Beware the Ides of April: 1 May 2017
Coming home from a fantastic trip abroad is always going to be difficult due to the inevitable fact that mundane routines at home will never match up to the magic of being with your best friend in a different country. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was just how much would fill up these past few weeks following my arrival home, and just how difficult these events would be juxtaposed with what may have been the best week of my life thus far.
After my first night back in the states filled with pure fun at the Mr. Porter Chicago event, I went into work at 8 a.m. thinking business as usual, just to find out that I was getting let go. As if I was living in slow motion, I can clearly remember my distinct thoughts throughout that conversation leading to the realization that I would no longer have a job in about 15 minutes. Nothing had really prepared me for that outcome, or what it would feel like to be put in that position. So much uncertainty in the past few months was reassured with the fact that I would still have this job for the rest of the spring and summer. What was formerly a mental path of the next few months that I had neatly laid out for myself had just been destroyed, and I was left shaking in the wake. The rest of that day was taken up with a lot of tears, a lot of shame, and a whole lot of feeling worthless. Anything I tried to distract myself with just brought my mind back to some sort of notion dealing with that job or my personal and creative worth tied to it. It had felt like a part of me was no longer intact since this was a job that had made up a huge part of my life and my identity since I started back in May 2016.
It seems like a staple of these past few months is the feeling of inadequacy. I’ve heard a lot of hard “no”s that have bruised my ego and have made me question the work that I have done up until this point. Even before any of this happened, I’ve had a difficult time internalizing my success and instead would attribute it to luck or coincidence or gratuitous timing. I’ve majorly struggled with Imposter Syndrome, a syndrome in which, for those not familiar, is an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud" (according to the internet’s best friend, Wikipedia). Because of this, the loss of my job was an even bigger blow because I had convinced myself that I was at the right place at the right time and wouldn’t find someone who would put a large amount of trust in me again.
A lot of this has to do with the person I have been for 90% of my life. Growing up, I never really was “someone.” Apart from friends and family, I was never really thought about by others, looked upon in any certain light, and just generally went unnoticed. I was okay with that. I realized that the world was larger than the town I grew up in, and I dreamt of getting away and creating a life of my own as most introverted and imaginative teenagers do. That aforementioned perspective has changed greatly for me in the past year, and even though I have been able to create things seen by thousands, including my own personal Instagram that has miraculously racked up 11.7K, I still live under the assumption that people don’t know who I am or particularly mind what I’m doing. I haven’t a clue what my life looks like to those who know me just from my social media or “professional” presence. The only thing I know is my own perception of myself that has been formed by the preceding 19 years of my life and is one that is riddled with neuroses. My life day to day is mostly uninteresting. I don’t live in a put-together apartment. I spend a lot of time by myself. I don’t feel like I have much together, and am constantly worrying what my life is going to be and trying to figure out how to make it to the end of next week.
About a week after I lost my job, I got a call from my mother on a late Friday morning. Automatically, I had a severe pang of anxiety. My mother hardly ever calls unplanned (because the St. Claire's are a civil folk who schedule their phone calls in order to mentally prepare), and my intuition told me something was wrong. On the other end of the phone, she sounded distraught and informed me that my uncle had experienced a stroke and was not going to make it through the following week. She explained that she and my dad were going to fly out to Pittsburgh to be with him, and I politely asked to be updated on his health, but immediately started sobbing once I hung up the phone.
The next day, I got another call. This time from my crying mother. My uncle had passed away at midnight. And I wasn’t there. I didn’t say goodbye.
The only image that was in my head for the following week was one of my uncle in a hospital bed trying to come to peace with his death but knowing that I wasn’t there. On top of that, I wasn’t able to go to the funeral. I tried, and twisted, and bent over backwards but I was advised to stay home on the assumption that “my heart was there.”
Each morning, I wake with the weight of the fact that a member of my tiny-ass family is no longer here. I wrestle with the guilt of not saying goodbye, and feel selfish and idiotic for not taking the extra time to tell him my love or let him into my life more.
This last week, I lost something else, this time a personal project I had put so much of myself in for the past year. It was the last thing I thought I had left. Now, I'm at a point where I feel lost and broken. It sometimes feels as if I'm surrounded by a vast empty darkness that is approaching quicker by the day. I count all the other things in my life I have left to lose, and live with a guarded fear of something else happening at any moment.
Because of all the loss I have experienced this month, it has been close to impossible to properly grieve each thing since I have to stay on my toes to deal with other shifts. If anything, it has taught me to get the fuck back up again after I’ve been knocked down. That’s an invaluable life lesson, and I’m a stronger person because of it. But because of that, it’s harder to let go. It’s tiring. And it’s exhausting. And I write this with little left in me.
However, after all this shit, I have had all the support of the people I hold so dear to my heart. I’m thankful that they show love to me when a night of what was supposed to be zine making turns into a night of me crying, or when I truly freak out after losing my purse and make us miss a sought-after movie, or when I cancel plans because I’d rather curl up in bed and watch John Mulaney for the umpteenth time. My heart feels lighter after phone calls from my best friend, or after crying to my therapist, or after Friday night’s at my friend’s watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, or being provided the space to just be and feel really shitty if that’s what the mood calls for.
It’s made me appreciate the flowers. The architecture in my beautiful neighborhood and the beautiful beds that line the pavement I pace up and down when I feel restless. It’s made me say “I love you” more and say how I’m feeling when I’m feeling it. I know that my uncle in the trees and in the blooms that I stop to admire. I know that I will look back on my job loss and see that it pushed me onto something different. I know that I will be able to start and be successful at another project. My mind intuitively knows these things, and I’m working on feeling these things in my heart.
It’s really terrifying to write and publish this for people to see. I’ve had a difficult time writing everything here and trying to find the right things to say. I’ve had a difficult time trying to justify posting this because I can’t help but feel narcissistic for thinking that people are overtly interested with what is going on in my personal life; however, I have always believed in vulnerability, even when I would rather crawl under a rock for the foreseeable future rather than bear my wounds to the world. I say all of this with the intentions of making it clear that I by no means have anything together, even if it may appear that to you, a near stranger that has taken interest in my life on the internet (if that applies to you: thank you).
I’ve been taking it in the chin. No day is easy. Some days are considerably better. Other days, extreme anxiety hits me at noon and I cry a lot and listen to Sufjan’s “Carrie & Lowell” which just makes me cry more. But now it’s May. Mercury is almost no longer in retrograde. I’ll be entering a new decade in just over a month. I move to Paris at the end of August. Tonight I cried about buying train tickets because, for some reason, it was really overwhelming. And that's ok.
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