“Come on girl! You can do this.”
She heard her other self say to her. The question though was not whether she could. She knew she could. She’d proven against most odds, despite hospitalization, despite debillitating medications, despite…never mind, you get the point. The question now was whether she would make it without losing herself.
She arranged her face to fix a smile on it. She pressed the clicker on her car remote, hoisted her purse and lunchbag and began the contemplative walk towards her office. This is what she had been taught to do. No matter what, you put a smile on it and showed up. She’d noticed that over the last few days, she had taken to living out her new motto of “speak your truth!” Last night her Beloved had remarked this. Until then she hadn’t seen it as “overshare” or “whinning to anyone who would listen.” She didn’t know at which exact moment she had become this kind of “truthful person.” She was raised by a British grandmother who gave stoic its dictionary definition. But these past few years since coming out about her sexuality and her mental disorder, she couldn’t help it; she spoke her truth no holds barred. But last night she could hear a plea in her Beloved’s voice. Almost as though her speaking her truth was impacting her Beloved in a negative way. After all it was a small town and her Beloved was a bit of a celebrity. She said she was starting to feel guilty for having her relocate. That hit a nerve. She loved her Beloved and had chosen to move. She didn’t want her to feel this way.
She had moved to the little town to be with her and so far homelife was idyllic, and she was enjoying being part of a duo as well as not having that five hour commute to spend time with each other. She was enjoying the sensation they were creating in their small, wannabe college-town. As she came out and people made the connection, there were whispers and inquisitive glances. Some asked. Some just talked to other people about them. At first she found it stifling that almost everyone she came into contact with knew her Beloved and/or worked with her. But after 6 weeks she was fairly settled in and beginnining to bask in the attention. Despite this, something was still amiss.
As she walked with that fixed smile on her face she wondered what she had gotten herself into. Was this what people lived to do all their lives? How had those who had begun this “rat race” early, done it for all these years? She thought of her friends who had gotten “real jobs” right out of college. Fifteen years out of college!
The last time she had a 9-5 clock-in, clock-out job she was fresh out of grad school editing mortgage and credit card “late letters” and foreclosure notices for Chase. That’s what her Master’s in English had eventually landed her. She had done a couple odd jobs for a few months right after graduation, so when Chase came along, she was ready to get out of her mother’s house and prove herself “the adult,” no matter how delayed it was. But now as she thought back on that time, she remembered how miserable she had been. She hated waking up in the morning to start with (and this was before her diagnosis and med cocktail), so she always found herself just barely making the clock in time for 830. Lunch came at 1230 and like sheep herded out to pasture, people from all the departments poured into the lobby and lined up at the sandwich bar and grill. She wasn’t making enough so she always packed her lunch. She remembered going into the courtyard on the days when it was sunny and not cold or snowy and pulling out her sanwich or left over rice and stew. She would wish for the hour to stetch a bit longer than she knew it invariably would. Then, as though a whip cracked in the air, everyone began heading back in at 130 to continue the grind until 430. She would keep praying to make her quota of edited letters before then, all the while trying to stay awake to keep the margin error minimal or non-existent.
So here she was 12 years later, at another desk. Granted this desk was on a college campus. She belonged on college campuses. She loved them! Thrived there, right? Granted again, this time she had her own office with a lock and key, a wall-to-wall window and furniture, which though scrounged from various places, she got to pick and arrange herself. She was proud of the office atmosphere she had created. She felt it represented her and hoped her students would also feel that way or at least like the cozy and homey feel. She knew she did. Yet, still, she also knew that it didn’t make that underwhelmed feeling go away.
She widened her smile as she came in view of the row of office windows of which hers was one. She knew she had to keep it together. Often she wondered, what her life would be like without the cursed-blessing of a mental disorder. She’d give anything at this moment to know whether she’d be like her other college friends who had been your typical adults and currently had retirement accounts bigger than she could ever wish for her annual salary in Student Affairsto be. What would life be like to be “normal”? Would she be happy to have a steady job and paycheck? Would she be more in love with life?
“Come on girl! You got this!”
But for real, did she?