Building a Mosaic from a Shattered Future

This post is for the April 2018 Carnival of Aces (“All the birds but us…”). Cross-posted to Prismatic Entanglements.

Content Note: contains a brief mention of sexual assault, and discussion of the impact of trauma on relationships.

The question for this month is, “How did your (a)sexual and (a)romantic orientations impact your (expected or imagined) future?”

What Future?

When I was a child, honestly, I didn’t really have an expected or imagined future. I didn’t know “what I wanted to be” when I grew up, and I found the question so obnoxious that I started to routinely protest it by giving an impossible answer. (“A cat!”—because nobody ever asks cats that kind of question.)

I didn’t imagine myself doing the standard “get married and have kids” thing. I participated in a few weddings as a flower girl and a ring-bearer, and I made up plenty of stories about fictional characters doing things like getting married and having kids, but I had no interest in imagining what my own potential wedding would look like—unlike my sister, who has always been really into weddings and babies, and always had a set answer to the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question.

Why do we expect children to decide on what they will “be”—not what they want to do, but what they want to be, suggesting that their entire existence can and will be reduced to their job (or their status as wives/mothers)—why do we expect any children to have an answer for that when they’re only five? Why do we expect and encourage children to fantasize about their adult future in such detail?

I have never understood it.

So yeah, I never really had much of an “expected future” for my adult life, when I was a kid, not until I was at least fourteen. I could see what others expected of me, but beyond that, I had only vague ideas about what my existence could be like. I kept my focus on the near future only.

The Shattering

That only began to change when I was in high school, with so much increased pressure for me to figure out what I wanted after graduation. I didn’t really want anything, except to get as far away from my parents as possible. Japan seemed like a great place to go, since I had an interest in Japanese music and had already been learning Japanese (all on my own, since I was not able to take any classes) since middle school. I started following several bloggers who talked about their experiences as expats living in Japan. I thought I would try the JET program, once I had finished getting a degree.

But that never happened. I did go to Japan to study abroad, but one of my classmates that I met there sexually assaulted me in a way that, as I’ve already discussed ad nauseum, specifically targeted my asexuality. Everything disintegrated from there.

I am a different person now, and there is no going back. All my carefully laid plans were demolished. My current existence is built from the ruins of that previous life and potential future. I am not saying I am broken—I am just fundamentally changed, composed of the same pieces, scattered and then reassembled, made into something new through my own creativity. I am a mosaic.

Now, as you can probably imagine, for a nerdy kid who had a lot of anime fans for friends, it became more difficult to socialize with a very large part of my previous social circle after that experience. People I met in Japan would always ask, “When are you coming/going back??” People at home almost invariably told me how lucky I was, how jealous they were of me for having gone to Japan, asked for a lot of details about it, or just used it as an opportunity to describe all the things they wanted to do in Japan. I had to quietly distance myself from most of my friends from before, because there’s not really an easy way to say, “I’m sorry, Person-Who-Has-Never-Been-to-Japan, but I really don’t care about your idealized enthusiasm. I hope you can go if you want to go. But please don’t make the conversation all about you and your feelings.” Not without digging into some explanation for why I suddenly couldn’t share that enthusiasm.

Japan doesn’t offer anything for me anymore. Japan is just Japan.

It’s not a bad place. It’s just not for me. I’d still like to visit again one day, but Tokyo is probably off limits unless I have a lot of support available, and I definitely don’t want to live there. I know I wouldn’t do well there.

Settling Down Somewhere?

Problem is, I don’t really know where I would like to live instead.

I’ve been unsatisfied with pretty much every place I’ve ever lived. I don’t really know what it’s like to live in a place and feel content and truly at home with it. Familiar, yes. Comfortable and satisfied, not really. I guess what I want isn’t so much a specific place, but a supportive local community, with a variety of places to go within a reasonable range, ideally within walking distance. Maybe one day I can find that. It seems implausible, but maybe.

For now, I’m settled in one place. It’s really not the best place, but it’s an okay place, a place where I have to worry less about money at least, and a place where I can live with my partner.

When we first moved here, our living conditions were very bad and I absolutely hated it. I’ll spare you the details about why, but it was extremely bad for my mental health, and if I knew how bad it would be beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have agreed to it. But I got through it, and with some major repairs to both the house and the relationship, things got better. It’s tolerable now. I still don’t really like it, but I’ve accepted the situation. I’ve put a lot of work into making this place better for me.

Is this a “nest”? Am I “nesting” now?

Well, I’m certainly not still waiting on anything, so I guess it’s close enough.

Polyamory & Compatibility

In polyamorous communities, I’ve seen people use the term “nesting partner” to describe the kind of relationship my partner and I have with each other. We live together, we have been together for nine years, we’re each other’s emergency contacts, we consider each other family. I don’t like the term “nesting partner,” mostly because I think that “nesting” implies something about having kids and we’re childfree. But I don’t like any of the other alternatives I’ve seen much either. Some people call it “anchor partner” which is certainly better, but it still sounds kind of… I guess, too restrictive and settled to me, especially since there’s a decent chance we’ll end up living apart again. Probably the most common (and hotly contested) term is “primary partner,” which doesn’t really work well for us either, and even if it did, would lead to too much confusion about rules and hierarchies.

I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole about hierarchies, because I think it’s usually discussed in a very simplistic and confusing way, and it’s just really not a very salient topic in my case. I’m not only not practicing hierarchical polyamory, but I’m barely practicing polyamory at all. My pool of compatible potential partners is extremely low. I’m not sure if I’ve ever even been “romantically attracted” to anyone. My partner is usually the one who gets crushes and goes on casual dates, though it’s been a while since she did that.

So since my partner and I are both on the aromantic spectrum, we tend not to find terms from ethical non-monogamy communities to be a great fit. We no longer call our relationship romantic, now we call it queerplatonic. I am very much more focused on friendships than on trying to date anyone, and that’s not a great fit with polyamory either, since non-sexual relationships tend to be undervalued in poly communities. I find concepts from the ace community like queerplatonic relationships and models for communicating about relationships to be a better fit, and I wish these were more well-known among polyamorous people.

In the future, I’d love to have more very close relationships, whether they’re friendships, something that can vaguely pass as romantic, or queerplatonic. I don’t like that right now, I’m fairly isolated from people other than my partner, mostly because of where we live and accessibility barriers that have hampered my communication with friends. I don’t want to get into all of that right now, but I’ll just say this: society is simply not set up in a way that is conducive to maintaining adult friendships right now, and it sucks.

Building a Safety Net

Still, somehow, I’ve been lucky enough to find myself in the exact kind of relationship that I wanted all along.

I probably wouldn’t have, if my plans for my life hadn’t been totally derailed. I’m not saying it was a good thing, because it absolutely wasn’t, but I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be who I am if it hadn’t happened. I would have built some other life.

I also probably wouldn’t still be blogging about asexuality if it hadn’t impacted me like this.

I really relate to Queenie’s post about queer futurity and strongly recommend it. For me, participating in the ace community and building up resources is very important because those resources didn’t exist when I really needed them the most. If I’m building anything here, it’s not so much a nest as it is a safety net, a web of thoughts and connections which hopefully will be able to catch someone else who is falling and help them find support—or, failing that, at least give them something to help them navigate their situation.

Doing this for so long, I feel oddly more at home on the internet than I do in any physical spaces, so of course my blog is kind of like a nest in that way I guess, but it’s a collaborative effort too, and hardly limited to the scope of my own writing.

I don’t know if I’ll ever find the kind of future that I want—or even, honestly, what exactly I want. I’ll be figuring that out as I go along. But in the meantime, I’ll keep building, contributing in whatever way I’m able. And I hope that you’ll join me.

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a 30-something asexual woman who is often mistaken for a lesbian, due to the fact that she is partnered to a lady. She is actually bi (but not biromantic) and somewhere on the aromantic spectrum. She is formally trained in creative writing with a focus on non-fiction and poetry, and maintains a blog called Prismatic Entanglements, where she mostly writes long-winded personal essays and social criticism. In her spare time, she enjoys being cat furniture, coming up with new Pokemon strategies and never going to church.
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One Response to Building a Mosaic from a Shattered Future

  1. Pingback: I Can’t Just Let The Future Pass Me By (alternatively: Finding The Twigs For My Nest) – From Fandom to Family: Sharing my many thoughts

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