Showing up Bloody

Shannon Barber
4 min readMay 21, 2016

About the current state of my Freelance career.

During the hazy years of my adolescence, I really believed that voice, the men inside who spoke when I was 8 and told me it was time to die, the voice that then told me fuck my classes it didn’t matter. I did not matter. Not my feelings or my fears, not my sleepless nights that were, according to my voice my own stupid fault. I understood very clearly at the time that I was not supposed to count in the grand scheme of life.

A writer I’ve recently become acquainted with is the sort of person whom I believe would read this excerpt from my memoir in progress and declare my life useless. Call me a drama queen. This writer is the sort of woman who, when I made my first clumsy attempts at talking to my peers about my mental illness and fear, proclaimed me to be melodramatic because “Black people don’t have those problems”.

For many years I believed that my death would be a blessing. I kept my illness and fear a secret because I was afraid that my belief in the blessing of my own death would be echoed. I believed. Part of why I stayed alive was the fear of being remembered as this writer remembered her “friend”.

Today I am 39 years old and starting to unravel myself enough to believe something else. As I watch this writer go on Good Morning America and ride the clickbait hate read wave, I’m sure I can see the trajectory. Tragically bullied White woman writes and gets published hot flaming garbage, followed by book deal. I’m sure we’ll hear about her tragic abuse at the hands of the internet outrage machine.

I’m not surprised.

I am disgusted. I am ashamed that I have been in the same publication as this person. I am ashamed that we orbit the same little universe in a very loose way. I hate it.

I hate it enough that over the past couple of weeks I’ve had to take a step back and rethink my approach to my own work. I’ve spent days and nights battling myself. Do I plow on in the freelance world and try to ignore how soulless, so much of it is? Do I remove credits to publications I’ve been in that have in the time since, done things I find unethical?

Do I keep on writing the way I write, about the things I’m writing about money be damned?

Do I go ahead and re-train myself so I can create a portfolio of the type of writing that I see makes the big cash? Turn my heart off?

Do I rescind the promises to myself that even while I’m in tears because I don’t have enough extra money to surprise my partner with a nice date which we haven’t had in a year, that I will not give up my voice?

What do I do?

How do I create what matters so much to me for so many reasons?

It sucks to be poor.

It sucks to be so heavily committed to yourself and your work that it is at a detriment to your quality of life at times. It sucks to sit at a bus stop, trying not to cry because again, again you’re watching your peers and loved friends broken open and devastated by the behavior of publications and other writers.

I hate this.

I hate it enough that I’ve made up my mind. I have some small projects, passion, hearts blood projects going and the mini-memoir quoted at the top of this piece is one of them. The working title is currently- Showing up Bloody and I have a plan in place as to how I want to release it.

While I was going through some of my outstanding freelance stuff (applications for positions, a few submissions and pitches) I said to myself that I have survived worse. I have been in financial dire straits and even though right now financially I feel like I am teetering on the edge of disaster, it’s not bad enough to become this other writer.

I will not become a monster for fun and clicks.

I did not survive myself in order to keep myself a secret.

I will not contribute myself to a culture that rewards voices that manipulate, disrespect and otherwise don’t give a fuck about anyone but themselves.

I will write this little memoir.

I will carefully, ever so carefully fully vet publications before I submit to them.

I will remember this Shannon:

1997 I was twenty years old and made the decision again. Princess Diana had died and I was still alive, it seemed unfair to everyone. I watched the news the day Gianni Versace was murdered and I cried my eyes out because I was still alive and somehow a genius of a human being was not. Biggie was killed, I was not.

I will honor her because she could have been remembered as a drama queen and her death a blessing.

I will honor myself and the voice I’ve fought so hard to use and be proud of.

I will honor my commitment to representation, accessibility, and simply being alive.

I hate how I’ve had to come to these conclusions. I hate that I have cried and fumed and panicked and felt like a pure failure because I can’t fake it enough to make it.

I will never be the writer, I started this piece referencing and for that, I am eternally grateful. I’m thankful to my peers and beloved friends. I’m thankful to my core of ride or die readers. I’m thankful for the women who have taught me to value myself this way.

Thank you for reading.q=�H���D

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