Desperation

I have been jobless for over six months now. It has not done much (read as: it has not done anything at all) for my self-esteem, my personal relationships, or my confidence. I wrote more about what it’s been like to be unemployed earlier this week. However it’s only getting worse. As if it actually could.

I am now getting into desperation mode–applying for every job I think I’m remotely qualified for, setting up a Patreon to make a little extra money, and still seeing my therapist twice a week and complaining to him about how awful and terrible everything is. (Therapy, when you have mediocre insurance, is not cheap. It’s running me about $140 a week now—but it’s an absolutely mandatory expense.)

When I left my job in July, I never thought it would be like this. Not in a million, billion, trillion years. 

I never thought it would be nearly this long.

I never thought I would struggle this much. 

I thought it would be a month or two, tops, before I got a new job. I didn’t know—actually, I had no idea at all—it would be six going on seven. I didn’t know it came with this much anxiety, enough to where I struggle getting out of bed. I didn’t know it came with all of this terribleness; the ceaseless, relentless feelings of inadequacy; I’m only struggling to stay afloat.

I never thought that it would be this difficult to get a new job. I thought I looked almost perfect on paper and was a perfect candidate in real life that I was sure that this would end quickly. I never thought that this would be drawn out so long. I never thought that this would be how it turned out.

I never thought I would become this desperate and never dreamed we would have to go to the financial advisor asking for money because we couldn’t pay the bills alone any more. 

I’m applying everywhere. Every single place I can think of that would possibly want to hire me, every position I think I’m even remotely qualified for. I’ve come so close to and almost resorted to applying for paid internships just to bring a little bit of money in. I haven’t quite gotten that far. (I need health insurance and some retirement benefits.) 

I’m afraid that it’s me. That I’m the problem. 

I’m afraid that no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, that I won’t be good enough. I won’t be enough for these people. That I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not qualified enough. I don’t do (read as: I’m not any good at) graphic design and that counts me out for about half of the social media positions in the DC area. I’ve been trying to get better at design—but it’s slow going. It’s frustrating when my mind isn’t built for it. It’s built for words, not pictures or shapes.

I’ve been updating resumes for people since I’ve quit my job. It’s not nearly the most rewarding work, but it puts a little money back in my pocket. But not nearly enough. 

I want to be writing articles and interviews (saying this is completely out of character for me; I hate doing interviews, they give me massive bouts of anxiety) and blog posts and social media content and all the things I know I’m good at. I want to be doing all of those things just to be getting better. I want to be working really hard and I want to be working toward something, for someone, doing something meaningful instead of musing and whining in front of my own computer, crying into yet another Word document or Scrivener page.

Desperation isn’t a cute look. It’s not good. It isn’t funny or cute or adorable or endearing. 

I’m doing constant self promotion to try and drum up more business, trying to get people to subscribe to this newsletter (please, for the love of all that’s holy, share with your friends!) or join my Patreon or hire me somewhere, anywhere at all.

I’m trying really hard to no longer be unemployed but there’s only so much I can actually do. (This is something my therapist is reminding me of constantly.) I’m at the whim and mercy of nearly every hiring manager in the DC area at this point. 

I’m taking every spare minute I have to apply for jobs. It’s been draining. It’s a full time job in and of itself. Filling out all of the paperwork, getting gussied up, traveling for interviews all over the District, applying for more jobs. It’s been completely physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. 

I’ve had interviews go well—extremely well—and then not get the job. I’ve been interviewed multiple times and still not get the job. I’ve had places ghost me and I’ve had places deny me multiple times through multiple emails.

I’ve been told that I’m well spoken, I’ve been told that interviewers have liked what I’ve had to say, I’ve been reminded of my propensity for long sentences (that I’m now really self-conscious about). I’ve been interviewed by the same person twice, at two different places. I’ve done it all—I have the war stories and scars to prove it—and it still hasn’t been enough.

Being a friendly neighborhood writer isn’t easy. It’s not easy when nobody wants just a writer. They want a writer, a designer, a web developer. They want it all wrapped up into one neat little package—a Swiss Army knife of a person, when I’ve only worked on honing one part of that craft. I have background in writing and that’s the only thing I want to be doing. I don’t want to be designing. I’m no good at it. I can do web content and website updates, but that’s not the most fun—there’s a lot of data analysis that goes along with it. I want to be writing.

I’ve lowered my salary requirements; all I want is for my household to be two income again. It’s been hard on both my wife and I for me to be out of work, perpetually trying to figure out what to do with me during the day like some kind of lost, abandoned puppy. It’s sad.

I sit here constantly wishing I went to school for journalism. That could’ve made this a hell of a lot easier. News organizations only ever want actual writers, people who can come up with whip-quick, snap-smart, clickable copy. Or editing skills that can spot a comma splice a mile away. That’s all I really want to be doing. Writing and editing. Writing. And. Editing. 

But journalism won’t let you in without journalism experience—something else I just don’t have. Something else I wish I had—every minute of every single day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve applied for jobs at the Washington Post, just to get turned away without an interview. I’m afraid to pitch pieces there because I’m worried they’ll recognize me and just think I’m a desperate, terrible writer. (I also am afraid to pitch pieces anywhere because it’s so nervewracking.)

All I’m left with after everything is said and done is a giant pile of regret. How I shouldn’t have left my job, how I should’ve gone to journalism school, how I should’ve done this or that or something else instead of ending up right where I am now.

Desperate, longing for attention and for work. I’m nearly wearing one of those barrels and sandwich boards like in cartoons, begging on corners for just a bit of employment. Being desperate isn’t cute and God only knows when my begging, pleading, and crying days will be over.

Between the Tweets: Spongebob for the Soul

Editor’s Note: This is part of a new series called “Between the Tweets” where I expand on thoughts I’ve tweeted out in threads.

Spongebob and friends

“The inner machinations of my mind are an enigma.” –Patrick Star
We’ll miss you, Stephen Hillenburg. Thank you for bringing us the beauty and simple joy that is Spongebob.

I was in the generation that grew up with the lovable, naive yellow square named Spongebob. He was a bright spot of being one of the oldest kids in day care and of waiting for the bus every Monday through Friday morning. He’d be on right at 8am and you’d get to see an episode and a half before the bus came. 

I keep thinking about how much this little show has been a part of my life growing up. From mornings at the babysitter’s to now–in therapy sessions and in conversations with my wife.

As I grew up, Spongebob remained a constant source of joy and lightness. A big part of my “self-care” involves, to this day, watching my favorite episodes: “Band Geeks;” “Graveyard Shift;” and “Procrastination.” All completely relatable, completely laugh-out-loud funny. 

I wouldn’t be nearly as close with my therapist now if we hadn’t bonded over our mutual love of this little yellow sponge. We share a love of the same episodes even! The classics, like the Krusty Krab Pizza episode and Band Geeks.

When I get uncomfortable talking about anything, Spongebob can always be a safety net. “Do you remember the time when Spongebob…?” is always a good way to catch myself when I’m falling into something too serious, something I’m not ready to discuss. Now, it happens fewer and farther between but there are some things I can’t dredge up with him not yet–not without Spongebob there.

I sat down with every intention to write a full piece (this piece) about this and I put on some of my favorite episodes. “Procrastination” is one of them. The irony, me procrastinating an essay while Spongebob procrastinates his own.

Getting a little meta, this piece is a little hard to write. It’s why I’ve sat on it for a few hours, dotting and drawing my “the” just like Spongebob.

I never quite fully recognized how important Spongebob is to me as a person and how formative it has been.

It taught me the FUN song. (“F is for friends who do stuff together, U is for you and me, N is for anywhere and any time at all down here in the deep blue sea!” Or… “F is for fire that burns down the whole town, U is for Uranium…bombs, N is for no survivors!”)

It taught me the C-A-M-P-F-I-R-E S-O-N-G Song.

It taught me that a job should be a place I love, not a place I loathe. (Nobody wants to be like Squidward when they’re at work.)

It taught me that a secret recipe is the one of the most coveted things in the world (and made me grateful that I know my grandmother’s secret sauce chicken recipe).

And it taught me there is nothing at all more valuable than a good friend. Not all the money in the sea, no clam, no fancy pineapple house. 

What’s been keeping Spongebob around for me so long? The memes. And the GIFs. 

Oh the memes! And the GIFs! I swear there’s a Spongebob GIF for everything. Including right now. I’m incredibly sad and the only thing I can do is write about it.

Spongebob with the sweater he made for Squidward out of his own tears

Writing about it is all I know how to do; it’s the only way I can think of to appropriately say thank you to this little tiny show.

This show, this little show about a little yellow sponge that wears stupid brown, square pants with his iconic red tie, has truly been a transformative part of my life.

I wouldn’t be who I am without those episodes. 

Growing up has turned us all into a version of Squidward or Spongebob or Patrick or Mr. Krabs or Gary or Sandy or Mrs. Puff. Or maybe we become a little bit of all of them. A little tired of the bullcrap, hopeful for the future and loving our jobs, a little aloof, a little money-centric, a little pretentious, a little curious, and a little wary of our friends and siblings behind the wheel. 

This little show has done so much for me over the years and I don’t think words can quite express how much I love it and how grateful I am for it.

Unemployment

“Your job doesn’t have to be the most interesting thing about you.” 

I heard these words over a week ago from an author I really like and they’re some of the most true words I’ve heard spoken in a long time–and they’ve stuck with me ever since. 

For a long time, my job was the most interesting thing about me. It was the only thing I could talk about, the only thing that mattered for me.

I had a job title I wanted for a long time, coveted even, and is still a talking point as I do interview after interview after interview after interview. I was the Digital Storyteller and I told tales (not tall ones either) about disaster response and recovery. Some of the sexiest things I wrote about were volunteer efforts and storm damage and even search and rescue dogs. I wrote about those things because I cared about them. 

I cared about them deeply and I cared deeply about that job. There was nothing about it wasn’t sexy. I was working for a federal agency, I was working on one of the most collaborative and collegial teams I’ve ever seen, and I was happy… for a time.

When I left, after three and a half years of sometimes-happy-sometimes-difficult work, I was heartbroken. I wanted to stay longer, I wanted to stay forever, but I knew that for my health, I just couldn’t. I couldn’t stay or it would’ve killed me. It was life or death, and not in any sort of overly dramatic sense.

I took the very first job that was offered to me, another sexy position at a federal-adjacent agency (whatever the hell that actually means) working toward world peace. Something I’d always wanted. But it wasn’t enough.

There wasn’t enough creativity, there wasn’t nearly enough writing, and there wasn’t enough fulfilling work. I wanted something that I could do that was truly worthwhile and data entry and analysis just wasn’t cutting it for me. It wasn’t at all what I wanted and it wasn’t at all what I’d been told it’d be.

I’d settled and while the place I was working for was sexy, the work was not and it wasn’t fulfilling. I was unhappier than I was when I was at my storytelling job and that was the world’s saddest part. I shouldn’t have been that unhappy, especially at a job that was supposed to be much better than it actually was.

It was more of a rebound.

I left that job in July after a series of serious disagreements between myself, my bosses, and the HR department. I requested reasonable accommodations and was not provided with them—a blatant violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act—and I couldn’t stay. Not under those conditions.

I have been jobless since.

Sure, I’ve been doing freelance work like writing resumes for folks and that’s been okay. I’ve made a little bit of money doing it, but it doesn’t pay the mortgage. Not nearly. I haven’t been happy doing that either, when I want to be creative, I want to be telling stories, I want to be doing engaging, exciting, public facing work.

I’ve been interviewing consistently and constantly since. Every week, interviews come pouring in, alongside rejection after rejection after rejection. It’s sad how many times I’ve received a “Thanks, but no thanks” email, always written in some form or another.

What are you supposed to do other than keep going? Keep interviewing and hoping and hoping and wishing and praying that someone, somewhere will find you suitable for a position.

I’ve found myself steering conversations away from work.

I feel sad and out of the loop every time my friends talk about their jobs, whether it be an exciting new job, or one they despise. I feel envious beyond compare when someone I know gets a new job, one they are happy with. I feel sad and insignificant, like I have nothing to contribute, when conversations with friends head this way.

I certainly have had interviews to speak of, dreadful ones and great, but I don’t like talking about them mainly because I have a tendency to go on autopilot during them. I dissociate, letting my half-engaged brain doing the talking to make up for the incessant anxiety I am feeling. 

Your job doesn’t have to be the most interesting thing about you. Your last vacation could be, after all, mine is. I went to France for a yoga retreat a few weeks back and it was the most restful and relaxing time I’ve had in ages. I came back refreshed, ready to face the world again. I was ready to live again. 

But I came back and my life was exactly the same.

I was still jobless.

I had scheduled an interview for the first full day I was back from vacation and I was suddenly reminded of the stock everyone takes in jobs, in careers, in “hustles.” Unfortunately, I don’t have one. And it isn’t the most interesting thing about me. It’s the most painful.

I haven’t been happy since leaving my jobs. I have felt relief, sure, but I haven’t been truly happy. Being happy as a concept is strange, but being happy in a job is simple. Being happy in this context is as simple as the alphabet, as easy as Sunday morning.

I feel as though I’ve been punched in the gut every time I’ve gotten rejected, before, during, or even after interviews. I feel like I’ve been cast aside for people who may be so much better than me, or maybe just better on paper.

I wonder if I’m selling myself properly, constantly worrying about what I could be doing wrong. I’m perpetually reading tips about what to do in interviews and what to wear to interviews and what questions to ask in interviews (I have one go-to I like to ask at the end: “What is your ideal candidate for this position like?”) because something, clearly, isn’t working if places I’ve interviewed with multiple times aren’t taking me. 

Your job shouldn’t be the most interesting thing about you because there are people out there you are isolating from conversation. People who have value–and valuable things to say. People who have things to contribute other than career goals and aspirations. We have those too, but they may be sensitive topics to discuss. Jobs and work, for me, certainly are difficult to discuss right now. 

It’s painful and difficult and, honestly, almost hurtful for people to ask about interviews. I withdraw and get shy about answering them, merely because I don’t want to get my hopes up too high about the jobs themselves. I’ve been burned by places that have interviewed me three or four different times and seemed to want me, only to turn around and say “thanks, but we’ve gone in a different direction with another candidate” or something along those lines.

It’s been difficult to swallow that pill. It’s been a gritty, uphill battle, making things difficult and unsavory and while I know people have good intentions when asking these questions, I know it hurts and I know it is painful. I consider these people understanding and kind and courteous otherwise and I haven’t been vocal about this—until now. Until I was feeling inspired enough.

Your job doesn’t have to be the most interesting thing about you—because for some of us without one—it used to be.

On Knitting and Knitting On

Knit two, knit two together to last two stitches, knit two. Knit two, knit front and back to last two stitches, knit two. Rinse and repeat until end. A simple, repetitive pattern.

When I first started knitting, it was to be cool. A high school friend of mine had just learned and I wanted to be cool like her. It was back when knitting was a trend, it was awesome to make scarves and hats for yourself, and so I did. I learned, thanks to my mom, and I started knitting things like scarves and hats and even a poncho once! (I wore it very rarely—it was around the time that ponchos were starting to go out of style, though they should come back so I can find and wear that one again.)

Knit two, knit two together to last two stitches, knit two. Knit two, knit front and back to last two stitches, knit two.

I dropped knitting for a while around when I started going to college, but picked it up as a way to help me maintain attention in one particularly boring class. I found that keeping my hands occupied, previously with taking notes, but now with knitting, was helping my grades. It was helping me focus and pay attention to the things that mattered in a class where the professor was often talking about his traipsing around with UN peacekeepers and the time he nearly got shot on a USAID mission. (It wasn’t as exciting as that brief description sounds, especially the more he told the tale.)

Knit two, knit two together to last two stitches, knit two. Knit two, knit front and back to last two stitches, knit two. Rinse and repeat. Knit two, knit two together to last two stitches, knit two. Knit two, knit front and back to last two stitches, knit two.

Knitting for me is an exercise in patience, in humility, in mindfulness. It keeps me stable and supported through times of insecurity. It keeps me going in times of struggle and strife. When things are difficult, all I can do is knit anymore. It’s the one thing that keeps me going.

It’s a mindfulness exercise, keeping me going.

Knit, knit, knit two together, knit two together twenty seven times, knit knit. Flip. Knit, knit, knit front and back twenty seven times, knit, knit. Flip. Repeat.

Constant and consistent. Never changing. It remains the same. When everything in your life is perpetually on a precipice of death, knitting keeps going. It keeps being the same. It keeps being consistent. It feels like home, a place to go when things get rough, when things get too difficult, too stressful, too “in flux.”

I use my knitting as a defense against my anxiety and nervousness. I pick up my needles and yarn and hope to escape, if just for a little while, from the anxiety that plagues me daily. I hope to be able to get away from the toxic thoughts that inhabit my mind and infect my dreams.

I use my knitting as a way to pass the time before, during, and after job interviews. To pass the time while waiting for my wife to get out of work.

I use my knitting to show I care, to make things for the people I care about (including myself), because there are few things I enjoy more than a hand knitted item. I use my knitting as all of these things because I need to. I need knitting to be these things. I need it to be something I can rely on when I can’t rely on my own brain to do its job. I need it to keep me alive sometimes. It’s like water or air. It keeps me alive when my medication can’t, when my medication won’t. When it should.

Knitting keeps me alive. Plain and simple. It keeps me going when nothing else will. It keeps me from dying, from slinking back into the depression I’m most commonly known for. The depressive episodes that keep me from so many things in life: from feeling like I should be loved, to feeling like I am significant, that I matter, that I can make a difference in someone else’s life, that I can live on this earth without fear or reproach. That things will be okay.

I don’t have that if I’m not knitting. If I’m not losing myself in something bigger than me, a project, stitched together with utmost love and care. A project designed to take hours and hours and hours, just keeping me away from the terrible thoughts that lurk about in my brain. The terrible thoughts that keep me awake at night and pull me into insomnia-tic trances. The ones that keep me from sleeping and the ones that pull me into sleep at night. Those are the depressive thoughts I am perpetually struggling with. These are the depressive thoughts that I’ve gone to bed with, that snuggle me into bed each and every day of my goddamn life. It isn’t easy to deal with.

But the knitting helps. It helps me relax, to escape, to run away even if just for a little while. I knit until my fingers hurt or my brain forces me to stop because it needs to entertain the unhealthy thoughts that are in it. I knit until I can’t anymore and then I wait until I can knit again. I have to knit. It’s like a compulsion these days. I can’t keep myself from it. I used to feel that way about writing, but knitting has taken its place. I want to get back to writing more, hence my fourth National Novel Writing Month attempt where this year all I’m striving to do is write words and words and words and more words down. The knitting has helped. Writing about knitting has helped. Keeping a project on my needles has helped more than my medications could’ve ever thought to. They should have been more helpful, but the knitting at least has filled the gaps.

I’m tired of things being in limbo. I’m tired of everything changing, everything being dependent on circumstance and timing, nothing being completely stable. I’m tired of the other shoe dropping and the world perpetually trying to end. I’m tired of the anxiety and the stress and the worry that comes with being jobless. But knitting is always there. Knitting has always been there and will always be.

Knit two, slip one over the other, knit one to the end of the row. Once you reach the end, thread yarn through and weave in all ends. Block.

Casting Aside

I don’t like to leave things unfinished. Whether it’s personal business or knitting projects or written pieces. It especially applies to books. I hate leaving them. A row I’ve knitted must be completed before I stop or else it’ll haunt me like the dregs of my to-do list. Another thing that must be done to its end.

Books especially bother me; it feels like I’m flaking on a friend (something I’ve been doing a lot of this year, sadly) and this year, I’ve been leaving more books unfinished than I can count. I wouldn’t consider them “DNF-ed”–I haven’t given up on reading them–but they, as of now, have been cast aside, unfinished.

I can’t begin to tell you the sheer number of books I’ve started this year with full intent to finish.

There’s Roxane Gay’s edited anthology of essays on rape culture. Hillary Clinton’s latest. A book on codependency recommended by my therapist (though that is harder to read than anticipated–it’s like it’s perpetually calling me out). A book of essays on knitting–a hobby I have picked up in place of my reading one. A memoir from a favorite writer. E-books. Tangible books. Audiobooks. The medium hasn’t mattered.

By this time last year, I had finished at least fifteen books. I was reading voraciously, just like I had been as a teenager–insatiably and ravenously–finding myself lost in these worlds or essays like I could escape the terrible things the outside world has to offer.

But now?

I’m stuck. I’m stuck casting aside books as the outside world continues to enter into my thoughts unwanted and unwelcome. I want to escape, not be reminded of all the things I wish I could fix or change.

As my wife continues on her reading spree–finishing book after book after book, I find myself yearning to be more like her. How can I find my way back into reading again? How can I keep myself from getting distracted by the intrusive thoughts that plague me night and day? There are no easy answers to that second question and I barely have any ideas for the first.

I think it’s just a matter of finding my way back to who I used to be, before a wide variety of things happened. With everything that has happened in the last year, from leaving my job to buying the house, to not finding a medication combination that works it’s been difficult.

I shouldn’t cast myself and my feelings aside–they’re valid–but I just want to be back to some semblance of normal.

What You, Salon Employee, Don’t Realize

20180817_150018I went to Ulta for moisturizer today. It was supposed to be a simple trip, just in and out. I was going for moisturizer, after all. How long can it take to find that? Five seconds, that’s how long.

I found the moisturizer I was looking for, with relative ease, and was beginning my wandering–looking for the mascara I’d put off buying for several trips.

I ended up wandering around, trying to kill time before my wife came to pick me up from Starbucks for our trip to go look at adoptable kitties and get supplies for a party tonight at our local Target.

While researching which one I wanted, a woman walked up to me, offering salon services for my (knowingly) unkempt eyebrows and needing-to-be-touched-up-roots.

I smiled politely, took her card, and told her I would consider it.


In a different section of the store, as I mulled over buying a Caboodle to store the makeup I’m tired of putting on standing up in front of the mirror balanced on my bedroom dresser, another woman came up to me.

She blatantly pointed out the status of my roots, offering (less than subtly) to touch them up and make them blonde (I thought visible roots were in, unless I’m now behind the times or something…). I told her I would consider it, and turned away quickly to go back to what I was looking at.

Once again, I smiled politely, took her card, and told her I would think about it.


So, in honor of this terrible experience, I’d like to write a letter.

Dear Salon Employees,

There’s a reason why I look a hot mess right now.

It’s called depression brought on by a little disease (in the U.S. it’s also classified as a disability, but I try not to remember that) called bipolar disorder.

It’s called a more-than-mild depressive episode that has consumed my entire life and caused me to make visible mistakes, leave my hair unwashed for days, almost a week at times, and for me to struggle to do even the simplest things like brush my teeth, comb my hair, or even take the medicines that are designed to help drag me out of this crap. It’s the little things like that you can’t see because I’ve got a pretty decent facade that looks more functional than I actually feel.

My bipolar disorder will likely kill me someday. It’s not seen as an illness that can do that, but it can cause suicidal thoughts that are pervasive enough to kill. They were pervasive enough to send me to the hospital just over two months ago, where I was analyzed, but not admitted but for the grace of God. At that point it was a constant battle to stay out of traffic, to keep myself from jumping in front of a train. It was dicey some days and some days it was a piece of cake. But it’s always a roll of the dice.

For now, things aren’t that bad, but they’re not great either.

My eyebrows? An after thought. My roots? Not even a concern. All of my hair grows like a weed and I know it. My unshaved legs? Somewhat annoying and inconvenient and I’m a bit self-conscious about it, but like Catherine Tate’s Lauren Cooper, “I ain’t bothered.”

I’m currently more worried about socializing when I want to be alone, breathing when I want to stop, living when I want to die.

I can’t be concerned with my eyebrows right now. They’re unruly, yes. They were inherited from my great-grandmother and I have resented them for my entire life. I know they need more maintenance than they get right now, but right now letting them grow is all I can do.

My hair? Its dye job can wait a couple days or weeks or a month; it isn’t a big deal to me.

My life needs to be a little easier to live before I can worry about society’s standards of beauty.

My life needs to be much less of a mess on the inside before I can worry about the outside. So please, let me buy my moisturizer, swatch my lipsticks, and leave me be.

Sincerely,

An Unsatisfied Patron

Don’t Call Me “Darling”

When you see me out at a bus stop
Train station
Restaurant
Store
Don’t feel like you have to talk to me
Don’t address me
Don’t look me up and down
When you see me on my way
Don’t stop me
Don’t make a comment
God, don’t tell me to smile
And please
Don’t call me
Sweetie
Honey
Baby
Sweetheart
But most of all
Don’t call me darling.
That one bothers me the most.


It’s been a while since I’ve written a poem. I think the last time I wrote one it was a limerick about hurricanes. This one is obviously far different. I thought maybe it could help me, provide some insight into something that has bothered me for days now.

I was harassed at the train station this week. Not in the sexual way, the one I’m more adapted to. The catcalls and comments about my “ample bosom” as Blanche Devereaux would call it, have become just as commonplace as a simple “hello” in this day and age. I’m not unfamiliar anymore. This, this was different, and it has stuck.

As I stepped out of a stranger’s car, running late to catch the train to work as always. (Some things change, some things stay the same.) He called me out on having a Black man drive me—a white woman—to the station. “You have a Black man driving you! You’re living the life!” he bellowed as I walked toward the entrance. I could smell the smoke wafting my direction, sweet but not too sweet, the smell of tobacco I sometimes miss but sometimes loathe.

I had my headphones on. I didn’t realize what he was saying or if he was talking to me. I had wrongly assumed he was on his phone, on a headset or something. After all,  I always wear my headphones, I always blast my music—it’s the best way I’ve found to keep my commuting anxiety at bay.

I couldn’t respond.

I was stunned.

What do you say when your racial privilege is called out right in front of you? What do you say when the curtain on your life is pulled back, revealing something you hadn’t anticipated? “What’s behind door number three? White privilege!”

Uncomfortable, I smiled at the man, as he smoked his cigarette, and continued on my way. The worst part of the entire interaction? The way he called me “darling.” After pulling back a long-closed, tightly fastened curtain on my life, he left me with these purportedly harmless parting words: “Have a good day, darlin’.”

I haven’t gotten it out of my head.

The entire interaction has haunted me. My commutes to work have been shrouded in these words, this memory, one I wish I could purge from my mind.

I haven’t known what to say in all the replays. I haven’t known what to do. The more I play it back, the fewer answers I find. The more questions I have about society and for myself. How did I forget that the color of my skin, tattoos and all, award me so many different things? As a woman, sure, things are different. As a gay woman, they’re made even more different. In these instances, there are only a few things you can do—and one is just forget. But I have never been good at forgetting.

For now and perhaps forever, just please don’t call me darling.