This week changed my life. I left this week without more than 1-2 hours of sleep a night, a voided career future, and far fewer friends. I feel tired in an existential way. It's like someone forgot to plug in my soul for three weeks, but I'm still forced to exist. I don't know how I'm going to deliver two more conference talks this week, but I know I will. Because if I got one thing out of this week, it's a strong sense of trust in self—that what doesn't kill me (makes me stronger).
Being me this week felt approximately like walking through hundreds of people who each had different coloured forks and the only thing they could agree on is that they would stab me if I did something they didn't like. Except forks are words and people don't believe the scars. When you're walking through rows and rows of being forked (poor repos) you just want to get through it. And that's all I wanted. I wanted to get through this week with a modicum of my sense of self.
When I thought my friends would help, they did not show up. Instead of shielding the forks, they ducked and asked everyone to stop. Guess what? People didn't stop. Twitter is not known for its ability to pull on the breaks.
So here I am, being accosted to death by tiny messages of hate that scoop out a small part of my soul. Being me, I am fairly used to getting a few messages of hate every day. But not hundreds an hour. I had to go on blocking/muting/reporting rampages and it still didn't feel like enough.
And here, everyone seems to have a strategy for how I could have done this better. "Block everyone!" "Leave Twitter!" "Name names!" "DM feedback!" And I just would like to, in my best Jonah Hill in Forgetting Sarah Marshall tell everyone to go fuck themselves. Unless any of you have been the centre of the same sort of targeted hate that I've experienced, I don't want to hear it. And even so, we're completely different people. It sometimes feels like the more followers you gain, the less human you become to them. You become a commodity to utilise, a caricature to judge, and an effigy against for them to burn their insecurities.
I'm pretty resilient, and I have to say, this week almost won. All of this not only unfolded after my lowest low (getting rejected for the last job I'll ever apply for, ever, right before I went on stage), then giving one of the best talks that I feel I've given, followed by one guy who didn't like my talk spiralling into well, Reactgate.
I did my fucking best this week. Maybe that wasn't enough for some people, but it's all I could do. I know I didn't do things perfectly. I know I've been a shit on the internet before. If I go a redo, I'd probably kindly decline doing it over again. But if I had to, I would probably do at least a few things differently. That's learning. And boy, have I learned a lot this week.
And at my absolute lowest low, sitting on the ground of this forkfest, were a small group of people I did not expect to be as kind as they were. In fact, they were kinder than anyone's been to me in fucking years. They both cared for me in tangible ways (making sure I was housed and fed—and loved, really) and in intangible ways, ensuring that my work would not fall into the ether, making it all for not. Instead of running or evading, they figured out how to magnetise some of the forks and hate away from me.
I don't expect any kindness at this level like this from people anymore. Of course my best friends are excluded from this, but for the most part, I don't have a lot of friends. I recognise: It's hard to when you call out ableism, anti-trans, anti-queer, racist things. Turns out, people don't like being called out. Compound my ethos with the challenge of finding new people who haven't completely nucleated by now, and it leaves me without many people in my life.
And I think that I'm most upset at myself for not seeing warning signs that friendships were no longer working for me. And as much as I want to stand firm by my ethos, that part of my existence resistance is tired after a week like this. I'm weak and grieving the loss of people who I cared for immensely. It's hard to say goodbye to all the good. But I have to. I cannot stand by people who don't believe my lived experiences, who actively gaslight my feelings, and who choose nice people who will maintain civil status quo. And the most fucked up part is that I feel some remorse for not having taught them better. Even though that's not my fucking job. You're not my friends, not my social justice students. And besides, you don't even want to learn. Teach you once, fool on you. Teach you twice, fool on me.
And during this grieving, I'm learning to (very carefully, cautiously) celebrate the birth of new ones. I'm so, so, so grateful for people who have—through actions—proven to me that they will Show Up and that in doing so, I can still be my authentic self in all spaces and be completely serious and silly and allow this fiercely independent girl to let someone help her, even if it's just getting water, picking food, carrying her bags, or just making her feel safe to cry for a minute.
I wasn't sure I was going to be able to finish this week. I mean that in the way I mean it. And that African proverb really is true: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. I didn't have a choice, it seemed before this week, to go together. At least now I do.