This blog is going to be changing topics, and this is my apology message to you. I’ve found that my reaction to certain life events is making it difficult for me to maintain my obligations at work and in my personal life. I will even confide in you, reader, that for a time in 2011, I lost all faith in just about everything. And I think I want to talk about it to myself, and to random strangers.
This blog has been more or less inactive for years. You can always check the previous postings for more… generalized information. But, for right now, this blog will be a discussion about my personal struggle with reality.
Let’s start with January, 2011. I suppose that this is where it really begins. I traveled 1400 miles to visit my boyfriend, and he saw me for a total of four hours. He looked into my eyes, said he’d be back as soon as he could, and he left. He left me alone in a hotel room, close to other friends, but honestly, alone. I had flown for him. Came to him. And he left me.
I almost broke up with him then. To be honest, other than for the pure hope that he would come back, I should have. It would’ve hurt too much though, to break those bonds. He still cared, some, at least, about me. And so I held out and our relationship continued on. He even redoubled his efforts to maintain decent contact with me. We spoke daily or near daily, even if it was only texting.
The next big thing came soon after, when a coworker dumped all of her work onto me, claiming that she was too busy to complete it. And I, as the lab bitch, the youngest (most junior) employee, was to take it all on. This woman and I have had serious issues in the past, but it came to a head during this particular circumstance, when she emailed our boss privately to spin a failed meeting as my fault (when, in fact, she was the one who stood me up). This harassment and condescending attitude continued until finally I broke, wrote my boss, and the smallest act of kindness from him, towards me, nearly sent me to tears in his office. It was then that I first realized how… powerless I felt, especially around this woman.
April comes, and with it, my mother’s birthday. A normally happy occasion, but on this particular one (her 53rd), instead, I went home to find my best friend waiting in my living room for me. A phone call to my mother told me all that I needed to know. The only aunt that I cared about, one of my core family members, was dying. She died the next day. The rest of April and May went by in a flurry of business – field work, for one, is seasonal and I spent much of my time scouring the woods. The rest of my time, I spent trying to pass a math class, hang onto my sanity, and travel home as much as I could to be with my mother. My family.
My birthday – a birthday I once shared with my aunt – came and went in a similar blur, hijacked by my parents to turn into a family gathering. That was the last time I saw a close family friend alive, for he was the next phone call to me, sometime in August. Unexpected. That one, too, left me in tears, this time at work, and I struggled to maintain my sanity for the rest of that day.
Somewhere between my birthday and his death, I had returned again home, to go camping. I spent the time with high school friends – we fried marshmallows and went to a county fair. Meanwhile, back at work, my coworker was regaining her confidence (regarding my inferiority), and took every opportunity to subtly make me feel as uncomfortable as possible.
School began with a small respite: a new friend, coworker, entered the lab. Not quite on my side, but at least, a neutral party to the silent conflict raging between the eldest lab member and myself. But school also returned with new burdens: my qualifying exams, and a looming breakup.
But my qualifying exams dragged me down. Could I do it? I was unsure. I had never before been asked to write quite a paper – and not to be read by five separate sets of knowing eyes. To be criticized by five people hell bent on making sure that you knew your place in the world – below them. A rite of passage in a time of need.
Why were they so hard? Because again, personal issues bubbled to the surface. My boyfriend had disappeared, without notice, more or less, for good. I waited for him – gave him the chance to “take it back” – his disappearance – until I had already mutilated my qualifying exam’s written portion and turned it in. I took a weekend to myself.
8 years, people. 8 years, I decided to give to him. 8 years, and suddenly, he could not spare one word or phone call or text message or even email for me. When I decided to make the break, I had to write him a letter. Like, a handwritten letter. And our fantasies of marriage together, of children. Our promises to each other. They all became false. I spent the ages of 15-23 with a man who I can no longer call my own. I missed bad kisses and first dates and mild breakups. I didn’t get the practice run that everyone else gets. I just got… him. And then I lost him. Well, I let him go, since clearly he had been asking for it.
Know what my mantra was? “I deserve better.” Because I did, actually, deserve better. I deserved a daily phone call, a bi-monthly visit. I deserved to meet his family and his friends. To be integrated as much as possible, from a distance, into his social life. I received none of these, and still I hung on.
A recent acquaintance pointed out to me that we hang onto these relationships for a reason – because at one point, it actually was that good. We were flying with happiness, his analogy goes. And slowly, lies and broken promises and incongruencies add up and begin to drag us closer and closer to earth. And at the end of a relationship, we’re so focused on the fact that we’re falling that we completely fail to realize that we already hit the ground. Safe.
I defended my qualifying exam ten days later, after I wrote the letter that let me be free. I sent that letter on 11/11/11. I also had a date on that day. A real date, with a real man, who was friendly and respectful and bought me dinner, and stayed the night but did not start anything with me at all. I made that move, not him. And even after he lay there, ready for bed, I asked a favor and he answered it with honor. Something my ex would never have done in aftermoment bliss.
I defended on 11/18/11. I passed the oral – I knew my stuff like no one’s business. But they “deferred” my written exam because it was so scrambled. It needed purpose. I wanted to tell them that it was ME that needed purpose. That in the light of my personal struggles, it became very hard to find purpose in my own work, and although science doesn’t operate on passion, I do.
And instead of focusing on the written exam, I had been crying nearly every night. Switching from anger to frustration to everything in between. During those months, I actually spent hours just… picking aphids off of plants. Hours. I went to movies, the mall, restaurants, alone.
At one point, for about twenty minutes, I was under the impression that I had a brain tumor. A poorly worded, vague message from the doctor left that in my head. Running left me sore, but happy. It was all I had, at least as exercise was concerned. I’ve probably gained 10 lbs in this last year, maybe more. Even the energy of the new year is lacking, to get me to drop the weight and live a happier life.
But, I digress. I’ve gone through two deaths, a breakup, and some serious intimidation in the last year. In the last two months, I have had four sexual partners (and have not had “true” sex with any of them), talked to countless men, and got a tattoo.
You see, my lab mate was not the only one that was making me feel powerless. My (ex, now) boyfriend was guilty of the same thing. And I was so… distraught and emotionally damaged when I had to break up with him, that I put up barriers to ensure that I could not back out. Barriers that today, I am thankful for. These barriers were to make me unattractive to him – hence the countless dates, four sexual partners, and my new tattoo, which is a story for another day.
These restrictions that I had placed on my life for so long – monogamy, personal appearance, social life – they all just sort of… fell apart. I felt violated by the things I had once done with love and respect. I had never wanted to drink before – still don’t – but now, at least, I had the option. I could stay out late. No one would police me, except my own conscience and those of my close friends.
I am so brutally casual with men that I feel violated when they kiss me. And, in fact, have made it a point to inform them that, due to an earlier sexual assault, kissing me is not a wise idea when we first meet. I turned down phone sex at 4:30 in the morning with a man whom I happen to really, really like, because I had immediately been thrown back into 8 years of phone sex with my ex boyfriend, just by hearing my phone start to ring. We had been talking for HOURS. He was kinda hurt by it, I knew. But he accepted my lie. We moved on. I thought we were headed somewhere, although recent silence from him makes it hard to guess.
I love my new freedom. The freedom to talk to men. Meet men. Play with men. Maybe even women, someday. The ability to have a friend hug me without worrying about my ex’s violent responses to the violation of his property. No more juggling friends’ concerned stares and a phone that was blowing up with an angry voice or a million text messages. No more confused silences when my mood suddenly changed in response to something the ex had (or had not) said to me.
Little things send me into panic attacks. Not three days ago, I couldn’t fall asleep, and couldn’t stay asleep. I woke up at 6am and spent an hour, laying in bed, dreading the start of my day, because it would be my first day back after the holidays. And things had, yet again, come to a head in the lab in mid/late december. I had to involve my boss, who, again, was on my side, but it makes me feel ashamed to have to ask for help. Ashamed as a person and ashamed as a scientist.
My animals suffer, too. My dog will lay with me for hours because he knows I don’t want to play, but still wants to be close. My cats leave presents for me (like, toys), near the bed when I wake up in the morning.
I spend a lot of time longing for clearheadedness. Motivation. The ability to decipher problems like I used to be able to. Granted, the problems were less complex back then, and I am still more intelligent than a majority of my peers; but, as many geniuses (though I hesitate to call myself this, it works for the analogy) have found, drive to succeed is as important as the innate skills that you are born with.
I’ve been reading the Ender’s Game series, but I’m not sure which conclusions I can draw from it. Ender and Bean are both written as characters leading similar (though, in the stories, more important) lives to mine. I spent much of my childhood set apart by my intelligence, even as I had friends who loved me for who I was, quirks and all. My schooling was special, as I was pushed through advanced classes and moved to college problems before others. I rose as a leader in most areas of my life, and this continues today. I can’t help it. And neither could Ender or Bean.
Yet, the futures that Orson Scott Card proposes for these boys are fulfilling. But lonely. Lonely, lonely childhoods. I have a feeling that if I were to talk to a younger version of OSC, he would’ve faced similar personality and learning issues that I have in my lifespan. There is a certain type of person; I imagine that if my story resonates with you, reader, that you may be the same type of person as me.
Critical and analytical to a fault. I had to teach myself how to feel, back in the day, and now I suffer from feeling too much. Anxiety. Migraines. Cultural stereotypes reinforce the idea that the intelligent, the lonely, they must sacrifice and suffer, alone, in order to do great things. This places a secret fear inside my head that, if I seek help for the anguish that drives me to write this long story out, I may lose the drive that helps me succeed in every other area of my life. I may lose the spark that distinguishes me (to me), from everyone else.
And, goddamnit, it’s the same sorts of feelings that drove me to enter my 8 year relationship. I found someone like me, or so I thought. Brains, yes. Honor and compassion, no. In hindsight, I imagine that his dishonesty and breach of trust (cheating, as well, though not yet confirmed) are a result of his own loneliness. It’s ironic, that for years, he told me that he had been cheated on. And now, perhaps because of my break with him, I view him as the snake, the sadistic player in a game with my heart. And our relationship dragged through the years, pulling me closer and closer to the ground, only because his selfishness and inability to bear the burden of hurting me outweighed his compassion and dedication to being honest and wholehearted to me. What hurts the most is not how he forced me to break up with him, but instead that at least once, he promised to love me forever with falseness in his heart. It is his honor that is broken. Not mine. Yet, I must bear the burden of pain. That is perhaps the cruelest fact of human society. Until the last “I love you” which he dragged out of my mouth, for our distance was gradual at first (a week, 2 weeks between contact), I meant every word I said to him.
But these are things that no one but I can care about. Yes, you, reader, and my family and friends, can feel for me. But it is not you who wrestles with these thoughts at night, lying in bed with the stuffed animal that he gave you. It’s not you who fears traveling to an entire state for fear of good memories. Or, god forbid, seeing his face and hearing his voice again. And you can feel, too, for my bout of depression, my lack of motivation. And perhaps even understand, having been there yourself, my mounting anxiety at being unable to complete the tasks handed to me by my superiors. For feeling that every comment is a judgement against my character instead of my work. I can even reason through it and understand that my mind is not always in the right place, but unfortunately, that doesn’t really fix the problem.
So, these are my thoughts. It feels good to get them out. I’m sure I’ll rant and rave again later. Perhaps move inside my head to a better place.
Farewell, for now.