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“Product of the Pandemic”

I’ve been silenced. It’s like someone found the coldest ice and coldest water and decided I should be the one to dump it on.

I’m not sure if I should share this, but I’m incredibly hurt and numb and don’t have anyone in my immediate vicinity to express my pain, triggers, and frustration with.

Recently, in a simple check-in, I was told that I am a “product of the pandemic.” It was said in a way to excuse my supposed lack of professionalism because the year of my internship was the year everything shut down. To some people, being called those four words isn’t a big deal. To another group, it’s simply a good roast. To the final group, they shared my shock, disbelief, and hurt.

I haven’t been physically, intentionally hit in a very long time, but hearing those four words after being told my dialect is a problem were a slap in the face, and the sting is imprinted in my skin.

Part of someone’s personality is their dialect. To be told my personality is a problem (then later, an improvement after I change in the “wrong direction”) shattered my heart. My hopes and excitement were temporarily out the window but came right back like a boomerang. It took me back to my childhood, when being myself and fighting for the independence I yearned for and not sharing similarities with the people in my home was a problem. Whenever I think about my teenage years, I think about all the tears I shed and the light I thought was at the end of the tunnel.

This conversation took me back to those teenage years, and though I’m thriving in a new environment where it feels safer to be myself (not counting the creep who took a picture of me), I have not reached the light yet. I’m still traveling through the tunnel, but I can breathe a little easier now.

The reality is I will spend most of my life working, and there is no way I can do that without being myself. The Mean Girl energy surrounding this conversation, and just the state of certain things recently, is not an energy I want to be around; it doesn’t match what’s promoted.

Maybe my desire to spend my life being myself, and being accepted for being myself, even while I’m working, is why so many people have told me “when you have your own business one day…”. Though I can’t see it for myself because I’m not business savvy, the leader in me is starting to wake up and understand what everyone else sees. For someone who has spent years being told she is incredibly kind (in short) by tons of strangers, it blows my mind that who I am, my straightforward honesty that often gets a chuckle, is a problem—the reason I lack professionalism.

I can be myself, and myself is professional.

Professional environments are made up of all sorts of people. People who struggle because of their mental health and are just happy to have a job. People who don’t need a job but like to work. People who simply want financial stability. People who are happy all the time. People who haven’t smiled in years. People who talk too much and speak at two levels louder than others. People who simply smile and nod as a way of communication. So on and so forth. All of the aforementioned people are different and professional.

*Releases deep breath and heavy weight on heart*

Currently, I have a job, but I’m not sure after writing this.

Product of the pandemic? More like product of extreme favoritism and classism.

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