Belongingness

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Photo by ichsan on Unsplash

I know I’ve mentioned before that I started going to therapy, and I meant to give further updates about that, but I forgot. I apologize. Not that I have any promises or anything, but it was an agreement I made with myself, so if anything, I only let myself down. I’ve had a lot to worry about, but regardless, it’s something I should have followed through with. Maybe I needed to process how it would become a regular part of my life before I could compartmentalize it into some words. Anyway, enough rambling.

My therapist, during our first meeting, summed up a lot of what I talked about as needing to find a sense of belonging. I was shocked at how simply she could link together all of my problems with a common thread, but that’s her job. I can’t imagine I’m the first person she’s made that conclusion for, and I doubt I’ll be the last. But ever since then, it’s been something I’ve thought about every day. “Where do I belong?” This has been such a good question to ask myself, because I often tried to find how I could fit in with the people I feel I should belong to, rather than let myself drift to where I feel a natural sense of belonging.

Of course, now this means I’m in some sort of…identity crisis? Nah, that seems too dramatic. More-so…a re-discovery of my place? Sure, that sounds more like it. It’s not an easy process, let me just tell you that. It took quite a few weeks for it to really set in that I just don’t belong in certain people’s lives, right now. A few weeks is how long I’ve been actively thinking about it, though, so maybe the process overall has been even longer. Maybe I’ll feel belongingness with them in the future, but at this stage in my life, I have other places where I feel needed, validated, and supported. I don’t need to waste my energy on trying to wiggle my way into places where I don’t feel welcoming arms.

After this realization, things have been getting easier, overall. Like, even things that you don’t think it would affect. I’ve been able to feel more productive, my mood has been consistently better, and even the way I interact with others has been much more positive. It hasn’t all just snapped into place, of course. I’m not quite where I’d like to be, but at least I can actually feel that I’m getting closer to that stage. For the longest while, I felt like I was standing in a hole with no resources to get out. Now, I at least feel like I can see the scenery above it.

I wanted to talk about this because we all have a natural desire to find where we belong. I think we can let ourselves get tired out to the point where it hurts, even drains us of the motivation we need to fulfill other aspects of our life, when we try to fit into places that don’t welcome us. Sometimes, you find yourself not belonging to the places where you think you would, and that can hurt, but there’s always somewhere else that will let you in, someone else who will give you the support that you need. Sometimes, though it’s not easy to do, you have to break free of hoping you’ll get support from people you usually expect it from, and drift toward the ones who give it to you without question.

The last time I was in therapy, I used a metaphor about feeling like I’m on a stranded island during my times of needing support. I, of course, am on this island, and the people who can give support are on a bigger, more fortified mainland. There are people in my life who expect me to row over to the mainland to get support when, during those times that I need it, my boat has a giant hole in it, my oar has snapped in half, and the idea of swimming in across a great divide just sounds like more effort than its worth. Yet, they still expect me to find my way over, if I want help. Sometimes they ask to meet halfway, but that’s easy for them to say when they have a yacht, and I’m the one who has to swim. Sometimes I just need someone to close that entire gap, and after some hard soul searching, I’m starting to see who’s more than happy to use their fuel to deliver support to my stranded island.

Find people in your life who would sail across that gap to comfort you. Find people who won’t make you swim several miles just so they can feel supported. Don’t necessarily deprive yourself of those who won’t, but don’t waste your energy hoping that they’ll change. You have things in your life that you need to accomplish, so figure out which areas in your life give you the same energy that you put in, make those circles your home, and thrive.

New Post on Medium: “Weight Loss Didn’t Make Me Feel Beautiful”

I talked about a conversation with a guy on a gay dating app that sparked some body image issues that I have, how they started, and how I feel about my body, today.

Here’s a little teaser to get you excited about it:

“With the weight of this continuous journey on my shoulders as some jackass on Scruff tells me that “240 is too much,” I felt myself snap. It was like he was looking into the eyes of my middle school self, and confirming the voices that implied I was ugly. Imagine having the nerve to tell someone recovering from those issues “don’t take it personally,” when it has always been personal. I might not be 240 pounds, but I’m scared to death of going back to that weight. Though there is nothing wrong with being overweight, the insecurities about my own body run so deep, that even something as simple as missing a workout makes me feel like my body is inflating all over, again. I feel like I’m going back to the days when people only saw my weight, and used that as a factor to determine that I was worthless. I was not beautiful to them, internally or externally; I was a conglomeration of fat cells over an empty soul.”

Check out the article here!

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

 Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash
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.