When It All Started for Me Too

I joined in on the social media movement and posted “Me too” on my Facebook page. Before doing so, I seriously considered whether there would be any ramifications from it. Would any coworkers look at me differently the next morning? What would my family think – my sister, my parents, my boyfriend’s family?

Shortly after I posted my status, I spoke to my sister over the phone. Part of the conversation went something like this:

Sam: Hey, so uh I saw your status.

Jess: …

Sam: You know, the Me Too status.

Jess: Oh, yeah.

Sam: Want to talk about it?

Jess: No, not really. I mean I haven’t been raped or anything. Haven’t you ever gotten your ass grabbed at a party?

Sam: Oh, yeah.

Jess: Yeah, I mean it’s not anything huge but it’s still something that has happened to me.

There was more to that conversation than above, but that is where it all started. As I began to say more about my personal take on the movement and how it affected me, I also began to feel increasingly bothered by the fact that I was trivializing my personal experiences. I was comparing my experiences to the brutal cases of rape and the higher levels of violence reported in the news. I felt as though I had less a voice to speak on the issue because nothing egregious (by our society’s standards) had happened to me. And I realized then that it wasn’t okay to feel how I was feeling. When speaking to perhaps one of the most trustworthy people in my life, I felt like I had to downplay what had happened to me.

I’ve never been brutally assaulted. I’ve never been raped. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced harassment.

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When Mediocrity is Assigned to the Workplace

I don’t talk a lot about my job. Firstly, the day-to-day tasks of my position aren’t all that riveting. Secondly whatever I might consider to be interesting probably sounds like gibberish to whomever I am talking to about it. When I am asked about my job in casual conversations, I find myself describing it with as broad a brush as possible and as I speak I notice that I sound embarrassed. I make up excuses that might offer greater meaning to myself:

“And then after work, I volunteer with a literacy non-profit. That way I can put my tutoring skills to work.”

“I’ve thought about grad school, but I’m just not financially ready for all that – but yeah I agree it might be a good option in the future.”

And a personal favorite: “I’m keeping up with my writing, don’t worry! I’m in a writing group.” I’m sad to say that despite my energy in attending, my discipline in writing has gone somewhat to hell. 

It’s difficult for me to admit to people that at the current moment, I feel that I am exactly where I need to be. When I say it out loud, I get this look that screams, that’s nice now tell me how you really feel. Insurance might be entirely different from what I studied in college, but that does not mean that I am settling. In no way does that mean I’m settling.

Why do I always retreat to saying as little about my job when asked? Even still, why am I always making excuses as to why I chose to go into insurance?

It is not as if I am ashamed; on the contrary I am actually quite proud of how far I’ve come since stepping into my full-time position. 

I fully admit that the industry sounds disenchanting no matter what angle you view it from. Underwriting, actuarial duties, claims, risk solutions – there’s nothing that shouts out endgame dream job. Insurance in particular has the stigma that any of its employees are chained to their desks while confined in their minuscule cubicle space. The stigma screams artificial lights, tip-tapping of the dozens of keyboards around you, ringing phones, stiff computer chairs . I can’t deny that there is some reality to that idea, but the actual work that we put into our roles is never really given its due. The effort that goes into learning about the hundreds of industries we insure and the specific hazards that goes into each industry opens your eyes to the bigger picture of what Americans of all shapes and sizes endure day after day in their own career roles.

The true value of the work and effort that is put in day after day is so often overlooked and all that is recognized is the reputation of the industry as a whole.

Most, if not all, culture references to the insurance workplace present it as the bar of mediocrity in the American workforce today. I think this bar is applied to other industries as well; other”office desk” industries. Perhaps due to that stigma that is assigned to the industry within our mainstream culture, I feel obligated to keep quiet about the specifics of what I do. And that is was I find to be incredibly frustrating.


Speaking on the Subject of Statues

Following the violence that had sparked in Charlottesville over the removal of the Robert E. Lee Statue, it has been difficult for me to remain silent on social media. Many of my friends and family have taken to their profiles to denounce the hatred, bigotry and fascist rhetoric that has been voiced in response to the proposed removal of these Confederate symbols.

I have had my own opinions on the matter for a while now. I have kept quiet on the issue until now.

Some Americans believe that the statues pay respect to honorable historical figures. Some even claim that in a larger context these statues pay homage to southern culture and its rich history. I have taken up issue with this argument on the basis that I believe that southern culture did not die at the conclusion of the Confederate cause. On the contrary, it has lived on in many forms. Southern hospitality, cherishing family bonds and the slow-paced way of life are just a few aspects that I have been fortunate enough to experience in my five and half years living in Virginia.

What had died at the conclusion of the Confederate cause was mainly slavery. Racism is another issue for sure, but slavery did indeed perish.

The American South today is flawed in many ways – as is the North – but I do believe that the modern day American Flag stands for what it has evolved into as a result of its history. By clinging to these Confederate statues and waving the Confederate flag high, the only aspect of southern culture being called to honor is that which ended at the Confederate’s falling: slavery.

Part of the reason I have been quiet on the matter is that I am not Southern by blood nor heritage. Yes, Virginia is my home and has been for quite a few years now but does that mean I can fully understand someone’s point of view whos heritage is rooted with the Confederacy? Can I truly empathize with a person whos family suffered casualty and death during the war? Do I really have a say in the matter?

When it comes to the promotion of fascism, blatant racial discrimination, and white supremacy in the United States, you can damn well believe it’s my business. When it comes down to a discussion on how the South feels they can best honor their history, I am not as sure. I believe that Americans can visit and observe these statues where they – spectators and statues – can remain safe in museums. But again, that’s just my opinion.

But Mother, I Don’t Want to Grow Up

A young girl steps up onto a diving board. She is wearing a faded pink one-piece that fits three years’ too small. She tugs at the wedgie and takes another step forward. The board shakes. Slow steps, baby steps, keep your eyes down so you do not slip. She feels as though the board is getting narrower and narrower the further out she goes.

Finally, she reaches the end. Her toes wrap over the edge, gripping to keep steady as the board continues to wobble. Her eyes are now fixed on the water. The white and blue bottom tile pattern is distorted through the ever-moving surface. Already, she is thinking of how it will feel at the bottom: the pressure against her ears and hair over her eyes. Fearing the icy plunge, she pauses and cherishes the warmth from the sun that is still kissing her dry backside. Her fluffy white towel is draped over the beach chair assembled nearby: neatly folded and left out by her mother.

She reconsiders, but soon realizes that it would be more frightening for her to walk backwards where she can no longer see. There is no way for her to retreat, no way for her  to change her mind.

The only way back to that towel is forward and forward means jumping. Up, then down. The little girl pushes all thoughts out of her head and as a result that hesitation is now gone. Giving it up, she closes her eyes and leaps forward.

Get a Backbone

Over the years, I developed the belief that it is better to apologize in order to avoid argument rather than invite conflict. Even if a problem has nothing to do with me, I’ll apologize anyways.

I do not like drama. I do not like conflict. Any shakes in my serenity and security immediately have me retreating to “fix, fix, fix” until the problem is no longer of concern. In some situations that call for debate or argument, I chose the easier, less confrontational route. I go to great lengths to convince myself that a problem is my fault when really, it’s not. And following my conversations with many other women of a similar age, I am finding this isn’t uncommon. I back off too easily. I think we back off too easily.

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