Wednesday, August 16, 2017

This Is Me Not Being Quiet Anymore ...

I began kindergarten when I was 4.

Accordingly, I've always been a bit younger than my peers. Most of my friends were licensed to drive as sophomores. I had to wait until I was a junior. When I entered college, I was 17.

One of my friends and classmates was Kim, a black woman who was attending school while working. I don't precisely remember how old she was when I met her but my mind is whispering, "She was 26."

Every so often, a thought surfaces about Kim, about a time we were talking about how women – never mind black women – are treated as less important than men. I was young. I made some comment about not knowing that to be true.

Kim's response was all it needed to be: "Just wait."

I graduated when I was 21. At 22, I began work at the Chicago Tribune. In Sports. Early on, one of my male colleagues – age-wise one of my peers – made a comment about me only getting the job because I was a woman. I asked my boss about that. He was diplomatic about it and said something to the effect of "Yep. All candidates being more or less equal, it's not a bad thing to have more women in Sports."

When I left the paper just shy of five years later, they couldn't find anyone to do my job at my pay grade. So the powers that be upped it – from a 12 to a 17 – and hired a man. I presume he was the most qualified. I have no way of knowing for sure. But it wasn't lost on me that no one offered to pay me more to get me to stay.

I went on to work for another newspaper company and was well regarded. I've since worked for a couple of IT consulting companies and, like in Sports, it's not a bad thing to have more women in IT. Of course, I was an editor not an analyst but words are my forte, not technology.

These days, I work for myself.

I was raised by a strong woman. My mom is more patriarch than matriarch but she is also very kind. As is human nature, though, or at the very least a function of estrogen, she's not a big fan of confrontation. She avoids it when she can. She doesn't rile intentionally. And, as I was raised by her, neither do I.

Did, I should say. Times may have changed.

On Facebook and Twitter, I'm more and more blunt. It started with a letting go of my hesitancy to post anything political.

I got over that quickly. I'm one of the most political people I know. I crave information in that realm. I consume a gluttonous amount of it each day. My Twitter feed numbers nearly 500 and almost all of them are news-related accounts: publications, pundits, and the like.

I've been that way for some years now, growing more and more informed during the Obama administration, a Maddow acolyte.

Shortly after President Obama's election, I was out to breakfast with my mom. A group of old white women were at a table nearby, spouting the most racist bile, saying Michelle looked like an ape.

I didn't confront them. I so regret that now. I made loud comments to my mom but I was being passive-aggressive. I should have been forthright. I should have walked up to them and spoken my piece and then thrown some money on our table and left. I should have but I didn't.

Republicans didn't renounce Trump for his vile birtherism, they embraced it, used it to their perceived advantage. It helped in the short-term.

And then Trump "won."

And there I was, January 21, 2017, an unseasonably warm day, making my way to be one of the 20,000-ish people gathering in Grant Park for the Women's March.

Only there weren't 20,000 of us. There were something like 250,000 of us. "A sea of pink under a sky of blue," I posted to Instagram that day. The sky was cloudless. We marched west. Then north. The sun was almost too warm on our backs. My friend and I stepped off the route. We heard choppers overhead and watched the news footage on our phones. We encountered marchers again heading south. And then, when we returned to my friend's apartment and turned on the TV, we laughed when we learned that the march had been called off because there were too many people. Really? We had no idea. And no one stopped the thousands of us who walked through the streets. The Chicago PD led the way.

In these past months, I've opened the door a little wider. I began to post things on Facebook that I know aren't "safe," that may challenge some beliefs.

And then Charlottesville happened.

And honey, I am done.

Earlier today, in a Facebook post and Twitter thread, I wrote:

I noticed the other day that my Facebook friend count went down by one. Today, I thought of who might have unfriended. Yup, I thought right. Guess he was displeased with a recent disagreement among a few of us in the comments under a post. OK. Buh bye. In light of what has happened in recent days, I no longer have any inclination to keep my mouth shut or my fingers still in the interest of not making waves. Not anymore. And I regret that I let that reticence dictate so much for so long. I know I can be blunt. And profane. And I may challenge some mores and norms. But I never intend to be hurtful. So if I post something that offends you, let's discuss it (if you're so inclined).

I truly value kindness. I have no desire to ever be mean. But I am done being quiet for the sake of others' comfort. I will not seek out confrontations but when they arise, I intend to say what should be said, to stand up for anyone who is being mistreated.

Likewise, I will look for even more moments to do good, to smile, to lend a hand.

More and more, I'm getting better about boundaries. I end relationships that no longer serve me. Work-wise, I ask for what I'm worth.

It's taken me decades to get here but I'm fond of this surefooted path.

It's a fascinating journey, becoming myself.

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