Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

14 October 2021


These days I spend a lot of time napping, biking and walking, and wondering who I'm disappointing out there in this wide world. Probably no one. And if someone? I'm not sure it matters.

When I first arrived in France, it felt good that people were beginning to need things from me and expect me places. It felt like proof of integration. I was laying roots, planting them firm into the good earth.

Some years ago, when I was still at Hurrah, another founder—who knew I was on my way out—told me he loves running a company, and doesn't see how he can ever have a boss again. How, he asked, can I content myself with returning to that?

I've never been a good employee.

Freelance is its own kind of business. But it's mostly a solo business, and it suits me. I evolve alongside my clients and partners. We grow together for awhile, then part. I am sufficiently lucky, at this stage in my career, to be able to choose who I work with, and say no to projects that are more about money than about predilection. I can also command rates that don't make me constantly wonder if I'm being fucked (though one always does, in the end, find ways to wonder if one's being fucked).

I'm happy with my wide horizons of discretionary time. I'm happy with the fact that I don't worry so much about money anymore, in part because I have found a way to feel bountiful within my means. This isn't really about being on top or on the bottom.

These seem like important things to convey because I recently had a shaky moment, where I looked around at all my friends and peers, and admired everything they were doing. She works for the UN! She wrote a bunch of books! He is a minister with the Elysée! He gets sent to different countries to learn the language and culture, just because his expertise is so important to different facets of his company! She has her own TV show!

Then this worm crawled into my brain. Am I where I should be? People are flipping houses, making babies, plunging their roots so deep into the soil that they're touching crust. 

These days, I'm generally contented even when I'm not paid for something that ends up rippling outward. Then I got to wondering if I content myself with "so little" because The Patriarchy has trained women to not expect pay for so much of the value they bring to communities.

There's this book by Luigi Pirandello. It's called One, No One, and a Hundred Thousand. It's basically about a guy who spins out and dismantles his entire sense of identity from the inside, then begins conducting experiments with people he knows to try to understand "who" they think they know. His conclusion struck me: Some people's ideas about who you are can become so powerful that they supersede your inner truth about who you are in the larger world; ultimately, who you think you are doesn't matter, because this other you that someone else designed is perfectly real to them, and that reality has effects that impact you, too.

This is my worst fear.

When I was in high school, my closest friends decided to turn against me. It was a deep, insidious and incredibly wide-reaching collaboration. It made me a pariah at school. Little by little, it spread into the church I attended in another city, and as a result, bled into my relationship with my parents, and also into my relationship with my boyfriend.

It is hard to convey how traumatic that was. At school I became untouchable. I was never able to attend church again, and as a result, lost my closest friend there—a relationship that only healed just a handful of years ago. 

My parents beat me half to death, made me quit my job, and contemplated not sending me to college—my last exit door. My boyfriend turned his back. The one friend I had who was connected to none of this later admitted that she actually helped start the whole thing.

There was nothing I could say and nothing I could do. I had no one. I thought I would die of it, and it wouldn't matter to anyone.

Lately I think about this a lot.

The thing that most bothered me was that this group of people used lies to undo my life, well seasoned with small elements of truth. In essence, they took stories that belonged to me, wilfully changed them to cause harm, and created a larger narrative that became greater in the world than any personal truth. Nobody was interested in my side of the story. Nothing I could say could combat the narrative that had utterly transformed my reality.

Part of me invests a lot of time in trying to inoculate myself from that ever happening again. Indeed, it did almost happen recently ... but I found, to my relief, that the people the perpetrator put her story to stood their ground, and I wasn't even in the room when it happened. In that moment, something about me that was truer to other people than a story that person was telling ended up protecting me. Maybe I was also aided by what they already knew about her, and her nature—things I did not know at the time, or at the very least, thought I was safe from.

The life I have now, the life I'm designing, is the one I want. But I also wonder, on days like this, whether there aren't a few people out there who feel disappointed in me—who are expecting something from me, waiting for me to show up and perform what they consider my role to be. I wonder if, on some level, I'm disappointing myself (why aren't I writing a novel?). I wonder if I am afraid.

I strongly suspect, however, that none of this matters. It doesn't matter that I continue to smoke, because clearly my guilt is insufficient to stop me. It doesn't matter that I've ignored my personal writing projects, because clearly what I want to be doing is resting. And why would I want to be a minister at the Elysée, or work with the UN?

I'm not even really sure whose metrics these are, or to what degree they are even mine. It doesn't seem useful, here, to sit and list all the cool stuff I'm doing and cultivating. It's not even really about that.

Job roles and titles aside, here is what I know I do: I open the box. 

Like Pandora?

Yeah, like Pandora. I am always opening the box—for myself, for others. It doesn't matter what's inside. Sometimes I do it for money, when I ask strange questions and those questions become an article or a job or a minor strategy shift. Sometimes I do it for free, when people call or message me at weird hours of the day to hash out some puzzle.

I don't need to know why this is, what purpose it serves, or whether it's good or bad, which seems like the least useful question of all. I know it's my nature, and everything living is just looking for the most harmonious way to express its nature.

Generally speaking, that's enough. Being able to harmoniously express my nature is the success metric, insofar as that I need one, and life doesn't really need that. People need that. Life is mostly concerned with diverse possibilities for diverse outcomes, because that yields more and interesting new life. Sometimes harmony does that, but often conflict does. Conflict yields chaos and the birth of new cosmos. That's the function of the trickster in storytelling.

(I'm being repetitive in these posts, I know. But it's what I'm working through, so it's just going to be repetitive until I've sorted it.)

I'm arriving at a place where I can just trust that. I can also tell this is working, that this is right for me, because I don't feel any compulsions to be casually cruel or to hurt anyone. I want to love more, expansively, and better.

But we are never monoliths; we are porous, connected to communities and systems. Many things with diverse agendas are working on us, with us, and against us, all the time. Sometimes shit wiggles in. That's fine, it's interesting. It's an opportunity to ask these questions again, in different ways, to see if the answer still comes out as it has up to now. Or maybe the questions themselves change.

I'm entering a new myth cycle—more Cupid and Psyche, less Persephone. I'm going to split my life between France and Italy. I've fallen in love, in a stupid falling-down way, with a person who sees my bugs as features—who's happy to take the full weight of me, and whose full weight I am also delighted to take. We talk to each other like teenagers, but shamelessly. We plan our futures, shared and apart, without fear. We don't worry we will be misunderstood ... which is quite remarkable, given that we're both having to learn new languages to speak at all.

We are also nerdy in a way that tickles me. Today we spoke; he observed, rightfully, I think, that when we fight, it will be like two nuclear warheads suddenly facing each other.

"But I want you to know," he added earnestly, "that I will never detonate."

"You'll keep your plutonium in a solid state for me?" I teased.

"I don't operate by fission," he replied. "I operate by fusion."

I swooned.

Grad school starts again in November. It recently also occurred to me that I've fallen in love with myth the way a med student might suddenly fall in love with something rare and particular—cystic fibrosis is everything, I want to devote my life to it! That's how I feel about myth. It's everything, it's everywhere, I can see how it ripples through us and through time, how we change it and it changes us, how the stories we tell are the most important stories in the world because they inform our every interaction and sense of self. We use these archetypes or not, but we always live them, sometimes to our peril.

I don't know what to do with this. For now, it simply is, like the fact that I am always opening the box.

I have also begun knitting a blanket. I knit it in the wee hours of the night, through four, five, six in the morning, while listening to Neil Gaiman read me The Sandman. I fuss over the outcome of each square as I produce it—will there be enough yarn to complete it? Should I add some kind of pattern? What if I change up the knit style? This thing is going to be chaos. But I'm kind of into that—this part of me that's constantly courting entropy. I can't seem to help it. I love it.

You learn that in physics: The universe is always moving toward entropy. It seems like a thing to embrace. The advantage is, if you don't like the new cosmos you've made, another awaits beyond your next decision. 

It's something Pirandello's protagonist evokes—every moment, he is made, destroyed, and made again.

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