Updates, good and bad.

Left off here on a rather ominous note, I suppose. It’s been a busy few weeks.

No sugar coating it: my manager is trying to fire me. Claims he’s not, but that’s shit. I was a good employee with a stable record until I landed on his team, and within 24 hours I was on a PSP (Performance “Success” Plan–what they do to under-performing employees) and my trajectory never recovered. There’s no statute of limitations with this man. Every mistake you make is with you forever, and then they’re looked at in aggregate to make a “pattern of under-performance.” He’s trying to fire me, and I don’t care what pretty lies the senior management spins to cover his ass. I wrote a letter to HR about what was going on, and a few days later I saw him returning to his desk from the front office with a sick look on his face. It was better for a while after that, but I think it just made him craftier. I’m on two separate final written warnings at the same time. Didn’t even know that was possible. I’m looking for another job as fast as I can. Hope to find one soon. I’ll leave if I have to, but I don’t want to be fired. I hate this feeling of helplessness, of not knowing when the ax will fall. I need to save up enough money to be able to move back down to the Bay and be with my sister.

(Oh, by the way, I have a sister now. She’s wonderful. The queer tradition of a chosen family didn’t make sense to me until we decided to be siblings.)

On a brighter note, I have been awarded a scholarship to attend the Cascade Writer’s workshop this year. I’m very excited. My main fear is that my situation up here will fall apart and force me to flee to California again before I have a chance to attend. There will be other writers there, serious, committed artists. I haven’t had a group like that since college.  I can’t wait. There will also be professionals from the publishing world. I look forward to learning a lot from them. I have to say, as well, that it is immensely rewarding to have been awarded a scholarship. It was in part based on need, but a part of the application was based on a 1000-word sample I submitted. Someone I’ve never met who has no reason to care about me decided that, among those who submitted applications, I was the one they wanted to support. It gives me hope.

I’ve been submitting my application to agents. Nothing but rejections and silence so far. This is to be expected. No serious writer gets through life without  a thick sheaf of rejections. Still, having something, anything, break my way is very nice.

My cousin seems to be having trouble. It would be quite dramatic to say that madness is the family curse, but no. We live in a more civilized age, where mental health is more sterile, and better classified. We’re not mad. Simply depressed and scared. No matter. I’m pulling for you, cousin. I wish you all the best.

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This is Why You Must Survive

I have been told that this blog is so depressing that some people have stopped reading it, which seems almost funny to me because if anything I soft-pedal how unrelentingly bleak my life can be. For instance, I have not mentioned my habit of telling myself, as many as a dozen times a day, that I am a bad person and that I am stupid. I do this as a reflex when I do something sub-optimal, or worse when I remember doing something sub-optimal, especially if it was of a social nature. That’s the background radiation of my life; that’s what happens to me on a good day. Some mornings, it is a real fight to get out of bed.

Things are looking up, though. For the first time in a long time, I have a real path forward to something better. Even after the euphoria died down, I still kept writing. Now I’m at 56,000 words. I should have a complete manuscript by the end of the year. More importantly, a friend of mine wants to write a intro to PHP book with me. He’s a pretty good programmer, and I’m a pretty good writer, and together we should make a pretty good book. The best part is that I’ll be able to use it as a portfolio piece, and hopefully start picking up some technical writing jobs. Once I have some professional credits and references to my name, I’ll have the start of an honest-to-Goddess career on my hands. There’s something even bigger and better in the pipe, but I can’t talk about it because I don’t know what I can say without jeopardizing things and I’d rather err on the side of discretion.

Socially, things are…choppy. I lost a good friend. She’ll stay lost until she can realize what she did wrong, and why her “apology” didn’t cut it. That might make for some strain with my other two main hangout friends, but I’ve got a third who might be developing in that same circle, and I think I can branch out to find more, as well. It feels a little mercenary and gross to be evaluating friendships for their potential contributions to my mental health and stability, but that’s part of my life now. If I lose a friend, I have to be on the lookout to pick up others or grow closer to ones I already have, or else I could enter a tail spin and have a hard time pulling out. I will die in the dark if I let myself be alone.

So I don’t let myself be alone.

I’m not long for Beaverton, anyhow. One way or another, I’m leaving next year. The Portland area is where I plan to retire; I can’t stand to live here in my youth. Or maybe I’m just restless. Last year I hopped from place to place, constantly in flux. My housing situation was unstable for the vast bulk of the year, only settling out in November. Life changing decisions had to be made regularly, sometimes in a matter of hours. It was survival living, hand to mouth. Maybe I acclimated to it. Stability, at least up here in Beaverton, doesn’t agree with me.

Or didn’t, at least. The restlessness is fading. I feel like I could fall into a rut here. That scares me. Is it because I’ve made the decision to move, or is it because I’m re-acclimating to stability? (Is stability banality? Should I fear it as much as I think I do?)

I am in a liminal space. Not the desperately scrambling “I’ll try (almost) anything” way that I was at the depth of my homelessness, when I was seriously looking for a time and place to experiment with drugs because hey, what’s the worst that’s gonna happen: I end up homeless? This is a more prolonged, and perhaps somewhat more penetrating, evolution. It’s not just new experiences I’m searching for. I’m thinking about where I’m going to be in five years. Who I am going to be. My career is on the runway. My social life is in turmoil but not exactly falling apart. Geographically, things will change in a big way soon. Everything is shifting, some parts faster than others.

I feel good to be alive, even despite all the shit. This is what I survived for. I know I made the right choice in refusing to die. If I’d let myself go, nothing would have changed. My life would have ended in such poor conditions. You don’t stay alive because things are guaranteed to turn out well–although things are up from where they were last year, everything could still fall apart for me, and get even worse this time. You stay alive because if you die, nothing will ever get better for you. How you died in the end, that will be it. But if you survive, you retain the blessings of uncertainty, and of potential.

When things are at their darkest, remember, this is why you must survive: not for false hope. Simply to see if things will change.

Respect

My employers have decided that I need to repeat training that I’ve already done twice. They have not stated a reason why. I’m not being singled out; we all have to do this. The training classes always fall on Wednesdays and Thursdays, which eats half of my weekend. Then we’re scheduled to work Monday to Friday the following week in a training creche called A Bay, which kills the entire weekend for that week.

They scheduled me to work 13 days straight, and nobody noticed until I made a stink. Now I’m getting lukewarm assurances that they’ll be able to find some days off for me somewhere…sometime. The last time this happened, they assured me that I could request days off in the vacation request system and that I’d get the half of a weekend back and then they turned around and denied my vacation time request.

This is the third time this has happened to me. Last time they offered training, I simply refused to show up at the training and I didn’t get to join the specalist team I wanted to. This time they’re not taking no for an answer.

I have to say I resent the hell out of this. I resent how they treat my time as their own, and act like throwing me a few days off, you know, whenever it’s convinenent for them, means they’re doing right by me. Like maybe I should be grateful.

Well I’m not grateful. I don’t want just any days off, don’t want the ones they can spare, if they feel like it. I want my days off. The ones I scheduled things for. I have things that really mean a hell of a lot of me scheduled on those days, and the knock-on effect of missing them will destroy my whole month. They notice at which I am informed of these schedule changes is far too short for me to re-schedule anything, and some things can’t be rescheduled.

My employers seem to think that they are entitled to any time of mine that they wish to take, not just a specifically agreed upon set of 40, but in fact all of them, to be taken at any time of their choosing. They’ll “give” me a day off, as if it was theirs to give, not mine to keep.

We did a shift bid recently, where everybody asks for the shift they want. I accepted that, for purposes of logistics, I had to ask and accept that I might not get what I wanted. But in the end, a schedule was set, and as far as I’m concerned we made an agreement: I would work a particular shift for them, and they would pay me for it. I did not agree to be permanently on call, which is what they are acting like.

If they had asked if I wanted the training, or offered me a training schedule that didn’t negatively impact my life, that would be different. If they gave me a choice, I wouldn’t mind at all.

I wasn’t given a choice. I was given notice that the month of June was being taken from me.

For the first time I am seriously considering qutting this job. I don’t know where I would go or what I would do, but this really, deeply offends me.

My Big Fuckin’ Fag Flag

I wear it around my waist. It billows around my legs. It is my skirt, and it is fantastic.

I need to get more skirts, more leggings. I want to wear them every goddamn day. Not because I look amazing in them, although when I wear them sometimes I catch a glimpse of a life that might have been out of the corner of my eye, but because they’re a goddamn statement.

Yes, I am an exotic superqueer doublefag (or “tranny” if you prefer to be laconic). Yes, I work here too. And if you ask, yes, my stats are better than yours. I will correct your pronoun use. I will repeat my name loudly, because I am April like the month! and I will do this as long as it takes. My hair is pulled back by my scrunchy of doom, and sometimes I’m even wearing makeup (although you wouldn’t notice because you’d expect me to look like a goddamn circus clown).

Here’s the thing about flying your colors: people notice, and they react. There are a few people here who used to speak to me a lot who don’t speak to me anymore. There are a few people who never spoke, but never noticed, who now notice, mostly to grimace in that way that says “I am deeply uncomfortable with you being here, but I’m going to pretend I’m okay.” There are people who talk to me just as much as before, either by choice or because we share a cubicle and I ain’t going nowhere.

I haven’t won any friends doing this. But I know the ones I’ve kept are good. And I feel safer, like every day I do this without incident proves there’s nothing to be scared of. Someday, I hope to not be scared to use the bathroom.

Looking Forward, Looking Back

2011 was the worst year I’ve ever had. It seems cliche and self-pitying to recap the reasons why. For the past week I’ve been wrestling with how to write my year end roundup, to meet my obligation to be touching and profound at the turn of the year. Fuck it, I can’t. I’m just so tired. Tired of everything. Tired of the titantic struggles that marked my last three years: get into grad school, get a Master’s, survive being homeless, transition.

So this next year is one of modest ambitions. No big picture shit. No major life achivements. The goal of 2012 is to clean up the wreckage. I’ve finished tying off the bloody stump of my academic ambitions, and settled into a comfortably dead end job. Now I’m giong to learn how to keep my apartment clean. Learn how to cook at home five nights a week. Change my name. Get some new clothes. Little things. I don’t think I could survive another string of failures like the one I had between 2009 and 2011.

I need to be healthy, and to be healthy I need to get my life under control. I want that to be second nature. In my darker moments, I wonder if it ever can be. There are people who work here at the call center who have been doing this for ten or fifteen years. I’m scared of ending up like them. I’m terrified to think that even that might be too much to dream of.

Despite it all, I still harbor a great deal of ambition. I want to go places, and do things. I want to be someone who matters to the world. Even just a small part of it. I want to be more than a drone on the help line. But those are dreams for next year. First I have to conquer being a drone.

Momentum

A few minutes ago I stuck a foot out of the closet at work. During my weekly coaching meeting with my manager, I asked to speak with him in private. In a small break room off the main floor, I sat across from him and in a meandering, halting way told him I was trans. First I spoke of the mysterious medical issue he knew I have, then I told him it was related to something I’m doing, and finally I managed to force myself to mention that November is Trans Awareness Month and then quickly follow that up and tell him that I am trans and I am transitioning.

His reaction was excellent. He told me that any further details were between me and HR, unless I wished to divulge them to him, and cited the law that enforces this. He assured me that the process of transition from an employer’s perspective is well understood by HR, and that it would be easy to switch my accounts over to my new name. I think I’m a lot more reassured by his instant and scrupulous adherence to HIPPA than if he’d tried to “be my ally” or something like that. My relationship with this company is strictly professional, and I don’t want them to get too personal about this. I’m much more comfortable with a formal process, strictly regulated by Oregon state law, and with HR aware of just how big their liability exposure could be if they screw me on this.

I’ve seen other trans folk here at work, I kind of expected this to go well. Still, it was the scariest thing I’ve done in months. After telling my manager, I clocked out for lunch and went to sit on the toilet until I stopped shivering. I think I’m okay now. I don’t think I’d have had the courage to say this if I’d waited another day. I hadn’t intended to do it today, but after making the decision last night, it seemed, all of the sudden, that I should do this immediately before I got cold feet. It went as well as it could, and I still feel kind of nauseated and shaky.

Tomorrow I talk to HR and keep moving forward. Can’t look back. Can’t hold still. Gotta keep rolling before I get stuck.