Monthly Archives: March 2013

Secrets! Or: I Got Fired From My Day Job and I Liked It

awesome hotdog, bro.I’m going to tell you a secret:

I think I’m actually a fucking AMAZING writer.

Did that make you feel uncomfortable? Did you just think, “wow, someone’s full of herself”? I wouldn’t blame you if you did. We’ve all been programmed to think that if a person is proud of their ability, then they don’t see where they have room to grow–they’re arrogant, pompous, prideful. I can tell you at least in my case, I don’t think that’s true. Most of the reason I want to work with traditional publishers is because I want the experience of working with professionals, so that I can improve my writing, learn more about the craft, and become a better storyteller. And I certainly do have my days where “OH GOD I’M THE WORST WRITER EVER,” but if I’m honest with myself on all the other days? I’m pretty pleased with my ability.

But it takes a lot to admit that I think I’m already pretty damn good. Society teaches us, especially girls/women, to be modest, self-deprecating even, when it comes to how we see ourselves. You’re not “supposed to” think you are attractive just as you are, or worthy of love just as you are, or successful enough where you are, or happy with exactly who you are. We live in a world that is constantly trying to sell us a better version of ourselves, and whether it means to or not, it makes us unhappy. In fact, I’d be willing to bet the rise in depression and anxiety in this country has more to do with the advertising industry than anything else.

Here’s another secret:

I got fired from my day job yesterday, and after a day of ups and downs, shame, fear, and sweet (sweet) relief, I realized that I was happy about it.

I had the hardest time allowing myself to happy, though, because this world would tell me I was irresponsible, that I need to be certain and secure before I can be happy, that I need to have a JOB and GET PAID, no matter what the cost.

No matter what the cost.

But I have paid a very, very high price for that life, my friends. In the past 3 years that I’ve been working a soulless office job that barely paid the bills and barely fell within the boundaries of ethical (in my opinion), I have developed severe depression and anxiety. I spent most of this past summer in a walking panic attack–derealization and depersonalization, if you want to get gritty and bring up bad memories. I spent every day of the week in a literal panic, pupils dilated, heart hammering, ears tight, as if they were clenching to keep the world closed out. My average blood pressure my whole life has been something like 90/60 (very low!) and the last physical I had put me at 130/115. And when I finally admitted to a therapist that “I guess I have anxiety,” I also realized the anxiety was covering for severe depression.

I paid for that job. My marriage paid. My writing paid, to the extent that I honestly gave it up for a while, thinking maybe some dreams are okay to let die. (Not the ones that make you horribly depressed to let die, though, jfyi)

So tell me, society: is having a steady job and income really my top priority? Because another few months of that might have landed me in the hospital, in more ways than one.

I am happy I lost my job, even if the reason I was fired was nonsense, and everything is unstable and unpredictable right now. I’m happy because I’m free. Maybe not in the way I would have liked to become free, but the Universe works in mysterious ways, and I’ve never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Right now, I’m in a place of so much potential. I will probably qualify for unemployment (which would net me about what I would have been making working part-time), but even if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world. I have the money I was going to use to supplement our income when I went part-time. I can and will get another job, even if I’m just working at a grocery store (our local grocery happens to have an excellent reputation as an employer). But I am never going to sell myself out as badly as I did for my last job. I’m being given a chance to be true to myself, and to uphold my values, for realsies.

This morning, I woke up smiling. I threw on my teal corduroys (fuck business casual) and a hair flower (don’t have to worry about a headset messing it up!) with my hair all huge and lion-fro from sleeping with damp hair (so unprofesh), and went to work–my real work: taking care of myself, and taking advantage of the opportunity I’ve been given. And that means writing.

Tell me: is there something about you that you secretly love? Don’t keep it a secret. Loving yourself for who and what you are is always right.

<3

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Haunted at 17: Being Silenced

My favorite YA author [not going to fangirl, not going to fangirl] Nova Ren Suma is celebrating the release of her newest work, 17 & Gone, all week by asking fellow authors to blog about what haunted them at 17. Her first YA novel, Imaginary Girls, is to-date the greatest YA novel I have ever read, and it single-handedly renewed my faith in the genre (go read it or else we can’t be friends). So I’m very happy to have the chance to participate in one of her blog series! Admittedly, I’m also pretty nervous, too. So, here goes…

Thats me on the right, in that inexplicable polyester shirt.

Thats me on the right, in that inexplicable polyester shirt.

Being 17 wasn’t a bad time really: I was dating an older boy (+1 cool point) from a different high school (+1 cool point), who was the lead guitarist in a decent rock band (+100 cool points). I had my night license and a hand-me-down $500 car from my older brother, so I could drive anywhere, anytime, and that’s what we did most weekends. We’d drive out to haunted roads and cemeteries, or to rock shows downtown, or to out-of-state Denny’s where we would sit in the smoking section burning through soft packs of cheap cigarettes, drinking bottomless cups of coffee, thinking we were so damn cool.

So what haunted me at 17, you ask, when I was so clearly living large and loving life? Well, like most hauntings, it was complicated, vaporous, and hard to define. The past haunted me. A moment in time haunted me. Being silenced haunted me.

Being silenced still haunts me.

A little back story: I’m the youngest of three (well, 3.5 but that’s a tale for another day), and one of the most unobtrusive people you’ll ever meet. I learned from a young age that if I wanted to get a word in edgewise at the dinner table I had to shout, or cry, which itself never produced any desirable outcomes. Instead, I learned to be quiet and patient, and to bite my tongue instead of raise my voice. Among my friends, I was known as the quiet one–the shy one. I disappeared in the classroom, in the halls. And in high school, even with dreadlocks and piercings or bright green hair, I somehow managed to pass unnoticed, unheard.

I filled notebooks with the words I didn’t say. I wrote essays to give voice to the thoughts I never spoke aloud, and novels to tell the stories that my friends and family didn’t have the attention span to hear. By the time I was in high school I was used to my words going unheard. But there came a point when being unheard became absolutely unsustainable–only, I wouldn’t realize that for nearly a decade.

I was 15, and I’d just broken up with my first longterm boyfriend. And, as 15-year-old douche bags are wont to do, he was telling people we’d had S-E-X, because at 15 nothing is more interesting to others after your breakup than that one big question: did you guys do it?

I was so angry, but I was powerless to do anything but refute it–as if they’d believe me, the girl, who would of course not want anyone to know what a slut she was, because that’s what everyone thought (/still thinks) of girls who had (/have) sex in high school. And there I was, the girl no one ever noticed, suddenly the topic of scandal.

I had to tell someone, I had to make somebody hear me, because I hadn’t spoken back when everything happened, back when I should have broken up with him, back when my life fell apart for the first time in a long series of breakdowns. So I told my best friend, in the locker room, after gym class. I told her the hardest thing I’d ever forced myself to give a voice to: “The truth is, we did have sex. But I said no. And he didn’t listen.”

“So what?” she said, dismissive, shrugging, looking away, turning and talking to someone else like I hadn’t just carved out my guts and held them up for her appraisal.

At a time when I needed to speak, and to be heard, more than ever before in all my life, I had never felt more silenced. And I wondered if…maybe she was right? Maybe it was no big deal, after all? Maybe he hadn’t heard me. Maybe I was a slut. Maybe it was my fault. Believing that felt slightly better than believing I was someone else’s victim. Blaming myself, and hating myself, was infinitely easier than accepting the truth.

He transferred schools shortly after, and I didn’t dare mention it to anyone again. Those awkward days when I ended up in the guidance or social worker’s office at school, I told them my “irrational crying” was just stress, hormones, that I’d been sleeping poorly–anything but the truth, or what might have been true, or even an approximate version of the truth.

Then, the summer before our senior year, he came back to town. 17 would be the last year of my life that I would have any contact with him, but it was a hard and bitter year of silence, shame, and insidious ghosts. I ran into him at parties, his pupils dilated, tripping on cough syrup or god knows what. He tried more than once to corner me and talk to me, ask me about my new boyfriend, tell me how much he missed me. When fall came, he was back at school, sliding notes into my locker that told me in excruciating detail about his time in the psychiatric hospital, his drug-induced suicide attempts, his visions of God telling him how I still loved him, that I would be with him again in time. And even then, I was haunted by a kind of guilt–guilt that he was destroying himself under the guise of loving me, and guilt that I honestly felt he deserved to suffer.*

I survived. I graduated, and life went on. I fought hard to forgive him (yes, I did forgive him eventually), so that I could have my own life back. But in the end, as life after high school changed everything about my world, I realized it wasn’t a loss of innocence that haunted me at 17, or the ruins of a boy I once loved falling at my heels. It was the years and years of allowing myself to be silenced, of allowing my anger and sadness to go unheard. It was his betrayal, yes, but it was also the betrayal of the friends I had given my heart to as well, and a family that didn’t realize they were nurturing my silence. Every time my friends joked with him in class and I had to hold back my anger, every time he scared me with his horrific notes in my locker and I wanted to tell someone, but couldn’t–every time I wanted to shout or cry out, but didn’t–that was the thing that haunted me the longest, the deepest.

And on my darker days, it still does.

But, true to form, I don’t like feeling like a victim. And I’ve realized, finally, so many years later, that it was my own betrayal that hurt me most of all. I betrayed myself by buying into the silence, by buying into the lie that what I had to say was not worth saying, not worth taking up the lesson I had learned as a child, at the dinner table: that I could be heard if I shouted, if I cried. But learning to raise my voice–allowing myself, now, to be seen and heard–that’s probably the hardest lesson I’ve ever had to learn.

 

(So that this doesn’t end on a totally dark note, enjoy the caption my husband gave me on this picture of me climbing through a window when I was 17.)

This is some "Clarissa Explains It All" shit right here.

This is some “Clarissa Explains It All” shit right here.

 

*I haven’t seen him since I graduated from high school ten years ago, but I did hear, about 7 years back, that he’d been shot point-blank in the chest during a drug deal (or a robbery because of drugs? I don’t remember/care), and I actually laughed. He survived, but… I didn’t know that when I laughed.