Tag Archive: original


Her lack of sleep rode shotgun on today’s commute. She had fought sleep then the alarm, to no avail, but she was wide awake now. It was mostly due to anxiety tying her stomach in knots, though honestly the “how” was less than important. As long as self-doubt didn’t run away with her she was sure she could make it though the day. Well, almost.

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A quarter. I can remember buying brightly colored LafyTafy squares for a quarter, such a small thing, but I cannot let go of the analogy. How insignificant they seemed unless there were many of them. This is how I am feeling at the moment, like a small thing, and I am not comfortable with it at all.

Why do I liken myself to a bright silly piece of candy? Because I am a women in science, and like that candy I represent about a quarter. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015) women on average make up 23.75% of STEM jobs ranging from 12% in civil engineering to 39% of chemists and material scientists. While this is something that I have always known it has only recently become my daily truth. This is because while women earn around half of the STEM degrees, at the Bachelor level and over 40% of advanced STEM degrees, we do not hold anywhere near 50% of STEM jobs (NSF: Women, Minorities, and Personswith Disabilities in Science and Engineering statistics last updated in 2016). My transition out of academics and into the biotech world has put a very fine point on this fact. I am currently the only woman in the company, granted its a four person company, but I now face that 25% every day.

What I am not saying is that I deserve a larger piece of the pie. What I am saying, however, is that until more women are in the STEM workforce we will continue to feel isolated and small. Part of these feelings are my own self-doubt, I assure you, but the facts are real. I am a quarter. I will carry this number with me as I grow in my career and in this new job. It is a number which will constantly motivate me to reach out and engage other women in STEM. This number will be my battle cry!

Stargazer

She was staring at the sky, childlike. Her head thrown back and eyes open wide, willing each point of light to stand out from the deep dark night. From afar it might have appeared as if she was searching, so intense was her focus. This was not, however, the case. She was found. As overwhelming as the galaxy was, in that moment it did not cause her to lose her nerve. The infinite possibility, instead, seemed a comfort. Welcoming and challenging in equal measure. This moment, the night, and even the possibility was hers for the taking.

Blinking at last, she shook her head. Trying to clear both her mind and her starfilled eyes, but the damage was done. A knowing smile replaced her look of wonder as she turned back to the heavens. Now, now she wouldn’t be satisfied till she reached out and touched one.

Snow Angel

I am a covered thing.

She thought trudging through the snow. I am covered in hats, scarves, and coats, but no, that wasn’t it. It was something more than this. She felt… masked perhaps. The snow had reduced her physical presence down to the rustle of moisture resistant fabrics, the soft crunch of her boots, and the swirling crystals of her breath. It was a sensation that she loved and loathed in equal measure. The quiet lent her false privacy. It made her want to act childish and vibrant, even if no one was watching. However, the weight of the world softly sighing was hard to bear, begging her to shatter the near silence. The crisp white perfection a thing she desperately wanted to mar. The decision wasn’t even a decision. One second she was standing, and the next she was free-falling backwards, arms open wide. Sinking into the snow the thought came again.

I am a covered thing.

Deep breath.

Exhale.

But the thunder still comes, fast and loud, as the storm builds.

Blink.

Straighten your posture.

Uncross your arms.

Breathe again.

More thunder. Heat rising in waves, keeping time like a metronome, setting the pace of my indignation.

I try to get a word in edgewise, to no avail.

I rearrange my expression.

Confusion. Anger. Hurt. Dismay.

Go with confusion.

When the words stop the thunder doesn’t. Though I’ve swallowed the heat of my anger it’s not gone.

Her words stick to me like acid rain eating and burning away at my resolve. Was it me?

We’ll never be friends. Fact. Statement. Promise.

I’m engulfed in fire I don’t care to extinguish, and just as fire tempers steal I can sense a hardening in parts of me.

Blink. Lest the smolder in my eyes flares up.

Breathe. So the thunder can continue its rhythm.

Peace. It’s not mine to fix.

It’s quick, the shift from unknowing to knowing. It happens light switch fast, and is just as blinding as light after dark. Trapped is more than the word can portray. Trapped is knowledge of limits, is the feeling of unbalanced, is the need for air. It widens eyes, harshens sounds, lengthens seconds, and crystalizes thoughts. When the revelation hit… the world shuddered, it suddenly held itself between the blink and the breath, both waiting and poised. The next moment, so critical, was drawn thin to the point of becoming brittle. A crackable thing. Fragile but complete.

Then we both moved.

I itch between my shoulder blades, the unreachable itch of watchful eyes cast my way. I don’t dare turn to look as the pointless gesture only makes me look guilty, of something… of anything worth watching. Instead I slowly roll my shoulders and stretch my back, even pull a yawn. It is better to appear bored, or better yet tired, tired people aren’t a threat. It’s hard to mobilize when you are beat down by life and lack of sleep. The gaze slips from me to the truely tired business man slumped against the hand rail beside me. He startles noticibly before faining indifference. I keep my smile small and smother the laugh threatening to bubble out, nothing attracts unwanted attention like laughter at tense moments. The urge completely abates with the soft gasp and hushed rustle of fabric that means someone is being “helped” off the train for questioning. 

A heavy silence follows those sounds; filled with dred and inactivity. I cannot blame them the fear we are all mainlining these days, compliments of our government for our own good I’m sure, is a potent drug. 

I check my watch, like I always do, stand and walk towards the back of the train, per usual, shift my bag to the center of my back, in a perfectly normal manner. I am just a commuter. I am just tired. I am “sheepole”. The thoughts drive through me like a steel rod, straightening my back and my resolve, like bolts of lightning, energizing and wild, like the truth which frees.

Impatiently, I wait for the train to stop and the doors to open. I tap my toes, check my watch, and adjust my bag. In an exaggerated motion I crane my neck looking for the conductor who will stand near the open the door waiting to help myself and the pair in front of me disboard. I mumble and “swear to god” under my breath. Everyone has backed away from the door except us three. Our mixed bag of emotions, as repellent as noxious gas, acts as a shield. No one wants to see the fear in the eyes of the man being taken for questioning or the joy in the young recruit’s. I remain impatient and agitated. I shift my bag to my side just as the train lurches to a stop. My perfectly timed fall is unavoidable and undignified. As the locked doors spring open the young recruit, I grabbed for stability, and I fall down the steps in a tangle.

The fearful man, selected for questioning, freezes for only an instant.

We lock eyes.

He nods once, then is gone.

The itchy feeling is back, but at least I no longer have to suffer the dreadful inactive silence. What comes next will have been worth it.

I am civil disobedience, and I will not be ignored.

 

“She just… kind of broke,” the little boy sounded surprised. 

“Well what happened,” his grandfather asked him. “Did you wind her up too tight? Did you press her buttons too many times?”

The perplexed look never left his eyes even as he shook his head no vigorously.

“Maybe you neglected her then,” the grandfather offered. “Is she still in one piece? Was she nurtured? Did you protect her from the muck of the world?”

The boy turned her over in his hands more gently with each revolution. “I think so papa!”

“Then what do you think it could be kiddo?” 

The boy’s eyes squinted and his brow worked up into a furrowed ridge before a lightbulb went off behind his eyes. “I don’t know, but I’m going to try and make it right.”

All rights to owner

Today I came undone. It was an interesting feeling akin to screaming from a dream, pointless and jarring. My words were nothing more than pathetic echoes reverberating out of me, attached to nothing, devoid of meaning. Scales fell from my eyes, liquid fire, blinding me to the light. As I stood in the maelstrom, begging it to strike harder, I paid willingly in pounds of flesh. Eased by the warm rush of blood. Calmed by the whiring in my ears.

My masks lay at my feet strewn like flowers, representations of things I dare not name. They are my most and least honest appendage in one. The masks repel and call to me with the same voice. It’s familiar, and my fingers itch to pull them up, obedient as always.

An acrid taste upon my tongue sours my stomach. Perhaps this pill wasn’t meant for swallowing, but the hour is late and I’ve already decided. So while Fate looms chill and shadowy behind me, a shark, keen in bloody water, I drop my arms, stand firm, and adjust my posture. I am ready to continue because continue is what I do.

​”This is the single greatest witch hunt!” His voice caught somewhere between a whine and a yell carried on the heavy air out into the night. As the inky darkness accepted the words rolling them over and over in fading echos it gained a chill edge, causing those whose shoulders it brushed to shiver. Developing a weightiness the wind filled with shadows and percieved threats. Shreiking across the miles it tore at sanity shreading peace no regard for the distraction left in its wake. Ringing with the sound of history repeated the bluster rages on, but fear not for it is followed by the winds of change.

 As seen in the Atlantic – Andrew Kelly

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