This is my submission for the April 2018 Carnival of Aces. I kinda ran out of time to write this and still get it in by the deadline but I’m forcing something so bear with me. Also I’m typing this on my phone so please forgive autocorrect errors. I’ll probably fix them eventually.
All the birds have begun nests except me and you, what are we still waiting for?
On a most basic level, when my peers began navigating flirting, dating, when and where to first have sex, and (for some of them) when to enter marriage, I was indeed “left behind” as an aromantic-spectrum & asexual young adult. This medieval sentence describes a point of view I can relate to, sure. In fact I felt so left behind when my younger brother experienced his first kiss before me (he was 16, I was 18) that I actually cried.
I didn’t realize my future might take a different path when it comes to matters of romance than the average person my age, because among other things, I didn’t realize aromanticism or asexuality existed.
So I kinda just felt like a social failure, someone embarassed to have to admit to college roommates I’d never been on a date, mortified after my first kiss at age 22 to be asked if it was my first time kissing.
But at the same time, I kinda did know that the future was uncertain really early on. Sure, I incorrectly assumed I was straight, but I knew that not every straight person takes the same path to happiness in adulthood anyway.
In fact, I saw firsthand from the 3 main people who raised me that not everyone gets happiness at all in adulthood, because my grandmother seemed pretty unhappy most of the time, and my abusive mother was downright miserable. The third person to raise me was my dad, who found happiness in his kids (and maybe in his career, and in small things in life like music, or nature, or good books, television, and film all of which he knew how to truly appreciate). But my dad never had any romantic partner the entire time I could remember (my parents split when I was 3), and seemed to really lack in the friendship department as well. He seemed stuck in a toxic cycle with the mother of his children holding too much control over his life too, and life wasn’t fair for him on many levels either.
Expecting my adult life to just turn out with me happily married or loving being a mom seemed far from something to take for granted.
In fact, I noticed that of all my aunts and uncles who had children, the men just seemed happier and more able to still engage fully in activities with the kids, from swimming to playing board games, and the women all seemed stressed and to find no real appeal in the idea of getting in the water or onto the floor around the board. I dreaded an adulthood with that kind of attitude. I was a girl who I hoped I could become more like the dads.
I also knew other things pretty early on. I was asked at age 12 “if I’d be having a Bat Mitzvah soon” by girls my age, at the first of such celebrations I attended. I compared and contrasted myself to the girls raised Jewish, and considered whether I wanted to convert to Judaism, the religion of my dad’s side of the family. I could feel how not being Jewish meant I was missing out on so much community and on meaningful rites of passage, etc.
I knew at age 14 that I didn’t want to be Confirmed Catholic. I was not sure if I believed in God and I didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of everyone I knew and just accept the religion I was raised in despite not actually believing the things it taught were true. I was told I should have a church to belong to for the sake of my future, especially a future place to get married, and that I should consider getting confirmed anyway, but I chose to deviate from that path. I hated feeling like I was lying about something where the whole point is genuine belief. I could figure out where to get married later.
Probably even earlier than that, I had kinda decided that it would be my dream to take a path that deviates from a norm of how to get to parenthood and instead I wanted to adopt a child who already was out there and needed a home. As my mom got more and more abusive, and I started watching tv shows like Judging Amy which explored the children who get taken away from their parents in the USA and put into the foster system, I just knew I wanted to go down that path. I wanted to be a better mom than she was. I wanted to do it in this adoptive way. I think I already considered around then that it might be hard to find a guy to date/marry who wanted that too, but it wasn’t really of pressing, near-future, short-term concern, so I didn’t dwell.
Figuring out which steps to take when I knew these steps would shape my future was always difficult. “Should I try to do something to end living with my abusive mom? What if whatever I try doesn’t work out and makes things worse?” I would wonder, quite frequently. I was so afraid of making things worse. Things had to actually get worse, and my brother have an untreated broken hand, before I was willing to take a further risk and try to better our futures.
They’d ask us back in elementary school what we wanted to be when we grew up. I’d say, “Either a writer, or a oceanographer”. I couldn’t pick just one answer. It was too hard a question.
Later, when you took those “what category career fits you” quizzes, I’d hope for a revelation of what I actually should strive to be when I grew up. But the career I would be told was generic and uninspiring, a disappointment and now I forget even what it tended to be. But it wasn’t easy; it wasn’t clear what path to take. I kept thinking about teaching as an option, because it was the career I was most surrounded by that I felt like I could maybe do.
The topic remained very tricky as I headed toward college, a path I didn’t have to deviate from, one of the few easy paths for my life that followed what all of my peers did. Graduate high school, go to college.
I mean, saying it was easy is glossing over the parts that weren’t. Like how I got either waitlisted at or rejected from each of the 10 schools I applied to, probably because my near straight As dropped to including Cs and Ds my senior year of high school as I stopped living with my mom and was adjusting to too much freedom to… Not do homework? I don’t even know what happened. Anyway one of the schools that outright rejected me ended up accepting me when my guidance counselor called and asked why I was rejected – apparently they thought I had not submitted a complete application, then they realized on this phone call they’d just split up my application into two piles and it was their own error. I went there to school in the end, although I also had other options of less competitive in-state schools that were thrilled to have me apply late and basically accept me on the spot.
(Like Elizabeth, I am pretty sure I wanted to get as far away from my mother as possible, which led to me not even originally applying to any in-state schools and influencing my choice to attend the much more expensive out of state option.)
My major was “undeclared” for a large chunk of time I spent at this good university, as I jumped from Chemistry to considering trying to the School of Communications (this university was split into a number of sub schools) and possibly becoming a television & film major, knowing my skill at video editing and dream job would probably be screenwriting… I took a few classes in that direction before ultimately settling on what I was good at and what classes I’d enjoy most, Linguistics. I dropped some classes and withdrew from others, afraid of failing ending up on my transcript, and took summer classes at another university to make up credits and still graduate on time. Linguistics is what I received my bachelor’s degree in.
Which… led to a very limited array of job prospects actually in my major especially considering I didn’t feel fluent enough in the languages I took through the 4th semester level to be any kind of translator or get any job where you are required to be fluent in two (usually Spanish and English).
As I take you through the story of my life, you probably are starting to realize that yeah, I was a lot more shaky building my “nest” than maybe the average person hopes to be. And this includes in many ways that have nothing to do with my asexuality, and therefore are fairly irrelevant to the Carnival of Aces.
But I’m 28 years old now. I’m almost at 6 years post graduating college. I started navigating first dates and first kisses within the months after I graduated, and over a year after graduation figured out for sure I was asexual. I was employed for only about one month, had a major foot surgery, and mainly still had a long way to go in building my nest, my foundation.
But the last 4 years, since starting to attend my local asexual meetup group and becoming more social than I’d probably ever been in my life, and the last 1.5 years since being finally employed full time at a job where I am largely good at it and happy and valued (an administrative assistant type role in an interesting branch of the federal government), I’m feeling much more comfortable with myself and stable and optimistic about my future.
I had a queerplatonic relationship in that time too, and had a podcast, and more. My queerplatonic relationship taught me a ton about my romantic orientation, my ability to have sensual desire occasionally, and it gave me hope for a future with a partner raising adopted children. I didn’t have that hope before I was in that qpr.
I’m really excited to be starting a new podcast that should come out in May and is about the intersection of asexuality and fandom. I’m excited to be doing more asexual activism on a lot of fronts, including walking in my city’s Pride Parade this coming June, only a little over a month away, and other stuff I don’t feel ready to speak about just yet but it all is huge and exciting!! I’ve been helping host asexual meetups and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. Much like queenieofaces’ submission for the Carnival this month, being in asexual communities has given me such a sense of purpose and a future that I can see the next generation having that is easier than the time I had in so many ways. I had a lot of internalized disbelief that being asexual was possible and shame that I’ve only in the past couple of years even been able to realize that I’d built up around my identity, and a lot of struggles with things that future generations should hopefully struggle less with!
I’m still not 100% sure where my career or life will go, but I decided a week and a half ago to start online dating and to maybe keep at it for years before giving up and really thinking about practically if I can make my adoptive parenthood dream happen while single. I’m looking for a co-parent who wants an entirely celibate relationship with me, although I’m open to some kind of poly arrangement, many kinds could be good to be honest, so I’m trying to be as flexible as my sex-averse, pretty aromantic self can be. I started dipping my toes into lesbian/wlw dating sites and apps (Find Femmes and HER) and was glad HER has an option to select that you’re asexual. I also joined ACEapp. I’m planning to soon step back into opening myself up to dating straight men as a possibility too, but I was trying to dip my toes into this online dating thing first with these options. Idk when I’ll feel like meeting up with someone in real life, but I’m excited to be really trying this for the first time since so much has changed in how much I understand myself and what I want in my future.
I’m feeling a mix of both hopeless that I’ll never find a partner because what I want is too specific, while also hopeful because Idk, I can take years at this if I need to and there really are other people with similar desires as me out there, and I’m feeling proud of myself for making an effort and full of excitement at all the possibilities that I haven’t even yet thought of.
I’m hoping to make some decisions about my career going forward before the end of 2018 too. I am still have no idea where I’ll be in 5 years in so many aspects of my life. But I’m finally pretty sure that I’ll be able to be happy, no matter what. I have a lot of skills I didn’t have a decade ago. I have strong friendships and fulfilling creative pursuits and activism I believe in, a huge percentage of which is directly tied to asexuality – all sorts of options. I have my one goal of parenthood I’m still striving toward, full steam ahead, but even if it doesn’t work out for me the way I hope, I’ll be ok.
I don’t really feel left behind (or really, like I made bad choices and found myself stuck in certain places) anymore when I look at other people who had kids in their 20s and I know that’s not happening for me, when I think about careers or other things like the fact that I still have never lived on my own. I just feel like I’m on a different path, but that I’m doing pretty well, and that my life has a lot of years ahead to continue to be full of good things. That I’m on the right track.
Even with major emotional setbacks, especially my breakup with my queerplatonic partner almost a whole year ago, and then the horrific situation 5 months ago with my friend who perpetrated a murder-suicide… My life continues to have things in it I’m grateful for, and I feel somewhat stronger, wiser, and more prepared for the unexpected because of having lived through some of these experiences too.
(Part of my current optimism may just be that now that it’s been 5 months since the last majorly upsetting thing that had me I guess “fully grieving” for months on end, I’m finally just. Not crying at all for a longer stretch of time. I’m feeling pretty content all of a sudden, for enough of a stretch that I feel fairly sure I’m finally really okay again on a deeper level.)
I’m currently reading a very cute and happy novel featuring an asexual character, the fourth book I’ll have read with an asexual character. I’ll spend the rest of this week finishing that book in time for the asexual meetup I’m hosting to discuss this book with other aces. I would never have predicted this would have been my life 5 years ago when I was trying to figure out if I was asexual or not and hoping desperately I was not ace. I would never have realized how much FUN it could be to just… Be ace, do ace things, etc! I’m really glad to now have the opportunity to read books with asexual characters. I clearly didn’t have that chance until very recently.
So yeah. Ask me again what my life looks like in 5 years from now, or in 10, or in 20! I can’t really predict my future in specifics, but I know the possibilities are mainly good. I’m not dreading turning age 30 in less than 2 years.
I have a very high chance of my future being a happy one, one way or another. I’m really glad to be in this place in my life right now.