Openness is a word that is coming to describe more and more aspects of my life and relationships these days. I am being open sexually and emotionally, and inviting others to join me in those open spaces.
Most significantly, as I’ve talked about already and will keep talking about for as long as it’s relevant, I’ve been exploring open relationships/polyamory for the past few months. Today was a great day in that area of my life. After being contacted by a highly interesting new person about a week and a half ago, I ended things with [New Guy] because I was reminded of how invigorating it feels to be genuinely interested in a new involvement rather than just pursuing an option because it’s there. This is what we will call openness with myself about what I’m looking for. I am looking for connection, and connection is definitely a thing this newest person and I have in abundance. He’s also a blogger, which means we share the tendencies to a) be really introspective and b) to overshare–this translates into us being hella real with one another in a way that I just can’t get enough of. I am excited about this. I have been excited about this for the past week and a half, and I shared some of that excitement with [Booskie].
[Booksie] and I have been in what I’m calling limbo mode for a couple weeks due to some semi-unrelated stuff, and last night as my talks with this newest person revealed that we’re interested in pursuing a level of involvement that looks a little more like traditional dating than what I’ve got going on with either [Booskie] or [Buddy], I realized that it was high time for a check-in with [Booskie]. It’s still really scary to sit down and prepare to come at him with my emotions because vulnerability and shit, but emotional openness of the highest order is like, crucial to this situation. We’ve felt that way from the beginning, and so I have no choice but to work through that scared-ness and be up front about where I’m at. So far it has not served me wrong in any way. That held true again today; everything is great, we’re still on the same page about what we want, and I’m feeling suuuuper happy.
I am thankful for openness because as scary as it can be to lay all your cards on the table for someone, the validation and recognition and appreciation you can get in return are priceless. I literally can’t place a value on being able to tell somebody, hey, this is who I am and where I’m at and how I feel and having them say okay, cool, I’m down as fuck with all of that. Starting new relationships and continuing ongoing ones with this all-my-cards-on-the-table outlook has been revolutionary. I don’t have time for people I can’t be myself, my whole damn complicated messy self with. No matter how this poly thing plays out in the end, I can’t imagine going back to the let-me-reveal-who-I-really-am-slooooooowly-piece-by-piece-and-hope-this-person-doesn’t-run-away-screaming style of getting to know someone I’m romantically interested in. I need the freedom to be all the different parts of who I am at once.
And this Era of Openness that I’m checking out isn’t limiting itself just to my romantic/sexual involvements either. I’m being hella real with so many more people. I’ve been talking to some of my coworkerfriends about all sorts of intimate details of my personal and dating lives, which is turning them into real actual friends. I’ve been writing more posts that contain entirely my own thoughts and feelings, such as this one. I’m remembering what it’s like to not be afraid of talking, to not be afraid to really put myself out there. All in all, I am consciously giving less time in my life away to bullshit I don’t care about, and dedicating space and time to the things, people, and relationships I find supportive, invigorating, satisfying, and sustaining. That’s self-care in action.
People have been asking me recently what I’m getting out of being poly, or why it sits so well with me. For me it’s like, I think that dating in one’s 20s has a tendency to either be like, super serious trying to find “The One” and settle down, or super casual just trying to feel affectionate and get laid. I feel like the polyamorous thing lets me explore various levels of relationship without anything unintentionally getting more serious than I’m looking for–if I take nothing else away from this grand experiment when everything is said and done, I have learned how to be suuuuuuper intentional about stuff and not hide away from difficult/awkward/emotional conversations with partners about what we expect and how we feel, etc. and that’s something I’ll take into all of my relationships in the future, platonic or romantic, monogamous or otherwise. And as a person who has just sort of fallen into a lot of her past romantic/sexual relationships in the past, the intentionality and reciprocity that openness demands are things I’m incredibly thankful for. Intentionality is like a whole new level of self-love, one that includes, honors, and respects the other people in my life as much as it honors and respects me.
I’m also really thankful for the opportunity to inspire/encourage that same openness in other people. I feel so lucky to have been approached by and found people who are so open to openness. This is all new to me, but on the whole it feels good and natural and wholly satisfying, and I know that’s all due to the honesty and openness I’ve established in my various relationships. I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by how well this all works, and in the past week and a half or so it’s been my turn to be the one inspiring that pleasant surprise for someone else, and I dig that so much.
This year, I am thankful for openness. I am thankful for communication. I am thankful for vulnerability. I am thankful for the genuine. I am thankful for connection. I am thankful for keeping it real.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.
I have a friend who is a quarter Native American. We were talking about what we were doing for the holiday over our Thanksgiving dinner on campus, and she laughed and said her family doesn’t really like Thanksgiving, for obvious reasons. And that was when it hit me, that Thanksgiving celebrates many of the same atrocities that Columbus Day lauds, and it’s a bit hypocritical for me to abhor the latter while wholeheartedly celebrating the former. I feel obligated to recognize how problematic this holiday is, how we are officially celebrating the exploitation and subsequent near-destruction of a people.
But there is one major thing that separates Thanksgiving from Columbus Day: no one knows what we’re celebrating on Columbus Day, except a day off of school or work for some. On Thanksgiving, we know what we’re celebrating: family, friendship, love, and quite a bit of privilege. We journey across the country to visit our families, taking part in old traditions and creating our own, cooking together, laughing together, sharing memories, and remembering how much we really do love each other, even if we don’t get together as often as we’d like. Today, Thanksgiving is meant to be a day of joy and togetherness, and so even though the day was created out of terrible legacies, I am thankful for what it has become in modern times.
First and foremost, this year I am thankful for my family and all of our relative healths, and that I can sit in this room typing this with my grandmother reading a book on one side of me and my mother on the other side. I am thankful that we are all able to come together and cook this meal together this year, a tradition I hope we’ll be able to continue for many years to come. I am thankful that my grandmother wants to write her recipes down into a cookbook, and that she wants my help. I am thankful for the counter full of sweet potato pies, some of which have my name on them. But most of all, I am thankful for the powerful powerful love in this room, even when it comes in the form of teasing. I am thankful for my loving father, and my caring older sister and niece, and my recently re-discovered ex-step-brother, even though I couldn’t be with them this holiday.
Next, I am incredibly thankful for Princeton, as corny as it sounds. Nearly everything about my life as it stands today is unrecognizable from my life a mere four years ago, and the change is for the better is the vast majority of ways. I am obviously thankful for the academic atmosphere, the classes I’ve taken and the incredible minds (both of my professors and my classmates) that I’ve gotten to work with, and for the myriad opportunities I’ve been given (financial aid, job, internships, mentors, acting, leadership, trips to Broadway, meeting famous people). I am thankful for the friendships I’ve spent various fractions of the past 3.5 years cultivating; I mean it when I say you all have changed my life for the better in so many ways. I might even be more thankful for the lessons I’ve learned outside the classroom, as taught by my friendships and other relationships, than for that which I’ve learned from books and lectures. I have learned myself by knowing you.
Two particular subsets of Princeton deserve shout-outs. Firstly, I am thankful for what I will call “Black Princeton,” being “the Black community” ambiguously defined, as well as the Center for African-American Studies and the Carl A. Fields Center. You introduce me to sides of myself I didn’t know, eased an uneasiness I hadn’t even been aware of. I always say I “learned how to be Black” at Princeton, and that was all you, and I’m so incredible grateful. You taught me the meaning of community, both in giving me the all-inclusive-ness I desperately needed and in giving me the space I needed to branch out. And secondly, I am thankful for the community I branched out into: Quad. I am thankful for the somewhat haphazard series of decisions that brought me to you and to the officer corps. I am thankful for the diversity of backgrounds, experiences, majors, and ideals we share, and the ever-expanding dinner table and large library where conversations that explore this diversity happen. I am thankful for having been turned into a functional alcoholic responsible drinker, and for a safe space in which my inhibitions have been lowered to a level I’m much more comfortable with. Both of these communities have changed me fundamentally, and I don’t know what I’d do without either.
I am thankful for my friends from childhood/adolescence, because even though sometimes I feel like I’ve drifted away from you guys, as soon as we have a good conversation or hang out, it’s like no time has passed at all. I’m thankful that we grew up (and are still growing up) together, and that after all these years, many of my memories with you all are still counted among the best of my life.
I am thankful for the privileges I have been afforded, for technology, for my job, for the #Occupy movement, for online shopping, for dreaming about roadtrips, for music, for clearance racks, for Integrated Gmail, for etsy, for ebay, for libraries, for my health, my memory, for being able to help my mom when she needs it, for feeling appreciated, for having others to appreciate, for the fight for social justice and equal rights, and for the struggle, because growth must be rooted in frustration. I am thankful for my life, and everything it entails.