Life to Live

Me Too

When I was 17 years old I started my first job. I wasn’t exactly excited to be thrown into the work force, but I was looking forward to the money. I started my job with a positive outlook, I would be getting free food while working, discounts on my day off, and best of all, I would finally be able to financially support a social life. On the first week I started working there, I noticed that I was heavily out-numbered by men, the only other females there were my boss and a few female chefs. I wasn’t used to be surrounded by adult males, so I wasn’t aware of what is considered appropriate behavior. On the first day, I noticed I was being stared at, but I thought it was because I was new. Soon the staring became a constant thing until finally one of the men approached me.

He was in his early forties, and I had just turned 17. I was young, and I looked young. I was cleaning my section, getting ready to head out for the day, when he came in. He gave me a smirk, one of those “I’ve been eying you” looks and immediately I became uncomfortable. As he walked by me to punch in, he placed his hand on my lower back and said, “watch out sweetie.” My heart dropped, I felt a queasiness in my stomach, and I no longer felt safe. I cleaned faster, hoping to finish before he talked to me again, but it was too late.

“What’s your name?” He said to me as he walked closer to me.

I attempted to slowly back away from him, finally muttering out my name quietly.

He leaned in closer, “what was that?”

“Dahlia…” I said louder, scooting back as I said it.

He proceeded to ask my age, and when I said I was 17, he said “oh dang, when do you turn 18?”

I told him I had just turned 17, and he made a joke about waiting for me to turn 18.

This may seem like an innocent conversation, I thought so at first, but soon the conversations turned more uncomfortable.

I tried to avoid him as best I could, it fairly easy because we worked opposite shifts. But that in-between period, that hour before he had to leave, that was my worst nightmare. Somedays he would keep it casual, small talk, asking me how I was doing in school. Most days he would make inappropriate comments. He would tell me I was beautiful, and that he wished he had someone as beautiful as me in his life. He told me his wife wasn’t satisfying him and that he was thinking about leaving her. He asked me constantly if I was 18 yet, and would act disappointed if I said no. One day he asked me if I had a boyfriend and when I said I did, he asked me to describe him. When I refused, he accused my boyfriend of not satisfying me.  I did nothing to provoke him, in fact, I avoided him. However, he always cornered me and asked me uncomfortable questions.

One day he got me so scared, I never wanted to go to work with him again.

He cornered me and asked me “Hey Dahlia, were you born here?”

I tried to squeeze by him as I responded quickly with a “yes.”

He followed me and asked “really? That’s good to now. Now tell me, if you were 18, would you marry me?”

I shook my head no, to afraid to say anything.

“No?”

I shook my head again.

“Why not?”

I was frozen, all I could do was shake my head no.

“Is it because you have a boyfriend?”

“yeah” I finally let out softly.

He cackled and said, “dump him, I’d treat you better any way”

I didn’t laugh, I just awkwardly smiled and tried to walk away again.

In all the time I worked there, my relationship with my boss was not the greatest, I was too scared of her to tell her anything. I thought this behavior was my fault, that I had somehow given him the wrong message. I thought because I never stopped it head-on, I had given consent to him sexually harassing me. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if this constituted as sexual harassment as he implied he wanted to sleep with me, but he never straight out said it. I wasn’t sure if this behavior was inappropriate, but I was too afraid to tell anyone. I suffered for five months of this until finally he got fired for missing a shift. He was finally gone, so you would think I’d be relieved, but he left an uneasiness in my brain. He left me with a loss of enjoyment of my job because every day I was terrified he would show up to see me. I was terrified he would wait outside of the restaurant and attack me. I was afraid he would never stop trying to talk to me. And that uneasiness that I felt was not my fault. It was his. He sexually harassed me, and it was not okay. It took years for me to admit that, it took years to realize I was not the problem. And if you have been in a similar situation, you are not at fault. #metoo

 

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Life to Live

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay.

At the end of 2017, I was really excited for the new year. I had so much to look forward to in 2018. Then 2018 came and kicked my butt real hard. I don’t know what it was, but suddenly everything just seemed to suck the life out of me, like some weird vampire. 2018 was a vampire that fed on happiness. It was strange because I have everything I could possibly want:  my family got the house we’ve always wanted, I got the job I thought I deserved, I was making a lot more money,  I loved my classes, I loved my coworkers, etc. So why wasn’t I happy?

I told myself I NEEDED to happy and I criticized myself whenever I was not. So I pretended, that everything was okay, that I was happy, that I didn’t need help. I told myself I had survived a year without medication, that I didn’t need it. But no matter how much I told myself I was fine, nothing was fine.

I used to tell my friends whenever I had a breakdown, but eventually, I felt one-noted. I kept it to myself, I knew they weren’t my therapists. So I bottled it up, I told no one that the dark feelings I felt my freshman year of college had come back. I didn’t tell anyone that I lost all motivation. I didn’t tell anyone that I would cry, a lot. That I would get home from work and collapse onto my bed and just lay there for hours knowing I had plenty of things to do. I didn’t tell anyone that I lost all hope and trust in everything and everyone.

Then I broke down. I cried at work. It was over something stupid but suddenly the picture I created in my mind, that everything was okay, it burned down. I remember sitting in the fitting room at work trying to pull myself together, when my coworker called me over to ask me a question. I walked over to him and answered his question, trying not to make it obvious that I had been crying. He stared at me questioningly, and I quickly tried to walk away before he noticed. It was too late though, because as I began to walk away he said, “hey dahlia…” I looked at him and smiled to try to sell it. I don’t think he bought it because in a sincere voice, more sincere than i had ever heard him use before, he asked: “are you okay?”

I lost it. I started crying again. Those three words broke me.  And for the first time in a long time, I realized I was not okay.

He began to apologize, but I told him it wasn’t his fault, that it was something stupid, but I would be okay.  And in the moment I didn’t know if I was lying, I didn’t know if I would ever be okay, all I knew was that I needed help.

I realized, that I needed to face the facts. I need to admit I was not okay and I needed to learn that it was okay. That it’s okay to need extra help. Because humans aren’t perfect and they shouldn’t be expected to be perfect.

I’m far from being okay, but I know somehow I will get there. Even if it means quitting the job I love, I need to figure out what is best for my health.

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