Thursday, March 20, 2008

in case of slander, break glass

What makes someone step over the line from just not liking you to actively trying to ruin your career and life?

I've been trying to amuse myself by making jokes out of this, but in the end, I don't think the situation is funny. Best response I've thought of so far is a guilty conscience. She most definitely has a dirty conscience. And dirty hands.

If the person I'm thinking of actually has a conscience, anymore. I'm deliberately trying to assume good things of her, to assume this is all some kind of misstep or that perhaps I reminded her of someone else or some kind of mental hiccup, but it is an uphill battle.

Let me, in a cloaked way, talk about interactions and the creative process.

I have had a terrible life. If you've read the blog, you are aware of this. I am trying to reconstruct my life for the sake of a non-fiction manuscript, which means I have to write about abuse, violence, drugs, drinking, reaaaaally bad relationship decisions and trying to make something of yourself after the people close to you have gone to considerable lengths to make sure you know that you are worth nothing and better off dead.

It means I turn in stories to workshop that make people uncomfortable. I am not actively trying to make them uncomfortable; these are the stories I have to tell, and they are heavy and they weigh me down and tire me out and I want to tell other stories, but I've been stuck with these stories and silence for so long that they have to come out.

I am often expected to apologize for 'bumming people out.' I have to listen to them disparage my choices, discuss whether or not it's possible for anyone to experience what I have experienced and shrug off the pain in the story as deep but not necessary (that sucks but you should have done this instead. Perhaps. Didn't occur to me at the time.)

I wonder, sometimes, if that unreadiness and resentment about having to deal with stories that contain these events contributes to some of the willingness of my fellow students to pass rumors, believe ridiculous innuendo, and, most often, to behave as if they fear me.

Yeah, I'm an angry person. I'd be worried if I didn't come home and cry at my partner, instead of plot something or do something crazy. But I come home, exhausted from rehashing something painful in front of a group of people who often seem happy to act as if I've been up to something heinous and who honestly believe that anyone who experiences my kind of life is obviously just trying to be unhappy (my ex-girlfriend and I had a huge fight one time about that; she asserted that my life was bad because I was asking for it), and then I cry for about an hour, or wait for the stomach upset to pass (being on campus for more than an hour or two often causes me to be sick to my stomach.) Perhaps the most terrible side-effect of dealing with a fundamentally happier population is the fact that they see the difference between their experience and yours, and have no problem attributing everything from the JFK assassination to UFO visits to you, because if your life is that far outside their experience, obviously you could do anything.

I'm being sarcastic so that I don't have to curl up in a ball on the bed and shake for awhile. As I informed a particularly harassing group of girls the other day, I am not in college for the popularity contest, I'm here to learn. So sorry you don't like me. Sarcasm is most definitely not the most mature reaction to harassment, but it is one of the best I know how to generate on short notice.

My university experience has been terrible, thanks to this woman and the quality and quantity of things she is willing to say about me. At the end of the day, after I've looked at the differences in our experiences, tried to figure out what I've done that might have annoyed her and otherwise soul searched, I am left with the fact that someone I trusted has done everything in her power to ruin my professional career and alienate me from my classmates. She has behaved in an insane fashion, doing things that make no sense and are obviously lies and lapses of professional judgment. Things that don't make any sense.

I asked my partner last night why he thought I was having this problem. He said it was because I don't back down. I don't even know what she might be upset about. I've asked. Perhaps it is the inability to back down. So far, no one has been able to beat it out of me, and everyone from my folks to strangers have had a go at it. On some fundamental level, I have hope. As long as I have hope, hope that my behavior matters, hope that I may, someday, make things better for someone; as long as I have hope, I can stand on my decisions. While the last few days have done much to extinguish that hope, to dent and smear my sense of place and self, it only does so in a way I understand. I have been here before (first time in my life I've been glad of going to private schools), and I can last it out. And perhaps, because despite my overwhelming cynicism, a small corner of me believes that it matters. It matters if I try to do the right thing and not if anyone notices. It matters that I try to do the right thing and if I continue to try and be kind.

Hell, so far this hasn't been all that bad. No one's even taken a swing at me yet. I mean, I wanted to work with kids and the slander attached to my name will probably keep me from doing so. I was volunteering down in the valley and teaching a free creative writing class, as a remedy to the lack of holistic thinking that is a result of having to 'teach to the test,' and now I can't. I have no way of knowing whether or not I'll be able to teach adults thanks to this. I had to switch dissertation directors, and even though I am not happy about the subjects I can't discuss, if he hadn't picked up my dissertation, I'd be unable to graduate. For the last two years, I've been temporarily homeless twice (can't take very many hours at jobs), I've been treated like dirt and taken shit from my family, from people I thought were my friends, and my ex-husband's family, because going to school is obviously a sign (that they were looking for one or anything) that I don't love my kids, because I haven't run out and gotten a real job.

I could go on. I suppose I could view this as a chance to know what's in me; they say that when you are under pressure, you find out what's in you. Who am I, then?

Hopeful. And insanely determined. The rest someone observing me would have to speak for, since the emotion most often running through me at this point is stubbornness (which tends to make it hard to listen to other emotions.) I've given up much to go to school, and I will graduate.

I'm not sure what I'll do then.

1 comment:

Lynne said...

Damn. I feel for you. Some people will spread rumors just cause they have nothing better to do. i don't know exactly what's going on from your post, but I can relate to feeling like stuff isn't a popularity contest, which makes people like you even lessa nd treat you worse, because you won't play their popularity games.

Take heart, most lies get exposed, it just takes awhile.