tips for surviving a quarantine in the face of financial obligations

friends, if you are asked to self-quarantine, fuckin’ do it. you could kill someone by disregarding your quarantine.

i know times are rough out there because capitalism is a nightmare, so here are some ideas about preparing for having to self-quarantine in the face of financial obligations:

talk to your friends and family about how y’all are gonna pay rent if you lose income over this. i know we’re all taught not to talk about money, but not talking about money only benefits the wealthy and we don’t want anything benefiting them, do we? ask for what you need. it is good to do so.

find out what protections are available in your state. check out NeedHelpPayingBills.com to learn about ways you can get help paying bills. you can also call 211 for information about local social services. keep in mind that in some places certain services are being expanded; what isn’t available for you now may be available for you tomorrow. stay informed.

contact your representatives about expanding protections in this crisis. (when this passes, advocate for increased social programs at all times. we always deserve food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, etc. — we don’t just deserve it during a pandemic.)

get familiar with the unemployment process. (washington has expanded theirs to cover more people during this crisis: https://esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19.)

see what food pantries exist in your area and what their requirements for access are. it’s not unlikely for there to be some that serve anyone regardless of income, etc. foodpantries.org is a good starting place to search.

if stocking up on food makes you feel more comfortable, pasta, canned foods, and frozen foods will all keep for long periods.

washington has opened a special enrollment period for insurance coverage through washington healthplanfinder for people without insurance. you have until april 8th. more information at this link.

for wisdom from chronically ill and disabled folks who deal with things like this all the time, listen to this healing justice podcast episode.

working toward the beloved community

“Once feminist professors decide a male colleague is sexist and refuse to see any glimmer of positive action on his part that could be the catalyst for change, they collude in keeping oppressive systems intact.”

-bell hooks, Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope

so often i, as a queer person, feel pressured not to be patient with cis straight folks’ ignorance and internalized queerphobia. i’m told it’s not my job to be an educator to them and that people who don’t already get it aren’t worth the time or the effort.  i do agree that the onus shouldn’t be on marginalized people to take charge of the personal growth of their oppressors, for physical, mental, and emotional health and safety reasons on their part, and because people with privilege have a responsibility to learn on their own how to dismantle the oppressive systems they benefit from. however, i freely make my own choice to educate folks and to guide them toward a more just mindset. it’s work that i find necessary and good, and i know that there are queer folks who can’t do what i can do in this way and i owe it to them — and to the queer kids coming up behind us — to do this work.

also, i used to be the queerphobic asshole. what kind of unhappy monster would i be now if there hadn’t been folks out there educating me and people like me? i am so grateful that there were people who could value my personhood enough to guide me toward a better version of myself when i didn’t do a good job of valuing theirs. i am indebted to them for that and will repay it by paying it forward. i hope to always be loved enough to be told when i need to shape up and to always love enough to do the same.

i do struggle with whether it is morally right to allow people who believe my identities to be wrong and corrupt to remain in my life, even though i love them and i know they love me. is letting them believe those things and face no consequences or requests to grow doing right by myself? is that treating myself as a person with immutable inherent worth equal to everyone else’s immutable inherent worth, like i believe i and all others should be treated? is it honoring that worth? does my tolerance of their failure to recognize the validity of my personhood allow them to maintain their harmful attitudes? does it reinforce those attitudes through complacency, even if complacent is not what i’m striving to be? even if i love these people and i want them in my life?

i don’t know.

i don’t know when looking for educational opportunities becomes detrimental. i don’t know where that line is. i keep living in the question hoping that i’ll be alert to that if it happens. or become alert to it if it already has.

what i do know is that i believe not only that people can change, but that people must change if we are to dismantle oppressive systems and live liberated lives. the power imbalances won’t change if only marginalized people recognize the systems and work to live outside them.

i truly believe in the beloved community. i believe in the possibility of creating a world where the equal and immutable inherent worth of every person is recognized and respected. i will always work toward that world, because it’s the one we need and deserve.

living in the u.s. is a nightmare but immigrating here is worse: a guide to making both of those things untrue

things are really bad in the u.s. (and elsewhere, but i live here), particularly regarding this administration’s cruel and continuously-closer-to-genocide immigration policies, and i’m having a really hard time handling it, which it is a privilege to even be able to say. i don’t want to let my despair and fear and horror and sorrow keep me from working to make things better, so i’m putting together these resources because that’s what i’m good at and what helps me feel like i am doing something and can do something to fight these atrocities and help the people they affect. this post is broken down into two parts: hope and action steps.

hope

i’m starting with hope because i’m sure i’m not the only person struggling not to drown in despair and we’ve gotta start with solving that problem if we’re gonna get anywhere, because without believing that things can get better, we can’t work to make them better.

so here’s an article on the importance and necessity of hope/optimism, why we have to hold onto it and how it must be used. a highlight from that article:

Optimism, by contrast, especially optimism which is neither foolish nor silent, can be revolutionary. Where no one believes in a better future, despair is a logical choice, and people in despair almost never change anything. Where no one believes a better solution is possible, those benefiting from the continuation of a problem are safe. Where no one believes in the possibility of action, apathy becomes an insurmountable obstacle to reform. But introduce intelligent reasons for believing that action is possible, that better solutions are available, and that a better future can be built, and you unleash the power of people to act out of their highest principles. Shared belief in a better future is the strongest glue there is: it creates the opportunity for us to love one another, and love is an explosive force in politics.

here’s a fundraiser which was originally started with the goal of raising $1,500 to help families separated at the border and has, at the time of this writing, raised more than $20 million from more than 500,000 donors.

this fundraiser is proof that people care and that they are acting to stop the evil of the trump administration. (this doubles as an action step, you can still donate to this fundraiser, which supports RAICES, which describes itself as the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas.) here’s an article about what RAICES will be doing with this money.

also, the aclu reported yesterday that a federal judge ruled that the trump administration must reunite separated families within 30 days, and children under 5 must be reunited with their parents within 14 days and that families may no longer be separated in the future.

(a note on this good news, while it is good news, it does not mean that we’re done fighting! we still need immigration reform and if the trump administration has shown us anything it’s that they’ll commit new atrocities as quickly as they possibly can. also, we have yet to see any families reunited as of yet, to the best of my knowledge at the time of this writing. we have to hold them accountable to this ruling. further, we need to abolish ice to help prevent further injustices and we need to fight the muslim ban which the courts just ruled in favor of. so good news worth celebrating — yes. the end of this issue — no.)

with this all in mind, here’s an article about the necessity of not giving into despair. a highlight from this article:

[People affected by harmful policies] also don’t have the luxury of being numb from the news because in some instances what’s on the news is quite literally killing them. It’s on the rest of us to filter out anything that allows us to become paralyzed and to see what is real, all around us—to take real action to affect the real lives all around us. It’s unfair in the extreme, weary friends, but the fact of the matter is that every time we say we are tired, or giving up, or tuning it all out in the name of self-care, somewhere a Steve Bannon gets a new pair of wings. Or as Barber put it to me, “We lose only when we get quiet.”

action steps

protest: there are rallies being held across the country this coming saturday, june 30th, to protest this administration’s cruel immigration policies. you can find an event near you here.

(i went ahead and looked up the events for places where i know people: seattle, ia | muscatine, ia | iowa city, ia | springfield, il)

if you can’t find an event near you, here’s information on how to host your own.

remember! the executive order that trump signed does not solve the problem! here’s a note from the organizers of the june 30th protests:

The executive order that Donald Trump signed today is not a solution to the crisis created by his administration; it keeps kids imprisoned indefinitely, and doesn’t reunite thousands of separated families. But it does show the administration is reacting to public pressure, so we will continue to increase our pressure for justice at hundreds of events on Saturday, June 30, to say that families belong together—and free.

daily vigils are also being held at the seattle ice office. seattle isn’t alone in this: protesters in portland shut down the ice office there and protesters elsewhere have been following suit. you can do the same, by either joining a protest in your area or starting your own protest. i find protests to be a part of by searching on facebook.

also for those of us in seattle, the stranger has a resistance and solidarity calendar with other events you can participate in.

donate: slate put together the most comprehensive list of organizations working to help immigrants at the border that i’ve come across so far.

if reading and researching that many organizations is overwhelming for you, actblue has crafted a way to donate to many of them at the same time. it will split your donation evenly between the organizations it lists here.

help register voters: we’ve gotta get these motherfuckers out of office, guys. they’re doing evil work. like, this isn’t to say there aren’t flaws with our voting system, because there certainly are, but voting remains an important part of having a democracy and ours will be healthier with more voters participating and with better protection of voter rights.

you can sign up to volunteer with rock the vote here.

the american association of university women has a guide to organizing a voter registration drive and offers their public policy staff as a resource as well.

the league of women voters has action steps to take to protect voting rights and to support immigrants, among other things.

if you aren’t registered to vote yourself, please get registered and please, please, please dear god, turn out for the 2018 midterm elections. the new york times has a guide to the midterms so you can get an understanding of what’s going on, where, and when. the general election will be held on november 6th.

keep arguing with your friends on facebook against these practices: i know it can seem like you’re not getting anywhere when you get into it in the comments, but i promise you that that is good, useful, and important work. i learned almost everything i know about social justice by watching people hash it out with other folks online. you are unlikely to reach the person you’re actually talking to, that’s true, but they’re giving you a platform to lay out your argument and to present materials supporting it to a whole host of bystanders who can be swayed by what you’re saying. i was that bystander; i know the power of those arguments.

also, it’s important not to cede ground to people who would argue in favor of cruel immigration policies (or other cruelties). they don’t need more room to talk, they need less. if you can’t reach them, at least make them hesitant to spread their beliefs, whether they hold them out of ignorance or maliciousness.

i’m hoping to get a post together with resources to help you in having these arguments, but the state of things changes so fucking fast that i don’t know if i’ll be able to do that. if i do, i’ll link it back here.

if you have any other ideas about how we can work to protect immigrants, please list them in the comments. i’ll update this post as needed.

i love you and i appreciate how much you care but please get better at talking about suicide

[this post deals with suicide. please read with care.]

hey guys, as someone who’s been suicidal and who has come frighteningly close to losing people i dearly love to suicide and who has helped people grapple with being suicidal and who loves people who have lost people they love to suicide, i am really begging you to please be more careful about how you talk about it.

talking about suicide *is* important and i don’t want to discourage you from doing that, but please please /please/ educate yourself about the best way to do so before you do or before you share articles that do. teen vogue has some good articles about this topic, including the following:

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/how-to-talk-about-suicide-without-adding-to-mental-health-stigma

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/how-to-talk-about-suicide-op-ed

also, the cdc has media guidelines to follow for talking about suicide, which we as individuals should also be following, especially when we’re talking about suicide on social /media/. these guidelines, which i have been referring to as i write this, are in an easy to understand format here: http://afsp.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/recommendations.pdf

a couple highlights from this guide: don’t talk about the details of a suicide. don’t share graphic depictions of suicide.

please do not post articles about people’s deaths by suicide that do not follow the guidelines outlined in the document above.

(a personal note about how not to talk about suicide: it is incredibly distressing to me to read people’s assumptions of what being suicidal is like, which are often implicit in the ways they offer care particularly on social media platforms after a celebrity has died by suicide. you are all so well-meaning and i love you for that, but i would truly prefer that you don’t comment about the nature of suicide when you don’t understand it. a good rule of thumb if you have not been suicidal yourself is to assume that you don’t understand it and to avoid speaking about it as if you do.)

the do’s and don’ts section of this web page, below the “how can you help them?” header provides a good guideline on how to talk about suicide with someone who is suicidal, which are also good things to be mindful of when making posts about suicide: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-someone-else/

if you want to offer help to your loved ones on social media, a good way to do that would be to post the numbers of suicide prevention hotlines. (you can even call one yourself if you’re specifically worried about somebody you love, also, by the way, and they will help you help them.) the u.s. national suicide prevention lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-talk (8255).

this cnn article features more crisis line resources: https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/06/health/iyw-suicide-how-to-help/index.html

it is imperative to include information about ways to get help in any discussion you have about suicide.

you can also amplify the voices of people who /have/ been suicidal. a good post to share might be this one, from sam dylan finch, titled “what i wish my loved ones understood when i’m suicidal”: https://letsqueerthingsup.com/2017/09/10/what-i-wish-my-loved-ones-understood-when-im-suicidal/

please share these kinds of articles with care and with proper content warnings, like the one i used at the beginning of this post. these sorts of discussions can be triggering to folks, like they often are to me, especially when i’m not given the opportunity to prepare myself for them.

also, when talking about suicide, please avoid implying in any way that it is the fault of the people who are now grieving that their loved one died by suicide. they are not responsible for it and i promise you they are hurting enough. please be vigilantly cognizant of how many sides of this issue there are.

ouch: body positivity in the time of chronic pain

i have scoliosis. this means that my spine curves side-to-side in ways it really shouldn’t. my spine, being a particular dingus, does this twice, making an “s” and throwing my shoulders and hips out of wack. also, notably, some ribs have joined in the fun recently, popping in and out of place — mostly out — as suits them. dislocated ribs are of the devil xirself.

because of all these structural failings my body insists on having, i live with a considerable amount of pain on the daily. right now, it’s 2 a.m. and i’m curled up on my partner’s couch, distracting myself from how much i’d rather be curled up sleeping next to him but can’t be because my body hurts in every conceivable way and in almost every conceivable place. the degree of pain i’m experiencing tonight is actually less than i often experience, but because all of my joints and many of my muscles ache, i can’t get comfortable and i certainly can’t attain unconsciousness.

frequently, i think that if i didn’t have chronic pain, i could conquer the fucking world. like. i regularly operate under these conditions and i do an awesome job. how much more awesome might i be? feeling robbed of my potential in this way is incredibly frustrating and disheartening, but not nearly so much as the pain itself is. i want so badly to enjoy my life, but it’s exceedingly difficult to do that when the vessel i experience it in hurts all the time. i’m tired of it; i’m burdened by it; i want an opt-out button, but there isn’t one. i’m trapped in this painful flesh prison until i die. sometimes that thought is so overwhelming, i can’t feel anything but that despair.

with my body existing in what amounts to me as a state of constant betrayal, it feels impossible to love it. i want to love it, because that’s a better way to live, but i feel like it never gives me anything in return for that — or, if it does, what it gives isn’t enough. sometimes, i just don’t know how not to be angry with it, even though i know that the anger doesn’t help anything.

there are things i could do to ease this pain and even have some pain-free days. but that involves trusting other people with my body (something i’m not too keen on for a variety of trauma-related reasons) and finding the right person with the right techniques to align my shit, a difficulty that can only be solved by the ever-risky method of trial and error. it also means time and money that i honestly don’t have. (wouldn’t it be cool if this country had universal healthcare.)

in the meantime, things just keep getting worse. i slipped on ice earlier this week and now every joint on the right side of my body is a mess. every time i injure myself, something made easier to do by how wrong my whole body is from the jump, i lose the strength i need in my muscles to help hold my bones in place as the use of my body becomes further restricted. i hate doctors with a fucking passion, but i’ve been to urgent care twice and the er once in the past six months. there’s never anything to do about what i come in for and i never seem to fully heal. (although maybe i will from that slip, too soon to tell.)

how do i embrace a body that’s so miserable to be in? i know i should — because i don’t have an option, because the chronic pain community deserves an example of how a life can be lived well and a body loved under these conditions (not that i’d be the only one, but still, i’d rather be that), because i might find it in me to go through that frightening trial and error process if i can love me and my body enough. it’s what i feel called to do by the body positivity movement. but i just feel so left out by that. i know this body and bodies like it are worthy of love. but damn if that isn’t hard for me to pull off when this body hurts me like it does.

ways to support the parkland survivors in their quest for gun control

last weekend, i promised my facebook friends that i would take action to support the parkland students in their quest for gun control, rather than laying around crying about how devastatingly we’ve let down our children as that does not un-let them down. i also promised that i would share what i found. i’ve compiled it below.

action steps, in no particular order:

1) march

the parkland students are planning a march on washington, dc on saturday, march 24 (referred to as march for our lives) and are working with others across the nation to organize sister marches. their mission statement can be read on their website here: https://www.marchforourlives.com/mission-statement/

i looked up sister marches in seattle, wa; des moines, ia; chicago, il; and st. louis, mo since those marches are close to where pockets of my friend group reside. if you search “march for our lives [your town/big city near you]” on facebook, you should be able to find a march close to you.

2) donate

resources, also in no particular order:

1) the giffords law center to prevent gun violence is a “policy organization dedicated to researching, writing, enacting, and defending proven laws and programs, [that] is on a mission to save lives from gun violence by shifting culture, changing policies, and challenging injustice.” their website has a treasure trove of research about gun violence and solutions to it. their site rates each state’s gun control laws and suggests pertinent policy improvements.

2) the coalition to stop gun violence “seeks to secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement, and effective policy advocacy.” they create policy, take on the nra, and address disarming domestic abusers and preventing suicides.

3) other gun violence prevention organizations, for your further research:

4) other anti-violence organizations, for your further research:

(header image original image courtesy of elvert barnes on flickr)

a life unconstrained

i had breakfast in the diner across the parking lot from the motel i stayed at last night, partly because it was such a Place that i couldn’t pass it up and partly because that’s what my dad would’ve done. he has a thing for diners. i don’t really know what to do with the recent realization that i am much more like my dad than i had even known (i discovered that i make decisions that echo decisions of his that i didn’t know he’d made as a young man – which is…A Lot), so when the urge to embrace it comes along, i’m just going with it. there’s plenty of time for that identity crisis to play out; i see no need to rush it.

like…this is a very place-y Place right? it has a lot of Place Presence

also part of why i keep going to diners is because they’re part of the Great American Road Trip aesthetic and i’m a slave to that. unashamedly a slave to that. see me in the crappy motels and in the kind of diners you can find in every fuckin us town drinking their shitty coffee i’m so down

while i was there, nursing a bad cup of coffee, i called my grandmother. it’s the first time that i’ve called someone while on the road, since i was busy doing the thing i do where i don’t communicate with people. i just get so swallowed up in my internal life that reaching outside of that takes a great deal of effort, often more than i have to spare. i have been texting people though, which honestly is such a Feat that i should get a medal. (in truth, it’s been delightful to get to share this trip that way. well worth the effort.)

but i’m talking to her and she’s missing me and, unlike her, i’m having a hard time getting a handle on the permanence of this situation. i’m moving, isn’t that wild? this trip isn’t just a trip, it’s a move. i know that, but i don’t really Know That, y’know? i’m happy to be moving, don’t get me wrong; it just doesn’t feel real yet.

today is the last day of soultrip – tonight, i’ll be in seattle, my new home. which is of course bittersweet. this road trip has been one of the best times of my life; i haven’t felt as much myself as i have while on it. living life completely unconstrained by anything is going to be very, very hard to give up.

so i’m gonna try not to.

seattle is brand new territory for me. it offers me a life completely free from any of the expectations implicit in a place that knows me. i have a couple friends there, but they’re the type who will let me be as many versions of myself as i need to be before i find the one i like the best. nobody else knows me and therefore no preconceived notions of who i am exist.

i am trying to keep myself from having preconceived notions, too. life can be anything. it doesn’t have to look the way i’ve always thought it would, or the way society expects it to look. since i have the opportunity to build a life from scratch, i’m damn well going to make the most of it. i know that this is a rare gift – one i might never get again – and i don’t intend to let it go to waste. god or the universe or whoever gave this to me and i’m too grateful to squander it.

yesterday, i was in a portland bookstore: powell’s city of books, which takes up an entire city block in downtown. it is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the best bookstore in the world. i spent hours there, feeling faint among the towering stacks of books in color-coded rooms.

this is only PART of ONE ROOM

the purple room housed a christianity section that was four aisles large that in turn housed a mary magdalene section, the presence of which nearly knocked me off my feet. in the rose room in the ya section, there was an end display of lgbtq ya books, with a sign reading “i ❤ queer lit” – the heart was colored in rainbow; i had to work very hard not to cry. in the queer-specific section, which included queer theory, i found a shelf dedicated to bisexuality. seeing the word in print is always such an experience.

FOUR. AISLES. OF BOOKS ABOUT CHRISTIANITY goddddd. (also not to self-plug like an asshole, but to self-plug like an asshole: there are more pics of this bookstore on my instagram @ky_cochran just sayin’)

the store is so big and so wonderful and so completely captivating that i got lost and definitely thought about living in the literature section for the rest of my life, curling up to sleep on the hard floor near wuthering heights.

since the trip is nearly over and my being employed again is a close reality, i told myself i could spend too much money on books. once decided, my trip through the stacks became an exercise in self-creation.

i grabbed a queer ya novel because i’ve been out of the fiction game for a long, long time and the only place to start there is in queerland. (i confess to having very little interest in het…anything.)

i picked up a mary magdalene book that my other mary magdalene book had recommended (and one of the few on the shelf that portrayed her as a woman of color on its cover and like…if you’re portraying mary magdalene as a white woman on your book i’m…not gonna buy it…because you’re wrong from the get-go). i got a couple books of poetry — ross gay, for joy, and sappho, for queer — and a book about bisexuality that i’ve been eying for two years.

these books all address facets of the person i’m working to become – or to embrace. i’m finally in a place where i feel free to really be queer in a way i didn’t feel like i had the opportunity to before and i’m also finally at a place with my faith where i can shape and build and express it any way that i want and feel with surety that it is mine. the faith of my childhood and teen years was prescribed to me more often than not and i struggled, in the years after the death of my aunt, to get a handle on what it meant or might mean to me. and to be queer and a woman of faith at the same time? goddamn revolutionary.

i know that it is going to take a real effort not to fall back into old patterns or paths — which is why the books. i don’t want to do what is familiar; i want to do what is right. but i know that the pull of familiarity is strong as shit (how many diners have i eaten at while i was on the road???), so i’m declaring seattle my “try it” place, the land of new experiences. and i’m gonna make my friends — and my books — hold me accountable to that.

i want to be happy, goddammit. i deserve it. i won’t let my potential for happiness be overrun by apathy or fear. while i don’t know what exactly my happiness might look like, i do know who i want to be. i want to be good and compassionate, sympathetic and empathetic, i want to be hopeful and encouraging, to be someone who believes in kindness, to be a person who loves unreservedly and to great lengths – both herself and others. i know how much work those things take, i’m more intimately familiar with that than ever, and i am willing to put that work in. and i am willing to cut out anything that hinders those things.

i also know that i have been dying for the chance to be my full self in a way the midwest and my life trajectory therein were not allowing. now that that chance is within reach, i will not waste it.

best yet, i know now, with an absolute certainty, that i can lose damn near a whole goddamn life and still come out better afterwards. so what’s to stop me from reaching for everything my hands might grasp?

low tide high time

[there are other people on this beach, sand crunching between their teeth the same as yours but what the ocean says to you, she says only to you.

from me, she is requesting silence, but her tone brooks no room for argument. i let the waves lap over my feet and swirl around my ankles. graciously, she does not take me into her undertow.

instead, she sweeps the noise in my head out to sea with the other sharks. she likes things in their place.

it is hours before they swim back.]

the comeback kid comes back

i have finally made it back to santa cruz, california, which i first visited exactly two years ago (i accidentally timed this trip perfectly, which i’m seeing as god letting me know they’ve got my back). this is the part of soultrip that i have been looking forward to the most.

santa cruz is the place of my dreams; i have missed it ever since i left. i wasn’t sure, though, until today how much of my love for this place was actually love for this place and not just my love for my best friend who i was visiting the first time i came here. i hadn’t seen her in years and it was overwhelmingly good to be with her again – you can see how those feelings would be easy to confuse for love of this town.

but as it turns out, i do love santa cruz!! like a whole lot!!! i took the ramp off highway one into town and found myself saying “i missed you i missed you i missed you” out loud over and over to this town that i knew for four days two years ago. i…am in love.

downtown santa cruz, the love of my life

i perused downtown some today, where i spent hours upon hours each evening during my last visit while my friend worked. the bookstores (it has TWO bookstores in only THREE BLOCKS) are every bit as beautiful and wonderful as i remember. the religion sections in them are ginormous and i remember crying over them the last time i was here because they have books about religions which are not christianity. that is decidedly not something that happens in the midwest.

i wanted to buy SO MANY books, but kept it to just the meaning of mary magdalene: discovering the woman at the heart of christianity by cynthia bourgeault, which i have wanted for weeks and weeks. i can finally close that amazon.com tab on the chrome app on my phone, leaving only the 75 other tabs open. (that’s a literal number, btw, not hyperbole.) i love mary magdalene so much and tomorrow i’m gonna read about her on the beach. life is the damnedest thing.

~|~

the everyday traveling part of soultrip is a week old today and i am potentially the happiest i have ever been. i’m so happy, in fact, that i don’t even have the, like, capacity to handle or process it. it’s hard not to let it be encroached on by the fact that this trip will eventually end though. i feel – meant for this in a way i didn’t expect and am unsure what to do with. traveling constantly is tiring, as is to be expected, but it invigorates me, too. it brings to life parts of me that were not being brought to life before.

maybe it’s less that i’m meant to be a vagabond as i’m good at it. i mean, obviously a week is hardly long enough to know whether it would work as a lifestyle (and i’m not sure it’s a lifestyle i would want, tbh; i like people too much not to get to build relationships with them) but as a hobby? i’m fantastic. i’m calm and confident, at ease with ever-changing situations and unfamiliarity. my frugality is an asset, as is my self-discipline (something i wouldn’t have even described myself as having under different circumstances, though i think it’s always been there). and i’m learning to assess my limits and react to them accordingly; i spent most of the past weekend curled up in a hotel room in lake havasu, arizona, working on writing projects for the fun of it.

that break was exactly what i wanted to do at the exact time i wanted to do it, which is the greatest luxury of this trip. the opportunity to do as i please when i please is intoxicating – and enlightening: this trip is showing me that my wants are worthy of being carried out simply because they are my wants. “i want to” is a good enough reason to do most anything, so long as it isn’t harming anybody.

it’s a lesson i really thought i’d already learned, but i think sometimes that the easiest things to know are also the easiest things to forget. i’ll admit though that that lesson remains hard to live out right now – i still feel this weird pressure to meet some unnamed somebody’s expections for how i choose to spend my time and where i choose to go on this trip. but i’m getting better at ignoring that and remembering that this trip is for me.

~|~

caffe pergolesi is a paradise

i’m sitting on the deck outside my favorite coffee shop in the world (caffe pergolesi, situated one block up from the main drag of santa cruz’s downtown) watching the sky become this captivating shade of deep blue. caffe pergolesi is housed in an old victorian home and merrily esconsced in foliage – the decks hold small trees and climbing vines and the yard is cornered by towering trees, including the palm tree which is my favorite. altogether, these things make the shop feel like a pocket universe for the well-caffeinated.

i had a huge crush on the barista who was working here when i came two years ago. she was tall and friendly and had tattoos on her calves and she remembered me each night which was both the best and worst thing to ever happen to me – i cannot, absolutely cannot talk to women i’m attracted to to save my queer little life. at the time, i’d only been acknowledging that i was bi for about a year, making me a baby queer. i am, in multiple ways, much older now than i was then. when i think about that ky it’s almost impossible to reconcile that she was 23 and i am only 25. it seems like there’s a lot more distance between the two of us than there is. i’m pleased with how 25-year-old me is doing, most especially because it led me back here – and alone this time, which was unthinkable back then.

before i left, i was wary of being alone on this trip – not so much because i had doubts about my ability to do the trip; traveling doesn’t scare me and neither, as it turns out, does solo traveling, momentary panic beforehand aside – but more because i expected to feel sad if left by myself and to discover that my mental health issues are even vaster and more overwhelming than i thought.

it has turned out to be the exact opposite. i love myself, i enjoy my own company, and i really am so fucking ecstatic to be on this trip that sometimes i can’t breathe. doing something that makes me this happy makes me really proud of myself, as well: look at me go fulfilling my dreams! i have so many positive emotions about and towards me right now that i’m fighting tears as i type. and i haven’t changed! i’m the same me who left central illinois two weeks ago. or – maybe i have changed, but mostly in that i recognize more of the good things in me than i did before. i feel settled in myself again.

as much as i would have loved to have company on this trip and would be enjoying company now if i had it, i definitely needed to do this on my own. i needed the reminder that i am capable of making good decisions and of doing so quickly and confidently with only myself to rely on. i am enough. i can trust myself. this trip proves that to me every day all day long. so those mental health issues i was worried about? entirely manageable. i mean, will i still need therapy when i get to seattle? you bet your ass. i have a lot to work on and it’s going to take work; it’ll be hard as shit. but honestly what isn’t?

and god knows if there’s one thing i’m good at, surviving’s it. i am a comeback kid.

~|~

if i have a hope for my life after this, it’s that i can figure out how to take all of the best parts of life on the road and transcribe them to fit life off the road. i want to always be confident and full of self-love and in the pursuit of adventure.

The Dream™

i watched the sun set at the edge of the grand canyon last night. which doesn’t feel like a true sentence even though i have pictures to prove it. other unbelievable things about the canyon include: how huge it is oh my god and how anybody ever in their life thought that going to the bottom of it was a thing that should happen. if i had stumbled across it in the way back, i’d have turned my ass back around like “no nope nuh-uh i’mma pretend i never even saw that by never going that direction again in my life.”

the canyon doesn’t look like how i pictured it, you see, which was as one sheer cliff directly across from an identical sheer cliff with a river at the bottom that you could conceivably get to if you had a burro and a death wish. instead it’s more like a matryoshka doll: one big canyon that holds a lot of other littler canyons inside it. and if there’s “another side” i couldn’t tell you where it was, because the thing was just too vast and too full of canyons. and you’d have to actually be dead to get to the river – as a ghost is the only way i’m pretty sure.

see what i mean? soooooo many canyons

the experience was awesome, though, of course, and terrifying, too, because i am really fucking afraid of heights lmao. people were getting out and walking on the trails which ran along the cliff’s edge and DID NOT HAVE GUARDRAILS and i nearly had a heart attack on their behalf. i am one hundred percent a person who prefers that the ground not end anywhere in their vicinity. that i summoned the guts to sit and watch the sunset near one such edge is truly a testament to just how much i love the goddamn sunset.

amazing??? indescrible??? i have 1,001 more of these and a lot of them will probably be popping up on my instagram, @ky_cochran, just as an fyi

after taking approximately 1,002 sunset pics, i hightailed it to the shuttle bus, because the last thing i needed was to be at that place in the dark, and ended up on one that was full to the fuckin’ gills. this meant that i got to stand up for the ride, hand on the grab bar above my head, pretending like i know anything about remaining upright under the best of circumstances, much less on a bus snaking around the grand canyon. i jibed with a couple slightly more southern than me (i’m not actually southern, but i know i sound it sometimes what with the “y’all’s” and the way my vowels tend to linger on occasion – too much true blood). he saved me from a bug, god bless him, while teasing and being teased by his wife.

at one of the stops, the bus driver made to apologize to the couple standing there waiting for not being able to take them, but before she could get the words out (or even started), the woman said, “it’s too crowded! i’m not getting on that bus!” and she put her significant other between her and it, shaking her head like we’d proposed painting an elephant purple. she patiently turned back to her bulky old flip phone to await a less populated option.

i love people a whole fucking lot.

honestly, the trip’s felt surreal this whole time – not just at the grand canyon (where i was again this morning. now i am where the palm trees start. which is. so weird. days are so long and can hold so many miles). it feels, well, like it’s too good to be true even while i’m living it. but it is true??? this level of happiness is achievable??? you can fulfill your dreams??? incredible. i’m so thrilled by this experience that i find myself laughing down the interstate, unable to hold all my joy. even tonight when i was so tired and finding a place to stay was a hassle and a half that ended with me having to drive for an extra hour. the whole ordeal put me cruising down i-40 west at sunset, which, let me tell you, is actually The Dream™.

The Dream™

i could live like this forever, i feel like. and if i didn’t desperately want to adopt a whole gaggle of kidlets someday, i’d probably try.