My dear Anna, thank you for being here with me. I know that I don’t need to introduce myself to you. I know we’re about to introduce ourselves to others. But I need to say a little something to you here first to get started. This is our project together, and we get to welcome people here together and introduce ourselves and what we’re doing the way that makes sense to us. And it makes sense to me right away to say thank you.
I asked you here to help me tell my story. You said yes. That is so amazing.
Then you asked me what I hoped might happen from telling my story. That was harder.
I know that I want to have made a difference. I want my life to matter.
Your whole life, you’ve watched me work to make a difference, including how I have been your mother. I know I made a difference with my children. But when I think about my students from all those years of teaching — well, there’s no way for me to know if they remember me. Beyond that it gets even harder for me to see my impact. Was it with the disability community? Was it working on the Obama campaigns? Can I still make a difference for other people who have felt limited by messages that that they don’t matter, people with similarly complex stories, where the complications are part of how they are oppressed?
I’m telling my story because doing so is how I can help people like me tell their stories and love their stories.
It’s so good to be able to talk to you about these things, Anna. Thank you for being willing to do this with me, to put your time and heart into it. I do worry that I ramble, and that it’s slowing us down or getting in the way of producing a product. But I’m hoping that you will get my story out there. I don’t need to be in charge of everything. Not with you doing this with me. And that feels very good. I know I’m doing my part and that you’re doing your part. And I’m looking at myself in a way than I was never able to do before on my own. So, thank you.
Now, what were you saying to me earlier about beginning by checking in? You said something about how we could start by checking in with the world. What does that look like? You go first.
~ Anna ~
This is the beginning of what I think will become a book. I’m writing this book with my mother, Karen. This book is the story of her life. I am part of her story.
My name is Anna.
Anna Darvin Hirsch. I’m thirty-eight. I was born in the United States and have traveled around the world for fun. I’m white. I’m nondisabled. I’m married to a man. I can pay my bills living in Oakland, California. I rent a two-story house with my husband and another family. My family and friends and wider community share their resources with me. I drive a Prius. I speak English and have multiple advanced university degrees. I recycle and compost because these services are readily available to me in the Bay Area. I’ve never been to prison nor has anyone in my immediate family of origin. I have never witnessed war or large-scale violent conflict, and I have never been forced to leave my country. I have access to a wide variety of fresh food, to swift medical attention and consistent psychological services, and to many kinds of information. I have a laptop computer and a smartphone, and I have nearly constant access to the Internet. I set my own work schedule. I have the option and make the choice not to eat animal products. I pass as a straight, cis, Christian woman. I often have green dye in my hair, I dress the way I like to in bright colors, and I have a few discrete tattoos — and none of these parts of my appearance are frowned on in my places of work or social settings. It is a challenge for me to focus on all of this privilege because most of the time I’m not required to do so.
At the same time, I’m queer. I use she and they pronouns and more often than not I am misgendered. I’m polyamorous and pansexual. I have herpes and a thyroid imbalance. I have persistent depression and take Wellbutrin. I’m surviving the loss of a best friend who died from suicide. I am a survivor of sexual assault. I have a lot of debt. As a renter in the Bay Area, I have once been forced to move from my home and seek a new rental home. My parents are divorced and I grew up in an abusive home. I was born into a family of immigrants. My mother is disabled and my father is Jewish. My recent ancestors have been killed under the open watch of European governments and the world, have had severe mental health issues, and have lived and died away from family in medical institutions. It is a challenge for me to focus on all of this marginalizing experience because it is painful, yet my survival forces me to do so.
At the same time, I don’t have children. I have one cat. I have three life partners, two men and a woman. My husband is Black. I’m a psychotherapist. I’m a writer and an artist. I often complain about having too many fun creative ideas and not enough time to create. I like to meditate and I’m learning about Buddhism. I hate single use plastic. I love being outdoors and I love carbonated water.
At the same time is a refrain I return to for comfort. These words remind me that life is a jumble that happens all at once, and remembering this helps me be present with what is and helps me be nicer to myself with how I deal with what is. What is — I am learning again and again — is a whole me with many, many parts.
All of these parts of me have beginnings that lead to longer stories. Oh, where to begin?! And all of these stories together are how I am me from moment to moment.