[This is my submission for the Carnival of Aces for June 2016 hosted this month by rockofaces on the topic of “Resiliency”.]
Everybody has a bad day every once in a while; It’s a fact of life, but what do you do when that bad day becomes a bad week, and then a bad month, and then a bad year? What do you do when you wake up one day and realize you’re not where you’re supposed to be in life, you don’t really know how you got here, and you’re stuck?
I might as well fess up now that I’m not in a great place physically or emotionally. When I graduated high school I had a plan. I was going to go to college for Library Science (which is a master’s), set myself up in my quiet, nerdy paradise and write novels on the side. It was a good plan, but since Library Science is a master’s I needed a Bachelor’s first. Picking pretty much at random I chose communication studies. It’s like a psychology degree; It just acts like a place holder until you get a master’s degree that will actually get you a job instead of a good laugh from the interviewer.
What actually happened was I ended up coming out of my shell. I stopped being the “shy nerdy kid” everyone thought I was (including myself) in high school. I gave up the idea of hiding from the world behind stacks of books and try my luck in the real world.
As it turned out I REALLY sucked at this “adult” thing. Graduating college right as the country goes into an economic succession didn’t help either. The first order of business was paying off my student debt which I managed doing temp jobs with the government that offered shit pay, but came with loan forgiveness. After two years I was flat broke, I never wanted to see a Subway or BP&J sandwich ever again, but I was thankfully loan free! All I needed what an actual job. I worked for the Salvation Army for two months while applying for different local government jobs. I applied to everything, everything from dog-catcher to jail secretary. Week after week reject emails flooded into my inbox and I was really disheartened and angry. I was angry because most jobs require at least three years of experience before they’ll even consider you and after working temp jobs for two and half years my resume looked like swiss cheese.
Finally all my hard work payed off and I got my dream job. I was going to be a Fire/EMS dispatcher. It was the coolest thing ever! I felt like a superhero! I trained hard for ten weeks learning the ropes and doing my best like every kid show ever had taught me. I was making more money than I ever had before. I had benefits and a retirement plan. I knew my life would be set.
…But it didn’t work out. During my tenth week of training my trainer/supervisor told me they were going to give me three days to “shape up” or they were going to ask for my resignation, so I gave up. I quit on the spot which was something I had never done before and my temp jobs had not been glamorous. If I could spend two years working my ass off picking up trash, pulling weeds, and the lowest of the low grunt work, what was it about hanging on to what was my dream job for a three measly days that seemed impossible? Self-doubt and questions kept rattling around in my head dragging me down for a year almost like a physical injury. What had I done wrong?
The answer is “absolutely nothing”, but it took me a long time to realize that. Yes, I had quit and I was never going to be proud of that, but I didn’t regret it. My supervisor was a bully and it took a while for me to come to terms with the fact that I had been unfairly pressured to quit not because of something I did, but because the system was broken. Shortly after I left the department held an investigation because I was the 10th trainee to quit in a row within two years which even for a high stress job is very unusual.
My first instinct is always to think I had done something wrong and this was not the case. It might have been a mistake to quit because if I had been fired I could have fought it or would have been eligible for unemployment benefits, but I don’t regret getting myself out of what was apparently a toxic situation. The next issue was I was jobless and what little savings I had were running dry. Once again I had to dig up every lead I could find. I looked into joining the military, but I didn’t meet the physical requirements to even qualify. I looked into being a police officer, but I knew that wouldn’t have made me happy. I have this burning desire to save the world in some small way, but it keep looking like the world wouldn’t give me a chance.
Resiliency isn’t about what gets you down, it’s about how you get back up. I had one more shot because I had a little loan money left over. I could go back to school for something like a technology associate’s where the job market was growing and soaking up people like a sponge. I had enough loan money for one class. The rest I would have to pay out of pocket with part-time grunt work, but I could do it. The degree would take longer because I would only be able to pay for one or two classes a semester.
It’s a slow, slow struggle, but I’m trying. The class work is easy and I’m way more mature this time around then when I first went to college eight years ago. My part-time job is stressful and I hate it. This past week was especially hard and lately I’ve been too exhausted to even pick up a pen. Deep down I still want to be a writer, but I can’t cut myself off from the world and I need money to live. I haven’t given up on my dream, but I’ve forced myself to slow down and take care of myself.
Part of that is accepting my asexuality. Since this is a submission for the Carnival of Aces asexuality has been oddly absent from my post so far and that’s because the discovery of asexuality happened later in my life as well. It was just before I became a dispatcher that I realized I was asexual. I had never dated anyone. I had never been interested and it never occurred to me that was weird until I turned 25. With all the other crap going on I never stopped consider that asexuality made me broken in anyway.
The harshest criticism I have ever received from a supervisor was that I “lacked integrity” and I couldn’t figure out what they meant by that. My morals certainly haven’t been compromised in any way and that’s what dictionary.com tells me “integrity” means. If by “lacking integrity” they mean I’m not perfect then I really can’t take offense to that. I don’t even bother to pretend to be perfect. If anything that gives me more integrity then the jerks I always seem to end up working for.
I’m proud of my aromantic-asexuality. With all this crap going on and having to deal with relationships on top of that? No thanks. If somebody tells me asexuality isn’t real they better be ready to prove it with scholarly sources. I still haven’t forgiven the internet for the “redheads going extinct” hoax. I’m still not savvy with the whole “adult” thing, but I’m beginning to understand that nobody under the age of 30 is.
I chose a science fiction reference as a cover image because resiliency and science fiction go hand-in-hand. Science fiction writers take an average person, not the chosen one, not prince or princess so-and-so, but regular average Joe and put them in situations were only their wits and the laws of physics can save them. For the heroes of science fiction, resiliency is everything. My favorite move ever is “The Martian”. The last line of the movie says:
“At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you… everything’s going to go south and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”
So, I lost my dream job. So, I’m asexual. So, I told my parents I’m asexual and they didn’t believe me. So, life sucks. I still get up and go to work. For days I’m feeling down and ready to give up I have a list of my best moments ready to read to myself. It’s not a resume. It’s better than a resume because the list is just for me. On that list are the moments that I was proud of myself because there are days when I need a reminder. Just because I make a mistake today doesn’t erase the proud moments I’ve done in the past.
Number 1 on that list is: “I’m asexual and I accept that even if nobody else will.”
I am resilient.