Snowflake Anthem

Snowflake Anthem

When I was three years old
Whenever I hurt myself
I’d run to my parents for comfort
And they would ask me
Where did you hurt yourself?
I would drag them across the flat
To the table
Or chair
Or doorframe
Which had hurt me
And shout
There! That is where my hurt myself!
And my parents would tell off the offending object
Until I felt better

As I grew up I learned that I was misunderstanding the question
And that I was supposed to locate pain within myself
And that it was not the chair’s fault

I wonder
If there will ever be a point
Where I can break down again
And cry
And scream
Without asking myself
If this is really worth crying over
If I’m not making too much of things
If my tears are constructive
If I shouldn’t be able to handle this
Instead of being so silly

Because I am not three years old anymore
Because I should really be able to pull myself together
At my age
And it’s not that bad really
Others have it much worse
And there’s no point in crying over spilt almond milk
It’s just the way things are
And if you want to make it here you really need to grow a thicker skin
And you should really be above this
Taking the high road

And the shame that floods my heart
Pumps acid through my veins
Makes my hands shake until I clench my fists
Stifles my sobs
And makes me lift my chin

Because an email sent
A week after you return from sick leave
On the Weekend
To your private email address
Expressing disappointment
At your lack of progress
And asking
Why you did not submit the work
You promised two weeks ago
Should not be understood
As a command to work while you’re sick
Or on the weekend
It’s just that deadlines are tight
And you did promise the work
So I’m sure they’re just following up
On something important
And surely they did not mean to spoil your weekend

And it’s no reflection of your work
That we reclassified your hourly rate
Do not think that we value you less
Because we will pay you less
It’s just that there are budgetary constraints
That make it necessary to pay you at a lower rate
And there’s no need to get angry about it.

And don’t you know
That everyone is entitled to their opinion
And it’s none of your business
What someone voted
It’s got nothing to do with you
So stop being so dramatic
It’s really not helpful to call people racists
And how dare you accuse
Someone of racism
Just for a vote

And I know you’re really into unions
But not everybody is
Some of us care about our students
And don’t want to disadvantage them
By striking
So maybe just accept
That some of us have to work
While you’re having fun on the picket line
And stop bothering me about this

And really it is you who are the problem
If you keep obsessing about things
Beyond your control
And you could have said that without getting so angry
And you really need to be more professional
And move on
If you don’t work on letting things go
Extend an olive branch
These rifts will never heal
And you need to accept that you lost
And forgiveness is a virtue
And the meek shall inherit the earth
And anyway there was no harm intended
So maybe just get over it

And there is comfort
A strange comfort but comfort nonetheless
In knowing that it is you who is the problem
That you are overreacting
Giving this more importance than it has
That you are making a fuss
Where there doesn’t need to be one
Because if you are the problem
Then it is you who can be fixed
Improved upon
You can learn to be resilient
You can learn how to feel less
Think less
You can learn how to be numb

And maybe
Just maybe
If you avoid eye contact with the abyss for long enough
It will not be staring back at you
The next time you steal a glance

And there is comfort in self-improvement
Because if there is one thing that we know
It is how much we need improving
We millennial children
Downwardly mobile
We who would trade all our participation medals
For a pension
We know how insufficient we are
And how we cannot stop the waves
But that we can learn how to surf
We who manage our stress
Manage our emotions
Manage our suffering
We know the importance of
Of working on ourselves
And while we are teaching ourselves
How not to feel
We do not need to think
About the fact
That you can’t surf through a fucking tsunami

And that maybe it’s time to get off the surfboard and smash some shit
And that maybe we can’t get over what isn’t over
And that maybe we are being dramatic because this is dramatic

And maybe
We get upset about emails because the emails are upsetting
We hurt because someone hurt us
Maybe we are not overreacting we are reacting

And maybe the person I need to forgive most is myself
And the thing I need to forgive myself for
Is not weakness
It’s to have assumed myself weak
When really I was injured

And what I needed was not to toughen up
But to heal

And maybe there is anger worth holding on to
Because “I am sorry you feel that way” is not an apology
And “You could have said that without getting so emotional” is a punch in the gut

And maybe not saying anything
Because you might cry
Is silence at too high a price

And maybe we don’t need to forgive
Those who voted away our future
If they’d do it again in a heartbeat

And maybe I don’t need to smile at someone in the hallway
Who didn’t care enough about my future
To post a ballot

And maybe there is time for meekness
And there is time
For storming a market
And flipping some tables

And maybe this is a time to realise
That we are not hurting
Because we ran into a table
We are not drowning because we don’t know how to surf
And that stopping the waves is exactly what we must to do
Because the waves that pull us under
Are not an act of god
The waves that pull us under
Are not an accident

And that the problem is not
That our anger is holding us back
But that we are holding back our anger

And that maybe it’s time
For the snowflakes
To become a blizzard


By Grace Krause 

The title picture was taken by Robert Byford. It was taken during the 2018 UCU pension dispute. Find more of Robert’s trade union photography on his blog.

This poem was inspired by some of my favourite feminist thinkers. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the influence of Melissa Mendez who helped me understand the relationship between reacting and overreacting, Sara Ahmed who taught me that you shouldn’t get over what isn’t over, and Liz Morrish from whom I learned that there is a time to be dramatic.

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