It’s moving day. My house no longer looks like my house as all of my worldly goods are brown boxed, labelled, tagged and in the process of being loaded onto the moving truck at the curb.
I’ve taken this past month off to give my bruised heart much-needed space to heal, and recharge my soul from the metaphysical tiredness that it’s experienced these past four years.
That’s a long time to be tired.
These comments by Chimimanda Ngozi Adiche articulate much of my thoughts on my last years at sea:
I think that what our society teaches young girls–and I think it’s also quite difficult for even older women, self-confessed feminists, to shrug off–is the idea that likability is an essential part of the space you occupy in the world, that you’re supposed to twist yourself into shapes to make yourself likable.
In many ways, my world these last four years has tried to suitcase me – straight-jacket me even — into being a more likeable type of woman. I was told in so many ways that
I have an attitude
I am difficult.
I am an angry black woman
I speak too loudly. Too forcefully. I have too many emotions. Too many ideas. I am headstrong and dominating.
I don’t belong
I am too much for this world
Yet still not enough.
It’s all a silencing technique. Accommodate me. Subsume your own desires to mine. Be who I want you to be or I will abuse and disrespect you. Agree with me or we will ostracize you.
I did not – I could not — make this agreement. When I was assaulted at work, I filed a complaint even though leadership at the highest levels tried to tell me that I was “equally responsible for what happened” — even though people tried to convince me that I should just “let it go.” I refused to agree that the abusive behavior of my coworkers and subordinates “went both ways.” I wouldn’t compromise in the slightest with the abusive and racist environment that I worked in even when reprimanded by the Commanding Officer of the ship.
And I paid for that in a myriad of ways.
I am leaving a job where I no longer speak to the majority of my peers and colleagues. I’m leaving a community because I find the systemic sexism, abuse and racism in that community intolerable.
In the final analysis of my last four years I found that I’m not willing to broker a truce for my silence. I’m not willing to go along with the status quo in order to be liked.
Ms. Adiche responds perfectly to the cult of likeability:
“That is bullshit,” she says, to loud applause.
“If you start off thinking about being likable, you’re not going to tell your story honestly,” Adichie adds. “The world is such a wonderful, diverse, multi-faceted place, that there’s going to be someone who likes you. You don’t need to twist yourself into shapes.
This is my story just as it happened to me and in my journals and here, in my blog, I bore witness to it. I refused to be an accomplice. I would not to be complicit in injustice. I will no longer negotiate the terms of my existence in this world.
I’ve discovered that I am most definitely not a very likeable girl.
And I am more than ok with that.
I’m content to be the girl that God made me to be: sometimes loud, always opinionated, boisterous, direct, wise and kind-hearted. Devout, idealistic, and whimsical. Passionately creative. Fiercely myself.
I accept all that I am and will not shape shift to fit anyone else’s idea of me.
My life is one long string of hellos and goodbyes and so I will say goodbye to this old life of mine. Goodbye to twin beds and communal showers. Goodbye to life at sea and Surface Warfare Officers. Goodbye to deployments, to Bahrain and Dubai. Goodbye to crazy captains, shifting watch rotations, phones that ring in the middle of the night. Goodbye broken equipment and 4-setion duty. Goodbye to all of that.
My journal from this time period ends in hope and that’s how I will close out my Dispatches from the Sea:
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed;
We are perplexed, but not in despair;
Persecuted, but not forsaken;
Cast down, but not destroyed;
~ 2 Corinthians 4: 8-9
I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. And I’m running headlong towards Him.
Fair winds and following seas.