.journal 2005.11.11

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.org.5: This is gonna hurt like hell

Now listening to: Tori Amos, Scarlet’s Walk
Now reading: Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Now playing: Final Fantasy I and II: Dawn of Souls (Gameboy Advance)

Five years ago today I had just retired from the Internet Wrestling Community, setting up my Website here and bonding with three friends I only ever referred to on here by one-letter pseudonyms.

Three years ago today I made a first attempt to distance myself from those people (I really didn’t succeed until earlier this year to get over that situation), and came out as a bisexual/transsexual on this Website. I also had the first rehearsal of my bondage safety presentation that day.

11.11 seems to be a real big day for me, and not always because it’s the anniversary of the launching of this Website. Today was supposed to be one of those days too, as I’d been scheduled to be in Wisconsin to deliver my first conference paper, on the connections between French author Georges Bataille and Bj√∂rk’s music. I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to get to an Internet-enabled computer while I was up there so I could make even the smallest of “Happy Anniversary” notes today.

Unfortunately, an illness got the better of me last week, and as the planned departure day drew nearer, I just wasn’t getting well enough to feel like I could make it. I kept holding out hope that things that would get better and I might be able to go to the conference, even if just long enough to deliver my paper and then take back off for Toledo, but eventually I had to give up hope and accept that I wasn’t going to be able to deliver the paper. As it is, right now I’m having to deal with a massive sinus headache that has my head feeling like it might literally split in two any minute now.

You’d think I’d know better than to try going to a conference around this time of the year, because I always seem to get sick around now. I remember three years ago having my gum literally dissolve in my mouth at the Spectrum Halloween party, and it wasn’t too long after that I got sick. Last year I got a horrible sinus infection, and actually went to the doctor for the first time in several years (might as well take advantage of UT’s health insurance), then after the doctor’s visit I went and voted in that year’s election. Even after all the exercise and changes in my diet I’ve been making in recent years, there’s something about that first big drop in temperatures of the year that causes me to catch something. It’s not like these illnesses are without precedent.

However, over the years I’ve had a lot of illnesses I’ve believed were psychosomatic in nature, most recently this past summer when a visit by my brother-in-law’s parents triggered a prolonged bout of IBS. I’ve had to give some thought as to whether or not this most recent illness was just a way for my body to give me an “out” for having to go deliver that paper.

I mean, yes, the whole prospect of the trip certainly scared me a lot. Never mind the pressure of giving any kind of public speaking performance, never mind that I’ve never traveled outside of the Eastern time zone, never mind that I haven’t made any trips even resembling something like this since I was going to Antioch, never mind the opportunities that might have opened up to me. I would have made this trip alone.

First of all, I just want to reiterate the importance of conferences like this. Delivering a paper at a conference is basically the currency of the English job market; the more papers you deliver, the better of a chance you have of getting into a good Ph.D. programme when you’re a Masters student such as myself, and the better of a chance you have of earning a good tenure-track position when you finally finish your education. Well-written papers can even lead to articles in professional journals, or, for the best of the best, book deals. Even though books for English professionals almost never generate royalties for their authors (due to the small target market), the difference a single book can make in terms of pay demand on the job market can easily reach six figures over a lifetime.

Going to the conference would have given me more than just an opportunity to deliver my paper, though. The whole reason I’d planned on attending the whole conference in the first place was because I wanted to network with professors at other schools. Although I’m still about a year and a half away from finishing my degree here, if I do decide to go straight to a Ph.D. programme after getting my M.A., I really need to know what kind of options are available to me out there. Obviously, though, it’s hard to network, and perhaps even harmful to do so, when you’re coughing and sneezing all over everyone.

More than anything, though, I think that this trip was a reminder for me of just how much my life is about to change. I’m finally starting to teach here, and the longer I go on here, the more I feel like I was meant to teach. Even when I have my off-days in the classroom, I still love what I do dearly. I love the students I have now, and I can’t wait until I have even more students to assist in becoming better writers and, more importantly, better thinkers and better participants in their communities. Hey, I’m one of those hippie-dippie types, and teaching enables me to make a real difference in people’s lives, so it’s no real wonder why I’m so drawn to it. I think I’ve now finally fallen into something I can do for a living and feel comfortable doing it.

That being said, as I transition into my professional life here, that means having to “grow up” at least in some ways. The scariest part of the trip for me, at least when I thought about it, was having to be on my own up there in Milwaukee, away from my family. Yeah, I’d have my cell phone on me and I could call them at a moment’s notice, and it’s not like I haven’t spent time away from the folks when they’ve gone away on vacation. Still, though, there’s a huge difference between the folks going away from the house and me going away from the house, which was what I would have done there, spending my first nights sleeping outside of this house since the recovery from the fire.

I’ve made no great secret of the horrible depressive spells I’ve had these past six months or so since I was essentially forced out of Spectrum. Spectrum gave me the base of friends I needed to get through those past couple of years, and now I’m essentially left without close friends here in town. (I’m not really close enough right now, nor do I think I ever will be, with the local DDR/ITG players to consider them friends.) I do have a new inner circle of friends (especially Penny and Christina), but they live hours away from me and are so busy with their own lives that they can’t always take care of me whenever I get an emotional boo-boo.

If I’d gone on that trip, that would have meant time away from my family, who are my only real on-hand source of support these days. Honestly, five days or so away from the house wouldn’t have been that bad — in fact, it probably would have been good, given that for all I love my family they do drive me batty sometimes — but as I move closer to my professional life here, I keep thinking about how it won’t be long before I’m actually making enough money to live on my own, and that I really should start living on my own as soon as I’m financially ready to do so.

Yeah, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to land a job in Southwest Ohio and be close enough to my friends that I’ll have that support base there for me. What if I don’t, though? What if the only decent jobs I can find are so far away from Ohio that I can only come back here for the holidays, if even then? What if I do get a job near Christina and Milena and Penny, but I wind up doing something to piss them off (as I always seem to do with my friends) and I lose their support?

I think that’s the scariest thing for me right now, is the prospect of being so alone. Never mind my difficulties in finding a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a play partner, or even just a makeout buddy. Venting here on the .org these past five years has given me some way to release some of these fears of mine, but there’s a huge difference between writing stuff on here and talking to people about it. My family provides me with a few ears to jabber in, but their support of me is pretty much unconditional already. My friends in Cincinnati are wonderful to talk to, but I can’t keep whining at them to take time out of their busy lives to tend to my concerns when they’ve got so many of their own to deal with.

When it comes down to it, I’m just so lonely right now that, at times, I’ve felt that it’s impaired my ability to function as a normal person, or at least as close to a normal person as I ever get. Making the trip to Wisconsin by myself was just going to serve as a reminder of how much lonelier I’m likely to get in the next couple of years here. I’m tempted to say that my body got sick as a way of avoiding the trip, but even though I didn’t make the trip, that doesn’t change the fact that these changes in my life are going to happen soon. Missing the paper just meant a few more days spent here at the house, and all things being equal I’d much rather be well in Milwaukee right now than sick in suburban Toledo.

There will be future conferences to go to, with papers to be written and delivered and people to talk to. Missing the conference this weekend isn’t the end of the world. However, I am coming inexorably closer to the end of this stage of my life, and there’s so much uncertainty over what is to come that I can’t help but be scared. Maybe I’ll succeed, maybe I’ll fail. As much of a perfectionist as I tend to be, I think I can handle failure. But win or lose at the next big stage of my life, I dread the thought of doing it alone. I just can’t handle being alone.

Everyone take care and be well. I’ll see you around.

— Sean

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