11 Sep

**TW: Please note that the post below is written as part of World Suicide Prevention Day and discusses anxiety, depression, suicide.**

If you are experiencing distress, please consider calling one of the following helplines:

  • US: +1 1-800-273-8255
  • UK: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90

Hey readers. It’s been a while.

Since my last post, I’ve roadtripped from California to New York. I’ve climbed cinder cones, and made the sort of friends who are really family, who are cousins, who are with. I’ve walked the entire length of Central Park. I’ve had coffee and an amazing chat with the author who is the reason I got into writing in the first place. I’ve seen the reading room of the Library of Congress. I’ve stood barefoot in the wet grass of the yard behind the house I grew up in and watched fireflies and bats swing through the muggy July air. I’ve sat in the living room of the same house and had a take-out Chinese food with my mother and grandmother.

I packed up the space that had become home in Los Angeles, put it into boxes, put it into donation slots, put it into thrift shop stock and put the few dollars I was given back into my wallet to take with me, spending-cash funds to carry an ocean away.

I said goodbye. I hugged. I cried. I kissed.

I moved.

And now I am in Scotland, typing away at this blog post from a room overlooking a garden that Mary Lennox would have loved, with hills built of ancient myths and wild green rising in the distance. I’ve all but finished my first term of veterinary school. A week of revision, a week of exams to go.

Readers, this is it. This is what I’ve fought for.

This, just shy of three years ago, is what I decided was what I wanted to stick around for. Because once I got here, so much of the malformation of my life that had come from forgetting myself for so damn long would start to remedy. I’d had the years already of figuring that out. I knew who I wanted to be. I knew what I wanted to do with myself. And I knew that here, vet school, this was the tool I needed for it.

So I would get myself here.

And that would not be the end of things. That would not be happily ever after. That would not be the close of all my trials and tribulations. That would not finish my fight.

But it would change it.

End of volume one, start of volume two.

Today is world suicide prevention day, hence why I’ve temporarily crawled out of my study paper-plastered woodwork to write something. Because today, the idea behind it, is important.

Because today, there will be so many stories popping up across the internet of people who have fought and stayed and found some kind of lasting better, telling you that see, isn’t this worth it? Didn’t it get better? Isn’t it great, this victory?

But depression is a bastard creature, and I know that that is not always how it works.

Readers, I have fought. I figured out what I wanted, and I decided that I was going to stick around and goddamn get it. I’ve had marvelous adventures along the way. I’ve also had days that were utter shit. Days where my brain told me I am worthless, and I for all intents and purposes believed it. Days where I did nothing but cry. Days where I just did nothing, because that’s all of me there was for the time. In with the days of open road and laughing with friends and making grand, glorious plans were also days where I drowned in a sea of misfiring neurons, sad or numb or anxious and trembling like a leaf in a hurricane. Some days, the storm roared in my ears. Some days, I roared back. Some days, I was quiet.

But every day, I stayed. Every day, no matter how it felt, I kept moving forward. Because when depression sat me down and asked harder than it had in a while okay, kid, what’s it going to be, I mulled over my choices and decided that even if every moment of getting here hurt, I was going to keep fighting to get where I am now. I decided that I was not going to back down. I was not going to give up.

The goal was not necessarily to be happy. The goal was to be me, even in the face of a mental illness that would try its damned hardest to tear every bit of that concept apart.

I knew that if I could get into veterinary school, that would give me enough of an anchor, enough of a leverage point to make it the rest of the way. There is strategy to battle, after all.

I also knew that even though being here, in veterinary school, in Scotland, was effectively “winning,” the war isn’t actually over yet.

That’s not how depression works. At least, not for everyone. Not for me.

There are still sad hours and days. There are still moments of the world crashing like an earthquake in my ears. There are still times when an entire lifetime comes whispering like a dark cave in the back of my mind. But I’ve done my training. I know how to take the hits. I know how to compensate, how to work around, how to hold up the wounded bits while they seal up. I know how to last till the next time my brain agrees to a ceasefire.

But in the end, this is a war that I did not sign up to fight. This was forced conscription. And I know there are others, too. Others who will not last the time between ceasefires, on their own battlefields. Because they did not know how. Or because they did, but not want to.

They are the most difficult to talk about.

Because I will not say that they lost. Because I have been there for fights that lasted, and lasted, and lasted, that were fought with tooth and nail and every last inch of soul that could be mustered, but which, despite it all, did not improve. I have been there for the fights that have gone on, but have not gotten better.

Recovery, as it turns out, is not a meritocracy.

I made the decision that even if all I ever got was living with depression, at least I was still living. And that was going to be enough.

For some people, that is not enough.


And today, on world suicide prevention day, those are the people I am writing for. Because I can offer you nothing better than my anger that the world cannot yet guarantee that a decision to live is synonymous with life actually feeling worth it. Because it is not fair, that fighting the thing that hurts us does not always result in us hurting any less. Because I want to be able to tell you that staying means it will get better, but all I can tell you with certainty is that when it comes to sticking around and all this shit getting better, the word is could.

It is such a small word.

It can be powerful, though.

Dumb luck. Blind possibility. Stupid forces, but sometimes, so many times, they are what better is made out of.

Stochasticity is a shit deity. But it can also be a surprisingly useful one.

I want to be able to give you a definite answer. I want to be able to tell you, for sure, that yes, this will all change. That yes, if you stay, it will be worth it. That yes, you will stop hurting this way. That yes, it will get better.

It will get different. You might like the different. You might not.

But at the very least, there’s potential.

Which, even outside of depression, is all we humans really ever get. Even those not fighting this war aren’t guaranteed that they’re going to like the way things turn out at the end, or at any point in the meantime.

Potential. That is what there is. That is what we are. That is what, no matter what, will not change.

Potential means that sometimes the pendulum of probability pushes me so I am slumped against a closed bedroom door, crying angrily over a mind of spilt serotonin. Potential also means that sometimes I am sitting here, at my desk, looking out at the hills of Scotland, a place that a year ago I didn’t know I’d be. There’s a coffee shop down the road with good roasts and decent people. There’s a park behind my flat with dogs that run up and say hello. There are ducks and a flower-fenced pond beneath my window. There’s depression nestled between my neurons, but dreams live in the synapses, too.

Sometimes, I am happy. Sometimes can last a while, these days.

There is pain. There is potential. There’s tomorrow.

It’s enough.

Comment section closed.


To the Woman Who Taught Me of Compromise and Courage

8 May

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who decided that being there to wake me up and make me breakfast and pick me up from school and take me to extra math lessons and tuck me in at night were more important than maintaining an untarnished sanity. I knew about the yelling at night, but I didn’t understand the compromises until later.

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who taught me how eyes speak and the turn of a head threatens and the grasp of a man’s hand about his silverware tells you the degree of appeasement you will be serving that night for dinner. Happy Mother’s Day to the woman whose sharp and endless questions fueled by the anxiety to just keep me safe taught me to be prepared, to think ahead, to see not just the road before me but the seven hundred ways it could be different. I may have inherited the endless chatter and vice-grip-on-the-heart of your invisible traveling companions, but at least I know how to answer their whispers.

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who’s shown me that heroes do not always come with laurels. They are found instead in years of loaded dishwashers; bags under the eyes and wrinkles frowning about the mouth from a tongue kept too long; the silent ferocity of a mind that knows better but is trapped behind a white picket fence of housewife civility; a backstory unknown till long after one’s own has been collected. I got a clean page; still, I mourn your palimpsest.

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman ineffably practical who saw my books with titles with words like “wizards” and feared my proclivity for the fantastic and the magical, till you insisted one day on reading “this Harry Potter” and after hitting the last page asked if perhaps you could borrow the next one, after it came out, and I’d finished reading it. Just so long as I didn’t tell you any spoilers before.

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who raised me in care and caution but has not begrudged me my edges and little bits of reckless. Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who laid in my skin the practice of being hidden and invisible and yet blesses the ways I have chosen to make that skin stand out. Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who for all her practice in dustbowl acceptability didn’t even bat an eye when I told her I like girls as well as guys, and who answered with confused silence when I asked if she’d have been so supportive if I’d told her back when I was young, because she did not understand how, loving me for me, there could have been any other option.

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman whose jawline I’ve started to see when I glance in the mirror, especially back when I’d cut my hair short, and stripped it blond. I am not yet accustomed to the idea of looking anything like you, but I will not begrudge my face its ancestry. The jawline is strong, and a graceful one, even if we do sometimes clench it too hard.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Dear Readers: A Huge Thank You

24 Apr

For about a week now, I’ve had a brain full of Ecuador. So full, that last night, with the tent donation count having barely inched up to halfway of the goal the team was hoping to reach before Monday, I couldn’t fall asleep until I’d done something, anything more, and I wrote that blog post that went out yesterday talking about the situation and asking you all, dear readers, for help.

I went to bed, hoping the blog post might garner some more help. I tossed and turned for about an hour more, but eventually fell asleep – though even unconscious, I still had a brain full of Ecuador, as I wound up dreaming about sending emails to more people about the wish list, because I want so badly to reach that goal of fifty, want so badly to get shelter to at least that many survivors, that many families. I want so badly for this relief effort to work.

This morning, I woke up and sat bolt-upright with the thought “ECUADOR TENTS?!?!” shooting first-thing through my brain. I rolled over and opened up my laptop and loaded the link to the relief effort’s wish list, hoping for at least a couple more donations…

…and saw that we’d gotten a full 20% more of the entire goal. Donations went up from 25 to 36 during the hours that I slept, and now, we’re only 14, a mere, doable 14 tents away from that goal.

The only thing different between when I went to bed and when I woke up was that blog post. The only thing different, dear readers, was you all.

Thank you. Thank you, so much.

I mean, I suppose I don’t know for sure that the donations came from my readers, but the correlation is strong, so causation seems likely. So, I’m just going to go with the assumption of justified faith in people and do the thing you do when someone helps you, and tell you all thank you.

Thank you. With all the force I can muster and all the adrenaline-based pseudo-energy of the entire pot of coffee I’ve downed today trying to make even more momentum happen, thank you. Thank you for being a part of this. Thank you for helping to make a difference.

And thank you, too, if you decide to join in now. Thank you for helping to keep the relief effort going.

Fourteen more tents, readers. Fourteen tents in (ideally) eight or (allowably) thirty-two hours.

We can do this.

You’re already doing this.

Thank you.

If you’d like to help send shelter to the survivors of Canoa, Ecuador, donate through the following link:

Making Magic for Ecuador: You, Canoa, and a Call for Tents

23 Apr

If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time (also hey, welcome newcomers), you’ll know that “I was raised on fantasy literature” is a pretty common theme to my posts. And you’ll know that those fantasy books – the ones with Dumbledore’s Army, and wizards banded together for Timeheart, and troupes made of Luster and Earthfolk alike, the ones with people (a term loosely used, here) who went out and saw the universe and did important things in it, for it – those are the books that shaped who I wanted to be. All my life, I’ve pretty much wanted my job description to be something along the lines of “saves the world.”

It’s why I pick up litter on the beach. It’s why I’m a practicing emergency medical responder. It’s why I tell people when I care about them. It’s why I’m going to veterinary school.

And it’s why when a 7.8 earthquake happened on April 16th in a country where I knew people, I messaged those friends to ask how they were doing, how their country was doing.

They were sad, and frustrated, but hanging in there, they said. But the country? Not well, was their answer. Whole towns were in ruins.

The bodies, they said, were piling up in the streets.

…When your friends tell you there are bodies piling up in their streets, you goddamn ask what you can do to help. And when they tell you what that is, you do it.

In this case, what I could do – what you could do – is get them tents.

There are bodies in the streets, but there are survivors too. Unfortunately, their city being a pile of rubble and devastation, there is nowhere for them to survive in.

So they’re building themselves a temporary settlement, and it shall be made of tents.

A couple days later, and I’m now heading up the West coast efforts for the U.S. relief team working in conjunction with my friends’ local organization, the “Surfers for a Roof” Brigade. As for the U.S. team’s efforts, my East coast counterpart and I want to get 50 tents to Ecuador – Canoa, to be specific – by Monday to help make a dent in what the 200 surviving families will need for shelter.

There have been Facebook posts, and emails with city councils, and CARVE surfing magazine even did a piece on the effort, and so far, we’ve gotten 25 tents. I want so badly to keep the momentum going. I want to hit 50 before Monday arrives. I want the world to care, and to not just sit there caring, but get up or speak out or just do something about it.

Here in this world of dust and reality, we cannot fight the source of all evil for the fate of the world.

But we can fight devastation. We can fight disaster. We can join this effort, and throw relief in the face of the ruin. We cannot fight “ultimate evil,” but we can fight this one.

To put it more pragmatically: the relief effort has an Amazon wish list going. People can donate tents directly, or, barring being able to contribute the full cost of a tent, can email Amazon gift cards of any amount to the relief effort’s account, and we’ll pool those funds to purchase more supplies. We’ve already gotten one tent on the way from people’s compounded gift card donations. We’re about halfway to another one, with current funds.

Physical donations will ship to a hangar in Miami from where a volunteer pilot – the relative of local leadership in Canoa – will fly supplies to ground zero. Tent city construction will begin May 7th.

The Amazon wish list and the email account associated with it have been created specifically for the relief effort, to allow for specificity and transparency. Anyone with questions about our financial or other records is totally welcome to ask, and we will send you literally our entire backlog of documentation. Honesty and integrity, in this effort, are paramount.

So, dear readers, I invite you to join me. Consider this your official enrollment call. I cannot off you a DA badge or a manual saying you have joined the ranks of wizards, but I can offer you the knowledge that your help here matters. That herein is a chance to know that you have helped fight to make things better for the world. Whether you donate or “just” spread the word (social media, word of mouth, sky writing, traveling bards – it’s all good) – you will have been someone who, even if just for a moment, got up and looked out at what was happening to the universe and did something about it all.

And for me, at least, that is a little bit magic.

To donate to the Canoa tent relief project:

To learn more about how the relief effort works:

Existential Crises, Games Wizards Play, and When You Await Yourself Inside a Book

5 Feb

games wizards play

Books do not face many temporal restrictions. The words within them may change with spelling conventions, or the print might shift across font type fads, and the phrasing may even slouch around or slick up a bit with the passing decades, but what the books really say, what their stories are, what worlds they contain within those pages and convey across years and years of minds – those are things that time doesn’t really touch. They’re always hanging around, somewhere. Tucked between a dust jacket. Hidden under the covers of someone’s slumbering subconscious. Murmured in the soft sktch of your footfalls. The stories never really go away. They’re there, behind a wardrobe door, or a carefully tapped pattern on a pub’s back brick wall, or an amulet whispering around the neck. All those worlds, in all those books – they wait.

Games Wizards Play, the tenth book in Diane Duane’s Young Wizard series, released a few days ago. It’s been waiting a long time.

Six years. Six long years. A Wizard of Mars, the predecessor to Games Wizards Play, came out in 2010. Wizards at War, the book before that, came out in 2005, which is nearly equally long in time lapsed, but who I was in 2005 and who I was in 2010 were highly congruent. 2005-me and 2010-me almost form the lower and upper bounds of a set of my existence, since they were both broken in remarkably similar ways, and believed pretty much the same things – about themselves, about life, about love and religion and the universe at large.

But 2010-me was not so static a figure as 2005-me. 2010-me read A Wizard of Mars sitting on the couch of her first apartment, shared with four other classmates the summer after freshman year. I moved into the apartment later than those other four, having spent a little over a third of the summer in treatment for anorexia. It was my first stint in that long progression of treatments that eventually carved out my recovery, and I’d been left red and raw and ready for the changing, though I didn’t know that yet. Change would be a long time coming.

But I remember sitting on that couch, holding the book in my hands, fresh out of treatment, wondering who I was going to be now, thrilling at all the possibilities but thinking (erringly) that I knew pretty well which one I was going to wind up with. I opened up to the first page of A Wizard of Mars, looking for (and finding) reaffirmation in that world that had built me as a middle and high schooler, that I trusted to carry me forward through the rest of college, unaware of just how much of a mental precipice I was really standing on.

2016-me is no longer standing on that mental precipice. She’s standing on a different one. On what I’m pretty sure is also an entirely different planet. The shape of the world around me and the horizon before me, it’s all so different from what 2010-me thought she was looking at. And the way my shadow stretches away, telling of my form in the light – it, too, has changed. Which is a good thing, mostly. But which is also terrifying.

I am better – but I am less good. I know more, but I believe less. My understanding has grown, but my hope has so diminished.

Within me is so much of the same fire that kept the midnight oil of 2005 and 2010 aflame, but while it still burns, I can sometimes see it flicker.

Like 2010-me, 2016-me has some decisions to make about who she wants to be. 2010-me decided that she wanted to be a wildlife vet, and 2016-me has finally gotten into vet school. In the US, and the UK. Whether I choose to stay or choose to go, there are pro’s and con’s. Risks and benefits. Uncertain futures rolling out before me like the fever dream of a hallucinating D20.

And I have to pick a starting point for it all.

Life, like YW-style wizardry, is all about choices. And I am terrified I am going to pick wrong.

So. My life has become a choose-your-own-adventure story, except I can’t flip through all the pathways to find out how they all turn out. I just get one. One character archetype. One plot arc. One final destination, out there in the future.

All of it starting with a choice made because of who I think I am, right now.

…And reading Games Wizards Play will directly confront that.

2016-me has a pretty different world view from 2010-me, and I am afraid of what that will mean for how the YW world will be able to fill that space within me where it used to resonate so well. So unquestioningly. I am afraid that because of whom I have become, where once there were echoes and vibrations will instead be dead, mute space. I am so scared that because of how I have changed as a person, I might not relate as well to what I’m going to find once I go back into the YW world in Games Wizards Play, that I have been afraid to so much as open the front cover.

Or I might just relate to it differently, but that kind of scares me, too. To be clear, I trust the books. I trust Diane Duane and her writing, the Young Wizards universe with its depth and complexity, the characters of Nita and Kit and Tom and Carl with their ability to face ethical conundrum and moral grey area. The more I’ve sat down and really thought about those nine preceding books, thought about what the adults in the books said and did as well as the kids, the more I’ve realized that the world of YW is much bigger than I’d realized at fourteen, or nineteen. I trust that the story can hold up against my doubts and uncertainties and questions. I trust that the story can handle who I am, now.

I am less sure that I can.

I have grown up. Not entirely, but more than I ever wished to. And that is a good thing, but it also a very painful thing.

And so, as I said, I have found myself shaking, whenever I try to open that front cover and turn to page one.

Because once I do, my past self and my future forms and the existence I am, truly, right now, will be left to stare at each other from within the lines on a page, and I don’t know what’s going to happen once one of them blinks.

Guess there’s only one way to find out, though.

I was warned, I suppose. All those years, all those pages ago, Nita Callahan did say that life, at least, would never be boring

A 6-Year-Old Don Juan Is A Problem

18 Jan

Today, on my way back from the grocery store, I got hit on by a six-year-old.  I assume he was a six-year-old, because he was most certainly prepubescent and no bigger than a slightly overgrown wombat.

He pulled up to the corner of the sidewalk on his tiny child skateboard as I walked by. “Excuse me, miss!”

I stopped and removed my headphones, entirely expecting him to tell me he was lost or ask me where some tiny child theme park was located or if I liked the color green or some shit like that.

“I’m doing this thing for my skate park,” said the tiny male human as he smiled up at me with wide puppy eyes, “where I have to land a trick in order to get a hug.”



Well that’s a weird promotion. Why would they have a kid do that? What kind of training approach are they OH MY GOD THIS INFANT IS HITTING ON ME.

“I… think you should ask your parents for that hug,” I said, once my brain stopped reeling from the shock of being flirted with by someone who probably doesn’t even know if he can grow a mustache yet.

“I did that already!”

“Yeah, well, practice makes perfect.”

At this point, I started to walk away, and this tiny manchild actually began yelling after me, shouting “Aw, come on! Come on!”

I, being an adult and not the size of a wombat, was able to outpace the indignant little human fairly easily and made it home without a small yapping thing at my heels.

Now, let’s talk about this.

The story is amusing. You have a child acting like an adult, and that is often funny, in the same way that pugs wearing sweaters and boots are funny. It’s one thing pretending to be something it’s not. It’s a behavior farce. Lol. Ha ha. Whatever.

But this story is also absolutely fucking horrifying. It’s only funny because I was dealing with a small child incapable of overpowering me or presenting any real threat. But fast-forward ten years. That wombat-sized kid is now a sixteen year old boy who’s probably at least as tall as I am. Move ahead another ten years, and now a fully grown man is the one getting angry that I turned him down and is shouting “aw, come on!” at me while I’m just trying to carry my bags home from the grocery store. Now it’s an adult who’s throwing a tantrum because his line didn’t work and he didn’t get what he wanted. Now it’s someone who’s much more of a match for me physically coming at me with a lifetime of assumption that if he asks for it, I, a complete stranger, should give it to him.

That right there is rape culture. Inside of a six-year-old.

Not so funny now.

Comedy becomes tragedy all too easily. For that story ten and twenty years from now to be different, its revision needs to start now.


1 Jan

leap year page 1

Here in Los Angeles, California, it’s just shy of three hours to the close of January 1st, 2016. Today’s not been much different than any other day, closer to weekend-style even though it’s Friday, but not quite the same because one of my roommates is out of town, and the other is recovering from a long stretch of mandated human interaction, and I myself just returned from The Hellhole That Is Currently Underwater.*

But still, all in all, pretty much the same as any other day. January 1st has no particular magic to create a grand shift in my life. It is just an arbitrary designation of the passage of time.

Except… we don’t want it to be, do we? We want there to be some power in the rustle of a new calendar being hung on the wall. We want there to be some force that we can harness through the symbolic gesture of wiping the slate clean. Whatever the year, we want 01/01 to be not just one more day full of nothing more than more of the same, but rather to be one glistening 24-hour chance to grasp hold of a future we haven’t yet tainted. A notebook that’s got no smudges or eraser marks. A slab of clay, wet and waiting, for us to pick up and do something with.

We want it to be the start of a new story, ripe for the telling.

2016 is a particularly good year for that, it seems. We’ve got a leap year ahead. One whole extra day for awesome.

And I, who makes much of her living out of words, sits here at the close of page 1 of 366 wonder – what makes a good story? What do I want?

What do you want?

What makes a story worth it, after it all, when you’re running out space for lines on the page and midnight is tolling and another book, another voice, another year is chasing at your heels? What is it in a story that will leave you satisfied at “the end” – or even better, hungry for more?

If you’ve got some thoughts to tell, I’d like to listen.


* Missouri. Not necessarily an intrinsically bad place, but a historically terrible destination for me in particular. Also, it’s rained so much there in the past few days that a house literally floated away. It was on the news, guys.

It can be okay in the summer, though.

Just… mind the tornadoes.