I went to another meeting today, an appeal hearing, to discuss the ongoing saga of my grievance against my employer.
At least I think it was me.
And yet somehow I was the only person in the room that I didn’t recognise.
There was the woman from HR, my manager’s manager, and this strange quiet, diffident, little person who couldn’t quite seem to get her words out.
Some stranger who seems to have taken over my life when I wasn’t looking.
Listening to her speak it seemed wrong that she should be representing me in my workplace. I went into that line of work because the thing that I was best at was words, at speaking and arguing. Because I’m assertive and even somewhat confrontational, and the fields of law and campaigning are the only two places where this is really socially acceptable.
This stranger would be no good at my job.
She likes order and routine. She gets freaked out by sudden changes, crises, and loud people.
I excelled at my job because I was calm under pressure, nothing phased me. Not because I was particularly confident or cool, but because I’d been around long enough to have learned that stress doesn’t resolve anything. That nervousness and worry are contagious, and you don’t earn your client’s trust until you make them feel better, not worse, and reassure them that you are competent to help.
The imposter looks even more out-of-place when she turns up pretending to be me at parties.
I used to be good at parties. I’ve thrown some excellent parties. It was once said of me that I took hardcore to a whole new level and beyond.
I was always the last one to go home because I knew that the most memorable moments don’t happen until the early hours of the morning. The world is different at 4am, events seem more exciting, conversations seem more meaningful.
I watch this usurper when she’s at parties, sitting on her own trying desperately to think of something interesting to say, and I wonder why she bothers. I cannot relate to her or how she came to be in this place. I see her slinking off home, unnoticed, before pumpkin hour and want to scream at what she’s doing to my life.
The time she’s wasting. The friendships and connections that I see slowly slipping away.
I’m trying to resist this. Trying to find to reclaim my life from this person, to see how to rebuild what she’s squandered. But I feel like I’m stuck in a bad film where the heroine is floating around outside her body and needs to find a way back in before it’s too late and her life is lost to her forever.
But I fear it may already be too late.
On those all too rare moments when I am able to overpower the pretender, able to retake my body and live as my own self I see that people do not look at me the same way. She is more a part of their reality now than I am. Some think that I am the aberration.
And then this trepidation becomes yet another obstacle in the way of my recovery.