Shirking My Superpower: Invisibility
I'm learning how to be seen and it's a little uncomfortable.
In Chapter 3 of Dream Lord Wars, I’m reminded of another reason I connect with Harley. I know. I know. I’m connecting with this secondary character who gets a lot less screen time. Like, should she be the hero?
Yes. And she is. Certainly, she is. But she’s not the main hero.
Harley works very hard not to be seen while fighting to be noticed.
The Invisibility Superpower
First of all, let’s talk about this superpower because not being seen? It’s pretty powerful. I could walk into a room and not be noticed. I could learn all kinds of things. I was the person with the knowledge. I could look, listen, and feel a conversation and determine with sustainable credibility what information was missing and how to find what we needed.
I was the fixer.
I was the one making myself invisible, though. And that realization didn’t hit me until I watched this video yesterday. In it, Vinh Giang talked about how he said he liked listening to a particular pod cast. And then everyone told him that he needed to take down the video where he stated that because the podcaster was a right wing Republican.
At first, I agreed.
But then he came back and said, “No. I said I liked listening to his podcast, which has nothing to do with what I think of him or his political views. I’m not going to change who I am because of what you think I need to be.” That’s not exactly what he said. I’m not going to pull the video up again and transcribe it. I’ll fall down the TikTok hole again, and I have too much to do after I get the kids back from the chiropractor. The podcast, apparently, didn’t mirror the man’s political views on guns, for instance, so that had no bearing on the podcast itself, or how Vinh Giang enjoyed it.
It hit me. When I said something I liked and others told me to be quiet, I did. I did so to fit in with them, to be accepted by them, to make them feel okay.
Did that make me happier? Not even a little. The quieter I got, the more unhappy became.
And when I vocalized my opinion on what they said? It was even worse. How dare I have an opinion?
The Toll Invisibility Takes
I know why I was invisible. It took me until I was thirty-six before I started learning how to fight for myself. I grew up in an abusive home. My sister will tell you I was the favored child for a very long time. That did happen. I could do absolutely no wrong for three years.
Those were the most terrifying three years of my childhood. I almost said my life, but that’s just dead wrong. I did things way more terrifying than that. Being the golden child in an abusive home is not awesome. It’s a lot of weight and you never know when you’re going to wake up and be dead in your parent’s eyes because of something dumb like breathe.
I talked about what it was like coming up as a female in a male dominated career, and I always attributed my invisibility to the fact that I was a woman. They dismissed me because I was female. They overlooked me for promotion because I have boobs. I do truly believe that was part of it because there were no other women who were promoted.
But! Part of it absolutely had to do with the fact that I could disappear as soon as I walked into a room. As a potential project manager, that’s not ideal. You want to be seen. You want to be heard. When your crew has an issue, it needs to be addressed by someone other people can see to respect.
That wasn’t me.
That really pissed me off. Being overlooked. Being ignored. Having men in other industries answer the design team for me while I was speaking. And then to have the architect take his answer over mine when it was wrong?
When the anger wore off, I felt shame. I’m already hard on myself, so this was an easy path to take.
After the shame, there was the envy. Like… envy. I thought if I could just be a man, I could do whatever I wanted. I could run this project the way I knew would work.
Of course, if I was a man, I wouldn’t have gained the experiences I did to know what would work and what wouldn’t. But that’s a different story for a different day.
What I realized in talking to readers - who don’t feel they have any worth when they’re the people I get up in the morning for - and other authors - who often get into this industry due to poor mental health or poor physical health - and I realized that there are a lot of invisible people around me.
I don’t think everyone grew up in abuse. I think some of this has to do with how much time we spend on our phones and watching TV. It used to be, we’d have to go out and talk to people to be entertained. Talking to people got immediate reactions. Like… immediate freaking reactions. You never wondered if you were invisible until you got your hair cut and no one noticed.
But now? We can say stuff and it’s never seen. Or if it is, there are no reactions. No one responds. We train ourselves not to. “I prided myself today by scrolling past that post and not responding.”
Or the reaction is hidden, so you don’t see how your hate-filled words destroyed the person you replied to.
But you will hear how the simple words, “please read the whole post,” could throw a person into near suicide.
Did you see that dichotomy? The latter is the reason we pride ourselves in not responding, and the prior is the reason we sometimes don’t realize there are consequences to our actions.
I go out into the world, and I’m seeing people at work on their phones doing nothing while customers are waiting or stacks of paper are piling up behind them waiting to be filed. And no one does anything about it. There are no consequences there either because we can’t replace that person. We can’t get people into the work force who are willing to show up, much less work.
So, no one sees you because they don’t want to be angry all day that they’re working their ass off while you’re watching TV and sometimes answering the phones. You’re invisible because there are no consequences.
But then there’s the opposite. Like with Harley. She’s invisible because there are too many consequences. What Harley’s going through is a little like what some people have to go through in their own homes, their own neighborhoods, in their schools. It doesn’t have to be skin color. It could be your pronouns, or how you like to wear your hair, or your favorite book, or the cross you hide under your shirt, or the fact that you have ADHD. I mean, seriously. We, as a society, have so many reasons to hate, it’s not funny.
Growing A Skin
Becoming visible, for me, meant growing a thicker skin. I always had one in my writing, but that… was about it. I went into this knowing I was going to get roasted, and I’ve been prepared ever since.
But in real life? I could be taken down by a look. I could be having a great day, and then someone significant in my life would give me a look of frustrated disappointment, and I’d be bent six ways to Sunday trying to make it right.
To become visible, you have to stay true to yourself. When people tell you to shut up, maybe get quieter if that suits you, but don’t change who you are. Just move around them or through them.
This is something that requires a lot of practice, and that’s something I need to keep in mind as I tell Harley’s story. She might get angry and stand up for herself once on accident, but then she’d going to fall back again. She’s going to fall down. She’s going to allow herself to be invisible, and having Aldo - who is an echo of a very real hero in my life - tell her to stand up and fight isn’t going to be what saves her. She needs to wake up on her own, and find her own way to become visible.
That was the part of her story I didn’t know how to write until… I don’t know, a few months ago? I think? Her story has been just waiting for me to write and I think I finally understand why.
I was still invisible.
Now I’m not. And I don’t think I ever want to go back to that. Being visible is a little nerve wracking at times. I can’t say, “I don’t know,” or “Go talk to Mr. So and So.” I don’t have to have all the answers, but what I say impacts people. What I do shapes lives that aren’t just my own.
I kinda like that.
And I think Harley will too.