I’ve been working at my job for the past three years without incident. I’m a good employee, and even though the past year and a half I’ve been working on a slightly-reduced schedule (35-ish hours per week) to accommodate my Master’s program, which I go to in the evenings, I would never have thought a month ago that I’d ever be in danger of a firing. But now, just a week out of the election that shook our country to its core, I’m doing everything I can to prepare for an imminent new job search.
Since the news fell about Trump’s victory, I have not been able to work, plain and simple. My job, in administration for a school in North Carolina, requires me to do hours of fairly-tedious work, mostly on the computer. This means two big things: I am often bored, and I always have internet access. And in this time, when every social feed and front page is filled with the worst, most horrifying news imaginable (as both a queer woman and the daughter of two immigrants, one Arab, I am in extreme fear at all times), I cannot stop compulsively refreshing and reading. I want to stay informed and active, and even 10 minutes without an update leaves me panicked over what I may have missed.
Two days of last week, I pretended to be sick so that I could stay home, talk to loved ones, curl up in bed, and read as much news as possible. I have put my time and energy into other causes where I can, but given my airtight schedule and extreme anxiety, the most productive thing I’ve really been able to do is donate, to places like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. When my semester ends in a few weeks, I’ll be able to do more, but for now, just getting by is brutal.
I work in an office that is, for the most part, very pro-Trump. I live in a highly red-state area, and the fact that I am half-Arab, for example, is something I try to downplay as much as possible. (The fact that no one in my family is a currently-practicing Muslim wouldn’t matter to them, the people around me pretty much generally regard all Arabs as “scary.”) I have long bitten my tongue on the prejudices and judgments that swirl around me here, because the job pays well, accommodates my hours, and provide good benefits, even at 35 hours a week (which I know is extremely rare). Now, when I look at the compromises I have made to stay in this job, I think of myself as a coward. I know that I can’t afford to leave this job, particularly as exams approach, but I hate myself for having stayed in it so long. These people would hate my father, and the fact that my last name “doesn’t sound too Arab” has more than once felt like a lucky thing to me. I feel complicit, and I am.
The fact that I have dated women before absolutely never gets mentioned, but I would be lying if I said that were as big a deal as the Arab thing — it’s not. You could say that the LGBT politics of my workplace have just gotten around to the Will and Grace era, where some of them even talk about it being fun to have a “gay best friend.” Shudder.
My Trump-induced spiral of anxiety, inability to work, and constant use of work computers for personal things such as reading news would not be understood. Even the people around me who did not vote for Trump (and though I can’t know who that is exactly, I have my guesses), no one liked Hillary, and everyone seems to agree that any kind of “change” is good for America, regardless of who might be collateral damage there. So I stay silent, while my work slips, and my mind slowly feels like it’s being chipped away.
I got a serious “talking-to” this morning, and my immediate thought was “I want to write about this,” because I had a serious thought of walking back to my desk and screaming at everyone while telling them that I was proud to be queer, Arab, and nothing fucking like them. But I slowly walked back and typed this up on my lunch break, because I still need the money and the health insurance.
But I don’t see myself getting better any time soon, so I am almost certain that this is going to result in me getting fired, one way or another. And I want to be prepared, so I have confronted the reality and I plan to go home tonight and start applying to other jobs as seriously as I can. Nothing will suck more than changing jobs at the end of a semester, or over the winter break I was supposed to be spending on activism, but I have to do what I have to do.
At this point, any job that will allow me to at least commiserate about the horror that has just unfolded in our nation will be an improvement, and perhaps let me breathe. To be surrounded by people who simply don’t understand how this could be devastating is crushing, maybe even more so than the news itself. But since I can’t say anything like that, I continue to read and scroll and get negative looks from coworkers who can tell I’m always on some news story. Until things get better, I don’t fucking know what to do.
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