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In the year leading up to this past fall, I was frustrated and beaten down by my job, by the way the transcription industry was requiring more work for less pay with each passing year, and how powerless I seemed to do anything about it. Changes in compensation, for example, had placed extreme stress on the last few years of my first marriage – as due to voice recognition software and clever new ways of counting what constituted a “line” (and the unit by which we were paid), I watched as my pay fell 30% overnight. Differences in money management, spending strategies, and life goals that had always existed between me and my ex-husband suddenly become more relevant, more pressing, more contentious, more threatening to our stability.

I moved to Cleveland, switched jobs, and was paid even worse for harder pay. I was working and trying at my relationships, but I never felt like I could satisfy everyone. Everyone was always upset with me, my (now ex) husband, my boyfriend, my girlfriend… when they weren’t ignoring me.

The relationship with Skyspook was so unexpected and so wonderful. I had a crush on him, sure, and he was a friend, but I’d been disappointed so many times. With Rob, I’d really confused my hope and optimism with his feelings for me. I’d confused a colossal awakening of my own passion (often dead in my first marriage) as compatibility with him. And I’d confused my desire for sexual submission with the idea that he was a good Owner.

I often say that my relationship with Rob was like going on a vacation and having the brochure having been much better than the resort.

He fell far short of my expectations. I do not place this blame on him. He didn’t lead me on. All the signs were there. I was just deaf/blind to them (of course, hindsight bias, but still). I wanted to believe that a great romance had come. And at least in the beginning, his words agreed with my hope. I should have realized that something was up when his words changed – though I remember (and can plainly read in old irc logs) expressing my concerns about Rob’s feelings and the feasibility of the transition to a short-distance relationship especially in light of the way Rob had changed in his communications with me to Rob, to Michelle, to Skyspook and being reassured, berated for my lack of trust and “weakness as an individual”, and reassured, respectively.

Those relationships fell apart. My first marriage fell apart, and I went through a divorce. And Skyspook was there, blissfully, serendipitously there. As everything I ever believed about love and relationships and my ability to actually relate to people in a healthy manner was challenged, Skyspook was there.

But my job continued to suck, taking a terrible toll on my self-esteem. When I’d entered the field 6 years prior, the job had been rewarding, the compensation fair, but now… not so much. But I felt trapped. And even as Skyspook proposed to me and pledge that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, I felt unworthy and like a burden. It was remarkable to find how much of my self-worth had been tied into my job.

When Skyspook had first suggested I return to school and finish my bachelor’s I’d been dubious. “What the hell good will a bachelor’s in English be?”

“It’s a degree. And besides, you can go to grad school.”

Psychology was just one idea of many. I never expected to take to it like I have. And I certainly never thought I’d think of myself as a researcher, a social SCIENTIST of all things. Maybe a counselor, a practitioner, etc. But a researcher. It makes me laugh, even now.

But here I am.

The other night, Skyspook held me and told me that he always knew I was smart but that his estimation of my intelligence has risen as a result. He told me that every day he watches as I demonstrate how brilliant I am, that in a way he feels like the work he does (highly difficult, analytically rigorous work) isn’t particularly intellectual when contrasted with what I’m doing, what I’m working towards. (I think that’s bullshit; we differ on this point.)

His words lit up my chest for the entire day following our conversation.

I feel like his equal.

I told him that this morning, that I finally feel like his equal, to which he responded, “You still want to be my slave, don’t you?”

“More than ever,” I said.

I finally feel worthy of being his assistant.

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