The New Khristopian Vision

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There’s a change of direction here. I’m going to start pointing everything towards me. It’s a narcissistic move, but like most of the constructive things I do in my life it’s a self-eating snake. The more I express self-absorbed opinions, the less I express opinions about other things as if it matters – as if what I have to say isn’t already overrepresented by loud mouths much like me, or as if I can say it better than people who live through more day to day struggles that need to be brought to light.

However, I can write about myself more accurately and with more authority than anyone else.

Someone might dare to prove the contrary and write thousands of words about what I can’t see in myself because I’m self-absorbed, but that person is likely a white man with unaddressed mental health problems. Somebody who’s not a white man would have more important stories to tell from their own experiences that aren’t taken for granted as the baseline for the function of the universe. Somebody who has addressed their mental health problems would know better than to care about me, and somebody who doesn’t have significant mental health problems wouldn’t be bothered enough to write.

But I – a white woman with unaddressed mental health problems – have a load of things to write about myself. My ego has been growing. When I look back at pictures I took of myself, a serious problem that started back in the 90s, I can see the ebb and flow of weight and hair and skin and fashion sense that brings me to the buoyed state I’m in today. I’m in a pretty good place. I’d like to talk about that.

This can’t be a journal of day-to-day life because that’s not what the internet is for anymore. It’s not a safe place to talk about real people and real things without cash reward. I’d rather talk about a surreal person – myself – because I can’t get in trouble for deification nor vitriol. I can lose friends, for sure (which has happened before), but I can stop at whatever point it makes me no longer love myself.

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To Sleep Perchance to Dream

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On that note, I’m going to shortly go to bed. There’s an all-night arts festival going on that surrounds my area – and drunk people shouting at each other, to come with – so if I wake up in the night deprived of my right to sleep I can walk down the street at any point before six in the morning. Chances are slim. I haven’t been sleeping well and tomorrow’s my only option to sleep in. The injustice, that the world is crafted to further reward those already healthy, wealthy, and wise.

The True Meaning of the Equinox

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The leaves started falling last month. That’s not unusual. It was during a week of lulled temperatures after a generally hot summer, so it’s no surprise the trees were confused. It’s been a slow fall process. There’s still a lot of life on the branches and the temperatures during the day still aren’t so bad – room temperature, give or take, so the outside is almost as comfortable as the inside.

Almost. On some days, like today, it’s humid. On most days it’s very windy, but that’s a weather phenomenon year-round (and as such, not really a phenomenon). The humidity and wind, when combined with things like September’s farm activity around the perimeter and construction activity in the city core, make for some foul smells – shit, burning crops, poured asphalt – that make me grateful for the refuge of ventilated shelter (made possible by the same hard working farmers and builders creating these smells).

In spite of the warmer temperatures, even when not humid and relatively wind-free, the decline into autumn is evident from the shortening day. The sun is no longer up hours before I am, so I’m not awoken by light then comfortably half-asleep for my favourite kind of rest afterwards. The sun doesn’t stay up past the evening clockwork of the car blaring dance music in my back alley to hang out with my Russian neighbours every night at 9. I’ll have to start running in the dark after 8 in the evening, and/or in the morning before 7, trusting that I won’t get myself hit by a car in my entirely black outfit.

It’s still a few months before daylight works a mere eight hours like the rest of us, but we’re not yet equipped with a thick white coat of snow to reflect the light from the moon, from its reflection of the sun that’s westward ho. Past studenthood there remain cruel reminders that summer’s gone and everyone must realign themselves to the solemn industriousness of the Protestant ethic. In my case it doesn’t help that this year I start off the season with the steep learning curve of a new job at an entrenched organization founded, reluctantly, with the same spirit of paternalistic colonial efficiency.

They say life is short but it’s not short enough to remember year to year what each season feels like and accept it for what it is. I don’t have Seasonal Affective Disorder to a substantial enough degree outside roughly manageable depression and general wintertime blues, but it bums me out to see the light fade and with it the excuse to put something off until later. Does Judaism start the year in this season to get the lull out of the way early? (I know this is only applicable to the northern hemisphere, but the residence of Jews in New Zealand and Uruguay is vastly overwhelmed by the millions of people/thousands of years they’ve lived in Europe, North America, and Palestine…as is, coincidentally, also the case for me.) The calendar we live by today, and like to make the rest of the world live by too, starts on the more optimistic note of can’t-get-much-darker. Again, that’s short-sighted with no apparent lesson learned year after year.

I should be prepared for this. But like any other annual occurrence it gets me the same way every time. That is the true meaning of the equinox: we never learn.

The Breaking Point of Compromise

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So. I admit defeat. Mental breakdowns. Bowing down to pharmaceuticals. Being the embodiment of generational stereotypes that I would rather quit a job I have that doesn’t fit my education or lifestyle or principles than continue working for the sake of supporting myself no matter what the emotional fatigue it is to pretend.

I have had to give up so much of my stubborn self over the last couple of years that I can’t even bother to fight the prejudices and stereotypes that I’m that odd eccentric chick who is crazy enough to walk through the cold, reads non-fiction on weird things like gay culture and the current state of waste management, and is too awkward to get a man.

Life isn’t great right now. It could be worse. I see worse. What I could’ve added to people’s smile-and-nod impressions of me above is that I choose to live in the scary city centre, this part of town that doesn’t have driveways or even fences because it’s all apartment buildings – and there are SCRUFFY people there who don’t even bother to walk properly, and they’re darker and sometimes ask for money. How can a vulnerable young white woman like me make it there? There are people with substance abuse problems, domestic abuse problems, and mental health problems that have people not trained and paid to address them – all of these things – ignoring the existence of such human beings on this basis. They can look me in the eye to smile-and-nod as I tell them the seriousness of speedy population growth and urbanization in the developing world and what that means for human health but that’s as much as they’re willing to handle – a white person who took a shower that morning, talking vaguely about what they’d rather ignore. In their neighbourhood there’s that retired person with an array of lawn ornaments and that’s as much as they’re willing to deal with visible differentness in their suburban part of town.

An otherwise unremarkable moment from last year stands out in my memory – walking down a street in my downtown neighbourhood, a not-well native person approaches a well-groomed young man in a suit and asks for change. The man dismissively says “No way, I’m in debt, you’ve got more money than me!” While on some levels this is true, the man in the suit ignores what was required of him to get in debt in the first place – qualifying for higher education and associated loans, and enough earnings or earning potential to get a mortgage, credit cards, line of credit for his own luxury. The cockiness of this man’s strut bothered me enough before he said this.

Despite the presence of these flashy people seeking the status and prestige of a job in the skyscrapers of Portage and Main, working downtown would be an immense improvement on my life and well-being because of material balance and abstract principle. So when I had a waterfall breakdown at work last week and spilled out to my boss how my skills are underutilized and lifestyle compromised in a work situation I’m looking to get out of the weight came off my shoulders of pretending to her, and at least a couple of other people in this bubble building, that I fit in as part of the team.

I’ve divulged more personal details here than I ever have before, as unwise as it is to write things out that can be used against me in exactly what it is that I need to change in my life. Here’s how this is to be generalized: people of my generation won’t get hired in lower-end jobs because of the likelihood, as is our intention, that we will leave as soon as something better comes up. We won’t get hired in the jobs we seek to start our careers in because they’re being eliminated or hoarded or bottlenecked from decisions of older people higher up. We’re turned down for the first hundred jobs we apply for, for either of these reasons, and we’re told to count our blessings when we’re hired for the mediocre middle that’s not on the path of what we strive for, that doesn’t pay enough to at least drown our sorrows, and typically sacrifices other parts of our lives to a tipping point. The part of my life that’s being sacrificed is time spent in my own community, around the diversity of people I’d rather identify with. I’d gladly swap places with someone who’d like to avoid working to pay off their debts in a place where the odd person in different circumstances is left to walk around asking for literal handouts. If I leave a job that’s not compatible, my generation lacks loyalty and shouldn’t be trusted. If I downgrade to something simpler because it’s closer to where I live, my generation lacks ambition and the financial discipline to save for our future. If I stay where I’m unhappy, my generation has been zombified at work with the same habits we developed playing hours and hours of video games.

Darn kids.

A Self-Reflecting Case Study in HR

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I have certifications in the human resources field – far more than I get to put to use in my current job. Keep that in mind here. I know many people, especially of my overqualified and underemployed generation, can understand that.

There have been studies done on turnover (that is, the rate at which people quit their jobs) in slaughterhouse and meat packing jobs. It’s mentally rough to adapt to and the training is more about overcoming the associations than learning the physical tasks. Turnover in poultry plants is far higher than in mammal plants. Can you guess why?

It’s because it takes one person to repeatedly debone chickens throughout a day. It takes multiple people to cut up a cow or pig. A job that takes multiple people meets the crucial step from the “survival” to “happiness” chunks of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – beyond food, shelter, clothing, and safety, it creates a social environment.

There have been a series of changes in department structure and desk arrangements that removed the two people closest to me, and now I’m sitting in a corner mostly alone. I can hear other people’s conversations, and easily get up and walk around when I have a moment, but I’m not in a physical situation conducive to social interaction. I’ve been increasingly miserable throughout the day. I’m by myself, gutting chickens.

Beyond the issues I have with functions and structure and direction of my job and career (which existed long before this isolation) I now have the opportunity to sit here and cry all day without anyone noticing. Such was my day yesterday. Now I’ve run out of tissues.

I should hop across the street to buy some more at the store, come to think of it.

Writing Not to be Read

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I’ve been writing more privately. On my trip I used a bookstore’s washroom and felt obliged to buy something, so I bought miniature notebooks and started to write. I wrote more while drunk on that trip, and a little while sober, all on a common topic.

Then I tore the pages of that common topic to shreds and threw it out in various garbages at the Pierre Elliot Trudeau airport.

The writing was bad, for one thing. For another thing the only person who would ever read it is me and I don’t need to be reminded of what will persistently be in my head for a long time. This was intensely personal and that sticks with me.

Yet I’m trying it again on a computer. (After all, I love both paper and typing.) I’m trying it as a narrative starting with the larger issues of other people and keeping my own brain out of it. I’m trying to map out the network of problems the people around me have to make my own problems seem a little more petty.

It’s a practice in style as well. I want to read through this and overcome the complex emotions by liking how it’s written. There’s a problem with not being read by more critical eyes, but narcissism is a skill set I can put to use.

Managing both a need to write privately and a goal to write publicly is a challenge much like getting myself to run in the evenings when I already walked a lot to and from work. But I need to force myself out in multiple directions to convince myself I’m a real person. Writing about other people in private will likely do more for making myself feel real than any public interaction, like traveling, when I need to keep my mind inside my head.

You can’t be aware of yourself without focusing on other people. By writing about them.

That For Which We Anxiously Await

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I’ve started caring too much about the things I can’t control and caring too little about the things I can. It’s an unhealthy rut that anybody who hasn’t gotten into in their lifetimes probably deserves to just to make the ground a bit more even between the lucky and the not.

It’s why I’ve had more darker strokes of depression, why work has been getting to me so much, why I’ve freaked out at non-issues, and why I’ve been taking my mistakes harder than the far greater sum of everything I get right. These are common to everyone, but to me probably a bit more than average. It’s still generally manageable, though, or it was while I felt empowered and in control over my own actions and decisions like diet and exercise and how I spent my free time and what thoughts I willfully banished from my head. I felt good about what I could do, and that made all the things I couldn’t do easier to roll off my shoulders. That’s not so much the case.

There are significant things that are out of my hands right now. These will take time. I should be occupying myself by maintaining the same healthy attitude I had beforehand in my day-to-day life. But naturally I’m not, because naturally I think I can’t, and I’m taking other things beyond my control – well, “personally” isn’t quite the word, but “agitatedly” might better work. The differences between me and other people that I should respect out of everyone’s right to exist aren’t quite as easy to handle close up when I’ve steered off course of a regimen of mental health. The fates that await me as a function of society at large – the things that are at the core of why I’m especially askew and sensitive – will take their time, on their own schedule. You would think this is an excellent time to take further control of all the things that are my choice. But I can’t function that well. I don’t think many of us can.

So spend your precious waking hours pacing back and forth, testing other people’s patience through incessant complaints, or internalize everything and hide it until you explode. Well, I should say don’t do that – I’m not giving that as advice. I just know what it’s what most of us are going to do anyway.