hard times.

“did you write anything today?”

i know that every time he asked this, B meant well. but for the last six months, it hung like a dark cloud over my head. i knew i wasn’t writing and i knew why. things in my life were sinking and they were going downhill fast. i can’t even pinpoint the moment everything went to shit and maybe that’s the whole point. things didn’t just all break all at once. rather, it was the slow culmination of a lot of small but important life changing events, each pushing me further and further into myself until even i wasn’t sure anything coherent would come out of me again.

i’m not really sure where to start but i guess it begins even before the election, in september 2016. B was coming up on about three months of unemployment and any birthday celebrations were dwarfed by his money situation. my father had just lost his job and was hiding it from us. i was more on edge every day as the pro-Trump bumper stickers started popping up in my neighborhood and as anti-immigrant rhetoric whipped the city into a frenetic fervor. among it all, i was trying to wrangle a promotion out of my workplace and getting nowhere. october was when i turned 23 and despite all the wishes for a great jordan year, i couldn’t shake the feeling that this was going to be a lost year. i went to boston and found a brief respite, only to come back and be faced with the reality of a father unemployed. i found myself suddenly thrust into the role of being a breadwinner for 4 and shortly after, the election happened and something inside me broke. the last meaningful thing i really ever wrote was about the election results. anything (everything?) i wrote after that kind of terrifies me. it was deranged and strange, like i was a fucking hurricane of sadness. it hurts to reread anything i wrote because all i see is pain. december came and went– i can’t remember christmas, which makes me sad because i love the holiday so much. the months and days afterwards blend into each other at some point because everything was clouded in a fog of bleakness.

people i knew and respected passed away and in one of the sadder twists of fate, i lost a former high school frisbee teammate to stage 4 cancer. he was my age and it shook me to my core. for weeks, i found myself paralyzed over his death because i knew that all he wanted from life was more time and here i was, with that gift and feeling like it was a curse. i woke up the morning of his funeral and stayed in bed all day, crying. i wished i felt like living more but everything felt so impossibly large and heavy, trapping me in the depths of a dark form of despair.

i once read that we are put through tough times to grow, to show us what we’re made of. i knew that i was at a low and didn’t think i could hit more of a rock bottom than i was at. and then my department was laid off. it happened in one swift blow, on a thursday in march like any other. i lost my manager, a beloved teammate and so many friends. i watched them move through stages of anger, denial and acceptance. and i ached from the loss and survivor’s guilt because i was one of the 8 people handpicked to stay. i couldn’t understand why i had still kept my job but i was also incredibly grateful because my family would have been financially devastated if i had. at the same time, any feeling of security that i had been holding on to at my work place immediately disappeared.

i started drinking too much, crying too much, fighting too much. alone, i would find myself questioning why i was even here. with B, i would find things slipping out of my mouth about how i could understand why people committed suicide. i feel so sorry for him, for watching me destroy myself with my sadness these last six months. and i am so grateful, really so incredibly grateful, that he loved me and held me through it all. i was going through a very particular kind of hell and he never let me become fully encapsulated in it. whenever i went too far, he was there.

love is what pulled me through this and not just his. my sweet mother, who saw how much overtime i was working, went and got two side jobs despite me telling her not to. my friends, who never probed and would offer to meet up for coffee just to make sure that i wasn’t sinking alone. my coworkers, those who were laid off and those who weren’t, who never left me to drown and constantly stayed in touch to offer guidance and support. these are the people who would watch me burst into tears after a meeting and immediately hunker down with me to say that it would be okay, with no inkling of how things were falling apart on a personal level. my work friends who brought me lunch, who insisted i go out for walks with them, the ones who pushed me to keep job searching even when i couldn’t muster up the energy to hit submit.

writing about this is so overwhelming because it makes me quantify and think about all the people who saw me, saw my sadness, and didn’t ignore me. who never asked questions, who just saw the little bit of what i showed them and reached out anyway. and then there were the few people who did know everything and never shied away from my pain and my raw, aching heart.

and here i am, mostly because of all of them.

i know a lot of people will chalk this up to my own toughness, my own strength. and i think it’s okay to recognize me for that, but it’s unfair to say i came out of this on my own. i didn’t. i know that.

it feels weird to be on the other side, recognizing that i was struggling and that a lot of the hard stuff is over particularly because when i was in the throes of it, it didn’t feel like a struggle. it really just felt like i was moving in slow motion, with every day feeling a little bit longer than the last.

i am not here to say that everything has magically gotten better. but i have a new job now. my dad finally got a job offer. my brother declared his major and is halfway through college. one of my best work friends has moved to houston. B is employed. a lot of people who were laid off have found new jobs. i mean, 45 is still president, but it is what it is tho.

& not all is lost. i’d like to think i’m on the up and up too. at least I’m writing again.


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