A special note: I wrote this in early 2017. I am on the verge of getting into 2020, nothing much has changed. Three years have not changed the people around me or how they treat the ones who speak up. But I have changed. You can change the world, not by changing others, but changing yourself.
Reputation and Image
The image is how yourself is portrayed.
Reputation is how others view you.
I am at crossroads in life. Not really by choice. I don't think any sane person chooses to be where I am.......
I am a survivor at my best. I figure out how to keep moving forward no matter what life brings to me. It has always been the one place that I put my faith. I believe that this ability of mine is not really mine, but something this universe has given me.
I had a life where I gave too much value to what others thought of me. It's selfish in a weird way. I just didn't want to make anyone uncomfortable.
And I gave in.
And I gave in some more.
At the age of 26, I had a job that I dreamt of for years. A job that I worked very hard to get. I take pride in that. Yes, you can think I am boasting. To me, I am aware of my skillset. And I am proud to say what I hold, what I know I can do. It is confidence backed by real-time data. (Sorry for going nerd here). I was good at what I did. I am good at what I do. But I hold no special talents. The only thing I hold is a tenacity to do my best at any given circumstances. And the ability to be brutally honest with me.
So at 26, I had my dream job. I was making good money. I would have made a 6 figure with bonuses and stock options before I hit 30. I was passionate about this job.
It made me squeal in joy. I loved it.
I worked hard long hours and paycheck was nothing but an added bonus.
You may not digest this. As there is a preconceived notion that women can't love what they do. We can. We do.
We can love and do a great job as much as a man peer of ours. In fact, we bring better dynamics to the teams.
The place I worked at was home. People around me were equally, maybe more hardworking, more skilled. The collection of people in the firm was different. We were all misfits. We didn't fit into square boxes. The company was a place that held all sorts of sizes and shapes of human intellect.
And yes, I am still proud that I got to share a space with them.
Ok. I am coming to my point.
You see, that place... I felt home.
I felt safe.
I felt valued and seen and heard.
I felt no need to be anything other than who I was.
I had nothing to prove or hide.
I was impeccably me.
So were most around me.
Then, in September of 2008, I left this place. I left it after trying very hard to find other options and realizing the job is what I need to give up to see something else through. Something I value more in this life, then and now, much higher than having a place to belong. A family.
At that time, to me, the family was the man I was married to. So I left it all.
I left friends, my job, ability to stand on my feet, dreams, career.
I left it all with no regrets and no second thoughts. It has been 9 years and I have no regrets to date.
I feel sad at times. I feel sad thinking I missed a few crucial points. But then I remind myself that nothing is certain in this lifetime. And I was making a choice for something I believed in. So, no regrets.
Ok. You are thinking, then why bring it up.
I sit here today and I am looking back at the last 3 years. And I wonder why the reputation I hold now is that of a "bad woman".
How did I end up here?
I socially isolated myself in the last 3 years. Especially the last one year. I stopped making friends as I lost faith and trust in humanity. It is the very reason I hold onto truth with all of my soul.
And I fight for people like me. But I can not help wonder, how did people around me decided that what I deserve is this?
I am not the first woman and it deeply saddens me to know that I am not going to be the last. This is the weapon the society I live in uses to keep women in line, isn't it?
Social isolation and destruction of her ability to live.
I will tell you this. I do not deserve this.
No. I do not.
So goes to others.
None of us deserves this.
This very thought and seeing I had no one to stand by me are why I decided to write. It is why I decided to tell my story with very little filter. If you feel what I say is too real, trust me that I am not even saying half of the things.
Everything I have done, everything I gave up, everything I had contributed came down to where I stand now. A bad woman.
I kept silent about it. And I no longer know what the right course of action is. I watch people rip my life apart in amusement. I watch their anger and frustration when they see that they are not able to make me yield. I hear the words and I stand my ground.
I hurt inside and yet, I never show.
And I see the desire of the devil's advocates.
And I wonder all the time.......
Why do you need me to be this "woman" so badly?
What do you achieve by destroying a woman's life?
Or is it bothering you that she is refusing to be broken and give up?
What is it that truly motivates you?
This has been a tough one. But people often forget that women who had seen tragedies tend to be resilient. Their strength is not that of an ordinary amount. I am a human being and I get impacted. But I have faith and a support system that I am building. So far I have been able to not lean on them too much. But if a day comes, I know I can.
So, if words are spread behind my back to 100 people I knew in my past life, what do you think will happen.....?
I will give up living?
I will crawl back into the hell I been trying to walk away from?
Reputation is what others see.
An image is what I build.
Yes, this has been an uphill battle.
This has not been a fair fight.
As I choose values I live by over winning.
I do not want to do anything I can not live with.
I own my mistakes.
I own my choices.
My past doesn't define my present or future. It is influenced of course as I am and will face consequences of my choices. But I will not let fear stop me from living or speaking or being truthful and authentic.
I will say this much. There are days when I so badly want to play by the rules that had been set. What often stops me is knowing that I can't gO down that road again. I can't live with lowering myself to those levels. And I can't even say much as I sadly understand the why.
I am an Indian woman who asked her husband for a divorce. I have been forcefully isolated from everyone I knew. I got no trial, no day in court, no questions were asked. I was simply ignored and my life had been picked apart. I stayed silent for a long time. I explained my actions, defended myself, till I reached a point where I say this
"I no longer am willing to defend or explain".
I will leave you with this. I am not going to fight back as I find no worth in it. Destroy my reputation, destroy my life as you feel is an appropriate punishment. But I will not stop speaking. I will not stop fighting to tell my story so that it gives someone else the courage to step away from their hell.
I will not be silenced.
I will speak up as long as I breathe. I will tell stories even if it doesn't reach anywhere. I know the power words from the heart holds.
And I know that someday it will make a tiny ripple somewhere.
I will not be silent.
I will not fight your battle.
I hold no apology for being me.
I choose, truth and love.