Daughters of Job

There are 9 years of my life I could, if I wanted to, categorize into the “I was in a cult” genre. Or you could call it “I was in a secret society.” It wasn’t really a cult though. It was sort of secret. It certainly wasn’t elite.

The International Order of Job’s Daughters is a non-profit organization for young girls aged 10 to 20. Membership can only be extended to a girl who is related to a Master Mason. It’s an offshoot of Freemasonry, and that is probably why, to this day, I have an inexplicable curiosity about secret societies, the Illuminati, and conspiracy theories.

Like other secret societies, certain aspects of the practices of the group and meaning behind symbols and ritual ceremonies are kept secret on purpose. The knowledge of these are extended only to those who become members, and their guests. This was my first exposure to cliques in many ways – there is a level of secrecy allowed for open meetings, and a much stricter policy for closed meetings. Those seeking entry must be introduced to the group and trust must be earned that the secrets will not be divulged.

I feel lucky in that I’ve been able to experience from the inside what an organization like the Illuminati or Freemasons might be like. It’s one thing to learn about it as an outsider, but I find for my own learning, there’s no better way than to immerse yourself in it.

One of the requirements to join, beyond who you’re related to, is also the willingness and ability to state, under oath, that you believe in God. This organization is founded on the story of Job in the bible, and thus a fundamental pillar of this organization is belief in God.

I can’t say when I was 11 years old that I felt that strongly about religion. I wrote a post **here** about my feelings toward organized religion. I also can’t say that my belief in a God hasn’t wavered at different points in my life. What I can say is that when I was 11, I didn’t yet dive too deep into any moral restrictions against a belief in God, so I went with it, and said I did. If asked now, I don’t know that I could confidently do the same. I’ve pondered it many times in my life and the brief answer is – I am spiritual, I have a moral structure besides religion which guides my integrity and morality, and I do strive to be a good person by the broadest sense of the word “good”. Do I also believe that sometimes one has to lie, sin, or otherwise navigate a gray area in order to do good? Yes.

But I digress. This youth group was not about religion – not entirely. If you’re interested in the facts about the organization, I urge you to check out the Wikipedia page (for easy reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Job%27s_Daughters_International), as it’s succinct and clear, and I can confirm its factual representation, having been a member.

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The purpose of this blog post is not to expose the group for anything here – so if that’s what you came here looking for, secrets revealed, I do apologize in advance as I won’t be able to quench that thirst.

What I will say is that being a member of Job’s Daughters is a part of my life not many people know about, unless you were in it with me. It’s an unspoken bond in my life. I’m now Facebook friends with many of the women who were in the Bethel at the same time as me. Many people wouldn’t get it. They made friends with people in school really easily, or they found their wolf packs via sports teams, band, drama, or some other extracurricular activity. My father was a devout Athiest, and his own ill-formed preconceptions about what it was caused him to miss out on a big part of my teen years because of my involvement with this organization. Some could call it a cult. I just called them friends.

We had meetings a couple times a month, and there were other activities. This was a circle of friends at the same age or older than me, who went to other schools and lived in different parts of San Jose (where I grew up, even though the organization itself is international). This gave me exposure to a peer group going through the same awful awkward angst years as I was. They served as examples of people I wanted to be like, and others, as examples I did not want to be like.

My school friends were always a bit secondary to my friends in this organization, when I was in it. It was my life. I had to memorize parts of our ritual book for whatever office I held at the time. I got my first exposure to leadership in going through the “line” positions which were elected positions, and ultimately serving as Honored Queen of our Bethel. I gained exposure to Robert’s Rules of Order, and how to take a vote both by voice and written ballot. I learned prayers as part of my memorization work as the role of Chaplain. My skills were best utilized when I was Recorder and Treasurer, using my organizational inclination for numbers and records, which served as great experience for the career I now have in accounting. I was able to nurture what informal talent I have for singing in the choir, and even learned hymns, and I loved the responsibilities of being the inner/outer guard of the doors during meetings. I now know the words to the song played by the band as the Titanic sank “Nearer, My God, To Thee”, though I’ve maybe been to church 4 times in my entire life.

Each year, we took an amazing road trip to southern California for a week of networking with other members from other CA cities, and always did a Disneyland day trip as part of it, if we were in Anaheim. If we were in Fresno, we spent any spare time not in session at the pool, trying to beat the heat. There were Monopoly marathons for 48+ hours. There were slumber parties  with pranks, and scavenger hunts, carwashes, enchilada sales, crab feeds, kidnap breakfasts, toilet papering adventures, and so many other activities.

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It was with these girls that I had the guts to get into a bathing suit during my awkward formative years. There were all body types, and I learned that they were comfortable with their bodies. I was practically brought up around confident women in those years. It’s part of the reason I’m relatively comfortable in my skin now.

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It is not because of this organization I am a lesbian. In fact, a good amount of my time between ages 11-20 were spent listening to girls talk about boys with a fervor and gusto I simply could not emulate. I thought for a while I might be asexual. Turns out, I’m not. However, I never was inappropriate or even had interests in any of these women. They were more like sisters I never had, than any kind of romantic interest. It’s odd, after the fact, when I contemplate how hard it was for me to be a lesbian in a big group of sisters. Perhaps I repressed a lot more than I realized just to try to appear more normal to them. So I pretended to like boys, and I danced with them at dances. I became good friends with lots of boys. Because of the religious foundation of this organization though, I was afraid to be myself completely because those who were perhaps more religious than I might judge me more harshly than I was ready for.

So many of my friends I made in Job’s Daughters missed my whole coming out party, and by party, I mean the last 13 years of my life after becoming a majority member at 20 and exiting membership in the organization.

So much of myself as a person is tied in to that stone-cold group of weirdos, and I still have memories that quite vividly appear out of nowhere about a bird cat dog fish and other inside jokes with these women.

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In the end, they served as the example for me to grow up myself, and make choices about the kind of person I wanted to be. For that, I am eternally grateful. You gave this only child your friendship and sisterhood at a time when I needed it most. In return, I forced you to suffer through the years of my life I’d like to pretend I’ve forgotten the most. I feel I grew the most in college and after, but without this group teaching me that I could be anything I set my mind to, I wouldn’t have been able to grow in the last 13 years.

I would not change a single thing about my experience. I only wish I would not have lost contact in those years after with many of them. If I had a daughter, beyond what I said I’d teach her in **this post**, even if she chose not to join the organization, I’d like to instill in her the same principles I learned in Job’s Daughters:

  • Respect for yourself, parents, elders, and friends
  • Leadership abilities, speaking in public, singing in public, making mistakes, laughing at yourself, embarrassing yourself in public, and having a good time doing it, not worrying what anybody thinks
  • Confidence in my abilities and my body, strength in my emotions, accountability and integrity in my words and actions
  • Memorization skills, organizational skills, and people skills in dealing with all kinds of neuroses, especially the religious right
  • Loyalty to friends that bonds as strongly as blood
  • Love of a country that allows me freedoms to speak my mind, love whom I choose, and have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
  • Acknowledgement of a higher power such that one feels small and powerless, and is humbled in this world.
  • I have a tiara, so that makes me a princess. Every little girl has a princess inside, even the little lesbian who liked having short hair, playing basketball, rollerblading, summer reading, and hated wearing dresses.
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Senioritis

Toward the end of my senior year of high school, on or around April 1, my annual bad case of senioritis kicked in. Now, I was no stranger to freedom. I’d had senioritis in the springtimes leading up to summer as a freshman, sophomore, and junior, and it was probably worst my senior year. I finally had my own car, a 1988 Toyota pickup truck with an ocean wave painted on the driver’s side pick’n’pull door. You see, I backed my truck out of the garage, looking over my right shoulder, forgetting I had not shut my door entirely, until I heard the awful sound of metal bending and screeching and tangling over my left shoulder. Bent that door the way God didn’t intend… allllll the way backwards… Woops. So my dad got a different color door and reattached it. I painted it to have a little character.

I loved that truck, and those sunny spring days called too loudly for me to care about our closed campus policy. When the lunch bell rang, I hustled to the student parking lot and zoomed out of there with a fiery, blatant disregard for speed bumps and authority. There weren’t cops that followed you out, if you left. Instead, they sat parked, writing down the license plates of any cars that came and went. So they knew when you left and when you came back, and you’d get detention later when they tally for the day, reconciling to parents’ notes for doctor appointments and attendance records. I had so many wasted Saturdays in Saturday school as punishment, in the library making up for my taste of freedom during school hours. I didn’t care, it was worth it. I was otherwise a straight-A student; I’d be off to college later that summer.

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It’s now the present day, and it’s the last week of work before I leave on my 2 month journey through Europe, and I have senioritis bad. Again. There’s no detention this time, but conjuring any fucks to give about why I should stay is virtually impossible at this late stage.

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I’ve given in to the daydreaming, to the imagining how parts of my trip will play out. The bike tour in Helsinki, the ballet in Russia, the Norwegian fjord tours, the Italian cooking class, Stonehenge. It’s all so much, and no project here can compare to what awaits.

Part of this trip is wiping clean and making myself a new clear slate. I anxiously await having my whole life in a bag at my side, at an airport (a train station, a ferry building) waiting for a ride. I’ll have said my goodbyes, wiped at my eyes, finally ready for what’s after.

The great thing about the road is you can get on and get off anytime. You can make plot twists, turn the page, change the scenery, and thus, write the story as you go. Walking around solo or with friends at your side, you start over as many times as you like. When you introduce yourself, you become what you share with people. You’re no longer the CPA who’s only really had 1 job out of college for the last 11 years. Or the lost, scared little girl who is looking for her faith in this world. You’re your stories. Where you’ve been, what you’ve done, what you’ve seen.

One thing I think many travelers have in common is, regardless of their reason for travel, but usually mostly if the travel is for pleasure, people lose themselves in order to find themselves again. They immerse themselves in a different culture, a different place, with different people, looking for something different. In a way, we’re all lost stars, trying to light up the dark. Find what starts our fires burning, and then block the wind so they don’t burn out. If you don’t like a chapter, end it.

No story is complete without the inner conflict, the struggle, what it is that makes you fall in love with the characters. What makes you want to go on the journey with someone. Whether it’s a quest for truth, or simply escaping it, there must be rhyme, reason, rhythm, and agony. Only then can the ending be sweet. But every story can have a happy ending; it just depends where you end it.

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I’m a bit crazy this morning, in that I’ve already been to the gym, had a wheatgrass shot and a post-workout smoothie. I’ve caught up on what work I could, and now I’m finally writing the blog post I’ve been wanting to since Friday night.

On my mind and in my earbuds, I’ve had some fantastic musical inspiration for my day that I’d like to share with you, for the lyrics, for the meaning, for the melody, for the mood.

“Beautiful” – Eminem: So many of these lyrics hit home. I can relate. I’m wearing the shoes that fit me.
“Dancing Queen” – ABBA
“Gold Dust Woman” – Fleetwood Mac
“One” – Glee Cast performing U2 song
“The Longest Time” – Billy Joel
“Budapest” – George Ezra
“Força” – Nelly Furtado
“Pompeii” – Bastille – I watched the film “Pompeii” this weekend, and the visual imagery and the sheer weight of Vesuvius erupting, wiping out so many people, struck a deep cord only amplified by the earthquake in Nepal. I read that a Google exec was living out his dream, climbing Mount Everest, and was killed in one of the many massive avalanches after the earthquake. My heart goes to those who were fearless to the end, living their dream, even if at the cost of their very life they lived. I salute you.

The horrible, no-good day

Today sucked. Hard.

I found myself, locked outside my apartment after a long day of work, exhausted, irritated, and frustrated. My apartment key decided it had greater things planned for itself than the life I could offer, and jumped off my key ring at some point between San Francisco, and a destination 25 miles from that. Apparently, the future I offered that key suddenly was not good enough, and it abandoned ship for greener pastures.

It is difficult, when one has a shitty day, to not get lost in the hyperbole of it all. “This is the WORST day of my life…” and “Seriously, like I really needed this today, of all days.”

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I’ve certainly had worse days, but I found that I was correcting myself after exploding with my hyperbolic statement. I automatically went to that place of being locked out as the straw that breaks the camel’s back on my horrible, no-good, awful day.

It’s also hard not to add it all up, and count anything that could lean to the unfavorable side of scales and chuck it in with the rest of the rubbish of the day. One can struggle to find the good moments.

I had good moments today. My pants felt a little looser when I put them on this morning, since I haven’t worn them in a while. I was prepared and on time for my client meeting at that destination 25 miles away, despite last minute curveballs thrown at me by my demanding boss on that project. I managed to curb my road rage and not get a ticket to add to my pile of crap on this horrible, no-good day. I had neighbors who gave me water while I waited, invited me in, and offered to let me use the restroom while I was locked out.

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Today was just annoying. Since I don’t drink anymore, having a drink to get over the day and to let it ebb away isn’t an option. I’m doing a load of laundry. I called a friend in Australia who was happy to hear my voice, little old me, as he hadn’t heard it in a long time.

If I think about it, I do have a lot going for me, so I can’t let myself get too down. I certainly don’t want to have a day like today again for a very long time. Every once in a while, I need them though, because they do remind me how good I have it on all the other non-horrible, good days.

So join me in a small moment of gratitude that the shitty times will pass, and the good times are worth enduring them for. I’ll take my moment of gratitude for being back in my apartment without the aide of a locksmith, and thankful for the patience I attempted to exude when camped outside my door. It could have been a lot worse. I guess. It is days like today that I wish I had that partner and those pet kids to come home to make it all better. My dream girl would hold me, preferably sneaking up on me like this:

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and my imaginary corgis, Meatball and Mozzarella, and my make-believe ginger kitten, Cheddar, would all simultaneously attack me with a group hug and instantly wash away, with all those nuzzles and licks and kisses, the stress and tension and bad feelings.

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One day. I hope.

A new client

This week, it hit me that in less than 3 weeks, my international adventures will begin again as I depart for London on May 5 (or 5 May for you international format readers.) My to-do list suddenly doubled, and the time I knew I had to accomplish items on it suddenly halved.

My work projects have increased as I picked up an extra client to complete by the end of April, and our annual performance reviews and feedback process is also adding a lot of extra admin tasks to my plate.

I also realized I only had so much time to see important people in my life before I departed for another continent. I’m trying to squeeze in time with neighbors, friends, and people in town from other locations. My Auntie Chianti, who will be joining up with me in Europe, arrives in San Francisco today for 4 days for a conference, so I’ll be playing tour guide to her and her friend, as well, for the duration.

I’m also looking at the life admin that comes with not being home for 2 months. There’s arranging for plants to be cared for, mail taken in, suspension of Netflix services temporarily to avoid overhead costs, and so on. I’ve alerted my banks for certain ATM and credit cards that I’ll be traveling to avoid the nuisance of fraud alerts placed on my accounts while traveling overseas. Each operator I spoke to was jealous of the trip when I had to list out all the countries, and wished me an amazing trip. All in stride, I suppose.

I made the painful decision to not sublet out my apartment while I’m gone. Airbnb seemed an obvious choice to recoup some of ridiculous rent expense I’ll be forking out for not even being in my apartment. However, that would have added more life admin, since San Francisco requires lessors to actually file for the permit in person, and prove there are fire extinguishers on site, safety first aid kits, directions to fire exits, and so on. Too much. Abort. No deal.

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I’ve much to look forward to, but I haven’t let myself really think about it. I am just trying to get by, one day at a time, and it seems life loves to pile on the stuff to do directly in inverse proportion to how much time one has left before a much-needed vacation.

There are other things on the horizon which inhabit the periphery of my vision of the future, waiting in the wings. Dreams, wishes, and stepping stones to achieving them fill my daydreams in any spare time I can find. Realization of the present moment and the impending future smack my face at least once daily, waking me up to life.

I forget that a year ago, I lived in another country. I travelled to many places in the last 3 years most of my friends, colleagues, and peers have never even thought of. There’s much I have to offer this world, simply by doing what others dream. I’ve been the other for a long time, living vicariously through friends who post on Facebook all the great, happy things in their life. Soon, it will be my turn to be that person, with many good things to be thankful for. I mean, I already am thankful for everything I have and everything I don’t. But soon, I will be able to channel that into a positive growth and development for myself in ways to which client service simply cannot hope to compare.

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I’m becoming my most important client in less than 3 weeks, and it’s all about finding what makes me happy and delivering on that, to myself. It’s an odd thought, considering yourself to be your top priority for a while. I’ll be taking the time to pull my life down from the daily rat race shelf, examine it, and ensure it’s really what I want and need to be doing. I’ll be doing all the things that please me, and none of the things that do not. I’ll be bending over backwards for myself as a client. And this time, it won’t be thankless; I know how worth it it will be. Treat yourself.

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I don’t know that we do that often enough, or that we’re afforded the time to do such a thing. I’m lucky in that I’m not married, not even in a relationship, no kids, no pets, no mortgage, not tied to material things (**busts out in lyrics from Rent, “I don’t own emotion; I reeeeeeeeeeeent!!!”**)

I can do this for myself. Many of the people who are important to me are not able to do this. Their reality check is much more substantial than mine, and they have people and other beings that depend on them. So I offer you, dear reader, the chance to live vicariously through me soon. Bear with me as this becomes much of a travel blog for a couple of months. I promise, it’ll still be me.

My one-woman wolf pack is soon to be on the prowl. Owww-roooooooooooooooo at the moon. Owww-rooooooooooooo I say.

Cognitive dissonance

Often, we face the grandest internal struggle when we suffer from cognitive dissonance. The words came to me out of the blue the other day, no doubt entered into the files while in my school days, when I was mulling over the question of what I was feeling, and have been feeling for some time now.

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Dissonance is synonymous with a din, and is the antonym of resonance. Most often, dissonance refers to sound waves, and I think of resonance the same way. Resonance vibrates in harmony, while multiple beats overlay one another, creating a reinforced strength when united, while dissonance is the mixing of many incongruous waves which causes discord and sounds, well, horrible.

Cognitive dissonance is basically the mental stress/discomfort experienced when someone holds two conflicting beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. It’s a process of reconciliation we go through, to find harmony between the mixing waves. It is how we develop mentally, and test/create the structure which forms our own realities.

The theory of cognitive dissonance holds the premise that humans thrive on consistency. We attempt, whether consciously or subconsciously, to reduce the dissonance and find harmony, or simply avoid situations in which those contradictory beliefs/values have to interact with each other.

The level of discomfort experienced is directly to proportional to how important those beliefs and values are to you, and how dissonant the two conflicting ideas are. Further, if we have struggled reconciling the two beliefs in the past, we may suffer more if we cannot rationalize or make sense of the conflict. If there are strong beliefs/values, and they are very different from the opposing view also held, and we’ve tried and tried and still can’t find a way for both to coexist, there can be a massive level of discomfort.

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Like oil and water, like being Muslim and gay at the same time, like seeing the news stories of all the plane crashes involving lost planes, suicidal depressed co-pilots, being struck down by Russian missiles while being mistaken for military aircraft, and still choosing to purchase and board flights to exotic destinations. Like reconciling God with science.

I have felt the mental discomfort, the stress, of certain areas of my life intertwining. I feel it culminating to a point in time in the very near future where I will need to make harmony of my feelings, to act without hesitation. I’ve set in motion a series of events which will lead to proving I indeed not only have a spine, but have the will and persistence to seek out and follow my dream, no matter the obstacles or obscurity which lie ahead.

At the end of the day, it is this dissonance, this lack of harmony, which causes us to seek out equilibrium/stasis. We need the noise to stop, to just chill the hell out.

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It can be so exhausting to be in constant struggle. Inner conflict can be the loudest of them all, even if nothing is spoken or shared about it. Mix into it the complications of having an external life, where the conflict thunders under the surface, but one must appear collected when it comes to daily reality check of life.

I am perpetually seeking more peace, calm, understanding, and harmony in my life. I think we all do – there is something inherently dissatisfying about being in a ceaseless state of chaos. Patience young grasshopper, patience. Almost.

“The time to hesitate is through…” – The Doors

Share a silence with me

I find myself in an odd mood. I haven’t written a blog post in about a week now. I sat down today to write, and I find myself with nothing to say. Just a need to check in. Say hi. Shake a hand, maybe. And I’ll be on my way.

I’d rather spend the time with you, dear reader, in a comfortable silence. Perhaps we’d be seated, side-by-side, on a sofa, or in cozy individual chairs, spreading our very presence to fill the chair. We’d look at each other, smile awkwardly, but find the silence so intriguing and attractive, that we dare not break it. Eventually, perhaps, we’d people-watch together, both gazing in the same direction. We could watch scenes play out in real life, and see very different things. We’d enjoy the moment. Nod, acknowledge, and move on.

Truth is, I’d rather listen and observe right now, than stand up and speak, only to say nothing. So this post is a tribute to the greatest silence in the world acknowledged between friends. The conversation needs no words, and leaves you feeling more re-charged than spent.

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Haircuts and new shoes

I’ve gone through many hairstyles in my 33 years on this earth. When I was 9, I liked the New Kids on the Block. I got my hair cut short, with a rat-tail braided in the back. Don’t ask me what the hell I was thinking.

I was born with dark hair that turned red almost immediately, then faded to blonde as I got older. I have what I would describe as curly Irish hair at the nape of my neck and behind my ears, coarse and unruly, frizzy on humid days. I would describe the top layer of my hair as blonde Asian hair. It’s the only straight thing on me. It cannot hold a curl, and forms crazy bedhead shapes when allowed to wander free. I have cowlicks in odd places on my head, which just exascerbates the entire interpretative dance that is my hair.

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I started growing my hair out in July 2013, when my father passed away. When my now ex-girlfriend and I broke up. When I got passed over for promotion after working hard to demonstrate I was more than capable of the title.

For me, it would appear long hair represents a period of cocooning, rebuilding, and getting ugly before getting beautiful again. I wasn’t feeling great about myself and didn’t care what I looked like, never really cared much to begin with, but especially then, it coincided well with that awkward “in-between” phase of growing short hair out long again.

This hair is nearly 2 years old. It reaches my shoulders now. It gives me headaches when it’s in a ponytail and I can’t stand when it’s down and in my face.

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There’s something about the feel of that little area at the end of your hair and your neck, when the stylist edges the cut and shaves clean those little strays. It makes me want to shave my whole head, when I feel those few little hairs. The day of a haircut, I find my fingers running over those hairs the most.

I look at a haircut as a shedding of skin, of dead cells, of excess weight. I’ve carried this hair for 2 years as it grew and became lightened naturally by the sun. I did have two summers in a row, after all, moving from Sydney to San Francisco in June 2014.

It’s been 10 months being back in San Francisco. I was up early this morning, long before the sunrise. I listened to my iTunes on shuffle, and Tony Bennett’s I Left My Heart in San Francisco came on. It was a beautiful moment. It’s true, my heart is in San Francisco, for the time being. Perhaps it’s living in San Francisco which has taught me how to love so fiercely and unapologetically, which taught my heart it even had the capacity to grow so much and move so freely.

I assume the blood moon was above my apartment as I saw someone on the roof adjacent to my building shooting photos with a very bright flash in the twilight hours, pre-sunrise.

So today, my friend will cut my hair and liberate the last 22 months from my head. **Insert singalong to Let It Go from Frozen here.** Today is butterfly day. I could not be happier to see it go. Quite cathartic, really. I’m ready. I’m going to put on the newest shoes I have and enjoy today.

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