I often tell people that I hate Wellington and they laugh, I mean who hates Wellington? It is a charming town, full of art and culture and good food. People normally think that I’m joking, but I’m not. For me, it was like a shoe that looks so pretty and seems to fit nicely in the store, but once you start wearing it, the more it pinches, until eventually your feet bleed. Not even living in Thailand, a country that I have no real connection to did I feel so out of place as I did in Wellington. I suppose it wasn’t helped by the fact that I worked at a job that I came to despise. You know that something is probably wrong when you find yourself lying on on your bedroom floor staring at the ceiling attempting desperately to perform auto-hypnosis purely in order to hate your job less.
I can’t say that it was all bad. I lived in a house with thick red curtains and hard wood floors. It was around the corner from a beautiful old cemetery that had been in operation from 1896 to 1996. We spent much of our free time drifting through damp bush and misty pine forest on fruitless quests for mushrooms. I hiked over rocks to visit grumpy fur seals and once had to stop my car to shepherd a little blue penguin across the road. I hung out with poets and artists and civil servants and had many wonderful energizing conversations. If I only told you those parts, Wellington would sound magical and I spent a lot of time trying to pretend that it was. I couldn’t erase all the tiny things that ate at me though.
Like that time a man who told me he was gay stood behind me as I was speaking to someone else and moved my hair to plant a kiss on my neck without my consent. It was a creepy intimate act that still makes my skin crawl and makes me feel unclean when I think about it. To love Wellington I would have to forget about the time when I was standing in line for the toilet at a party and a white girl felt comfortable enough to tell me to my face, that, “not to be racist or anything”, she liked Auckland and all but there were just too many Asians there.
That is not to say that these types of experiences are unique to Wellington, I have had many moments in my life that have called into question my personhood in many places and these things could have happened to me anywhere However the constant microagressions became a crushing weight when paired with a manager who demeaned me in subtle ways every day. wellington sort of defeated my ability to cope with all the things I normally do. I suppose what it boils down to is that, while I am ‘other’ everywhere, there is nowhere that the weight of that otherness has hung so heavy upon me as Wellington.