an ode to day jobs

It was suggested to me a while back that all I’ve had are “jobs.” That what I need is a “CAREER.”

And my immediate angry need to defend myself snarls, “Well, how dare you? I am a THEATRE ARTIST. I act and teach and direct and write and even arts administrate when occasion calls for it. I have worked in theatre for over a decade, how dare you not RECOGNIZE ME?”

And is that the only real difference? That, in a CAREER, you get recognized? 

Because damn. I’m sort of tired of chasing that.

Also, I have had a truly marvelous collection of “day jobs” in my CAREER, THANK YOU VERY MUCH as a theatre artist/writer/whatever I am. I have served beer and hot wings, I have supervised your children on the outdoor playground, I have sold SO MANY TICKETS, I have asked for your money on behalf of plants, I have taught you how to tell the whale sharks apart.

Once I was a polar bear.

Tomorrow I learn how to make coffee. I look forward to waking up early and smiling at you and asking you what kind of milk you would like. 

Not to be That Guy, but “Not all those who wander are lost.”

I am grateful this morning, as I sip my own coffee (just whole milk, I’m not cool), for this vast array of bizarre experiences. I think the person who wants me to have a CAREER just wants me to be comfortable. And I wish I was brave enough to say, “But… I’m getting there.” I’m comfortable like this: being friendly to people so that I can afford to pursue my dreams.  

So, come and visit me tomorrow! I’ll be so happy to see you.

(And I’ll still teach you how to tell the whale sharks apart.)

easy like wednesday morning

It was easy this morning.

It was easy to wake up, to feed Clementine, to make my bed, to lace up my shoes, and go.

It was easy to appreciate the morning sunshine and to anticipate the iced vanilla latte. It was easy to smile as I listed in my head all my planned Disney World outfits:

Animal Kingdom: Gay safari look.

Magic Kingdom: Gay floral shirt.

Epcot: Gay jumpsuit.

Hollywood Studios: Gay Star Wars shirt.

(I have a brand.)

It was easy to pull on my outfit today and not immediately hate all the supposed imperfections of my body. It was easy to just be happy that the weather’s good for shorts right now. It was easy to choose the Jurassic Park soundtrack from my Spotify lists. It was easy to daydream about dinosaurs.

It was easy this morning.

Last night it was hard.

It was hard not to lie in bed and endlessly recount all the awful things I have ever done, every selfish decision I have ever made. It was hard to resist the urge- and so I did not- to just put on Space Jam again and let Bugs Bunny lull me to sleep.

Again.

It was hard not to shout into my own brain YOU ARE A FAILURE YOU HAVE ALREADY FAILED WHY EVEN TRY YOU JUST LET EVERYONE DOWN YOU RUIN EVERYTHING WHY AREN’T YOU MORE SUCCESSFUL ALREADY I FUCKING HATE YOU.

It was hard last night.

But… it’s easy this morning? And I don’t know what that means beyond: wherever you are in the rollercoaster, just keep hanging on to your lap bar, okay? If you’re not ready to stick your arms in the air, it’s okay. I’ll buy you your picture at the end of the ride anyway, because it’s wonderful that you even got on.

Okay?

I will offer you almost anything, I think. Your rollercoaster picture, a churro, the souvenir soda cup that I would only buy for you.

I love you. There is always sunshine and a churro somewhere. We just have to hang on until then.

you are already cute

So, it’s Two Weeks Until Disney World.

(I’M COMING HOME, DOLE WHIP.)

Two Weeks Until Disney World and I have decided to cease my internal bargaining:

Okay, Dani, the trip is in two months, so it’s time to GET CUTE.

Okay, Daniel, you’ve still got three weeks, time to DO SOME CRUNCHES.

YOU ARE RUNNING OUT OF TIME YOU DISASTER.

And I am feeling defiant and tired this week, so FUCK YOU VOICE.

Because what I mean, in my internalized bullshit way, when I try to excite myself about Getting Cute is, “Hey, lose weight.”

AND FUCK.

We talk about “beach bodies” and “getting cute for summertime,” and, like, I respect your personal journey, but also… you already deserve the beach? In this larger, softer body I am currently inhabiting, I am allowed to spend money on shorts that actually fit me and I am allowed to eat while I am wandering around Epcot. It is the fucking Flower & Garden Festival and I have MANY BOOTHS TO VISIT.

It’s Two Weeks until I get to drive to Orlando with one of my best friends and share a hotel room with them and order too many Mai Tais from the pool bar. I already have the perfect body for that. I already have a body equipped to scream too loudly on Dinosaur, for starters.

I feel a shift within me this week and I hope it is no fleeting thing. I hope this is a sign that I have been doing the work I need to be doing and that it is paying off. That I am headed, not to the end, maybe not even to a new beginning… but towards what my therapist calls a Life Worth Living. I think I am finally strolling towards coffee and friendliness and sharks and art and friendship and Mai Tais from the pool bar.

And it sounds good. It sounds enough. And so I must challenge myself to be enough to exist within that daydream.

The new size of my gay little shorts does not dictate how much happiness I am allowed to experience. The swell of my stomach should not stop me from licking churro dust from my fingertips at Animal Kingdom.

I am building, I am growing. My body is for beaches and for mountains and for swamps and tundras and, yes, for pounding across hot Florida asphalt in pursuit of the queue for Rock n’ Rollercoaster.

Two weeks. I do not have to do anything else.

a life worth living

And so a new dream emerges.

It is quieter and (arguably) smaller and I will not give full voice to it just yet, lest the fairies be listening. The dream is still unspoken, but The Dream, always, has been the same:

(or: my disney hero i want song)

I want to show up in the mornings. I want to smile and help and earn my means to drink too much iced coffee, feed my cat, and visit Disney World twice a year.

Then I want to go Home. Home to my blue room, home to my sweet orange kitty, home to my queer body. Home to where I write and publish and scheme and eat sloppily constructed 10 pm quesadillas atop my pillows.

I want to be a playwright and so I shall be. I am a playwright because I write plays and not because someone older has deigned me worthy of doing so.

I want to revel in my queerness. I want to make of myself a garden: colors and explosions and friendly amphibians lurking in the pond. Maybe this is the second puberty talking, but I want to keep dying my hair and get tattoos and dress like 70’s Elton John and be loud and laugh too hard and squeeze your hand too tight.

I want to want without forgetting what I already have, without diminishing the sparkle of where I have already been. I am Dani Fucking Herd, I write plays and I feed turtles. I speak Shakespeare and I write Good Omens fanfiction. I quote Walt Whitman and I cry at just the thought of whales. If you don’t keep an eye on me, I will eat all the popcorn before the movie has started.

Being trans does not mean I am lonely. Being bipolar does not mean I am broken.

“luminous beings are we.”

And so I am. And so are you.

september bi, bi, non-bi: and i think it’s gonna be a long, long time OR: fuck you, j.k. rowling

For Trans Day of Visibility 2021: the first time I said I was trans out loud. ❤

hope is the thing with lightsabers

Originally performed for The Come Up Show ATL’s birthday show on Friday September 25, 2020.

CW: internalized transphobia and mention of She Who Must Not Be Named. Guard your beautiful heart.

Non-bi, and only non-bi this month: 

Related to absolutely nothing: it’s Mark Hamill’s birthday today and I want to raise a glass for a hero who has never let me down. I am 31 and I still want to grow up to be Luke Skywalker.

A year ago, my wonderful friend Jake invited me to perform for a show in his living room. He asked me what my pronouns were and, for the first time in my life, I tiptoed into telling the truth. I remember answering him in a Facebook message and then thundering downstairs to the Shakespeare Tavern green room to hug him, to thank him.

Sometimes it just helps to be asked, you know? Because sometimes…

View original post 890 more words

a story of rejection and updates, also all lemon cookies are inherently gay

(i don’t know why. i just feel it in my bones.)

(anyway…)

I definitely didn’t get into grad school. A panel of important people read my play about monsters working at a doughnut shop and they kindly said, “Oh, no, thank you.”

And I didn’t get that job that would have paid so much more money.

And I wasn’t even invited to audition for the “all-female” Shakespeare play, because I guess the patriarchy doesn’t hurt non-binary actors too?

And, while we’re at it, I didn’t get to be on the 8th grade basketball team way back when.

And… it all has to be okay, doesn’t it? Everyone says to save your rejection letters and I think I get where that comes from, but I do not seek to be a collection of wounds. 

The point, I think, is this: All those things told me “no” and I bought the gay lemon cookie this morning anyway. I’m down, but I’m not so out that I can deny myself the springtime joy of an iced lemon treat. 

(My personal Renaissance will be both slutty and citrusy. Prepare thyself accordingly.)

updates:

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Thanks for being here. For reading and engaging. I don’t always know where we’re headed, but I’m glad we’re going there together.

of home (again, i think)

first of all, it only started raining on my walk HOME from picking up my bagel and my iced coffee.

Home.

i have struggled with this concept my entire life. my alien body has choked on sobs in the dead of nights and i have begged to the moon, “i just want to go home.” i have spoken this on full voice from my own bed, because no physical space has ever sat just right on my skin.

“home,” today, in the most conventional sense is this room where i write and drink iced coffee and try to hold it together enough to do my jobs and where i sleep and where my cat sleeps.

Home is also this body I am learning to name and to feed and to please and to take on walks and to offer tithings of purple hair and the idea of tattoos and the promise of dragon con costumes.

because i think that’s where the sobbing and the pleading and the near-praying came from, right? i never believed my own body could be home. for years and years, it was just a trap. a puzzle box i couldn’t solve, couldn’t get out of.

the glory of my transness is that i do not have to solve the puzzle box. i am a puzzle and i do not have to beat myself in order to survive. i do not care if you especially understand. i do not live to be understood. i do not take up space to make you comfortable.

(like, sure, i hope you are, of course. can i make you some tea? can i pour steaming water from my shaking boy-fingers over your leaves and will you drink and trust me?)

i have spoken before of monstrousness and i will say it again: the monster of my brain is not to be slain, not to be conquered. they are to be soothed. they will always take up space here, in the home that is my body. they are my forever roommate and they fucking suck at doing the dishes, but hell, i’ll still go in together on a pizza order with them from time to time.

“it’s enough that you want it.”

what i want is simply, only this.

to be gentle with myself.

dancing with monsters

It’s not time to make a change
Just relax, take it easy
You’re still young, that’s your fault
There’s so much you have to know

(IS CAT STEVENS MY NEW WALT WHITMAN?!)

Just breathe, nerd.

Consider what is real.

There are no rules beyond the ones you set. There are no walls beyond the ones you build. There are no monsters beyond the ones you hide from in your own head.

Yesterday, in therapy, I was asked about The Monster. My Monster.

They are… gaunt. They are a tall, pale, clawed, vampiric sort of thing and they are starving. They do not know how to ask for what they need and so I do not know what to give to them, so they scream and wail in their little corner and it’s not so much that they are malevolent but that they are longing for relief.

I bring the monster an eclair at first. Just to try, just to see. They wolf it down right away, cream filling dripping from their jagged teeth, and they are only hungrier still.

My therapist said he pictured the monster and I in a Victorian manor library and I immediately made it clear that I get a fucking cravat in this scenario. I am Penny Dreadful-ed out in my waistcoat and cravat and I am handsome and I am the hero. And I do not know how to feed the monster yet and I am running out of things to try, and so…

We dance.

I take the monster by the claws and I am not afraid to slide my hand up their monster-skinned back and hold them. I am not afraid of their teeth or their big, unblinking monster eyes as I lead them around the library to some perfect Victorian manor library soundtrack.

And the monster is…relieved, finally. No one has ever asked them to dance before.

That’s what it comes down to, doesn’t it? I don’t need to escape to grad school or to Orlando or to any tangible place. (Like, I can, sure, and one day I will.) But that isn’t the solution. The story– the comedy, the tragedy, the love story, the epic poem- is the one between the monster and myself. It is an enemies-to-friends 90k slow burn and we don’t have to Get To The End in any particular hurry.

But we have to get to one another. We have to be willing to link fingers and claws and offer one another the comfort of a dance when nothing else will do.

I sought once to slay the monster. But, in doing so, I only risk slaying myself.

All the times that I’ve cried
Keeping all the things I knew inside
It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it

(“I know,” I whisper into the monster’s ear. “I know.”)

Daniel Elton dances with monsters and he is not afraid.

I know.

I know.

adventure is out there

I’m going to talk myself out of it. I feel it in my bones.

I’m a big schemer, you see. I like ideas and plans more than I like most things. But who am I to have these elaborate dreams? Who am I to think I am worthy of them, even if they are currently just as grand as becoming a barista at the Starbucks on CityWalk?

(Starbucks baristas are heroes, let me be perfectly clear.)

I am not slow and methodical in things. I start to itch beneath my skin and either I hide under the bed or I panic and DO SOMETHING. I am either going to stay under my bed here in Atlanta like the sad catfish I am or the panic is going to overwhelm me and I am going to drive to Orlando without a Good Plan.

And I don’t know! Is that how single weirdos in their 30’s in the midst of a giant personal crisis move? Do you just toss your cat into the back of your Nissan Altima, make sure you have enough toll money, and go? Figure it out once you’re there? Improv, right! I’ve taken improv classes! I can handle it!

(I don’t know if I can handle it.)

What I know is that I cry nearly every day. I feel not just like a disappointment to Atlanta and to my people here, but sometimes like a traitor. Like I have done SO BADLY that I have actively betrayed the people I love most. And, yeah, I know, I’m not actually that big a deal, but it is still a really hard, awful thought to leech out of my heart.

So, again, I return to: making strangers Frappucinos and wishing them well before they go off to ride rollercoasters?

I can do that, I think.

But is it an escape or a penance?

Do I ever forgive myself?

Back to Good Omens, always: I wanted to be an Aziraphale so badly, but I cannot get Crowley’s text out of my head.

“Unforgivable, that’s what I am.”

I feel unforgivable. And again again again, I know you don’t think that. But I am sort of sick, with this gross thing that lives in my head and tells me lies. So, it’s enough that I think I am unforgivable, that I will ruin everything I touch.

I cannot bear to touch Atlanta anymore and maybe Orlando’s too sunny for me to tarnish.

Is it an escape or a penance?

I don’t know.

I just know I miss you already.

to t or not to t

(I mean, it’s not really a question anymore. I stopped.)

This morning I was working on picking out a monologue for Trans-speare when the ugly voices made their way into my brain again.

You stopped taking testosterone. You were never really serious. It’s as we suspected all along: you’re just a cis girl who wanted attention, right? You’re not really trans.

And man, fuck you, ugly voice.

Yes, I stopped taking my testosterone. I talked to my doctor and she was very cool and supportive and quick to remind me that I am, in fact, still trans.

So, I clock that this is an aspect of my own internalized transphobia: how hard it has been to believe myself. How hard it has been to look in the mirror at my “female” body and accept it for what I know it to really be.

My personal reason for stopping at this time is: I was looking at testosterone as a fix, as a solution. Because I still believe myself to be a broken thing. And that is something I want to challenge and fight. Because I am already good and already enough, even if I don’t have the voice or face I necessarily I want.

I thought I was already so old, so I had to get started NOW, but the truth is that I am still very new to my trans journey and I am allowed to take the time I need to explore, to question, to feel wholly and excitedly ready.

I am not broken and, therefore, there is nothing to fix. There is only moving forward to our dreams and our hopes. Me, personally? I need to get right with my brain and my heart before I think I’m ready to do anything about my body. But wherever you are… you’re doing so fucking awesome. I think it’s okay and important for us to talk about how these experiences are different for everyone. There’s not a Right Way To Be Trans. Maybe I’ll never get back on T and that would be okay. Maybe I’ll never have surgery and that would also be okay.

Today it is enough to wear my “boy sweater” and my “girl shorts” (clothes are so dumb) and to sip from my iced coffee and to listen to Journey and to consider a version of myself that is not a problem to solve.

You’re doing so good.

but your dreams may not

It’s not time to make a change
Just relax, take it slowly
You’re still young, that’s your fault
There’s so much you have to go through

Can’t relax. Can’t take it slowly, THAT’S my fault.

Okay, new plan, Team. (If you can stand it. I know I’m a lot:)

I’ve been really, really low since the summer of 2019. Which is frustrating, because really great things were happening. I directed my play! It was so good! I was with my best friends all the time!

But, also, looking back, I probably needed to go to the hospital.

(Looking inward, it might not be the worst idea to go now. But I’m scared. Always scared.)

I don’t want to keep calling out of work because I can’t stop crying.

So, I’m going to try something different.

Call this accountability, thanks for being here.

I’m going to wait for the official grad school “no.” (I’ve waited this long, haven’t I?) I’m going to wait that long. And then it’s time to start plotting my grand escape down South.

The past two years have been really heavy and I am working on accepting that I need a break. And Orlando sounds like a break in my heart. Sounds like an absence of hustle, sounds like an abundance of sunshine and of being nice to people as my way to make a living.

I can pack Clementine up in our little blue Nissan Altima and head for the lack of hills.

I think I have to, at this point. I have to, have to, have to challenge my fucked up belief that, if I will, I will be forgotten. So, therefore, I stay somewhere where I am no longer happy.

I am not happy. It’s hard to write, it’s hard to say.

And I KNOW. Orlando isn’t going to “fix” me. That’s the other piece. I have to believe that I am not broken. But I am tired. I am really, really tired and I just want to ensure your safety on the Haunted Mansion for a little while and then I want to go home and sleep. That’s it.

I need that to be enough for a little while.

And, yeah, I’ve met me, I’ll probably keep relentlessly applying to weird stuff, but maybe the chorus of “no” will ring softer in my ears in Florida.

Fuck, maybe I’m just thirsty for orange juice.

But I still want to be a day’s drive from you. Want to know I can get back here if you need me. I love you. You’re not why I’m unhappy.

I’m just so tired.

When you come visit me, we can hold hands and I can ensure your safety on the Haunted Mansion maybe.

poem for friday which was originally for tuesday

(because i am trying to believe:)

1. that i can still be a poet

(because my teacher took notes last night and emailed me after our phone call and the subject line read YOUR JOB)

oh, thank goodness. someone else tell me, please.

YOUR JOB, DANIELLE ELISE, DANIEL ELTON, DANI WITH NO “Y.”

Believe That You Deserve The Things That Make You Happy

Don’t Punish Yourself By Thinking You’ve Already Failed

2. that this is truth

i examine my perceived failure daily, i poke at it beneath a microscope, i stand in puddles in bare feet and exclaim to passerby HEY LOOK AT WHAT A PIECE OF SHIT I AM.

and what if…

what if i just stopped doing stuff like that?

what is the start of the day did not begin with the minutes of yesterday’s sins but instead with the reminder of anything that could have been an accomplishment:

Accomplishment #1: I drove to fucking work.

Accomplishment #2: I ate a falafel wrap and the Falafel Gentleman and I were both really nice to each other.

and perhaps i stop there and consider that this is enough.

3. that this is enough.