i wasn’t really paying much attention a few months ago when the blogosphere was blabbing about the “it gets better” project. in case you didn’t know, it’s a project started by sex columnist dan savage where QUILTBAG (queer, intersex, lesbian, trans, bi, ally/asexual, gay. my friend alicia made this up, i cannot take credit, but isn’t that amazing?!?) adults write stories and make videos for QUILTBAG teens telling them that life doesn’t always suck as badly as it does in high school, basically a plea not to kill themselves.
a lot of peeps i know critiqued the project, mainly because life is hard and, you know, it’s always gonna be hard, and selling teens a sparkly gay future isn’t always the best idea, the most responsible idea.
i agree, sort of. i was thinking about it today, mostly because my job bears a stunning resemblance to high school (i get in trouble for thinking for myself, the stupidest/meanest people are the most popular [and the loudest!], i get summer vacation!, and people make fun of my outfits on a semi-regular basis [mostly clients on the elevator or in the hallway. no co-workers have made fun of me to my face, yet]) and i was wondering if anything has really changed in the 10.5 years since high school ended, in the 10 years since i left my parents’ house.
but then i thought, of course it has. and even though this past decade has been um, challenging, it’s still way better than being an angsty suicidal high schooler. even though i am still struggling, every day, to keep the fuckin’ faith in a hostile environment; to not hate myself even though i am surrounded by forces that say i should; to keep living and fighting even when it seems so pointless. even though these are the exact same struggles that i thought maybe would be over when i left high school and my family’s house. not that i thought everything would be perfect; i thought i’d have new problems, different problems. and i do, and i have; but the old ones keep on cycling back every few years.
but even though, even though, even though i’m still in this swamp, there are some ways that it’s easier. like, i now have indisputable evidence that there is life out there worth living, instead of just a vague notion, a silly hope. like, i have a home that is actually a sanctuary now, somewhere i feel safe and loved, somewhere that is not just an extra nightmare at the end of a long hard day. no violence, very little judgment, none of those awful things that just seemed so normal for so long. and i don’t ever want to take that for granted. and i don’t want to de-emphasize the effect that has had on me, on my well-being and general happiness levels, to finally have a safe space. it has changed my life so, so profoundly.
another good thing is that i now get paid $15/hour to be surrounded by negativity, and in high school i did that shit for free! never again, my friends.
of course, it took a long time to get to a space marked “okay,” many years of psychotic housemates, low-wage soul-deadening jobs, crappy relationships, teetering piles of self-doubt. and even those years, i think, were better than those achingly empty afternoons on long island.
and even those years, those long long years, i still had fun & they still taught me something, i still had a weird hope, no matter how many cigarettes i smoked. no matter how many times i listened to “out of range”by ani difranco (the song, not the album) on repeat. no matter how many times that weird thing she did with her voice on the chorus pierced straight through my ribcage, when i knew she knew, this stranger singing my life. i knew she’d been there too. and maybe i would get stuck too, or maybe i could make it out; maybe i could make it to the other side.