Transitions

Exhiety – being simultaneously exhausted and too anxious to rest

Eight months ago I ran away from the cube farm. The grey walls, corporate mantras, and unscalable bureaucracy had finally worn through the optimism I tried to maintain during my tenure. Any energy I had left at the end of the day was sucked away in the long commute home, watching the sun fade beyond a sea of red lights. A slow march of white lights to my left. The work and the commute had the same maddening dirge. Stop. Go. Stop. Go.

Stop.

With the mental and physical tolls mounting I took a small bag of things and left. I walked away from security, unvested stock, a regular fat paycheck. I was chased down with promises of job titles and promotions long sought, but I was so exhausted that I just had to walk away.

Since then my life has been a mixture of recovering from the corporate world and figuring out how to start a business. Somewhat unexpectedly this time has also held the beginning of a transition of a different sort – gender.

For 20 years I worked and studied in tech. The only female-assigned person in many of my electrical engineering classes (and later, the professional teams I worked with), I learned to protect myself against unwanted advances and the pain of exclusion. Exclusion from the boys club that would later stymie my ability to advance. Quick wit was my weapon for shutting down locker room conversations, sexist quips, and covering up the insecurity I felt every day. I uncomfortably learned the language and mannerisms needed to be perceived as competent. Despite evidence that I excelled at my studies I constantly felt that I wasn’t enough, in part due to the external forces exerted to get more women into engineering. I always wondered ‘am I here because I’m female, or because I’m competent?’

The perception of myself as not being enough started much earlier. Since I was extremely young, perhaps 5 or 6, I struggled with this notion of being a girl. I perceived my inability to relate to other little girls as a failure on my part. As I took in the reaction of others to my presence, I realized others could see that failure too. I tried to smooth over the discomfort of others and myself by being funny and self deprecating, but over time this perception of failure at such a fundamental aspect of life turned into anxiety, depression, and self doubt.

I suppose its unsurprising that, as I started to let go of fitting myself into one ill fitting garment, I noticed I was wearing other items that were poorly suited for me. I didn’t intend to transition from technical desk jockey to entrepreneur at the same time that I began dealing with the emotional journey of gender transition, but here I sit.

As I have come into acceptance of myself as a FTM and begun getting acquainted with others like me, I find myself frustrated by the lack of FTM visibility. I hope that sharing my stories can bring increased awareness to our experiences. I have a similar frustration with the technology industrial complex and the lack of visibility of how it undercuts the well being of tech workers. I hope by sharing my story of transitioning from a cog in the tech system to an entrepreneur that I can help others do the same.