Compartmentalized for Success?

Since as far back as I can remember I’ve enjoyed the ability to compartmentalize my life. It’s been a way to stay sane, in control.

My work life in a mainstream business environment doesn’t meld that easily with my personal life on the margins, as a transman, a queer person, a survivor of mental illness. My life is anything but normal, but as long as I’m able to keep these realms separate, nobody needs to know. Or so I’ve been telling myself. But what if it isn’t true anymore?

Order and tidiness give me a sense of control, like I’m in control. And it works great — until someone introduces an unknown element into the picture. Like a co-worker who’s late for a meeting, or a flat tire, or an emergency at home. I can sort of wrap my head around it if it happens only on certain occasions. Because when your world is so tightly ordered, a little bit of spontaneity can shake things up just enough to keep life interesting. As long as the disrupting element causes only minimal distress. The problem is when no matter how hard you try, the tidy pattern you’ve built for your life gets disrupted on a daily basis. Or when the disruption is so large that it requires a wholesale recalibration of your being.

That’s when the alarm bells sound.

I’ve used the regular pattern of my days as a measure of my own mental stability. As long as I get up in the morning, make my way to work by 8:30 am (at the latest), and work til 5 pm (or later), I feel like I’m doing OK. When my depression or anxiety gets so severe that I am no longer able to maintain that consistency I know I am in trouble. Like, really in trouble. I’ve come close a few times these past few weeks as I’ve wrestled with my latest bout of depression.

But I’m also realizing that as a professional copywriter, as a professional of any kind, predictability is a rare commodity. When work bleeds into my personal life, and in turn, my personal life bleeds into my work life, then my footing gets wobblier and I start to topple over. It sucks.

But I’m not sure it’s the life I want to lead anymore. I have struggled with feelings of fragmentation, of dissociation, of feeling separate from myself in the past. Part of it had to do with my depression, part with my secret identity as a transman who wasn’t ready to climb out of the closet. But I have no need, really, to hide who I am anymore.

In the workplace I’m in I don’t talk much about being trans. But I spoke openly about it in my job application. No one has broached the subject with me, and I’m OK with leaving that particular sleeping dog lie for now or until I feel like it’s time to speak up. But I am grateful that I no longer have to hide. If I were to bring it up, for whatever reason, it would be just fine. I’m fairly sure of that.

Just knowing this gives me so much peace of mind. And I know just how lucky I am, not to have to worry that such disclosure could cost me my job. My landlady, too, is supportive of transpeople. It’s the first landlord I’ve had that rented to me knowing that I was trans.

It feels good, to not have to compartmentalize my own being. To not have to pretend to be anything other than what I actually am, at work, at home.

When my father found out I was transitioning he lamented that I would be a person with no history. He assumed that I would hide my transitional journey.

Well, I haven’t and I don’t want to. My female past is part of my story. Why hide it? I might not declare it loudly to everyone I see – I get to decide, after all, who I want to share my story with.

As I become more comfortable, with my skills, my talents, and my identity, I hope that the remaining cognitive dissonance between who I am at home and at work will disappear.

Let me just be as I am. Always learning, always evolving, and always true to who I am now.


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