Oppression

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Tilt.

The last time I felt this particular sense of oppression, I was in my early 20’s. I had forgotten  this feeling,  or why, but now it comes back with the strength of anything powerful that’s been buried for an entire adult lifetime.

The Long-Awaited Honest-to-God Secret to Being Happy

I’m suddenly 21 again, and in love with a boy who lives in another town. He says he’s ambitious, and yet, he’s never strayed far from his mother and he’s ended up back in his hometown. If he has dreams, he doesn’t share them, but I love him anyway.

I’m graduating from college and I can go anywhere. I’m  a  free  spirit. I  have  no  husband,  no  children,  no debts, no mortgages, no car payments, nothing. I can go anywhere in the world, be anything I like. I have a job offer in Connecticut and another near Houston, but I won’t leave and go that far away. I know what will happen if I do.

If I leave, I’ll never see him again. He’s not the kind of man who would come after me. Even if I won’t admit that to myself.

If I want a future with the man I love, then it’s imperative that I not leave the area. Or at least not go any farther away than we’ve been during the last of my college years.

So I don’t even glance at careers that are elsewhere. I focus strictly on jobs close to where he lives so that I can be with him, so that we can be together, because unless I make that sacrifice, there’ll be no being together.

So I take minimum wage jobs and temp jobs. I move in with his sister and pay the cheap rent, but I can’t get enough work in my field or any field here to pay the rent and buy my groceries.

And my boyfriend has no qualms because I’m here,

living in his town, where his parents and his siblings and his friends and his job and his community and everything he’s known all his life are.

And I’m here now,  too. And there’s  no reason for him to go anywhere else or to want anything else.

I would  rather  that  we  had  gone  off  together  and started a new life in a new place together, where neither of us knew anyone or anything  there except to learn it together,  a  place  where  he  had no  prior  attachments. Even if he had gone a few months ahead and I had followed at the end of college, the move would have been about us doing it together  and not about me getting assimilated into an existing world.

But this is where he chooses to be.

Eventually, I run out of money and can no longer ask my mother to keep sending me money for food, so I re- turn to my hometown and move in with my parents and start rebuilding my savings. I take a job that  isn’t in my field and not what I want to do with my life, but it’s a temporary job until I can get back on my feet…and it’s also not that far  from him so I can still see him on the weekends.

But where I go and what I want to do with my life is still tied to him and to the place where he chooses to live.

At  24, I marry him and move back to his hometown.

I take a job that’s been misrepresented to me by the Vice- President of  Finance and it means dipping into my savings. It’s not the job I was promised  or the pay I was promised, but even less than I was making in my last job. It’s not in my field as promised.

I hate the job. From day one, when my reason for being there and my boss’ promises all unravel. I hate it but I’m trapped. Or think I am.

On my first day on the job, I meet and am befriended by a woman who is utterly shocked when I tell her the position  I’ve  been  hired for—because  it’s  her  position and our boss hired me to take her job over once he could figure out how to get rid of her but didn’t have the balls or the reason to fire her.

So I’m relegated to a clerical position for an office of 13 accountant types…after I’ve moved and can’t find another job in the  area that isn’t waiting  tables or selling vacuum cleaners. Most of them treat me like shit because I’m their secretary, even though I have more  education than 10 of them, a fact they don’t discover until around the time I leave the job a few years later when I finally get the next opportunity.

But he’s here, and I’m with him. There’s a deep resentment underneath but I swallow it. I squelch it, hide it in darkness. I feel wrong for feeling this way. Why can’t I just be happy here because he’s happy here?

I try to talk to him about it a few times, but he does not understand. He cannot understand. This is his home, where his parents are, his brothers and sisters, his friends, his job,  his  co-workers,  his everything.  He  knows  this place  like  the  back  of  his  hand,  and  he’s  comfortable here. He loves it here and what’s wrong with me that I don’t? And I have left behind my parents, my siblings, my friends, and everything that I have known and am comfortable with to come be on his turf just to be with him and to keep from losing him.

The new job is better and we eventually  settle into a home in a country club community—his  one big com- promise. I want to live in Bluewater Bay not because it’s a country club community but because, well, because there are trees there. Its undeveloped areas remind me of home and what I’ve left behind.

This is not my choice for the place I want to be and it’s not my choice for the life I want or the career I want, but I choose it to be with him and for no other reason. I feel that I am giving up my identity to move here, to be here with him, and that I’m taking on everything that is his and all the Lorna that was before is now gone, incorporated into his world with none remaining.

Fast  forward  to  a  conference  in  May  in  Daytona Beach, and those deep feelings from long ago rise to the surface, rumbling from underneath and shaking me to the core. I’ve spent  my entire  adult  life in  a job that sup- ported a lifestyle but didn’t support me emotionally. Not for very long. I’ve been the good girl, falling in line and doing what was expected and what I had to do. Sowing my dreams on the side but never straight-forward  or out front. Weaving them into my life where I could because I had based where I wanted to be and what I had to do on where someone else wanted to be and wanted to do.

We never  built  this  life together,  from  scratch.  We build it on a foundation that had already been established, someone else’s foundation.

It really wasn’t about place but about identity and sacrificing too much. And now I have some of those same feelings of being trapped here, tied to a job that, even though technology would allow me to perform 95% of it barefoot with a laptop and a good wireless connection on a private beach somewhere,  keeps me tied to a specific desk in a  specific office because of an outdated attitude that employees must have assigned desks and be there at assigned hours.

Technology  allows me the freedom  to go anywhere and do  anything, and it opens up so many choices that weren’t there before.

But the choices aren’t available in my current career field and so I feel trapped again. Oppressed.

My only solution is to look to my dreams and make a plan so I can throw off this heaviness.