I sat in a plastic chair that looked like it came from the set of Stranger Things, trying to keep it together while my male law partner effortlessly told a cramped living room of 50 or so anxious immigrants what their rights are in the face of raids and racism.
It was my turn next and the inside of my brain was like: "BITCH ARE YOU CRAZY?! YOU CAN'T COMMAND A ROOM LIKE HIM BECUASE YOU'RE A GIRL. AND ALSO YOU CAN'T DO THE PUBLIC SPEAKING THING. LOOK AT YOU, YOU'RE FUCKING SHAKING!"
I had arranged this Know Your Rights presentation with the help of some community activists in New Orleans East. And now here I was, fully anticipating a loss of consciousness once I stood up to speak.
But the Universe must have decided that I needed to do this because by some work of magic, I got up there and made words, even answered questions. And people paid attention.
The biggest surprise of the first month of being my own boss has been how loud and obnoxious the "Who do you think you are?" 's have been.
The even bigger surprise is that the only one asking that question has been me.
All my life, I've loved nothing more than someone, especially an ambassador of the patriarchy, telling me that I can't, that I shouldn't, that I need a dick to be able to do that. Because that means I just tell them to fuck off and do exactly the thing they didn't want me to do.
But now that I'm finally standing on the edge of actually doing EVERYTHING in my life my way, all of those past "Shouldn't"'s and "Can't" s are coming out to party.
They're coming from a lifetime of the Distrcit Attorneys who repeatedly addressed me as "sweetheart" in the courtroom, the ex who told me I wouldn't be taken seriously as an attorney if I take my clothes off on stage, the grade-school teachers who said my Swiss accent was problematic, the hundreds of times I've been treated as a set of tits and an ass without a brain.
And the bitch of it is, I can't directly tell these echoes to shut the fuck up, because the people who created them are not in front of my face anymore.
It's just me now, asking myself who the fuck do I think I am expecting to be respected as equally in court at 8 a.m. as on stage wearing a strap-on at 9 p.m.?
Who do I think I am thinking I'll make enough money to consistently support myself without having to kiss the ass of a shitty but rich boss?
Who do I think I am believing that actually giving a shit about my clients and treating them like equals will speak louder than being old, white, rich and having a dick?
On the upside, I wouldn't be asking myself these questions if I hadn't made the decision to finally break free.
What most of us learned in Kindergarten is true: you can really be whoever you want to. What they don't teach you is that you're going to be inundated with so much shit as you grow up that when you decide to take the reigns of your goddman life once and for all, you're going to have to put up one hell of a fight against yourself first.
It sucks, it's tough, it's giving me debilitating panic attacks. But I'd rather the freedom of this crazy slog-fest than never feeling what it's like to do it my way.
Who am I? A woman who is creating her own world despite society telling her she can't.
That's who the fuck I am.