Finding hope in spite of being in the middle of thunderstorm

I have a lot on my mind today. After sitting here messaging my girlfriend a few thoughts prior to her therapy session, I realized that I am still in rough shape from yesterday. I do enjoy my life for the most part. With the exception of not being employed, the gym taking my money without asking, and the occasional overwhelmed feeling I get when I think about the previous items, life is pretty good. Izzie is healthy. Addie is enjoying summer. Liz is home and figuring out what she wants to do for the summer. Melissa is working in Boston. Life is good.

For the most part.

What is troublesome is some of the little stuff that interferes in my sunshine-filled afternoons. I don’t mean my girls- they are truly bright spots in my week. I mean little stuff that turns into bigger stuff. Transition stuff. Other people’s family stuff. Things that are completely outside of my control but have the power to drain the life out of me in a heart beat.

Yesterday we went to Market Basket after visiting Betty at the hospital. She was preparing for yet another test and wasn’t feeling well so we left to pick up items for supper. Melissa was dressed more like herself, in her hot pink t shirt, jeans and favorite bra. She looked great to me and I didn’t think twice about heading to the grocery store. After a few minutes, she became anxious and started talking about people staring at her. My heart sank. We had to hurry.

As we went through the aisles I looked to see if what she was telling me was happening. I began to look around us and saw people reading labels, putting stuff into their carts, and heading to the registers. I looked at her and said “I am not seeing what you are telling me” which I guess are the worst words you can say to someone whose anxiety level is growing by the second. My goal was to de-escalate the situation, because in true Mel fashion, she became louder as her panic attack grew.

She insisted people were staring at us. I looked again, this time rather frantically as I realized that I wasn’t seeing what she was seeing. It got worse. I rushed us through the line and my heart raced as we headed to the car. All I kept thinking was “I don’t know what is happening! I didn’t see anything so am I supposed to lie?” She became upset, I became upset, and we headed back to the house to make dinner.

We get home. I try to talk to her some more which was another mistake. She got out of the car and went inside the house. Sometimes when we disagree we sit in the car and work it out. Nope. Not happening. I turned my thoughts to the grill and getting the coals lit so we could at least have some food. I couldn’t find what I needed to light the grill so I began walking to the house.

After a little more arguing, it hit me that she is categorizing me as one of her family, who tells her she is imagining things that are not really happening. I felt helpless and completely lost as to how I could make this better. I apologized, and the tears came, born from my frustration over the entire situation. She didn’t feel heard, and I didn’t feel heard either. I felt completely powerless and frightened and I hate feeling that way. It makes me want to run away. At one point, I contemplated leaving when she walked into the house but I knew that wasn’t going to solve anything even though my entire body was yelling at me to leave.

I love Melissa. I really do. However, transitioning is not a matter of adjusting physically, it is a huge adjustment emotionally. She is basically entering adolescence again, with the emotional maturity of a 14 year old at times. It also is a matter of how to handle the staring. The looks that say “I know what you really are and I don’t like it.” There have been times where Melissa can brush this off but she definitely has moments where she is affected by the looks and finger pointing. It will happen, we need to expect this because this is the way the world is. We can’t change how others feel about us, but we can change how we react to it because that is in our control.

I was on Facebook briefly today and saw another offensive post that this time, I stayed out of. I know there are people who think certain jokes are funny, but I want to explain where I am coming from when I ask why you feel my life is a joke. Your jokes are giving another person the justification they need to hurt one of us. What seems light-hearted to you, is fueling someone else’s fire. Sometimes, it even gives them reason to go into a safe haven for LGBT people, and open fire on them. Words are powerful things. They can instill many emotions in a person, and connect us to the word around us. They also have the power to kill, ruin, and destroy lives. Kind of like guns, but I digress….

Melissa came home and changed her clothes. It was not the reaction I felt she should have done, but it was what she has done for 43 years. She had to go back into being him to be able to feel safe for a few minutes. I hate this. For those of you who feel that this is still a choice, please know that no one in their right mind would choose living this way- in hiding, shame, and struggling to be themselves.

Today I feel emotionally beaten. I did my best and I failed. She gets to chat about all of this with her therapist, and I feel a little miffed about it. I want to be able to say “What am I supposed to do when she sees people staring and I don’t? How am I supposed to handle her anxiety and help her walk through this as her partner? Why does so much of her transition fall on my shoulders?”

I don’t know the answers to these questions other than I stay here because she is the person I love. I am willing to do what I have to do to recharge and be available for her and my family. I have never loved someone to the core like I do with her and when she hurts, I hurt too. I’m sorry if this isn’t making a lot of sense. It’s been an emotional 24 hours, and I hope as the sun moves across the sky, the hope for a better day is on the horizon.



To the instructor who told the class she prefers working with ‘young designers’

I guess maybe I should thank you for validating what I have been suspecting for quite some time now – that I am not being considered for positions because I am on the ‘older’ end of the spectrum. After researching the various career-building websites out there to see if this was actually the case, you confirmed it for me right before we headed out to lunch. For months, I have been sending out my resumes, trying to remain positive, and doing what I can to salvage my dying career. I even went so far as to take this class to inject some life back into my skillset, and compliment the design skills I already have. This very class, where in a matter of seconds, your comment completely drained my self-confidence.

The feeling reminded me of when I saw my birth certificate and adoption papers for the first time. I have known that I was adopted my entire life. That was never a secret to me. When we went to the courthouse to get permission to review the papers, I knew I would see this woman’s name. What I didn’t expect, was my reaction to reading the words “I, Patricia Therese Frappier, hereby give up my parental rights to Baby Girl Frappier.” I felt angry,  sad, and relief  all at once. I couldn’t figure out why. I knew the story. I knew I came from somewhere; but now the trace feelings of abandonment I have had my entire life were given validation. The same validation your words gave to me, in response to my feelings of “I haven’t heard back from the recruiter, I think they feel that I am too old.”

Then as the class went on, I became angry. Who are you to say that you prefer younger people to work with, without adding more context? How dare you say something that refers to age, knowing that two people in your class are considered NOT young? The same two people who ACTUALLY do the homework and the pre-class work that is required for us to pass the course? I miss one class and feel horrible about it. One of the people in my class  arrived late, had made social plans that she needed to be at before the class day ended, and has yet to pass in an assignment. What pisses me off more than anything, is that you just told me that you are more likely to hire HER because she is younger.

In some areas, younger isn’t always better. Younger- in the context of some of the students in my class- seems irresponsible, careless, and very self-centered. I can see why. Why do the homework or pass in assignments when your workplace footed the $4,000 bill for the class? What investment do you have in something that someone else is paying for? I mean, what kind of idiot stays up until 12:30 to finish her site map? This one, right here. I would also like to mention that the other younger members of my class also failed to bring their sketches in, even after you specifically asked for them IN ALL CAPS.

But what does that matter when these people can provide you with the freshest ideas, be easily persuaded into doing work that makes your life easier, and who is willing to be paid less? It should matter. Fresh designs are great, but if you have someone who isn’t very driven or follows the laws of common courtesy, then you have one fresh design and maybe not much else.

This Gen Xer is not afraid to say that she has had lots of experience in the real world of creating designs for other people. I know what it means to come in early and stay late. When I am given an opportunity, I give you my loyalty and channel that through my passion for my work. Whatever it is you need I will do and if I can’t, I will find someone who can or figure it out myself. Nothing was ever handed to me, I worked hard for every position I have been in since Friendly’s. In my opinion, my age is a moot point. My abilities haven’t changed. I can design the crap out of any presentation, any poster, any brochure, and any web page you hand to me.

The problem is, the world of Graphic Design is a young one. Youth rules and the curmudgeon says stuff like “You can’t use Google fonts, the fonts have to be system fonts…” There is a huge misconception that as people age, the are no longer creative. I don’t feel that way. The reactions of people who viewed my work didn’t reflect an opinion that because I was over 40,  I wasn’t designing creatively anymore. I can say this- It doesn’t help when instructors repeat this to you when you are trying to breath life into your design world.

I am sure I sound bitter. It’s hard not to be when you were raised to bust your ass, live by the ‘work hard and you will be rewarded’ kind of stuff, only to find that one day you are not hearing back from people about positions you KNOW you could do with your eyes closed. You hope that it’s just a matter of someone being on vacation, or that maybe your website didn’t show them the cool project that they needed to see. What you don’t want to hear is that the reason  you are not hearing from them is beyond your control, and you have no chance to show otherwise.

This Gen Xer refuses to give up, will not stop trying, and will continue on learning this incredibly interesting world of UX design in spite of possibly needing a walker in about 15 years. I am not going to stop fighting for my career and  for my chance to provide for my family. My career may be changing, but I am not stepping down to allow a younger person who has no concept of what it means to come in early and stay late, take my career from me. You will have to wrestle my MacBook from my cold, dead hands…

Ok, maybe not that dramatic, but I refuse to give up. I have a lot of great experience to offer a company, and with my new skills combined with my background I can bring a combined approach where others may not be able to. My days of learning typography, layout, aesthetics, and basic common workplace courtesy were not for nothing. My passion is great, I am constantly getting inspiration from life around me and let me tell you, that at 43, this sh*t is getting off the ground.