Teshuva, depending on how one experiences it, can be something as uncomplicated as a spiritual balance sheet where debts and the way to repay them are as clear as math, or, to some, it can be more of an infectious undercurrent that captures us as it passes through us.
Guilt needs to be rationalized in order to be dealt with, that’s why it’s effective: you can’t shake guilt as a feeling very easily until you figure out what you did to provoke it. What I did was survive, while a lot of other people didn’t, and quite a bit of my success was due to unearned privilege.
I spent several years figuring what I should and could do after realizing that, and committed in all ways that are effective to an antiracist lifestyle. I had a lot of conversations with my family and ultimately came out as queer, because I couldn’t stand the guilt of deceiving or the threat of being exposed any longer. I became the advocate I wished I had back when I was first diagnosed. And you know what? All that bullshit guilt pretty much just faded away. But, some remained — to which I am accountable — and I need to make some amends:
- To Monica, who I hope still thinks of me as a friend: I failed you because I couldn’t stop a horrible train of bad decisions without exposing things about myself that could have ended my family if they came out in the wrong way, and the health insurance I desperately needed. I was also worried that those who knew these things about me were increasingly strained in their restraint and that things coming out was a possibility; I had very real reason to believe more people would speak out. You did not deserve to be let go the way that you were and I’m sorry that I couldn’t stop it. You really didn’t understand what everyone was taking issue with, and I didn’t get you the space necessary for that to happen. Clarity now exists around this, but it came at your expense, and my failure to act enabled that. Monica Cellio isn’t a bigot, she’s a pillar that I stepped on instead of building up more.
- To coworkers that I steered away from helping Monica: I had the most terrible of best intentions, keeping you out of harm’s way. I realize that I took away your choice to do something better than the person I was capable of being due to … constraints. While it was coming top-down, I should have refused to let it go any further. Resigning wasn’t an option I could take. I didn’t feel like I could even privately question anything anymore. What’s bad for a manager is twice as bad for those that report to them; I won’t make that mistake again. My piece in the puzzle should have broken by design.
- To coworkers that were let go due to retrenching — I didn’t know it was coming, but I sure as hell didn’t fight the thing that was running you over once I saw it running you over. I’m not proud of my silence that day and you deserved something way kinder than what you got.
I can’t go back in time, and even if I could, I’m not certain I could make different decisions considering the gravity of the consequences I would face. In fact, and probably what feels most terrible is, I trusted that people would understand that something wasn’t quite right with me, that’d I’d been compromised somehow, and would try to make amends later.
This is that later, and I hoped that it could be more, but it’s the most that I’m able to compile without repeating other mistakes and making brand new ones. I don’t want anything out of this but the space for it to exist, and for those that harm found because I failed to deflect or caused it, my sincere regrets.
I’ve forgiven me, I hope they do too, but what matters most to me is it’s all finally said to the point that it can be. This post was written in coordination with someone that’s been helping me cope, and I really appreciate them.