May 2018 Reflections
On May 9th, I finally changed my license to my new legal name, Corey Rae. After my sexual reassignment surgery (6 years ago on the 4th of this month, the day after my birthday,) I was able to change the gender on my license in New Jersey with the letter from my surgeon Dr. Christine McGinn, but I had never changed my name or gender at the federal level; therefore my birth certificate to this date still says my old name, Corey Robert Wagner, and a male gender. Even with my NJ license being female it never reflected the name I chose for myself towards the end of high school, and now it finally does; giving me comfort in being able to sign whatever documents I need to, receive mail, and anything else with one name.
Mother's Day was extra special this year as I conducted an interview with my mom for StyleCaster, rather than writing a letter to her like I did last year for my blog. As if my mom and I aren't close enough, I feel the interview strengthened our bond and my love for her grew in new ways. The support the article received was humbling and it made me feel good to give my mom the recognition she deserves. I would be lost without her, and I am working more and more everyday to show my gratitude and appreciation for all that she has done and continues to do for me and my family.
Speaking of family, my cousin Katie got married on the 19th of May. My feelings surrounding her marriage have shifted from when I first heard she was engaged over a year ago. Her wedding weekend brought a lot of healing to our family that had been tearing us apart since our mothers were children. It was truly a special time for our family and I am so genuinely happy to see her happy and accomplishing her dream in life.
After my cousin’s wedding my mom stayed in LA with me for a few days longer. After Coachella in April, I had planned on going to another festival with my friend Paige from work called Lightning in a Bottle. This festival is the perfect mix of Coachella and Burning Man, four and a half hours north of where I live, on a lake in the middle of what seemed like nowhere, with one of my favorite DJ’s, Zhu, headlining the festival. Being heavily community and spiritually based, I was planning on doing yoga and meditation classes during the day as well as partying hard at night. The plan was to drive in the middle of the night from Wednesday into Thursday morning and caravan with the rest of the crew to ensure we all got a camping spot next each other to form our own little community campsite. This was the weekend I was looking forward to most for the month.
On Wednesday morning, I started to have a severe pain that traveled throughout my entire abdomen which changed the course of my weekend completely. Long story short, I felt a sharp pain/cramp/bloat that wouldn’t go away. Instead of leaving with my friends Wednesday night like we originally planned, I decided to see if my pain would go away overnight and catch a ride with my cousin Danielle early Thursday morning. I Ubered to my friend’s place Wednesday night, dropped off half of my stuff, and went back to my apartment where my mom was spending her last night with me. The next morning the pain hadn't subsided much and I was still uncomfortable walking standing upright. In pursuit of still having the best weekend ever, I got up at 5:30 am to shower and pack up the rest of my stuff anyway. My mom and I left my place at the same time, she taking an Uber to LAX and I was going to meet my cousin Danielle (the daughter of the now-famous Auntie Doodles from my previous blog posts).
My mom and I had agreed that I should spend the weekend sober, focusing on myself, doing yoga and meditation, and not doing any drinking or drug taking. Doodles was my second opinion on whether or not I should go regardless of my pain, which she said I should, but to be careful. While we waited an extra hour for Danielle’s friends to arrive, I kept going back and forth on if I should go. Danielle told me that I shouldn't without being checked out by a doctor or else it would bother me the entire weekend. She was right, and so I unpacked my bags from her car and planned to go with a coworker of mine who would be leaving that night at either 6 pm or 4 am Friday morning.
I immediately went to Cedars-Sinai Urgent Care and it was closed, at 8 am *another eye roll emoji*. I went back to my apartment and slept for a few hours and then went back to urgent care. Over the course of six hours I saw a doctor who took my blood and urine tests. The urine test showed I had a high level of bilirubin, suggesting something surrounding my liver was wrong and the blood test results would take few days to come in. Most of the pain was in the appendix/colon/lymph node region, so he sent me to Cedars-Sinai Imaging to make sure my appendix wasn’t bursting or anything of the like. The CT Scan results showed nothing abnormal, and at this point I was utterly confused as to what to do. My doctor told me not to go to the festival and that the pain could get better or worse. The only solution in the meantime was to use warm compresses on my stomach. I went home, put on a heating pad, and refused to resort to Tylenol. In the middle of the night I woke up from what seemed to be a brief fever (earlier that day I had no fever at all) and a text from my coworker saying she had no more room for me in her car. Feeling defeated I went back to sleep assuming I wouldn't be able to go to LIB, but kept my wristband on hoping fore.
I woke up early the next morning with 70% of my discomfort miraculously gone and I could walk without being keeled over in pain. I quickly went on the LIB Facebook group and searched for posts from people offering rides. I messaged one girl asking if she was still offering a ride and she said she was going to be leaving at 3 pm from an hour south of me. I didn't want to get to the festival that late at night, it was already Friday! I then remembered they had a bus service leaving from LA straight to the festival. While in the process of buying the last minute bus ticket, a guy messaged me after seeing my post for a ride, but I decided it was best to not rely on anyone and I bought the ticket. Feeling lucky that there were still space available, I boarded and looked for a seat with good energy around it. A guy stood up from his seat to let two friends sit together and sat in the row behind and across from an empty seat I was about to take. This guy, who I’ll refer to as LIB Bae, ended up shaping my experience in the best way. He reminded me of the 19 year old from Coachella that I had hit if off with, but he was my age, mature, and better looking. *Smirk emoji*
During the five hour ride, a few of us sitting near each other in the center of the bus talked with excitement about the weekend ahead. LIB Bae was extremely into festivals, and showed us pictures the recent ones he’d been to, including LIB and Coachella. He was telling us about a group called Glitch Mob that was headlining later that night at the main stage. Knowing service would be spotty once inside the festival, a bunch of us decided to meet at 12:30 am at the Ferris Wheel so we could all go to Glitch Mob together. By the time I was off the bus my pain was 85% better. In another stroke of luck, the bus dropped everyone off at one gate, the one just north of where my campsite was set up. After finding my campsite and settling in, I met most of the people in the festival family I was being welcomed into, The Crescent Clique. I then freshened up, had a quick costume change, ate something, and went into the festival to join the ongoing dance party that is LIB. After about 30 minutes I started to feel the pain coming back in my lower abdomen so, like I do, I went off on my own for a while, taking a breather and exploring the grounds.
I met three people in this wooden two level fort called The Hangout. One of the two girls was the sign language interpreter at the ADA camp. All three of them had been to LIB at least three times and we all hit if off. I talked to them about my transition, the work I do now, and what was happening with my stomach. They asked if I wanted to walk with them to see a performer at a tent on the other side of the festival, and they’d give me a tour of the grounds. I was in awe of how beautiful this festival was. Sustainably built, with gorgeous architecture, interactive activities, bridges, varying artistic structures, and insanely cool lighting. We got to the music tent they’d wanted to be at and within minutes of being there I told them my stomach was acting up again and I wanted to find a healer. The ADA volunteer told me her heart was telling her there would probably be a healer in the tent behind us, so I went over there. I peered into the tent to see a bunch of shoeless people talking and a few girls meditating. I apologize for interrupting anyone’s mediation and asked if anyone knew how to heal or do reiki. Two girls meditating smiled and one of them told me she had just between certified and would love to help. I took my shoes off and left them at the entrance of the tent with everyone else’s. The entire group of people inside the tent gathered as I told my story of getting to the festival. The healer then asked me to lay down and prepped her hands for positive healing energy. At that point most people exited the tent, except for the other girl who had been meditating with her, and they all thanked me for sharing my story in such detail…. Lol.
I was in that tent for about 30 minutes or so and after she worked her magic, I felt 95% better. I couldn’t believe it, I was so happy. She had a big smile on her face and explained that my feeling better gave her the affirmation she needed in order to keep on her path and to not doubt her abilities. I shared an amazing embrace with them both and then went on exploring.
I went to a stage that was filled with giant purple and pink mushroom sculptures where I found Paige and the rest of our friends dancing. Paige and I went off to grab food and I texted the cute guy from the bus to say we’d meet him at the ferris wheel. My text took forever to go through but I had an inkling he would be true to his word, and he was. I was the only one from the bus that showed up. Paige and I trotted our way through the festival with him to the stage where Glitch Mob was about to perform.
This guy reminded me of the 19 year old Coachella boy even more when I saw him on molly; walking and talking a mile a minute in an adorable raver-boy-swag way. As we walked the grounds he told me he liked my bone structure which caught his attention on the bus, especially after I put mascara on midway through. After some heavy flirting on my part (which I couldn't tell if it was going over his head or not) I said he and I could be platonic festivals baes for the weekend. He wasn’t lying about loving festivals, he literally had a bag of festival tricks. Besides a blanket, water, and multiple battery chargers, he had three pair of coldiscope sunglasses, two head scratcher/massagers, 100 glow sticks, sound reactive face masks, and so on. He showed Paige and I such a fun time and eventually she went to see another performer and I stayed with him the rest of the night.
After Glitch Mob closed the festival for the night, he and I rode the ferris wheel together. It was awkwardly platonic. We clearly had an attraction towards one another but didn’t know how the other person really felt. By the end of the night he came back to our campgrounds to party. I was freezing and hungry so we got into the backseat of my friends car to warm up and eat. I let him kiss me and as we cuddled up in the car, we fell asleep, him sitting up and me in his lap with our arms wrapped around each other.
In the morning we went to an unbelievably refreshing yoga class. I felt 99% better immediately after the class. He and I ran into one of the guys from our bus and we all got breakfast together and ate at that wooden hangout spot overlooking the lake. We walked alongside the lake after eating and watched as everyone partied on their floaties. It miraculous but made sense. I figured two things at this point 1. I was meant to have this pain before the weekend because if I didn’t and had taken drugs something terrible may have happened to me and 2. most of the pain was caused by stress and my body was definitely trying to tell me something, and thank god I listened to it. The entire day was spent exploring and partying at our campsite while getting ready for the evening ahead. After spending a good amount of time together on Saturday, even showering with one another (but only making out) we put the air mattress into the trunk of the car and that’s where we slept for the two remaining nights.
To say the least, our campsite was lit and hands down the most fun at this year’s festival. With all of our cars in one big circle, the center of our camp had a full drum set, DJ stand, disco ball, dancing room, lounge chairs,tables, grill, and even a portable shower. We were conveniently located a row over from the restrooms aka porta potties so we could go to the bathroom whenever we wanted while not being too close to smell them. I have to say if it weren’t for everyone being seasoned at festival camping, I probably would’ve hated it. Everyone added something to the group in personality and in belongings. If one person didn't have something another person most likely did. We did each others makeup, hair, flash tattoos, glitter, baby wiping, you name it.
My time spent with my LIB Bae was interesting. It was different than the euphoria caused by MDMA with the Coachella 19 year old. LIB Bae and I were both sober during the days (although he got tipsy and a little high at certain points) and he rolled on molly or tripped on acid at night. He made my experience completely magical. Together we did different styles of yoga, ate really good vegan food, explored, showered, chilled on a massive floatie in the lake, watched the sunset on top of meditation mountain, roller skated, danced, and enjoyed each other's company. His campsite being 5 gates away from mine, his friends were far and he didn't want to make the trek to our site so he did spend a good amount of time with my camp. Assimilation with our group wasn't hard to begin with, but he fit in perfectly Although he went to school in LA, he lives in Dallas and will be there for another year and a half. He travels to LA a lot and we have tentative plans to see one another soon. We cried when saying goodbye but a happy cry; like a “see you soon” and “I'll miss you and this weekend” type of cry. He made the weekend truly magical and helped me feel like I wasn't missing out being sober.
I have to say I am extremely proud of myself for being responsible, putting my mental and physical health first, and staying completely sober throughout weekend. The only time I wished I was rolling on Molly was for one of my favorite artists, and the main person I wanted to see, Zhu, who I’d seen twice before. He closed the show with my favorite song, the one I was waiting for all set at Coachella than the needed ended up laying with, it was interesting how much this guy and the 19 year old reminded me of each other. The 19 year old kept wanting me to go on his shoulder during Zhu and the entire weekend LIb Bae wanted me to as well. I told him if Zhu played my favorite song I would, and he did. It was utterly magical.
Coming back and immediately going to work Monday night 30 minutes after being dropped off was rough. I realized that I was too happy that weekend to ever let myself be truly unhappy again. I didn’t get to bed until almost 12 am, that night and then had to be up early the next morning for work again. If I learned anything from LIB weekend is that I can have fun at a festival sober, but also that I am what I produce and that I am magical (something we learned to repeat to ourselves in yoga, along with I am strength, and I am love).
This month I also said goodbye to my roommate of the past year and welcomed my soon to be new roommate this coming month, my good friend Maddie. We are so excited to be living together and normally I feel like living with friends isn't the best idea but she and I feel comfortable speaking up if something were to bother one of us and are very much so on the same level of cleanliness, aesthetic, and general mood. I’m making a responsible and adult decision to live with her and that feels really great. I’m looking forward to her moving in slowly throughout the month of June and turning my apartment into our home (filled with lots of candles and crystals.
My biggest growth this month comes from the following lessons that I’ve learned; being grateful comes in many different ways, and it is something I am continually working on. Being sober at Lightning in a Bottle made me realize I could still have fun sober and appreciate the times when I was intoxicated. I've decided that after my 25th birthday party, I will give up drinking except for rare or special occasions where I’ll toast with a glass of wine, champagne, or my go-to tequila pineapple. I’ve always known that alcohol is legitimate poison and if I were to give up anything it would be the easiest for me. I feel drinking on rarely will make it that much more special when I do.
As I get older I find more comfort in the good guys I meet. I trust that each guy teaches me valuable lessons about who I am and what I’m looking for in my life partner, and gets me ready for the next one until I’m with the right person. If anything in its entirety isn’t bringing you peace, it’s not worth it. Surrounding yourself with like minded people who can help support you, push you, and who really believe in your and your aspirations is crucial. Lastly, I’ve learned to go with the choices that scare me the most because that's the one that's going to help me grow.
Written by Corey Rae --- Edited by Emily Turner