I‘ve been to a lot of funerals.
It’s always the spunky old ladies. You know the ones who will tell you to piss off minutes after stuffing you full of cookies? It’s these women whom I admire so deeply. Probably because I relate to them so well.
I’ve always thought I will be one of those ladies. At my funeral, they’ll say, “Bless her heart. Miss Emily just had such a tough life. She dug her heels in and never gave up, but the world always found a way to deal her a bad hand.”
If you’re just tuning into my life, Friday is my 26th birthday. I’ll try to catch you up with the Reader’s Digest version.
I have been living with an invisible illness since the age of 12. I’ll start here, as it’s really the first time I remember drawing the what-the-fuck end of life’s stick.
During the already awkward stage that accompanied all middle school girls in the early 2000s, I was prescribed a steroid for my disease. If you’re unaware of the effects this type of drug has, allow me to enlighten you. I promptly gained 30 pounds in a matter of months. If you’re also not familiar with the demeanor preteen girls have when dealing with one another; they’re very cruel.
At 14 I lost my dad to brain cancer. Two months after that, my scores were tampered with at cheerleading tryouts because Coach didn’t want a sick girl on her team. This was before I had ever heard of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I should have sued.
In high school, I applied to take Journalism/Yearbook, the closest thing our tiny school had to a creative writing class.
Despite glowing reviews from all of my English teachers, I was denied entrance into the class until my senior year. And even then, I was only admitted because my best friend was the editor.
I’m now a professional writer, go figure.
At 17 I was in an abusive relationship. I allowed a boy to scream in my face, call me names, drive drunk and reckless while I sat primly in the passenger seat. And yes, raise his hand to me.
With a lot of hard work, I was able to secure a full academic scholarship to college despite my struggles.
I worked part-time at a bookstore for an average of 30 hours each week, in addition to 18-hour class loads. Even so, with housing and living expenses, I racked up about $20,000 in loans.
After college, I was immediately accepted into a graduate program in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Less than 2 months after graduation, my then-boyfriend and I packed up and rolled on down to Tide country. It was there that he asked me to marry him.
After finishing my Master’s (and compounding another $55,000 onto my already piling loans), we moved back to Arkansas and I accepted a job with a non-profit. The money was shit, but I felt good about doing work in the community. One month later, I was fired. They said after further review my position wasn’t in the budget, after all.
Let’s call a spade a spade: I was a marketing/communications assistant to a girl who had her Associate’s in graphic design while I held a Bachelor’s in marketing and a Master’s in communication.
I don’t want to say she was scared I’d take her job, buuuuttt. Draw your own conclusions.
The best part about this was, they knew I was signing a lease on an apartment that morning, and they didn’t stop me. They waited until I signed it, then called me in and canned me. So we were stuck in a year lease with no jobs thanks to this particular non-profit (coughUnitedWaycough) who specializes in getting people out of poverty. #Irony
Thankfully, Andy secured a job through some family connections, so we were able to make rent. Barely.
I spent over 9 months unemployed. The maximum amount of benefits I was able to draw was $81 per week thanks to that whole bettering myself and furthering my education thing.
I went on dozens of interviews and kept hearing the same thing.
“You have so much education, you’re overqualified. We can’t pay you what you’re worth.”
I’d have worked for peanuts at that point.
The next summer I took a job out of desperation that was completely unrelated to my degrees at J.B. Hunt. I knew I wouldn’t particularly enjoy the work, but I figured I could get my foot in the door and make my way to their Marketing Department within a year or two.
I had a supervisor (though I’m not sure why, as she in no way supervised me) who didn’t particularly like me from Day 1. I don’t know why, but it didn’t bother me.
Some personalities just don’t mesh. I know this from my extensive education in communications. Sometimes I have Resting Bitch Face. I know this from 4 years in a sorority.
She blackballed me from ever moving laterally within the company. So I tried to promote within the department I was already in. After several interviews, I received a rejection email stating in not so many words, “We can’t bring you into our team, because you have a disease, so sometimes you have doctor’s appointments that make you miss work.”
I wish I was exaggerating. For the second time, I’m being discriminated against for my disability.
Did everyone forget what century this is? Did I fail to mention I have a graduate degree in Public Relations?
Heeyyyyy Human Resources, remember me?
I printed that email off, along with some other evidence of blatant sexism, racism, and discrimination on basically everything listed on the standard Anti-Discrimination clause, and I went to see a lawyer who has sued J.B. Hunt before.
The lawyer said, “100% what they did is illegal. I promise they do this, and more every single day and get away with it. They’re too big to fail; you won’t win. If we move forward and sue them, they’ll bury you. You’ll be labeled a troublemaker and you’ll never work in this town again.”
There goes that.
Fast forward about 6 months and things couldn’t be more different. Andy and I are both working for a company we respect with people we admire. I’m fulfilling my childhood dream of being a writer.
At my new job, I’ve never been talked down to, intimidated, or made to feel like I’m less because I’m a woman. I’ve never felt guilty for taking a couple of hours every few months to ensure my health is maintained.
Andy and I own a beautiful home with a huge backyard in a quiet subdivision. We have the sweetest Golden Retriever that ever walked the earth and a little-shit of a cat who makes you work for his affection (just the way I like them).
I can’t begin to explain how grateful I am for all of these blessings having endured what life has thrown at me.
But, there’s still one thing that causes pain in my everyday existence. There’s still something that makes people literally say, “God, bless the Barbees. They deserve it.”
We can’t have a baby.
Don’t get me wrong; if anyone knows how to count their blessings, it’s me. And I do. Every single day.
But I want a baby.
So, that’s where I am after 26 years. I’m finally happy with nearly every aspect of my life, marriage, career, friends. But after almost 2 years of trying without conceiving, it’s hard not to lose hope.
This is my birthday present to myself, a little bit of writing that’s just for me, outside of work. Maybe I’ll write about infertility and actually use words like sex and period (gasp!).
I’m so over the shitty abbreviations and flowery expressions used in the mommy blogs and infertility forums.
I’m no stranger to owning my voice and pissing off damn near everyone in the South. So maybe I’ll just move that from Facebook to Medium where I can make you all mad with long form posts instead of keeping it concise.
Hey Trump- I’m particularly annoyed that we’re inaugurating an actual POS on my birthday. Eye roll, America.
LGBTQs- I still want to hug every single one of you. Let’s be friends.
Arkansas just went up in flames.
Maybe I’ll shout FEMINIST AND EQUALITY BS in all caps at you after somebody pisses me off with their ignorance and intolerance.
Maybe I’ll just journal, as a way to work out my feelings and thoughts about the world in hopes that at my funeral they won’t say, “Bless her heart.”
I’m not sure what my topics will be yet, and I can guarantee not all of them will be good. But in the words of our favorite Pop Princess:
Haters Gonna Hate-hate-hate-hate-hate.
And Creatives Gonna Create-ate-ate-ate-ate.
Hey, I told you it wouldn’t all be good. Not my fault if you didn’t listen.
Until Next time,