A Series of Fortunate Events

One – The Conference

For the first time since I started my PhD, I presented my work at a conference on Saturday. And I kicked conference ass. Seriously, I kicked so much ass that that conference had severe rectal bleeding afterwards. I have grown to love my PhD, but last Saturday was the first time I was proud of my work.

It can be easy for me to forget that I’m good at things. Especially in college, where I spend much of the time floating around in a state of nervous confusion and the rest of the time apologising for what I haven’t done, or for what I’ve done badly, or for what I’ve done late. But there is a professional Connor too, different from the man who arrives at his desk six hours late, starts crying and then spends the rest of the day drinking cups of tea and making inappropriate jokes to senior members of staff.

I’m looking forward to airing Competent Connor again in the near future.

Two – A New Toy

The day after the conference, when I’d already sketched out the outline of two articles I wanted to write and chosen three more conferences I want to attend, I visited a friend’s house. I was buying his old computer off him.

It’s a MacBook Pro and it’s probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever owned.

I had kind of grown to accept that I was going to end up writing my PhD on a tiny little netbook. And I didn’t love that netbook. I would take it to bed to watch bad sitcoms, waking up to find it on the floor, still open. I would rest it on my belly while I read in my office. I would shove it in an unlocked drawer when leaving my desk. I didn’t even buy a sleeve for it for the first year I owned it, just tossing it in my backpack naked and unprotected.

Now, it’s different. This computer sits on a desk and I gaze lovingly at it, even when it’s doing nothing, occasionally stroking it. The picture is sharper than chef’s knife. And it’s oh so pretty. And it is so easy to use. And it’s so fast. I keep discovering new functions and emitting little joyful noises when I do, like a proud mother every time her beloved child learns a new word. Yay!

Three – The Letter
Warning – this is the gushy bit

I often feel guilty about women. My best friends are almost all female. And they give me so much. They give me their time, their company, their humour, their warmth, their wisdom, their compassion, their guidance, their knowledge, their love and (more often than I’d like to admit) their money.

And yet, I always feel I underappreciate them.

When a man shows affection for me, it’s completely different. My chest tightens. Tears inevitably form somewhere at the back of my eyes. I do sometimes fear that there is a raging misogynist inside me, who despises women. Or else, I look back on the last ten years of my life. And I look at how I have deprived myself of male affection, of how shy and awkward I feel even around close male friends, and of my overarching feeling that I am not worthy of other men, that I don’t deserve to be loved by men. That I have been single more or less all my life because I was worthless to men.

I was an entertaining, sexually-unthreatening teddy bear for women to play with, but I had no value for men.

The reason the last few months living with the boys meant so much to me was that I was being accepted by men, and wonderful men at that. And I treasure those memories.

On Monday, I got a letter from a male friend. He had asked for my address, and I was vaguely expecting a short note, but I got a letter – possibly the most wonderful letter I’ve ever got. It was the kind of letter where I stopped reading after every paragraph, just so I could stretch it out and savour it. I read it slowly, and I’ve read it another four times since then. I’m trying not to read it too often, or else it will lose its meaning and its specialness. And it won’t surprise you to hear that I’ve shed a little tear every time I read it (in fact the first time I read it, I turned on the shower in my room so that my new flatmates wouldn’t hear me crying).

The letter was full of humanity, honesty and genuine affection.

For the past two days, since getting the letter, I’ve reminded myself time and again that I am worthy of the friendship of men, and it is a lovely feeling. I’m trying my hardest to believe it and I’m getting closer every day.

Four – Small Victories

I’ve scored a number of small victories. Yesterday, on my eleventh day in my new flat, I finally bit the bullet, went into the communal kitchen and ate breakfast (porridge) in public, where everyone could see me. I did the same today. I have taken possession of a corner of a cupboard in the kitchen for my porridge, my seeds and a bowl. I have now met two of my flatmates. I have also been drinking water, and although I’m not dieting, I ate less yesterday than in ages, and I feel so good as a result.

I went for a run yesterday evening. I fell off the running wagon a little last week (again), but I’m doing 6K again tonight, I’m going to try 7K tomorrow night, and I’ll be ready for my 8K race on Tuesday next – no matter what happens.

Without even thinking about it, buoyed both by the conference and the letter, and eager to use my new toy, I wrote 1000 words of my thesis yesterday, just like that. That was the first (and presumably last) time that happened.

And yesterday, I checked something on googlemaps for my brother. This wouldn’t normally be a victory, except it’s the first time I’ve spoken to him since I came out to my family. He’s a priest and lives in America, so while I told the rest of my family face-to-face, I told him in an email. Yesterday, he rang for directions. Needless to say, we didn’t talk about anything serious, but we talked, and that plaster has been torn off.

I am an exceedingly content Connor.

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