My co-worker’s last day was yesterday. He is moving on to work security at one of the middle schools. Some people have a lot of co-workers; I really only have just one. I have a supervisor, a co-worker, and then a 3rd person who works per-diem 4 hours per day (so, a co-worker, but it doesn’t feel the same.) We didn’t actually work “together,” but we worked at the same time, and for the majority of each day, it was just us in the building (along with after-school activity groups.)
He started roughly 3 years ago, and we got off to a rocky start. I can’t really explain it, but it wasn’t just rocky – it was jarring, and jagged. It was, in effect, a disastrous mix. Things slowly repaired themselves, with time and effort, and I learned a ton about human connection and priorities, during this process. Maybe someday I’ll really write about that, but it won’t be here.
In some ways, we are opposites he grew up in a rough part of the city and now lives in the suburb I grew up in, and he generally stays put out there. He seems to know everyone there. I moved to the city as soon as I was able to, and I never spend time in that suburb, unless I stop at the grocery store after work, or get gas, etc. I feel a comfortable level of anonymity within the city…
We had a complete turn around within the time we worked together – he was the person I confided in the most. He actively participated in being my ally in a bunch of different ways. I wrote about this a little, over a year ago, here:
I came out to my co-worker
As soon as I told him about my preferred name, he started using it when no one else was around. He called me “Kam-Ron” at first, and then just shortened it to “Kam.” This later became, “Killa Kam” and “Cuz.” He lightly pressured me to come out at work when he could feel it was imminent. I appreciate it more than he’ll know. Well, he does kinda know – I explicitly told him yesterday that I wanted to thank him for being my ally, most specifically.
Super early on, he organized a district-wide work happy hour at his dive bar. I was the only one who showed up. Later, he narrowed down the guest list, and our co-workers / kitchen staff hung out one time outside of work. That was a first! He later bonded with me through my enthusiasm with a local community radio station I volunteer with. He came on the air with me on two occasions, taking pics and putting them on facebook and just hyping it all up in general. One time, we met for lunch before work. That was a first.
Last night, I picked us up some tacos from that place we had lunch the one time, and we just chit-chatted one last time. He had gotten a bunch of cards from students, like whole classes-worth, and a couple of gifts from teachers. He was exuberant, like he often is, gesticulating a lot, not sitting down, etc. I was low-key, like usual, trying to offset that a bit. While still being interested / engaged.
I’ve never met anyone like this person. I observed the ways he navigates through situations with my eyes and ears perked. Out of everything I learned from him, I think the most all encompassing thing was what he summed up as “teamwork makes the dream work.” (He would say this a lot.) But not teamwork in the way I knew of teamwork – this is a different brand of teamwork. I thought of “teamwork” as doing the same thing at the same time with another person or group of people, until the job was done. But whenever I tried to enact that with him, we would usually clash. His teamwork involves a network of small favors with as many people as possible, like, “I do this, which motivates you to do that,” kind of thing. Which may or may not work depending on the other person, but he is an extremely motivational person. In addition to just going way above and beyond, in that rare situation which arises from time to time, just to help you out.
He made a personal connection with probably almost every single person, whether principal or teacher or part-time staff, in the entire school. And now he’s moving on to go do that in a school that’s twice or maybe three times as big.
I’ll miss him.
I also wrote about the co-worker I had before this co-worker, here:
Saying goodbye to my mentor / co-worker
That was when he retired, two and a half years ago.
For the sake of clarity, I’m going to give myself a pseudonym dead-name, for this article. Assume that before changing my name, my name was “KD Shorts.” And my new, legal name is “Kameron.”
A little over two years ago, I was at a workshop at the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, and one of the presenters was mentioning that they go by the honorific, Mx. (Mixter) in their professional settings. I had heard of this before, but I thought it was just a theoretical pipe dream. Here was someone who was actually using it, in their actual life! I felt soooo jealous. I thought to myself (with a good dose of biting envy), “Oooh, look at the progressive academic who gets to waltz around in an enlightened and indulgent bubble all day long.” I never thought I would get there. Furthermore, even though I’m in my thirties, it was tough to envision a world where I was grown-up enough to have an honorific of my own.
I’d done an excellent job at avoiding it. No Mr. or Ms. for me! I am a janitor at an elementary school: a place where there’s a lot of “Mr. / Mrs. / Miss / Ms. [last name]” around the kids, and then first names amongst ourselves. Except for the custodial staff. It’s first names all around for us, generally. Everywhere except for our name plates on the custodial office door. There, we are “Mr. [last name]” and “Mrs. [last name]” I had somehow gotten away with requesting that I be simply “KD Shorts.” It was awesome.
There was another sticking point though: every year, at school pictures time. We get our pics taken, and then we get some freebies, as well as a sheet of all the staff pics – just like a student would get a sheet of their class. And so, we had to give our names, to be recorded on the sheet. It would vary from year to year, depending on how vocal/empowered I was feeling. I usually told the portrait employee, “no Ms. or Mr. Just KD Shorts.” There were a few years though, where I was “Ms. Shorts” as the default.
These past few weeks, I’ve been riding the wave of legally changing my name, which has been especially gratifying at work, where I was still known as KD Shorts, (she/her/hers). Everywhere else in my life, I had been going by “Kameron” for about two years, and (he/him/his) for many many years prior to that. So, essentially, I utilized this time of change as a chance to come out at work.
I talked to the principal and assistant principal on Friday, December 23rd. I stated that I was changing my name and my pronouns, and that I identify as neither a man nor a woman. The impromptu meeting was less than stellar – they fixated on bathrooms and the fact that the change was going to be hard for people to remember. They did mention that they wanted me to feel comfortable, but didn’t offer any concrete ways that that could happen. I did not panic though – I was thinking, “do not catastrophize this.” I remained neutral and open, but I didn’t use it as a teaching moment. I shouldn’t have to! I thought that things would work out fine, ultimately, and if not, I could always call in the big guns: my local gay alliance’s speaker’s bureau, to do the educating on my behalf.
We all took a time out for winter recess. I then came in on Tuesday, January 3rd, and the principal asked me if I’d come speak to her. Of her own volition, she had consulted the head of HR, and she had basically done a 180. We had a much more fruitful discussion. She still was strong in her opinions, but she made it clear that every choice was up to me, and I could take some time to think it over. We ended up talking about:
– How to come out, and the timeline
– How my name would appear on my name plate on the custodial office door
Coming out: I said that I have already pretty much told the people I would naturally tell in person, the ones I see regularly or semi-regularly. And I wasn’t going to be able to get to everyone, so if she could either make an announcement at the next staff meeting and/or send an email, that’d be great. We agreed she would do both. I told her I’d get back to her with the content I’d like her to say.
Name plate: The biggie! I said I had two ideas, but I didn’t say exactly what they were. (I’ll say it here though! Either 1. just “Kameron” and nothing else. 2. Mx. [last name].) She said that her thought was that my co-workers have Mr. _____ and Mrs. _____, so it’d be great if I conformed to that and picked one or the other. I said, “OK! Great, there is another option that I will go with. It’s Mx. That’s pronounced ‘Mixter.'” She wrote it down in her notes. It was a done deal!
Bathrooms: I could write an additional article about this (heck, probably more like a dissertation!), but to keep it short and sweet: We agreed that I get to pick where I go, and I am making no big deal of it, and it does not need to be a part of any announcement.
All’s how it should be! Just one more small way I am joining the world of adults. That’s Mixter, to you.
This has been my biggest transition goal. For a long time. I always knew I would / could, at some point in the (distant) future, but usually it felt like there’d be no way. I’ve been riding the waves of my legal name change though, and getting in on that as an opportunity to say that there’s more to it than just that I am going to go by a new name now.
Monday – My supervisor had been out of work for 3 weeks, and Monday was her first day back. During her absence, I had received the signed court order from a judge in the mail, and was starting in on some of the bureaucratic processes: going to the DMV, going to my bank, etc. So it was good timing for when she came back – I told her (again) that I was changing my name, and I deferred to her in terms of what she thought I should do. I did not tell her anything beyond the name change, and she expressed concern that she wasn’t going to remember. I also came out to my 2nd co-worker (my one co-worker has been in my corner this whole time.) She was emotional in her responses, but I’m sure she’ll be fine / nothing will change.
Tuesday – Before work, I went to the “third floor” to speak to the benefits lady. I filled out paperwork. She asked me if I had my new Social Security card, and I was like, “uhhhh…” I made a mental note to get on that. She said we could get things started anyway, without it, and I just send over a copy when I get it. While at work, I came out to my favorite teacher. It went well. The reason I like her is because she just seems real. We don’t talk a whole lot, but when we do, she’s always reserved yet super thoughtful in her insights. She shared with me a couple of impressions her 4-year old daughter has had of me (she’s met me a handful of times.) That was nice. I told her the name and the pronoun thing, but I didn’t get as far as “neither male nor female” in this interaction. It was good enough for me right then; she said, “I’m happy for you,” a couple of times.
Wednesday – I gave it a day or two. My supervisor basically seemed to think now I just wait for things to trickle down from the “third floor.” I wasn’t feeling that – I was feeling more proactive than that, but I gave it a day. I In the meantime, I emailed our union president (the benefits lady prompted me to do this) to give him a heads up. We just had an election in November, and my favorite buildings and grounds guy was elected. It’s always a buildings and grounds guy, and if it has to be one, I’m so glad it’s him because I think he can absorb the news and take the lead on it within all those guys – electricians, plumbers, HVAC, maintenance, conservatives, white men, Trump supporters, etc. etc. Hopefully.
Thursday (today) – I talked to my supervisor about when can I change my badge, stuff like that, and she reiterated that I just wait and it’ll all happen. What I was really most concerned about was talking to the principal (again), so that she hears it from me, and so that she hears all of the information. I knew that once I talked to her, she’d take it from there (I’m not sure how she’ll do it, but the whole school will know through her.) My supervisor said she mentioned it to the principal, and I took that as a green light. I came out to three more teachers (one of them told me about a relative, and I was able to get to the part about “not male or female” with her, which felt great!) I was feeling pressure to talk to the principal either today or tomorrow because we’re going into Xmas Recess, and having everyone know when they come back from break would be ideal. So I made it happen. After school but before the admin. assistants leave for the day, I went to the office to see if the principal was available. The assistant principal happened to be with her in her office right then, which worked out perfectly. Kill two birds with one stone! Plus, the dynamic with both of them was so much better. A lot of times, they are like foils to each other. I said the stuff (the name, the pronouns, the “neither male nor female,”) the principal brought up bathrooms (which I have mixed feelings about), the assistant principal brought the energy and excitement, but also brought up how he was not going to be able to remember, and that’s not anything about me. I said yeah yeah I know it’ll be an adjustment period. (In my head, I’m thinking, how long is this adjustment period, exactly???)
Friday (tomorrow) – I have about 5 other people I’d like to tell in person, if I get the chance. If not, no big deal. Everyone’s gonna be focused on Xmas parties and getting ready for domestic family things and cookies and blah blah blah. We’ll see. The best part is there’s really no more pressure!
And so, that’s it! Now I just wait for things to happen around me. Next week, during Xmas Recess, the only people who will be at the school will be me, my two co-workers, my supervisor, and maybe the principal and assistant principal. So, that’s a whole week for the people who say my name the most, to practice. I have a feeling my co-worker / ally will step up and lead it, followed by me correcting everyone every single time.
Then teachers and kids come back. And teachers will have a heads up from the principal one way or another, and then I just start correcting, correcting, correcting. For how long? Not sure.
(I gotta say, I definitely feel good and accomplished, but I don’t feel that “wheeeeeeeee” feeling that often comes with big comings-out. I’m attributing that to my medication, for better and worse. It makes so many things so much easier, but those roller coaster feelings – yeah, I miss the good ones…)
Yesterday, I wore a t-shirt to work for the first time! It was glorious. I have been back to work for two weeks now, after being out for 9 weeks recovering from top surgery. It has been going more smoothly than I could have possibly imagined! Physically, I’m back to 100%, and in terms of work dynamics, I’m right back where I left things, which is better than I could have hoped for. I pictured I might be the odd person out, after being away so long, but everyone genuinely seems happy to see me. Our supervisor even got muffins for the day I came back!
So, work uniform: We have four styles of shirts we can wear – all of them are navy blue with the school district’s seal embroidered in yellow. The choices are:
long sleeved button-down
short sleeved button-down
Every 2 years, we can order 5 more. I had been down to only 5 total, though, for years, because I continually ordered more and more size S short sleeved button-downs, and they kept being too big. I had 5 that my spouse had tailored and hemmed (thank you!!!), and that was it. I had 2 t-shirts and one polo shirt, which I had ordered at some point, but never wore. Until yesterday!
Why didn’t I just wear a t-shirt immediately upon returning? This might be mild paranoia, but I didn’t want to change things up immediately for fear of fanning whatever rumors might be going around about the type of surgery I had. I only told 2 people at work, and I didn’t really want to talk about it. The short sleeve button-downs have pockets with buttons that just happen to fall right where my nipples are! Haha. So, I looked pretty much the same before and after surgery, in those shirts. I wanted a little time to pass before I moved on to what I really wanted to do: Wear a t-shirt!
I gotta say though, t-shirts are not as conducive to this hot weather. (It is soooooo hot in the school.) They are 100% cotton, and they get wet with sweat. The short sleeved button-downs are cotton/poly blend, and they are billowy and wick away moisture.
Once it’s fall, winter, and spring, I am going to be loving it though. I just need more shirts though! I think this is one of the years we get more – I’m going to order 5 small t-shirts!
In other work related news, I added a new page to my blog. It is called, glossary of janitorial words and phrases. I’m sure I’ll be adding to it as I think of more. Check it out – it might make you laugh (or possibly gross you out)…
For years, I’ve had this idea of the path I would follow for coming out at work. First, I would tell a few people in person, including the principal and my supervisor. Then I would talk to the principal about my plan for coming out to everyone else, and make sure that it was fine by her. This plan entailed writing an email to the school requesting male pronouns and a name change. And maybe a brief explanation about how I feel about my gender. Then I would try to be alert and correct people in the moment so that the adjustment period would move along quicker. Maybe I’d actually feel closer to certain people during this process. Currently, I am far away from almost everyone.
Paths often diverge into other directions, or gradually end or loop back around. I made it through quite a few of these steps, and each time, I felt an urgency to move ahead, and relief and pride for disclosing more about myself:
A little over a year ago, I came out to the principal of my school (workplace).
Then, about 5 months ago, I cam out to the head of the kitchen.
Four months ago, I came out to my co-worker.
Most recently, about 3 months ago, I came out to my supervisor.
I thought my supervisor was the major road block. That once that was taken care of, the rest would happen quickly and effortlessly. Because it seemed to be what I had been wanting for years. I wanted to tell all these people, I thought, so that I could move on to the next stage. But now I’m starting to think differently. I’m wondering if maybe I wanted to tell these people because I actually wanted them to know this thing about me, and not just as a means to get to the next thing. Because as soon as the euphoria of telling my supervisor wore off, the urge to move forward surprisingly died down. Currently I feel no desire to follow the next step(s) in my plan.
I could speculate as to why that is: The rest of the plan is too scary, so I’m tricking myself into believing I don’t really want it. This seems unlikely because emailing the rest of the school and then replying in the moment seems totally do-able if that’s what I want. Doing that stuff is so much more hands-off, and low key, as compared to coming out to someone face-to-face, especially if you don’t know how they’ll react.
Another guess: I’m worried that people won’t understand. I haven’t legally changed my name yet, and I do not plan on changing my gender marker on legal documents. I also don’t plan on using the men’s room. (Luckily there are 3 “staff” restrooms within the school.) Will people be confused by my “partial” or “selective” transition? I’ve talked a lot about this in therapy over time, and I keep getting assured that people will take what I say at face value, and I don’t need to over-explain. I always thought about using a quip about bathrooms in my mass email: “Although I use the women’s restroom, don’t worry – I will continue to clean them all.” Or something like that. If people don’t understand that I am not transitioning into manhood, then so be it, right?
Another guess: Maybe I’ve actually reached the balance I’m looking for. Maybe I don’t actually want to be called by my new name, and male pronouns in all areas of my life because my gender is not that binary – maybe I actually need a little bit of both. This seems possible… I guess that time will tell.
Or: I am focused on my upcoming top surgery right now, that other gender-related issues are on the back burner. This might be the case. Again, time will tell.
Above all, when following any transition path, whether it’s laid out in stories in mass media, or the WPATH-SOC, or a therapist, or within each of us, it’s essential to listen to that heart/gut combination voice. Not the voice inside your head. Not the voice of peers transitioning. Not the voice of medical professionals.
That voice that says, “this feels right,” or “this does not feel right,” or “I’m not sure about this yet so I’m going to slow down and/or try a different path for a while.” This voice always has a simple message, and it’s always there, even if it seems buried by other, less important voices. Sometimes it’s a complex process to try and figure out what you want to do with that voice’s message, but the message itself is always simple and straightforward.
My voice unexpectedly told me that it’s not time to come out to everyone at work right now, if ever. At a time when I was sure my voice was going to say, “full speed ahead! You’re almost there!” it actually did a 180. And, although a part of me wants to just complete a task that has been on my mind for years, it is much more satisfying to listen to this voice than to check off one more thing on my transition to-do list.
Speaking of to-do lists, here’s one version of my transition to-do list, from almost 2 years ago: Gender identity related “to-do list”
There have been many, many versions of this, with lots of revisions. That’s part of what it means to be on a path…
I am on a roll! It feels like the end of “coming out at work” is in sight. This may have been the biggest hurdle, because it seemed the most unpredictable – I wasn’t sure how she’d react. Or rather, I could deduce how she might react at different times – I just had to make sure to pick a good time…
She had been out on medical leave for 6 weeks, and I expected there to be a transitional period when she came back. So I didn’t plan / put any pressure on myself to say anything in the foreseeable future. But once she was back, I realized it did seem to be good timing. I dreaded approaching her while she was in her office (if I could even catch her in there). It seemed so daunting to start such a conversation from scratch, but that’s exactly what I planned on doing, since we’d be in a semi-private location.
Last Wednesday, however, I was running the auto-scrubber in the cafeteria, when she came up to me to explain some extra work my co-worker and I would be doing that night. I then turned the auto-scrubber back on, but she came back to me with something else. She had some news about someone who used to teach at our school years ago. She was relating to me as another worker with history in the building, something she has never done before. Sort of, “I knew you’d remember her, so I thought I’d tell you.” It was a bonding moment, as much as seems possible between us. I realized, this is the time to tell her! We were already conversing (not a common thing) and all I have to do is segue, as opposed to start from nothing.
I said, “Oh, I’ve got two things to run by you.” I told her about surgery and needing time off first. She was totally fine with that and didn’t ask any questions. I was concerned she might. I dreaded telling her I was taking off more time, since I took so much time last year. It went so smoothly! Then I added that I have something else that is more of a long-term thing. I told her I’m changing my name and pronouns to he/him/his. That I already have, in fact, except for at work. She said that this must be a long term thing because this is the first she’s heard of it! I assured her she was one of the first people I’m telling. (I strongly suspect that she already knew something, because I came out to the head of the kitchen a couple of months ago, and they talk about everything. That may have been somewhat strategic on my part.)
The rest of the conversation centered around her advising me about what I would be able to do, when. She said I’d have to wait until I’ve legally made changes. Then I should go to the principal, and she will deal with it in her own way. I don’t believe I do need to wait until my name is legally changed (and I’m not planning to change my gender), and I think I have some say about how I come out and when, but I’m not about to jump ahead to the next steps anytime soon anyway. I told her I am going by Kameron, and she even said, “I like it.”
We wrapped up the conversation, which went so well, considering. I turned the auto-scrubber back on and could not stop smiling. I had been dreading this for so long, and it just organically occurred in the moment. I was on turbo charge for the rest of the day. In my mind, I kept jumping ahead to what I would have to do next, and then reminding myself to just be in this moment, and feel this elation that doing this thing had created.
I really can’t envision what I’ll be doing next. Which means I should just wait for a while until it seems clear. (It would be talking to the principal again – something I can tell I’m not ready for right now.)
For now – WHEEEEEEE!
Other related posts:
2015 has been one of the hardest years of my life. I was majorly depressed for 4 months of it. I was moderately depressed for the vast majority of the rest of it. I was out of work for a total of 2 months due to mental health issues. I was in the hospital, and I was also in a partial hospitalization program. I did do some fun things (like camping, going to Pittsburgh, marching in the pride parade, adopting 2 cats, going to the beach 3 weekends in a row, becoming a radio DJ, seeing Sleater-Kinney) but they failed to feel like much fun. I’m only now starting to feel like myself for extended periods of time. For example, today and yesterday (but not the day before), I felt like a person in a normal mood, and that felt great. I hope tomorrow feels like that too! I started on a new medication 2 weeks ago, and I’m really hoping something clicks…
I wrote a similar post last year, and I summed up gender-related stuff this way:
“I continued to settle into a new and improved place with hormone therapy and talk therapy, but I’m finding I still have a LONG way to go until I really am where I see myself. I want to be out as non-binary in all areas of my life. I want to go by a different name. I want all the people who know me to use male pronouns in reference to me, not just most of the people… I might want top surgery…”
I made some pretty big strides – I started to go by a different name, and now all my friends and about half of my family use that name. It’s still growing on me – it feels about equally as strange as my former name feels, now, but that is actually progress. Currently it feels like neither name really is my name, but I think that’ll shift with more time.
This year I went from feeling like I might want top surgery to scheduling a date! This feels like my biggest accomplishment, based on the amount of mental headspace this topic has been taking up. I’ll be going to Dr. Rumer on June 1st. I chose this date because I purposefully want to miss certain things by being out of work. I really do not like working in the summers, and I especially have a hard time with the transition from school-year to summer. I have a lot of sick time accrued, and I plan to use a lot. Often, people can be back at a desk job 2 weeks after surgery, but since my job is so physical, I plan on being out for 8 weeks, as of now. Why not?! That’ll allow me to miss the last 3 weeks of school plus half of the summer. That would be really amazing.
So if I were to sum up gender-related stuff now, a year later, it’d look like this: I want to be out as non-binary in all areas of my life (still). I want to come out at work, so that pretty much everyone will be using my new name and male pronouns in reference to me. No more dual identities. I want to get through the ordeal of surgery without too much psychic pain (physical pain is fine). I want to wear t-shirts! I want to make up my mind about testosterone – take more? take less? go off of it? I want to legally change my name at some point…
These are not resolutions, but it will be neat to go back and see if I made more progress or not.
Other things I’d like to focus on in the coming year:
– Getting back to being more social. Being social this year was too difficult, so I didn’t push it. I’ve been a little more talkative with teachers at work lately, and I’d like to re-connect with some people, both locally and through writing letters to far-away friends.
– Enjoying the summer. I never enjoy the summer – I usually get depressed. But since I’ll be most likely out of work for half of it, maybe I’ll feel it more. I’d like to do a road trip, more time at the beach for sure, maybe some backyard fires, weatherproof our picnic table and actually use it, and go on walks.
– Taking more photos. My dad gave me a new camera for my birthday/xmas, and I want to use it!
– Giving myself a break. I’ve been pretty hard on myself, and I’m going to try not to be (as much).
*Back to school is in quotations because as a janitor, I didn’t actually leave school. We’re just gearing up for everyone else coming back.
I spent this summer waking up at 5:20AM every day, working to get the school ready for students and teachers. We are winding down from that (we’ve been wound down for a while – we started out really fast and got done early). I’m back to late nights (2-10:30PM) without much to do other than dump the trash of the few teachers who have been coming in to set up every day. It’s been nice that the cleanliness of the school is at a standstill. We can just look around and say, “we got all that done.” And we don’t yet have to work to maintain it. Kids start back on Wednesday, so that will all change in a couple days.
While we were busy though, we were rushing through things. We scrubbed every desk and chair. We cleaned surfaces in the rooms, shined the sinks, dusted. We scrubbed the old wax up off the floors. I single-handedly waxed every floor. 3 times over. I’d like to know how many square feet that was. Tens of thousands? Maybe even a hundred thousand? Or a lot more?
It has been a relief to drop back to the later shift and not feel like I’m stumbling, half-awake, in the mornings, just to come home and start dreading about waking up early again. I had been going to bed at 8:30PM! My mental health has been better overall, but not great. I’ve been mildly depressed all summer.
Going back to late nights has been lonely, and strangely, a lot of my worries have centered around what to eat before work. I need to fit in breakfast and lunch. I don’t know what to eat. I also don’t really know what to do, all by myself, other than oversleeping. I’m forcing myself to do some things I don’t really feel like doing, as of now. I guess the hope is I will grow into it; I will like it once I’m doing it. I’m going to be a radio DJ starting pretty soon. I’m also going to take a writing class.
I’ve been realizing that I’m living with a lot of dread lately. Whether that’s residual from mental health issues earlier in the year, or whether that’s just me being me, I can’t really figure out. It’s been helpful to notice it while it’s happening though, and just focus on the here-and-now. Remind myself that I’m actually fine in whatever I am doing presently, so just be more involved in that, rather than thinking about all the perceived horribleness ahead.
For example, I’m dreading going back to doing the exact same thing, at work, every day. But, it really is what I make it, from moment to moment. Unlike most jobs, I don’t have unpredictable things pop up daily, or new challenges to tackle, or people to deal with. It’s just me, in my head. I need to remember that it’s important to change what’s on my iPod frequently – new music, new podcasts… And to talk to people on the phone. And although I don’t believe her, my therapist keeps telling me that I’m actually in control of my own thoughts. So I can choose to keep obsessing about something negative, or I can move on to more interesting topics. In my mind, I am powerless to whatever my brain ends up dwelling on, and I get stuck feeling whatever feelings those thoughts conjure up. I should work on that…
This is pretty much the best type of leave of absence anyone could ask for. Last week, I was in the hospital, but I wasn’t sick or incapacitated in any physical sense. And being out of work for this week, I’m able to get to some stuff I’ve been putting off, in some cases for years.
– I’m getting my car inspected.
– I’m going to therapy Mon. and Fri.
– I’m meeting with my new psychiatrist.
– I’m having lunch or dinner with a couple people.
– I’m working on finally finishing this blanket I started 2 years ago.
– I’m finishing a piece of writing, a collaborative blog post with Michele Witchipoo.
And the big thing I’m finally getting around to: I am cleaning my room.*
My room has been a disaster area for mostly my entire life. I mean, I guess there were periods of time where I kept things organized throughout my childhood, but largely, it’s a watch-where-you-step zone. There is a method to the madness, but it doesn’t work all that well, and there have been times recently where I can’t find something. I have a tendency to not unpack bags and also a tendency to not want to touch things because they have sentimental value and are buried somewhere down there. It’s like an archaeological dig. This room has not been cleaned in probably 2 years – lots of dust and hair and just grossnesses. At least no food or stuff like that – I’m good about that.
I guess I have a confession: I am a janitor who is a messy person at heart.
I have a fair amount of anxiety about returning to work next week. I have never been out of work for this long, ever. People might be asking me questions that I need to be prepared to field. Although it may be tough to believe in my line of work, I was temporarily experiencing quite a lot of stress, and many changes were under way, leading up to being out of work. I think I can manage it better once I get back, but I won’t really know until I’m in it. Either way, I know I’ll be ready to go back – only so much I can do with huge swaths of unstructured time. (I’ve also been playing thought experiments about how hard would it be to come out as non-binary at work? Everyone really likes me there – I think they could get on board. We’ll see…)
*When I say “my room,” I’m referring to the room where my partner and I sleep, and where I store a lot of my personal belongings in big disheveled swirls. We don’t hang out in there or watch TV or anything because it’s not all that aesthetically pleasing, at least for my partner. Also, it is the attic of our house, so it is very cold in the winter.
My co-worker just retired on Friday. This is someone I’ve seen almost every day for the past 8 years – not many people in my life I can say that about! (My partner, and others at work, basically.) I will miss him a lot. Some people have a lot of co-workers. I really only have just one. I have one supervisor, one co-worker, and one other person on the cleaning staff who is only there for 4 hrs a day (more of a higher turnover. A co-worker, but it doesn’t feel the same).
We didn’t actually work “together,” but we worked the same hours and we were still a team. I clean the first floor, and he cleaned the second floor. We probably only saw each other for a total of a half-hour every day. Still, I felt very connected with him. We commiserated together. We listened to each other. If I needed anything, I knew I could go to him. I knew if I helped him out with something, I was being highly appreciated for it.
I’d have to say he taught me more than any other person, in my journey to becoming a janitor who is very good at his job. He always had an opinion about how things should be done. And he had a lot of tricks-of-the-trade up his sleeve. He always wanted to pass those on to me (and anyone else who had the patience to learn from him – most didn’t). He was really difficult to understand. He’s from the Caribbean and has a super thick accent. He also has a speech impediment (I believe) on top of that. Over time, I began to be able to understand every word out of his mouth. Most people – teachers and other people in the building – could really understand roughly half or less of the things he was saying. Even after interacting with him every day for years and years and years. Sometimes I felt the urge to be his interpreter, but I think he might have felt insulted, so I really only did this if it really seemed necessary.
One of my favorite word-disconnects he uttered, was anytime he was talking about someone with Alzheimer’s, it would come out sounding like “Old Timers.” How great is that? I’ve pretty much started using that in my own lexicon. There are plenty of other neologisms and intonations I’ve adopted from him. Just one way I will always remember him.
There was a party for him after school in the library (this is the first “library party” I’ve attended – usually I haven’t felt like I was welcome / I haven’t gone). We ate cheese squares and broccoli & cauliflower. We drank Pepsi and had sheet cake. He made a brief speech and he cried. I was touched. He was presented with a few gifts, including a scrap book the Social Committee made for him. I contributed two pieces for it. This is what I wrote:
I think that he saw me as male. Or at least as not female. He always referred to me as “Man,” or, more like, “Mon” (the Caribbean thing). He was old-school in a lot of ways, but he never once tried to do something for me (unless he was showing me a better way to do it) or told me I couldn’t do something / lift something. I always appreciated that. There’s no way I’ll ever forget him. He impacted my life in ways he may never know…