non-conforming, both of which are a little more self-explanatory. But when I was exploring both my sexual and gender identities, the term genderqueer is the first one I came across, and the first one that felt right to me. All of these terms just mean I don’t identify as either fully female or male. When I first came out as gay, my mom asked me if I thought I was supposed to be a boy instead of a girl. My answer was, and still is, it’s not that I think I should be a boy, it’s that sometimes I forget I’m a girl. And while this is a simplistic way of thinking about gender, it works for me. I don’t fit neatly into any gendered box. And it wasn’t until recently that I learned the difference between gender identity (where you might land on the gender spectrum) vs gender expression (how you present your gender to the world). I tend to present more masculine in the way I dress, but since I recently started to identify as bisexual, I have started to be more fluid with my gender expression. I even started growing out my hair (which, incidentally and strangely, at times makes me look more masculine). But I like being able to experiment and play around with my gender expression.
There are many other aspects of my identity that are constant and yet fluid. I identify as a writer, and a singer, and an introvert, and compassionate, and liberal. These are the things that help build and inform my personality and character. I enjoy that not one of these things fully define me, but all in combination. And that makes life interesting and full.
I love gaming. Whether it’s playing video games, tabletop and board games, or just old fashioned RPGs, I love the freedom, creativity, and imagination that gaming requires.
I have always believed that playing games is important to the human experience. Just as singing, telling stories, and dancing are ways for humans to express emotion, so is gaming. For some reason when we grow older we think that playing games is childish and a waste of time, but I would argue that gaming is integral to developing compassion and empathy, and the need for those skills doesn’t disappear the moment we grow out of grade school. We learn to share, but we don’t necessarily learn how to communicate. We play tag or run races, but later in life our competition becomes destructive and no longer playful. We are never too old to practice cooperation and exercise our imagination in ways that bring us closer to understanding the human experience.
Of course there are terrible people on the internet, people who take “playing” too far. They don’t communicate effectively when playing co-ops, and they want their competitive spaces to be exclusive. There is still a lot of work to be done making the online gaming space inclusive and safe, which is why I tend to stay out of it, but there is still something to be said for sharing a gaming experience with other people. People can share accomplishments and triumphs gaming together, and people have formed deep and lasting friendships all over the world with those they have met online.
I also like gaming because it gives me an opportunity to spend time acting in ways I don’t in real life. In real life I am cautious. I take time to make decisions by gathering and analyzing information, and then act only after I understand all the possible consequences.
When I play video games, I am the exact opposite. I rush in, knowing there are no real consequences. I try something, and if it doesn’t work, and my character dies, it doesn’t matter, I can try again. I learn by doing, and I appreciate having the opportunity to make multiple attempts to succeed, something that isn’t always an option in the real world. I particularly enjoy puzzle games and open-world RPGs. I like creative puzzle games that flex my brain muscles, and I like games that allow me to choose my own adventure. Sometimes open-world games can be a little overwhelming, but the stories can be very engaging. It also can help relieve a little stress when you successfully defeat enemies or just wander around cutting grass to find treasure.
When I play tabletop games, I particularly love cooperative games, like Pandemic or Forbidden Island (which I have never once won). My favorite is Mysterium. I love having to communicate with my teammates within the constraints of the game rules. I don’t particularly enjoy competition, and so I like playing against the game and working with friends to strategize to victory. I also love discovering new games, learning new rules, and finding creative solutions to the game’s problems.
When I play Dungeons & Dragons, I get to create a character that can be as alike or as different from me as I want. I can be creative with my gender, age, body type. And I can enjoy skills I don’t have the capacity to learn in real life. I can wield magic or a greatsword. I can speak multiple languages with little effort. And I love the game of chance when rolling the dice. I could come up with a brilliant idea but if I roll poorly it may not work out, and I have to come up with something else. And I love playing with other people, people who make choices that can be completely unpredictable. Sometimes we work together to find solutions to problems, and sometimes we completely mess something up because we all have our own agenda.
Gaming allows me to explore new worlds, exercise my creativity, and blow off some steam. As VR becomes a greater part of how we experience new things, we can make gaming more accessible to those who are limited by their physical or mental states. I recognize that sometimes game play is a luxury, but I wish it was recognized as an important part of development. I don’t believe we ever grow out of the need to connect, to share stories, and I love the possibilities gaming opens up for me and the world.
Sometimes I dream about the ocean. Sometimes I dream about the waves slipping over my feet, brushing the skin so that it almost tickles. Feeling the pull of the water at the back of my heels, leaning back so that my feet sink into the sand. Sometimes I dream about swimming just below the surface, looking down at the sand speckled with sunlight. Sometimes I dream about sharks, floating dreamily just beneath me, sliding through the water as calmly as a day without a breeze. Sometimes, oftentimes, I dream about humpback whales, mothers and young ones gazing up at me with tender dark eyes, my body vibrating with their song. Sometimes I dream about the ocean.
Sometimes I dream about the air. Sometimes I dream about the sky opening up and showing me the billions of stars just waiting beyond the atmosphere. The brilliant lights waiting above my head, shining brightly through the haze of the city skyline. Sometimes I dream about clouds drifting so slowly along the horizon it looks like they are standing still and I’m the one that’s moving. Sometimes I dream about rain, the gentle susurrus of precipitation on the roof of my car, droplets dribbling down the windows in unpredictable channels. Sometimes I dream about the sun, caressing my face with its warm and loving touch, reminding me that winter is not forever. Sometimes I dream about the air.
Sometimes I dream about the earth. Sometimes I dream about laying down on a sandy beach, one hand resting lightly on my chest, the other in yours. Sometimes I dream about the satisfying crunch of gravel as I walk along a lake, a bell tolling gaily in the distance. The smell of the soil comforting my senses as I step into the forest, tall trees lifting themselves out of the dirt as if they want to fly away, but gripping with their roots as though they might. Sometimes I dream about the desert, bare and dry and cracked like my skin in winter. And sometimes I dream about flowers, pushing their way out of the fertile ground to cloak the hills in rainbows. Sometimes I dream about the earth.
Sometimes I dream about fire. Sometimes I dream that the flames are friends, inviting me to come closer and share their warmth. They never warn you about their temper. Sometimes I dream about the fire in you, the passion that causes pain, the need to consume until all is ready to be reborn. Sometimes I dream about the skeleton that is left, the building barely held together with the sheer effort of intention, the need to represent what it was before. Sometimes I dream about another chance, the spark that promises mercy and forgiveness and hope. Sometimes I dream about fire.
Sometimes I dream about you. Sometimes I dream about the way your hair shone in any kind of light, but especially when you were feeling wary. Sometimes I dream about the way you reached out to me in anger and tore me down and left me to gasp and stutter. Sometimes I dream about your smile, your ability to make me feel safe no matter how askew my life had become. You always gave me a chance to speak while you listened, and in my dreams I never once lost my voice. Sometimes I dream that you are gone, playfully hidden in a crowd, your need to disappear stronger than your need to remain close. Sometimes I dream about you.