Be a Better Feminist
I learned towards the end of 2016 how much I unnecessarily apologize. Stumbling upon this realization, I began to notice how often other women unnecessarily apologize as well. The start of this realization was to own up to my own personal choices. It is not in the history of my family, nor in the history of nearly all of my friendships, for anyone to stick up for me or provide the support I needed to be a (stronger) advocate for myself. The insecurity of your own existence is heartbreaking to admit. Insecurities are substantial nutrition to feed depression and anxiety. Of course I suffer from both, but as a grown woman who began to pride herself on complete independence financially and then some, I needed to let the logistical part of myself root cause some of my troubles.
I think there is an important note to add before I continue: I have suffered from depression for a long time – I believe the diagnosis is technically Bi-polar Manic Depressive. That’s me. I’ve been medicated, hospitalized, and thrown into years of therapy. I have accepted that my troubled emotions are part of me and I stepped away from medication and doctors to learn to manage it all better. There will always be some days that are incredibly hard to get out of bed, let alone open my eyes. And truly, there’s no reason. There’s nothing that says to me, “I really don’t want to do this presentation at work today. Ergo, I’m suddenly depressed and don’t want to get out of bed.” Poppycock. It happens. It exists. I believe in mental illness. However, I also believe there are contributing factors that make it worse. I think the word we’re looking for here is “trigger”.
My job, for a few years, and working with two well-developed companies, was running Flow for processes, and root cause solving anything that obstructed good flow. I try not to bring work home and home to work, and busy times and some office drama can disrupt that, but for the most part, I drop it at the door. What I did well at work is surprising to me now how helpful it is to use that skillset in my personal life. It’s surprised me as of late, because I’ve taken up yoga and am focusing on more ways to remain stress-free in my life, that removing the obstructions to my personal flow sounds very similar to Eastern philosophies.
With an apology, there is an admittance of fault. There is an action of wrongness that was committed and with an apology I have now purchased this real estate to situate myself on. I own it. As I apologized more unnecessarily, I shifted the power of the relationships I held. With friends, my conversations turned from our shared interests and experiences to one-sided lectures about what I should be doing with my life. I’ve spent countless nights sitting in a restaurant listening to my friends talk about me as if I wasn’t there as they decided who I am, what I like, and what I need to do to become a contributing factor to the human race. At the end of these nights, I would apologize for my choices that got me there, regret being unable to pay for everyone’s dinner, and drive home obsessing about what I was always doing wrong.
The unfortunate side of this, as time went on, I was so used to being wrong, I stopped wondering why and woke up accepting that I lived incorrectly. Quite frankly, no longer wondering why saved time.
This left a mark and began to impact my life in such a significant way. Not just the relationships I held with people, but also the relationships I sought out. My grades dropped at school, I was working three jobs and in a lot of debt. I was sorry for not making enough money like other people in my life. I was sorry for still living in Pennsylvania in the town I grew up in. I saw people I went to high school with chasing their dreams and seeing the world, getting married, having children, and I struggled to fit enough apologies in my bag to take to work or class with me.
Everything also starts to blur together in a strange way, looking back. My emotions are so incredibly suppressed at this point, because they didn’t matter. I’d dug myself a huge hole, indebted to this world to fill back up and fix the messes I’ve made, and everyone kept telling me how much I fucked up.
At times, it honestly seemed like people were purposefully out to get me. No paranoia here – I truly mean it. I got in shitty roommate situation after shitty roommate situation – money debacles and massive amounts of hate and negativity. People went through my phone to see what I was doing, my things were getting stolen, etc. I know now what kind of person I turned in to, and I feel sad thinking about it. I know there are people in this world I have truly wronged, and I can never make that right. There are others that can go fuck themselves with a pole freckled with rusty nails and it will never be enough justice. I’m certain there are plenty of people out there who feel the same way, but what matters now is accepting all of it; acknowledging its existence is key, and taking the lessons and moving on one day at a time.
When being sorry for everything turns you into a broke asshole with extreme bouts of moral flexibility, there is going to be some kind of rock bottom to wake you up and bring you to attention and Fate will give you that one opportunity to take Her hand and figure it out or spit on Her feet.
Part of that opportunity came when I received a promotion at work. That promotion came with ten thousand dollars and relocation to Baltimore. I accepted without a thought and moved. For the first time in my life, at twenty-six, I was in my own apartment, on my own routine, on my own dime, and I fucking struggled so hard. It took a couple of months, but I wasn’t working three jobs anymore, I had one. I was trying to gain some financial stability and make my world a better place, and somehow, I got there; paycheck-to-paycheck, and barely so, but there all the same.
Not having those daily interactions with all of that negativity started to provide some clarity. I began to write a lot more, read a lot more, and I lost sixty pounds. I felt great, I was looking good, and I wasn’t as stressed about money. Suddenly, shit got weird at work with a boss of mine, and I found myself cowering in a corner apologizing for everything and I felt it all come spinning back. I started showing up late, I went through a lot of my paid time to avoid work and was warned by my boss I had to shape up or ship out.
I truly didn’t get it. Where I went wrong. But, instead of speaking up and being an advocate for myself, I crumbled and let myself get walked over. Any personal progress was gone in a blink, and I let it go. The people I began to surround myself with didn’t push others to be advocates for themselves unless they were men, but they didn’t talk about me like I wasn’t there. It was some kind of upgrade.
My focus changed, too. Instead of just trying to survive the day, I started to dust off my goals and work towards them. The goals have always been to write and travel. Write whatever the fuck I want and go wherever the fuck I please.
I brushed myself off rather quickly when they moved my boss to a different area. Word on the street was that a lot of people hated him, including others on the leadership team, and I was given a clean slate and a new manager.
He was refreshing. He let me in on daily production meetings that were for my superiors, he taught me a lot; he set clear expectations, and occasionally bought me lunch. He stood up for me. He told me to stop being a baby and how I could do better. He gave me constructive criticism I could work with and I grew.
It was my first true experience at a positive relationship. Regardless if it was a work relationship, it was the first time in a long time where I felt like I was doing something right.
And I fucking ran with it for months.
I was chosen to go to Virginia to train for a week with a different building to help launch a new process at work. I did a great job; I was trained in other things, and was offered a promotion out to Seattle.
Huge raise. Money for moving. Some stocks. I felt like I was on top of the world.
And someone I was close to, and trusted, told me I was a piece of shit for this. And one sad night, I cried and apologized for not deserving what I felt I’d earned. And by succumbing myself to this person that night, I set the dynamic of the next year of my life.
Apology after apology. I kept to myself. I kept it all in. I didn’t share my feelings or emotions and I apologized for everything.
Fast forward through some choices and struggles and victories, I landed a new position in Boston, Massachusetts. The female leadership team disregarded building women up in any capacity. Even worse, when several of us complained a male colleague was sexually harassing a few of us on the team, everyone was rather dismissive. I quit, along with a couple others, and some were forced out, unfortunately. All of us women, all of us made to feel like we’d done something wrong. Said the wrong thing, egged something on. It’s disgusting when women hold other women back.
I had apologized for so much, and found myself as a certain personality again; I had to do something about it. I swore I would only seek out the positive and do what was best for me and always fight for myself.
This is a newfound strength, that still trips me up from time-to-time, but it’s there, and I try to exercise that as much as possible.
When I went to the Women’s Travel Fest in NYC last March, I knew I would end up writing about it some way or another. I could feel I would learn a lot, and I wanted to share that energy and power in some way.
I wasn’t sure what I would specifically write about until that first night when I met all of these amazing women on the rooftop of a bar in the Lower East Side. Successful, beautiful women who apologized for leaving the conversation to get a bottle of water to quench their thirst, women who apologized for taking up too much space on a bench, women who apologized for not having their business card more readily available, women who apologized before asking a question, women who apologized for being there and sharing their passion. As the weekend progressed and more women spoke of their accomplishments and women in the audience asked questions at the end of each segment, nearly every time a different woman was handed the microphone, she would say, “Hi, sorry, I wanted to ask…” or “I’m sorry, I just wanted to say you inspire me.” Or “I’m sorry if this isn’t a relevant question, but…”.
In my notebook I brought with me, I started to note at certain times throughout the day the amount of apologies I was hearing. And credit to the amazing women who were speaking and presenting, any time they heard an apology they would say, “There’s no need to apologize.” Or “What are you apologizing for?” and the woman in the audience would respond with “I’m sorry” before continuing.
I was so aware of myself and the other women surrounding me, I now find myself speaking slower in certain situations to avoid blurting out an apology somewhere. Because it’s there, sitting on the tip of our tongues, itching to be used. This bullshit apology ingrained in our DNA to escort us wherever we go, to lead the way before we walk through the door and alert others to ready their disappointment.
There are times when I feel my chest hurt, or I feel a migraine emerge when I fight the good fight and encourage myself not to feel bad about something that is one hundred percent out of my control.
Over the last few months, as I’ve started to bring myself to a new level, I have found the strength and compassion in myself to start letting that spread to other women.
Do the things! Color your hair! Chase your dreams! Ask him to marry you! Fuck convention! Buy the plane ticket! Tell them you’re gay! Write the book! Go back to school! Learn the instrument! Wear the dress! Divorce the cheating bastard! You look good naked!
There is a strength women possess this world has yet to see. And it starts when we stop apologizing.