Category Archives: work

what i’ve been doing.

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enjoying my new apartment, in a slow quiet way. working too much & feeling burned out & stressed. applying for loans, financial aid, and credit cards. realizing that i may not get any of them and therefore won’t be able to do anything i want to do this year. trying to be okay with this and figure out some alternate way.

eating lentils. learning adobe indesign. laying out my book and feeling super glad that i didn’t have the money to outsource this step, cuz now i have a new skill, and now i know my book on another level. i know it in a way that i will never know any other book in the world. it’s a nice feeling.

disgruntled with work lately, but today we had to go to some bullshit meeting in which i thought they’d be taking away one of the few benefits we have; so i wore my IWW shirt that i got from a freebox that says, “the working class and the employing class have nothing in common.” my co-workers applauded that, even the ones that were severely pissing me off just a few days ago, and the fact that i can show up for a staff meeting in a ripped-up radical t-shirt and have people be delighted is one reason to enjoy my job. another reason is that a guy stopped me on the street, a former client. i honestly didn’t remember him, but he remembered me and shook my hand, said he’d been sober for three months and was looking for work and couldn’t have done it without us. it was truly heartwarming, because the clients who are doing well don’t come back to us, so it’s easy to feel that we don’t help anyone, and important to remember that we do.

i’ve been the busiest i’ve been since moving here; since losing my job in pgh in may 2012, actually. it’s overwhelming but mostly good. laziness and numbness are not good for me. feeling kind of too scattered to read, even, but i have a big stack of library books by my bed and i’m slowly picking my way through them.

i hated winter but i crave it. i don’t want 5 months of winter like back home; more like two weeks. maybe i can get a flight deal in february or something. but i don’t know. i’m edging towards being broke and it makes me so nervous; i’m not one of those people who can be happy with a huge credit card balance, with debtors calling. i live within my means and i’ve survived 13 years of poverty with my good credit still intact, which is no small feat. i think those days may be over & i’m trying to be okay with it. trying. trying. that’s all you can do, i guess, is just keep on trying.

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but i’ve got something, man, that your fucking money cannot buy

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i’ve not been well lately. trying to take comfort in books & friends but it doesn’t really matter. doing stupid self-destructive things because who fucking cares? i am so tired of being strong. i am so tired of being brave. because, as sherman alexie wrote, “at three in the morning i can act just as young as i want, with no one around to tell me to grow up.” because, as nikki giovanni wrote, “i would not reject/my strength/though its source is not choice/but responsibility.” because, as i said on the phone to M. last night at 1:30 am, when he commented on how well-adjusted i seem about a certain shitty life event, “well, i have to be! what choice do i have? i can either deal with it, or i can fucking kill myself!”

anyway.

valentine’s day and all my co-workers are wearing black, even those of us who believe in love. i believe in love, and i have lots of it in my life right now. i am grateful. i love the two people who sit on either side of me. yesterday we had a talk; we all have crazy parents, we all spent our whole lives dealing with crazy, which is why we can do this job and not take it too hard. which is why we can smile at people who are screaming at us and flipping out, and still try to help them, and still want good things for them, because we know where it comes from. they get it, they fucking get it; and to think that i was so worried about getting through this work-year without a partner at home. when really, it’s so much harder to have a rich-kid lover who you need to understand you because they take the majority of your emotional energy who maybe wants to understand but simply, fundamentally, does not have the tools. so much lonelier. and these two people, even though we don’t touch, even though they don’t know my real name or anything about me, really, we share that burden & it’s lighter because we’re sharing it. you know?

but still. i can’t sleep because the bad guys are winning. can’t sleep because spring ain’t coming this year. can’t sleep because the shittiest people get all the breaks and the good people get shit on (and when i say “good people” i am not, in any way, referring to myself) and that’s the way it is, and that’s the way it always will be, forever and ever amen. because “life isn’t fair” and that’s a good enough explanation for most people. it’s not good enough for me. but i’m still here and i’m still trying. to make it a little more fair. even though both things feel so pointless sometimes.

now the cities we live in, they could be distant stars

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feeling better today. woke up early and walked 2 miles to my old job to say hey to the ladies there, because i promised i would when i got a chance. now’s the chance. walking there i tiptoed down the crumbling city steps, through the trash filled woods. i thought of _________ and how much she’d like these steps, because i know her well enough to know that she likes old things, fucked up things, she likes being surrounded by woods in the city. but i don’t think she’ll ever visit me here and so i’ll never get to show her. i also thought about ******, about clambering down these steps with him at night, hand-in-hand, climbing up other steps, whispering tired secrets in the night air, getting completely lost but not caring. that was less than a month ago & now things are so different. what the fuck? how was that only a month? it was years & years & years. that self doesn’t exist anymore. how? i don’t know.

i’ve decided some force larger than myself is keeping me here. last monday i found out my job was getting cut back, but i was like, “oh, i can still do a drug study!” and…less than 72 hours later i had a concussion. no drug studies for me. fate is trying to tell me something & it’s my job to listen. so no running away. not yet.

i went to my old job, the one i hated, and got such a warm welcome. sat around for an hour or so shootin’ the shit with middle aged secretaries. it was nice. who knew. i walked back to the library the long, scenic route. i remembered the first time i walked it, after my interview, where i played “let it be” by the beatles on my ipod and felt very much on the right path, very connected, very sure. this time was nothing like that. i can’t listen to headphones because they are too much for my scrambled brain (really) so i sang to myself, which was nice in a different way. “tainted love” by soft cell and “suburban war” by arcade fire, if you’re wondering. it’s kind of nice being a daytime weirdo. library-lurker. walk-taker. everyone else in the library at mid-day is a little bit off, too. i like it.

oh mom & dad, mom & dad, let me outside. i’ve gotta catch a ride to the rest of my life.

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oh my god! my life has changed so much in less than a week!

monday:

-found out that our hours are getting slashed in half at work because the program i work for is REALLY broke.

-we all knew they were broke, but didn’t know they were THIS broke.

-so that mean’s i’ll be broke again

-and that means i won’t have enough money to move to the SF bay area this summer, which is what i was planning on.

-found out that paul died. we weren’t super close & this isn’t my tragedy. it does make me sad though.

-got a new tattoo! no pictures yet. but it is SUPER cute.

tuesday was uneventful.

then wednesday, oh wednesday….

-drank for 2 hours with steph as we talked about the love and the heartbreak that is social service jobs

-went to a queer dance party, got even drunker

-made out with someone new, which was fun & hot & interesting

-lost my phone, was re-united with it.

-rode my bike home. in my memory of the night, i was at the bar at penn & main, and then the next thing i knew i was at 19th street in the strip (about 2-3 miles away for you non-pittsburghers), pushing my bike, crying. i didn’t think much of it, because i was very drunk and i often cry when i’m in that state. i staggered home, made it in around 4:15 (nearly 2 hours after i’d left the bar–i live about a 30 minute bike ride away). i looked in the mirror to take out my contacts and then i saw my face. it was all bruised and my lip was swollen. i realized, “oh my god, i got into an accident!” i have NO MEMORY of this. and because i have no memory, i think i must have lost consciousness. yes, i was drunk. but i never black out while drinking. NEVER.

was i lying unconscious on penn ave? was i lying in the middle of the fucking road? for how long? how did i fall? how did i get up? my water bottle, u-lock, and phone are all gone. my wallet, keys and bag were safe (thank goddess.) i am SO lucky it wasn’t worse. so lucky i didn’t lose a tooth or break a bone. so lucky i didn’t get run over. so lucky i don’t have a concussion. thank you, helmet. thank you, guardians.

thursday:

-spent all day, until about 7pm, barfing up rum-mixed-with-bile plus anything i tried to eat

-occasionally looked at the carnage that was my face

-realized that my drinking is officially out of control and i officially need to stop

-pulled myself together & biked to eli & jessie’s thanksgiving. ate some delicious food with queers, felt sick but didn’t barf. a nurse happened to be there, she checked me out & says i don’t have a concussion. phew. a middleaged translady played the most beautiful and sad songs on the harmonica. and i felt happy and good.

today was mostly spent looking for my u lock and leaving notes in friends’ mailboxes. caught up with alyssa and pino which was good. pino took this cell phone picture of my face, so i’d remember, remember why drinking is a shitty idea, remember what happens when you go too far:

here is a slightly more accurate picture taken a day later:

i don’t know if you can see it in this shitty cell phone pic, but my eye is bruised & my lip is really swollen. keep making a lot of typos, right now, and i’m worried it’s because my brain is totally fucked.

so! wow! lots going on here.

i didn’t write about my plan to move to the bay on here–i didn’t want to jinx it. but now that it looks like it isn’t happening i can talk about it a little. i hatched it when i was feeling really bad about pgh. i hated my job passionately, thought i’d never date anyone again, thought  i had burned all my activist bridges. now, all of those things have turned out to be untrue.

i wanted to go to SF because i’m tired of the isolation. i want to be around other radical social workers. other queer writers. other bicyclists, goddamn it! i wanted to go cuz i’ve been here for so long and it doesn’t seem like i’m growing anymore. except i have been growing lately. you know?

and i still might go for an extended period of time. but i just don’t have the money to move there. maybe i can do a lucrative drug study. maybe something else will come up. i don’t know. so much changes every week.

how i live now.

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i brew nettle tea to help with exhaustion & fatigue. i’m doing too much & feeling both weary and exhilarated. i haven’t turned my heat on yet because even though i am fully aware that i have the money to pay a gas bill i still have a scarcity mentality going on. still this little voice in my head that says, “no! you have to hold out until thanksgiving! we can’t pay this, we can’t pay this!” i usually draw the line at when i can see my breath inside, but i crossed that line weeks ago and i still refuse to hit that switch. playing a demented game of chicken with myself. at night i tunnel into my mummy sleeping bag and squirm around my bed like a happy little larva. i sleep in the middle of my queensized bed. it seems inconceivable that i ever shared it with anyone.

all day i see people whose heat is off, not by choice. when they say it’s not possible to stay in a house without heat i don’t want to contradict them. i get to look them in the eyes and tell them that they make too much money for our program because our funding’s been cut, and the funding of everyone who is trying to help anyone has been cut. that’s my job. explain. sugar coat. smile. apologize. who the fuck am i helping? anyone?

they cry at my desk a lot. i try not to.

i got a shot of real love on friday, a beautiful hug across my desk  from a client, after a good conversation. about asking for help & how it’s hard, especially when you’re strong. but you gotta do it sometimes. you can’t do it alone. after i had all her forms filled out and we were done speaking she asked for a hug. i hesitated but then said ok, and she swept me into her arms and held me. and, oh, it was real love. REAL LOVE. i understood so much within the confines of that hug. it changed my fucking life.

i can’t remember her name.

the house is cold but i’m writing a little bit. it’s a mess but who cares. not me. so big. so much space. i oscillate between ferocious happiness leaking out of every pore & an unspeakable sadness. trying to remember that it’s better to feel things than not. better to push yourself. on september 28th i wrote something on this blog about how i knew every day that i struggled up the hill that was taking me to my neighborhood, my legs were getting stronger. november 7th and i can make it up the hill, unless i’m drunk or really tired. i fixed my bike, that helped. but some of it came from me too. don’t forget that. don’t.

scenes from a welfare office

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so. last week at work they announced that they were gonna put me on the front desk when the program i work for opened to the general public. i was kinda pissed, because it’s WAY more work & stress for no more money. i was all, “these fuckers are trying to bully me out of here! they hate me! blah, blah, blah….” but then i decided that i need to shut the fuck up, because lately everything in my life has been nudging me away from the safe&boring and into the uncomfy-but-more-exciting. the growth. the change, the change, the change. so i decided to embrace it, because i don’t have any choice anyway. might as well go for it.

so, yesterday was the first day we were open to the public, my first day up front, and it was so fucking stressful and hard and i LOVED it. it was seriously the best day i’ve ever had at that job, by leaps and bounds. the other 3 people who were up front with me were all like, “this is the WORST day ever! look at all those people! oh my goddddd” and i was just literally running around the office with a huge smile on my face, so much so that my face actually hurt at the end of the day. (i was running to the copy machine & such, not just running for exercise)

i had this moment, in the afternoon, when i was sitting with a client, trying to figure out how we were gonna get her electric bill turned on. i could tell she was gonna be awesome because she had lots of hot pink & orange fake hair braided into her cornrows & hella good energy coming off her. at one point, she said, “oh, when i lived in north carolina, i had these friends who didn’t even HAVE electricity. they lived in the country, they made their own soap, they used an outhouse. their kids didn’t know who kim khardashian is–and they were SO HAPPY!” this statement cracked me the fuck up. “not knowing who kim khardashian is? that’s a good way to see how happy you are!” and then she laughed, and it was so strange, this odd unexpected gift, to be laughing so genuinely with a beautiful stranger, in the fucking welfare office in fucking pittsburgh on the busiest day of the year. i never thought i’d get there. never thought this would be my life. i was expecting to sit in a gray cubicle for the rest of the year, processing applications in silence, listening to shitty books on tape to distract myself from my racing thoughts. i looked at it as an ordeal to be grimly endured until i get out of debt and have the money to quit.

and i know soon it won’t be so fun. soon i’ll hit a wall, soon i’ll crack under the weight of all those terrible stories. 2 days only and 3 people have cried at my desk, i had to reject someone who really needs it (he didn’t cry though, and was actually really sweet about it), a woman casually referenced her daughter’s murder. only 2 days, the first two. but, oh, give me this any time over the slow death that my life was before. how did i live half-asleep for so long? why did i think that was ok? acceptable? any way to live one’s life? i don’t know. but i’m glad i got thrown off that trajectory, cuz i’ve said it before, and i’ll say it once more: the most dangerous life an aries can live is a safe one. here’s to unsafe lives.

hail & sexism & jobs & other things.

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on tuesday evening i was taking the bus from my job to the main library. the bus was crowded & loud, and all of a sudden, the sky got really dark, almost like it was night, even though nightfall was hours away. the bus quieted down, and you could tell that everyone was having the same creepy feeling, that something was going to happen. what is it about extreme weather that does that to us?

when the first piece of hail hit the bus, it did so with a loud thwack, ice vs. metal, and everyone freaked out–screaming, laughing, crying–pure pandemonium. i love pandemonium, of course, so i was happy to be stuck in the thick of this odd scene. the hail kept coming, and it was a little scary because it was so damn loud, but more of an experience than anything. when i was a pizza-bike-deliverer in philly, i delivered in a hail storm once. it was really scary, but i made like $20 in tips in about 15 minutes, because people felt so bad for me, plus i got to one-up the dudes i worked with (we were always swapping stories of all the extreme weather/circumstances we delivered in).

one thing i remember loving about being a bike deliverer was the days when it was sunny and under 85 degrees, when i’d traipse into offices carrying bags of greasy styrofoam and cardboard into giant office towers. everyone in there was so pale & miserable looking, and i was tanned & happy & free. (as a side note, i REALLY wish i was familiar with tribe 8’s song “daredevil delivery” [i dunno if that link works, i’m at work and can’t actually listen to it] back then. it would have been my JAM back then. “they pay me to ride my bicycle! they pay me to live free! runnin’ reds, killin’ peds, bus exhaust all day…”)

don’t get me wrong. i didn’t want to be a delivery lady forever, as much as i loved it. i nearly got killed or severely injured at least once a week. riding your bike for 10 hours a day in a major urban center known for its bad drivers and assholes, for $4/hr plus tips, isn’t really the best situation. still, it remains my most beloved job to date, remembered and missed fondly…

in other work news, today i was eating lunch in the lunch room (NEVER a good idea, but it’s too cold to eat outside & i don’t want to spend money). the roof caved in on one of the other welfare offices, so a lot of the workers moved in here, so there’s a lot of people milling about our office who i don’t know. a whole gaggle of them were eating in the lunch room, talking loudly, but not a big whoop. one of their friends walked in. a guy from the gaggle called out, “hey, [name], i hear you’re a misogynist!” he said it in a sarcastic-yet-admiring tone. the other guy responded, “yep, i guess i am! whatever the hell that is,” sounding proud.

from the rest of their conversation, i ascertained that the misogynist had a poster in his cube that offended some woman/women. i wasn’t sure what it is, but the guy who originally spoke said, “after you went home yesterday, a whole bunch of angry women came by looking for you. i had to plead with them for your life!” uproarious laughter all around. ha fucking ha.

this is a relatively minor incident, of course, but just another drop of the poison. i don’t really know what to do. amanda & i had a good talk about this a while ago–how work is unbearable for us because things that 90% of people don’t give a shit about bother us profoundly, and when we talk about how it makes us feel, we’re branded as whiners or crazy or too sensitive or causing trouble or any other of things that we (mostly) aren’t. we just want to be able to work in an environment that isn’t like rubbing salt on our wounds every fucking day. but where do we go? amanda works at the library, an idealized work environment (for me, anyway)! the library is one of the coolest places in pittsburgh with a delightfully diverse staff of wingnuts! if she’s having such a rough time, well, where the fuck can we go? (i work at the welfare office, which is rough by pretty much anyone’s standards. usually when i complain about the depressing things going on, i get a reaction of, ‘well, what do you expect?’)

so what to do? right now we’re doing what we always do. surviving. dealing with it. staying mostly silent because speaking out just seems so pointless. (amanda speaks out more, she’s good at it. i am learning from her.) fighting back in little ways. what else can we do? what do YOU do, faithful reader?

and i was locked/into being my mother’s daughter. i was just eating bread & water, thinking, “nothing ever changes.”

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i wasn’t really paying much attention a few months ago when the blogosphere was blabbing about the “it gets better” project. in case you didn’t know, it’s a project started by sex columnist dan savage where QUILTBAG (queer, intersex, lesbian, trans, bi, ally/asexual, gay. my friend alicia made this up, i cannot take credit, but isn’t that amazing?!?) adults write stories and make videos for QUILTBAG teens telling them that life doesn’t always suck as badly as it does in high school, basically a plea not to kill themselves.

a lot of peeps i know critiqued the project, mainly because life is hard and, you know, it’s always gonna be hard, and selling teens a sparkly gay future isn’t always the best idea, the most responsible idea.

i agree, sort of. i was thinking about it today, mostly because my job bears a stunning resemblance to high school (i get in trouble for thinking for myself, the stupidest/meanest people are the most popular [and the loudest!], i get summer vacation!, and people make fun of my outfits on a semi-regular basis [mostly clients on the elevator or in the hallway. no co-workers have made fun of me to my face, yet]) and i was wondering if anything has really changed in the 10.5 years since high school ended, in the 10 years since i left my parents’ house.

but then i thought, of course it has. and even though this past decade has been um, challenging, it’s still way better than being an angsty suicidal high schooler. even though i am still struggling, every day, to keep the fuckin’ faith in a hostile environment; to not hate myself even though i am surrounded by forces that say i should; to keep living and fighting even when it seems so pointless. even though these are the exact same struggles that i thought maybe would be over when i left high school and my family’s house. not that i thought everything would be perfect; i thought i’d have new problems, different problems. and i do, and i have; but the old ones keep on cycling back every few years.

but even though, even though, even though i’m still in this swamp, there are some ways that it’s easier. like, i now have indisputable evidence that there is life out there worth living, instead of just a vague notion, a silly hope. like, i have a home that is actually a sanctuary now, somewhere i feel safe and loved, somewhere that is not just an extra nightmare at the end of a long hard day. no violence, very little judgment, none of those awful things that just seemed so normal for so long. and i don’t ever want to take that for granted. and i don’t want to de-emphasize the effect that has had on me, on my well-being and general happiness levels, to finally have a safe space. it has changed my life so, so profoundly.

another good thing is that i now get paid $15/hour to be surrounded by negativity, and in high school i did that shit for free! never again, my friends.

of course, it took a long time to get to a space marked “okay,” many years of psychotic housemates, low-wage soul-deadening jobs, crappy relationships, teetering piles of self-doubt. and even those years, i think, were better than those achingly empty afternoons on long island.

and even those years, those long long years, i still had fun & they still taught me something, i still had a weird hope, no matter how many cigarettes i smoked. no matter how many times i listened to “out of range”by ani difranco (the song, not the album) on repeat. no matter how many times that weird thing she did with her voice on the chorus pierced straight through my ribcage, when i knew she knew, this stranger singing my life. i knew she’d been there too. and maybe i would get stuck too, or maybe i could make it out; maybe i could make it to the other side.

here is some unsolicited life advice.

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okay, so, many of these things may seem like common sense. but sometimes you just need someone to tell ya something obvious! also, the two vaginal-health related tips are things i’ve never seen in the many DIY resources on the subject (of which i’ve read plenty).  onward!

*if you menstruate, and get cramps, i’d recommend trying to cut out nightshade vegetables (the most common of those are tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and peppers of all kinds) during your most severe cramping days, and maybe for a day before if you can. i did this, ordered my lunch-time sandwich with no tomatoes, and felt GREAT. then, that evening, i forgot and had some tomato sauce and within an hour i was feeling totally shitty again. i know nightshades are delicious and healthy, but you can live without them for a few days.

*do you hate your goddamn coworkers? does their incessant, mean-spirited nattering drive you up the wall?! it’s okay to spend $40 on noise-cancelling headphones, even if you’re on a budget! srsly, worth their weight in gold. (i know most noise-cancelling headphones are like $200, but i got mine at CVS for under 40 bucks. and they have made a tremendous diff in my life.)

*yeast infection? try taking a goldenseal bath! draw a steamy hot bath and put 3-4 goldenseal teabags in there with you. it’s a lot easier than a) drinking it (it’s beyond disgusting) or b) making a goldenseal douche, as some herbal handbooks recommend. and it worked really well, for me, anyway. goldenseal’s a pretty strong herb, you shouldn’t use it too regularly, and if you sit in the tub with it too long, it might make your skin a little dry (although it usually makes my skin deliciously soft, yay!)

*someone near and dear to me helped research this story in the NYT about hydrofracking, and how the runoff is extremely toxic & radioactive, and is winding up in our drinking water. fracking is a pretty hot-button issue around here because it’s literally in our backyard, but seems to have been not such a big concern in the rest of the country…until now?! I don’t know, but this shit is scary, my friends. read it & get angry. (well, i won’t tell you how you should feel. but you’ll probably be angry, and scared.)

on a thoroughly unrelated note, look! it’s me (and alicia, stephanie and a whole bunch of other people) ! in the pittsburgh post-gazette!

in case you can’t read my sign, it says, “i don’t care what congress says–our lives matter!”

the theme of today

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seems to be “idiotic men talking loudly”. at work i have my ipod cranked almost all the way up & still i can hear their voices, talking about absolutely fucking nothing. why would they think to lower their voices in an allegedly professional work environment? that might restrict them from doing whatever the hell they want at every second, no matter what, and we can’t have that. then i stepped outside to get away to be confronted by some idiot street-corner preacher, huge sign about how abortion is taking amerika to hell or some such thing, screaming so loud i could still hear him 3 blocks away. and what is there to think, what is there to feel, what is there to say except fuck you fuck you fuck you?