rejection: i’m a hot mess.

CW: sexual assault; child abuse. 

Summer 2019 has been the season of girl-power anthems. Rapper Megan Thee Stallion gave us “Hot Girl Summer,” the world has finally caught on to Lizzo’s 2 year old jam “Truth Hurts,” K. Flay release “Sister” and “This Baby Don’t Cry,” Taylor Swift release “The Man,” and Miley Cyrus gave us what I think is an underrated bop, “Mother’s Daughter.” As a whole these songs tell us women to prioritize ourselves, to show solidarity among ourselves, to enjoy life, to not give a fuck, to be strong, and to be our best selves.

 

However, I want to talk about how unrealistic it is for us to always be our best selves, how we need to allow ourselves the space in our lives to be hot messes, and how we can still be having a hot girl summer while being a hot mess. 

Recently, someone told me they admire me because I seem to always have my “shit” together, that I’m the type of person that always seems organized, put together, and determined. They said I seem to always have a plan of where I’m going and what I’m doing. Ironically, I have been more or less directionless for the past year.

Last year I applied to one PhD program, Concordia, and I got rejected. I have been heartbroken before, but this was a whole new level of heartbreak. I had a plan: work for a few months after finishing my MA, save up some money, pay down my student debt, move to MTL, and start my PhD. This had been my plan for the past few years, since the last time my life fall apart, and I had to re-organize my life. This rejection hit hard, and here’s the thing, I haven’t really come back from that rejection, and I’m still working to figure out what it will mean for me. However, if anything, this rejection allowed me to ‘come out’ as a hot mess and has given me the time to explore what it means to live life as a hot mess.

 

The week after I got my rejection letter, I started therapy through the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre. In therapy, I came to terms with some heavy shit: I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I was assaulted multiple times as a an adult and survived an abusive relationship, and colonization has fucked and continues to fuck me over. However, what limited me was not the trauma I survived but my inability to talk openly about that trauma for fear of not being seen as strong, put together, and professional. Academia, activist networks, pop culture, and capitalism all tell us it’s not ok to not be grinding a way and force us to act like we have it all together at all times. 

 

However, this year has been my “fuck it” year, and I’ve begun to talk openly about my trauma. I’ve also begun to talk openly about being pansexual, being Indigenous, and being fed up with people’s and my own bullshit. I cut toxic people out of my life and started prioritizing myself. I learnt that it’s ok to show emotions publicly: to show fear, to show excitement, to show doubt, to show love. I started enjoying my body. I started to embody my body. I started placing boundaries. I admitted to myself that I was tired of being a people pleaser. I acknowledged that I do belong in academia and that my activist work does have an impact. I started calling out people when they asked too much. I started refusing to grind 24/7. I stopped feeling guilty for enjoying my life and my activist and academic work. I stopped letting others police my emotions, urges, likes, dislikes, etc. I’ve openly talked about my anxieties, triggers, and mental health issues. I stopped letting what others think of me affect what I think of myself. In short, I stopped trying to be strong and put together person at all times and acknowledge that I’m sometimes, if not often, a hot mess. 

When I first came out as pansexual, quite a few ‘allies’ asked me how I knew because they’ve only seen me with men.  When I started talking about my indigenous heritage, a lot of folks would ask if I was really indigenous or just doing it for the social capital. When I started openly talking about my assault, I could see that others were concerned I might hinder my image. The truth is, I’m still exploring my sexuality and how I navigate relationships, but I know myself best. I’m Indigenous – no I don’t have all the answers to my heritage, and I have a hard time accessing my culture – that’s how colonization works. I have to decolonize myself. And yes, people have judged me about openly talking about my trauma. However, I’m no longer waiting for all the answers in order to live my life authentically, and I’m willing to show myself as I am, because I want to live authentically, and I want others to feel safe to show themselves to me as they are. I’m challenging the idea of what it means to be put together by showing that at times I’m barely keeping it together. My talking openly about my messiness has been a conscious and political act.  

As an activist, I often think about what the ideal community would look like to me, and it’s one where we can live authentically knowing we don’t have all the answers. It’s a community where we understand that who we are is at times fractured by and entangled with mess.  Academia, activist settings, pop culture, and capitalism demand that we have all the answers to who we are or, at least, be pre-occupied with figuring who we are. I’m trying to show its illogical to assume we can always have the answers to who we are and that they will always be the same once we have them. I’m allowing myself to say “I don’t know,” to live in the space where one answer might be evolving into a new answer, and to acknowledge that I might never have all the answers. 

I don’t want this blog post to turn into some type of survivor story. There’s no neatly package conclusion. It’s the opposite, I want to highlight how I’m still grieving that rejection and how I’m still a hot mess but nevertheless having a hot girl summer. I learnt this past year that although I’m always whole and I’m always enough, there are parts of me always coming undone and parts of me always evolving. 

I have no clue what the next year holds for me. I’m re-applying to Concordia and to other PhD programs, but I have no pre-determined concrete plan. Of course, I want to get accepted somewhere and do a project I’m passionate about, hence why I’m tracking my phd applications progress on this website like I did for my MA thesis, but I’m not limiting myself by planning everything out so that I can be seen as a put together person. All I know is that I plan to be a hot mess and enjoy who I am: messy, whole, evolving, feeling, embodied. Going forward, I’m surrounding myself by people who will love me even when my best self is messy and entangled, and I’m trying to love others and give them the necessary space to be messy and entangled. I’m working to create a space for myself and others where this is possible.

Natalie