On The “Real World” (14.2.9)

This piece was originally published in Voices of Youth Advocates, in their “Notes of the Teen Underground” Series in October 2015. I was 18 at the time of its publication. I still stand by the intentions and main kernals in these early essays. However, I was new in my development of my opinions and the language needed to properly express them. These pieces can be clumsy, and contain missteps.

My language, eloquence, and beliefs are continually refined, and hopefully my writing mirrors that improvement now.

This iteration is lightly edited for typos and clarity only. Enjoy.

Many adults talk about the “Real World” in settings with youth who are not yet legal adults, or those who are not yet teenagers. It’s a phrase that’s used to mean that each age is not yet in the real world, that we are somehow living in a fake world often thought of as softer than the “Real World”. Before you’re eighteen you hear it so much that you begin to think you’ll never be living in a real world.

Though, the way the real world is described, maybe that’s a good thing. It’s a place of seemingly boring responsibilities and goals, tasks, and safety hazards; where you have to listen to the person above your rung of the ladder, no matter what your conscience or heart says. So maybe we shouldn’t want to live there, even though society holds it up as a goal. But then again, this world isn’t all that great, however fake and pretty it seems to the adult telling you how harsh the “Real World” is. We still have boring responsibilities, boring goals, boring tasks, and horrible safety hazards. We are still forced to learn from and respect people whose morals and consciences can be far inferior to our own. Just like all the other “Real Worlds” we’ve heard about or seen. Which world is truly real, which world should we aspire to? Or perhaps both worlds are a societal illusion?

I hear a lot of people talk about the “Real World” as a place that’s not got a bit of decency or any kind of ideal in it, and you’re told to throw away your sense of self to fit in and “succeed”. We’re supposed to aspire to a fictional “Real World” that is even more frustrating than the world we already live in, the supposedly fake world. Perhaps the world of the teenager seems unreal or surreal to adults looking out from their own world, but that doesn’t mean it’s not actually real. Sometimes I think adults feel that our world is too real for us to handle as such delicate young creatures, so they pretend we live in a fantasy world where the only problems are the ones we invent for ourselves – instead of trying to deal with the actual problems.

Our world is as unreal, surreal, and too-real, as the adult world. Each is no more or less real than the other. They certainly may be different, but difference does not question reality. Describing adulthood as the “Real World” and implying that the teenager’s or child’s life is not does nothing good, and does much harm.

The myth that we’re waiting to start living hurts. It seems the “Real World” where we will finally be accepted, as warped and corrupted as we will become in the process of getting there, is just out of our reach. It hurts more than the single person who strives for that world – and can never make it to a place that never existed – it hurts all of society.

Teaching teens that they’re never living in the real world means that our actions have no consequence, that everything we feel or think is fake, that we’re always waiting to truly live. And that is not the kind of adult you want to have around you. I’m not saying that all teens should suddenly have the same consequences as adults, or be thrown into the next stage of development before they’re ready. I’m saying that real is a word that describes all stages of life, and that reality should be dealt with rather than ignored.

Journey Towards Understanding. (14.10.23)

This piece was originally published in Voices of Youth Advocates, in their “Notes of the Teen Underground” Series in April 2015. I was 18 at the time of its publication. I still stand by the intentions and main kernals in these early essays. However, I was new in my development of my opinions and the language needed to properly express them. These pieces can be clumsy, and contain missteps.

My language, eloquence, and beliefs are continually refined, and hopefully my writing mirrors that improvement now.

For this essay specifically, there are several ways I’d change this piece if I were to write anything like it now, and there are many ways I feel like I haven’t learned enough to revisit any of these ideas. This article makes me feel for several reasons that I’ve left things unfinished in developing this relationship with the culture I was learning about, and with the learning itself. I hope to have the mental and physical means to invest in deepening my knowledge and interaction.

This iteration is lightly edited for typos and clarity only. Enjoy.

I think I’ve always had a little knowledge that sign language existed, but it wasn’t really on my radar growing up. I’m not deaf or hard of hearing. My dad had his hearing damaged, but it never seemed to be really noticeable or problematic. None of my relatives or friends were deaf and no one knew any kind of sign language beyond the ever influential middle finger.

When I was about eleven, I was volunteering at a local library putting stickers on new young adult books, and I found one that looked interesting. I remembered it and later I read it. It was called My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger. It said on the jacket that it was about love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park. This book is still, six years later, one of my all time favorite books.

It was about two best friends, T.C. and Augie, and a girl, Alejandra. And then T.C. met a six year old boy. His name was Hucky, he was deaf, and orphaned. Learning sign language became a priority for T.C. as he learned more about the stubborn and sad boy who was obsessed with Mary Poppins. Along the way T.C. and Alejandra fall in love, Augie falls in love with a boy named Andy, and a little magic happens.

This book proved to me that a happy book can be just as powerful, meaningful, and beautiful as one that uses pain to find its epiphanies. My Most Excellent Year opened my eyes, and what I saw was the world I want to live in.

It’s a place with sadness, true, but it’s also a place with delight, friendship, brotherhood, love, and happiness. It’s a place where you can be yourself and have people around who love you. That’s the world I strive for when I write, fiction or opinion.

Later on, my Sophomore year of high school, I took American Sign Language (ASL) for the year, primarily because of the influence of My Most Excellent Year. I learned a bit, mostly that I wanted to know more, and I was more successful at learning ASL than the other languages I had previously attempted. My high school class never managed to keep quiet and it was hard to learn to actually hold conversations because of that.

So the next year, my junior year in high school and my first year in college, when I signed up for ASL 1 I didn’t expect to know anything. My college level ASL class was taught by a deaf professor, and a few times the class had a substitute, who was another deaf professor. This made the classroom environment much more conducive to learning ASL. I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I remembered some of the signs, and the rest were pretty easy. Except, it was hard too. It’s a language, it’s complex and varied and has its own rules, dialects, and conventions. And it’s attached to a culture that’s complex and varied with its own rules, conventions, and nuances.

It’s fascinating to learn about, it’s amazing to be a part of even in a peripheral way. But it’s scary to talk to other people in ASL. You’re afraid to say the wrong thing, to forget a sign, to mix up signs, or not be able to understand any signs. ASL looks good on resumes too, but what if you’re expected to know it well and then you freeze and remember nothing when you need it?

I am taking ASL 2 now, from the same professor. It’s once again one of my easiest classes and hardest classes – at the same time. I think I understand the language more than I did before, but the same fears plague me. I hope to take ASL 3 soon if I do well enough in ASL 2. Someday I hope I can sign fluently enough to ease some of the fear of letting myself, and those I want to communicate with, down.

When you begin learning ASL you feel very isolated, and quite often confused. You don’t know enough sign to talk with your classmates, you can’t speak out loud because it’s a deaf-friendly environment and a classroom environment, and you can’t always understand the professor without the help of the teachers’ aid or an interpreter. It feels similar to what I imagine it feels like to be deaf amongst a group of hearing people. But slowly, very slowly, it begins to become clearer.

As you learn and understand more and more, there’s a moment you cherish. When you are watching a conversation in ASL, and you finally understand. Some of the signs are unfamiliar, some of it doesn’t exactly seem to be signs, and some is just too fast. But you understand. The story unfolds in front of you.

ASL is an entirely visual language, and sometimes, especially when I’m watching someone tell a story, or sign to a song, it’s as if the air around the signer becomes animated with the concepts of the signs, gestures, and finger spelling. It’s amazing.

This language and culture isn’t something I can claim, but I am a better person for knowing even the small amount about it that I do. I would wish this understanding and opportunity on everyone who wanted it, in the world I write for.

Pockets. (19.3.8)

If there are infinite universes, with infinite combinations of physics and laws of nature, then surely there is one universe improved that there are not only proper pockets in women’s clothing, but also pockets in time where rest can happen without existential dread, missed deadlines, or time passed.

Unfortunately traveling to such a marvelous place is impossible as of yet.

Perhaps, by the time our personal rest pockets arrive, some of this world’s injustices will be no longer.

Brought to you by International Women’s Day, exhausted optimism, and accidentally being on time for a moment.

There are many more serious things wrong in the world than missing pockets. There is more time for seriousness tomorrow.

To all who whose energy is spent surviving, I love you.

For Change. For Joy. (18.10.26)

There are so many people ready, able, and working to make others comfortable with increasing diversity.

We always need more people pushing harder for change. When you can push harder, do it.

Change has never been a product of time passing. It has always been the product of those who pushed as hard as they could, whether they had a choice, means, or not.


I’m still learning how to support my beliefs with practice and strength, so there’s time for you to learn too, if we start now.


I’m tired, I’m not ready, but I exist. When inhumanity comes for my friends, for me, we exist.


You deserve joy in your lives.


PS: Read this lovely piece about creation and survival by Charlie Jane Anders: “Never Say You Can’t Survive.”

Talk Sex Positively Now Reflections. (18.7.6)

A couple weeks ago I got the opportunity to present Olympic College’s 5th Annual Diversity Conference. This was the first presentation I’ve done outside of school, and there was unsurprisingly a lot of procrastination involved. I wanted to take a moment and share some things about my topic, and what I learned during this experience.

I’m on the official schedule. And I have a ribbon!

Sex education, sex positivity, consent, and bodily autonomy are ever important in this era of media addressing sexual harassment and accountability so prominently.

In this talk we’ll go over basic terms refining sexuality discourses, highlight the importance of sexuality inclusive social justice work, and give participants practical ways to advocate for healthy discussion of sexuality in their daily lives.”

When I wrote this description I had a lot of goals and expectations for myself, a lot of which got much simpler because of my inexperience in preparing for and executing a presentation. By the time conference time came, my main goal was to talk about the connections I was making between the tools used in social justice work and advocacy related to sex and sexuality, and ways to apply these tools more broadly.

On the day itself, I went over a collection of terms and ideas I enjoy thinking about, or that particularly frustrate me as the case was for several, played a video about Jacqueline Boxx (linked below) as an example of where there’s more work to be done, showed off some of the people I’ve found most interesting in my own learning, and mercifully my lovely participants had a wonderful discussion that interestingly took a parental approach focus. Though, there were quite a few interesting tangents and questions that I’ll be considering for my future projects.

Some Cool People Doing Cool Things

Starting Point

I also got some really nice, and constructive, feedback. I have some ideas for where I want to go next, and what things I need to keep in mind for next time.

I’m incredibly happy that my topic was interesting, and that I got such positive feedback as motivation to keep pursuing it. I know I’m not the only person working on similar topics, and I’m looking forward to discovering new details and timing that make my thinking valuable contributions. I know I’m going to be writing more on the ideas I explored and my slightly haphazard way of learning them, but I make no promises for swift products.

As for the nitty gritty on the presentation side, I need more practice speaking itself. This is given. I need to be better about making time to prepare, and refine. (Basically, the opposite of procrastination.) I also want to include more points to include consent and actively build on the accessibility of my projects.

All in all, I had a wonderful experience, I learned a lot, and met some really awesome people. It great to build on my previous experiences at Olympic College’s Diversity Conference as an attendee, and I’m excited to keep working on more formal, academic-ish, researched work.

Excellent excuse to wear my tie.

Highlights of stories and videos we discussed:

Jacqueline Boxx Burlesque.

Calm Dads and Big Emotions.

Consent Habits Start Early.

Sue Jaye Johnson Ted Talk.


If you’d like to discuss my topic in more depth, or want details about my slides, feel free to contact me.

The “Hidden” Realities. (14.1.29)

Author’s Note: This article was originally published in the Voices of Youth Advocates magazine for their “Notes From The Teen Underground” series in August of 2014. At the time of writing, I had turned seventeen. For this iteration, it has been lightly edited for typos and clarity.

Don’t hide the world from us.

When Buffy Summers of Buffy The Vampire Slayer is suddenly thrown into the position of caretaker to her younger sister when her mother dies, she adopts the same parenting techniques as her mother did – to protect the young innocent girl from the entire world. Watching this process was one of the most frustrating and painfully irritating plotlines of the entire show. It was such a relief, and a triumph, when Buffy suddenly came to the realization that she didn’t want to shelter her from the world– she wanted to show it to her. This moment is a fantastic one, because it’s so simple and definitely something more adults need to realize.

Too many parents, teachers, and adults think that children and teenagers need to be sheltered from the harsh realities of “Real Life”. But this is not the right way to bring about a well balanced adult who is capable and confident. Firstly, even if adults succeeded in sheltering their kids until their eighteenth birthdays, it would certainly be a rude and crushing awakening to find out all the things they haven’t been allowed to know yet. Second, it’s not possible to bring up an innocent child, especially if they participate in things like: Education, Literacy, Spoken Language, Social Interaction, Internet, and Television. No matter what parental controls you think you have. Third, if you try to bring up an innocent child, they learn about the “harsh realities” from the wrong sources. From the boy next door, from the bully in the school yard, from the sex ed teacher whose hands are tied, eyes are blindfolded, and mouth gagged by misguided parental paranoia along the lines of “if we don’t say it, it doesn’t exist.”

Frankly, this pisses me off. Shit, I’m not eighteen yet, I can’t say a swear word. I can’t know about sex, I can’t know about anything really. And yet, out of the teens I know, who are around my age, I am the relatively innocent one. The people I know have had sex, sometimes years ago. They’ve all tried various drugs, they all smoke pot, and several have dated way out of their age range. They go to parties and do seriously crazy shit. And I live in a relatively rural town with a pretty small town mentality. I can’t even imagine what goes on in a more urban, or city environments. So don’t think that the harsh realities are going to be a surprise for most teens. There is really no such thing as too graphic for teenagers. We should be exposed to the graphic and harsh in the right ways, by critical sources who can help us analyze and navigate our place in the harsh reality, and how to keep it from crushing us in the meantime.

The only thing you’re protecting after the age of twelve is really your naïve illusion that we are still completely naïve. Perhaps you’re also protecting the teachers from having to deal with the difficult, awkward subjects that are some the most important ones in our entire lives. That sounds like a great system. I project society will deteriorate, or revert back to Victorian times, in just a few generations. This mentality of insulation and silence has to shift, or we’re all doomed to more generations of sexist, emotionally illiterate, or hateful men; women a who have to be afraid of themselves, afraid of men, to survive; and thousands of gender diverse people who are pushed away from their truths.

Don’t hide the world from us. Show us the world. And let us help fix it.