Today was a pretty decent day. That was until I saw that one of the women from The Housewives of Atlanta (don’t judge me because I watch that show!) is smaller than she was before her pregnancy thanks to breastfeeding. So of course that immediately sent my emotions into a tailspin as I thought about the crazy amount of weight that I’ve gained. Some due to pregnancy and some from postpartum depression after losing my baby.
It hurts to think that my body produced milk to feed a baby that I can’t even hold. And of course it sucks even more that I have the physical reminder of my precious little one that I lost and the pounds that I’ve gained.
I am fortunate to have a partner who loves me unconditionally but that still does not change the fact that I don’t love the person I see in the mirror. At least right now. The person I see wants to feel healthy. Wants to be happy again. I want to fit into my old clothes. I want to feel physically capable and flexible like I was merely months ago.
So I’m going to go work out after I post this. But it still doesn’t make this any easier. It still doesn’t feel fair that I even have to go through this. I wish I knew what the other side of grief looked like because from where I’m standing, it feels so far away.
Sometimes I feel like graduate school (especially in the humanities) is only for the rich or at least family-supported. Although I have a family whom I love dearly, they are not and have never been in the position to financially support my education.* So I’ve done the whole school bit all by my lonesome.
Supporting myself can feel really empowering but most days I envy my mid-twenties/pushin’-thirty cohort members who still have “mommy-daddy money” to back their dreams. I guess this is why I am the only one searching desperately for hard-to-find summer research funding. It feels like all the fellowships are so ridiculously specific that I have absolutely no chance of receiving an award. The bulk of African-American Studies fellowships are only for pre- and post-doctoral students or some super-technical occupation/century. I mean seriously…an AAS fellowship that only works for people studying things in 17th/18th/19th century?! And they have the nerve to talk about people with great financial need. Well here’s the thing: most of us that have great financial need cannot afford to spend our days thinking about past centuries when we’re struggling to make it in THIS century.** Geez.
So for the eighty-millionth time I will continue scraping by and searching for fellowships/scholarships that actually have something (even if only tangentially) to do with my research. Wish me luck!
Then again, the wise Fergie once said,
Maybe I should take a hint.
*Well…my dad could have helped but that would be too much like being a father but that’s a story for another day.
**With that being said I’m totally not hating on any of you scholars who study those centuries.
I recently married (December 12, 2015) my college sweetheart, F. He has been struggling to find a job with his aviation degree for two years. Apparently, aviation is an extremely difficult field to get into these days. Last year, we had “the talk” about giving the job search another year and if it didn’t pan out, choosing another career path. At the time, he was working full-time for a small factory while I finished my undergraduate degree. We both knew that I was going to graduate school out-of-state so we planned for him to move wherever he could find a job while he continued working in our home state. Well, lo-and-behold he decided to come move with me to New York State. Fast forward to today (February 20, 2016) and he still has not landed even so much as an interview in aviation and it has been two years. Since August, he’s worked seasonally for a photography company.
In December, “they didn’t have any work for him” so he had to go on unemployment. Since then, he has tried (to no avail) to find a job. He’s had many interviews but as soon as someone sees that he has a B.S in Aviation they immediately tell him he’s overqualified for the position. Fortunately, his job “started back up” this week but it is still only a temporary solution. What will happen this summer when I leave for my internship? How will we pay the bills? What about when I graduate? I would like to have the same time to find a job in my field, just like he was given. Will I even get two worry-free months during my job search? I’m unsure.
While I feel for him, I know that something has to change. We can’t go another two years like this. It is clear that he will not be able to find a job in aviation so it’s a dream that must be deferred…hopefully for another day. In our latest “talk”, we discussed the fact that he needs to go back to school and choose a career path that has more job security and develops transferable skills. This isn’t the easiest discussion to have with someone who feels defeated. All week I’ve tried to reassure him that the only way that I will consider him a failure is if he continues to do the same thing with no results. I know he is dreading returning to school but what else can he do?
To be honest, it’s overwhelming for me because I’m not a career coach or anything. Yet, I feel like I’m trying to map out his life for him while working on my own. I believe in building together but each partner needs their own tools. Maybe, I’m being harsh but he needs to not only work with the tools he has, but also get some new ones. He can’t have mine. I worked way too hard. With that being said, I gave him a two-month timeline to choose schools/programs to apply to this fall. I refuse to support and enable someone who is otherwise a very capable, motivated, hard-worker. He has to pull it together.
JUNE 2016 UPDATE: He found a much better job which he no longer overqualified for.Thank goodness.
I take a deep breath and then slowly step on the scale. Heart pounding, palms sweating, I look down at the number. Yep, that’s it. 20 pounds away from 200 pounds. I’ve never been here before. Scrolling through pictures from merely several months ago I see a completely different person. Someone that was still okay. Someone that didn’t feel like one tofu sandwich away from death. Honestly, I straight up feel like giving up most days. It has only been three months since I gave birth to my daughter prematurely. Yet, I feel like I should be back to myself. I probably would be if everything had worked out the way it was supposed to but unfortunately grief doesn’t work that way for me.
Grief makes me sit around and emotionally eat. Grief causes me to force myself to laugh when really I’m choking back tears. And grief makes me want to give up and bake cookies instead of going hard in the gym. So on days like today, where I’m somewhere in between feeling okay and feeling like crap, I journal, listen to music, and most importantly listen to what my body needs and wants. Sleep? Water? Dark chocolate almonds?
I hope that I am able to easily slip into sleep this evening. I hope that I am courageous enough to start over tomorrow. I hope I have the will to say “no” to sweets and “yes” to exercise.
Today, I’m angry. I’m angry because older sister, K thinks it’s okay to tell me about her plans to enter her son in private school despite the fact that he is not even a year old yet. I’m angry because a member of my cohort told me she wouldn’t respond to my texts very quickly because she had a friend in labor. I’m angry because my child was due to enter this world on this day. She did. Three months ago. I’m angry that my grandfather won’t call me, yet he talks to my two older sisters. Apparently, my pain and suffering is too unbearable for him. I’m angry there are plenty of little Black girls that will roam this Earth looking for someone to love, I wish it were me that had the privilege to be loved. I’m angry because I didn’t ask for much—just a healthy child and all I received was a closed-eye, closed-mouth, little girl who never cried in my arms. I’m angry because when I looked at the scale this evening, I saw 184.4 pounds. That means 184 pounds of grief that I’m scared I will never be able to lift. That means one hundred-eighty-four pounds that I can’t fit into any pair of jeans or slide between bookshelves in the library. One hundred-eighty-four pounds that weighs me down, every day, every night. I see people judging me. I see people looking at me thinking, “how could she gain all that weight, so fast”. I was 151 pounds this time last year. That means one hundred-eighty-four pounds is what my family will see when I walk in the door. They’ll instantly pity me and think I have completely lost it. Whatever, I’ll say. They don’t understand what I’ve been through. They haven’t been there to get me through. They don’t know that some days I’m just…through. I’m just so tired, so angry, and so weighed down my depression, anxiety, and the fear to carry on, that I don’t know how long I can carry this weight.
My mother has visited me in my dreams lately. I don’t know what this means. In one of my dreams last week, she literally was back from the grave. She had gained weight. Actually other people around us pointed that out. I didn’t care. I was just so happy that she was there. Sometimes I wish she were here. Actually I do all the time but I don’t want to. You know what haunts me? Those last moments. When her body just couldn’t take it anymore. I want to ask my grandparents so many questions. What was it like? How did she seem? Was it quick? Did she suffer? I want to know. I need to know. After everything she put us through, I swear I never wanted her to suffer. I think of my own daughter. Did she suffer? I asked my mother to just give me one thing. One thing—Marième and I couldn’t even have her. I just knew having a girl was a sign. I knew it was a sign that everything would be okay. That I would have a piece of me and a piece of my mom. I just knew that I would be close to her. That she would have everything that she wanted and needed. Most importantly, she would grow up with something that I didn’t—the knowledge that her parents loved her more than life.
I’m so empty so often. I want to see the light. I’m tired of the darkness. I really am.