New Post on Medium: “Queerness Feels Safer”

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I’ve decided to use Medium to post all of my opinion-based pieces, creative nonfiction essays, and other various non-blog writings! I feel that it will be more helpful for putting my writing in a space where people are looking to read things, and Medium seems to be a great platform for that. I’ll still use my website blog page to update when I post stories on there, so you’ll still be in the know about what I’ve got going on in the Medium world!

The piece I just put up is about why LGBTQ+ people lean toward spending most of their time in queer spaces. I talked about the life experiences that lead me to this realization, the overwhelming societal factors behind it, and how I feel when I’m spending time with other queer people.

Click here to read the piece. I hope you enjoy it!

A Geek in the Community

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Photo by Geeky Shots on Unsplash

I chose a username about 4 years ago, with the intention of making my presence based on me being just one voice in a community of diverse individuals. “AGeekintheCommunity” was supposed to be a way for me to assert that my voice was only one voice among the community (at that point, it was for LGBT+ topics), but it had a double meaning in the sense that I felt like I was a geek that traversed through many different communities. I wanted to try to portray that my voice is distinct, but not the only voice who has an opinion on the topic.

Though I consider myself a “geek,” which in my realm, means being incredibly passionate about a certain something (usually TV shows, movies, books, etc.), it was starting to feel strange trying to brand myself completely off of that. At first, it was easy to embrace that I would be a geek in any community I moved through (which, well, is still a little true), but it hasn’t been until lately that it feels like it shrunk me. It reduced me to being “just another face in the crowd,” as people say.

I know I’m just another geek in the community, but I don’t want to feel that.

Due to a lot of discouraging experiences, I’ve felt like nothing special for most of my life, and I don’t want those insecurities to start bleeding into how I present myself online, or the quality of work I put into my creative projects. I’ve known that I have a lot of talent to offer, but I have rarely felt that I do, and I know I need to break out of that cycle if I want to believe in my talents. Can a simple username change across all of my platforms be enough to make me feel the uniqueness that will inspire good work? I don’t know, but it can’t hurt to try.

Originally, the name change across all my social media was due to the trend of writers/authors using their real names as usernames, as well as the domain names for their websites as a means of making it easy for people to find their work. I was scared to do it at first, because it would mean going from a catchy username to just, you know, my name. I had been thinking about it months before changing, but always talked myself out of it, or listened more to the people discouraging me from doing it. The thought started nagging at me even harder lately, and I figured that it was just time for me to do it. It’s “Now or Never,” you know, like the Blair St. Clair song (she’s a drag queen, in case you didn’t know). I’m pulling myself together, and all that jazz.

I still love AGeekintheCommunity, but he’s not who I need. He got me started, but it’s my turn to lead myself into something amazing.

It was originally supposed to just be a thing I did for a more solid web presence, but I found something deeper in the username change. Maybe the hinderance that AGeekintheCommunity gave me was so subconscious, it wasn’t until I went through with the whole process that I see where it could have been holding me back. “JeffBrutlag” might be less catchy, but it’s me. It’s the identity I’ve lived with, and am learning to love. There is complexity, experience, and talent behind that identity that I know will do amazing work. I can put in the effort to make my identity pop; AGeekintheCommunity will always just be “a geek in the community,” no matter how good he is.

So look out for me on the world wide web, friends! Jeff Brutlag is ready to kick some metaphorical teeth in. He’s still a big geek, though, so don’t be too intimidated.

(The only place you may still see the username “AGeekintheCommunity” is Facebook, because apparently “Jeff” isn’t a word that’s “allowed on Facebook.” Their platform can go down in history as the first hater of my name change. That’s like, kind of cool, I guess?)

Empty Wells

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Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

I’m just going to blurt out a bunch of stuff that I’m thinking because I’ve been super unproductive and I need to at least write SOMETHING this week that makes me feel like I haven’t been incredibly lazy (when it comes to writing, at least. I know I’ve been working hard in other realms of my life.) I’ve been waking up about two hours later than I normally have been, and I feel like that’s been spiraling into how I run the rest of my days, and I’ve honestly been hating it. I used to be great at just getting myself out of bed, but lately, I’ve been like “eh, let’s close our eyes for another 5 minutes,” which then somehow turns into another hour and a half. I can’t say I’m proud of this, but I try to give myself the benefit of the doubt by suggesting that my body needs that extra sleep. For what reason? I don’t know, but listening to your body is important. However, I now feel like my body is taking advantage of me.

I have writing projects I know I need to get done, but like most of the writing projects I’ve been working on, there’s a fair amount of emotion that goes behind it, and those emotions haven’t been easy to confront. I keep thinking “is it too soon to write about this?” But those thoughts are so often combatted with “if I don’t write about it now, then the feelings just won’t be the same.” Which, I guess both are true, but all in all, I feel like this is all just a subconscious excuse to stall. Why am I stalling? What is there to wait for? I’m not getting to success any faster by staring at a mostly blank word document and hoping I can get words to appear. I have to put the work in, and I have to do whatever it takes to just get that work done.

But…of course, there’s another side to that. These last few weeks, I haven’t been in the mental headspace of allowing myself some relaxation. About a month ago, I was doing well at telling myself “okay, just ONE episode of Jessica Jones, and then you have to get to work,” and that was keeping me on a pretty good track. Lately, every moment of my day has been filled with me thinking “okay, you have to do this right after you’re done Twitch streaming, today,” and subsequently, trying to fill every moment of my day with trying to stay productive. It’s kind of been driving me crazy. Sometimes I feel like my mind is just trying to tell me to stop, relax, and give myself a damn break before getting into the work I need to do. Maybe I need to listen to that.

But it’s hard, because I also feel like I haven’t been productive, despite organizing and running a month-long charity campaign on my Twitch channel for The Trevor Project (which is still happening), which alone has been enough work to be considered a job. When I’m not working on that, I’m sitting in front of my computer, trying to be productive by sheer willpower (with little to no results), so lately, there hasn’t really been a moment where I’m just…relaxing, simply for the sake of it. I’ve valued balance for so much of my life, and now, I’m trying to sweep that under the rug. Maybe that’s been a detriment, a product of the environment I was raised around that doesn’t agree with my brand of adulthood. I was taught that being busy means being productive, and that relaxation was a privilege granted when you’ve been busy enough to earn it. While I believe in staying busy to be productive, I also heavily value my time where all I’m doing is something that requires little to no productive effort. Though, whatever the reason is, I know me best, and losing touch of that has started to make me slip into a version of myself that’s hindering progress.

I don’t like being my own worst enemy, but as a content creator, that can just be part of the job description. For so long, I’ve fought between “I just want to relax for a bit” and “I’m not being productive enough,” and I’m realizing I need to finesse that combination in order to create some progress. I sometimes punish myself for taking breaks when I know I have a lot to do, and for sleeping in when I wanted to be up earlier, but maybe that’s part of what’s hindering, well, everything. I put this pressure on myself to hopefully avoid the pressure someone else may put on me, but I’m starting to feel like I’ve been going about it the wrong way. Willing myself to squeeze words onto a word document, when all my body wants is just forty-five minutes to escape reality, might be what’s drying the well of productivity to the point of cracking. A moment to just breathe might be what I need in order to re-fill it.

I guess this is when someone would say “treat yo self.” Make sure you’re treating yourself for the hard work that you do, because you deserve little rewards throughout your week. Keep yourself motivated, and know when the well is empty. Find healthy ways to fill that well. Kick ass. Repeat.

Let’s Get Therapeutic

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Photo by Tim Goedhart on Unsplash

So, I value authenticity and transparency in a lot of situations. Because of that, I’d like to keep it real with y’all. One, because I don’t want to be ashamed about what I’m about to talk about, and two, because I don’t want you to have to feel ashamed if you ever find yourself in a similar situation. So, well, here it goes.

I’m starting therapy, today.

A lot of people may read that and think “oh no! He must really not be doing well,” and some others might think “good for you, it’s awesome that you’re aware enough to know you need help with some of these issues!” And, well, both would be correct.

The thing is, I’m not doing well. For all intents and purposes, I’m doing okay, but there are a lot of anxious thoughts that get so overwhelming, that I eventually just start sobbing. I can only avoid thinking about them for so long before they come back up (on full blast) and start affecting my life in a way that harms productivity, and simply being able to just exist without feeling a crippling amount of feelings. No matter how logically I try to rationalize against my anxieties, the anxious thoughts always win, even though the logic could be absolutely spot on. But heck, it hasn’t even been a year since I lost my mom, I’m starting a whole new career that has no set step-by-step process for success, and I’m navigating the world of dating in the face of all of this grief. Who could blame me for being this anxious?

At the same time, it’s pretty amazing to finally just admit to myself that this is the step I need to take in order to feel more empowered. I’m such a mouthpiece for mental health, and I’m always preaching the message that you need to take care of yourself before you can make progress in your life, or take care of others, and it feels good to be doing something that I know will do that, for me. I’d always been a little hesitant about it, because I grew up feeling like having emotions made me broken, or that not doing well meant that I should be avoided. The several amount of times I heard people in my family say “leave him/her alone, they’re cranky” contributed to that heavily, and I don’t want to have that fear of loneliness due to what I’m feeling, anymore. I don’t want to feel pitied, and then left alone to figure out how to put myself back together.

It’s okay to not feel okay, and it’s okay to need professional help when it gets to be too much.

It’s like having a scab. It’s there, and you may not feel the pain in that scab all the time, but that doesn’t mean the wound isn’t there. For so long, I thought that maybe I was fine because I had gone a while without having really intense anxious thoughts. But like logic would have it, the anxiety just kept getting worse. This last week has been the worst I ever felt, and I can’t imagine what it would be like if it were to be any more unbearable than it is, right now. I don’t know what this appointment has in store for me, and I realize that all my problems won’t go away with just one session, but it feels amazing knowing I’m starting the healing process.

I’m talking about all of this because I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t get help. When we physically get hurt, we have no hesitations about going to the doctor. It’s so normal, so routine, and you only bat an eye at it because it’s a little scary to see your body in ways it doesn’t normally look. Mental health, like physical health, should not go untreated. If you feel like something is wrong, there’s no shame in making an appointment for therapy and seeing what they can do for you. You shouldn’t have to get to the point where your own thoughts make it hard for you to feel happy.

Thank you for listening. If it would help you to hear more about this journey, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I’m mostly doing this for myself, but if my experience in therapy can help anyone else, I would be willing to talk more about it in the future.

Why You Should Learn to Love Being Single

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Photo by rawpixel  on Unsplash

Lately, I’ve been hearing some people lamenting their relationship statuses. It’s usually something along the lines of being sad that they’ve been single for so long, or the fact that all the people they’ve been talking to on dating apps aren’t showing any interest in them. It’s the same old “ugh, I’m gonna be single forever” shtick that people often perform to gain sympathy from those who most likely feel differently. 

After 8 years of being single, and having just about every self-doubt-related thought in the span of those years, I’m kind of over this mentality.

Look, I understand the basic desire to be in a relationship. A lot of us naturally crave that special kind of attention, and a lot of us feel like it will make a major improvement in our quality of life. I’d be lying if I said didn’t feel that way. However, there’s a line between wanting that kind of attention, and being desperate for it. When I first came out as gay in high school, I was the thirstiest I had ever been for a relationship, and it made me attracted to people who I now realize would be wildly incompatible with me, and would probably have brought my already low self-esteem even lower. I then ended up in a relationship with a really nice guy, but the spark for me was because it was a relationship, not because of him.

This relationship taught me that I should be more discerning about the guys I get involved with romantically, because both people in the relationship should be feeling the spark. Since then, I’ve been on many dates, some that were an instant no, some that seemed like they could have gone further (but didn’t), and some that were in between that tiny spectrum, and you know what? I’m okay with the fact that none of them worked out. Of course, I still have my insecurities telling me that it’ll be this way for the rest of my life, but I’ve learned to not let these dumb, nagging voices get the best of me when I’m trying to get involved with someone. Does it always work? Not really, but I’m still learning, and I at least know how to start that conversation with myself when the anxieties about dating start to get too loud. 

And honestly, I feel better than I used to. I still get anxious just because I sometimes like a person so much, that I never want have any doubts about whether or not they like me back. Unfortunately, that may not ever stop, because anxieties can be unapologetically ruthless, no matter how soundly you rationalize against them. However, when you get right down to it, what’s the worst that can happen if your anxieties about the person you’re trying to date are right? What if it turns out the person you’ve been seeing for a month or two winds up saying they’re not into you? Honestly, the thing you do from there is move on and find someone who doesn’t make you so damn anxious. Sure, you may feel some pain for a bit, especially if you really liked them, but at least you’d (hopefully) be moving on to someone who actually makes you feel worth-while. 

The thing is, dating in general isn’t easy. It requires some work, and that work isn’t easy. It demands a pretty deep sense of self, and a strong willingness to express your emotions. Dating someone is attempting to bring them into a significant portion of your life, and you can’t expect that person to just know what you’re feeling, why you’re feeling it, and how they can help if you’re not able to communicate those feelings to them. You can’t have a healthy relationship if you don’t know yourself enough to establish what will work for you, and compromise with the other person who has their own feelings about it, as well. It’s basically as RuPaul says. “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love someone else?” You have to love yourself enough to be open with someone you’re romantically interested in, to really tell them what it is you need from them, before you can treat their feelings with the same amount of tenderness. 

If that doesn’t sound easy, then, well, you’re right. It’s not. The things that are most rewarding in life often take a lot of work.

But at the same time, relationships shouldn’t feel like work. When it’s ideal, or pretty damn close to it, it should all feel so fluid, so easily done, that every step you take together feels like it was meant to happen. It shouldn’t be a game of guessing the other person’s stance on the possible relationship, and doubting that it will go anywhere. If the person you’re interested in can’t express in some way that they’re in awe of just how brilliant and inspired you are as a human being, and if they ever make you doubt that, then move on. You don’t have time to waste on people who make you feel insignificant.

Is some really hot guy on a dating app ignoring you? Find another one to message. Is the next one making it really hard to talk to him because he only knows how to respond with one word? Tell him “bye, Felicia.” Are they not showing any interest in where you’re going with your life? Gurl, get outta there. You are too beautiful and important to waste your time on someone who makes you feel like anything less. Your time is too precious to be spent trying to convince them of something that should be massively apparent. You have plenty of time to find someone who will cherish all of the significant aspects of you, but you don’t have all the time in the world to be dragged down by those who want to ignore them. 

Expect them to treat you in a way that validates who you are, and where you’re going, but be emotionally available to give them the same. You can’t expect someone to join in on your journey through life if you’re not willing to lead them through it. That’s not to say that you’re not allowed to stumble, or get lost along the way, but they need a reason to want to be on that path with you, in the first place. 

Being single is an important step to being in a relationship. Taking the time to learn who you are before becoming romantically involved with someone will help you understand yourself, which is so crucial to being there for a significant other. Learn who you are, what you like in a partner, what you’re passionate about, what makes you happy, and what you’d need out of a relationship before you truly decide to get yourself into something serious. Really, though. Get to know yourself as much as possible. Get to know yourself even deeper than that list that I provided, because you have to live with yourself more than you’ll ever end up living with whomever you’re trying to date. In addition to that, make yourself aware that you’re important, beautiful, and worthy of love, and it will become so much easier to recognize when others also see that in you. It does take work, but so does a healthy, sustainable relationship. That work just becomes much easier when you love yourself enough to communicate in a way that helps both of you strengthen that bond.

Was this Dan’s Plan, All Along?

Just recently, I went on a small vacation to Universal Studios: Hollywood. The trip was a bit sudden, and I wondered how I would feel about being on it at all, but I’m glad I went. I really needed to get the hell out of Arizona for a bit, and in turn, out of whatever creative funk has been plaguing me for the past few months. Do I feel cured of said funk? Not really, but I do feel like I’m on the road to a full recovery. Or something like that.

Something I can’t seem to stop thinking about is the few moments before taking the flight to LA. As we waited to board, I saw a man who almost became my boss and his wife boarding our plane. Let’s call him Dan. Like most other times you see people you’d rather not see, I felt that adrenaline rush when I saw Dan and his wife, as if I was about to enter dangerous territory. Whether or not it was actually dangerous is entirely arbitrary; my brain wanted me to believe it was. 

I had interviewed with his personal/professional development company for a social media position about a month after losing my job at the men’s underwear company. He made a name for himself by crafting these development classes, both video and in-person seminars, and he had an abrasive knack for motivating people to improve themselves, and the attitude he portrayed made it seem like he was the one doing it better than anyone else. Sure, I thought he was a bit arrogant, but he was good at his job, so who was I to say he shouldn’t be? I thought his advice was so non-specific, and didn’t take into account that everyone is different. It felt like he thought, at one point, “well all this worked for me, so I’ll take everyone’s money so that I can tell them that it’ll work for them, too.” Something was clearly working for him, despite how I felt about his content. He called himself “no-nonsense,” but I thought it sounded more like he had no tact. I tried to convince myself that I might have been wrong. 

My first interview with the company was with his wife and their secretary. His wife was late to the interview, and his secretary spoke like whatever they were brainwashing her with was slowly starting to lose its grip. They liked my ideas enough to bring me to a second interview, where I sat in their office and created posts for them. They liked my content enough to bring me to a third interview, which included going to a networking event that they were holding, actively updating their social media pages with posts related to the event, and…approaching strangers to ask them about their experience at their seminars.

I knew I lost the job the minute they asked me to do this. Mind you, I have no problems talking to strangers, but my introverted brain can only handle so many kicks into a social war zone. Not only was I still in the interview process for this company of people I barely knew, I was now being pushed to approach several people among a crowd of new faces for the sake of getting a job. Under all of that pressure, you would hope I’d turn into a precious gem. Though I didn’t come out of there looking sparkly and valuable, at least I didn’t turn to dust. However, they were looking for diamonds, not something resembling coal.

Something I must have repressed due to the nature of the people who owned this company popped up shortly after I saw them, though. I remember the night of the networking event, and I remember the conversation Dan and I had before I walked out of that event. He took a seat on the kitchen counter in the country club community center, and asked me what I ultimately want to do with my life. I felt like I was being tested. I saw the pen and paper in front of me, the question he asked in bold lettering, and I had studied the answer over and over again, but this time, I didn’t give the answer I knew I needed to give. 

I told him I wanted to write. I diluted my actual dream, but I still poured it into the reality we were sharing. I was anxious to share it, half because I wasn’t taking myself seriously enough at the time, and half because I felt his arrogance leaving so little room for anything else in the room. What I didn’t expect was him to pull it all back, and tell me that he saw something in me that suggested that, whatever I did with my life, he knew it would be great. I’d never felt that much space in a room for my dreams to just…exist

After he told me that they would call me tomorrow to tell me whether or not I got the job, I felt like I could finally see my path. Maybe he actually knew, or maybe he just wanted the news from the next day to hit me less hard, but everything seemed to fall into place shortly after that. Though I’m tempted to tell myself that I haven’t achieved the success that he saw in me, I think boldly stepping onto the path is the first step. I was anxious about seeing him, because I was anxious about the possibility of having to tell him that I lost the opportunity he could have given me, only for me to go months without actually gaining the success I told him I craved. 

What I initially failed to see in all of this anxiety is that even he knows that success comes in all different forms. I just need to make myself aware of this, too. Maybe it’s a slow start now, and maybe I don’t feel I have anything to show for it yet, but I also think wouldn’t have had to prove it, at all. There’s something already in me that’s radiating, and I have to believe it’s there just as much as everyone else. If Dan, an arrogant, seemingly self-centered business owner whose job is to know you better than you know yourself can take a minute to look into my eyes and tell me that he believes it, then I sure as hell can, too.

Finding Balance

I think I need motivation. I need a spark somewhere in my body that will combust into some sort of productive streak that pushes me to make something amazing. I need to feel the rush of finishing a big project, and I need to taste the relief of climbing over a big hill of self-doubt. I need something to shake me out of my uncertainty, and tell me that I’m good enough to pull my dreams out of my head. I can hear people tell me that I’m a good writer, but I need to do something that will make me believe that to a degree that will make it easier to succeed.

I laugh at my dreams as if they’re not attainable. I tell myself (and sometimes other people) that I must be crazy for trying to make it as an independent author. It’s possible that this is the truth, but it’s a truth that will be set in stone if that’s how I continue to talk about it, right? Self-fulfilling prophecies, and all that jazz. The more I talk about my own life as if it’s a cesspool of uncertainty and self-doubt, the more it will keep plaguing me to a point where that hill of self-doubt will become the size of Mt. Everest. Sure, I can climb Mt. Everest if I really put the work into it, but it’ll look much bigger than it seems when an endless surplus of self-doubt is feeding its image. 

I want to say that removing my self-doubts would make it so much easier. Remove the self-doubts, and the mountain doesn’t look so big anymore, right? I feel like I know where my doubts lie, and I could try to convince myself that it’s just me getting in my own head, but these doubts can also be easily turned to fuel. I’ve always felt like I’m not good enough, despite knowing I am. I have past experiences of not feeling supported, and being told constantly that I shouldn’t just chase after a dream despite knowing it’s what I want for my life; wouldn’t the best fuel be the desire to prove that I have what it takes to accomplish what I’ve been discouraged from pursuing?

Ultimately, I have to want this for myself. My desire for success with something that I’m wholeheartedly passionate about is the only thing I should focus on. There’s motivation in that. There’s motivation in believing in this desire for success, but there’s no motivation in trying to drown out your doubts by cranking up the volume on your beliefs so much, that the doubts just find a way to become louder. Maybe I need balance more than I need pure motivation. If I work too hard at combating my self-doubts, that could take all of the creative energy away from actually succeeding. If I work alongside them, learning how to make progress without letting the sound of them slow me down, that would be some major character development. 

I know what I want. I know what I need to do to achieve the success I’m looking for. I feel the path I’m on is the right one; now, I just have to believe it.