It’s officially the first weekend of summer, according to our Midwestern cultural tradition. Sure it’s not actually summer yet, but Memorial Day marks the time when we in the upper middle of the country shed our winter coats and crawl out of our holes into the light. It’s raining and 54F. I’m pleased to report that despite this, for the first time in seven months, I’m not depressed.
And that’s remarkable considering the facts. I’ve gone through three rounds of bronchitis, two sinus infections, a hospitalization, six weeks of intensive outpatient programming, and been fired from my job since last Fall. The firing was my most recent adventure in insanity, less than a month ago. Reality was that I needed to be canned, otherwise I may not have left that place. Although I strongly disagree with how it was done, I’m grateful that I’m out of there. I was approved for unemployment, food assistance, and just this week I was offered another full time job with benefits. All in all, things are looking up for me, I must say. I’m impressed with my ability to perform under extreme pressure and deadlines—basically one that said “you’re completely broke, so get a job NOW”. Every week I managed to drag myself to my therapist’s office for my appointments, took my prescribed head meds, and did my homework diligently as a nerdy schoolgirl. I was a good kid, and it appears to have paid off.
I’m going to be returning to work full time for the first time in several years. I guess I’m a little nervous about that theoretically—I hope I can keep up with the “normal” schedule, meet my benchmarks, and get everything done as I’m supposed to do. It’s odd not to have any sense of my strengths or skills, to have to blindly aim and shoot for the clay pigeon with no idea which way is up or down.
I think that’s part of my illness, the inability to see myself for anything more than a defective or judge my performance objectively. This comes from years of programming from non-supportive sources, and blanket statements about my identity. “You’ll never be liked by anyone”, my father told me. “You can’t get along with people and you’re impossible to like”. Or “you failed to meet our standards, even though you say you tried your best, you still failed” said a former supervisor. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you”. Always the feeling that despite all the coaching to “be myself”, there were certain things so inherently wrong with me, so irreparable, that I would never be able to pass for normal or fit in. After hearing such things over and over, one begins to feel, and live, as an outsider.
Oddball, weird girl, scary chick, creep, freak. My response was to withdraw into the library and spend hours alone reading Nabokov and Poe among the musty stacks. Or hide in the basement rec room with headphones on listening to Kate Bush and Bauhaus lp’s, writing poetry and cutting the hair off my Barbie dolls. I walked through life feeling like I had a neon sign on me that read OUTSIDER, that everyone could see as a warning to steer clear. You’d think I was meant to be an artist, right? I never was great at painting or drawing. That was my sister’s territory, she’d been labeled “the creative one”. Sorry, kid that job has been taken. I had to be creepy. I had to be the one in all black at the Thanksgiving table. I had to be the bad one who liked girls instead of boys, to like multiple girls even, and pursue a career doing nothing much of anything for most of my adult life.
Now that I’ve reached the middle, nearing fifty, I’ve simply stopped caring. It’s easier somehow to not feel bothered if others don’t understand or like me. It’s easier to stop worrying and love the bomb that I am. My therapist has an extraordinary amount of like for me, and faith in my abilities to be a worthwhile human. “You’re amazing”, she says. “Never have I met anyone with a vocabulary quite like yours. It’s fascinating and a lot of fun”, she told me last week. And the woman who offered me the new job told me that I was “a joy” to talk with. So I think perhaps, if it’s possible, lots of people in my past have been mistaken about me. Perhaps I am creepy, but with the charm of Edward Gorey. Maybe I am an outsider, but with the appeal of Dennis Hopper in “Easy Rider”. Perhaps I am a little defective, but that makes me all the more interesting. And maybe I’m not the enemy I thought I was.