Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Someone I’ve been going on dates with has really changed my perspective on darkness. Her name is Beanie and she’s a very socially awkward person who love the outdoors and is super cool, really easy to talk to and makes me feel super safe. We talked about making art prior to our first date and she very much appreciated my artistic style of repetitively writing words hundreds of times. On our date she told me that since we talked she had made a piece that expressed her understanding of what was at the root of everything for her, rejection. Instead of choosing to make art to a dark theme such as rejection she decided to make something about the opposite, embrace. This is the opposite of what I do, my art is filled with darkness, dark themes and horrible energy.

I brought this up on our second outing and I talked about how enthralled by darkness I feel like I am. She said she understood and that she often used to think about more dark thoughts but worked to retrain her brain to use more positive thoughts processes. This was the first time I really acknowledged how infatuated with darkness I am. It’s all around me. As I write this I’m sitting in my room surrounded by dark art I’ve made, art about suicide, cutting and self-hatred, and as I write this I’m listening to Hurt by Nine Inch Nails. I’m crying so hard from the pain I’m putting myself through, through the darkness I’m peering into I can’t even read why I’m typing, I hurt, I am staring into the abyss and it is staring back.

I have been seeing this meme a lot and had to use it when I saw this version of it.

I have been seeing this meme a lot and had to use it.

Why is this happening right now? Why am I doing this to myself. I’m happy I had a good day today, I feel good about today. I spent the whole day working on the garden I even got to hang out with Jamie all day. I feel like it was a rewarding, fulfilling day, but it didn’t take much for that to change. I watched a darker episode of Rick and Morty, the last episode of Season 2. It finishes with a sad scene and the song Hurt by NIN. Now I can’t stop listening to it. Now tears are covering my face.

Why do I do this to myself? Why is it that every once and a while I need to cry like this? Why do I need to torture myself like this? I stare into the darkness and tell myself I deserve this, I need this. I look at my suicidal thoughts, at my self-harm thoughts, or just think about being molested and how it leaves me feeling unsafe and out of control and I just wallow in this hurt. For some reason I need that “old familiar sting,” for some reason I think I need to balance the joy with pain.

As I look at how I feel, how I treat myself I suddenly feel myself calming down and slowing my tears. It doesn’t last though, in the next breathe I think of cutting myself, I think of administering raw pain just to keep my sorrow going. I don’t deserve this period of pain, but part of me disagrees, part of me thinks I’ve been too happy this week, part of me has to bring me down. Why? Why is it that when Beanie talked about not wanting to follow negative thoughts did I found that idea ridiculous? I told myself that is where good art comes from, that is what gives you perspective, that is where so many realizations happen, I’m a nihilist, that’s where I live in darkness and sorrow, but why?

I know why. I know a bunch of reasons why, I wish I didn’t. I do it because I need to torture myself, because sometimes I don’t deserve to feel good. I know this is true, because it hurts unbelievably to write this, to say this out loud. I love darkness because self-imposed darkness is safe. It guards me from all the other darkness that has been committed on me. My darkness is more powerful then theirs and therefore I don’t think about the way they hurt me, I think about the way I hurt me. I torture myself to have power, to have ownership over myself. I torture myself because I’m afraid of others hurting me.

This explains so many habits, why when I fall down I go deep, very deep into a black hole of darkness. I have these shrines, these trophies around my room to this darkness, to this powerful, this unbelievably powerful entity, darkness and self-hatred. Because no one can hate you more than you hate yourself. Or as Chuck Palahniuk puts it in Invisible Monsters, “When we don’t know who to hate, we hate ourselves.”

Poem: Today You Humbled Yourself

25 months ago you were pushed by Cha to dress up for Halloween as how you wanted, how you saw yourself – as a fairy
21 months ago you mostly acknowledged you were trans
20 months ago you started taking supplements to grow breasts, you were terrified they’d work
20 months ago you wore a gaff for the first time
18 months ago you made plans to quit your job and actually start living
17 months ago you came out to some coworkers as trans
Today you harassed yourself because you don’t see yourself completely as a woman

16 months ago you started tucking everyday and haven’t stopped since
15 months ago you quit your job
15 months ago you realized suicide was not a good idea
15 months ago you came out to your parents as trans
15 months ago you stopped wearing mens clothes
14 months ago you started going by your real name and pronouns, but only because your friends started using them without your permission.
Today you harassed yourself because you couldn’t stop feeling so anxious

14 months ago you started getting your beard hairs removed one by one
13 months ago you finally got your first bangs
13 months ago you broke out of crippling depression
12 months ago you were finally able to look for and start seeing a counselor
Today you harassed yourself because you “wasted today” by not getting done as much as you had hoped

12 months ago you started wearing bras full time.
12 months ago you started meditating
11 months ago you had a conversation with your family about starting hormones, it went alright…
11 months ago you had the courage to make an appointment to find out about starting chemical hormones
10 months ago you started taking hormones
10 months ago you started the legal name change process
9 months ago you struggled to find a job or even get out of bed in the morning
Today you harassed yourself because it took you an hour to get out of bed this morning

9 months ago you wore a dress in public for the first time
8 months ago you started working again
7 months ago you had the courage to knock doors alone
6 months ago you realized you had been molested as a child
6 months ago you successfully changed your name
4 months ago you started changing your IDs to match your new identity
Today you harassed yourself because you couldn’t focus or get anything done

3 months ago you accepted yourself for being a nihilist
3 months ago you told your parents you were molested as a kid
2 months ago you stopped having dissociative episodes where you couldn’t control your body
2 months ago you seriously wanted to cut your wrists because you felt too ungrounded
2 months ago you told your friends you were depressed
1 month ago you finally felt almost completely okay wearing a dress
1 week ago you admitted that you still suffer from depression and that you always will
2 days ago you had a serious struggle with depression

Today you stopped being so hard on yourself
Today you realized how far and how quickly you have come
Today you humbled yourself

I Lost it and My Roommate Made Me Stay There

[NO BACK STORY]

Saturday afternoon:

I’m feeling really worked up and don’t know it. I go on a bike ride and end up suddenly feeling, feeling sane. My thoughts had been racing all day but I hadn’t minded it, now my mind is clear. I sit down on a bench and start reading In the Dust of This Planet. Sleepiness rolls over me and I finish the next page before laying down my head. I close my eyes, shortly afterward the world begins to shake. I let it. I feel my thoughts, my feelings and just let what happens happen. Twenty minutes later I wake up and bike home listening to Sylvan Esso. Nothing seems real.

A copy of a copy of a copy. The world is far away, just like the narrator describes in Fight Club.

I bike home.

Along the way I dash in and out of traffic, I’m mostly safe, but safe like you are when playing frogger – you obviously don’t want to die, but it’s not real. It’s only half real to me, I’m only half there.

To bring myself down I scream Could I Be by Sylvan Esso.

It only furthers the rift. The world isn’t real, but I know it is.

Two blocks from home a women is walking her dog, the dog is peeing. I look at her. She looks at me. She smiles. She’s real, I’m in the real world. I continue biking and she disappears. That moment is gone forever, just like how reality feels right now.

I make it home. I see my roommates and I make it clear to them that I’m crazy. I refuse eye contact, now they aren’t real either.

In my room I finish listening to Sylvan Esso’s album while lying in my bed trying to take a nap. Instead thoughts start badgering me, memories start coming at me, Diane starts trying to molest me. “Get the fuck away from me!” I yell, “Leave me the fuck alone.” The thoughts are trying to get me to do things I know I don’t want to do. They are trying to take things I like and exploit them to make me do harmful things like cut a upside down cross into arm. “Get the fuck away!” I yell.

My thoughts are racing again and my perfectly organized room starts to get to me. I throw off the covers and run over to my dresser. Pulling out two drawers I throw them on the ground kicking around the clothes that fall onto the floor. “Almost enough,” I think. Then I go over to the bookshelf and toss all the fiction and spiritual books on the floor. Success.

I begin listen to The Weakerthan’s song Watermark on repeat. Now I know what I have to do.

I run down stairs and slam onto the floor as I slip on the wooden floor. Laughing hysterically I get up and run to the basement. I find the lavender paint, some painting equipment and sheepishly bring it upstairs, hiding it so my roomies don’t see it. I again refuse eye contact, I’m in another world and cannot be brought back, not right now.

I scamper upstairs once I find everything and begin my project. Two song lyrics are inspiring me.
“We sit and watch the wall you painted purple.” – Weakerthans
“Paint the black whole blacker.” – St. Vincent

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“It’s just lavender, it needs to be darker!” I think. So I run downstairs slipping again on the floor and falling down. I get back up and grab brown a black paint and return to my project. Blending the lavender and brown I get a nice dark color in the center. Building the circle bigger and bigger I switch the song on repeat to The Strangers by St. Vincent. I’ve waited 3 years for this moment. I grab the black paint a tub to stand on and begin painting the title of this piece: “Paint the Black Hole Blacker.”

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The black paint isn’t as black as I’d like, it’s to thin. I keep putting more and more on and realizing the paint is running. “Yes!” I scream as I see the amazing look the running paint gives to this piece. I keep painting more and more, bigger and bigger. I add more brown, I begin splattering brown, black, lavender all over it. Just what I’ve always wanted, It’s done.

DSC_0295

I show it to my roommates and they are not sure what to think. They are fearful, excited, happy and concerned. The new one, Da Hottie, sides with crazied happiness, the feeling I’m expressing. Jamie sticks with concern longer, but eventually gets happier. They both take pictures of it and Jamie begins sharing it. My friend Von begins expressing concern, simply texting “shit” as a response to seeing the picture that Jamie sent them.

After a little while of laying in my room alone basking in the glory of this piece and the feeling of being crazed Jamie comes in. They sit partial on me and ask, “Why is Von worried about you?” I pause and realize I’ve finally been caught, and am relieved. As we start talking Jesse helps me realize I am not losing it, I am not caught, I am free, I have gained something from this whole experience. I have been trying to paint this on my wall for years. I always resisted it. Now I’m becoming more impulsive and more real, more aligned with the true me.

I haven’t lost anything I gained this painting on the wall. I sit with that a while, Jamie leaves and I keep sitting with it. I lay down and try to take a nap, listening to music and relaxing I realize that I need to leave, I need to run. I pack up my stuff and get ready for some sort of outing. I go to leave and Jamie stops me. They ask me where I’m going, why I’m going and when I’m coming back. I can’t answer any question but I still want to leave. I say I’m anxious, and hungry and just need to get out of the house. They ask how they’ll know if I’m safe. I say I just will be, and that they can call me and I can call them.

After a protracted fight about whether I should run or not Jamie reluctantly gets me to stay. I stay with my pain and crazy and tell them what has been going on in my head. I stay with my feelings and am forced to acknowledge what is going on, forced to treat my body with respect, forced to be present. They force me to face my pattern of running and to be with myself.

I eat some food and I find a quote of where I am:

Only now are you going your way to greatness. Peaks and abyss, they are now joined together for all things are baptized in a well of eternity, and lie beyond good and evil.
-Nietzche

Why Nihilism

I have been experiencing and writing a lot about nihilism recently. I’ve struggled with it for the last 3 years, yet I could never pinpoint why I was so attached to it. It makes me feel happy, sad, frustrated, hopeless and angry, and I have yet to be able to escape it or let it go. Nihilism to me is that fly that refuses to leave your house, as soon as you think it’s gone you suddenly hear it buzzing over your head. That is until recently.

I was listening to a radiolab podcast about nihilism, In the Dust of the Planet, that validated and explained my experience with nihilism perfectly. In a world where people are inundated with news about global climate change, beheadings, never ending wars and disease outbreaks the world is a bleak place. The response to that bleakness is callous indifference because that is bad-ass, that is strong, that is nihilism. From now, to the cold war, to post WWI and beyond. Nihilism has been attractive because it frees the individual from worry and responsibility for the horror and chaos around them, instead they simply don’t care.

Radiolab delves into the subject of nihilism both historically and in current pop culture revealing our current infatuation with nihilism. Our current obsession with nihilism is seen and shown to exist by how an obscure nihilist book called, In the Dust of the Planet, is suddenly found plastered on the back of Jay Z’s jackets in one of his <a href="http://m, In the Dust of the Planet.”>videos.

JayZShot

This Radiolab podcast is done in partnership with On The Media’s Brooke Gladstone. She take a different angle for the story, but one that is quite interesting to listen to. Hers is called Starring into the Abyss and I would recommend it as well. A quote from her story sums up why nihilism haunts us now:

…we have just grown vaguely uncomfortable in this world that seems so chaotic, but in our lives barely touches us. Essentially, we’re taking in the world through the media. So it may feel more deadening, but it’s less intense.
-Brooke Gladstone

And she is spot on. I have lived one comfortable life and have been rarely touched by this chaos, but I have stared at it. I stared into this abyss and it stared back. And I proceeded to look all over my world to find this abyss, to see darkness and nihilism everywhere I could. A personal joy of mine was based around sarcastic, nihilistic joy of finding things similar to buddhist koans, things that can’t be understood by the logical mind (i.e. what is the sound of one hand clapping). These things shouldn’t exist together, but they do, they are real life oxymorons.

Ketchup Text Reads: #Nihilistarbys

The experience of an anti-corporate vegetarian (me) going to one of the most disgusting fast food joints I can think of
Ketchup Text Reads: #Nihilistarbys

That day when I realized I was too committed to vegetarianism so I ate a turkey hoagie for lunch. And my first big mac for dinner, while watching a vegan propaganda movie.

That day when I realized I was too committed to vegetarianism so I ate a turkey hoagie for lunch. And my first big mac for dinner, while watching a vegan propaganda movie.

Seen in Philadelphia by and old roomie.


And my favorite sign from 2013, a sign I loved as a nihilist and still love today

In this world you cannot escape these things, and I knew that. So I and many other nihilist stare at them. We stare into the abyss and it stares back. And staring at something so empty so negative and lacking is freeing at first, but it is also deadening. You are free but you almost give up your spirit in the process.

Existential nihilism is the idea life doesn’t have any intrinsic meaning or value, but I pushed beyond that. I stared into things that disgusted me to make them go away, and as my disgust left part of my spirit did too. I didn’t realize how hurtful this was until recently. I was mindfully eating food with a friend and roomie and I started to feel my burden leave, my guard fell down, I was letting go. What rushed over me was tears. Tears from all the times that I tortured myself, the times I knowingly put myself through dark times almost as punishment. I was punishing myself for not experiencing the horror. I put myself through mental anguish to make up for the physical anguish others had to experience. Instead of solving anything I simply hurt myself. I became a martyr, a martyr for the world.

This world is abominable, there are not words enough to describe how disgustingly people treat one another, but this is not my burden. I am not responsible for other people. I am responsible for me and I need to actually carry that burden. This world is enough to fight if you are fighting just for yourself. You can fight it’s morality, aspirituality, capitalist economy, but the goal should be to serve you and to better yourself. The goal should be to do what I wrote in my last post, “come alive.”

I feel my grip on nihilism fading. A few weeks ago would consider myself a nihilist but by today I would disagree. I have stopped identifying and just started being. I have started feeling and experiencing what there is. I feel much better, my burden of society is gone and my burden of me is here and I’m tackling it a day at a time.

Next Chapter

For 26 years I have tried to answer the question, Is there morality? Why do people hurt one another? What is the purpose of life? And dozens of other spiritual, moral and philosophical questions that tried to help me understand why and how things functioned in this world. Until recently, when I found out I had been asking all the wrong questions.

I had been trying to make logical sense of our world and our society. My best conclusion was that our society was nihilistic. I eventually took this on for myself having been an atheist anthropology major trying to find themselves it only seemed logical to become a nihilist. But since meditating I have let go of nihilism and found it returned to me as I see all of the existential nihilism teachings that are found in Buddhism. And suddenly I realized I had simply been asking all the wrong questions.

I was trying to understand the world and spirituality not within myself but a much more difficult medium to comprehend, the external world. I was trying to logically understand everything. There are too many variables for me to understand myself to fully explain this system so you can only attempt to imagine the number of variables and structures preventing my understanding of the outside world. Explaining this outside world was my attempt at defining my own inner world. I was trying to make logically sense of the illogical and I got caught up every time.

Our society is nihilistic, it is the antithesis of a meaningful, spiritual world. So the goal shouldn’t be to comprehend it this is irrelevant to the real goal. The real goal is to act in complete ignorance of society. To act in ignorance as we establish ourselves as spiritual beings in an aspiritual(or anti-spiritual) space.

Or in essence to live spiritually the way Camus says to live life

Or in essence to live spiritually the way Camus says to live your life

This answers so many questions I’ve had before but believed I had already answered. Like the simple and huge question, “How can I work to change the world for the better?” My new simple and difficult to accept answer: change myself. While I will never discount the activism I did I am realizing the importance of doing the personal work. The importance of another quote I am quite fond of:

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
-Howard Thurman

While I have the feeling of having answered the questions I was truly seeking to answer I am left looking at my journey as a frantic search to answer the wrong question. Essentially my higher self sent me on a quest to find out the answer to this problem. I had come back to my higher self numerous time saying, I know the answer! And my higher self said, “great you’ve figured it all out then?” And I kept working to make sure I did figure it all out. Until the most recent time when I realized the quest I was on was to find out I needn’t go on a quest. I needn’t run all over the place to find the answer. Instead I needed to sit and to meditate, I needed to realize the answer within myself.

I am reminded of a story from a book I’ve been reading, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. In the story a guru sends a student to do numerous ridiculous tasks thinking this will get him to enlightenment the student dutifully completes the tasks without question. The ridiculous of this is seen when he is asked to bring back the scalps of 20 individuals to prove that he has killed this people. As usual he does what he is told. Not thinking about it or feeling about it, just doing it. He’s not present he is thinking of his future enlightenment.

But enlightenment isn’t a quest or a challenge it’s something much more complex. It not something you can really measure or truly see, it’s not something external. Instead it’s internal it’s understanding yourself, truly understanding yourself, the same thing I was trying to do to the external world – understand it. And not in a logical way that you can grasp, to truly grasp yourself. To feel your anger in your arms and chest, your love in how open and warm you feel.

The most difficult part of this challenge is being spiritual being within this aspiritual world. This is an important part of many spiritual practices now a days, especially in Shambhala Buddhism. No more going off into the woods or far away mountain to practice. Instead people are starting to stay put. This quest is, as my therapist’s spiritual teacher put it, “harder than meditating in frozen snow for 4 days.” This is a hard quest but the one that needs to be taken. To live in an aspiritual world but remain spiritual. To keep yourself present, true, happy and healthy spiritually despite the draining aspirituality surround you.

Shambhala Meditation, Nihilism. Two apples on the same tree

In searching to find meaning, purpose and the answer to the question why I have quested all over the place, nihilism to transcendentalism to bible studies to meditation. The goal was to find out an explanation for the world, this led me to the answer of nihilism and later a realization of this being the wrong question. Now I’m in between nihilism and meditation. It’s a nice place for me right now, one that acknowledges most of my understanding and lets me let go.

At first Shamabhala meditation felt like it was not compatible with nihilism, which led me to not truly embrace it, still holding onto my nihilism at a distance. Shambhala meditation is about being present in the moment and obviously meditating by focusing on your breathe and with your eyes open. I go to a center every Monday and have started reading Shambhala books, including a Start Where You Are, by Pema Chodron (started before I knew what Shambhala was) and Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa (one of the founders of Shambhala). I more or less embraced it while holding my disbelief at a distance, neither choosing to believe it or disbelieve in what I was doing.

After participating in the Monday meditations for a a couple months there was the most engaging discussion post-meditation ever. The director of the center was there and one of the participants asked him about feelings of darkness, emptiness and fear when he was meditating, he decided to let it overcome him and envelop him. The director started talking about emptiness, how the only moment that exists is now and nothingness in my head I laughed and thought to myself jokingly, “he’s talking about nihilism!” Then suddenly the director clarified, “This emptiness and nothingness we are talking about isn’t the western philosophy of nihilism.”

“Woah!” was all I could think. The similarity was so great that he clarified the difference. I mentioned this to my therapist and she reiterated the similarity by saying, “They aren’t apples and oranges, they are apples and apples, like Granny Smith and Pink Lady.” Suddenly I began realizing the similarities and how they seem to be tackling the same problem in similar ways.

To me nihilism is a way of stripping yourself clean, you destroy everything you believed by not believing it anymore and often defying it. It’s an aggressive destruction of what you believed to get to you.

Shambhala’s understanding of enlightenment is to remove all of the junk you have put on top of yourself, because you are an enlightened being.

The similarities of how to reach “enlightenment” are so close. They both focus on freeing oneself, living in the moment and embrace a belief that nothing is sacred. But the big difference is what and how you get there. Nihilism in my experiences is a bomb that destroys all of the conditioning that is forced upon us. Once it explodes there is nothing but a crater, and more bombing runs. It destroys to no end, and leave you empty of anything, not giving you an understanding to stand upon once the towers are gone. Meanwhile Shambhala has practices that you practice over and over again that slowly bring you into a practice that is a lifestyle.

I want to break for a second to emphasize that this is only my experience with nihilism, I had no teachers of nihilism and read sparingly nihilist literature. But my experience with it was amazing, devastating and unforgettable.

After thinking over nihilism again and again I realized the core problem, ego. My experience of nihilism never addressed ego. Instead it was reinforced by believing that nothing can be known or communicated which simply reinforces the idea of the ego. Meanwhile Shambhala’s goal is to loose the ego, it is a frequent subject of books and conversations and one of the main goals. While nihilist seem to be cast onto a unreachable island, people who follow Shambhala are questing to be truly present.

The other scary thing to me about nihilism is that it creates an extremely powerful and dangerous thought pattern that reinforces itself. Once nihilism is in someone no other religious or spiritual thought can be held and not much else that is found outside of the individual. Instead nihilism unleashes a destructive force on the individual where they attempt to destroy ever piece of knowledge and belief they hold.

This experience is quite cathartic. It dispels many harmful beliefs and many limiting beliefs. This is very helpful but in it’s place it puts nothing but a void and doesn’t suggest anything fill this void. This leaves ego to fill the void. While I wouldn’t say nihilism is inherently bad (ha ha inherently) it creates voids that is filled with ego and only leaves the person more detached from their surroundings.

In writing this and in my current experience I am stuck, I love nihilism and I hate it. I cannot leave it and I cannot stay there. I still identify with it and think it has helped me, I also know that it has hurt me. I’m not sure to tell people to stay away or embrace nihilism. I think I’m going to leave you with the feeling I have about nihilism instead of the thoughts. I feel bound to nihilism and a great appreciation for it. I know my experience with it but it is tied up with so many other things going on that it is hard to pin it all on nihilism. Instead nihilism still inspires and moves me forward today, and I am truly glad to have embraced nihilism, and to still hold onto it today.

Lights On!

I’ve been in the dark for years. I was in the dark about who I was, what I wanted to do with my life, even my sex. But now the lights keep turning on. All of a sudden I can look back upon my dark path and see that I somehow managed to go as straight as possible despite the darkness. Now that the lights are on I can make a more conscious effort in who I am and where I am going. Now I can finally see and become the person I’ve always been trying and meant to be.

Obviously finding out my real sex, a woman, has made me feel much better about who I am. It also helped me resume a journey I had started long ago. In college I began to slowly explore my gender, but more importantly I also started exploring what I believed in. I went to a bible study to learn about what other thought of god. I started conceptualizing myself as god and sought out my true self. I thought about the meaning of so many things, from why trash is valuable but has no value to patriarchy and capitalism.

Finally one of the last things I took on was monogamy when I found myself seeing two people at the same time. None of us were ready for that, and it led to me not taking on any new battles for a while. To make a really long story short after a few months of tension I had a mental breakdown and was left with the more loyal and vanilla of the two, Smiles. I stopped exploring my gender and the world around me and slowly drifted into bad habits, and nihilism.

But now my spirit is free and so thirsty for knowledge. I have grown so many new understandings of how the world works, especially with the help of my two spiritual roomies, Jamie and Cha. I have begun meditating each morning. I have begun reading about mindfulness, meditation, and buddhism. I have finally begun bettering myself and am working to enlighten myself and my spirit. To love myself for who I am and love others and become a truly compassionate individual.

Before I was stumbling in the dark feeling out objects and trying to figure which way to go. Now that the lights are on I can see my path and see that I have been going the right way the whole time. I majored in anthropology to expand my world view. I was an activist to act upon my knowledge and expand my power and confidence. I was a nihilist because I had to and I saw the same darkness so many others have. I have been trying to make sense of my world and understand my surroundings every step of the way.

And now I know that counselling is the field I want to get into. I want to better myself and learn to empower others to do the same thing. Self-empowerment, something I’ve been obsessed with for years is finally a real thing I can do for myself and eventually for others. And every day that passes I feel myself closer and I feel better about who I am. There is still a long journey ahead but I’m so eager to embark upon it.