My first job after college was working the night shift at a store downtown. I frequently had to close the store alone and catch the last Red Line east to get off at the lonely, rickety East 120th rapid stop.
(If I was lucky and got out before midnight. Otherwise I had to wait for the number 6 or 9 bus down Euclid.)
Like many women, I was socialized to be constantly afraid. Worse than most, even – my mother suffers from paranoia. Human psychology makes us accept things without questioning when we are very young. Therefore, I believed my mother when she told me there were men crouching in bushes waiting to abduct me. (I spent decades terrified of shrubbery!)
I digress. I worked nights, alone, despite being scared of the dark. I had no choice. I couldn’t NOT do the only job I’d been offered, and as a new hire, I HAD to take the crappy shifts.
That was when I decided to become a mafia hitman. Hitwoman.
I was alone on the platform, scared out of my mind as usual, when a man approached. He was big. He was scary.
He was ignoring me.
“Heck,” I thought, “How does he know I’m not a hitwoman for the mob?”
My fear evaporated; I felt powerful. I hadn’t learned martial arts or acquired a gun and marksmanship training. I was no more safe than I’d been a minute ago, but I’d decided to feel safer because I could be as dangerous as anyone else.
For the rest of that year, and the next, I sized up my fellow RTA passengers and picked a “mark” for the night. I’d imagine who they were and why my fictional mob bosses wanted them followed / shaken down / deleted. I’d position myself unobtrusively to watch them where they couldn’t watch me. I’d take note of their stop and what they carried. In short, I stalked. It was a game to play and made the time pass, but more importantly, I never felt afraid downtown at night again.
I was thinking about this lately because, well, all my friends are getting prestigious writing awards.
ALL OF THEM. All my friends. All the awards. Brand new awards just made up this year. Yes, they are giving out more awards just to make sure I know I am not getting any.
Yeah, I hate the person I am when I feel like this. I don’t want to be this person. I should be happy for my friends, not pitying myself.
It’s like… when you get a “Sorry This Wrapper Is Not A Winner” candy wrapper and you’re sad because you’re a loser and you didn’t know there was a game and weren’t even trying to win?
Or, okay, it’s like… I’m ugly and old and no one likes me or wants to talk to me or sit with me at lunch and when I ask my mom if anyone likes me she says self-pity is disgusting and I disgust her.
(Someone has ISSUES. *cough*)
I realize there are friends of mine, people I love and care about, who are silently gritting their teeth at MY success even as I moan about it not being enough.
Thank you, drawing of my sister, for pointing out that I’m not just a bad WRITER, I’m also a bad HUMAN BEING.
No matter what I tried, I couldn’t shift my mental space. I hated myself for being hateful and that became a feedback loop. I was turning into an even uglier self-pitying-er person.
Then, much like my idea about being in the mob, it just popped into my head:
“Let’s assume that Future Time Traveler Me just told me I win the Hugo ten years from now.”
Future Hugo-Winning Me is happy for her friends. She has nothing to prove because she has a Hugo, see, in the future, so she isn’t going to let lack of awards define her NOW. That’d be silly.
Pressure – gone. Ugliness – shed. SUCH RELIEF!
And I have lots of time to work on my acceptance speech.by