Hopefully, I will at least turn out to be made of recylable materials.

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…I am angry all of the time, and deeply confused, because a lot of people in my life have let me down recently – one of them was me. It’s devastating, but not completely because it turns out I like sleeping crosswise in the bed & not having to shave my legs.
- Miranda Bailey, Grey’s Anatomy

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For my 16th birthday, my mom suggested that we go to Boston & do something. The library had passes to most of the local museums, so it wouldn’t cost much for me to pick from the list & we could go down & have like, a family day or whatever — I’m guessing that’s what normal families call it, right? Bonding or whatever that crap is.

As the middle child, this seemed a rare event – after all, my sister got to do everything first*, and my brother was the baby and more-important male child, so his benchmarks were met with a tear of nostalgia as it being “the last time we’ll do this”. My life was one less worthy of notice – except of course, for when there was rent short or the electric bill due. Then I (in the form of my small bank account) was something to be praised.
*the one exception being a college degree – I did manage to beat her to the finish there.

So to have a day that was for me — that was something special in my world. It’s been a long-standing joke in my family that my birthday was either disastrous or skipped. The plot of Sixteen Candles seems a bit farfetched – everyone skips your birthday? Yeah. I get that. Except there’s never been a Prince Charming at the end to make up for it.

That in mind, I chose the Boston MFA. I’d never been – even by that time, I already had two jobs, and my weekends were spent either raising someone else’s child or contributing to people’s KMart shopping experience. I had no car of my own, and a 40 hour work week while in high school doesn’ exactly make one a social magnet of popularity, so there were very few friends to catch rides with. To me, to be able to just go be an artist for a day seemed like a finally decent birthday for myself.

My family couldn’t understand why I didn’t enjoy the Museum of Science.

After all, as my mother pointed out, the rest of the family would be bored at the art museum, so we’d be better off going somewhere that my siblings would like as well.

———–

Last October, my grandmother died. I flew back to NH for the funeral, staying almost exactly 48 hours. I crashed in a hotel with my sister & brother-in-law, and accidentally brought about a revelation for my sister in the process.

We got back to the hotel after the wake, and my b-i-l was ripsh*t. Pissed off. b-i-l has long had a rather…cotentious opinion of my parents – in truth, my move to California was prompted because one day, after hearing my sister joke about the fact that I’d been the one walking around the house locking up each night since the age of 12, he sat me down & said, “You can stay here until September 1st. Then I want you gone. And it’s not because I don’t love you – you’re like my own sister. But you need to leave here, or you won’t have a life of your own. It’s not your job to take care of them – they were supposed to have taken care of you. Go take care of you.” And he was right. Three months after that, I packed up a U-Haul trailer in the rain, and I pulled out of their driveway. No one was there to say goodbye – they all had to be at work, & couldn’t take time off, so I finished things up, drove cross-country alone, and started over again three thousand miles away.

Nine years later, my b-i-l stormed into a hotel room in NH, cursing my mother’s name up & down. My sister couldn’t understand what he was so upset about.

My mother, you see, didn’t have my grandmother’s wake as a testament to my grandmother’s life so much as it was to how great a daughter my mother had been. And as my mom introduced her children on parade to my grandmother’s friends, the speech went thusly:
“…This is my oldest daughter OlderSister. She lives in NC with her husband and my grandson, FirstSpawn. This is my son, YoungerBrother. Yes, he’s just left the military and came out from California – he’s moving back here in a few weeks, we’re all looking forward to it… and this is my other daughter, Claris.”

After three hours of hearing me mentioned as an afterthought, my b-i-l was less than pleased. He couldn’t understand why I wasn’t more upset, and I merely shrugged & explained, “It’s been that way for 29 years, man. Why should anything change now?”

Once enlightened to the event, my sister’s reaction: “Oh my god, she totally does that – I just… stopped noticing.” I found out later that when OlderSister brought it up to him, YoungerBrother shared that sentiment almost verbatim.

———–

I have spent my life being… disposable. The minute there’s trouble, the second I’m not pleasing or convenient, I am no longer of use. Years of customer service really were the best thing that could have happened to me – whether in jobs, in life, or at the boathouse, I gained the ability to walk right past rudeness, stupidity and other insults without blinking an eye, because the moment I stand up for myself or expect to be treated fairly, I am too much trouble. I am too difficult. I will be cast aside so that other people won’t have to deal with the fact that they may have fucked up themselves. No matter what proof I have, no matter that I was not treated fairly, even the fact that the person who did it now knows they erred – that doesn’t matter. Making things right so that I don’t have to live with things hanging over my head – I’m not worth that effort. To anyone, it would seem. I have in fact been told flat out that my personal feelings don’t matter. That I am blacklisted, and that I will forever be on thin ice because of it.

Because at the end of the day, I am what I have always been.

Disposable.

I learned long ago – if I cry, I will cry alone. No one will hug me, no one will make it better. I need to be logical, businesslike. Pleasing. I need to take care of myself, because no matter what people say or how nice they are, when the chips are down… well I’m not the girl that people are willing to stand up for. Not when it would matter. In the end, it really is my own fault – I learned three years ago these were not people who do the right thing, I shouldn’t be all that surprised to find out 7 is actually worse than 8 – at least that one was ignorant when he erred — this one knows it’s wrong & is choosing to leave things be.

So now I am faced with a choice – I can stay, and give up any hope of doing something that I loved. Something that I was, if we’re going to be immodestly honest, pretty f*ckin’ good at. I wouldn’t say I knew everything there was to know, but I know I didn’t suck. I could work, maybe go to art school, but do so knowing that I’m giving up that part of me.

Or I can leave to try to do it somewhere else. I can pick up and leave what little home I’ve managed to create for myself over the last nine years. Leave the team I’d created, what bit of a life I’ve carved out for myself, and start all over again somewhere else – to get away from this, I would probably have to go out of state, as ours is what can be kindly called a niche industry & thus everyone knows everyone else.

This is not a decision to be made definitively tonight – I have several life semantics to be settled before I can safely throw my weight either way so that whichever way I decide, it is on my terms – I will at least ensure myself that dignity.
For now I have to continue on, even with this over my head – I have to pretend that I’m fine, even though I feel like I spend way too much time crying. I have to smile, despite the fact that I haven’t figured out how to fix the hole in my back tooth that I got when this all started in the fall & I discovered that when you have a tendency to throw up when upset & it carries on for an extended period of time, eventually the acidic nature of vomit will cause your fillings to fall out. I have a team that’s looking to me to lead them, even though the last thing I want to do on god’s good green earth is a 2k erg sprint on Sunday.

So I’m going to go to bed for two & a half hours, and then Kate will wake me up at 4:45am. Then I’ll get in a single and do 10k @ heart rate. Then I will shower. I will take my 5-HTP in the hopes that the extra seratonin will push me through doing a couple hours’ work at Starbucks before going back to the boathouse to hit up 4x500m to make sure that my hip won’t crap out on me on a sprint this weekend. Then I will shower again, hit up another dose, eat an apple so that my stomach doesn’t rebel against me for taking pills on an empty stomach, go home, pack my bag for tomorrow, & start over again.

This is life. This is how it works. My personal feelings don’t matter. I need to pick myself up, & give up anything I might feel for others. I have to leave them to their pitfalls & stumbles. I cannot afford the luxury of compassion, for any time I have shown humanity or mercy to these people, I have gotten nothing but kicked in the teeth for my effort, and I have quite enough literal dental work at this point, there’s no need to add any more metaphorical items to the list.

So I’m going to listen to the advice that my b-i-l gave me all those years ago. I’m going to look out for me. I need to make sure that I’m okay. Because no one else is going to do that. As has always been the case, there’s someone that other people deem more important, and I am expected to make way for them. After all, to them, I’m expendable. I’m collateral damage. Disposable.
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It is not what we say or what we feel that makes us who we are. It is what we do. Or fail to do.
~ Sense & Sensibility

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