On Fireworks and Freedom

Flag of USA with Rainbow Stars

I think I’ve been seeing fireworks on the Fourth of the July for as long as I’ve been alive–that’s 26 years. Like most children, they startled me when I was younger, but I’ve come to love the dancing lights and the thrashing thunder that follows every burst. As I watched the fireworks this year, behind a hotel in Cookeville, Tennessee, on my way home from my brother’s wedding in Texas, I began thinking of the daily freedoms I have because I’m a U.S. citizen: I can travel freely almost anywhere in the world, I can go to school and get a job doing anything I want, and for the past week and onward, I can marry anyone I please and have our marriage recognized throughout the entire country.

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A Moment of Gratitude

Aside

Today I’m grateful to be in love with a man who I support unconditionally and who supports me just the same. I’m thankful to live in a country that recognizes our relationship and allows us to obtain a visa so he can move here and we can live together. And I’m thankful for the small number of amazing people who have donated to help us cover these costs.

Will you take a moment to make a small contribution? Just click here.

A Return to Happiness

Polarity is an interesting animal. We think we know opposites–day and night, sun and moon, light and shadow–but then we’re faced with nuanced categories that defy perfect dualism–male and female, black and white, good and bad. Here there isn’t so much a binary system as much as a continuum, and it’s easy to get lost in the grey matter.

So lately I’ve been longing, lingering, languishing…and I’ve been fighting against it, feeling frothy and shameful, and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere. So I’ve been perusing TED Talks, because they’re awesome, and sometimes a little awesome makes you awesome, too.

And in a way, somewhere in this mess of chaos, a new story began.

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Wanted: Inspiration

National Novel Writing Month is one week away and I’m pulling my hair out, writhing on the floor, and scrambling between the rooms in my head to figure out what I’m going to write. I dream of telling stories that change the world–stories that impact a reader, share with readers an experience they won’t forget, and forge the kind of relationships I recall building between book bindings as I grew up and discovered who I wanted to be.

And I’d like to invite you along on this journey.

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Happy

Today I’m happy. And for as much as it fills me up and pours in puddles upon the ground wherever I step, I’m somewhat surprised by how unbridled and brimming I am. It’s like the sun rose inside me and now shines its brilliant rays through my pores–endless light everywhere I look.

Yesterday was a long day. I slept late, missed my tutoring session (even after running across campus in the April heat to try to make up for it), and when I got home, my bedroom light had died. Thankfully I’ve got a bedside lamp I was able to use, but it wasn’t nearly bright enough to keep me conscious and focused.

So when I went to bed, I didn’t have much happiness to hold onto.

Then: this morning, my alarm set for 10:30, I woke up at 7:30. I expected to feel terrible if I got out of bed, and knowing I had time, I rolled over and tried to sleep some more. It worked only partially, and within an hour or two I was out of bed–but despite fewer than six hour of sleep, I felt vibrantly awake–vivaciously alive.

I spent some time doing a few yoga asanas (since I exercised last night with a run and some push-ups every so often down the line) and then I did some graphic design stuff for the mere fun of it and organized a list of things I’ve got to get done today. I’m right where I need to stand to finish up the semester, except I’m a fair bit behind on my research paper–which is on a topic I love, so why I’m procrastinating, I just can’t say.

But when I left my room this morning, I just felt overflowing. I played some music and sang my way to lunch, then sang my way to class. I haven’t stopped smiling. Not one moment. Well, I might have frowned a bit when I saw the 75 I got on my last math test, but with my professor’s adjusted grading scale, it’s still a B, so I’ve still got something to smile about, don’t I? I just need to study more and do better on the final, that’s all.

Back to my room, I studied another Duolingo lesson–I’m about two behind where I’d like to be before I leave, but I can catch up in the airport if I have to–and then I got to other work: I even took a five minute break to call on Representative Ellmers to sign on as a cosponsor for ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that will grant federal workplace protection to the LGBT community, and trust me, it felt great.

The smallest things, you know?

Only a few days ago I was writhing in stress–piles of homework, unmanageable amounts of reading and research, the terrifying excitement of meeting my boyfriend–but today, all that anxiety is gone. I got to speak with a trusted counselor on Thursday, I got to visit with friends yesterday, and all the while I’ve got to talk with him–the love just bubbling up between the syllables of every word we share. I’ve given up counting the days until I see him–now I’m counting the hours, the hours so slowly yet swiftly disappearing into minutes.

Today I’m happy. I’m overflowing with joy and jubilation. And I’m thankful–because I’m not the only one responsible: all the people who teach me, who guide me, who love me and care for me–they’re why I’m happy.

And it’s an amazing feeling.

Sharing the Love of Learning

It’s no secret I love learning, but if you press me to share the most memorable moments that made learning come alive, each of them would share a common theme: a teacher who inspired me. My favorite Hebrew school teachers were understanding and compassionate, sharing stories of living in Israel and talking to us in Hebrew. My favorite math teachers humanized abstract concepts and spoke to us as equals, helping us not only to learn, but to love. My political science teachers have made dull topics exciting by impersonating polar bears flopping around on the ice or breaking the tension with a sarcastic comment that leads the class into laughter; writing teachers have given encouragement, honest feedback, and shown an intimate interest in helping me to grow.

It is no small task, the work and effort I’ve put into my education at every level–from my earliest memories of being homeschooled through today–but if not for the passion my teachers showed me, all of this would have meant nothing.

So wouldn’t it be amazing, if only for a few days, I could inspire others as much as my teachers have inspired me?

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Thirteen Things I Learned in 2013 (Part 1)

It’s hard to believe this year was, in fact, no longer than last year–it just felt that way. The journey I’ve taken from January 1, 2013, to today has been among the most adventurous I’ve ever had–blessed with confusion and clarity, strewn across two continents, and featuring my life-long highest and lowest points, it’s certainly been anything but expected.

And yet I’ve survived and stand here today a changed man. I’ve learned a lot along the way–a lot more than algebra and analysis, conservation and creative writing, policies and politics–things that fill me with more wisdom than Zelda with her Triforce piece (I’ve been playing again lately), and as my last act of 2013, I want to share these lessons with you.

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From Walmart with Love (Reprise)

About a year and a half ago, right after Amendment 1 passed, I wrote about walking through Walmart hand-in-hand with my boyfriend at the time and the woman who changed everything–who was, in that brief moment between aisles, the unending image of hope.

It’s ironic how life, the year turned by, returns us to where we began–wholly changed, mind you, but wholly the same.

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One Big Thing: A Lot of Little Things

The day begins and I’m half-asleep and the half that’s awake would really like to roll over again and just go back to sleep. In the afternoon my feet ache and my throat’s sore from saying the same thing over and over again to a hundred different people–I could do this with my eyes closed, I tell them, and it’s true–and my eyes drift toward my closed iPad, longing for its internal delights–or that it might morph into a pillow for a quick nap.

It’s a little hard to see why these are related.

But once the connection is made, it’s amazing.

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