The Falsehood of Strength

This is the post I’ve been trying, and failing to write for the last few days. Due to some upcoming lay-offs at work, I’ve been even more stressed out than usual. At first I wasn’t sleeping at all, then when I did manage to sleep I had nightmares. I feel pretty stupid about it. I mean, my life has taken some really shitty turns and I’m afraid of an idiot little issue like being unemployed? It’s all a bit melodramatic, even for me.

I used to have terrible nightmares as a kid. Then when I was about 9 I realized that everything bad that would probably ever happen to me had already happened. I’d already been beaten, neglected, and my mom’s boyfriend tried to straight up murder me. What could the monsters in my dreams possibly do that my own parents hadn’t already made a reality? So I stopped having nightmares. As an adult I know how much worse it could have been, but the childish assumption that my bad luck had peeked in the third grade kept me nightmare free until college.

I managed to get though my mom’s relapse, grandma’s bypass surgery, her cancer, homelessness, and the stress of freshman orientation until I started having dreams about the security guards dragging me off campus shouting insults at me while everyone stood and stared.

I was so afraid to be found out for the imposter I really was. I had lived through the shit, but a private university in Orange County broke me in the first month. I had never been anywhere as nice as that campus. The groundskeepers pulled every single flowering plant and replaced them with new ones at a rate of once a week so that everything was constantly in bloom. The level of decadence in that place fucking terrified me.

So I had nightmares that I didn’t belong, and nightmares that I couldn’t perform, and nightmares that I would be caught and called out for trying to fit in somewhere I clearly was not meant to be. I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that the nightmares I’m having about this lay off are pretty much the same. Straight down to being dragged away by security.

For the last year there have been things about this company that I just don’t understand, and it has been a struggle to try and fit in with the new order. One more time, it feels like everybody’s speaking a language I never learned, and to a certain extent they are. The atmosphere has changed, and not in my favor. I’ve tried to go along to get along, but that’s never been a good look on me and it’s wearing me out. I used to wake up excited to do my job. That sounds stupid, but I loved it. Even when it was hard, I knew we were doing good stuff and all I wanted was to be a part of it. Now, I stick out like a sore thumb. I come home exhausted, but I feel like I haven’t made anything worthwhile so I don’t sleep. Instead I just wait in my house until it’s time to go back. All the energy I manage to scrape together in those restless hours gets poured, not into creation, but into maintenance and modification. Not of work, but of myself. It takes a lot of effort to keep my head down when all it wants to do is pop up and help.

I’m miserable. I’ve been miserable, but I just told myself that it was an adjustment period after an historic event, and we’d be back again. But we won’t and I won’t. I feel almost heartbroken. I loved this job. I had a really good time, but things have changed and I’ve been trying to get out in different ways for a couple of months. Then all of a sudden (actually not so sudden for anybody who can math), lay offs start next Monday. I’m terrified to be on the list and I’m terrified to be not on the list. Getting asked to leave, however unrelated to my personal abilities or performance, is never anybody’s idea of a good exit.

Which brings me back to my nightmares. I may know in my mind that everything will work out, I may have this experience of feeling like something is an end when really it’s necessary for growth. But here in the real world, I haven’t been unemployed since I was 14. Violence, poverty, hunger, all those things I’ve dealt with. Shit most people are afraid of doesn’t scare me. Because I’ve walked through that fire. But this normal world of employment, unemployment, performance, and evaluation is completely foreign to me. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger in the face of that which failed to kill you. That’s a skill you have to develop in multiple circumstances throughout your life before it becomes useful.