"Hey, if you have a minute (of course if you're free) could I stop by your office and talk about something?"
In grad school, I spent my nights in classes where I was silent. I was too afraid to speak and voice my thoughts and ideas and anything that I knew should be talked about. I thought differently and analyzed literature and theories differently, yet I always felt like I couldn’t express them to others without feeling dumb or stupid or like I’m constantly being judged for my “reaching” ideas. In a world where most of my peers were studying literature to become teachers or adjuncts, I wanted to be a better writer. I wanted to learn about the audience, what I was talking about and how to explain to others what I was trying to say. In a nutshell, my first grad class was “The Teaching of Writing”, which is where I met my then-professor-now-friend Ro; or, Professor Carlo. In the two years that I was in grad school and struggled mentally to keep it all together, Ro was my support. She would sit in her office with me during our thesis meetings and listen to what I needed to say and how I felt about everything regarding this Master’s Thesis, which was a piece calling out a lot of her colleagues and their teaching techniques and how toxic they were to student writers in the classroom. She always helped me keep my head high, even when all I ever wanted to do is look down and stay silent in my comfort zone.
Three years later, Ro and I wrote an academic article; one where I was able to tell my story and reflect back on my time in grad school. In a nutshell, Ro always gave me the opportunity for me, a shy and quiet young woman, to speak my mind and confidently tell my story.
And for that, I think I will always be thankful for having Ro in my life; a role model who’s accomplished so much at her young age, and no matter what wants the best for her students; past and present.
I am the youngest worker in the office. Nine months ago, I embarked on a new journey in life; I left my job at the college bookstore to become a college assistant at the Registrar’s office. This was my first real “big girl” job; I was now officially considered a city worker with city worker benefits, something that none of my family ever was before. I was excited to start the new year with a new journey, even though it was scary at first. It took me months to finally feel a part of the office. My boss at the time was hard to get a hold of due to how busy she was and having someone still in training didn’t make the transition a smooth one.
As months passed, I was beginning to feel like my anxiety wasn’t going to settle down, and eventually considered looking for a new job because I would end up going to work sick to my stomach because I was afraid of getting thrown into something I wasn’t comfortable in doing yet. It wasn’t until the record department was out a supervisor, and Christine, my co-worker, shared the temporary spot with another co-worker of ours.
Christine was the first (and only) person at my job to know about the passing of our senior cat back in June. I wasn’t too comfortable talking to anyone besides the other CA that was closer in my age range, but something told me that if anything, I was able to tell Christine that this had happened in my life and that if I wasn’t completely on top of my game, that was the reason why. I would even say this was the beginning of me finally opening up and trusting someone in that office with myself.
In the next couple of months, Christine would pull me into her office every start of the week to check in with me. As someone that could be struggling internally, I will not allow it to show in the workplace. Christine was able to pick that up quickly when interacting with me, so it was nice that she would check in with me at the start of the week just to see where I was at. She would call it her “mommy senses” whenever she didn’t hear from me or if I was not acting like myself. She would always mentor me and talk to me about the future and where I could potentially go if I decide to go down the “city worker in CUNY” route in life.
But, it wasn’t until I was having a major anxiety attack one day at my desk. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and I felt nervous to do anything because of a situation with a student that escalated and now needed to involve our supervisors. I didn’t want to go home and bring “work home with me”, as Christine has told me countless times to not do. I simply texted her if she had time to talk about something and even though we were able to begin our crazy season of registration, she quickly told me to come into her office. It was then I began to talk to her about the things that were bothering me and were on my mind and having her listen to me without making me feel like my voice didn’t matter like how I felt before with my former boss. I always felt like Christine was able to understand my mindset and my struggles as a college assistant because she was once in the same position and literally sat at the same desk and worked under the same former boss, and Christine has always made it known that she sees a lot of me in her younger self, and I admire that someone understands me because they see themselves in me. I cried in her office every time she told me how much she appreciated me being there because I always struggled with feeling like I was a good enough worker and how it felt good knowing that my efforts and my hard work is showing in a positive way, even if I’m internally struggling. Even when my father was in the hospital and needed a blood transfusion after losing a ton of blood and dying, I told Christine because I trusted her with this. She constantly checked in with me whenever she had the chance to that day, and I honestly appreciated it knowing someone literally cared to see if I was doing okay and was always asking for updates. She even shared with me how this particular day was a hard one for her as well, and she also was using work as a distraction to keep her busy. It felt nice knowing she understood why I was in the office even after finding out what was going on with my dad. For the entire process that he was in the hospital, Christine checked in with me, and for that, I am forever grateful because the fact of the matter is that she didn’t have to.
"Hi Liz. I stopped by my church tonight to light a few candles and decided to light an additional candle for your dad. I hope his surgery was a success."
I’ve had a couple of good group friends in my life, yet it was interesting that the ones that stood around the longest are the ones that I have never even met in person before. I met Lae, my friend from California, in the K-pop community 2 years ago when she reached out to trade Victon photocards with me. I remember being nervous interacting with someone I didn’t know, let alone someone who’s been collecting longer than me. We helped each other out with our collections until we saw that someone was opening a Viction Trading Group Chat and we both decided to join it. It wasn’t until we then met Ro, my friend from South Carolina at the time, who really took a lead on the group chat helping other collectors out get the cards they needed for their collections. Slowly but surely, the three of us started to talk more, becoming the friend group that we are today. Like every friendship, we all had our ups and downs with each other, and many of those times we didn’t even know if we were all going to stay friends due to issues we had with one another. Nevertheless, this group of friends has been through some of the lowest points in my life, and my highest! They were the main ones that went through my surgery journey when I was prepping for it. Even when I’m going through tough times and just need some support, they make sure to always know that they are there when I need them, and it’s good to always come back to friends that genuinely care about your well-being. For someone that struggles to keep friends because of my social anxiety, it was refreshing to have friends that understood that flaw of mine but also were able to make sure that I don’t run away or disappear when things get hard. I appreciate these two, and it really boggles my mind knowing that these two people I have not ever met them in person, yet they both feel like the closest people in my life besides Obie.
"Don't think too much about it. Trust me, I've been through this, and best thing for you to do is not think of the worst, even if you feel like things are going down that path. Your dad is a fighter and you have a strong family."
I remember sitting in Obie’s bathroom one night as we smoked a blunt together. It was a good day for me, one that didn’t come around as often during my time in 2019. We spoke about the future, and I spoke specifically about the struggles I was having finding a job that I could get due to the lack of experience I had since I spent the last 20 years of my life being a student in school. Obie then told me, “what about working at a bookstore? I know that’s not what you want to do, but I think you would do well in a bookstore because it’s not as hectic as regular retail.” It wasn’t until months later, I was hired at my old college’s bookstore, where I spent the next 2 and a half years being a bookseller, where I began a completely new chapter in my life that nearly shaped the direction I’ve been on since. Even when I’m having bad days at the office and need to just escape for a night, Obie always greets me with open arms, sharing his space so that I can unwind and turn the day around with his good company.
Obie has known me for 13 years, and I think it is completely natural for me to tell him things when things happen; good or bad. When telling him about my father being in the hospital, his words were the most comforting, and not because he’s the closest person in my life, but because he spoke to me out of the experience when he went through taking care of his father before his passing late last year. At this moment, I truly thought I was going to lose my father that Monday morning after getting the news about his condition. Hearing his words to comfort me and for them to come from a place of wisdom and experience felt completely different than the usual “everything is going to be okay.” I am grateful to have someone like him in my life; someone that can always teach me something new as he gives me advice, and sometimes it’s those lessons that stick with me through the rest of my journey.
So, to my “Team Me”; thank you for always allowing me to be myself and for always supporting me in whatever I decide to do in life. Thank you for always allowing me to speak my mind, when really it’s become one of the hardest things for me to do as I got older. Thank you for seeing me, and believing in me, and always being able to make me laugh and smile.
Team Me, you are the best. ❤