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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Bi Talk With My Little Brother

My "little brother" (the druggie neighbor's baby that my family and I raised) wanted more pants to wear to school, so my mom got him some really stylish women's pants. (He does not know what section of the store they came from.) They're pink and purple, but we're calling them red and blue, because his biological dad, whom he lives with at least half the time,  isn't very enlightened, and we don't want Cody to be ashamed. He loves his new pants! He also wants tennis shoes that are hot pink and black.
I think he would dress a lot more feminine and artistic if he could, at his house.
A few weeks ago we had a great conversation, while I was picking him up, about a kid who in his class who said he was bisexual, and dating a girl, but "called her a boy," as Sam put it.
I asked him if he knew I was bisexual, and he quickly said, "Yeah, and I don't mean anything against it..." I told him I knew that, and asked him not to tell his biological family because I don't know if they will let him come over if they know. He said he didn't tell anyone. I told him I didn't care, as long as he didn't tell his other family.
I also said that especially at that age, people might still be figuring out their gender or who they like. (He's 13.) Maybe the "girl" was actually a trans boy, or still figuring it out?
I don't know what Cody's clothing choices mean, but I was surprised that he brought up the bisexual boy, and I think this means he knows he can talk to me about important things like gender and sexuality.
He always likes to talk to me, when I'm driving him places! :)
It was a really heartwarming conversation, and I hope he can just be himself, whatever he is (if "he" is accurate), as he gets older.

He once described being gay as "It's just another personality." He was about ten at the time. It was very cute. All of this makes me wonder if we will make even more social progress, as both his and my generation (I'm twelve years older than him) get older. I don't doubt that there is probably some homophobic bullying in his small rural middle school, but I have also seen a rainbow heart sign in someone's front yard, in the tiny little town where he has his school and we have our post office box. The future is bleak--but it is also bright.

Did I "Wish" Myself Gay?

 (I use the term "gay" loosely, since I am technically bisexual, but I don't completely like that word, because I wonder if being with a man will make me wish I wasn't "missing out." I often think of "gay" as all but the T in LGBT.)

I always knew that other girls were different than me, and I always wondered what was wrong with them.

Now I am really excited that I get to be gay. I find myself literally thinking, "I can't believe I get to be gay! I get to kiss and be with a girl someday! This is awesome!"
But the thing is...if I am so excited that I "get to" be gay, doesn't that mean that I secretly wished I was gay all along? And if I secretly wished I was gay all along, doesn't that mean that I actually was gay, and was actually wishing that I could be with a girl?
I remember my mom recounting to me a survival show that she watched with my dad, because he likes them, and that's how they spend time together. (I know this is a second-hand account, but I can't be bothered to try to look up the show or the clip.) The man who was alone in the wilderness started complaining about women rejecting him and breaking his heart. "I wish I could be gay!" he exclaimed mournfully. "But alas, I am not gay!"
And it makes me wonder, why does he wish he was gay? To be with men? Well, I've got good news for you, buddy! You're at least bisexual! :)
I've also got bad news: Men might be just as shitty as women.(Hint hint: You're a man--right? Are you sure you didn't give them a good reason to leave you?) Don't be sexist.

And it amazes me how many people still assume I want a man, even after I've discovered this part of myself. I guess they didn't get the memo. My mom says I don't give off "gay vibes" even at work among the conservatives, but in my mind, I walk through the world like a bull dyke. I already have a low voice and big, heavy feet. And I like my feet. Sometimes I even like my voice, except when it gets tired at work and cracks.
Do they think I am just clueless about makeup, too clueless to put any on? I sometimes wonder if my coworkers just think I'm a simpleton about being a traditional girl. Or maybe the receptionist, who is the most vocally conservative, thinks I don't believe makeup is modest enough to please God. I'm honestly surprised that old woman wears pants, even though she sometimes wears long skirts too.

Looking back, there are some things that probably should have given me a clue about my bisexuality. My jokes in church youth group about flirting with other girls. My grandmother calling me, "You little gay thing, you," when I joked about it with my family. Thinking that maybe someday, if I lost my husband, it might be fun to be an old lesbian feminist in a hippie commune. Thinking that stuff like that was just feminist sisterhood. Thinking it felt strange, the thought of being "the woman" in a relationship with a man--and sometimes it even felt strange to think of being with a man.
My body fooled me, because my feelings towards other girls didn't "feel" sexual, because it felt different than my feelings towards boys. It still does. It seems it took a while for the sexual feelings to catch up. Maybe I was just repressing something.
I have two different feelings, for two different binary genders, but that doesn't make either one less real or intense. I don't know if it means that I only feel romantic towards one gender or the other, or if it means something else. Or if it means anything at all. But I think it would be a shame, if I fell in love with a man, and then that was it--my chances of dating a woman would then drop to zero. And I do like some guys, sometimes very much. But how to tell a guy that he is not enough, or that he eventually won't be?
Dating a woman is on my bucket list. Because I can do that now! And I never realized, before three years ago, that I really, really wanted that. I wanted that chance. And now I have it.

I thought of my feelings for women as "sensual," and because I was distracted by boys, I didn't realize that I could be girl-crazy too. Now I'm in love with everybody, and since I'm an introvert and a very lazy dater, I'm not acting on any of it. Maybe after tax season, when I don't have to worry about learning my new job anymore.
It's a strange feeling, to stumble on something you never knew you wanted. I try to have a loose grip on my expectations of the future, because of the huge rainbow turn my life has taken. What else don't I know? It's like I'm at the mercy capricious, gay gods, who are laughing at me.
I love it, though. LGBT stuff provides endless learning, and through learning about others' lives and perspectives, I hope to learn more about myself. It's endlessly fascinating, and I never get tired of it. When I can resist the urge to argue with the homophobic thoughts that pop into my head, and just focus on good things--or deal with the grief that comes up, so that I can move on--I think it's really awesome to be gay.
Someday I'll know what comedian Wanda Sykes is talking about when she says, "Pussy makes you do crazy things." Someday I'll share my life with another crazy old cat lady--who isn't my mom. Somebody attractive. (My mom got really mad when I once used the phrase, "Like you, but attractive." Even though my mom and I share the same sense of humor, and almost all the same values, I'm afraid she has pretty much turned me off to curly hair or big boobs on skinny people. I don't want to think of my mom when kissing someone.)
Someday I can have an awesome life, centered mostly around women. My life is already more awesome than it was when I thought I was straight. It's like I wished for this all along.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Hello Again, And My Life Now

Hello, everyone. I know it's been a while since I've posted, but my new job as a tax preparer has been very trying emotionally, at least for me. It is the first job I have ever had that was "professional" in some capacity, and it involves both the IRS and other people's money. I couldn't even think of writing anything, before.
My nervousness is getting better, because my boss seems nice, and I am sort of used to dealing with clients now, though I still am sometimes afraid of looking incompetent or not knowing what to say to their questions.
I write sporadically, especially during tax season or other trying times. This is something I do for my hobby. I hope that everyone understands that even though I sometimes can't write, that doesn't mean that I've given up on my blog.

Every day now, my mom drops me off in her old van. I leave the queer books I've been reading on the way down, in the van, and take my "straight" books with me to read at lunch. I really love my Lesbrary, stocked carefully from books ordered online. This job even lets me order more than I would otherwise. But bringing them in might start a conversation that I'm not ready to have, especially with the conservative receptionist.
My mom calls me her favorite fruit, and reassures me that I don't give off "gay vibes," as I thought I did. I try to remember how straight girls act, from the time I thought I was one. But did I ever really know how straight girls acted? I always knew the other girls were different than me, and always wondered what was wrong with them.
My mom says that, unless I am attracted to someone in the office, I have nothing to worry about. Thankfully, the sign waver, a local celebrity, is a guy. He is attractive in a "dirty hippie" type way. And he is terribly nice to everyone. Probably an extrovert, when I am an introvert, but he could just go socialize without me. He seems to want to socialize with me, though, which I don't mind. He doesn't seem to smile at others in the office, as much as he smiles at me.
The conservative receptionist thinks I'm as religious as she is, because I was homeschooled. I assume she thinks that includes homophobia. Right now I just want to worry about learning my job, rather than correcting her.
She is one of the most materialistic people I have ever met. She literally gushes over any expensive-looking car in the parking lot, or if a client is dressed to show off wealth. This is just typical of conservatives, that I have met. And that I'm related to.

I just want comfortable clothes that I like, and a reliable car. If you have those things, you are already in a position to count your blessings. I have both those things, and I know how blessed I am.
I love my twenty-seven-year-old, hand-me-down car. I love all of my clothes, most of them bought at a thrift shop, when I was shopping probably too much. I have a lot of clothes, but I don't have any desire to buy any more. (At least, not ready-made clothes. I may make some clothes, or let my mother help me make them, because I like to be creative. But then I am very particular. I don't care about designer clothing.)

It feels good to write again, even if it is about little bits of this and that. I may do it some more, maybe even between now and the end of tax season. But it may be sporadic. I don't do well on regular writing schedules, and I think that should be considered okay by society, if it isn't already. So thank you for bearing with me.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Religion: Random Thoughts, And Dismantling The Bars In Your Mind

I hate driving past Christian billboards. I hate seeing churches. And I can't stand those little wooden crosses around town with the words "Only Jesus Saves" spelled out on them.
My old Christian self would love them. But now they are just painful reminders of bad times.
Long before I knew I was bisexual, I knew I was not a good enough Christian. And that I would never be, no matter what I did. No matter how hard I tried.
And by "good enough," I don't mean perfect. I just mean good enough.
I always knew, deep down, that I secretly wanted to rebel, to just be free of all these rules and fears about whether that book, song, or movie was bad or good, or the constant obsession over controlling my very thoughts.
People say that atheists and non-Christians just want to sin. And that's not true. I just want to relax and be happy. I just want to enjoy my life. I just want to worry only about whether my actions hurt others or not. (And people say, "Why have morality, when you don't have God?" And to that I say, "Why NOT have morality?!" Society and life in general is so much better with it, don't you think? And isn't that reason enough? It should be.)

I once heard a pastor ask, "Can you even take one breath without sinning?" And I felt like I couldn't. I was walking, breathing, living sin. And this was when I was trying so hard to be a good Christian, that I couldn't sleep at night because I was too afraid of the thoughts I would think if I let go and relaxed. I could be literally lying there and doing nothing, and still sinning. I could literally be drifting off to sleep, and have to rouse myself to beg for forgiveness.

The prayer and bible study were bad enough, but they were nothing compared to the constant mind-prayer and self-policing of my thoughts. Reading the bible was a chore I got tired of, and felt bad about. But the prayer never really stopped. Imaging an introvert trying to constantly maintain a one-sided conversation. It could drive one insane.
I begged God constantly to help me do better. And when I felt like I was finally doing good enough, I wondered why I couldn't maintain that all the time, and the thought of trying exhausted me. I hated my life.
I even felt guilty for feeling guilty. Supposedly God was enough, and I had to be easy on myself because I could never be perfect. But then Christian leaders would talk out both sides of their mouths, as they had a minimum standard you had to meet, if you really loved God. Prayer, bible study, and thought-policing--the basic, bare minimum Christian level--even that was enormously difficult for me to maintain! And that was without going to church. I knew I "should," but could never find a good one, or the thought of it would be exhausting and stressful.
I begged God to show me he was real, so that I could continue to believe in him. And in spite of that, I sensed my grip on my own Christianity slowly slipping away. It seemed so cruel, when I would supposedly go to hell for not believing, and God was not making it possible for me to believe.  (I could no longer "make" myself believe, or make myself act like I did, go through the motions hoping that it would "catch" and come naturally to me once more.) God was sending me to hell on purpose, and I was livid.

Now I hardly think about these things. But my thirteen-year-old self is still a part of me, and so I find myself still constantly wondering if I'm doing something wrong. At my new job especially, my first professional job as a tax preparer, I've discovered that I'm still feeling like I'm constantly sinning, only now I'm replacing sinning with "messing up someone's taxes," and God with my boss. But somehow, the consequences still feel eternal!

The thing about being a Christian is, someone is always judging you. And I don't mean the ultimate Someone, although that is always used against you--I mean there's always someone here on earth that tells you you're doing something wrong. If you wear pants as a girl, someone will call your salvation into question just because you're not wearing an ankle-length skirt. And I never wore ankle-length skirts, or any skirts, because they were always associated in my mind with particularly cult-like elements. I was judging those elements, and I still do, because...well, they're cults. Their female members especially have to give up so much of what makes them their own unique persons, just to be good enough for God. And their husbands.
And this, what one wears, is just one example in a sea of debates that about things so small, but that are all made to be larger than life. Is this movie, that book, this song--is it worldly or demonic? How can one tel? It's either, "Don't be so worldly!" or "Don't be so legalistic!"
And I didn't know which one to tell myself.

I have trouble deciding what exactly to call myself with my own sexuality, and I also have trouble when it comes to religion. All I know is that I'm not straight, and I'm not evangelical. And I'm never going to try to be either one ever again. I want to be happy.

It's like I knew all along, deep down, that if I let up on myself even for one minute, I was going to mentally bolt for freedom, make a mad dash away from Christianity and choose happiness over God. And as much as I tried to deny it, I knew that that was my only choice. That I couldn't have both.

Now I do what I want, and then feel guilty about it. But it's better than it was, for a long time. And the more I'm aware of my guilt, the better I feel, and the easier I am on myself.
Someday, I hope it will be even better.

The thing about religion is, everything that feels good is wrong. Masturbation is wrong, because it feels good, and you can only feel that good with the church's authorization. Music that you can actually dance to is wrong, because again, it makes your body feel good, without God or religion. Even thinking rebellious thoughts, even dreaming of freedom, is wrong. And anything that feels too good and brings too much pleasure is an idol. Even if you would otherwise be allowed to do it. If it feels good, it's wrong.

I got free. And I hope everyone eventually gets free. But the work comes in dismantling or escaping the prison inside your own mind. And sometimes it's hard to even know it's there. But acknowledging and seeing the bars makes it easier to stop banging against them, and try to go around them.

LGBT: Which Is Harder--Coming Out, Or Getting Your Driver's License?

Years ago, I did not have my driver's license, and I wanted nothing more in the world than to have it. I just wanted to be done with the driving tests, for the rest of my life, hopefully. The thought of trying to get it terrified me. But I knew I could not be happy until I was at least trying to get it.
I finally realized that I could do the driving test, and secretly think of it as a "practice" test. I was just practicing. It didn't take away my panic, but it was something. It was something, at least.

Now I feel the same way about coming out to my mother's family. I can't be happy until I do. At least, I can't be completely happy. And I also can't be completely happy until I tell the uncle who emotionally abused me as child, that what he did affected me. This is what I obsess over now. And no matter what my mother says, I can't stop. I think about it every day, and I feel miserable until there is some kind of plan of action.
My anxiety prevented me from getting my license for a long time. But there are more factors than my anxiety that complicate my plans here.

One is that my mom has mixed feelings about me coming out, and I feel like I need her support.

Another factor is that I don't know how my grandfather will take it. But I sometimes feel like I will grieve him no matter what I do--that even though he is always so happy to see me, that he secretly worries and obsesses over my salvation because I don't go to church. I feel like I'll never be Christian enough for him.
So why not just come out?

Another factor that keeps me up at night is that I don't know exactly how to say that I'm not straight. I use "gay" in my everyday life to refer to all but the "TQ" in "LGBTQ," basically, but other people think of it differently. I suppose I am technically bisexual, but I don't like the term bisexual, because it implies that I can just marry a man and be happy, even though I would feel that I was missing out on at least kissing another woman or two. And I don't like the term lesbian/gay, because that implies that I don't like men at all. So I use "gay," even though it's an umbrella term in my mind. It makes it easier, especially, when my own sexuality is so unpredictable even to me.
But how to explain all of this, when my uncle especially will probably just assume whatever he wants? And I don't want to get into these complicated explanations with them, anyway. They wouldn't understand, and might use it to say that I'm really straight, which I know isn't true.
So do I say gay, or bisexual? Gay would imply that it's not a choice, which it isn't (being bisexual/not straight), at least for me. But bisexual might give my grandfather hope that I'll marry a man, which could ease his transition into accepting my non-straightness. Would bisexual give them "permission" to deny my gay side? It is just as important as my straight side, and I don't want them to refuse to see the real me. As much as this makes my uncle right about LGBTQ people...do I have to "flaunt it" until they get the message? :)

And if my grandfather has a good enough memory, I am out to him. He once used the word "husband" to talk about my future, and I replied using the phrase "husband or wife." Boy, was he shocked! "You need a husband, not a wife, baby," he said. I let it go at that, for now. Perhaps I'll use that phrase again sometime. Perhaps I won't. I have to play it by ear whenever I see my family.

And finally, there is the fact that there are so many ways to come out, and I have no idea which one would be best. I have no idea what I want my coming out story to be. If this is the story I will tell for the rest of my life, if the occasion arises, what kind of story do I want to tell? I really don't know. Not at this point.

It feels good to admit that I obsess over this. I obsess over both coming out, and "coming out" as affected by my uncle's mistreatment. Sometimes they both seem equally daunting, and other times, the emotional abuse seems harder to bring up or acknowledge. But I know I won't truly be happy until I do both.
I feel like I shouldn't obsess over this unless I'm going to do it tomorrow. And that's exactly how I felt about my license. But the thing about obsessing is, I can't stop doing it. So maybe I should just acknowledge that I do it, and embrace the obsession rather than fighting it. If I had done that before, would it have been easier to get my driver's license? I guess I'll never know.
I keep trying to think of ways to drop my gayness into conversation, but it seems impossible. I am still getting used to talking and joking about my bisexuality with my completely supportive mother. When my first instinct is to hide it, not talk about it, rarely mention it--then how much of mentioning it is natural, and how much is forced into the conversation? I have no idea, so I just keep trying to be natural, trying to get more comfortable being more of myself. My voice still strains or cracks a little when mentioning my bisexuality "casually," so I have to practice.
And this is with my mom who says affectionately that I'm her favorite fruit. So I guess I've got to practice more.

I obsess, but it scares me. Just like with my license.
And even though coming out casually would be ideal for me, I don't know if that's possible. And I don't really know what the solution here is--not yet. But talking about my obsession really helps me feel better about it. Maybe I should just focus on accepting myself as obsessed, rather than trying to change.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Work/LGBT: What I've Learned From My New Tax Preparation Job

I went back to work today, and found out that when bosses tell you what you'll be doing tomorrow or next week, they might be wrong. Through no fault of their own, in fact, they might be full of crap.
I was confused, last week, when my boss said that she wanted me to start answering phones and greeting people, because I had already done that a little. Then I was further confused when I arrived at work, and the designated receptionist was there. Peak tax season is slow to hit this year, and I don't have my license back from the state yet, so I have little else to do than check other people's work, and there's not much of that, either. The hours tick by so slowly sometimes.

The dedicated receptionist is an old woman who has said that she hopes her grandchildren don't have kids, because they're not as conservative as she is, and that she wishes that they lived in another state so that she didn't know so much about them and their lives. I was horrified when I heard both of those things, but I had to be polite, of course.
I had mentioned being homoschooled to her once, when she asked where I had gone to school. Later, when the subject came up again, she asked if I was religious, being homoschooled. (I've changed the spelling to "homoschooled" on purpose, because the new spelling and pronunciation doesn't have the bad memories associated with religion.) I didn't know what to say, so I just nodded a little.
If it comes up and I do eventually come out at work, my story is that I am a gay Christian. People don't let you talk about morality or what Jesus/the bible really meant, unless you say you're a Christian. (Though work is hardly the place for that, although talking about conservative Christianity is not appropriate, either.)
She is already self-righteous, and I have a feeling she would be very homophobic. If she goes on a rant about that, I plan to smile and say demurely, "Actually, I have a lot of gay friends," then try quietly to leave the room. I don't know if I'm confident enough to do anything more right now.

She used the word "Negro" today, totally un-self-conscious about it. "That man who came in--yes, that's the one, he's Negro." Apparently the civil rights movement never happened in her world? I thought even the elderly didn't use that word, unless they were mocking black people. I can't even say that word with a straight face; I thought it had been established that people with dark skin, in America, do not generally like that word applied to them. (It's too close to a much worse word, I had read.)
I personally felt so very relieved, though. She's an idiot! It doesn't matter if she's homophobic, because she's an idiot!
That was what went through my mind today, hearing that out of her mouth. It was such a relief! Her opinions didn't hurt as much. And I wished I could feel that way about everyone.
One of my favorite new shows is The Real O'Neils, presently on Hulu. In an early episode, the young gay main character is told by his grandmother, "God says you are broken, and you need fixing." He says that he didn't know that anything his grandmother said could hurt him, before that moment. It's a dark moment in an otherwise light and funny show.
Whether you think they can or not, homophobes might hurt. My mom says that people can only make you feel a certain way if part of you believes them--but I can't help how she let me be raised. But for this one, at least, I don't have a personal history with her, and I can try to remember how out-of-touch and idiotic she really is.
Her idiocy is my shield. May she not hurt LGBT people, or racial minorities!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

My New "First Career-Job" Challenges

I've been having dreams lately about trying to act like a grownup when I don't feel like one. Ever since I started my new job--the first job I've ever had that seemed like it could be a career, my first "grownup" job--I've been nervous about losing it somehow, or not acting professional enough. And I'm not sure what to do about that.
My mom tells me that I don't have to work there, that there are other tax offices in our area. But this one is what I know, so I want to stay if possible. And unfortunately, I don't really know what could be my boss's fault, and what could be mine, if something goes wrong.
But I just keep reminding myself that it doesn't matter if this job blows up in my face; I can get my bearings and start over, even if it is scary. It is not instantly effective, but I don't know what else to do.

I hear my older, conservative coworkers and boss praise Trump once or twice a day, and I keep my mouth shut. I don't think Trump is good for the country. But I'm probably not going to convince them, and I don't feel confident of my position in this job yet. I don't want to offend the people who try to help me, otherwise. Not yet. Maybe not even this year.
I am almost twenty-six, and all of my coworkers and boss are over fifty. They all have opposite-sex spouses. Someday I hope to have a same-sex spouse. They do not know this.
Liberty Tax has a company policy not to discriminate based on sexual orientation. And I live in Oregon, where such discrimination is prohibited anyway--for now. I still don't want to tell them. For now.

I look younger than I am. I wear sweaters, partly in imitation of my coworkers, and partly to keep warm. I took them from my mom, but I don't think they make me look older. I'm a cisgender female, and I have my long hair down, like my boss, and I assume that that is professional enough. I don't dare wear my preferred ponytail, for fear of looking fifteen.
I'm afraid no one wants a "kid" doing their tax returns. I suppose I'll be answering a lot of questions about how old I am, and trying not to get tired of it.

I don't have my tax license back from the state yet. It could take up to 4-6 weeks, and I'm three weeks into that. That is part of my worries about my job. "Peak" is slower to start this year, my boss says, so we're not usually busy, when I've been there. The office already has a receptionist.
4-6 weeks in which I may not be needed. Those are rather dismal prospects. What if my boss decides I need to simply be laid off for the whole season, or until I get my license? What if once I'm gone, she sees no reason to bring me back?

I'm also afraid I don't know how to be professional. Someone was supposed to show me how to answer the phones, but they didn't. There is a lot of pressure not to let the phone ring more than twice. So, while others were too busy, I answered it, imitating my coworkers.
The greeting they want us all to use is long and tedious. "Thank you for calling ______. This is _______. How may I help you?" When I call someone, I get ready to speak right away. If I heard this on the phone, I would get impatient.
 My boss mentioned the idea of me answering people's questions about the products we offer, but I only feel confident enough to transfer the call. I might get it wrong. And no one would want one person to answer some questions, and then be put on hold until someone else can answer the others.
 I am afraid my voice is too low, especially on the phone. I am afraid I don't sound chipper enough. I can't get up the energy to make it higher, when I'm nervously trying to make my words sound professional. The company's "Always be happy" rule makes me feel like I'm working at Disneyland. The manual especially makes it obvious they want us to buy into the company as an entity and present a certain image. In a way, we are all expected to be the happy Lady Liberty tax dancers they hire to dance on the sidewalks.

I have to learn life in a corporate office structure from scratch. "Policy and Procedure" is a meeting. The printer takes paper facing up, not down. Water goes in the back of the coffee maker, not the coffee pot. I'm lucky I haven't been embarrassed by my ignorance yet. I ask about tax laws, but those other things I found out on my own. I wonder if there's anything I just don't know about working in an office. Or in this office specifically.
I just do what I know to do, remind myself that there are other tax preparer jobs, and comfort myself that it only lasts for three more months, until next year. Next year, I hope, I'll feel more confident. And I always go home and distract myself with entertainment and cats. I know I won't always feel this way, but for now, it can be pretty scary sometimes.