Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Shuvani Sanyal, MD
Turning a New Page
Tonight was my last official night as a pizza pie maker and cook.
In walking home (which, happened to be just a block away), I thought about my departure and short tenure as a cook for the local pizza shop – next month, I begin teaching at the community college. I actually enjoyed cooking – I could sing, swear, and dance in the kitchen, customers none the wiser. Some days were hectic or even frustrating, but overall, I really liked the people I worked with and most of them seemed to like me in return.
That’s not always been the case throughout the years. I’ve worked at places I’ve completely despised, and I’ve worked with people I couldn’t have cared less about. The deal is, everything isn’t always rosey in life and especially not while making a living, but this particular time, I was happy to be doing a job that didn’t cause me a lot of heartache and that further enabled me to continue pursuing what I’m truly passionate about.
Even though part-time jobs and some of my career roles haven’t always been the right fit, the reason the pizza shop was almost always a great place to be was not necessarily because they have a nice group of people employed there (even thought they do). I think, it was largely in part due to my attitude and having finally found where I want to be in life. Here. Right here, typing to you with my coat and scarf still on, a hat full of flour and a pair of reindeer ears.
How this has anything to do with STDs/STIs is that I’m living with an STD. I’ve often found it incredibly hard to separate the negative messages I hear about sexually transmitted diseases and infections from who I am. In the past, I’ve also had a hard time separating mean people, comments, or behavior from my own actions and self-worth.
A Lesson in Stigma that’s Easier Said than Done
I think I’m finally understanding the lesson I wish I could have grasped long ago.
No matter the time, place, or situation, negative emotions and actions are a result of that individual’s internal struggle. They very rarely have anything to do with you, your health, or the quality of your work.
I’d like to think, I’ve always approached jobs with an open-mind and a friendly attitude, but I’m sure that has not always been the case. There were days I would have rather been anywhere else and it showed. At the pizza shop, most days, I was happy to be there, because it was allowing me to do what I really wanted, and as a result, most of the folks I worked with were incredibly receptive to my good intentions.
Of course, there’s always a person you can tell does not favor you, but rather than internalize their response to me, I continued along my day.
I wish I could do that with all things, actually, and I wish I’d have done that all along in my process of telling people about living with an STD. What I now know is, I have lots of work to do in continuing to break the stigma surrounding all sexually transmitted infections and diseases and those who are living with them, but I also know, the unfavorable reactions I notice are simply a reflection of the individual expressing them.
Unfavorable reactions have very little to do with the person I am, who I am working to become, or how I live my life.
The same is true for you and everyone else in the world – whether they are living with a sexually transmitted infection or not.
To remember not to internalize discordant messages and stigma is key to being whole and complete despite your circumstances. This seems especially true for me around the holidays as I watch others struggle with finances, family relationships, the loss of loved ones, and any other number of trials one is enduring. Rarely, if ever, does an individual’s response to you have anything to do with you – as contradictory as that may initially sound.
That we remember to think more reflectively as we continue along what can sometimes feel like a very scary path, will only serve to help us get to that ‘zen’ place within ourselves much faster.
Cheers to you and yours this season, readers, and may you remember that you are fantastic regardless of an STD or anyone’s response to your infection.
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Have you noticed negative responses seem to go hand in hand with those who are struggling with something in their lives? How do you deal with adverse opinions? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!