‘Life is hope’ by Afiomai

81691_orig_970_0-1I found this very moving blog from Afiomai on the new ABC Open website here in Australia. Afiomai is a transgender person living in Sydney and is currently considered long-term unemployed. Afiomai took part in ABC Open’s Speak Your Mind project

‘Sometimes I think about suicide.

I think about the “painless” ways I could do it. How I would obtain the required drugs or chemicals to bring me “sleep”. But, as an Average Jo, drugs and the drug world are beyond me.

I then think about maybe “guns” or “gas” as viable options?

But, as I live in Sydney’s Surry Hills and not Skid Row USA, I wouldn’t know the first thing about obtaining a gun, or even how to use it. And besides, it would be too messy.

And, as for gas, I don’t own a car and I’m scared of my gas burner blowing up. I mean, I’d like to be found in the “Sleeping Beauty” pose not the “Burnt to a Crisp”. Now, THAT would kill me.

Suicide isn’t an urgent at-the-top-of-my-list, thing. It just exists within my periphery.

I find myself thinking about “him”, especially after a bad case of insult or injury from mean humans, or when it gets all too much.

In those moments, I tell him that it would be easier if I wasn’t around. I tell him that I haven’t achieved the success, or the life that I had planned in my teens, where the biggest problem was a sore wrist from a 1500-word Uni essay on Chiang Kai Shek and listening to Prince’s When Doves Cry on a cheap tape deck.

I tell him that I haven’t met a “Sugar Daddy” or built enough wealth to be a “Sugar Mommy”. My savings account is by name-only and I am neither a trust baby nor born with a silver spoon protruding from my mouth.

So, what brings him to me? Being long-term unemployed mostly.

But being of colour and transgendered doesn’t make it any easier. It’s not because I am coloured or Trans* but it’s the discrimination I face because of being both that has brought him so close at times that I can smell him.

He smiles as I say in my defence that I’m an artist, a writer and a qualified professional. I just haven’t been given the chance or opportunity to show my worth and secure a full-time waged position.

But it has been four years now.

Luckily, I volunteer during the week to maintain a link to my “profession” but I hide my Trans* status.

This year, I was placed on the New Start Allowance Work For The Dole scheme. Volunteer work in my profession doesn’t count, so I am forced to work at a not-for-profit charity, a Salvos Store, sweeping floors and tidying up shelves. Talk about being over qualified.

My job search caseworker tells me that my Work for the Dole placement is to teach me new skills to help me find work. This is the same caseworker who asked me which TAFE I had received my university degree from.  And whether my degree was the same as a “Cert IV”.

I said that, from where I was sitting, it was. She didn’t get the joke. There are a lot of things she doesn’t get.

I haven’t learnt any new skills from my placement, as I already know how to tidy shelves and sweep floors thanks to part-time jobs and being an Adult Human Being.

But, what I have learnt is the feeling of desperate frustration. Of feeling that I am being punished. Punished for being unemployed. Where I have to sign off on the hours I work and then sign off again.

Of feeling like I have been placed on parole. The only thing missing is a curfew, a no-go zone and a criminal offense. Perhaps being unemployed is a crime? Well, socially, anyway.

I know the feeling of seeing my skills, experience and qualifications wasting away. Of feeling the clutch of clinical depression around me and, for the first time, seeing suicide as an option.

He laughs and I agree with him.

Hey who really gives a shit? Who cares if I live or die? If I was to off myself who would miss me?

I’m in my mid 40s. I have no children, no assets or property. Time and life just passed me by. I was too busy living it to plan for it.

My father is 85. Sure, he’d be sad but he has his own mortality to think about. My sisters have their own lives and families, as do my friends.

I’m tired of the numbness I feel everyday. I’m tired of my lowering self-esteem, compounded with aging and future health concerns. I’m tired of feeling like a social outcast, of being left behind, of not feeling like part of society.

I’m tired of seeing my friends travel, buy houses, enjoying their lives, ticking off their life’s “To Do” lists on cue, while I am still running around desperately looking for a paper and pen.

I’m tired of seeing my friends phase me out. Where daily phone calls lessen, from daily to weekly to monthly, until I see on Facebook feeds that I am no longer part of the inner core. Not invited to things.

We thought you might be busy. We didn’t want to bother you.

I have become an afterthought, a charity case, that person spoken of in hushed tones. A cautionary tale.

I tell him that I’m scared of an uncertain future, scared of not being able to save, to plan, to do anything. I’m tired of being judged for not finding work. Of receiving one declined job application after another and trying to keep my head above water long enough to keep applying for more jobs. Of living in perpetual limbo, a life in purgatory.

I tell him that I wish I could run away and start afresh. Somewhere new, somewhere no-one knows me. Somewhere where I could live in Peace!

AHA! For such a life to exist, I need to be ALIVE.

I NEED TO LIVE. DAMN IT!

I see him now outside my window. I’m still drawn to him like a hot male stripper; you know he’s bad for you, but he looks inviting. But fear stops me.

I fear his coldness, his darkness, his finality. There is something behind his smile, the way he moves, the glisten of his teeth, the lie of Painlessness and Peace.

So I say, “Not today.”

He turns to leave but looks back at me with those eyes. I know he’ll be back. So, looking deeply into his eyes, I embrace him like a lesson learnt and I turn to contemplate another day.

I breathe deeply, feeling my lungs fill to capacity and then… I exhale. He clears like fog lifting in a breeze as I hear words, slowly spoken, in whispered tones:

Life Is Hope.’

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