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"How do I make all of my dreams come true?"

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle & Kristin Say:

Allow yourself to fail, don’t put shit on the back burner, ask for help, & keep dreaming. Here’s what we mean:

(1) Allow yourself to fail, because it happens. No one just comes up with a dream and then flies into the sky on a giant dog muppet and gets everything they want. It takes a ton of hard work, a bunch of mistakes you’ve got to learn from, and a crap load of pulling-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps. But you can do it.

(2) Don’t put shit on the back burner. It’ll be so easy to take a shitty job that pays a little more, but doesn’t allow you the time to do what you love. SO EASY.  Don’t do that. Work the shitty low-paying job that gives you a flexible schedule and supports you following your dreams. Money is not more important than your happiness. Dannielle’s dad always says, “If you like making money now, just wait until you’re making it doin’ what you love.”

(3) Ask for help. People want to help you, they just don’t know how. Ask your friends to help you with a project. Ask your family to help support your newest venture. Ask your co-workers to help loosen up your schedule so you can take the time you need. Ask your old professor how they got started. Ask for help. You can not do it alone.

(4) Don’t. Fucking. Stop. Dreaming. We don’t care how many goals you’ve achieved… don’t ever stop dreaming bigger. Dream the biggest shit you can possibly dream. You can do it. We promise you.

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“Hey, this is quite a general question applicable to many things, but how do you not burn out from activism?”

Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

This is quite a general answer but:

You gotta take breaks.
You GOTTA take breaks.
YOU GOTTA TAKE BREAKS.

They can look like this:

Or this:

Or even this:

(If they look like that we should talk about dating in the near future.)

ANYWAY, the bottom line is that you gotta take care of you.

SeriouslySelf-care is a critical component of changing the world, so whether that means you take a day, a week, or three years, you gotta take the time you need to feel centered, positive, alert, and ready. The change-making is going to need you when you return, and you’re gonna be refreshed and ready to tackle it once you’ve rested your sweet lil’ activist eyeballs for a bit.

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“I’ve been with my girlfriend for two years now, and whilst I adore her, things are becoming a little strained. She’s started a new job, hates her manager and is having a rough time, whilst I’m super stressed over finishing my Masters degree. I want to be as supportive as possible for her, but I’m having a hard time too. Help!”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

Okay. I’ve totally got this one… because I’ve TOTALLY been exactly where you are slash kind of ARE where you are and I had a revelation yesterday while I was on a dock by the ocean thinking thoughts. Here we go. When we get into long-term relationships with people, we tend to feel incredibly comfortable being open, honest, vulnerable, and vocal about the things that are going on in our lives. That’s an amazing thing on most levels, because it means being connected and allowing for someone else to comfort us in our weak moments.

HOWEVER. We also tend to get so comfortable in that space that we forget that our emotions and moods (and expression of those things) has a big impact on our loved ones. Your girlfriend is struggling and you are stressed and you need each other to lean on, yes… but you’ve crossed a threshold where those struggles/stressors are actually making you LESS able to be a good partner. (Mayday! Mayday! *pulls alarms*) You now need to do two things:

1. Most importantly, you need to talk to your lovely girl (let’s call her Pasta bc I’m hungry) and explain where you’re coming from, gently and with lots of love. When she is having a good, calm moment, pull her close and say, “Pasta, I want you to know that I love you and I am so glad that we have each other to talk to when things are hard. I know you’re struggling right now and I am here to help in any way I can. Lately I’ve been feeling a little frazzled with my own stuff, and I thought it would be great if we could find times to vent, but also make sure that we have time to have fun and enjoy the good.” If you want you can then play that Tegan and Sara song about where did the good go, but only if you think she’ll laugh as hard as I would if we were having this conversation.

Essentially, you need to communicate that you both need to be operating at full capacity to take care of each other, and that you need some time to navigate the world and your own stressors without being under the constant strain of hearing/worrying about hers. Gently. Calmly. Lovingly. Cool?

2. Here’s my small revelation: our partners cannot take care of all that ails us. Maybe you already knew that, but I don’t think I did until very recently… and maybe your gf doesn’t realize that yet either. I tend to think I AM HURTING GOOD THING I HAVE A WIFE TO TELL WHO WILL LISTEN AND HELP… all the time. And all of the time is too much of the time! I am a strong person who has friends and family and myself and a cat and a journal and sidewalks to stroll on and a million other outlets for what ails me.

As people with loved ones we need to make sure that we use all that is available to us instead of defaulting, always, to the person who is often closest to us (in both proximity and emotional-feels). Maybe you can also talk to your girl about this, bc I wish I had had that realization about forty years ago. You know?!

Last thing before I leave you to your journey: it sounds like y’all love each other very much and this is a hard time. That’s okay. We have ups and downs and you’ll learn things from this down that will help you tackle the next one even more readily. Good luck to you and darling Pasta <3

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“Hi! Do you have any advice on dating and being involved in the LGBT community while sober? I recently began my coming out journey and am looking for more ways to be involved and seek community, but so many events are centered around alcohol or bars and I don’t drink. I appreciate any advice you have! Thanks!”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

I do have advice! I do!

Let’s do this in two parts, shall we? The dating part, and the being involved part. COOL GREAT LIFT OFF:

Getting involved in the larger community without alcohol is totally possible, and means that you will open up really badass avenues into community-based efforts toward change and awareness. Some of the best humans in my life have come from doing volunteer work with queer and trans organizations. Look up local places in your area, or events that are coming up that may need an extra hand or two. Seek out an internship if you have the time! If you have a few friends who want to join you in the volunteer effort, awesome, and if not, full steam ahead bc your NEW friends will be there waiting.

If you’re like COOL KRISTIN THANKS BUT, I DON’T REALLY WANNA VOLUNTEER, sigh, okay, I will give you a few more tips (but like, you should at least try the above suggestion).  Try to host a meet-up in your area! Autostraddle is home to hosting many-a-meet-up, so check those out, take some notes, and either join one in your area or start one of your own! Also, use dating apps to make friends! PEOPLE TOTALLY DO IT. If there are other people in your area who are like, ‘Man, I would love to just get a goddamn coffee and talk about my complicated feelings on Roxanne Gay’s latest essay,’ and they see your profile and it says, ‘Looking for a friend or seven who will get coffee with me and talk about the complicated words of Roxanne Gay,’ they will LOSE THEIR MIND and MESSAGE YOU and you will HAVE COFFEE AND TALK. (Or if you’re on Long Island you’ll have cawfee and tawk.)

Getting involved in dating without alcohol is a matter of honesty, and believing that your sober self is fucking awesome. My very dear friend was a social drinker her whole life, and then she broke up with her (social drinker) girlfriend and began online dating. The first THREE people she dated were sober. Totally sober. She was like, ‘wow, this is kind of amazing, I actually don’t like drinking every time I go out,’ and she now BARELY drinks at all (and she isn’t even with a sober human, she just enjoys sobriety!). Be clear that you don’t drink. Ask for first dates to happen at amazing coffeeshops or bookstores or local parks! You owning your sober-ness will bring people into your life who connect with you and who aren’t desperate to make their dating life hinge on alcohol. And, truthfully, although I am a social drinker myself, I think that finding that quality in a person you date is very, very important regardless of whether your sober or not.

I hope this helps!

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“I was diagnosed with cancer about 7 months ago, and in 7 months I’ll finish chemo and go to university. Even once chemo is over I’m unlikely to be ‘cured’ and there’s a reasonably high chance I’ll die in the next five years. Is it ok to not tell anyone at uni I’m cancerific? Is it immoral to form a commitment with someone knowing I might die on them? How do I deal with conversations in which I have to come out as gay and a cancer survivor?”

- Question submitted by tomoliverduncan

Dannielle Says:

Okay. I have no experience with this whatsoever, so these are all my feelings based on knowing NEARLY NOTHING.

I think you should go into university as a person going into university. You should live your life to the fucking fullest the way you want to live it. If you fall in love with someone, you’re going to fall in love with them. That’s just that. If you’re going to fall in love with three different people over the course of four years, you’re going to fall in love with them. That’s just that.

Whether you tell someone the first day you meet or you tell them three months in or you tell them one year later, you will fall in love.

Also, this is a part of your story. I don’t feel like talking about my alcoholic mother bc then people dance around it and feel weird drinking beers and don’t make the same jokes around me. In a similar way, you don’t want to talk about your past with cancer because some people will dance around it, feel weird asking questions, and not wanna make the same jokes around you. You’re afraid that it will become a huge part of your identity and will overshadow who you are as a human bc you’ll be the gay who used to have cancer. BUT LISTEN. I was never the gay with the alcoholic mom. Being gay was a part of me, and having an alcoholic mom was a part of my story, but I was still Dannielle. And you will still be @tomoliverduncan … you know what I mean?

You aren’t being dishonest by allowing people to get to know you for YOU, at your own pace, and in your own time. Not in the least. You are doing exactly what you should be doin.

Kristin Says:

Well, there are three big questions here, @tomoliverduncan (can I call you TOD?!), and so I am going to break them into three smaller answers to make sure we get to them all. Cool?

Is it okay to not tell anyone at your university?
Yes. Dannielle addressed this question the most in her answer; this is a facet of who you are, and your choices about who you tell and how you tell them are yours, and only yours, to make. The only thing I would like to add here is that I suggest you allow yourself flexibility. Don’t set a harsh rule that you can’t tell anyone, ever, but rather, go in knowing it is okay for you to keep this piece of yourself private unless you feel inclined to open up to someone. That may happen. If it does, allow yourself to be open with that person and experience the relationship as it happens. Which, incidentally, leads me to question number two:

Is it immoral to form a commitment with someone if you know you may die on them?
Well, this is tricky. Technically, we all form commitments knowing that one of us is bound to die on the other(s) at some point… but you’re right, you occupy a very specific position in this experience. My advice here mixes in a bit with my first answer, because no, I don’t think it is immoral to keep parts of ourselves private from those we love. I do, however, think that if you are falling in love with someone, you will likely want to share your journey with them. I think that after awhile in a committed relationship the strain of keeping something like this a secret will cause you stress and worry, and I don’t think that is healthy for you, your partner, or the relationship. So, while not immoral, I would be open to seeing how you feel as your relationships develop (see? overlapping advice! tada.)

And, how do you deal with these conversations when they DO come up?
It’s so interesting, TOD, because while your question is about how to deal with telling someone you are a gay cancer survivor human… my gut tells me that this is very similar to how I’d advise telling someone that you were a gay non-cancer-surviving human. People respond to our energy when we speak to them – and that isn’t to put any pressure on you to tell your story in a particular way, but rather to let you know that you will be cueing others on how they might be able to respond. It will vary from person to person (and even place to place), but I think the thing to remember is that you can be honest about your experience, you can laugh about parts of it, you can scrunch your eyebrows about parts of it, you can cry about parts of it, and you can accept the love and support that comes your way. You can also lay some ground rules right at the outset. Say, “yes, before I came to uni I was actually in chemo treatments but HANG TIGHT BEFORE YOUR EYES GET ALL WATERY, I am feeling okay and you can ask me any questions you might have and you can still flick your soda on me when I piss you off IT WON’T HURT ME. Cool?!”

Help them help you, and, just like anything else, have patience while these new friends and loved ones learn how to be there for you in the ways that you need most – especially when that means just walking down to the dining hall to complain about the shitty way they make grilled cheese sandwiches. <3

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