Thoughts After Orlando

Dear Readers,

My students don’t think anyone would shoot me. It’s sweet, but they are wrong. “You’re Ms. Hesik,” they argue. “You’re, like, nice to everyone. No one hates you.” Again, so sweet, and yet so naïve. The reality is, as an out lesbian teacher, there’s a chance that I would be shot just for that reason alone. The shooting at Pulse in Orlando, Florida, sadly proved my point. It’s still a risk to be openly gay in this country, in any state, in any city. Even in sunny, liberal Los Gatos, California. I know this, but the majority of my precious students are blissfully unaware of how dangerous it can be to kiss or hold the hand of someone you love beyond the walls of your home.

This no one-would-kill-you statement is inevitably said each year when I’m going over the “Shooter on Campus” drill in class, which is actually called “Intruder Protocols” so as to not freak everyone out. It usually follows this question: “Are you afraid of getting killed at school, Ms. Hesik?” I answer honestly. “Well, it seems like I have a better chance of being shot at school than anywhere else I go. And as an out lesbian teacher, I feel like my chances increase. But it’s a risk I’m willing to take,” I explain. “I’d rather be open about who I am and be happy and be a role model for you than hide. Now, back to the protocols.”

As a teacher, I struggle with making them see the seriousness of the drill, but I also don’t want to cause unnecessary stress. First we cover the type of announcement that they’ll hear, which is different at every school. Sometimes it’s “Code Red” or “Code Blue”- depending on the school colors. Sometimes it’s a secret message: “Teachers, bonus checks are now available in the lounge.” You know, something so ridiculous that we would all know something was terribly wrong. At my new school it’s a straight-forward choice: “Students and teachers, please follow lockdown procedures.” I explain the escape routes and show them the map of where to run to, but the bottom line is this: if you can, get the hell off campus any way possible. A series of “what if” questions pepper me throughout the presentation. While I try to answer them all, images of Sandy Hook creep into my brain: tiny five and six year olds huddled behind their teachers, hiding in cupboards, twenty of them standing in a classroom bathroom. I don’t show my anxiety or sadness to my students, but inside I’m breaking.

“If you can’t safely escape the classroom you’re in, we have been instructed to build a barricade in front of the door and resist the attacker if necessary.” I look around at their faces and wonder how in the world it has come to this. Next, we have to actually practice making a barricade so we’re prepared if the real thing ever happens. Some of the kids love this part. They like the challenge and hands-on nature of the activity. Usually a couple of students start to clear off tables right away and stand them up against the doorway. There’s discussion and arguments about placement- future engineers at work. Then desks and chairs are piled behind the tables until the structure is deemed impassable or too dangerous to add more. They are proud of the tower and dare anyone to break through. I wonder if practicing building barricades in classroom doorways is about as useful as bracing yourself for a plane crash. Would we stand a chance? It doesn’t feel like it. I don’t tell them that.

The next part is my least favorite. It’s when we huddle in a corner of the room and wait. We wait for an actual person to first try our door to see if it’s locked, then the door is unlocked and the mysterious person shakes and inspects our barrier. It always feels too real.

That’s what the shooting in Orlando felt like, too. Not in that, “Oh my god, that could have been me,” way because my club days are pretty much over. Besides, all the mass shootings that have occurred in this country have happened where I could have been, especially at a mostly white suburban school, where I now teach. But what was different was that I thought about how any one of those who were killed could have been one of my incredible and beautiful Latino gay boys that I met at the small-town school where I used to teach. These young men are some of the bravest humans I know. Growing up in a rural town as a closeted gay kid can be tough, but growing up in a rural town as an out gay Latino kid going to a school with a lot of homophobic students and adults is even tougher.

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High school Adrian and Mama Hen Hesik

I’ll never forget the very first day of my first year there. One of these remarkable kids ran up to me and asked if I would be the advisor for the GSA. Word had obviously travelled fast that I was a big ol’ lezzie, so he sought me out immediately. Together, Adrian and I and countless other brave LGBTQ and straight-ally students created one of the most active GSAs in Northern California. And because of this, more kids started to come out. Because of Adrian’s bravery, other students were able to live a life of truth and openness-which is the only way to have ultimate happiness. These kids were more than just my students; they were my chickadees, and I their mama hen. I did everything in my power to protect them, educate them about their rights, and give them the space to be free and happy so that they could live free and happy lives during and after high school. I gave them my cell phone number so they could call if there was danger, which was present around every corner and in other classrooms. I fed them, I praised them, I celebrated them, and I loved them. I promised them, “It gets better” and that when they left that school, the world of bullies and stupidity would not necessarily disappear, but certainly lessen. “You’ll see,” I told them. “Grown-up gay life is beautiful.”

So, as I look at the pictures of those we lost in Orlando, I think about the loss of these incredible lives and of my darling chickadees. I know first hand the courage each of them has to live openly and honestly. I have heard their stories of struggle as they came out to their parents and friends. I have listened as they contemplated what their churches say and the internal conflict that caused. I have smiled at them as they fell in love, and I have comforted them as the love ended. My boys (and their beautiful allies) have a special place in my heart and always will. They’re now the same ages as so many of those who were killed: twenty-somethings just starting their grown-up gay lives. The thought of losing them in the way that the Pulse victims were lost, makes my stomach ache and my heart break. And I’m not even their mother. I’m not their sister, aunt, cousin, boyfriend, husband, best friend, or grandma. I’m just their teacher from a long time ago. But what I know about them that maybe not everyone in their life knows about them, is how brave it is to be them. Every time they hold hands with a boyfriend, go to a gay bar to dance the night away, march in a rally for gay rights, or attend Gay Pride parades, it’s an act of bravery. It is for all of us and our straight allies. Being out never ends and being out is always risky. Each time we say wife or husband, and girlfriend or boyfriend instead of “friend”, it’s an act of bravery. And every single person in that club that night was brave, too. Anytime we gays and allies gather, there’s that fear in the back of my mind: “Is this the day some crazy-ass man shoots us all down?” I don’t think I’m the only one who gets scared, either. But that doesn’t stop me, or any of us. We keep on braving it, loving openly, being our true selves; we don’t shrink back or hide. The price of hiding is too great, too painful, for not only us, but for everyone.

I am so incredibly grateful that I didn’t lose any of my students that night at Pulse and I’m sending love to every person who did. And I am so incredibly sad that this is the world in which we live and that my promise of a safer, better life after high school was a lie. Not entirely, I know. But this tragedy makes it harder for me to say it and believe it.

Back in the classroom we have to dismantle the barricade. We’re experts now at it and if the time ever came, we would know exactly what to do. At least there’s comfort in thinking so. Is this a new standard? Should it be added to the state tests? Seems like it sometimes.

Meanwhile, I don’t ever get to graduate high school; I’ll start my 16th year of teaching in August and more so than ever I feel like I’m in a job where I’m more likely to be gunned down. But I know I can’t dwell on that or care. What I care about is helping as many humans on this planet learn to be empathetic and kind and accepting of those around us. One way I do that is by being out to my students and letting them see a real live lesbian functioning as a fairly normal and happy person. It’s still hard for these kids, no matter their color or neighborhood, to come out. They still face abuse in the halls, in the locker rooms, and at home. They are still being beat up and are still attempting suicide at almost three times the rate of other teens. They still have the highest homelessness and addiction rate. So, despite a sinking feeling of hopelessness that creeps in once in a while, I’m not going to give up on doing what I can to show them life is worth living. Even if it’s still a little scary out there after high school, it is indeed a beautiful life.

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Adrian, in the middle, and his boyfriend (on the left) and a good friend waiting to march in the SF Gay Pride Parade.

So, thank you, readers, for being out and brave and for being amazing allies. Thank you for showing my former and future chickadees that grown-up LGBTQ life is wonderful. Thank you for showing them that they have a million brave soldiers battling against homophobia and mistreatment of all people. Please don’t stop doing what you do. Even when scary things happen, keep up the fight for rights and equality and our freedom to love safely. These kids need you more than ever, and so does this grown-up lesbian.

 

Hearts, glitter, rainbows and sunshine,

Annameekee

An Explanation is in Order

Hello You Know Who Fans,

I know three things to be true:

  1. You are eager to read about Abbey’s adventures in her junior year
  2. You have been very patient with me while you wait for junior year
  3. Your patience will eventually run out!

So, I feel like I need to explain the delay. It’s a tale of sorrow and hope. Heartache and self discovery. Endings and new beginnings.

So, to start off with, the year Abbey’s sophomore year came out, I started a new teaching job. Now, those of you who teach know how freaking stressful that can be, but I imagine that the mIMG_3235ajority of you are not teachers, so let me briefly explain. When you start a new teaching job in a new district, two majorly scary-ass things happen: 1. You have to develop totally new curriculum because usually you have to teach totally different stuff, and 2. You can be fired for any reason in your first two years. As an out lesbian teacher, this is scary. At any time if a parent wants to be a total homophobic weirdo, and they carry clout in a district, they can influence people that I am not right for the job. Same goes for homophobic principals and colleagues. Thank goodness that it turns out I didn’t have any of the above. But, I didn’t
know that at the time, so I was completely insane about being the best fracking teacher these kids ever met and if they couldn’t see how awesome I was and let homophobia control their decisions, then it was their loss. Here’s a pic of me as the Grammar Police. I love dressing up for my kids, so this had nothing to do with tenure. This has everything to do with me being a dork.

Turns out, I nailed it that year. In my first year at my new school, I was nominated for and won Teacher of the Year. Here’s a cheesy-ass pic.
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So, that’s why I didn’t work on junior year that year. I was developing and planning new curriculum for books I had never taught for students I had never taught in a school where I had never taught. Stessful? Hells to the yeah.

 

 

Fast forward to the school year that just ended. It started off okay- riding the high of being Teacher of the Year, plus I got an actual classroom instead of having to travel between three of them like the previous year, and had a year of curriculum to refer to. But then, rather expectantly, my mom fell ill with cancer. Now, let me just say this: Cancer can kiss my ass. I hate cancer, as I am sure you do. We have all been impacted by now with this stupid disease and I am sick of it. I was told she had 3-6 months to live, so I flew to Washington to see her right away and to help with the transition to hospice and whatever else IMG_0409I could do. I arrived three days after I got the news and she passed away three days later. Not three months or three weeks. Three days. That was in October of 2015. I took four days off of work and then returned. No tenure meant I was still worried; I still needed to work my lesbian ass off to prove my worth, but at the same time I was grieving the loss of my mom and barely making it through it each class without bawling my eyes out.   My
students were so amazing. My colleagues were even more incredible, but I continued to put the pressure on myself to perform. Sadly, there was no headspace for writing Abbey’s junior year.

I’m going to be as succinct as possible about this next piece, okay?  So, in a nutshell, I left my wife in January 2016. After that, I left my home and moved to the town in which I worked and completely started over. For the first time in 18 years, I was single and alone. It was like I was a graduated high school senior all over again- an unknown future, endless possibilities, and no idea what to do with myself. Trust me, fans, I’m happier a thousand times over, but I can honestly say that there was no way that between my mom’s passing and my divorce that I had anything left in my brain for my books even though I thought about how I needed to write it all the time. I missed writing. I missed Abbey, Garrett, and Mia, but I just couldn’t bring myself to sit down and transport myself to their world when I was barely functioning in my real-life world.

You may be thinking, Wow…that’s a whole lotta truth there, Annameekee.  And I know this. But, I’m telling you this because I think the more you know about others, the more empathy you develop for the human experience. At least, that is the case for me. And the more empathetic I become, the less important unimportant, stupid things become and the more attention I pay to things that really matter: helping others have better lives, loving those who deserve my love, forgiving and letting go of anger, and living my best life now…not later.

So, I hear you, my beautiful fans: You are eager for junior year. And, you need to know, I am eager to give it to you. This year, 2016, I have coined my “Year of Yes!” This new attitude and approach to life has led me to the most incredible experiences I have ever had, the best friendships I’ve ever experienced, and to a realization that life is too short to worry about things you cannot control. Despite everything I’ve experienced these past two years, I have never been happier. And now, I declare to you, I am ready to finish writing Abbey’s junior year. Brace yourself: it’s going to be a wild ride and one I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy.

Thank you for your never-ending patience, kindness, amazing letters of inspiration and gratitude, and love. I write these books for you and it brings me incredible joy to know that they have positively impacted your lives. Keep the fan letters coming and keep on being awesome.  You inspire me daily.

Glitter and Hearts,

Annameekee

PS: I totes got tenure. I’m starting my third year at my new school and I am so happy!! Here I am in my Tenure Tutu on the last day of school!!

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PPS: I highly recommend a “Year of Yes” to everyone out there. What are you waiting for? Do it now. Love your life now.

THE SEQUEL IS NEAR!

Driving Lessons coverOkay, You Know Who Fans, here’s the skinny on the sequel!

Title: Driving Lessons

Release Date: December 1st, 2014!

Shorty synopsis: Abbey Brooks has recovered from her end-of-freshman-year heartbreak and has vowed that this year, her sophomore year at Gila High, will be different in every way. Her to-do list: get her driver’s license, come out to her mom, get (and keep) a girlfriend, and survive another year of basketball. As always, though, nothing goes according to plan. Who will be there for her as her plans start to unravel? Who will bring her back to life after another round of heartache and betrayal? These answers remain a mystery–even to Abbey.

But one thing is for sure, she’s not confused about who she is. And that is going to make all the difference.

Number of times Abbey kisses a girl: Ha! I never write about kisses and tell! You’ll have to read and count for yourself!

I’m Not Gonna Change a Thing, So Kiss it 2013!!

Hello Fabulous Readers of El Blog de Annameekee!

And a Happy New Year to you! With all this New Year’s Resolutions chat clogging up the blogosphere, or whatever it’s called these days, I thought, “Hey, you know what?  Why do I have to change? Imma write me a blog about the ways that I am going to stay exactly as I am!” This is not so say that I think I am perfect- oh no- far from it! However, there are some things that I did last year and the years before that I want to continue to do. And here they are! Feel free to borrow them; they have been working well for me and have made my life a whole lot better :)
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Five Random Things I Think Are AWESOME!!

First of all, Hello. I hope you are well. And thanks for visiting El Blog de Annameekee.

That’s me! Annameekee!!

Second of all, why is it that things full of beauty are called “beautiful”, and things full of wonder are called “wonderful”, but things full of awe are NOT called “aweful”? Instead, we called it awesome…as if, only SOME of it is full of awe.  English. Pshh. Stupid.  (Please, please do not spend any time researching this rhetorical question and then telling me the answer. I prefer to just be angry with English sometimes. We have a complicated relationship, and I like it that way. Thanks.)
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The You Know Who Girls is in the house!

There was a thud on the porch.

“More shoes for you, Annameekee!” Mary called, stirring from her nap.

We were both napping, in fact, though in different rooms.  It had been a long week and adjusting from summer life to teaching and mentoring life was not going well. We were suffering from a bad case of four o’clock sleepies.

I stumbled out of the bedroom and opened the front door. “More shoes,” I grumbled as I bent down to pick up the box. Now, just so we’re clear, it’s not like I am a shoe diva- far from it. It’s just that I can’t find a freaking decent pair of shoes in all of Santa Cruz (in my size- thank you Amazons who took all the good shoes), so I do the unthinkable: order several shoes from Shoebuy and then return what I don’t like, which in most cases, is all of them.  Don’t judge me.
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Today’s Top 3 Worst Spam Comments!

So,

I emailed my webmaster/bff yesterday.  I wrote, “Dear Caseymeekee.” (I know what you are thinking, what are the chances of Annameekee being friends with Caseymeekee.  Ha. Not good. This is a special made-up name and if you like, you can add “meekee” to your name, as well.  However, I cannot be sure you and I will be bffs like Caseymeekee and I are. – longest parenthetical interruption ever!!!)  Anyway, I was like, “Dear Caseymeekee, I think the comment function on my blog is broken.  I only get spam comments.  There must be something wrong, yes? Hugs, Annameekee!”
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Summer’s over…So, here are the highlights summ”er”ized in Haiku.

  • Everything’s blooming
  • I must water them daily
  • It’s so worth the bill

  • Basil in the ground
  • Tomatoes ripe on the vine
  • Peaches on the tree

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Final Reflections on the LLF LGBT Writer’s Retreat

Me and Alex Sanchez! (The classic Hesik long-arm photo!)

Top three surreal moments of the week:

3. Being so inspired that the first and last thing I did each day was write, write, write!

2. Having Dorothy Alison call out, “Hey, Good Looking!” to me as I crossed the parking lot to say hi to her.

1. Sitting in a dark room at The Getty, watching Madonna’s “Cherish” music video with Alex Sanchez.

This week was inspiring, life changing, jam-packed, exciting, educational, and super amazing! I learned so much from the incredible Alex Sanchez and from my talented cohort of writers.  I’m home now, and not only do I miss the three  kosher meals a day, but I miss my new friends and being part of a community of writers that was accepting, smart, creative, funny, and SO GAY!!
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