Self care, and scoping out a potential path

This semester, I’ve decided, is going to be spent trying to improve my mental and physical well-being. Coinciding with that are a number of courses I either decided to undertake, or had assigned to me. I know at this point that it’s probable that I’m dealing with insulin resistance, even though I am only close to being pre-diabetic, and am not yet pre-diabetic. Right now I am off of sodas, juices, and candies, and have already seen my weight drop after two days…which is a good thing!

What I need to watch out for? I shouldn’t forget that this has been two years of mostly being inside. I can’t exercise as vigorously as I used to from a cold start. I’m also getting to the age where my body just will not cope with the abuse I’m used to giving it. There’s also the fact that I will likely need to at least try to learn how to cook, along with other life skills, like getting comfortable with driving, again. If I can drive, it vastly improves my employment options.

On top of that…well, I’ve put myself back into one class, which starts toward the end of the month. I’m not entirely sure why I keep doing this to myself (taking classes, that is), other than that it’s a known stressor and not a social stressor (like work). I suppose the worst thing that can happen in a job is getting fired or quitting and not having a good source for a reference, although I do always think back to high school and the fact that one of my friends’ boyfriends at the time was getting sexually harassed by his boss, on-the-job, for being not-straight.

Of course, that was over 20 years ago, but I have a good amount of experience with people being less-than-honorable both to myself, and to people like myself. I heard horror stories in Undergrad about LGBT students and their jobs that I can’t even remember, now. But this is why I didn’t take a job for years, and why I don’t want to work in a public-facing position again, if I can help it.

I have experienced harassment on the job that related to expectations others had of me based on my sex and my (apparent/assumed) gender, and trust me, “telling my supervisor,” didn’t take care of the issue (though maybe it would have, had I been hard-line about it and reported the behavior to the correct person, which would have led to a ban; or complained to my supervisor’s supervisor if she was unsuccessful at stopping it).

It’s kind of like how the advice, “tell an adult,” when a classmate acts out like both they and you are 10, and both they and you are high school Seniors — doesn’t work to stop the behavior (or didn’t, for me). Of course, not all inappropriate behavior in a Library setting happens with young people. In my experience on the job, most of the troublemakers were far older than myself: which is likely why they thought they could get away with their actions, and why they thought that — say — harassing me daily about my hair, or constantly trying to force unwanted bribes on me, was OK. They were almost all, apparently, men. What I have to work on, is how to stop the problem behavior without getting triggered, escalating the situation, or resorting to aggression. I’ll try to come closer to alleviating my own issues with this problem, this semester. That’s self-care, too — as is making efforts to find a job where this environment will be less of an issue.

This lack of perceived safety, due both to my race and to my gender/sex combination evoking hostility, is also a reason why I decided to work in a Library: as I was growing up, my Libraries were safety zones. My peers were not safe. I suppose I’m lucky that I went to school at a time when violence was just beginning to ramp up. Drugs were already there, sex (and sexual harassment and assault) was already there, gangs were already there. But no one brought a gun to school — that I knew of. (If they did, they were smart enough not to flash it around, or to use it.) It was also before Internet-based peer abuse by school-aged children, which was a good thing.

Of course, to hear people my generation and younger talk about it, the generation of kids in school now are much more accepting of gender-based differences than they were when I was growing up. When I was in school, even just being suspected of being “gay” (which mostly related to gender presentation, and rumors made by — I suspect — insecure people who wanted to seem more heterosexual) was a bad thing, and would get one harassed on a daily basis by people one didn’t even know. Does being gay even matter, where it comes to harassment and violence, now?

One can hope that the dynamics from before the LGBT rights movement are over at this point in time, but when you don’t know why it was happening in the first place, it’s hard to see how we can keep it from happening, again; especially with the destabilization of liberal democracy by our own people. The reason I began studying Sociology was that I didn’t understand why it happened, at all — and I had never gotten the chance to explore the question. Granted that I never did get the chance to explore the question, because my Sociology program was more interested in how dominant culture came to be dominant; not in minority subcultures’ relationships with power and agency. The latter was what I intended to study, and what I did not find in my time in the program.

Built into the Sociology program was the assumption that a person could navigate a social world according to that world’s social norms and unspoken rules; that they, for example, would not be terrified at the thought (or the act) of asking random strangers to fill out surveys. I didn’t know this at the time, but I carry a couple of conditions that make navigating social realities difficult (which is why I majored in Writing). It doesn’t help that I was mostly-excluded from a functional social life for a while when I was growing up, because the kids around me were bigoted jerks in a culture that encouraged bigoted jerks, and I realized I was better off alone than accepting abuse in exchange for inclusion.

I wonder if what I wanted to study would have been more easily found in a University program which centered itself around Intersectional Feminism? Does that even exist? Can I find it, now that I have research skills honed through a curriculum of Library Science?

Something like that really would be very interesting to me. I’ve never thought of it, before. One of the issues I’ve found with Intersectional Feminism, however, is that it’s focused on women (as versus being more broadly inclusive), although — particularly — many queer men and masculine-of-center people under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella do also experience some of the same pressures that largely impact women. The pressure is just to, “be a real man,” as versus to conform and submit to the domination of men (which could be seen to be the same thing, from the stance of, say, a nonbinary person who appears male). Toxic socialization isn’t restricted to any one gender, that is.

It’s also not like cisgender/non-transgender heterosexual men are the only people whom these pressures are coming from. The dynamic is not a clear us/them: just because the person you’re dealing with identifies as feminine, doesn’t mean they aren’t (or can’t be) abusive, or that they will treat people they see as women with the full respect (including respect for difference from themselves) that they should.

Apparently, we are now in the 4th Wave of Feminism? It must have happened while I wasn’t looking.

In any case, I have the skills to research this. I also have the rest of my life to study this, if that’s what I find I want to do. I’ve just found out that SFSU’s Women and Gender Studies program has a Master of Arts available, which has a lot to do with Transnational and Intersectional feminisms. In this case, I’m curious because of the possibility of teaching this stuff (if I know the subject well, the thought of handling a class on it is less scary), or of arming myself with the ability to utilize the education, combined with my own experience. I could also become an Academic Librarian with a specialization in Women and Gender Studies.

If, that is, I can get to a point of comfort in dealing with people. I wouldn’t think that it would be altogether easy to handle the social assumptions made about a Women’s Studies Librarian. I mean, seriously, being seen as a Librarian is trouble enough without gendering it more.

But yes: why do I keep putting myself through this? Especially when it looks like an MA in the subject will do less for me than what I can do for myself, on my own? Without paying tuition or trying to get to (or move closer to) the University?

I suppose that’s what M was referring to when she told me that by getting a Master’s degree (the first time), I was essentially learning how to learn, so that I wouldn’t actually need the classes anymore. That may go double for a degree in Library Science, which teaches a person how to find and evaluate information. I already know enough about Sociology to have a good start, there. I also have a known focus, even if stating that focus concisely is a problem.

What would it be…LGBTQIA+ experiences seen from within the context of Intersectional feminism and Transfeminisms?

It may be that I’ll gain a more focused and useful set of skills for my own situation by doing my own research — instead of going back for a second Master’s. The benefit of a second Master’s would seem to be breadth of coverage of the topic, academic library access, being pushed to ask (and answer) questions that wouldn’t occur to me, community, and an official piece of paper that would clear me to teach and obtain a certain type of job within Academia.

Did I ever say that when I graduated with my BA, I never intended to return to higher education?

Published by Haruna

Haruna is a Librarian by training, currently pivoting from Public Services into Technical Services. Their undergraduate major was English -- Creative Writing, and they hold an additional small degree in Art (i.e. Visual Arts). They are now pondering whether a career in Academia is viable or desirable, given the current situation.

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