Dieting is About Self Control. Have You Tried Moderation?

It’s Wednesday, I haven’t worked out all week, I’m exhausted. I’ve been working so much, I’ve chosen sleep over exercise, which I don’t regret. It’s times like these, stress used to get to me; I’d end up eating a quart of ice cream in one sitting.

Unfortunately, as we age, our metabolisms slow down – I can attest that mine has definitely slowed way down, almost to a halt LOL. Hence, I cannot sit and eat gluttonous amounts of ice cream when I feel like it. Although it’s sad to say those days have passed, in all honesty, I seldom miss them.

I used to be overweight, not dire, but definitely not fit. A handful of years ago I made a lifestyle change that proved to be immensely simple, with definite results. I’m not talking “I lost a 100 lbs in one year” type thing… No, this was much more gradual, which, I believe, has made it easier. With gradual weight loss comes another proven fact: losing weight slower almost guarantees you’ll be able to keep it off, instead of gaining it all back sometime in the near future.

So, what’s the secret? Sticking to it.

A lot of people begin their weight loss journeys but fail for all the same reason: lack of self discipline. My sister used to tell me “everything in moderation,” which is sort of where my lifestyle change began. So, what’s the change? I know y’all eager to find out.

First thing’s first, I needed to stop eating my emotions lmfao. Then…

80% diet, 20% exercise. You’ve heard it before, right? I began by cutting out chips, fries, and bread (wahhhh! Adios, bagels – cue *crying face emoji*). I made an active effort to buy more fruit at the grocery store. I began this when I was a pescatarian, so I wasn’t eating land animals either. For not eating meat, you’d think I was good about eating veg. Wrong. I did not eat as many salads as you think I would; so, I began fitting salads into my daily meals.

The end result is quite simple: eat more produce and less processed foods / carbohydrates. Fiber is key. What shocked me was that I would occasionally reject the diet thing and eat a cookie, or a scoop of ice cream, or drunkenly go to McDonalds after a night out with my friends. That one cookie, or that one large fry, didn’t harm the weight loss agenda. Because those instances occurred in moderation, I continue to lose inches even with the occasional binge.

But, that’s when I realized that my diet doesn’t depend on moderation, my whole life does (especially my drinking habits haha). Dieting isn’t about limiting yourself to what you can and can’t eat. Dieting is about self control itself. I learned so much about health and fitness on this journey, but I’ve also learned a lot about life.

I learned stuff like sometimes you can put a shitload of effort in, but time is still needed to see results. I learned that you can fall off track but what matters is pulling yourself back in line. I learned that moderation doesn’t just keep us healthy, it keeps us alive.

Moderation, by Merriam Webster definition means avoiding extremes of behavior or expression: observing reasonable limits. Observing reasonable limits.

Reasonable limits.

To me, that’s exactly what moderation is – understanding that we are human. Humans have limits and we must respect those limits. There is inevitable danger in extremes.

It’s been about 3 years since I implemented this whole “lifestyle change.” Those 3 years taught me that my stomach, my energy, my time, my metabolism all have limits. As I’ve lost inches (and now at a figure I can maintain) I’m comfortable with eating bagels again (thank god!) and other foods I had cut out originally.

But, I only indulge in moderation.

My final words of wisdom on the weight loss thing: you can’t expect one change to produce mass outcomes. Big change is followed by many little changes, a lot of small gears, turning to move the machine. With weight loss, diet is a pretty large change in itself; yet, exercise, rest, and mental stimulation all contribute to the greater goal. I wrote a previous post about how exercise literally does wonders to the human brain and why we need it for our sanity – you can read it here.

(As a disclaimer: everyone has different body shapes and metabolic types; thus, not every diet works for everyone). What works for you?

Quarter Life Reflection

It’s August 17, 2018 and I’m driving to the airport, Salt Lake City bound. I’m off on another trip to celebrate my birthday, reflecting on my 24th year of life, looking forward to turning 25. When I was younger, I used to think about what my life would be like when I was “all grown up.” The strange thing is, I would fantasize life at 35 to 50, sometime when I was old, wise, established. It’s funny how as you age your perception of old changes, when 35 doesn’t seem so old anymore, when you’re 10 years away from being established, wise, old.

I’m alarmed I’m turning 25 because I never imagined I would ever hit my “mid-20s.” Life moves so quickly that I couldn’t picture my life at 25 because I was so engrossed in being 24, 23, 22, or so on. As your teen years pass, quick as they may, you stumble into this really influential period of life. It’s this era of your twenties, when even a single year exposes you to quantum experiences, and decisions you make now have the ability to define your immediate future, or the rest of your life. You’re changed in leaps and bounds, exponentially…until you hit your mid-30s or 40s; then, life seems to settle down.

I felt like my 20s proposed a choice: I conform and live as I was raised or how I think society would accept me…or I choose who I will be for the rest of this life, free of predisposition and fear of judgement.

This is the threshold between who you used to be and who you choose to become.

That’s a pretty big decision to make. It took half of my 20s to figure this out. What’s even more alarming is: the older I get, the more unpredictable life seems to be. I thought I’d age, and things would become clearer, when, in fact, I feel as if navigating life has become increasingly more difficult.

This doesn’t necessarily mean I’m afraid to age. Actually, I’m rather fond of growing years older, because with each passing year, I am a better version of me than my previous self. What I’ve been through changed me in ways I wouldn’t even want to predict, not knowing is half the fun of living. This uncertainty is exciting, refreshing, enlightening. What I am most certain of is life’s infinite uncertainty.

the only constant is change

The older I get, the more I understand the only constant is change. We’re in a constant state of change. We’re constantly trying, failing, learning, experiencing, transforming. I don’t know who said it but I wish I could give credit to whomever once quoted “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” If one thing dawned on me during this quarter life reflection, it would be that.

I am celebrating life at a quarter century. I’m looking forward to my half century reflection. I hope we all make it to 100!

182 Days

182 days through the year; 182 days remaining. July 1st is the half way mark through the 365 days we spin on this planet. (it’s true, I’m posting this with 158 days remaining because I was flying to Alaska on July 1! However, I was able to jot thoughts down on the 5 hour flight, see below).

It’s 12:34 am and I’m currently 30,000 feet somewhere above the Pacific Ocean, on a Boeing 747 a half hour from touching down on one of the many runways in Anchorage, Alaska. It’s 34 minutes past the start of July 1, precisely midway through the year. I usually don’t spend time reflecting on if I’m still dedicated to the New Years resolutions I’ve dictated for myself…because I hardly set resolutions to begin with…nonetheless record them in any formal manner…or remotely follow them thereafter…

With the turn of 2018, I’d been compelled to make lasting changes in my life, and although I haven’t kept religiously to my resolutions this year, at least I began by writing them down. The notebook I brought on this trip happens to contain the list of resolutions I created (I’d almost forgotten about tbh). When is a better time to reflect on your daily routine or occasional habits than in the middle of the night, no where in particular, gliding above the atmosphere, without direction or sufficient leg room? Exactly.

I had recently learned there is a difference between goals and objectives. Most people use them interchangeably. Goals are what you want to become. Objectives are a way to measure those goals. At the start of 2018, I created a list of goals and objectives:

    • Goal: yoga everyday
    • Objective: 20-30 minutes of 3-5 poses
    • Goal: daily exercise
    • Objective: gym 5 days a week for 30-90 minutes, rest 2 days a week
    • Goal: read everyday
    • Objective: read 1 book a month
    • Goal: ride on Saturdays
    • Objective: bike or skate for 30-90 minutes
    • Goal: Success Journal everyday
    • Objective: write 1-2 successes in your Success Journal
    • Goal: kick it on Sundays
    • Objective: spend time with friends on Sundays and relax 2-4 hours

182 days of my goals and objectives: I made it to 2 60-minute yoga classes, hit the gym almost consistently 5 days a week, I injured myself pretty badly from a 10-mile-an-hour crash off my longboard last Saturday, haven’t written in my Success Journal at all.

This year, I’ve come to understand that I don’t always stick to goals, but that doesn’t mean I’ve wasted my time. In fact, 2018 took me by surprise. I accomplished things I’d never imagined. So, now, I reflect on the 182nd day of the year to see how far I’ve come.

      • Roadtripped to Santa Barbara to catch up with an old friend I haven’t seen in a couple years
      • Surprised my sister for Tundra’s birthday party (her cat turned 2 years old in March)
      • Ran a Night Nation Run (5K fun-run to end cancer)
      • Celebrated a close friend’s gender reveal and baby shower

The short-end of 182 days is life offering us opportunities and we take them, whether it be roadtripping to a music festival or running for charity. Spontaneous activities appear same-day, like the classical music performance I attended on a Saturday afternoon, or vacations require months of planning, like the Alaska trip I’m currently on. There are so many aspects of life,  goals and objectives, we never think to write down, but still accomplish everyday. What we don’t write down may even be the most significant things of all…

The long-end of reflecting on 182 days is not only an analysis on my goals and objectives, but also a look into the creation of new ones. I didn’t pick up a book until May of this year – it took me damn-near half the year to begin. Books come in various lengths; if I want to read everyday, I should have created an objective such as “read 60-90 minutes a day,” rather than “read 1 book a month,” because I’ve finished 5 books in 2 months. With the onset of reading, I might have been inspired to investigate more hobbies. In turn, sometime in June, I decided to launch a blog, with the objective to post every week, which was completely unplanned (and pretty much an utterly rash decision all around, if you ask me).

Overall, it’s important to reflect on how far you’ve come. Most times, you forget you had goals and objectives to begin with. Sometimes goals and objectives simply aren’t met, other times they’re replaced by alternate activities. At times, goals and objectives change and even lead to new ones. You are half way through 2k18. What can you accomplish in the next 182 days?

Weak This Week

Monday morning I drove my friend home because she stayed the night. I arrived late to work. When I was off, I drank a beer at the Whole Foods outdoor bar, while I facetimed my close friend, who recently moved to SoCal. By the time we were done catching up (aka when my phone died) I went home to dive into all the sleep I lacked Sunday.

I woke up naturally because I forgot to set an alarm the night before. I was late to work again Tuesday, but I left the office around 1 pm to help my manager prep for a retirement celebration. I was late because we spent the morning texting about what “resort casual” means and “no, I couldn’t wear jeans to dinner.” I spent 30 minutes deciding which slacks “I would wear at a resort in Hawaii” and even packed two extra shirts (if the original one I planned on wearing didn’t gain approval from my manager). Set up for the celebration took an hour in the baking Los Gatos sun, the evening was pleasant and clean up took another hour. I didn’t get home until 10:30 pm, in which I knocked the fuck out.

I wasn’t late to work Wednesday but I slept in an hour longer than I would have. After work, I ate too much with my mother at dinner so we spent the remainder of the evening on a stroll. Once again, I was home around 11 pm and immediately fell asleep.

Let me back up.

I have a strict schedule because I’m a grandma, where I’m in bed by 10 pm, so I can exercise at 6:30 am, before my full time job at 8:30 am. This routine has kept me alive for a while so I figure I’ll hang on to it…or do my best. It’s weeks like these that I find myself far off track, coming home at (or after) my bedtime, sleeping in instead of hitting the gym, and paying the price.

It’s weird how the human body works, actually. I work out 5 days a week, take 2 days of rest, but go absolutely mad if I skip proper exercise for longer than 3 days. I literally feel like my life is in shambles and the lack of endorphins is detrimental to my physical and mental health. I’ve felt so weak this week. In addition to not exercising, I’ve been eating out, food I wouldn’t normally eat. This combo has just created a feeling of grotesqueness and instability…which is why I’ve backtracked these last few days, looking for any sign of normalcy, in search of when I first strayed so far from my routine and why I haven’t got back to it.

I slept in last Friday. I had every intention of skateboarding when I was off work, but once I got home and laid in bed, there was no getting up. Saturday is usually my rest day. I spent the day at the beach on Sunday. That brings us to the beginning of this blog post. Therefore, it’s been exactly 7 days since my last sweat sesh. It’s Thursday. I just got home from spending 2 much-needed hours at the gym.

It’s really weird how the human body works, actually. Only 1 exercise session and my brain already feels as if it’s re-entering my body from a week-long vacation. I feel as if I’ve come back to life, or have been reawakened from an out-of-body experience. Did you know your brain releases chemicals when you exercise? Endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) all keep your brain and body working properly. A natural dose is all I needed to feel better and get back on track.

Life is hectic. There are times when everything occurs simultaneously, when we’re too busy to enjoy usual activities, then we’re too tired to hit the gym. Life passes us by like this, where it’s one thing after the other, and hours pass like days do, then we realize a whole week flew by and we’ve been slammed by so many festivities that other priorities fall by the wayside. I get it. That’s how this week felt. And last week. And the week before.

Juggling everything at once is what life is all about. But sometimes our brains don’t get the dosage of chemicals needed to keep us happy, alert, focused, refreshed, motivated, alive. Sometimes, we lose our minds along the way. It may seem a little contradictory, but it’s times like these when we’re living at twice the speed of life, that what we really need to keep us going, is to get up and moving. Even a little exercise is better than none at all. Being active rids depression, provides motivation, keeps us healthy, but, most importantly, keeps us sane.

My mind goes fishing (well, my mind goes somewhere) on continuous days without working out. Then, I feel as if my whole life is out of whack. I’ve realized the quick and easy solution to get my life back is exercise. Hook, line, and sinker.

Colors of Healing

IMG_8078This is the view from Little O’Malley. 3258 feet above sea level. Anchorage, Alaska.

Somewhere near the top, the trail ends and you’re forced to wriggle up vegetation, jumping dirt patches littered with sharp rocks, all the while hitting at least a 50° – 60° incline (I’m inclined to say 90 because it felt so steep! But that’s more than an exaggeration – it’s flat out lie). It took 2 bug bites, 1.5 hours, and 1 can of unused bear repellant to climb to the top, which peaks, by far, the most strenuous and dangerous hike (considering the bear attack possibility) I’ve ever summited. For this reason, I feel as if the view was that more beautiful – reveling in the glory of exhaustion to get to the top. Side note: my sister, Brittany, and I were at Fred Meyer an hour prior to this hike, asking the clerk if bear repellant was really necessary for this area.

“Oh yeah, you’ll want bear spray…or a firearm,” was his response.

Brittany and I had planned for a “long hike” which usually means 3-4 hours, but our itinerary on this trip to Alaska (more to come) was rather tight. We were able to fit in a short hike before dinner, which allotted 2 hours to climb a mountain. I summit at 5-something and the reservation was at 7 pm. We agreed to be back at the trailhead by 6, giving us 30 minutes to drive to the vacation rental, 10 minutes each to shower & whatever remaining time to dress and look presentable for a decent restaurant.

“I want to go to the end of the ridge but we have to get back to the trailhead” Brittany said.

“We should just go to the end of the ridge”

“We don’t have time”

“We’re never coming back here to do this hike again,” I said with enthusiastic urgency, “it’s now or never!”

Little O'Malley Ridge

We jogged down the ridge and took these amazing shots of the view. Brittany really wanted a picture laying in the snow, with the peak of O’Malley in the background. It was 5:24 pm. We were supposed to be on the trail heading back but I formed a small snowball and threw it at Brittany, which missed her by 2 feet. I blame my uncoordinated subordinate left hand, even though my intention wasn’t to hit her in the first place. I threw the snowball so I could write the folks back home to let them know Alaska is where to go for snowball fights in the heat of summer.

As we began our descent, two very athletic young men jogged passed me. I tucked my elbows in and took short, quick steps down the mountain.

“What are you doing?” Brittany called out.

“Jogging like those guys were”

“You look funny!”

Down the hill I went in zig-zag formation. Here’s the thing about jogging down a hill: eventually you pick up some momentum which makes it difficult to slow down (mega duh, physics genius). My left foot couldn’t grip a pile of rocks, sliding into the dirt, jagged rock edges sliced into my shin. I remember screaming but standing as quickly as possible, distracting myself by continuing with the hike, tricking my brain into eliminating whatever pain I felt (or fucken tryin’ to). Brittany couldn’t see me at that that point, but thought I broke my leg because she heard me shrill in horror hahah. Luckily, I didn’t (rolled out of that like a Ninja).

Fall on Little O'Malley

Not long after my fall, and a very rigorous jog down a fucken hill, we hit the valley floor. There was about a half mile between us a the trailhead, a small river in between. I filled my empty bottle with the rushing melted glacier water and cleansed my filthy leg of the bug spray, dirt, sweat, and blood. We arrived at the trailhead by 6:03 p.m. practically on fucken time.

Colors of Healing

I took this picture a couple days after I got back to California. The swelling in my thigh subsided and the bruises began to show. Another side note: I’m a weird person and man enough to admit it. One of the things I think makes me weird is my likeness to getting bruises. No, I don’t like getting hurt. I don’t purposefully throw myself against walls (or in this case, down steep mountains) on purpose to form bruises.

I like bruises because they come with phases. You see them pass through each stage until they finally disappear, the pain is gone, and the only thing that remains is the memory and the smile on your face from reminiscing the stupid idea that formed the bruise. In a couple days, a week would have passed since that hike and the bruises are already less visible than when I took this picture.

There’s a unique joy that awaits me at the sight of healing bruises. I find a small pleasure in knowing that my body is working properly, that all functions to heal bruises are at full capacity, that I’m (for the most) part “healthy” in that sense. What I enjoy more is  the progression, with each passing day, as the bruise changes from hues of dark blue and purple to faded greens and yellows, eventually matching my natural skin tone. The colors of healing are, of course, interesting to witness, I mean, the human body is pretty flippin’ incredible…but I appreciate knowing that pain is temporary.

Watching bruises heal is physical evidence that what we go through is what makes us who we are. We absorb experiences, trauma, hardships. Even if bruises fade, we’re still continuing to heal inside, in unseen ways. Physically. Mentally.  Emotionally. All of  the above. We don’t choose our scars, sometimes they’re not inflicted by our own selves, but perhaps by others. Some scars may not even be visible the naked eye. Maybe they’re metaphorical for the emotional and/or mental pain we’ve endured. Either way, we must adjust. Our bodies must function at whatever capacity we can, to soak in pain, to digest and molt, to transform and restructure. To heal.

I don’t mind the scar on my shin, in fact, my sister’s boyfriend calls it “punk rock” lmfao.  It’s times like these I look at bruises on my legs and know this is another experience that shapes my foundation, shifts my perspective on the world, and reminds me to slow the fuck down on treacherous mountainsides.

PRIDE

Iconic rainbow flags, rainbow socks, rainbow unitards, rainbow tutus.. blouses.. headbands.. pants.. dressesrainbow-everything flicker my eyes in different directions. Rainbows fall from clear-blue skies; rainbows sprout up from underneath Market Street; endless colors adorn me me gaily. If you haven’t guessed already, it’s Pride Weekend in San Francisco.

I step off Caltrain with Giants fans heading to AT&T Park in jerseys, baseball caps, and black-n-orange with a mix of colorful and eccentrically dressed parade-goers walking the opposite direction. As I get closer to downtown, people in face paint, boas, and flags used as capes become more plentiful. I’m wearing the same tie-dye sports bra I made for last year’s parade with black high-waisted velvet pants. Pink, gold, and purple glitter shines above my left eyebrow down to my cheek bone, accented by transparent sequins. Face jewels are enough to draw interest from strangers and a couple people ask to take pictures with me. Of course, I oblige – “Happy Pride!” [our salutations].

Searching for my friends in the crowd is only challenging because I’m distracted by beautiful people and the fun everyone is having marching and/or onlooking. One of my best friends is dancing  in the middle of the block with a crowd of her colleagues, all wearing uniform Tesla pride t-shirts. A talented Tesla employee DJs on a podium at the back of a hand built trailer, pulled by the Model X. As we approach the start of the parade, we jump aboard the make-shift stage, our bodies in unison with the rhythm of the music.

The trailer emerges on Market Street and we jump higher from the energy of the crowd. We didn’t even make it one block. The front wheel of the trailer breaks from everyone dancing too hard, so we jump ship. Not being on the trailer allows us to run, skip, dance our way down the street, hollering and shouting, waving to the people pressed against the barricades on the sidewalk and handing them mini rainbow flags.  Paper confetti shoots out the back of the car and I truly feel like a celebrity.

Pride month means a lot to me. I used to love attending the parade as an ally to the gay community. I’ve trekked a long and [at times] unforgiving road through self-discovery; eventually, surrendering my resistance to whom I was forcing myself to be, to who I actually am. It’s hard to explain to straight people that “I didn’t know I was gay until I knew.” In fact, the topic has so many layers of complexity I could write an entirely separate blog post about the epiphany of my sexuality (and probably will sometime in the future). At first, I didn’t want to be known as “The Lesbian” to my friends or strangers. I was under the impression that the term would be the only descriptive feature one learns about me during first impressions, as if it has an undesirable connotation. Yet, in time, I realized that being gay is such an integral part of who I am as a person that being “The Lesbian” isn’t something I should shy away from, but be proud of.

As much as I’ve overcome obstacles, being gay is still difficult (maybe only gay people understand how I feel), which is why Pride is such an important event in my life. June is the month that this community shines in a spotlight, as if we are allowed to creep out of the shadows discrimination. Sometimes I feel estranged or lonely because I’m different, almost like alienation (most of my close friends and others I know are straight). I love this particular weekend of the Pride Parade in San Francisco when I can take public transportation without a shirt, glitter all over my face, and not receive confused or distained looks. Above dressing up (or down) and the superficiality of what everyone is wearing, Pride Parade brings together people just like me. I am surrounded by openly proud and extremely gay strangers, but they make me feel connected; these are my brothers and sisters. I feel less alone.

This is my third year attending the parade as a self-accepted lezzer but the first I was able to march the entirety of. This parade is not just a march, it’s a massive city-wide celebration. This is a fucken party to rejoice in acceptance of ourselves and revel in the support from our allies. We celebrate how proud we are to be who we are, or what makes us different than the remainder of the population. To me, this is more than a two-day bender just drinking and dancing in the streets. Being here is the reason I’m alive; it’s times like these that keep me alive; this is a lifeforce.

Dancing in this year’s parade isn’t happiness, no, better…this is NIRVANA.

Dykes on Bikes

pride.JPGWomen in bright t-shirts stand in front of barricades blocking the streets surrounding Dolores Park. The green of the grass is almost unseen as people stumble over blankets, bottles, umbrellas, beer pong tables, and popup tents covering the field between 18th to 20th Street. A female MC, with a soft afro and denim overalls hooked on one shoulder, introduces the next guest on a small stage near the lower west side; speaking into a microphone, her voice hardly travels to the middle of the park over the music, the commotion, the party.

The public rager continues to attract more festive attendees as the Saturday afternoon progresses. By 4:30, the park is lightyears past maximum capacity as people spill over the sidewalks, pour onto streets, drunkenly flooding the three blocks along Dolores. This is when the rev of motorcycle engines begin to roar and echo off houses between the Castro and Mission district. I throw on a neon-yellow safety vest and follow the sound, lining up along a bus disguised as an old-fashioned trolley. Behind me is a street-wide banner held by countless women and a crowd behind them, holding signs, blowing whistles, spreading love and cheer.

Believe it or not, this beautiful pandemonium is a day-long rally ending with a march known as Dykes on Bikes. (Hence the motorcycles).  The Dyke March spans Valencia to Castro Street and a couple blocks in between. This year, I volunteer as a safety monitor, keeping an eye on the jubilant crowd. Volunteering is not new to me; I began volunteering at a young age, an experience I love for being “hands-on,” and sharing my time with people, communities, and organizations in need. What I love most about volunteering at events by myself is the opportunity to meet new people.

Since it’s my first year volunteering at the Dyke March, I’m paired with a volunteer-veteran named Emma (if you’ve volunteered for a few years, you’re assigned a walkie-talkie and headset). We monitor the crowd and I stay on Emma’s left side so she can hear the communications on the headset in her right ear and hear me with her other. She explains what to look out for and the other duties we have as floaters.  As we walk the park, Emma tells me about experiences she’s had being trans and about how the Trans March doesn’t get as large a turn out as the Dyke March, but (of course) always loves going. We make it to the perimeter of the north side, where a vintage firetruck is parked and a small crowd of pedestrians and firefighters in uniform are gathered. Emma says “there’s the Fire Department recruiting every year at the Dyke March…they’re looking for strong women,” I giggle in agreement. Emma repeats a new report on the headset, a child has gone missing. As the safety team, we search. Luckily the missing child was found shortly, playing in the sandbox. After this tense bit, we retreat to the volunteer tent to take our break, resting our feet and snacking on pizza.

My second volunteer shift I’m paired with an energetic twenty-year-old named Kaleigh, who exclaims June is her most favorite month. Why? It’s Pride Month (duh, she adds). Kaleigh and I roam the park, each holding one side of a giant bucket with dollar signs written with thick sharpie. Kaleigh enthusiastically informs people that the Dyke March paid eleven grand to clean up the park after last year’s kick-off; we raise forty-six dollars in donations in merely thirty minutes. I’m not sure if it’s encouraging people to clean up their trash or Kaleigh’s slogan that drew money out of people’s pockets…She went around shouting “if you’re not gay, you owe us a dollar!” Some may not have donated, but they definitely laughed. If we aren’t collecting money, at least we’re entertaining.

Volunteering allows me to walk at the front of the parade to maintain order (what little order there is at an enormous gathering for gays). This, by far, is the best feeling, dancing in a line of volunteers, waving to the crowd, and being part of the human race, who have so much in common, but the immaculate similarity here is positivity and homosexuality. Accepting myself has been one of the most challenging aspects of my young life, but now I stand as an integral member of the lezzer community. I’ve never been so proud to be myself, never felt more connected, than I do now marching.

This is what happiness is. Spending the day volunteering for an event, which supports a cause I am deeply passionate about. These are the moments I live for; meeting and gathering with people who extinguish the feeling I have of being the alone or different. We are all one in the same. These moments are so exhilarating that I’m drained! Although I’m completely exhausted from all the walking (26, 003 steps in total), the amount of joy that fills me witnessing such amazing support from the LGBTQQ community and our allies gives me life. I have enough adrenaline to walk another five blocks to Mission. Nachos and cerveza replenish my body for the journey home and an even larger fiesta the following day…