Posted in Academia, Accessibility, Beauty, Editorial, Fashion, Feminism, Lifestyle, Love, Positivity, Reflection, Self Care

“Home is Where the Heart Is”: Body Practice as World Making

For a long time, I haven’t felt like I’ve had only one physical place that has felt like home. There’s a bench between some large tree’s near Lake Huron where I’ve spent many summers for the past eighteen years where I feel at home. I feel at home in my Gramma’s living room on Christmas Day. I feel at home at café tables across the world while I read or sit and chat with a good friend. I feel at home in my person’s apartment when he’s cooking for me and I’m puttering with my books in his space. I feel at home in my parents’ house when we stand around the island catching up after a long time of me not being home. I feel at home in this new blanket I bought for my bed after becoming a Candidate. I feel at home at my supervisor’s house drinking rose juggling her children and a conversation about the state of the world.

My home, it has seemed for a while now, is where my heart is. Where I can feel my heart beating, where I feel most alive and secure and content. Where I sometimes feel challenged (rehearsal/creation spaces, conference spaces), and also where I am most accommodated and supported.

I’ve really been thinking through the feminist practice of world-making and how worlds are created reliant on other factors surrounding the intention of the world. Is “home considered a world? I feel in alternative communities, communities that are oppressed or found, such as the disabled academic community on twitter that I am now a vibrant part of and it’s a part of my life, strives to create a home, a world, a space, in which we can find intimacy and familiarity and support within the worlds and systems and structures that are built despite of the ways in which we interact with it. Home-making, for disabled people in Canada, seems to be where we reach our arms out to those who experience similar oppression and barriers that we do, and hold on to share strength and resources.

So has home-making been a thing I have been “making”? Or have I been carrying home, carrying world, with me? Is my heart, as part of my body, carried for and with me to create a home wherever I feel those feelings that I attribute to home-ness? Is my body practice, in which I mean being painfully self-aware of my body, emotions, heart, and home-ness, as well as being present as much as I possibly can safely a part of the home-making in which is integral to surviving in this fast-paced, over-saturated with (bad) news and violence, radically changing at a pace that is unstable, and brilliantly beautiful world?

The name of this blog might be changing in the new year to reflect more of what I’m hoping to write. This is my journal, reflecting the struggle of a disability-identified Blind woman who has varying degrees of privilege and barriers in the academy and in the urban Canadian society of Toronto. In the past this space has been for me to embody and attempt blog-making, capitalist-endorsed work, but also has been a space of frustration and navigation of this world. I’ve been writing blogs since 2010 as storytelling and expression. The print medium, despite being an energy suck for my remaining eyesight, is still painful to release from my daily practice.

I want this digital space to be an ecology of personal, academic, and activist home-making, in the sense that it could be a place for me to plant my heart to recharge, digitally, accessibly, to ruminate and grow for me to take some space and time from always holding these things inside of me.

Does that make sense? It might. It might not. Change is good. Breathe.

Xx Jess

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Posted in Editorial

My Eye Needs Help From You.

I’ve been considering saving this meditation for the next issue of Feminist space Camp Magazine…but, no. I think I need to write a two-parter here, quickly, before I melt into a puddle of hunger and fatigue from just too many things being held up by me…

First, I want to just say, that I am fatigued. I use fatigue instead of tired these days for lots of reasons, but what you should know as the most important reason: my good eye, which is one that works with lower than 50% vision, is growing so tired lately that my vision blurs mid-day everyday, and by Thursday mid-day I cannot continue work most weeks. I sleep in every day trying to give it some rest, and it means that my entire being and existence is shifting. I need to stop running around the city all of the time. I need to read less (sigh) and watch more shows I’ve already seen for a while so I don’t miss physically watching. I need social moments to be held closer to where I am or with much more support. I will listen with my eyes closed more. I need patience, and support.

I am writing this because I have an amazing friend Ash who told me, in a moment of her regular wisdom, that despite this being something I am experiencing and dealing with that I do not have to do it alone. She says that I should ask for more of my peers and friends, and so I am. Ash, you are the reason for this blog post, because you remind me to be….I was going to type better, but that isn’t it. You remind me to be gentle and caring and vibrant. You are vibrant which enables me to be vibrant.

So I wanted to donate the second half of this post to the miraculous women in my life from across the country, who’ve touched my life in a variety of ways, who are all working hard and creating their own empires in their own ways. Getting married, married, planning weddings, becoming CEO’s, getting pregnant, writing books, novels, articles, travelling, dancing, working hard. Working hard. And remaining vibrant. I’d love to write a lengthy paragraph to each of you, but my eye won’t last that long. I will say that you’re all the kind of humans I am proud to have in my world, in my galaxy, in my star-sky.

The support systems that I have cultivated over the past decade are those that, now that I am mid-day (!!!) through my PhD, I realize are essential to human living. We cannot do these things alone—any of these things—and so I hope that everyone is curating a constellation that works for you.

I am going to make a scrambled egg sandwich andpour a glass of apple cider and watch another episode of Grey’s Anatomy and then tag everyone I’m holding today, I hope you’ve found something restful to do today too. May we all recharge the batteries as we need.

xx Jess

Posted in Editorial

Lasting and Meaningful Creation

I thought I would write about my travels before the summer was over, but there’s no way I could translate my memories into words. I tried for many people already orally, but it seems as though….there are too many meaningful and beautiful moments to create something that represents them well enough, even the photos, and for that I am grateful. What a privilege to be able to keep those private, we don’t need to share everything.

I would like to talk quite briefly about the Feminist Digital Magazine that I created with a crack team and amazing contributors, only to say to go and read it:

http://www.femspacecampmag.ca

because we worked hard and want to keep creating lasting and meaningful issues, volumes, editions, communities, spaces, because that is what I need right now. I don’t need a perfect essay with no typos, or a beautiful website that matches and has every resource imagineable for every single person, or perfectly aligned columns, or matching colours, even though I have all of those things because Tita and Riss made them so, what I need from this magazine is asylum, is community, is literal SPACE where myself and the people who also need to can share our thoughts in the ways that make sense to us.

So that’s what I am contributing to this space. And it means failure to me, and overwhelm, and feelings of not good enough, how can I feel impostery with my own zine, you ask? Well, imposter syndrome comes everywhere. But so does motherfucker syndrome, and that’s what I have, too. I am creating a lasting space on the internet, not true space, real space, but connective tissue that binds us together in the ways, again, that we need them to.

These are tangible things that we can experience, hold in our hands with a machine, imagine in the ether between stars and asteroids. I imagine the stars a little brighter tonight, despite there being a storm outside and my lack of sight to see them.

I imagine the humans who need to sitting down to think about submitting to the magazine because they need to, because that poem they (I) wrote hazardly while in the airport in Barcelona waiting for a massively delayed flight home from one of the best vacations of my entire life…..I switched thoughts here, but this is all to say that we need to do the things that give us hope right now.

We have always had to, but finally we are admitting it to ourselves, and I’m trying to make space for it, too.

I think creativity is alive and well, graciously, genuinely, generously, waiting for us to tap into it when we need.

I’ve also spent the past few days re-energizing the space that I work in to be more comfortable, more reflective of the way that my brain is working right now, and it is feeling good. I just wanted to say that: change is god.

The new theme for our next issue of Feminist Space Camp Magazine is SHIFTING/CHANGING…..so, if that’s what you need to write about (or not) then please, please do.

Big hugs.

xx Jess

Posted in Editorial

Crystals: Accessibility, Tactility, and Meditation

I believe in people.

Pause for the women I used to live with cackle as my 20-year-old-self’s catchphrase rings through my blogosphere. This was actually written on a piece of paper on the wall in our hallway because I said it a lot, in a house of people who spoke a lot about our worlds and values, I value and believe in people.

I also believe in energy. I suppose this isn’t a revolutionary announcement. I prefer to think that what connects us is good intentions, the energy between all people, and I’ve been trying to articulate this as best I can to everyone for a long time now.

I also meditate. I have for years now, since I started going to therapy around the same time I lived with the beforementioned women in my early twenties. I meditate, practice yoga, and am painstakingly self aware almost to a fault (I’ve recently embraced the beautiful mode of not always, constantly trying to self improve—what is it like to just exist and be, a bit? Instead of constantly self-analyzing?). What I’m here to talk about might not surprise any of you, or it might, I don’t know.

I love crystals.

Now, in the colloquial turn of phrase as my millennial peers might put it, this is one of the most BASIC statements ever. It is a phase for white feminists to focus on self care and self improvement because of all kinds of things (another post, to go into that rabbit hole of guilt in North America, but not today) and all kinds of feminists are trying to find ways to bolster energy for themselves as we “fight the good fight” these days.

I love crystals because while meditating I’ve always needed an anchor, particularly physical because of my blindness, and a crystal brings that attention to something tangible that I can hold. It’s a small place outside of my body that I can manifest the good feelings I wish for myself.

But even beyond that, I am blind.

Again, not a revolutionary announcement on this blog, but it is important here. For a long time I’ve struggled with not being able to do tree pose due to not being able to balance well. I’ve struggled with predominantly visual self care routines like reading books or going for walks, things that are actually exhausting for my already strained eye. So holding a crystal seems to be…well, healing in many ways, but crystals, especially the raw ones have smooth spots and ridges that have character depending on the rock in question.

Crystals are extremely tactile. Crystals are something to hold, and yes they have colours and clarity inside them, but they are so fun to hold, and calming to hold, they are an anchor that embody embodiment, stay with me here. The crystals hold the things I am working through, and the surfaces of these help with kinesthetic working-through those things, to focus on the ridges helps the meditation, helps carry my mind away from my actual trouble and surround intention on the flaws of the stones.

Does this matter? I have been debating sharing this new love for crystals for a while, because its something that I used to totally think was bullshit. No filter here, I thought that it was just some hippy-yuppie-dippy-white-feminist-BS that I did not want anything to do with. But I was given a crystal necklace a year ago from a dear friend for healing, and ypon focusing on a few gaps in my life (hobbies, mostly) I have come upon meditating and nourishing the part of my life that toggles between self -care and -improvement, that exists in a blurred “being” space between the two, and the best way I can do that lately is by holding my black tourmaline crystal, which is sitting beside the computer as I type.

So there we go. Its probably not interesting to anyone, or maybe it is, because the tactility of this practice makes it more accessible for me, tangible, in-my-hands, and that makes a difference for a tired wee blind lady like me.

Xx Jess

Posted in Editorial

Feminist Space Camp Magazine: A Call

The Call:

Hi friends,

I’m hoping to start a digital magazine called Feminist Space Camp. I am looking for five, 2000 word max. prose essays on anything from pop culture, theatre, self care, art, Netflix, music, fashion, fitness, body positivity, intersectionality, rage, love, grief, trauma, or anything and everything you can think of for the first issue, which I’m hoping to launch August 1, 2018.
If you have an idea, please send me a short (200 word max.) “abstract” or pitch of what you’d like to write (I’m taking an old blog post as a submission, so please I would encourage not to add more labour to your plate, but a space for creative exploration of older ideas or something you feel like you NEED to write right now) by June 24, 2018.

(also looking for ANYTHING you might like to see in a magazine…book/tv/film/song/podcast/news segment reviews, lists of any kind, comedic think pieces, advertisements for shows or events coming up in August-September…anything! Super open so pitch anything!)

I am currently editing, but I could use some help with visuals (cover? Photos? How do I design an online print thing when I can’t see?). So if you’re interested, please let me know.
If you absolutely cannot fathom this work right now, TOTALLY COOL! I am hoping to do an issue every other month, and circulate it primarily on my social media. This is a low stakes thing, no payment as of right now, but I needed a space that is creative and non-academic, and am sharing in the hopes that you also need a similar kind of Canadian space.

Any feedback welcome, please share with only like-minded feminist female-identifying creators, please, and send submissions directly to me:
jessicadwatkin@gmail.com

Big hugs and warmth to you al!

Jess Watkin
PS. Does anyone else remember Interplanet Janet? I loved SchoolHouse Rock when I was younger, and she just GETS me.

For more context, a brief thought-piece from the editor:

In summer 2016 I organized and hosted a Feminist Book Club locally in Toronto with a group of woke boss ladies that I love that worked pretty well for the summer months, but failed to permeate beyond the realm of summer patio sangria weather with busy schedules dominating (because we are all so so so busy) but I continued to crave the connection, feminist and proximity, of common-minded colleagues in dialogue about cool feminist things.
After the book club ended, I brainstormed a different way to find connection by creating a “show and tell” feminist group, where a group of womyn might meet once a month and BRING an object, blog/podcast/art/book/etc. that speaks to them and tell the group why. This way we could crowdsource cool shit, while also drinking wine and bonding over our hard lives as modern millennial feminists. This failed after one shot, because again…so, so so so busy, the lives of us busy ladies means that the “proximity” I craved was harder to attain than anticipated.
I’ve tossed around other ideas: monthly game nights, monthly collaborative meal-making, yoga classes led by someone in the group, but all of these demand time and labour and organization in proximity with, and schedules are demanding these days.
So I returned to my blog, http://www.cosynotebook.wordpress.com, and returned to personal writing and editing amidst my own schedule whenever it worked for me. And I was reflecting on what “proximity” refers to over a coffee and a podcast after my big annual conference, where so many boss ladies came in proximity with one another but it was so fleeting that the dialogue needed to continue-it begged continuation. And while this reflecting occurred, I was reminded of a book where two feminist artists created a piece in tandem with one another in columns, which reminded me of a magazine, and my love for magazines (relevant in my plays, in my continual subscription to Vogue, and my nostalgia that magazines connects the women in my life) which is where this digital magazine came to life.
Different than a blog, it is curated, edited, and contributed to. I won’t put pressure on how many submissions in every issue, but I want to be able to share this and connect people. Online is accessible for me, it works for me, and I am so happy to be able to spearhead this project. Space camp has been a space inspired a few years ago by Rosianna Halse-Rojas (papertimelady on social media/youtube) where she needed a space to contribute to, and I love space, its a common theme in my life, and now it is truly going to bring the ladies I want to hear from into one insatiable galaxy.
So join me, pitch, give me ideas, and let’s create a new definition of proximity together amongst the stars.

xx Jess Watkin
Feminist Space Camp Editor

PS. At this point, I’d also like to introduce the absolutely incredible, talented, and brilliant Tita Kyrtsakas, who will be Co-Editor (and happens to be one of my absolute best friends, shine theory 101: I can’t shine if you don’t shine, so let’s shine together lady! XO)

Posted in Editorial

Great Expectations: Asylum-Seeking

Every few months after dropping off of writing here I will begin a post with “it’s been a while!” It has been a while, and I have lots of expectations for myself lately on how to get more into a routine where I return to doing the things that make me happy, but I must be honest: I’m awful with routines. I am not a creature of habit, I am a creature who does the things that she needs when she needs to. Stability has not really reigned much in my life, and I think that I would like it to.

My last post was about filling the reserves, and since then I have been stuck refilling, over and over, instead of picturing myself a fountain I am a well, or the bucket at the top of the well, I’m confusing myself in metaphors.

I bought a new computer which is easier to use. Easier than any machine I have ever owned, and for that I am grateful, and am so grateful to have a line of credit to support it, and that it will ease my access to work, and improve my quality of life, and it has brought me back to loving wordpress. I have expectations for myself, high ones, but this blog has always been a recluse for me. I’ve recently gone through a series of personal and public asylum-seeking experiences, moments where we share or not how we find asylum. One of these was at a conference I organized in early February with Petra Kuppers and Stephanie Heit, two incredibly generous and kind humans, who I am grateful to know. I also have found myself in the middle of ea beautiful relationship with my PhD Supervisor, who is a spot of asylum for me, warm and challenging in the best possible combination. These relationships fuel me, dayly, and I seek asylum elsewhere as a result.

I suppose I wanted to write about asylum because last night, for the first time in probably over a month, I slept very well. I woke up feeling rested, but unearthed. The rest had shaken something inside of me, and while out for a walk with a coffee I found myself seeking something. I’ve decided to spend today doing more seeking, while also preparing for my braille exam next week (I wrote out my loving kindness meditations in braille, which will not be a kind of anchor for me, see photo above).

I found myself editing the format here, and wanting to write, which is good. I used to be so good at blogging. I used to write stories, and draw conclusions, and now looking through the last few posts over the years I’ve written about how I am holding myself together. I don’t want to force myself to write things that don’t matter to me, that aren’t on my mind, so I’m writing what’s on my mind and hoping that throwing it out into the universe is a safe way for me to process.

Ah, processing, that word has haunted my week.

I’m inspired by Kim Solga’s blog the Activist Classroom to write about my work and pedagogy and what’s on my mind with a more focused flair, but I worry. I am a chronic worrier, see, worrying that something is wrong or there’s too many typos. But this blog is for me, to think through what I need to, its an asylum from the constant judgement I conjure in the real, offline world (and online world, to be honest).

So cheers to a new season (spring! Huzzah! Sweater weather, finally!). Cheers to new intentions, new goals, new frameworks to set my life in. Cheers to work that fuels us, challenges us. Cheers to the relationships that provide asylum, public or private, intimate or brief. Cheers, that is, to all of you, two eyes or one or none, passing by and holding my words for a moment.

Cheers.

xx Jess

Posted in Accessibility, Beauty, Editorial, Fashion, Feminism, Jessie's Picks, Lifestyle, Organization, Pictures, Positivity, Projects, Reflection, Self Care, Travel, Writing

Filling the Reserves

I wrote the final comprehensive exam for my PhD on September 9, 2017. Yesterday, October 27, I felt as though I had enough time to recover from the energy and stress it took to prepare and write the exam. It has been an untimely stressful period of my life, the last three months in particular, have felt quite draining in many ways, al ways, but just now I feel as though the parts of me that retain energy, not just sustain the energy needed to function, are slowly filling. Like an oxygen tank holding onto air for the return of a scuba dive, my energy too needed to hold on for the return to normal life post-comp, but unfortunately the energy, due to many different instances, was depleted, leaving my to swim back to the surface holding my breath.

How do I always find a way to use water as a metaphor for my mental state in some way here?

The filling of the energy took a lot out of me. It took spending less hours a day working on my research and being with other people. It took scheduling some serious reflection time, exploration of self and space, and lots of time recharging my physical body and eyes as I worked up the momentum to dive back in again.

The surface, it seems, was farther than expected. Working with little to no breaks is not sustainable, and so I had to take drastic measures to get back here.

I finally feel like I have enough to fight, to work, to enjoy the things that I love again. I’m about to embark on three very short but consecutive trips in November, and a fial one in December, to make this a very busy month, probably the busiest since I was in Europe five years ago for travelling. All have value, all have excitement, and all have the potential to knock the air mask off my face before I have a chance to take a breath.

Preparation, then, is essential for my energy reserves. They’re about 1/3 full now, and I have two weeks to feel as though I could make the trip and return, and I am confident that it will happen. Travel, both for my personal and professional lives, comes not with a price of exhaustion (although that does come) but moreso the price of leaving something—I mean to say that I love travel, intensely. I Igor not be enthralled with navigating an airport, but the adrenaline from landing in a new place, from stepping out of a door to a new world, recharges me on its own. Just looking forward to boarding my first flight connecting me to Calgary and then off to Kelowna for a dear friend’s wedding makes me giddy—The energy available, the possibilities, these are the qualities that bring me up.

So the anticipation has definitely helped me get to where I am now. Anticipation and hard, devoted work to taking care in many ways. And guess what? My work and life is better for it. I hate that I inserted “work” before “life” there, maybe I will rephrase: I’ve brought play, and joy, and rest, to the forefront of my life, and work takes a second to all three of those things. I’ve found myself more grounded in my work because I’m allowing myself space to be a human again, and for that I think I need to remember—for the future, for next term, where I will be grounded in more coursework and deadline-driven work, where I will have more pressures than just the work given to me (but above, beyond, and through it more will come). A busy year, 2018 is already turning out to be and we are still two months away.

So cheers to the next two months of absolute enthralling joy. To making good choices for our lives, and to being present and grounded in the things we choose to do.

xx Jess

Posted in Editorial

The Luxury of Choice When it Comes to Having Fucks to Give

This post was nt inspired by Tina Fey’s sheet-caking SNL incident and the backlash its receiving in the aftermath, but now that I’m reflecting more about what I want to talk about today it is the best way to introduce my thoughts.  How great it would be to have the option to just eat sheet cake as opposed to giving a fuck.

I read an instagram post the other day that had some sort of sentiment along the lines of “I can’t choose what thing to give a fuck about so I give no fucks at all.”  Now, if “giving a fuck” or “have no fucks to give” is a new concept for you, you may have not grown up with tumblr.com as a staple in your browser history, or you might use not care, either way this is a unique facet of slang that is reserved for a priviliedged few, who have the luxury of accessing all kinds of knowledge, all kinds of hardships and news, and then “choosing” which to care about.

I’ve been culprit of this, trust me, I am not innocent here, there have been many times where I’ve use threw my hands up in the air and yelled “I give zero fucks!” About whatever I was reading/listening to/talking about. That being said, there are certain things in all of our lives, I would like to assume, that we have no choice but to give fucks about.

What brought me to writing this today is that there is a new…passive complacency lately that I’ve noticed with my social media feed and friendships, where there are SO MANY shit things that we know about, and nobody has the energy to “giive a fuck” about all of them, really, and so we choose to eat sheet cake and watch Grey’s Anatomy with the blinds closed instead of facing them.

I am not suggesting that we all spend all of our energy thinking or facing such things, but we should all give a fuck.  

It all began yesterday, when I came up (again) with a blunder of inaccessibility in an acaedemic institution.  I’m sure you are surprised to hear this, considering universities and academia is SO ACCESSIBLE (ha..ha.ha) but I was so close, in a bathroom stall rereading an email/listening to a voicemail on a break from a teaching workshop Iwas attending, to just give up and not ask for the accommodations I need.  How much, in that moment (and still) do I wish I had the luxury to choose not to give a fuck about this, wow, wouldn’t it be great to just switch off my mind from worrying that I would be able to take the notes I need to to you know do my job and write my prospectus.

But no, friends, no, I don’t get the luxury to turn that off, because if I did then the inequality among the institution would prevent me from doing my job.  And if I am not researching, then what? What is my job then?  If I turn off this worry, then I don’t make a living.  That’s my choice.  Don’t give a fuck and shut down, or keep giving a fuck, draining the energy from my chakras i order to actually get access to do the job.  Where is the energy coming from?

Where is the energy coming from?

We are all drained.  We are, I know, from a horrific world of social media here we are constantly plagued by images, stories, headlines, with contradicting world views and disgusting news around the world, and even locally with people on our own profiles who make comments we are embarrassed about, ashamed of, and make us face things we wish we didn’t have to.  We can shut off the internet, we can close the web browsers, delete accounts.  We can spend hours binging NEtflix shows instead of reading, or writing, or thinking critically.  All of these things are so we don’t burn out completely, so the fires that burn our life goals and dreams don’t burn out too quickly, or at all.

But friends, that is a privilege.  It is a privilege to be able to shut off those thing, to stop giving a fuck for a while about one thing or another.  Some of us can’t turn off everything ever, things like racial prejudices, ableism (constantly, constantly) these things we cannot just take off, set aside, watch an episode of Sherlock with a milkshake and come back to later when we have more energy.  We have to fight somehow, through this muck, with energy that comes from…?

There’s no conclusion here. I’m just pointing out something that’s been bothering me, intensely.  And I’m not the kind of person who is always, constantly thinking critically about the world around me, I love turkey talk, I love sitting in a bar and drinking a glass of wine and talking about puppies as much as the next person, but I’m still fighting, it seems, I don’t get to not worry about very simple things that a lot of people take for granted not worrying about. I’m just tired, drained, burnt out, and asking…where is the energy coming from?

xx Jess

Posted in Beauty, Editorial, Fashion, Feminism, Jessie's Picks, Lifestyle, Love, Organization, Positivity, Projects, Self Care, Theatre, Writing

Having Opinions, Sticking to Them, and Then Letting Them Change

Well, its been a while, but I’ve been dealing with this a lot this year as I move into being more public about my personal and professional opinions about my work. In short, sticking to my opinions when I value things and believe things, and not be offended when people disagree or challenge them because how else is anyone’s mind ever going to be shaped or changed if we cannot have open dialogue about it? Respect, challenge, taking risks, being clever, and taking responsibility for my thoughts.My thoughts, things that I say to others, are all in formation, they are on their way to being…always. They aren’t stable, everything exists together in my brain, everything exists in the world alongside everything else, and I don’t think I’m always right.

But I’m in a line of work where I have to defend my ideas a lot, and so I get better at it, and so I think things that I think might be right. But also acknowledge that they are always changing.

“Why publish/share anything if my mind is always changing?”

Invite others to test you. Invite others to ask those questions, to push past the concrete and move into the why, the how. I’ve had so many brilliant people lately push me–harder, farther, make suggestions, ask, push, prod. It’s exhausting sometimes, I wonder about the sustainability of critical thinking, of conversation, and a while back my cohort and I discoveredd that videos of tiny dinosaurs riding pigs around a field helps, so does dancing in studios to slam poetry, rolling around on the floor laughing or sleeping, running around cities.

Time, balance, living life outside of conflicting ideas, smiling, thanking those and respecting those who take the care and time to think about what you say and think.

It’s beautiful. It’s hard. It’s excruciating. I always have this pang of absolute dread and awful terror when I know someone is reading what I think, they’re typing, they’ve said they disagree. But it pushes me past any idea I could get to on my own. Even when I don’t realize it, the rhizomatic efforts of life sink their teeth into me and I am gripped by being influenced by those around me.

I’ve done too much research on disability movements and supportive learning environments today and the above paragraph comes off a bit fluffy than I’d want. But here is to say thank you to those who hold my thoughts in their arms brains and hearts and throw something better back at me.

I hope to continue to chew on what others think for the rest of my life, and to consider, respectfully, what I can do to push those around me, too.

Xx Jess

Posted in Accessibility, Beauty, Fashion, Feminism, Jessie's Picks, Lifestyle, Love, Organization, Pictures, Positivity, Projects, Reflection, Self Care, Theatre, Writing

Blind Academic Lady Life 1

I’ve been thinking for a while I’d start writing this blog again. Do I set up a deadline-driven schedule like I used to so it will actually happen? Probably not. I want to write again because lately I’ve been thinking a lot of things, and talking to people about a lot of things, that seem not…unique, to me, but unique enough to my situation that it might be good to write it down so I stop talking so much about it with my wonderful, patient friends, who have heard me struggle with things for a while.
I am blind.

Surprise!

I also am an emerging scholar and second year PhD student who is in the humanities.

I am not saying that its harder necessarily to be in the humanities and be blind, but I mean it is. It’s a unique kind of difficulty because no one in the administration expects me to get this far, and so the structures that are in place for both blind people in the humanities or blind graduate students are not based on someone in my situation.

It isn’t my first time carving out a path for myself, especially in the theatre, it feels like I’m constantly the “fr=fist” for a lot of people. I won’t write about those experiences right now, because I’m still a bit infuriated that I’m constantly teaching. Constantly teaching myself and the wonderful people around me (mostly) ways to even begin to innovate through this journey.

This came out really whine-y. I’m sorry. I didn’t want it to be this way.

Me me me, things are hard for me, blah blah blah, is not how I wanted this to go.

But for now there has to be explanations of my experience so others can take on some of the invisible work of just thinking. That’s been enough, actually, the past week has been me sitting around tables explaining, again, the easiest way for me to do research, and watching humans who’ve never had to do this work before ask for my advice and then do the work. That’s been a slow roll in my department, not for lack of wanting to but lack of knowing the resources available to them…and its nice, it really is, a little bit, to get a bit of the stres of f of my shoulders. That doesn’t mean the worry goes away, but atleast the idea of having to keep advocating on this one issue has lifted, a little.

It is so funny to me how comfortable I am talking about my blindness and my struggles with this fluctuating disability in a professional context. It informs my methodology, it informs my pedagogy, it informs my everyday introductions professionally and networking capabilities. It is constantly a teaching opportunity, and it is a constant state of stress and confidence; I am able to do all of these things with, because of, and despite my blindness. But the moment I want to socially engage, maybe romantically, I am terrified to disclose at all that I cannot see.

Why is it more socially acceptable to have a disability in my career but not in my romantic life?  

Does experiencing blindness somehow make me less of an attractive person? Most of my friends would say no, actually everyone I articulate this worry to says that. But they’re being supportive. I need someone to realistically agree with me. Some people do, or hint at agreeing, by saying “well if he cares about your disability then you don’t want to be with him anyway!” How well-mannered, so ttrue, and obviously if he isn’t into me then he shouldn’t come around, but that doesn’t change the absolute terror of telling someone that I cannot see their facial expressions across the table, co-pilot a road trip, ride bikes…but I can do a lot of other really sweet cool important things!

And I’m brilliant, or can be, so why isn’t this enough for me?

I’m actually not looking for advice, please don’t comment below and tell me how I should be empowered by my disability, this is my journey and I’m not exaggerating when everyone has told me I shouldn’t care: I know. I know that. It’s just not how my brain works. Something that some people forget is that this blindness is super new for me, I started dating, curating an identity, deciding who I wanted to be with sight. I could see the reflection in the mirror, apply eyeliner without having irritations, I could read print books and drive a car, so in the past ten years I’ve lost who I wanted to be, most of the dreams I’d been having since I was a young girl, and I’ve found beautiful new ones, but its caused me to become a very reserved dater and social engager.

I have amazing friends and colleagues who make me feel better than most people I can imagine dating, for example at a conference last weekend with people who are huge in my academic community I disclosed left right and centre and refused to apologize for not recognizing someone, making jokes, answering questions, smiling when issues of access were brought up and when they weren’t, taking note, observing, laughing, it was a beautiful experience to feel almost-comfortable to be myself, which gives me hope in a world where everyone assumes (outside of the community) that I will have a hard time. I feel more comfortable introducing myself as a blind academic to an editor than I do to a prospective man-friend.

Social situations, work, life, is hard. As I write this though I am dancing in my bright, clean apartment in Toronto, preparing for a long rehearsal for my fringe show, after preparing for a work trip and drinking coffee while listening to a feminist podcast, and am happy. I am happy resituating my life to not to chase after things but to stand in the middle of a river Arwen style and catch things that come rushing by me. I’m in the last half of my twenties, I’m chugging up a mountain of academia with fun colleagues, I do impactful and meaningful research and work for my communities, and I enjoy what I do. How lucky is that? Despite the thousands of things bubbling under the surface, things are okay.

xx Jess