Code Switching Is Exhausting
I'm tired of it.
There’s definitely something weird in the air lately. Even my super-chill, obscenely happy go lucky husband said to me that he needs a beach in Mexico. How lucky and privileged to be able to say that. The privilege however doesn’t change the fact that everything has been super-charged and difficult as of late. Everyone is dealing with a lot of shit.
Yesterday at my day job I had to explain yet again why being a legal/compliance professional at toxically positive start-ups is a drag. Yes my Substack is about my writing journey but lately the day job is really bleeding into every corner of my mind and all my saboteurs are activated and out. Sometimes I have to just let the anxiety monster out because it’s too tiring to keep him shut in. It’s as if I’ve made no progress at all - even if I know that progress isn’t linear and that sometimes one backslides utterly and completely. I felt it this week. I even wiped out going down the stairs in the apartment. That’s never happened in the entire time we’ve lived here. I think I am just not in possession of myself. It’s hard to be when FOUR of the wonderful teammates I have had have all been essentially fired over the last year. You start to wonder if it’s you. This is now the second time they have fired a boss from above me. I feel completely discombobulated. I really should write a book called “Year one and NorthOne”.
So. Back to my original topic at hand. I’ve made no progress with Book People or Torts. I am taking today off from work and Monday will be a light work day so I still have some tiny hope of making progress but honestly when the day job gets to be so dramatic, it doesn’t leave me with much energy to write, which depletes my resources and makes me depressed. Without seeing writing progress, I feel ill. It’s like people who have to go for a run. Without it, I feel literally sick. But sometimes I have to just accept that I’m too overwhelmed and don’t have energy for my writing. Honestly it feels like not having enough energy for my baby. I have to assuage that guilt. There’s no point in beating myself up when I am handling too much. I recognize I need to just rest.
Sorry getting back to code-switching. Code switching is something a lot of us BIPOC have to undertake to survive. This is especially so for WOC in the corporate world. Look, as an Albertan married to a Texan who owns a business, I myself am often putting my foot in my mouth and unable to article a lot of concepts that are “woke”. But what I do know is that us WOC have to work extra hard by code-switching: being a version of myself that is palatable to males, especially white ones, in order to survive in the corporate world. Even my husband has to do it and he’s about as white-male as a Chinese American can get. The way he put it is “you can be them, but they can’t be you”. I found that to be such a succinct way of summarizing it. I can have conversations with the tech bros about drinking, sports, BBQ’ing etc. etc. - but they can’t ever talk to me about what I love. So I can code-switch to be a palatable version for them, but they will never work to meet me where I am.
The code-switching that has to happen at work is appallingly tiresome and seriously impedes a WOC’s ability to do good work because she’s has to constantly layer up/suit up/ mask up to basically put on a show in order to survive. This is especially true for introverts like me who find it extra exhausting to deal with people, especially men. My life coach told me that Rihanna once said she was “tired of men” and I am feeling that so hard right now. (I mean the woman was pregnant on a platform performing for over 10 minutes while advertising her beauty line, how much boss can a woman get?)
So all this to say, yesterday, when I had to try to explain the difficulty of being a (1) woman in (2) an antagonistic role (and I didn’t even get into the woman of colour part) once again (even to a Chinese man at work) I just blew up. It was not professional but sometimes one can’t keep a lid on things. One gets tired of constantly trying to keep a lid on things. I’m not proud of the yelling but I forgive myself - so much of this just can’t be reduced to data points or numbers. It’s feeling like you’re constantly not heard because you just get so tired of having to digest things for them and feed it to them in tiny comprehendible morsels. Do your own fucking chewing for once. But that’s just to much to ask because if you refuse to do it, they will fire you.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live in Asia where at least that part of me doesn’t have to code-switch. I’m sure being North American raised will require me to code-switch in many other ways but at least it will be something new. Being trapped between cultures is a never ending battle.
Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.
Take care of yourselves out there folks. Figure out what you need and ask for help when you need it. The best thing you can do for your loved ones is taking care of your own shit.