animalarchy

Vegan. Straight-Edge. Anarchist. Feminist. Queer. Activist. Cyclist. Musician. Lost Boy.

Dear Self, I’m proud of you. Love, Self.

Whenever someone finds out that I am “straight-edge,” there are always questions that come with that discovery. Often times people of radical political thought ask me why I choose to identify with a term that has so much negative association; a term that is riddled with violence and misogyny. I tend to respond by saying that my choice to continue to be sober is a political choice. An act of political conscience to say that I reject these substances, and what they represent in this culture. Therefore I choose to identify myself with a term that encompasses and represents a little more than just “being clean.” I also tend to say that the word “sobriety” is associated with past abuse, and I never had a “problem,” therefore I never felt that I could really use that term in good conscience. I felt like I would be robbing others of their real achievements or something like that. And though I may have written a couple songs that hint at my real relationship with alcohol, I’ve never been really open and honest about it publicly. I’ve always kind of down played it’s existence in my life. But I just watched this film that really got to me and made me sit down and really evaluate myself and my relationship with this substance that I choose to abstain from.

Because really, what is a “problem?” What defines if a person has a problem? And who’s decision is that to make? If I really think about it, when it comes to substances that alter ones frame of mind, a “problem” could be almost anything. It could be abuse and over-use of the substance, which is probably the most recognized substance problem. It could be that when using that substance, one’s state of mind is altered in a negative way that causes them to act out or be violent. But it could also be simply the reason one chooses to use that substance, regardless of if that use could be considered abuse or if it held violent or negative implications. What is the motivation?

The first time I got drunk, I was 15 years old. I had recently gone through some major family issues and lost the presence of a few people that were very important to me. It was Christmas (or maybe New Years), and my brother and I were feeling that loss a lot deeper than either of us would admit. So we drank. This was the first time that I chose a substance to numb my pain rather than a creative outlet to work through it. Consequently, this was also one of the first times that I really felt pain, and I was not prepared for it.

Until I was 18 years old, most holidays were spent the way that that Christmas was. Anytime someone mentioned my drinking I would say that I was just a “holiday drunk,” because I never drank any other time of the year. It was only those days I felt most alone. I stopped drinking on holidays when I was 18. I had a partner who had an amazing family that really took me in, and for that year, I spent my holidays with them and I had no desire or need to drink. I coped with any pain I had by witnessing the beauty that was around me. Or I would write music as a form of therapy. You know, positive ways of dealing with pain.

When I was 19, this partner left me, and I found myself pretty alone again. In that same year a close friend of mine committed suicide. And though I was “responsible” about my drinking (I only did it on the weekends so it wouldn’t interfere with work) I spent months drowning myself in alcohol to try to forget that I would never get to see or talk with this person again. I literally made it a point to not be able to remember a good 6 months of my life, because I didn’t know how to handle this situation. I was not prepared for it.

So let’s recap for a minute. What led me to my first drink? Experiencing loss and wanting to numb the pain that it harbored in me. And what led me to drink again after a year or so of not desiring it? Experiencing loss and wanting to numb the pain that it harbored in me. I mean, yeah, I was a “young adult” and I drank with my friends to have a good time, but even that had underlying issues. In those situations I would drink to loosen up so that I could hook up with someone in order to feel connected for a couple of hours and not feel guilty or shitty about myself while it was happening. Again, a way to fill some deeper void in me about feeling alone… feeling abandoned… feeling worthless or not good enough. I needed to alter my state of mind to be happy and comfortable and aid myself in doing things I wouldn’t do with a clear conscience and a healthy frame of mind.

Right after I turned 21 I witnessed someone very close to me trip and hit their temple on a stairwell railing because they were too drunk to walk straight. The minute it took for us to bring them back to consciousness was the minute I realized I never wanted to be able to get to that place. I never wanted to be the person that other people worried about losing. Because I knew what that loss felt like, and what it was doing to me subconsciously. And though I didn’t see myself as having a problem with alcohol because I didn’t abuse it and because I didn’t “need” it, I didn’t really see giving it up as that much of an accomplishment. But looking back now, I see it a little differently. My motivation to drink was never for “fun” or “just because,” it was to attempt to numb a pain, to attempt to escape a reality. And that IS a problem.

Since I made the decision to stop drinking, I have gone through many bouts of intense loneliness. I have experienced loss. I have been in pain. And it really hit me this past Christmas, when I had a real overwhelming desire to just go get a bottle of Jack Daniels and forget that I was by myself… it really hit me that maybe I have accomplished something. That maybe I am doing something that I needed to do on a much deeper level than I understood at the time I made the decision.

In 20 days, I will be 3 years sober. And I say sober, because you know what? I did have a problem. And I’m fucking proud of myself for recognizing it at the age of 21 and deciding to act on it, even if it was subconscious and I didn’t figure it out until tonight.

Every Twelve Seconds

My second book this year was one I’ve been wanting to read for quite a few months. I’ve spent some time with the author because of my work and I’ve heard him speak and was very intrigued by his presentation, and his book was no exception. “Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight” was easily one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a while. You see, I’ve read a lot of books about animal rights and veganism and animal agriculture and food production, and a lot of them are very similar. They cover the same basic information and touch on the same basic topics. They are all useful and have their own unique things to offer, but there seems to always be a little bit of repetition to them; always something in them that I’ve read before. And, most of all them are written with a goal in mind and an opinion in favor of the animals. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against this at all. I’ll continue reading books written by animal advocates for the rest of my life, I’m sure, because I too, am an advocate for animals and I appreciate and support individuals who dedicate their time and work to helping non-human animals. But an interesting thing about this book in particular was that it wasn’t written from the perspective of animal advocate, or animal protection effort, it was written as an account of industrialized killing from the perspective of the person doing the work, which is not something you come across everyday. So, it covered a lot of information I’d never heard before.

Timothy Pachirat went undercover as an employee in a slaughterhouse to do research. He worked for 6 months in the slaughterhouse and held three different positions in the plant that allowed him to see the inter-workings of just about everything. First as a liver hanger, then as a cattle driver (where we also assisted in the knocking of several individual cattle, and finally as a quality control officer. He breaks down the set up of the facility, the tasks performed by each employee, the segregations within the facility, the mentalities and psychology behind how individuals view their work and the work of others… really everything. It’s all broken down in ways that most of us would never even think to look at it. Inside and outside, alive and dead, clean and dirty, main line and auxiliary, upstairs and downstairs, supervisory and production. But how could we? It’s all so hidden from public view that most people don’t think about it at all.

From the point by point descriptions of the work that is performed to the segregation between the workers to the negligence and the amount of falsification of documents, the amount of detail in this book is remarkable. Regardless of if you are an advocate for animals or an avid consumer of meat, this book is extremely important in allowing people to understand things about industrialized slaughter that we didn’t know before. It’s important in allowing people to see the practices that go into operations such as these. It’s important for people to understand why these places are kept hidden and to be fully aware of what they are supporting with their daily purchases. But it really goes far beyond that. I highly recommend it. I think that no matter who you are or where your beliefs or morals lie, there is something that you can get out of this book.

If not for the animals, for yourself. If not for yourself, for the workers. If not for the workers, for society. If not for society, for mother nature. There are plenty of reasons to oppose industrialized slaughter. Take your pick.

“To watch the movement of a cow from the chute to the down puller is to witness the transformation of a creature from fully animal to carcass. In the chutes, each of the cattle has its own unique characteristics: breed, sex, height, width, hide pattern, level of curiosity, eyes, horns, sound of bellow. From a phenomenological standpoint, after the cattle are stunned, shackled, and suspended upside down in the air, the entire process seems geared to stripping them of these unique identifiers in order to begin the process of turning living animals into homogeneous raw material. This process will not be completed until the animal leaves the fabrication department in boxes, but it is here, at the earliest stages, where the change is most dramatic.”

Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows

I decided to start off the year’s reading with a fairly easy yet useful read, Melanie Joy’s book “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows.” While a lot of the information in the book I was familiar with having been a vegan for years and being an educator in the animal rights world, but one thing that was new and interesting about the book was the focus on “carnism.” She brought to light how our culture sees vegetarianism and veganism as a choice (often based on morals and ethics), yet sees meat eating as expected, a social norm. Vegetarians and vegans are people who choose to abstain from animal products for specific reasons, where as meat eaters are seen as just “normal people.” There’s no recognized philosophical outlook on eating meat, only one on not eating it. It is seen just “normal, natural and necessary.” So Melanie Joy gives it a name, Carnism, and goes into detail about the many reason’s why it’s never been named. I won’t go much into detail about the book or give many passages away because I feel like it is a really accessible and easy to read book, even for someone who is not familiar with the topic at all. I’ll probably read it again to drill some of the idea’s into my head. But I’ll end with this passage that I highly appreciated because it is relevant for so much more than just the idea of carnism…

“When we view the tenets of an ideology as normal, it means the ideology has become normalized, and it’s tenets social norms. Social norms aren’t merely descriptive – describing how the majority of people behave – they are also prescriptive, dictating how we ought to behave. Norms are socially constructed. They aren’t innate, and they don’t come from God (though some of us may have been taught otherwise); they are created and maintained by people, and they serve to keep us in line so the system remains in tact.”

Lessons From Unlikely Teachers.

Working at Farm Sanctuary, the majority of my time this year has been spent with non-human animals who have been rescued from abuse, cruelty and neglect cases. They all have seen hell’s I could never even imagine, and they all have recovered in completely different ways. But one thing they all have in common is that they all have lessons to teach us humans. So, I just wanted to share a few of the most important lessons that I’ve learned this year, from some of the most unlikely teachers and the most incredible beings I’ve ever met.

What I learned from Tricia: There is beauty in listening.

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What I learned from Dorothy: It’s okay to trust.

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What I learned from Blitzen: Never loose your child inside.

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What I learned from Elliot: Love is real and loyalty is possible.

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What I learned from Patrick: Baby steps. Baby steps are all you need.

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What I learned from Daisy: Anything is possible.

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What I learned from Jay: A simple will to live can be the most powerful of things.

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What I learned from Kalfin: Friends are important.

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What I learned from Delilah: Family is important.

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What I learned from WendyJane: Recovery can take time, and that’s okay.

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What I learned from Antoinette: Always speak your mind; ask and you shall receive.

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What I learned from Turpentine: Live bold.

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Thank you. Every single one of you have helped shape me into a better person. I am fortunate to know you and love you all so dearly. <3

"Sober Living for the Revolution"

As the new year approaches I have many a goal in place, set to make this coming year a year of growth in knowledge and health. One of those goals is to read a lot more than I am now. I’ve read a few books in my day, don’t get me wrong, but the list of “want to read” is endless. I just never make time for them, because I’m too busy wasting time. Not this year! That’s all going to change. But not only do I want to read all these books, I want to retain information from them. So in order to keep my mind fresh and tuned in and also share my readings with others who may be interested in them, I intend to do little write ups of each book. To share my favorite passages, maybe talk about what I took away from it, or what I absolutely hated about it. Really anything. I’m not going to force myself to do anything too particular, but just something to retain a little information and really take away something from everything I read. So, I figured I would begin building this habit and get started now, even before the new year arrives. I read a few incredible books this year, but I just recently finished one and am about to finish another, so I can report on those. Maybe I’ll go back later and report on the others I read. Maybe not. We’ll see.

So let’s jump right in. Over the span of a week in December I read a little book called “Sober Living for the Revolution – Hardcore Punk, Straight Edge, and Radical Politics” edited by Gabriel Kuhn. This book is a collection of interviews, essays and manifestos mostly discussing the ties of sober living with radical politics. I wanted to read this book, not because I’ve ever been particularly interested in the “straight edge” music scene, but because I wanted to be able to better articulate my political reasoning behind being a straight edge individual. A lot of the book was discussing issues in the “scene” which I didn’t have too much interest in, because I either wasn’t alive or was in my early years of infant-hood when they took place and really just because the music scene behind straight edge and the community that it is linked with is not what I cling to. (But I can imagine that all of the music scene information would be really interesting to someone who was a part of this scene or is a part of the current music scene attached to straight edge… and I would like to say that I really appreciated some of the critiques to the music and show scene behind straight edge as many of the things referenced in a negative light are things that turned me away from being or claiming edge for quite some time). But overall, I was more interested in reading about how people connect their straight edge lifestyles with their political stances.

When I first decided to get sober, it was entirely for personal reasons. I did not identify with or really even understand radical politics at that time, so my initial reasonings for taking on sobriety or the “straight edge” lifestyle had absolutely nothing to do with politics (or so I thought). But shortly after I made this decision I also started getting involved with the local radical community and started developing my personal politics. Really latching onto the ideals of anarchism and feminism (as well as veganism, but that came way before anything else) straight edge just kind of made sense and in my head it all aligned as being connected. But actually explaining ‘why’ was never something I was good at. I think this book had a lot of insight and really put my feelings down on paper to help me better explain myself. Granted, there was plenty I didn’t care for and even things I downright didn’t agree with, but I absolutely took a lot away from the book and see it as a really good reference point for me when I’m trying to articulate why I like to keep my edge political.

I’d like to reflect on a few of my favorite quotes and passages from the book that either really help sum up my ideas or are just rad things to remember.

In Ian MacKaye’s interview he stated “I also think that the sexual transgression plays a massive role in the consumption of alcohol. People drink to enter into situations that are not necessarily good for them. I feel that people should always be present.” And a Swedish political activist named Tanja stated “Even for us women with a feminist analysis, living drug free was seen as part of our individual liberation – taking control of our bodies, being independent, developing strength.” These statements really resonated with me. One of the personal reasons I decided to give up drinking was because of the person I became and the things that I did when I was intoxicated, that I would not do in a sober state. I was really uncomfortable with how out of control I was with my own body. Being present, being conscious and aware, developing that independence and strength became very important things to me. I never saw those things as being political then, but being of a feminist frame of mind now, it all meshes together very well.

Point of No Return’s essay “Bending to Stay Straight” had a couple passages that I found particularly powerful. Long, but powerful. Tying together how straight edge is in defiance of capitalist culture and state control and its relativity to veganism’s stance against the same processes of exploitation towards animals. A few of those passages being:

Her perspective on SXE held, as it was with the purifying firestorm, the incorporation of veganism as an obvious extension of the SXE position. Meat, egg and dairy industries constituted an extremely powerful economic enterprise that placed profits above any consideration for the death and suffering of millions and millions of animals, nor for the destruction – as a result of the enormous waste of natural resources and the devastating pollution of air, soil and water on a frightening scale – of the environment which sustains all forms of life in this planet. The vivisection industry was undoubtedly one of the most cruel human actions against non-humans, disguised by the mask of “Knowledge” and legitimated through the authority of scientists that worked with one eye on the microscope and the other on the research funds that allow them to comfortably persist in their bloody career as executioners. The entertainment industry, in turn, was responsible for jeopardizing the beauty and enchantment of such important cultural manifestations as circuses by condemning animals, whose instincts demand freedom and socialization, to lives of confinement and isolation. The act of ceasing to consume the products of all this misery was a simple gesture that represented a very significant self-exclusion from systematic processes of exploitation.”

But, differing from the same model, to be SXE in her eyes had nothing to do with a personal decision; being straight was deeply embedded in a way of living that was compatible with the revulsion she felt against capitalism. Everyone knew that drug use, be it legal or not, comprised astronomic amounts of money. Stimuli for consuming it were found everywhere, and the consumption was never presented as something which people might do (eventually and with much due caution) in search of new sensorial experiences. People, especially young, were deliberately driven to drug use in order to acquire social and sexual status in the eyes of others. And such consumption was satisfactory for the elite because drugs were an efficient mechanism for state control, convenient for sending the criminal, those who threaten the system, to jail – or cemetery.”

SXE in the perspective that the young woman had built with her group of friends was, in total, the person who would stand for the end of all forms of oppression and discrimination. It was the person who defended the inalienable right for self-determination of peoples that still undergo the humiliation of political intervention and that often find themselves in the difficult position of having to fight tanks with stones, missiles with shotguns. It was the person who fought to overthrow all fences that had privatized property of the few out of that which had once existed for everyone . It was thttp://www.linuxmint.com/start/lisa/he person committed to recall our collective memory, as a frightening denunciation that the problem was still not overcome, the singular experience of suffering of those who felt the weight of whips in the sadistic game of torture. It was the person who strived for seeing, through critical eyes, the subtle screens, masked by the seduction of entertainment, that bring the necessary ideological charge to assure the perpetuation of the imperialist hegemony. It was the person who felt revolted by the sad irony of the suicidal capitalist society that, as if voluntarily placing its neck in the gallows, first produces the victims of its system through its insatiable greed for wealth, only to be later unforgivably victimized by these very victims. It was the person who regretted the bloody history of our colonial past, in which the price paid for the futile silver mirrors, brought by the white people to be traded, represented an irreparable loss of millions of lives from thousands of nations. It was the person that believed in the structuring of a system of flexible creeds and stances as a fundamental principle for the organization of a collective resistance, the only bridge capable of guiding us to a world of more cooperative and just values. Some positions, reflected the young woman, among hundreds of others…”

In Bruno Teixeira’s interview he explains things in a very approachable manner, which is something I really appreciate. “The basic pillars were: no to alcohol, no to tobacco, no to drugs, no to dependency, no to a system of exploitation which sees you as a commodity and who acts as an oppressor.”

Punk and sXe have the exact same purpose: to defy a system that controls you and to provide a social alternative based on true values, a true sense of freedom, and the absence of oppression. The difference was the abstinence that sXe preached, which contradicted the habits of most early punks. sXe introduced the notion that sobriety, a clear conscience, and a rejection of drugs and intoxication (the system’s poisons) can make it easier to develop a true (r)evolutionary consciousness and to have a deep impact on society.

In a world completely dependent on intoxication, sXe is a weapon of political resistance, it’s the “UnDiscipline.” the exact opposite of what millions of people do who consume products and have so-called “fun” at the expense of millions of suffering human beings and animals. This has very concrete dimensions, for example when indigenous populations are forced to run away from their homelands to plant drug or tobacco crops. The social costs of alcohol and tobacco are horrendous: alcohol as a drug is responsible for millions of deaths by car accidents and countless beatings in our homes; tobacco causes not only diseases in human beings but is also the excuse to intentionally infect innumerable animals with these diseases for “research purposes.” And often enough the corrupt, greedy, and deadly industries behind these substances have connections to right-wing parties and so on.

This is the reality that sXe turns against, and that punk should turn against too. Both ideologies have a lot in common and I truly know that a lot of people who are not sXe do a great deal of excellent things. I just wish we could all move to the next level and stop supporting companies and substances that are not only dangerous and deadly but that also support a system of constant oppression. Those in power know that you are more dangerous when you are sober than when you are drunk, and they do a very effective job in keeping you separated from the real thing, in keeping you from fighting their rules and from fighting for those in need. They relentlessly force more and more products you don’t need onto you and your home.”

We are more dangerous when we are sober, and I wish more people could see just how important that is. It’s as simple as having a clear conscience. It’s a simple game of power. We already have the underhand, but we give up what little power we have everytime we give away our self control and place it in their pockets.

One of my favorite quotes from the whole book also came from this interview with Teixeira: “I was born without asking and I will die without wanting, but I’m really sure I made the best of what lay in between!” I hope to never forget this because it’s a very simple reminder of why I make the choices I make everyday

Moving on to Jonathan Pollock’s interview:

I was initially attracted to Straight Edge by the need to distance myself – mentally, emotionally, and politically – from the culture of my contemporaries; a culture obsessed with money and commoditization of leisure and personal interaction rather than with the freedom; a culture in which the most upsetting thing you could do was to reject manufactured leisure.”

We get to places sometimes where we have to completely start over, with new people in our lives, because kids my age, generally want to drink and party and waste time being wasted. And frankly, I have more important things to do with my time. More productive ways to spend my money (or not spend it). The idea of manufactured leisure never even crossed my mind back when I used to drink. It was just the way you spent your evenings.

Put again in the simple terms of a teenager, Straight Edge is the ultimate Fuck You.”

You can say that again!

But really, the most important quote I took out of this book was this: “The real issue I recognize concerns not the on-the-ground economic circumstances of these products – these can indeed be circumvented – but rather the place that these substances hold within our culture, and what it means to reject them.” I can relate this to so much more than just sobriety and the rejection of intoxicants. I can relate it to veganism and the rejection of animal products. I can relate it to feminism and the rejection of societal beauty standards. I can relate it to anarchism and the rejection of authority and government… really anything that involves rejection of something that holds high place in our culture. Which seems to be everything I hate. It’s easy to get caught up in the thought that your rejection, your boycott of something doesn’t really harm the producer of that product. So it’s nice to be reminded that it doesn’t always have to be about that, it can simply be about what it means to reject them, and the power behind that. To continue that thought: “You just can’t beat the system from within. For some reason, this is a commonly held view among anarchists with respect to say, electoral politic, but not so much when it comes to cultural issues – where I think it’s even more applicable.”

From CrimethInc.’s “Wasted Indeed: Anarchy and Alcohol” comes this gem that hits much too close to home: “Think of the power we could have if all the energy and effort in the world – or maybe even just your energy and effort? - that goes into drinking were put into resisting, building, creating. Try adding up all the money anarchists in your community have spent on corporate libations, and picture how much musical equipment or bail money or food (-notbombs… or, fuck it, bombs!) it could have paid for – instead of funding their war against all of us. Better: imagine living in a world where cokehead presidents die of overdose while radical musicians and rebels live the chaos into ripe old age!” And how beautiful and idealistic that all sounds. If only people could see the beauty in what could come of a sober community. I know, it’s wishful thinking, but the fact that it’s wishful thinking is so sad. The fact that most of us cannot even picture a world without intoxicants, a world without bars, a world without drugs, is so fucking sad.

Nick Riotfag’s “Towards a Less Fucked Up World” had some pretty strong relevance for me. Another one of the main reasons that I decided to give up drinking in the first place, was because I needed to really feel the things I was going through. Because attempted escape through a bottle doesn’t get you anywhere. When you don’t allow yourself to feel that pain, you don’t allow yourself to grow. “I believe that our tasks as activists or people who feel a call to change this culture is first and foremost to be open to that deep pain, to feel it and mourn it and hate it, so that it lights fires in our chests that burn for our participation in revolutionary struggle”

And again, the reliance on consumer capitalism to get through the day, or to be able to have social interactions. “Beyond boring conversation, dependence on alcohol limits our social lives in other ways. In bar culture, public interaction is limited to contexts where we have to buy something in order to spend time with other people. It makes us less well equipped to enjoy one another’s company in ordinary mindsets or without corporate intervention. We bond over buying, consuming, numbing, and things rather than creating, experiencing, feeling, and personalities. Instead of challenging it, we accept the proposition that we need consumer capitalism to be able to “loosen up,” have a good time, and get past the hang-ups and self-restraint that constrain our lives.”

Or we could focus on the plain disgusting selfishness that’s tied to these habits.

Tobacco is at the heart of the horrifically pathological global system of capitalist agriculture that prioritize the right of the First World people to poison themselves over the right of the Third World people to eat.”

But lastly, the final way that Nick Riotfag got to me was by bringing my deep love for Peter Pan into the mix. I identify as a “Lost Boy” and the meaning behind that goes very deep into my heart, and I don’t know how I never put together the beliefs behind Peter Pan’s magical Neverland and the idea of youth empowerment and liberation. Who would have thought that I could tie my unexplainable love for Peter Pan and the world of Neverland with my political reasonings for being radically sober. So I’ll end with this absolutely perfect quote:

Maybe I don’t want the privilege that comes with adulthood to destroy my body legally. Maybe I don’t buy the argument that only adults – being naturally superior to kids, according to adult chauvinist logic – are responsible enough to handle getting fucked up. I think the impressive thing is being strong enough to survive without getting fucked up – if becoming an adult means accepting the need to numb myself into accepting the status quo, then fuck it, I’m following Peter Pan and never growing up.”

December the 25th.

Here it is, December the 25th. And here I am, alone in my cabin. I thought for sure I was going to get through today without getting all melodramatic and depressed. I really did. I’ve come a long way since I was 15. But today always harbors some really deep pain and brings up strong desires for past bad habits that I can’t really explain. It was December the 25th, when I was 15 years old that I had my first alcoholic drink. I’d gone through some pretty intense loss and I was particularly depressed so I spent the holiday getting trashed with my brother. This became tradition. We hated the holidays. They made us feel abandoned and alone. So we’d drink them away. But, really, I wasn’t a big drinker. Only in December. And then a few years later I lost a friend to suicide and I took up drinking pretty heavily for a little while. Not to an addictive place, but to a place I didn’t want it to be. Whenever I felt loss, whenever I felt alone, I would drink to try to forget who I was, because in my eyes, I was a person that was easy to leave behind, and I didn’t want to be that person. But when you don’t know how to change, sometimes escape feels like the next best solution. It isn’t. It only makes things worse. I learned that the hard way. This is my 2nd Christmas Holiday since I’ve been totally sober. And I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around how much more difficult it is than I thought it would be. Most of the time I have no desire whatsoever to drink. It is truly not something I care for or crave anymore. Yet today, as I sit alone in my cabin, I have overwhelming desires to drink myself to sleep. I feel that lonely right now. It’s strange though, because the issues that drove me to drinking when I was younger are not present in my life anymore. I’m on really good terms with my family and have some good friends in my life. I just have so many bad memories about this day and the way it’s made me feel and the things I’ve done because of it. And maybe it’s just this time alone, with no one to talk to but my own thoughts, that I’m brought back to those places and really strongly feeling those emotions. And it fucking hurts. I thought for sure I’d get through today without any of that. Welp… was I wrong. Maybe next year.

In Search of the Natural Me.

This is not my most eloquently written piece, but it gets my point across.

Over the past few years I’ve started embarking on a path of personal liberation. I have given up certain things, starting abstaining from certain products, changing how I do “me,” in order to break away from what society tells me I’m supposed to do as a female bodied individual. I’ve always done things a little differently, but I constantly find myself realizing new things that I hate. Things that I do unconsciously because it’s so ingrained in me due to the culture I’ve grown up in.

Like anyone born in my society with female parts, there have always been expectations of who I’m to become, how I’m to look, what I’m to do, etc. I did many of the things teenage girls do. Many of the things that were expected of me. Many things that none of us think twice about because they’re just what girls are supposed to do. I covered my face in make up. I wore bra’s. I put on perfume. I dyed my hair. I shaved my arms, armpits and legs. I “took care of” all of my body hair for that matter. I wore high heels to dance clubs (even though it was very dangerous for me because of my physical foot condition and even though I hated dance clubs). I put contacts in instead of glasses. I drank myself stupid with all my friends. You know, typical daily life here as an American girl. I did all of these things because society has told me since I was a very young, that these are things we are supposed to do. Because a woman’s main focus in life should be her appearance, because first and foremost, we need to be able to attract a husband. Because once we attract a husband we can bare his children, become stay at home moms and do the good work of motherhood instead of whatever other good work we might want to do. And I mean, come of, if we don’t attract a husband, who the fuck is going to take care of us? Because clearly we need a bread winner in the family. Clearly we are the lesser of these two socially recognized genders. Our culture is one that doesn’t value us for who we are. We are valued based on what we look like, just ask any magazine, television show, commercial or movie.

And frankly, I got sick of it all. I didn’t want to be a part of the problem anymore. So I starting thinking of what a solution could be. The best I’ve been able to come up with is to live life in symbolic combat with these things that I hate, for whatever that’s worth.

I’ve had people I’m close to kind of laugh at me when I don’t want to do something solely because it’s a societal norm. I have been told that it’s ok do things if I want to them. That it’s all about what makes me feel good. But you see, it is ingrained in my being that I’ll feel better about myself if I do these things that society tells me I need to do. I may think I’m doing them because it just makes me feel better about myself, but the real question is WHY it makes me feel better about myself. If these were not things that the were forced down our throats everyday by media campaigns and the ad industry… would we still do them on our own? Why do we feel prettier when we’re covered in make up? Why do we feel prettier when our eye brows are tweezed? Why is not acceptable for a woman to have hair on her legs or arms (or really any body hair)? Why is it inappropriate for our breasts natural form to be seen beneath fabric? And for goodness sake, why are we all supposed to smell like lavender and roses?! But most importantly, why are we taught to fear our natural selves and what others will think of that that looks like?

Little by little, I start realizing things I’m doing that I don’t actually want to do, I simply do them because I feel like I’m supposed to. And little by little I change, to try to combat this fucked up society that we live in. Not because I feel like my abstention of these products is having any lasting effect in a “boycott” sort of manner, but because of the symbolism behind it all. One of my favorite quotes from the book “Sober Living for the Revolution” sums up my feelings about all of this pretty well. The quote itself is about alcohol and drugs, but I think it holds relevance for many other things, “The real issue I recognize concerns not the on-the-ground economic circumstances of these products – these can indeed be circumvented – but rather the place that these substances hold within our culture, and what it means to reject them.” So, the place that these beauty standards hold in our society and what it means to reject that. Obviously, I’ll never have it all figured out, and I’ll probably always do things I don’t want to, because society tells me I should and I just don’t know any better, but I decided that this year, I’m going to do as much as I consciously can. Literally, anything I can think about that I’m told I’m supposed to do as a “woman” I’m just not going to do.

A couple years ago I decided that I wasn’t going to wear make up anymore. I decided that I wanted people to be able to actually see me. That I was no longer going to lie about or enhance my appearance in order to be seen as an attractive part of society. I don’t need people to find me attractive. There are more important things about me that I’d rather people notice first. I haven’t worn make up in over 2 years now.

Around this same time, I stopped wearing regular bras, and switched over to sports bra’s instead. Push up bras, under-wire bras, padded bras, bras bras bras. We have to have the perfect one to make sure our boobs look like perfection so a man can lust over them. Yeah, me? I’d rather be honest about the size of my tiny chest so we’ve got no surprises later and also, I just really don’t want my chest to be the focal point of someone else’s attention.

Not long after that I decided that I was going to stop shaving. I told my partner at the time that I just wanted to try it for a month or so, see how it made me feel. I threw out my razer’s that day. That was honestly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s been two years and I haven’t touched a razer since and I couldn’t be happier about that. I could write a whole essay on how freeing it is to allow one’s natural body hair to grow. But I won’t right now.

You see, there was a time when I would make sure I had make up on before leaving the house, when I wore push-up bras on the daily, when I wouldn’t wear shorts or a tank top if I hadn’t shaved in the last 2 hours. When I was so afraid of what people would think if they saw those natural pieces of me. Yet, what I found when I gave them up was a feeling of liberation and freedom. My confidence went through the roof. Being able to walk down the street in shorts, and a tank top, with my hairy legs and armpits showing and with my face being totally natural… showing the world what I actually look like, when you take away these artificial things we all do to try to feel better about ourselves. Yet I felt so much more beautiful, so much more sexy and free and confident, when I was showing my natural self to the world instead of hiding it.

I have no desire to go back to wearing make up or shaving or wearing “real” bras. Not doing these things have become my natural habits now. More recently though, I started realizing things that I still do regularly because I feel like I have to. I mean, in my heart I may think I know that I don’t have to, but I still do them before I walk out the door, I still get self conscious about them. So, clearly, I don’t truly know that I can abstain from these things. Because I’m still so afraid of them. Which is exactly why I want to face all of these things head on. I’m so fucking tired of living in that fear. Being born of the female make up, does not mean I should live in fear of what people think of me. Yet it does.

I stopped washing my hair regularly a while back. Recently I decided to stop wearing deodorant. That’s one of those things I never thought of before. We all constantly mask our natural body odors because we’re told we have to in order to be socially acceptable, but you know what? Just because my body odor doesn’t smell like lavender and roses doesn’t mean it’s offensive. It’s just more money to spend on more things I don’t need to be more acceptable to a society that generally makes me pretty sick anyways, so why bother?

I cut all my scalp hair off again. I do this often but this time I’m going to keep it shaved for a while. I don’t want to have anything to hide behind or anything to make me look “softer.” I want people to really see me when they look at me.

Recently, I finally stopped putting my sports bra on in the morning. That’s been something I’ve struggled with because I didn’t want to look unprofessional at work, but you know what, so what if people can see the natural shape of my breasts or god forbid if my nipples become apparent on a cold day. That’s how the body naturally works, so that’s what the world is going to see. For goodness sake, male bodied individuals are allowed to let their nipples show in public, online, in movies, without there being laws against it, or mature ratings attached to it. So no, I don’t need to wear a bra.

And you know what else? Let’s just face it. I’m a hairy Italian. When I stopped shaving, it wasn’t like other girls I know who have wispy little soft hair that isn’t very noticeable. No, I grow hair like a man. But one of my partners made a comment saying that they loved that I am “manly” hairy. And that made me feel really good about myself, and helped me realize that there are people who appreciate those sorts of things. And it also got me thinking about the rest of the hair that I grow that I “take care of” because I’m afraid of anyone seeing it. Because it’s not feminine enough. You know, my bushy eye brows or my mini happy trail or even those few hairs that grow in really random or not typical places on a female. Hence, the decision to stop altering my “unwanted” body hair. Because really, it’s not that I don’t want it. It’s that society doesn’t want it. I love allowing the naturally masculine pieces of me to show. But again, I fear others judgment when they do.

So really, what I’m trying to say is that I’M SO TIRED OF LIVING IN UNNECESSARY AND ARTIFICIAL FEAR. Why are we taught to be afraid of our natural selves?! Even moreso, to be disgusted in our natural selves (I can’t tell you how many female identifying individuals have commented on my unshaven body as being gross). Why are we taught that removing pieces of us, and covering up the rest is what’s “natural?” And how have we gotten to a place where it is what we’re just supposed to do and we don’t question or combat it? Excuse my language, but FUCK THAT. If you see me, you’re going to actually see me. You’re going to see, feel, smell, absorb the natural me. Because I don’t buy all this shit anymore about what I’m supposed to be like. I’m not Hollywood’s idea of a perfect woman. But who the hell is? None of us are. So why are we trying to be? Why do we waste so much time, energy and money trying to hide ourselves in products and change ourselves to be anything but natural? I don’t get it. And I don’t want to be a part of it anymore. So I won’t. To the best of my abilities.

worldxmenace-deactivated2014060 asked: What book was that from?

The straight edge quotes? A book called “sober living for the revolution” good stuff!

Sowing Season.

It’s been some time since I’ve written anything on here. Or anything at all for that matter. I guess I haven’t had a whole lot to say. Or maybe I’ve been trying to be better about what I say. Or maybe I’ve just been living life in real life. Or maybe a combination of it all. Who knows. With as honest as I like to be, sometimes even I don’t know what’s happening in my noggin. I’ve been having some reality checks lately about the internet and social media and it’s a weird process for me to sort through in my head.

It’s come to my attention on multiple occasions recently that some things are just not meant for the world to see. That privacy has it’s place. Or… discretion… I guess. And I’ve had to really challenge myself lately. Because you see, I’m the person who has nothing to hide. The person who is learning to be proud of who they are. The person who is attempting to live honestly and boldly. Because I know no other way to live. I’m the person who feels like I’m lying if I’m omitting details. Therefore I feel like it’s my responsibility to be this person to everyone. And what easier way to do that, than to just live my life though an outlet that shares everything with everybody? Well, there’s a lot that go wrong there.

And I’ve realized lately that I don’t think that’s the whole picture. I don’t think that it’s just my desire to be honest with the world. I think it’s partly my desire to share my life with anyone. Let me elaborate on that. The life I have chosen and the steps I’ve taken in it, have simultaneously taken me away from another life and the beings that inhabited that life. My world is filled with beautiful creatures that I can share my daily compassion with, but not necessarily creatures that I can share my joys, my fears, my sadnesses… on a literal level. Ya know, I’m close with more non-human animals than human ones lately. I used to have a group of best friends… and now I mostly feel like I don’t really have anyone most of the time. At least no one to text or call to tell about the intimate details of my day. Definitely no one to hang out with and talk out my feelings. Except my mother. Therefore I feel like putting things online will get people to talk to me, or start conversations I might not think to start, because I have this fear of annoying people. It’s one thing to put something where everyone can see it and let them choose and it’s another to call someone and tell them yourself and force it upon them. And I feel like there’s plenty of people in my world who like to be the first part of that, and not quite that many that want to be the second.

Which makes me sit and reflect on life a little bit. I find my worth in the comments or the likes. Yet, a real personal conversation? Those are long gone. But this is no ones fault but my own. And it’s something I struggle with a lot. I’m not the person that makes an effort to keep people around. I’m not the person who tries hard to make others feel appreciated and loved and cared for. As much of a giver I am for my non-human animal friends, I’ve always been more of the taker in human relationships. “I’m too bored to pay attention, too anxious now to sleep and my chore is keeping contact with people that I meet” I mean, come on, my lyrics are my most open form of communication. I expect someone else to do the work. I hope that they will call. But over time… this way of life isn’t very emotionally sustainable. You realize that you have thousands of people online who are ready to “like” your status or your picture, while also realizing that those people who used to text and call you all the time… those people you used to share these stories and pictures with… they aren’t around anymore. Because you didn’t try hard enough to get them to stay. Why would they?

I feel like so many of us replace real life with this cyberworld and it’s just our generation and we think that it’s normal and we think that it’s ok. But fuck man, it gets lonely. And fuck man, it hurts sometimes. And fuck man, it sucks having to remind myself that my worth is not measured by what the world can see on my social media sites. But what am I supposed to believe, when I’ve pushed the real world away? This has become my world. And it’s not necessarily healthy and I need to find a balance.

And I’m sorry. Sorry to the friends who tried for so long, and got nothing in return. Sorry to the people who have been hurt by my honesty. Sorry to those who found out things in the wrong manner. Just sorry.

I’m not sorry about who I am and the fact that I live my life openly, though. That’s a piece of me that I am very proud of. It’s moreso the routes that I take sometimes? I don’t know if I’m making sense anymore.

Maybe it’s my sickness talking and I’m just overly emotional these days. But I really do want to be better. There’s people in my life, past and present and hopefully future who deserve so much more than I give. I guess it just took me a little time to figure out what went wrong. In the words of Brand New “It’s hard to be the better man, when you forget you’re trying.”

And also in other words from Brand New… “I am on a mend, at least now I can say that I am trying. And I hope you will forget things I still lack.”

Hello, California. It’s been a while…

So here I am, in a new room, in a new city, back in my old state. Hello, California, it’s been a while. I’ve spent the last 5 months of my life living in upstate New York, in the middle of the forest, on the grounds of the nations leading animal protection organization and farm animal sanctuary. The time passed quickly… yet I feel like I grew as a human being expansively.

All my life, I have been very into security. By that, I mean that I never really took chances. Some people might think I did, but really, I was too afraid of uncertainty to really let much happen in my life. So, selling almost all of my belongings, buying a car, and moving clear across the country to a totally new environment where I don’t know anyone, to do work that means something to me and get away from a life I wanted to leave behind… is not something I really expected myself to do. I sort of passed up opportunities due to fear of how it would all pan out. Yet, due to some circumstances I won’t discuss, I found myself in a bit of a rut, unable to be a part of things that meant a lot to me, and unable to do much of the work that I felt the need to do. So what does one do in this sort of situation? Get a job on the other side of the country, and start a new life, duh! So I did just that.

I never could have predicted what this decision might mean or might do for me as a growing individual. I thought it would be good for me, but to what I extent, I could never guess.

You know that old phrase “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”? Well, I found my experience to be quite the opposite. I didn’t know what I was missing until I left. There was a lot about my life and my surroundings and company that was very toxic and unhealthy and restrictive. This is not to say that everything was. I had some amazing people in my life and shared some incredible experiences with them. But, like most people, that was not the majority of my time. Also like most people, I saw this as “life” and the way things just were. Not thinking there was another road to take.

Leaving “home” brought out a lot of strength and courage in me that I didn’t know I had. Strength to let go of things and people that I thought I couldn’t. Courage to explore ideas and avenues I felt I shouldn’t. Strength to allow myself to discover things about myself that I kept hidden for a long time. Whether or not everyone else comes to know what these exact things might be or what brought me to them, does not matter. Whether or not I ever get to show or display these growths in a public setting, is not the point. This is an ongoing journey, and always will be. I am a constantly changing and growing individual and all I want is to keep growing and being better than I was yesterday. “Better” being a pretty open term. Like… I want to be able to convey my ideas in receptive ways. I want to keep learning about things I didn’t know about before. I want to be able to bring joy and happiness to others. I want to be able to confront challenges in healthy ways. I want to know myself well enough to know when to and when to not. I want to be ethical in my approaches to everything I do. I want to know what I want. I want to know what I don’t. I want to be radically honest in ways that don’t harm others. I want to encourage, not discourage. Help not hurt. Love not hate. I want to be able to speak when I feel I should, and be silent when it’s necessary. Among many other things… I just want to live in a way that is satisfying and rewarding and positive for myself and those around me. And I feel like I’m so much closer than I was before. So. Much. Closer.

When you start figuring yourself out and you become accepting and even loving of who that is, it becomes easier to understand the world around you and be a part of it in a much more productive and positive way. And I feel like I’m on that path.

Now here I am, back in California, which was unexpected… yet still in a new place, on a new journey, continuing doing work that is important to me, and continuing to grow. I’m allowing myself to feel things I thought I couldn’t, be someone I thought I wasn’t, receive things I didn’t think I would ever deserve, and live in a way I thought would be too frightening. 19 year old me, would never have thought that this is where I would be now, when I made that very first step that started all of this. Even I’m amazed at where I am. Who I’ve become. What matters and doesn’t matter now. Things are so dramatically different… but I couldn’t be more pleased. I can very honestly say that I am happy. With all of these things. And that right there, is enough.