Excerpt: Domestic Correspondant II

…On the whole, I’ve never had a problem with being unusual. When I was very young, I didn’t realize that I wasn’t what everyone else thought was normal, and later I liked it. I once wore the labels “weird” and “nerdy” as badges of pride, but I really don’t see the point anymore in using such classifications as marks of distinction. I guess it sounds pretty arrogant to essentially say that I think it’s silly to subscribe to labels, but I really do. If I read a lot of books, take classes for fun, and am generally interested in learning, I don’t need to attach myself to the connotations, or the denotations, either, of the word “nerd.” I’m just me, doing my thing regardless of what category I might be pigeonholed into.

I think it’s particularly difficult for people with diverse backgrounds and life experiences. It’s not always so easy as picking “white,” “male,” “middle class” off a checklist, or even “Asian” and “four year college” for me. I have difficulty determining to what extent I identify as a “person of color,” as a “feminist,” as a “writer” or “critic.” I generally find comfort and stability in the naming of things, but not myself. Perhaps it’s reductive, but why do I need to differentiate between myself and others in so many ways? I of course understand the need for finding common ground, but do we have to establish so many fences to do so? The more we pen ourselves in, the harder it is to get out. Why isn’t it enough to say I am me and you are you, why do we have to shelter ourselves under the umbrellas of stereotypes?

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“Why me?”

Well, here I am, and here is another autumn over, another winter officially beginning. Since first reading Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World 3 years ago, I think at the start of each winter that it shall be a “killing winter” and brace myself for the worst. Yet, I truly hope it doesn’t get any worse than it is right now. Two days after my birthday I found myself in the ER for a morning with kidney issues, and 5 days after that I found myself suddenly unemployed for reasons I still don’t exactly know, let alone understand. So, here I am. Broke, in pain, jobless, and soon to be medical insurance-less at the worst possible time. Happy birthday, merry Christmas, and happy new year, right?

I’m a lot more calm than I might have expected. My hospital visit was less than pleasant, and the task of completely augmenting my physical habits very quickly was daunting. And then, to find myself “let go” from my job mid-afternoon, midweek, mid December, for reasons that don’t entirely add up – a nightmare. I’ve dreamed that I am fired on the regular for months now, bordering on a full year, and the possibility has always haunted me. Now, it’s become a reality. The first hour after it happened was spent housekeeping and getting my affairs in order, so to speak, before leaving the office as unobtrusively as possible. The second hour, though, was when the enormity settled in. There were tears born of shock, shortness of breath due to panic, and general desperation. I found myself staring at the subway tracks thinking, were I the kind of person who would completely lose all hope after losing a job at a very inopportune time, this would be the moment I hurled myself in front of a train.

Except, I absolutely am not that person, and I’m proud of myself for knowing that. Not so long ago, I might have perhaps thought I could be that person, but now I know I never could be. Yet, I do feel myself beginning to slip, beginning to regress, and this makes me anxious. I feel the slow return of poisonous self-doubt and self-loathing. Though I began this job in October with encouragement from my coworkers, who told me I was doing excellent work, I ended feeling inadequate, incompetent, and out of place.

That alienation is the worst. I still have such moments much more frequently than I should, and I don’t think it’s completely my fault. There are still days where I pause and look around and wonder, “What the hell am I doing here?” I remember once on a TV show I watched, a character spoke of her mother’s terminal illness, and how she asked her mother, “Do you ever ask God, ‘why me?'” Her mother replies something to the extent of, “I don’t ask why about the good things, so why would I ask about this?”

Clearly this stayed with me, but mostly because I do ask “why me?” about the good things. I rarely question what I’ve done to deserve the negative, but I often question why I have the positive and feel like I don’t deserve the life I have, the family and friends and privileges. I know that that isn’t a valid question in ways – it not so much about what one “deserves” so much as it is about what one does with what they have. I’m doing the best I can, and in this scenario, I think my best has been enough to go on for now. I haven’t really been questioning “why me?” in regards to my health and job, and I’m trying to accept that I do have some responsibility for what’s happening. I’m trying to trust that this is all happening for a reason, that all things work for good, that I’m learning from everything and will walk away a little stronger. It’s just another part of my personal story.

I recognize that it’s a lot easier to do these things when surrounded by a strong support system in the form of my loved ones, and I’m beyond grateful for the quality folks around me. It isn’t easy for me to swallow my pride and talk about what’s happening and accept the help being offered, but I’m trying to do these things graciously. In the style of one of my good friends, I generally send out as many good vibes as I can, and I’m thankful that some are coming back to me. Not only am I fortunate enough to have people who care about me and assure me of this, but I have even more people who I love and allow me to love them sincerely. I’d like to think that in the past year, I’ve succeeded in developing deeper relationships with a number of wonderful people who let me be fully myself with them, and though I do still doubt with some that I’ve truly earned their love in return, it’s okay. Stephen Chbosky might say, “We accept the love we think we deserve,” and I’m trying to believe I deserve the love I have.

And honestly, with all the love I have, how can I be depressed? This isn’t an ideal way to end the year, to be sure, but I’m starting the fresh new year with more love than I could ever hope to have, more than many will ever have in their lives. Truly, what more could I want?