Mental Tax: A Note

I’ve been paying tax long before I started working. I’ve been paying tax since the moment my ancestors were colonised and taken advantage of. I’ve been paying tax since I came out of my mother’s womb, exposed to a world that wasn’t waiting for me. I’ve been paying tax ever since I learnt that I was not considered beautiful, that my features, the depths and contours of my face and my healthy body, would not earn me the same privileges that others were given, despite it being the mark of my rich and colourful heritage that makes me, me.

I’ve been paying tax since my natural dispositions worked against me – my earnestness to be nice and work hard led to crippling anxiety, people-pleasing a population that couldn’t recognise me. I’ve paid tax every time I realised I would have to do more, pay more, sacrifice more, just to get to the same place others are handed. I’ve been paying tax since I learnt the painful lesson that the system works against immigration every step of the way, both financially and socially. I’ve been paying tax since I realised I was in rooms and buildings where no one else looked like me, sounded like me, or understood the things I hold dear to me. I’ve been paying tax since I realised I was given a responsibility to be presentable and socially acceptable enough to walk through doors which were a privilege to even see, let alone to have a key.

I’ve been paying tax since I realised the gravity of the privilege and responsibility I was given, the double edged sword of being a privileged, minority ethnic woman in a context that was overwhemingly not, the stark tension that comes from sticking out, when you were always told to blend in. I’ve been paying tax ever since I accepted that path, because my loving parents did what they felt best for me, and I was not taught to let them down. I’ve been paying tax since my life was funneled down this acceptable path, a life full of white collar luxuries and cold consistencies.

I’ve been paying tax since I learnt this was a generational trend, that many like myself, and many more, would continue along this path, this privileged, safe path, and never look back. I’ve been paying tax since I looked to appreciate the things this life afforded me, and battle my own inward insecurities of whether this was truly who I wanted to be. I’ve been paying tax since I became my own critique, disgusted at the way I was ungrateful for the safety and security this path afforded me, wraught with the guilt of being unhappy when people sleep on the dark, bitter streets.

I’ve been paying this tax, without thinking what it means to me, about the benefits I’ve been told I would receive. I’ve been paying this mental tax, rent and fees, without appreciating what it’s done to me. I’ve been paying tax, and I continue to pay, pay myself in semi-regular luxuries, treats and tokens to show me who I want to be. In those moments, I’m not paying tax to the thoughts that reduce me, I’m not paying tax to the negative gaze that looms under me, but paying tax to me, just me, and trusting what I’m trying to see. In those moments, I’m not being taxed, but taxing the world for the value I see in me, and paying tax for how I, too, want to see.

PC: Olia Danilevich & Pixabay