Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Praises of Phases.

(Programming note: I live, as many of you are aware, in the Boston suburbs. It's starting to get a trifle stormy up here. If my power or cable are knocked out or my home is damaged, there may be some interruption in your Pervocracy service. As opposed to the usual "I slept late and then I totally had to, like, do a thing" interruptions.)

I've been through some goofy phases in my life. Various things I have been, and am not now:
-Animal rights advocate
-Hardcore liberal
-Hardcore libertarian
-Anime fan
-Fanfic reader and writer
-Horror fiction writer
-Indie filmmaking nerd
-Shapeshifter roleplayer (don't judge me!)
-Observant Jew
-Obnoxiously condescending atheist
-Eclectic pagan (okay, still sort of this)
-Definitely gay
-Definitely straight

Sometimes I worry that things I see as fundamental parts of my identity now--kinkiness and masculinity, in particular, but really all of it--are just phases. I was kinkier a year ago, and girlier. (Then again, I can look at this entry from four years ago and see that this isn't my first time feeling uncomfortable with the trappings of girlness.) But sometimes I worry that even thinking about these things is just my youthful exploration. What if all of my current identity--gender and sexuality and beliefs--turns out to be some goofy phase? What if, ten years from now, I've "grown out" of all this and I'm totally "normal"?

Then I will have had a great ten years. And I'll know so much, too! The awesome thing about going through a lot of phases is that even if the convictions don't stick with you, the knowledge does, so I'm a non-fan who can tell you all about OTPs and Mary Sues and plot bunnies, a non-observant Jew who can tell you which bugs are kosher and what the prayer is for going to the bathroom (you thank God that none of your holes are closed up), and a non-filmmaker who knows what to do if the best boy sends you to the grip truck to get a box of F-stops (punch him). If I'd had one cohesive identity from birth to death, I don't think that my knowledge and experience of the world would be as broad as it is right now.

So "just a phase" shouldn't be used to discount things that were genuine parts of your life and self but didn't happen to be permanent. You were real then and you're real now, no matter how different; and you'll be real tomorrow no matter what changes. I'm embarrassed of some of my past identities, but it's an "I was pretty annoying, huh?" embarrassed, not an "I wasn't expressing the real me" embarrassed. It was the real me.

Is all this just a passing phase? Maybe it is. That's okay. It's real right now.


  1. hee an F-stop run is the photography equivalent of a board-stretcher in carpentry? Awesome.

    MAkes for complicated resumes

  2. that is...having many stages makes for complicated resumes...not an F-stop run.

  3. Anon - My resume is very complicated. It's got everything from "crab processor" to "kayak rental lead" to "propmaster" to "EMT," with weird stops in the middle at things like "lab guinea pig wrangler" and (not joking) "inflatable person dresser."

    I don't generally put every job on my job applications.

    But someday, they'll need a kayaking EMT who knows how to give medication to a squirming guinea pig, and by God, I will be there to save the day. least that's what I figure.

  4. As someone who's had a relatively constant identity, I completely agree.

  5. So what made you decide not to be an animal rights activist anymore?

  6. I still like animals. I'm just not anything you could call an activist. I used to volunteer at an animal shelter and give to a wolf conservation project, and I don't direct my time and money that way any more. But I haven't developed any anti-animal views.

  7. You are just totally killing it, all the time. Quality blogging~~

  8. Big yes to everything you said. I think one of the things I hate the most in the entire world is hearing people talking about phases as though they aren't important parts of a person's identity. That kind of thinking really screws kids over when they want or need something that the adults around them don't see as conventional or important. (Like grown ups refusing to acknowledge a kid's gender identity when it don't match up with their biological sex because the kid might not actually turn out to be trans. Seriously, the worst that can happen is that you one day might have to switch the pronoun you use again.) Just because a person stops doing something doesn't mean it wasn't important for them to do it while they were doing it, and isn't still an important part of who they are.

  9. Thank you for this! I've realized lately that, until age 18 or so, I was a. basically asexual and b. probably around a 4 or 5 on the Kinsey Scale. Now, at 24, I'm a really-really-sexual, 98% heterosexual slut. I think of myself a having been a late bloomer, sexually-- and I think the interest in sex and the attraction to women is related, because I think women are pretty, and have nice bodies, and I think it would be nice sometimes to make out with them and maybe even get naked with them, but men, I have all those feelings about, but I also want to fuck them. A lot. And so my heterosexuality, for me, emerged along with my sexuality in general.

    The thing is, I always felt a bit guilty because I was not "out" about my bisexuality-at-the-time when I was younger, and now I totally would be out about it, but wait-- I'm straight now. But I'm trying to convince myself that it was a phase in my life, and even though I was ashamed of it at the time I can still be open about it and about the fact that it isn't me anymore. And sometimes I worry that I might be a mostly-asexual mostly-lesbian when I'm 50, which is an upsetting thought to me, because I really, really like the whole having lots of sex with men thing. But then maybe in 20 or 30 years, I'll like the not having much sex with mostly women thing, and aside from the anguish that may be caused if this change happens while I'm married to a man who married me under the assumption that I like lots and lots of sex with men, that'll be OK.

  10. resumes...yes, mine is bizarre as well, although not quite as well rounded as yours....and yes, I tailor it and wait for the day the perfect job is created for which my life has been the absolute prerequisite, thus making me the only person hireable, for exquisite sums of money and prestige. I will be ready, dammit!

    I don't know why so many employers see it as a downside that they have an interesting, well-rounded, Renaissance type person with varied expertises, and a knack for doing ANYthing. That sounds like a plus to me....but then I is one.

  11. Wow, I think I know why I identify with so much of what you have to say. I'm a kinky, animal rights supporting, anime liking, somewhat observant Jewish woman who goes through a LOT of phases.

    I wonder who I'll be in five or ten years.

  12. I totally agree! I think a lot of phases I've had were me finding something I liked, deciding it was THE BEST, and then slowly realizing it didn't have to be the end all be all. For example, at one point I wanted to be a farmer (and worked on a farm), and now I just like gardening. It's not that I've lost interest in growing tomatoes, it's just that I've calmed down and incorporated them as an ongoing smaller part of my life.

    Also, Crab Processor doesn't sound like a very fun job.

  13. Emma - It was okay, actually--I was taking out specific parts for scientific research, not processing them for food.

    Unfortunately, I developed an allergy to shellfish, and that pretty much put an end to that.

  14. First thing I thought of when I saw this "I wonder how many of those I've been through?" Currently limited to "observant Jew" and "anime fan"; I'd like to think I was never the obnoxious kind of atheist.

    Second thing: if we're talking about sexuality phases, one of the weirdest things I notice when I'm browsing my porn stash (it's mostly from gelbooru) is that apparently I used to have a lactation fetish. For about a week, if the single clump of pictures says anything.

  15. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes to all of this.

    The worst is when people pigeonhole you to a "phase" or whatnot that they still identify with, and treat you as some sort of leper, or even traitor, since you no longer have the same thing in common. People refuse to believe you've moved on, and try to drag you back, because for some reason they NEED YOU THERE. And that's usually just your friends.

    I hate dealing with my family. I'm on the cusp of 30 and I don't think my family knows that I've had a life for the last 15 years.

  16. It's possibly also worth mentioning that people outgrow (or don't outgrow) certain phases at different rates, and it can be really hard to neutrally acknowledge a previous interest in something (like Goth culture, or collecting stamps, or whatever) without coming across as patronizing. I don't feel particular disassociation from previous phases, even if I'm no longer strictly interested in them, and I definitely find that difficult to communicate because of the automatic assumption that "outgrowing" a phase implies: that a new lack of interest arises from a new maturity, rather than fresh interests, or whatever other reasons.

    Hope you stay safe in the storm! It's starting in New York already.

  17. I'm absolutely with you on this, and said so a while back: "[M]aybe it’s not about being 'right.' Maybe it’s [just] about describing the place where I am now ..."

  18. Oh, sometimes "It was just a phase" is sort of code for "I have no fucking clue why I was like than and I'm certainly not now can we please drop it, it's pretty embarrassing"

    Because I AM embarrassed that I was a number of things that I am not now.

  19. Okay, I am apologizing in advance for my very off-topic comment:

    What IS that picture of? It looks like an artistic anglerfish!

  20. Molly Ren - It's a Resurs 500 unmanned Russian space capsule. I chose it because it sort of abstractly reminded me of a phase of the moon.

    ...I try to keep it to photos that I actually took myself, and sometimes that leads me to weird choices.

  21. Another insightful post - thankyou!

    I've had a number of identities literally and some people find this very hard to comprehend. I find its best just not to share with 'average' people!

    ANYWAY - I agree, being different people is a very good way to gain a different perspective and identity specific knowledge.

  22. I agree wholeheartedly on the whole "don't discount a phase" thing. Last year, when I'd been studying Paganism long enough to be pretty sure I wasn't just going to get bored with it in a few months or something, I told my mom about it.

    Her response was that my "questioning Christianity" was justaphase, and that ten years ago my devoutly-Catholic self would look back and laugh. The funny thing is, even though I was never fully comfortable with Catholicism, I don't consider the time I spent learning about it as wasted. (Except for the sex parts. OMFGs, the sex parts.)

    She also thought I was rebelling against authority and trying to be "cool" and "different" by using "that word" to describe myself. I was too shocked to tell her that I used that label because I felt like I finally FIT IN somewhere. And isn't that the point of experimenting, anyway? Trying to figure out where you fit?

    Going through a phase is NEVER a waste. You learn, you grow, and sometimes you end up with pretty interesting stuff in your room. :P

  23. ...ten years FROM NOW, not ten years ago. >.>;; I need to proofread things better before I post them.

  24. Changes in myself sometimes are made more salient by a chance encounter with someone from a previous phase. I sometimes think the way I am now somehow follows from ways I have been by necessity and then you connect with someone and realize both of you have gone down different paths.Then I sort of wonder what happened that I went down one path rather than another. It is neat that you have been documenting yourself so you have a point of reference. Sometimes I wonder if I just forget ways I have been and there isn't anything to challenge it. I am curious what you think about objects in your life. Like are there things that you own that sort of anchor your identity? Are there things that you aquire that mark a new self?

  25. @S_Morlowe

    Your comment tacked onto mine is more of what I was trying to say. I am often quick to shoot off (ha HA!), and my post comes off a little more angry than it needed to be.

    However it is still annoying when people don't let you get on with your life... even if it's just your next phase! ;)

  26. Wait, you're a pagan? Do you do rituals and sigil casting and stuff?

  27. You know, I spent a good SEVEN YEARS insisting our multiplicity was "just a phase." I had to have it hammered into me that if I had told absolutely nobody, and I hadn't gone away, then I was probably not existing for the attention. We've now spent almost half our life multiple; maybe we'll go singlet again, maybe we won't. Either way, I'm not too concerned. (Except for Mac's sake; he'd be broken up if I integrated and left him a widower.)

    I also used to be a pessimist and a cynic. Now I'm an optimist. (That seems to surprise people; that transformation usually happens in reverse.) And asexual; now I have a glaring exception.

    Oh! Oh! And I used to snark bad Harry Potter fanfic!

    I find it fun to think how I've changed, and even funner to see how much I've NOT.


    PS from Sneak: I heart your photos, Holly. I like connecting them to the posts.

  28. Anon: That's like saying, "You're a Christian? Do you go to church and wear a scapular and stuff?"

    Just so you know. ;)

  29. RE: goth-is-not-emo

    Man, I'm a Christian all my life and I have no idea what a scapular even IS.


  30. Anon - I'm the cafeteria-est of cafeteria pagans, so the answer to your question is basically "yes, but erratically, idiosyncratically, and very privately."

  31. Didn't know whether you saw this:

  32. LBT: That's kinda the point. Ritual is a universal Pagan thing, sigil casting is more of a niche thing.

    Similarly, church is a universal Christian thing, whereas scapulars are a niche Catholic thing. (And I mean seriously niche--if I hadn't heard of them in Confirmation class, I wouldn't know they existed either.)

  33. hey... i ran across this video, and i *immediately* thought of you and the musings you've been having. it's entitled "when i was a boy" and it's beautiful and haunting and poigant and ... TRUE, damnit. i'm probably a bit more on the "girly" end of the spectrum than you are, in the sense that i have almost 5 feet of hair and love makeup and dresses [even if i'm now so disabled makeup and dresses and corsets and thigh-highs are too difficult, most of the time] but there were, and even still are, times when i wished i was male [like every time i've been told "you're a GIRL, you're not CAPABLE of understanding military tactics and strategy" right after i finished a presentation on military tactics and/or strategy that earned me an A...].

    [ps Blogger is being screwy again, it won't let me post with my Blogger id. stupid thing]

  34. I've thought a lot about the concept and implications of "it's just a phase". My feelings about it are pretty much the same as your conclusions here, that even if something is a "phase" that makes it no less real in the present moment.

    My faivorite response to this kind of accusation is that "life is just a phase" :)