I look at my hair in the mirror. Fiddle with the short, layered ruin. A few hours ago, it was ear-length, straight, and glossy, just how I liked it, just how I told the perky blonde pimpernel behind the scissors and a pair of gigantic diamond earrings that I wanted to keep it.
“But every girl with your face and complexion wants this haircut,” the African-American version of Dolly Parton piped as she locked a papery black sheet around my neck, “and they all look absolutely gorgeous, too!”
I told her thanks but no, thanks. Just a little off the top will do, please. Only too late did I realize she intended the exact opposite, and I could only wake from my light doze and stare helplessly at the pixie-cut mess that "befit" my androgynous face and freckled, almost vampirishly pale skin.
When her pinched, smiling face impeded on my vision again, I inhaled a scream as my fingers flexed beneath the sheet. But the damage was done, so chided my matron conscience, and even a blood sacrifice wouldn’t magically regrow my hair. So, I told her it was fine—fantastic, even. I signed off on the cheque despite my cramping fingers and drove home, changed clothes, and went to the zoo with my grandparents.
Things seemed to look up after that. We walked sedately around, and I ooh-ed and aah-ed at the animals, especially the big cats and venomous snakes. My Mimi even took bright, smiling pictures of me posing beside bronze statues and beneath cherry blossoms in my brand spanking old denim cap that also kept my face from sunburning. Even paying $3.50 for a bottle of water—granted, a nice freaking bottle of water that's now mine forever and always—didn’t put a damper on the trip.
Then, we got back in the car and began driving home. I still felt fine, even thankful for the experience, as I strapped myself in and turned on some good music. But then, beneath a hot sun and not-cold-enough A/C, the cap came off.
Horrible. Just horrible and awful and wrong. Not what I wanted or hoped, and certainly not needed. Just one more straw to the camel’s breaking back that even the zoo could only alleviate for so long.
Here, in the confines of the car driving me back to real life, I think back to this morning, to the disappointment in my inbox. Another rejected job application, despite hours upon hours of blood, sweat, and tears. Not even the faintest comment on what was wrong—wrong with my wonderful, well-written, well-put-together resumé baby—or even a real acknowledgment. Just an impersonal, “We thank you for your interest, but we’ve decided to look into other options,” and other robotic platitudes so on and so forth ad nauseam.
But they didn’t need to acknowledge anything; it’s their prerogative as employers to reject people how they want so long as it’s respectful.
But still, they could’ve been more considerate. Don’t they know all I’ve overcome just to make that resumé and apply for their stupid job? It’s just not fair.
But it is. I know it is, and it’s not the end of the world.
I twist a strand of hair and hope it tears like dry straw.
But it’s not! And do I even know it’s fair? What if they discriminated against me because of my disabilities? What if they didn’t even really look at my work because they already had someone in mind? What if, what if, what if…?
...then again, maybe I was meant to fail from the start. That seems to be the trend in my life of late: work hard, believe in myself, my abilities, and my faith, produce what even the brutally objective of my inner circle say is good work, and then fall flat on my face. I studied hard in grade school, but the pristine 'A's' everyone complimented me on just tanked when depression near-splatted me like a beetle beneath a cement truck. Everyone expected me to graduate at the top, and then I didn’t. Still, I went to college, and despite the treads of depression and anxiety sometimes raking me across life's asphalt, I earned my English degree after five long years. Then, I lost the one job I actually earned with my degree, classes, and volunteer hours thanks to some mysterious defect in my cells to handle even mental stress—and that was on top of premenstrual dysphoria and some sort of bipolar disorder that I swear make ripping off faces a viable option. Despite every physical exam, x-ray, urinalysis, and blood draw saying I should be perfectly healthy, I’m barely even able to walk without extreme pacing, let alone sit in a high-stress, high-turnover office doing multiple tasks for $11 an hour.
And I even really liked that job, dam...dagna...snickerdoodle-dandy! It’s the best freaking job I ever had, and I wanted to keep doing it! I didn’t even care about what almost all the other employees called “low pay”; I was content, having fun, and making an honest living like I, my family, my friends, and my God want for me!
But I can always get another job, and keep applying for social security. And at least my grandparents are still generous and well-off enough to let me live in their house and share their food.
Yeah, but at what cost? Money out of their savings on top of covering my schooling and countless other debts to them and others I’ve yet to pay. That I can’t pay, because I can’t hold or get a job, despite everything I’ve done. And so many people ride social security’s system that people with legitimate issues have to jump through every hoop perfectly just to get benefits. Some of them never do, just barely managing to scrape by!
Well, just like my illnesses, that might not last forever. And even if it does, God will see me through it.
I scoff, and my finger slams against the touch screen, switching off my music. My grandfather asks a concerned, “What’s wrong?” but I snap, "Nothing," in a don’t-bother-me-because-I-don’t-want-to-explain-myself-or-stress-you-out-or-ruin-your-good-day way.
For so long, I prayed and resolved I’d get over myself and push onward. I worked hard, especially at further honing my skills on my own, without pay, supposedly with God. I even made an effort to keep in mind this kind of episode happens several times a month when my two best frenemies, off-kilter hormones and my bipolar nightmare, decide to PAR-TAY GIRLFRIEND with high medication resistance and drink each other into insanity before dragging me down into their own vomit.
Things are fine.
No, they’re not fine.
Things will change and get better.
And then go back to being the same old bleeping song. No; it’s still the same old bleeping song. Nothing’s changed.
I can get through this. I've weathered this stuff before.
No, I can’t. I never really will.
Yes, I can.
No, I can’t. Will you shut up? I don’t even have the talent or skills or whatever to get a basic job.
I have talents and skills. Otherwise, what does it mean to earn a degree and then work a challenging job, only losing it because of unforeseen health problems?
No, I don’t. Not if, no matter how hard I try, or don’t try, or believe, they don’t succeed in touching the hearts and minds of people I need them to, or at least keep me off of rock bottom.
God can handle this.
I scoff again and all but punch the music back on, and it fades into the background.
God… I don’t even know if God, or any god, exists. I confessed his son as lord, but I’ve never caught a lasting break with anything. Even the peace he claims to bring don’t seem to really carry me through the hard times. One way or another, the call to working and helping people—to hope—just ends with me back at rock bottom.
But that’s because of my own choices with how to handle things. He’s not a cruel or unreasonable god, and not to mention, I’m fighting a ridiculously difficult battle against my own biology that I certainly can’t win alone.
Yes, he is. Or he wouldn’t have afflicted me—or anyone—with this burden without any real relief to begin with! He, and everyone else, don’t even really care about me where or when it counts. Everyone else around me is blessed, even those that don’t believe in God, or any god, or are even flat-out selfish, but I’m still left out here in the cold despite my best efforts. Even when I supposedly leave things in his hands.
No, He isn’t, and I shouldn’t envy other people. I don’t know what’s going on in their minds or private lives; their blessings and prerogatives aren’t for me to compare myself to. I just have to learn, adapt, and keep pressing on in my faith.
And where has doing all of that left me? At rock bottom. Again. Singing the same old song—lots of so-called achievements and good intentions and nothing to show for them except delusional hope despite his promises.
...does anyone even see me? Value me for me despite my shortcomings? Not just for what I can give them? If there is a god, does He, or he, or her, or they, see me, for me? Not just a tool to use for His, his, her, or their purposes, saved for eternity or not?
Is there even any point to trying? Am I just a morning glory: beautiful, perhaps, in the early hours but destined to fade away beneath the harsh sunlight and in the face of more beautiful, useful, and wanted blossoms? Do I even really make a difference? Really?
At home, I barricade myself in my grandparents’ bathroom, throw off my sweaty clothes, and soak in their circular, air-jet tub for a good hour. A washrag and some soap gently wash off the grime of the day beneath a shower of warm, relaxing water.
Ten minutes later, I’m upstairs, alone, practicing job-related skills, connecting with groups of experts on social media, doing research, and getting ready for very lax volunteer work if literally nothing else. Despite everything, I still find myself, or part of myself, believing in my God, and that He loves me and is the good Lord of my life. At least, I hope He is—or whoever is up there, if anyone.
Do I even really know?
Even so, will any of my efforts even do Him, him, her, they, others, or myself any good in the echoes of eternity? If eternity isn't just some run-down old bathroom filled with roaches...
I don’t know—or maybe I do; a part of me feels convicted that I do, given time—but no matter what, at least I tried.
Even if it all ends at the bottom of a slushy sea of once-beautiful trimmings. Again.
But maybe even that’s good for someone, somehow. Even me. Maybe even from there, I am valuable, and seen, and truly loved, especially by my God. Somehow.
I certainly hope so...
(Thanks to https://www.mamamia.com.au/haircut-disaster-which-led-to-depression/ for partial inspiration, word-choice, etc.)