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    1. Job hunts after a toxic work experience

      I terminated my position over 4 months ago and I'm still not able to apply for jobs. I'm frustrated with my inability to move on from the previous toxic work environments. My background is in a...

      I terminated my position over 4 months ago and I'm still not able to apply for jobs. I'm frustrated with my inability to move on from the previous toxic work environments. My background is in a male dominated field and there was always something either insensitive, sexist or racist said in all my previous workplaces. I feel, I know I'm going to be met with some sort of comment in my next work place and I no longer want to put myself in those situations anymore. I don't know how I'll react, I feel like I may explode if I hear another ignorant phrase.

      I want to be able to make money. People say I must not have liked what I did very much if I wasn't able to put up with the comments. Other people say that that's just how the world is, "get used to it!" I've also heard that I'm just going to have to wait for change because drastic/fast pace change causes recoil. All of these comments literally tell me to suck it up and allow the same rhetoric to propagate. And, of course, all of this has been told to me by white men, those who aren't effected by the comments said to me.

      Things that have happened to me or that were said to me:

      • Smile more
      • I'm too soft spoken/nice
      • I'm too aggressive
      • "Do you want to fix your hair?"
      • A project manager bought me hair product, I didn't ask. I have curly hair and it took me a long time to love my curls, but it's seen as "unprofessional"
      • A Director was staring at my hair throughout an entire interview
      • "I'll put you up there" when the males were talking about strip clubs
      • "Why are women crazy?"
      • I've been kissed on my face and told "if only I met you before my wife"... never had a fucking conversation outside work with this person. I didn't even speak to him more than once a week!
      • "We were surprised that you and Mohammad spoke English". Both me and Mohammad were born and raised in the United States. When I responded with "Why did you guys think that?" they conveniently stumbled and changed the subject.
        ... Many more things happened, but require too much context.

      I just don't get it. Am I suppose to let ALL these things slide? Am I suppose to hold empathy for people who don't have empathy for me? Who don't empathize with me and how what they have said may have made me feel? Should I forgive people who would rather hide the fact that they said something rather than apologize? (And yes, I filed reports for some of these comments/experiences and the rhetoric was "She got X fired", not "X's own behavior got them fired".)

      And more importantly, how do I move on from this knowing that it's going to happen again? The last job had the most amount of sexism in it. The thing about sexism (and racism) is that it's meant to make you feel devalued, and shocker, I felt devalued. It took me so long to gain my self confidence back. And I want so badly to protect myself. I never want to feel those feelings again. But the world is still sexist and racist and homophobic and xenophobic... all the phobics. And how do I tell my next work place that the reason why I left and why I took a break from working was to deal with the emotional repercussions from a very toxic/sexist work environment (when workplaces see whistle blowers as a red flag)? And how to I prepare my little sister who is in college studying a male dominated field knowing that she'll have to deal with the same things I went through?

      It's been 4 months and I'm still angry and still jobless. I've grown to hate social interactions for fear of someone saying some ignorant shit. I've grown a distrust of all people. I hate how much this thing has affected me, how belittled I feel and how I can't move on from this. I feel emotionally paralyzed and money is running out and jobs are hard to come by especially because I'm not white nor am I a male and my hair isn't straight Billie Holiday - I Love My Man.

      I'm tired of confusing people with how my looks don't match my attitude/personality that they've been conditionally taught to think it was like. I'm tired of confusing people with how unashamed I am of my existence.

      24 votes
    2. Tildes Screenless Day Discussion Thread - September 2021

      What is a "Screenless Day"? Tildes "Screenless Day" is a simple event aimed at encouraging people to take a temporary step away from toxic or consuming aspects of technology and spend their time...

      What is a "Screenless Day"?

      Tildes "Screenless Day" is a simple event aimed at encouraging people to take a temporary step away from toxic or consuming aspects of technology and spend their time and energies elsewhere.


      When is it?

      It takes place over the weekend starting on the first Friday of each month. Participants will choose that Friday, Saturday, or Sunday to take as their screenless day -- whichever works best for their schedule.

      Some people might not be able to participate in that window, and that's fine too. They can choose to shift their day earlier or later as needed. It is also completely fine (and encouraged!) to take personal screenless days separate from the event if you like. This thread will be posted the first weekend of each month, but it is open for comments the entire month.


      Does it have to be truly "screenless"?

      "Screenless" is an ideal, not a mandate. The spirit of the day is to deliberately step away from toxic or consuming aspects of technology, and what that means is different for each person. Thus, it is up to each participant to determine what "screenless" means to them. Some might only choose to not use social media for a day; some might choose to eliminate all "screens" but still use their ereader; some may maintain some screen use but only for necessity (e.g. work; classes; GPS; etc.). Some might get rid of screens entirely, or go fully "unplugged" for the day.


      How do I participate?

      You do not have to do anything formal at all to participate -- simply take your screenless day in whatever way is best for you!

      If you’d like to, use this thread to share plans for your upcoming screenless day or summaries/reflections about it once it’s over.


      Can I chat in this thread if I'm not participating?

      Yes! The more, the merrier! Discussion from anyone, participant or non-participant alike, is welcome. Though, do understand that it might take a bit longer than normal for some people to respond. :)

      11 votes
    3. What Guantánamo made out of them

      By Bastian Berbner and John Goetz, published 1 September, 2021 The man who called himself "Mister X" in Guantánamo wore a balaclava and mirrored sunglasses when he tortured. The person he was...

      By Bastian Berbner and John Goetz, published 1 September, 2021

      The man who called himself "Mister X" in Guantánamo wore a balaclava and mirrored sunglasses when he tortured. The person he was torturing was not supposed to see his face. Now, 17 years later, Mister X is standing at a potter's wheel in his garage in Somewhere, America. A bald man with a greying beard, tattooed on the back of his neck. His hands, big and strong, mould a grey-brown lump of clay. The pot won't turn out very nice, you can already tell. He says that's the way it is with his art, he's more attracted to ugliness.

      Mister X thought long and hard about whether he wanted to receive journalists and talk about what happened back then. It would be the first time that a Guantánamo torturer has spoken publicly about what he did. The meeting on this day in October 2020 was preceded by numerous emails. Now, finally, we are with him. An interview of several hours is already behind us, in which Mister X told us about his cruel work. We told him that the man he maltreated at that time would also like to talk to him. Mister X replied that on the one hand he had longed for such a conversation for 17 years - on the other hand he had dreaded it for 17 years. He asked for half an hour to think it over. He said he could think well while making pottery.

      The man who would like to talk to him is called Mohamedou Ould Slahi. In the summer of 2003, he was considered the most important prisoner in the Guantánamo Bay camp. Of the almost 800 prisoners there, according to all that is known, no one was tortured as severely as he was.

      There are events that determine a biography. Even if they do not last that long in terms of lifespan, in this case barely eight weeks, they unfold a power that makes everything before fade into oblivion and captivates everything after.

      Back then, in the summer of 2003, Mister X was in his mid-thirties and an interrogator in the American army. He was part of the so-called Special Projects Team whose task was to break Slahi. The detainee had so far remained stubbornly silent, but the intelligence services were convinced that he possessed important information. Perhaps even information that could prevent the next major attack or lead to Osama bin Laden, who was then the world's most wanted terrorist: the leader of Al-Qaeda, the main perpetrator of the attacks of 11 September 2001.

      The team's mission was to defeat evil. To achieve this, it opposed him with another evil.

      Mister X always tortured at night. With each night that Slahi's silence lasted, he tried a new cruelty. He says torture is ultimately a creative process. Listening to Mister X describe what he did can leave you breathless, and sometimes Mister X seems to feel that way himself as he tells the story. Then he shakes his head. Pauses. Runs his hand through his beard. Fights back tears. He says, "Man, I can't believe this myself."

      The way he speaks, you don't get the impression that it was all so long ago. In fact, it's not over at all. Mister X says there is hardly a day when he does not think about Slahi or when he does not haunt his dreams. Slahi was the case of his life, in the worst sense of the word.

      There was a moment back then that not only burned itself into his memory, it also poisoned his soul, Mister X says. That night he went into the interrogation room where Slahi, small and emaciated, sat in his orange jumpsuit on a chair, chained to an eyelet in the floor. Mister X, tall and muscular, had thought of something new again. This time he pretended to go berserk. He screamed wildly, hurled chairs across the room, slammed his fist against the wall and threw papers in Slahi's face. Slahi was shaking all over.

      Mister X says the reason he never got rid of that moment was not that he saw fear in Slahi's eyes, but that he, Mister X, enjoyed seeing that fear. Seeing the trembling Slahi, he says, felt like an orgasm.

      Mohamedou Slahi is 50 years old today. In December 2020, two months after our visit to Mister X, he is standing on the Atlantic beach. In front of him the waves break on the Mauritanian coast, not far behind him begins the endless expanse of the Sahara. Slahi wears a Mauritanian robe and a turban, both in the bright blue of the sky above him. With narrowed eyes, he looks out to sea and says that if he were to sail off here on a steady westerly course, he would arrive where he was held for 14 years, at the south-eastern tip of Cuba.

      Slahi has been free again for five years. But like Mister X, he too cannot shake off his time in Guantánamo. He now lives again in Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, on the edge of the desert, the place where the USA had him kidnapped a few weeks after 11 September 2001. Unlike then, he is now a celebrity. He is approached on the street, he zooms out of his house into universities and onto podiums around the world to denounce human rights abuses by the United States. He says that when he closes his eyes at night and sleep comes, sometimes the masked man comes again.

      When one of the authors of this article first visited him in 2017, Slahi expressed a wish - he would like to find his torturers. At the time, he had already written a book about his time in Guantánamo. In the last sentence, he had invited the people who had tortured him to have tea with him: "My house is open."

      The trauma of 11 September 2001

      At that first meeting and again now, in December 2020, he says that during the torture period in Guantánamo he felt one thing above all: Hate. Again and again, he imagined the cruel way in which he would kill Mister X. He said that he had to kill him, his family and everyone else. Him, his family and everyone who meant something to him. But then, in the solitude of his cell, while thinking, praying and writing, he realised that revenge was not the answer. So he decided to try something else: Forgiveness.

      In the silence of his cell, he forced himself to think that this big, strong man, Mister X, was in fact a small, weak child. A child to whom he, Mohamedou Slahi, patted his head and said: What you did is bad, but I forgive you. The process of re-educating himself took several years. But at some point, still sitting in his cell in Guantánamo, he had managed to convince himself so much of the sincerity of this thought that he really felt the need to want to forgive.

      When Slahi expressed a desire to speak to Mister X, he said he hoped it would bring peace to his still troubled soul. In the best case scenario, he could replace the old, painful memories of that time with new, good memories.

      Thus began our search for Mister X.

      How must one imagine a man torturing another? In American files, for example in a Senate investigation report, there is a list of what Mister X did. They are descriptions of the crudest psychological and sometimes physical violence.

      When you meet him, something strange happens: you don't connect the image that all the reports have created in your head with the man sitting in front of you. We know for sure that he is Mister X. Former colleagues of his have confirmed his identity to us. But the Mister X we meet is: a subtle art lover. An educated man interested in history. All in all, a pretty nice guy. After spending several days with him, one cannot escape the impression that he is apparently also a very empathetic person.

      Mister X tells us that he occasionally invites homeless people to the restaurant, also that it happens that he cries in front of the TV when he sees reports from disaster areas. It is precisely because he can empathise so well that he has been so good as an interrogator, as a torturer. You have to put yourself in the other person's shoes. What causes him even greater pain? What could make him feel even more insecure? Where is his weak point? But precisely because of empathy, he says, he was also broken by what he had done at the time.

      Shortly after he left Guantánamo in the winter of 2003, Mister X began to drink. It was not unusual for him to drink three bottles of red wine a night. He spent more and more time in bed and spoke less and less with his wife and children. He hardly found any sleep any more. He toyed with the idea of killing himself, he says. A doctor diagnosed him with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. The torturer, of all people, had suffered the kind of trauma one would expect to find in his victim.

      There are many studies on the psychological suffering of torture victims. War refugees from Syria, refugees who were mistreated in Libyan camps, Uighur prisoners from China - in such people, depression, addictions, concentration problems, sleeping problems and suicidal thoughts are increasingly observed.

      Mister X also suffered from all these symptoms.

      One could see the distraught Mister X as the personification of the trauma that has gripped the entire United States since 11 September 2001. After that primal experience, the country that wanted to defend the values of the West in the fight against terror betrayed precisely those values. Rule of law. Justice. Democracy. And since that primordial experience, the country has been ravaged more than ever by an omnipresent violence perpetrated by broken people. Spree killings, assassinations, hate crimes. Maybe the whole US has some kind of post-traumatic stress syndrome?

      For 17 years, Mister X says, he has been working through the guilt he has brought upon himself. He has taken medication, undergone therapy and looked for a new job. For 17 years he has been trying to make up for his mistake. A few things have helped him. A little. But not really. Maybe also because he had secretly known all these years that in order to really come clean with himself, he would have to do one thing urgently. "The decent thing to do would be to tell Slahi to his face that I regret what I did to him. That it was wrong."

      In that sense, Slahi's offer to talk to us reporters is a gift. An opportunity to draw a line under the matter. But there's a thought that's been troubling Mister X and making it difficult for him to accept the offer.

      Mister X still thinks Mohamedou Slahi is a terrorist. And for one of the most brilliant in recent history. A charismatic. A manipulator. A gifted communicator who already spoke four languages, Arabic, French, German and English, and taught himself a fifth, Spanish, in Guantánamo.

      Slahi was probably the smartest person he had ever met, Mister X says. So smart that Slahi managed to fool his interrogators, just as he now manages to make millions of people around the world believe he is innocent. Mister X says he knows this person's psyche better than that of his own wife. For weeks he did nothing but put himself in this man's shoes and one thing was clear: Slahi was a brilliant liar.

      He looks his tormentor in the face

      In 2010, a US federal judge ruled that Slahi must be released because the US government's alleged evidence against him was just that, not evidence: Evidence. The government appeals.

      In 2015, the book Slahi wrote in prison is published: Guantánamo Diary. It is extensively redacted, but the message is clear: the US tortured an innocent man. The book becomes a bestseller.

      In 2016, Slahi is released, after 14 years without charges. In Mauritania, he is received like a hero.

      In 2019, it is announced that Guantánamo Diary will be made into a film. Jodie Foster and Benedict Cumberbatch will star, and Oscar-winner Kevin Macdonald will direct.

      In 2020, the Guardian's website will publish the trailer for a documentary in which one of Slahi's guards travels to Mauritania and former enemies become friends.

      Apparent friends, says Mister X. He doesn't buy any of this "forgiveness stuff" from Slahi. The film scenes - the walk in the Sahara sand, Slahi laughing and helping his guard into a Mauritanian robe - , Slahi has really staged all that masterfully. Slahi who generously forgives, the decent David who rises above the corrupt Goliath - the narrative of a hero.

      That is what makes Mister X hesitate for so long: Slahi, he fears, could also use him for his production. He could show the whole world: Look, now not only an insignificant guard apologises, but also my torturer, and I forgive him too! Slahi would become an even greater hero.

      Is Mister X's urge to face his victim stronger than his fear of being instrumentalised?

      Mister X has made a small, ugly potty. It must now dry. He puts it aside, wipes his hands on a towel and looks serious. He is silent for a long time and then says, "I'm going through with this now. Oh God."

      The picture jerks, the sound wobbles, and for a brief moment hope is written on Mister X's face that technology will save him from his courage. Then the face he knows so well appears before him on the computer screen - narrow as ever, but aged. The man on the screen, unlike Slahi in 2003, has hardly any hair left. And Slahi now wears glasses, with black rims.

      It is late in Mauritania, almost midnight, but Mohamedou Slahi has stayed awake. He also has a visit from a member of our team. By phone, we have been keeping Slahi updated from the US for the past few hours: There is a delay; Mister X needs a little more time.

      Now a picture is also building up on the monitor in Mauritania. The greying beard, the bald head, the tattoos on the back of his neck.

      Mohamedou Slahi looks his tormentor in the face. No mask, no sunglasses.

      Mister X: Mister Slahi. How are you doing?

      Mohamedou Slahi: How are you, sir?

      Mister X: Not bad, and you?

      Mohamedou Slahi: I am very well.

      Mister X: That's good.

      Mohamedou Slahi: Thank you for asking.

      Mister X: Yes, sir. I was extremely hesitant to make this call. But let me explain a few things to you.

      The first time Mister X saw him was on 22 May 2003. Mister X was standing in an observation room in Guantánamo, looking through a pane of glass that was a mirror from the other side. There, in the interrogation room, Slahi was being questioned by two FBI agents. For half a year they had spoken to him almost every day - without the slightest success. In a few days, it had already been decided, the military would take over, Mister X and his colleagues.

      There was a table in the middle of the room, on one side the agents, on the other Slahi. The FBI had brought cakes. One of them, blond and tall, obviously the boss, was leafing through a Koran and saying something about a passage. Then Slahi stood up. He wore no handcuffs, no chains. He walked around the table, took the Koran from the agent's hand and said, no, no, he got it wrong, he had to see it this way and that way. In the end, Mister X watched as the agents hugged Slahi like a friend. "I couldn't believe it," he says.

      The FBI agent who leafed through the Koran is Rob Zydlow. We spoke to him as well. He lives in California, he retired a few months ago. He thinks failure is a harsh word. But, yes, in Slahi's case, his plan didn't work. He tried the nice way, but no matter whether he brought home-made cakes, as he did that day, or burgers from McDonald's, whether he watched animal documentaries with Slahi or let him teach him Arabic, Slahi just didn't talk. He would always just say, "I'm innocent."

      Slahi, on the other hand, says today that the FBI cake tasted good, that he liked the documentary about the Australian desert best, and that Rob Zydlow's attempt to learn Arabic was simply ridiculous. It was true that the FBI people had been reasonably nice to him for months, but he did not owe those agents any answers. On the other hand, they owed him answers. Why had the US had him kidnapped?

      Slahi did not know that on that day, behind the glass, the man he would meet a little later as Mister X was watching. He did not know that in the Pentagon a document was just being passed from one office to the next, signature by signature, all the way to Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, giving examples of what methods this man could use to get the prisoner Mohamedou Slahi to talk. It was a paper that provided a framework, but still left the torture team plenty of room to come up with their own ideas.

      Rob Zydlow says he sensed a real hunting fever in the army people who took over.

      Mister X says he went to the army shop and bought a bluesuit. Slahi was a man-catcher, as his dealings with the FBI agents proved. So, that was the logic, Slahi would now not be dealing with a human being, but with a figure from a horror film.

      "What we did to you was wrong".

      In high school, Mister X was in the drama club. Even today he plays Dungeons & Dragons, a board game with elves, orcs and dragons, he reads comics and loves science fiction. While some of his colleagues were boring in their interrogation methods back then - question, question, question - he really immersed himself in the roles.

      On the evening of 8 July 2003, Mister X put on his overalls, black military boots, black gloves and a black balaclava, along with mirrored sunglasses. He had Slahi brought into the interrogation room and hooked to the eyelet in the floor, but the chain was so short that Slahi could only stand bent over. Then Mister X switched on a CD player and heavy metal music filled the room, deafeningly loud.

      Let the bodies hit the floor
      Let the bodies hit the floor
      Let the bodies hit the floor
      Let the bodies hit the floor

      Mister X put the song on continuous loop, turned off the lights, turned on a strobe light that emitted bright white flashes, and left the room. For a while, he says, he watched from the next room. But the music was so loud that he couldn't think. So he went outside for a smoke.

      Slahi says he tried to pray, to take refuge in his own thoughts. He did not talk.

      Mister X was trying out new songs. The American national anthem. A commercial for cat food that consisted only of the word "meow". Mister X turned up the air conditioning until Slahi was shaking all over. Mister X turned up the heating until Slahi had sweated through his clothes. Mister X put his feet up on the table in front of Slahi and told him that he had had a dream. In it, a pine coffin had been lowered into the ground in Guantánamo. There had been a number on the coffin. 760, Slahi's prisoner number. Then there was his outburst, which he could not get rid of later.

      No matter what he did, Slahi remained silent.

      Mister X: It is difficult for me to have this conversation because I am not convinced of your innocence. I still believe that you are an enemy of the United States. But what we did to you was wrong, no question about it. Nobody deserves something like that.

      Mohamedou Slahi: I can assure you that I have never been an enemy of your country. I have never harmed any American. In fact, I have never harmed anyone at all. Never.

      Whether Mohamedou Slahi was a terrorist, as Mister X thinks, or completely innocent, as Slahi himself claims, will probably never be clarified. Perhaps he was something in between, a sympathiser. In the search for concrete criminal acts, for terrorist actions by Mohamedou Slahi, we have spoken to many people who were close to him or who know his case well. There were constitutional protectors in Germany, where Slahi lived for eleven years, intelligence officers in Mauritania and the USA, investigators and several members of the Special Projects Team. We read German and American files. After years of research, we found - nothing.

      Mohamedou Slahi grew up two hours' drive from Nouakchott, in the sandy foothills of the Sahara. His father tended the camels, his mother the twelve children. He was an exceptionally good student - just like his cousin Mahfouz, who was the same age. As teenagers, in the mid-eighties, the cousins shared a room. Late into the night, they read books about Islam and longed to join the thousands of young men from all over the Islamic world and travel to Afghanistan to fight the infidel Soviet occupiers. But they were too poor to make such a journey. Then Slahi got a scholarship to study in Germany.

      In 1990, at the age of 19, he enrolled in electrical engineering in Duisburg. Five years later, now a graduate engineer, he started a job at the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronics. He now built microchips for the renowned German research institution, earning 4000 marks a month.

      That was one life of Mohamedou Slahi. The other had begun during his studies.

      1990: Stay in an Al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan. Weapons training, oath of allegiance to Emir Osama bin Laden.

      1992: second trip to Afghanistan, where the Islamists were on the verge of overthrowing the Afghan government. Slahi was deployed in an artillery unit. After two months, he returned to Germany, allegedly, as he would later say, because the Islamists had disappointed him with their fighting among themselves - it was not at all the paradisiacal reign of God on earth that he had imagined.

      At that time, there was still a kind of community of interest between Al-Qaida and the West; after all, Bin Laden's people had helped to drive the Soviet occupiers out of Afghanistan.

      If you ask Slahi what his relationship with Al-Qaeda was like in 1992 after his return to Germany, he says: "That chapter of my life was closed. I cut all ties. I stopped reading the magazines, stopped informing myself about Al-Qaeda's activities, had no more friends in the organisation, no more contacts, with anyone, no phone calls, nothing."

      If this were true, Slahi would have turned her back on the organisation before turning against the US.

      But it isn't true. Slahi kept in touch: with his cousin, with whom he used to share a room and who had since become a confidant of Osama bin Laden under the name Abu Hafs al-Mauritani - once the cousin even called him on bin Laden's satellite phone; with a friend in Duisburg who was involved in the attack on the synagogue on Djerba in April 2002; with another friend who was later convicted of planning an attack on La Réunion. And Slahi, in Duisburg in October 1999, had three overnight guests, one of whom was Ramzi Binalshibh, who would later become one of the key planners of 9/11. Binalshibh later told his American interrogators that the other two visitors were two of the hijackers. At the meeting in Duisburg, Slahi advised them to travel to Afghanistan.

      Slahi's involvement with Al-Qaeda

      Slahi did not break off all contacts. On the contrary, the list of his friends and acquaintances reads like an extract from Al-Qaeda's Who's Who.

      If you ask Slahi about these contacts, he confirms everything, but acts as if it is an insult that you bring up these little things at all. These were his friends, and what his friends believed or did had nothing to do with him.

      All those contacts and friendships - it is not hard to imagine that hunting fever broke out among Mister X and his colleagues. It's hard to imagine what Slahi might know. Even if he himself was perhaps hardly involved.

      Perhaps he would lead the investigators to his cousin, bin Laden's confidant. It was suspected that the cousin and Bin Laden were on the run together.

      I wonder how many lives could be saved if only he finally came clean?

      Mister X says that as a team they felt they were fighting on the front line of the war on terror. He says he was aware that if he got anything of significance out of Slahi, President George W. Bush would be informed personally.

      For weeks, Mister X worked his way around Slahi. To no avail. Then he got a new boss, a man called Richard Zuley, known as Dick.

      Mister X says of him today, "Dick is a diabolical motherfucker."

      Richard Zuley himself says, "All Mister X got out of Slahi was petty stuff. Slahi had everything under control, we had to change that."

      Zuley now lives in a row house on Chicago's north side. For years he worked here as a police officer; now, in retirement, he spends a lot of time at the airfield where his small plane is parked. When Zuley talks about how he took over Slahi's interrogations, he smiles. "There was then no question about who was in charge."

      Zuley suggested to Slahi that the latter's mother could be raped if he didn't talk. And under Zuley's command, Slahi was beaten half to death. That was one day in late August 2003. When Mister X saw Slahi's bloody and swollen face, he says, he was shocked. For him, this raw physical violence went far beyond the limits of what was permissible and was also not compatible with Rumsfeld's list. Mister X confronted his boss - and was taken off the case the same day.

      When asked why, Zuley replies, "I used people who were effective." One senses no sense of injustice, only pride that he managed to break Slahi.

      Slahi was moved to a new cell that evening. "There was nothing in the cell," Slahi remembers, "no window. No clock. Nothing on the wall that I could look at. It was pure loneliness. I don't know how long it lasted, I didn't even know when it was day and night, but eventually I knocked and said I was ready to talk."

      After months of silence, Slahi was now talking so much that Zuley had paper and pens brought to him, and later a computer. Slahi wrote that he had planned an attack on the CN Tower in Toronto. He listed accomplices. He drew organigrams of terror cells in Europe. Slahi says it was all made up.

      In fact, intelligence agencies soon raised doubts about the veracity of the information Zuley's team passed on to them. In November 2003, Zuley ordered a lie detector test on Mohamedou Slahi. The latter recanted his confession and the machine failed.

      Mohamedou Slahi: You know so little about me. Obviously your government has given you very little information ...

      Mister X: Let me make something clear.

      Mohamedou Slahi: May I please finish my sentence?

      Mister X: Excuse me, please continue.

      Mohamedou Slahi: The military prosecutor who was going to charge me, Stuart Couch, was going to ask for the death penalty at the beginning, but then he realised that I am innocent.

      Stuart Couch is now 56 years old and a judge. An accurately dressed man with a military short haircut and a fierce southern accent. On a Sunday morning in January 2021, we have an appointment at a hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia. Couch talks about his Christian family and his time as a soldier in the Marines, which shaped him. He paints a picture of himself as a man who was shaped by a strong belief in values and rules. Rules that demanded a lot of him when he had to make the most difficult decision of his career in spring 2004.

      The US government had given him, the military prosecutor, the task of indicting the most important prisoner in Guantánamo Bay, Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Of course, this was a potential death penalty case, says Couch. After all, it had to be assumed that Slahi had recruited the later hijackers for al-Qaida - at the meeting in the Duisburg flat.

      There was a lot of circumstantial evidence for Slahi's involvement with Al-Qaeda, namely the many friendships and contacts. Couch assumed that with all the smoke, it was a matter of time before the fire was encountered. "My grandfather used to say, 'If you lie down with the dogs, you'll get fleas.' And man, Slahi must have lain with a lot of dogs."

      But Couch found no fire - not a shred of evidence. Instead, he found something else. On a site visit to Guantánamo, he heard loud music blaring from an interrogation room in a hallway. Let the Bodies hit the floor. Through the crack in the door he saw bright flashes of light. Inside, a detainee was chained to the floor in front of two speakers.

      "What I did was torture. No doubt about it"

      The scene repelled him as a human being and as a Christian, he says. As a prosecutor, he immediately understood: if they did the same to Slahi, he had a huge problem. What he had said or would still say would have no relevance in court. "Under torture, people tell everything, whether it is true or not, the main thing is that the torture stops," says Couch.

      He began investigating what was going on at Guantánamo. Shortly after Slahi's confession reached him, he had certainty: it was worth nothing.

      Stuart Couch says he wrestled with himself for days. Not pressing charges would mean possibly letting a terrorist get away with it. He consulted with his priest. Then he told his superior that he was withdrawing from the case.

      The case never went to trial. Nevertheless, Slahi remained in prison for another twelve years. Only in October 2016 was he released, one of the last decisions of the Obama administration.

      Asked today if Stuart Couch believes Slahi was a terrorist then, he replies, "I don't know."

      Mister X says he is sure. All you have to do is look at the way Slahi communicates. He plays games - no innocent man does that.

      In fact, watching Slahi talk to Mister X, one sometimes gets the impression of watching a shrewd politician. Mister X says a total of six times that the torture should not have happened. Slahi never responds to this. Instead, he talks about other things - his innocence, criticism of America. Once he starts talking about Chalid Sheikh Mohammed, the chief planner of 9/11, who is still in Guantánamo. Another time about the US war in Afghanistan.

      Mister X: I won't say anything about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, nor about politics. I can only talk about the techniques I used. That they were wrong and I should never have done it. They should never have been abused. They should never have been beaten. That's not who we are. That's not who I am.

      Mister X tells Slahi that he painted him, six years after that August day in 2003. Bleeding Slahi in oil with a busted lip and a swollen eye. Now, during the conversation, he asks us reporters to send a photo of the painting to Mauritania via WhatsApp.

      Mohamedou Slahi: Ah, wow. This prisoner in the picture looks much better than the real prisoner back then. (Slahi laughs)

      Mister X: You actually didn't look very good that day. And this painting is not meant to ... it's to reflect what happened to you that day.

      Mister X painted the picture when he had just resigned from the army. His post-traumatic stress disorder had become so bad that he could no longer work. The alcohol had stopped helping, the medication was no longer working either. So now painting. He says he had hoped that the artistic confrontation would trigger a catharsis. But it only brought pain. So he destroyed the painting again. Only the photo is still there.

      Mister X: I have to live with this shame. Maybe this is a small victory for you, that I have to live with my behaviour.

      Mohamedou Slahi: Um, I don't know ... I always had the impression that you were an intelligent person. And it was hard for me to understand how you could do such a thing to me.

      Slahi asks exactly the question that determines Mister X's life. After art failed to give him an answer, he tried science. He enrolled in Creative Studies at university. He studied how creativity is used for evil purposes, for cigarette advertising, weapons of mass destruction, torture. He read study after study in search of an explanation for why he was capable of so much cruelty. From all that reading, he took away: The tendency to cruelty is in all human beings. It asserts itself when the circumstances allow it. The circumstances in his case were: a country that craved revenge. A president who demanded success. A superior who spurred on the interrogators.

      "My country made me do some pretty shitty things, and I did them," says Mister X. "I hate myself for it. And I hate my country for making me this monster." He speaks out, "What I did was torture. One hundred percent. No doubt about it."

      The few studies that exist on people who have tortured suggest that there are two types of torturers. The ones who live on afterwards as if nothing had happened. And the others who break. Scientists suspect that it is the worldview of the torturer that determines which category he or she will fall into.

      For example, if a person tortures, like Richard Zuley, in the belief that it is morally right to torture one individual in order to possibly save thousands, then he is more likely to escape unscathed.

      If, like Mister X, he tortures in contradiction to his own humanism, then shame and guilt are more likely to trigger trauma. The symptoms then often resemble those of torture victims, only one thing is sometimes added: a deep mistrust in institutions. Those who have been forced to do abysmal things in the name of a system, an ideology, a country, their trust in this system, this ideology, this country is sometimes shaken by this.

      Can there ever be reconciliation?

      Mohamedou Slahi, the victim, on the other hand, has managed something that therapists very rarely see. Victims are often stuck in a situation of helplessness and hopelessness. Slahi has broken out of this helplessness. He has made himself an actor.

      You can watch numerous videos of Slahi's performances on the net. The audience is often visibly moved when he talks about how he received his guard in Mauritania. Actress Jodie Foster, who won a Golden Globe for her role as Slahi's lawyer in the film The Mauritanian, said of him in a statement at the awards ceremony: "You taught us so much: what it means to be human. Joyful of life. Loving. Forgiving. We love you, Mohamedou Ould Slahi!"

      It is always this one thing that touches people, what they admire him for: that he is willing and able to forgive.

      In a way, Slahi says in one of our interviews in Mauritania, forgiveness is also a form of revenge for him. He is taking revenge on his tormentors and all the people who fought the American war on terror for 20 years: before the eyes of the world public, he exposes the actions of those who thought they were the good guys as evil. And he stylises himself, the supposedly so evil, as the good guy.

      Mohamedou Slahi: I want to tell you: I forgive you, just as I forgive all those who have caused me pain. I forgive the Americans ...

      Mister X: Yeah ...

      Mohamedou Slahi: ... With all my heart. I want to live in peace with you.

      Mister X: It is important for me to clarify that I did not ask for your forgiveness. I have to forgive myself.

      It doesn't work for Mister X, he rebuffs Slahi. The two do not find each other. One last try: Slahi tries another subject.

      Mohamedou Slahi: How are you today? Are you married? Do you have children?

      Mister X: I'm not going to talk about my family or where I live, what I do or don't do. That's how it is, mate.

      The conversation lasts 18 minutes and 46 seconds and ends with frustration on both sides.

      Mohamedou Slahi: Anyway, I wish you all the best.
      Mister X: You too.
      Mohamedou Slahi: I think you are what you do. I forgive you with all my heart, even if you don't ask me to.
      Mister X: It's okay. I have nothing more to say. Goodbye, Mister Slahi.
      Mohamedou Slahi: Bye.
      When the video link ends, the two are left unreconciled, the weak, self-doubting perpetrator, and the strong victim.
      When one person tortures another, it's quite intimate. Tears. Screams. Pain. Fear. Nudity. A torturer sees things that otherwise only the partner sees, if at all. Mister X and Mohamedou Slahi are familiar with each other and strangers at the same time. They know everything about each other - and nothing. In this conversation, in which there seems to be nothing in common, it becomes clear that there is one thing they do share: Eight weeks in Guantánamo in the summer of 2003 have made them who they are today.
      Mohamedou Slahi lives largely from his story, from what was done to him. His suffering has brought him not only pain and nightmares, but also wealth and prestige. He married a human rights lawyer who worked in Guantánamo and had a child with her. He has turned his destiny around.
      In Mister X's life, almost everything has turned into its opposite. He no longer votes for the Republicans, as he used to, but for the Democrats. He is no longer for the death penalty, but against it. He is no longer sure he wants to continue living in the USA, but is thinking of emigrating.

      For several years, Mister X has been teaching young soldiers and FBI agents interrogation techniques. At the beginning of the course, there are always people who say: torture should be allowed. He then says, no, absolutely not. Torture exacts a high price. Not only of the person who suffers it. But also on the one who commits it. Sometimes he talks about himself.

      Source: https://www.zeit.de/2021/36/folter-guantanamo-mohamedou-ould-slahi-gefangener-folterer-gespraech-terrorismus/komplettansicht

      Translated with DeepL: https://www.deepl.com/

      10 votes
    4. I bought an engagement ring today

      I bought an engagement ring for my girlfriend as I plan on proposing to her later this year. I haven't told too many people yet outside of my family, so I wanted to just post this somewhere...

      I bought an engagement ring for my girlfriend as I plan on proposing to her later this year. I haven't told too many people yet outside of my family, so I wanted to just post this somewhere because I'm super excited but have no where else to post. It was a good chunk of money but I had budgeted for it and it felt good to finally pull the trigger!

      33 votes
    5. Buying a house relatively soon, lay your advice on me!

      I'm in the market for a house, been looking pretty seriously for the past week or so. I've got two pre-approvals for mortgages, and I think I'll probably look for at least two more for fee...

      I'm in the market for a house, been looking pretty seriously for the past week or so. I've got two pre-approvals for mortgages, and I think I'll probably look for at least two more for fee comparison purposes. I have yet to actually see a house unfortunately, since every house we try to view gets sold that very same day :/ Hopefully the streak is broken, since we have an appointment with another house today!

      Anyway, who here has advice for (any part of the process of) buying a house? Things to look for when viewing a house, things to consider that the common person might not, tips for making offers, tips for not giving up because of the market, etc.

      I'll lead with some tidbits that I've gained from asking around friends and family that have already bought places recently.

      1. Apparently, sending a personal letter to the owners with the offer letter has gotten multiple people a house even when their offer wasn't the highest. For example, my sisters friend knew the owners had a cat, and has cats herself. So in the letter she wrote, she mentioned how happy her cats would be laying on the windows and running around in all the new space and such.... and she got it! The owners realtor was kinda pissed.

      2. Try to find out the reason the owners are moving out. My sister and her husbands realtor asked around, and they were able to close on their house because the owner needed a quick turnaround to get out as fast as possible. They got the house for 60K under asking price because they were able to sweeten the deal to suit the owner.

      3. Location is (generally) more important than furnishings. You can add or remove things from a house, but you can't move it once you buy it.

      4. Once you make an offer on a house and the owner accepts, make sure the contract includes the following two parts that are (apparently) very important:

        • House must appraise for at least the same value you've agreed to buy it at
        • Inspection must show no more than $buyer_defined_value dollars of necessary repairs, otherwise the deal should be re-negotiated or considered void.
      5. Always leave enough money in your savings account to pay for any extras (because there are always extras) after the house is yours. New furniture, carpets, smaller repairs, paint, etc. You don't want to drain your account for the house only to find out you can't do anything afterwards.

      I'm very excited (and exhausted already), but I want to make sure I'm as thorough as possible since I'll be spending the next several years of my life in it!

      Forgot to mention(Thanks @Thra11), this is the US East Coast.

      22 votes
    6. On Divorce

      I've spoken about my personal journey over the past six months in comments a few times, but I felt the need to make a post about it, mostly as catharsis for myself, but if it helps other people...

      I've spoken about my personal journey over the past six months in comments a few times, but I felt the need to make a post about it, mostly as catharsis for myself, but if it helps other people out, that would be cool too. Also, I may be doxxing myself a bit here, which is a little unavoidable if I want to tell this story accurately. I'd appreciate not being stalked.

      I'd like to detail my journey of what is, so far, the most difficult time in my life, what I've been doing to cope, how I'm doing now, and what the future may hold for me. This may be a little long and detailed, but I'll try to hit the high points.
      Lets start at the beginning here.
      I'm a 34 year old part time military officer in the US. I met my ex wife years ago, in high school originally. We were casual acquaintances back then. We had a couple of classes together, and I would tease her a little bit (I was immature when I was young, and totally unable to communicate well with girls). We went to prom together, but mostly lost touch after high school.

      After college, I came back to my home town, started developing my career in IT, hanging out with friends and coworkers. One of the people I worked with happened to be dating a girl who was good friends with my ex wife, and we started all hanging out, and reconnecting. My ex confessed that she always had a crush on me, and started actively perusing me. It started out as a casual relationship that I didn't see going anywhere, but it lasted. Eventually, I fell deeply in love with her, and we moved in together a short while later.

      I was so devoted to this woman. We were so alike in so many ways. We shared the same interests, the same type of humor, we developed our own language and style of communication. I had never really seriously considered wanting kids, and over time and a bunch of thought, I decided that I didn't really agree with the institution of marriage. In my mind, when two people love each other, that should be enough, and either party should be free to walk away at any time without any legal burdens or extra hoops to jump through, because I wouldn't want someone to be obligated to stay with me for even one minute.

      Both things were really important to her however, and we almost broke up over it. Eventually, after spending time with kids, and some deep introspection on my own part, I came around on kids, and coming around on kids almost necessitates coming around on marriage. You don't need to be married to have kids, of course, but it certainly provides a more stable environment and smooths out a lot of practical, logistical concerns. I asked her to marry me shortly after that, after five years together, in 2016.

      What followed were the happiest couple of years of my life. My wife had worked her way up in an accounting firm, she was managing a department, on track to become a partner in a few years. She had so much determination, ambition, and grit. It made me glassy eyed to think about how proud I was of her, all the personal growth and progress she'd made since I knew that girl in high school. I was developing a successful career in network engineering as well, and frequently flying out for short stints and conferences and design meetings. We were still best friends, and always wondered about people in unhappy marriages. Why couldn't they just be like us? Why were we so good at this?

      We took trips together, we watched shows together on the couch, I couldn't get enough of her.

      Her job had always been stressful, but some time around 2018, the stress had come to a head. She was frequently working until 10pm on week nights during her busy season, then she'd come home, down a few glasses of wine, go to bed after me, and wake up far too late, continuing the cycle of stress. This continued on for a few months. I tried to be there for her, prepare meals, support her however I could, but to little avail. She was angry, stressed out, upset all the time. She'd cry from the stress frequently, and was totally unable to cope.

      One day, she came to me with a proposal. She would quit her job and start her own business. I always knew that she wanted to do that eventually, but I had hoped it would be after she had amassed significant savings to do it. Her business idea was to start a tabletop gaming cafe. We had gotten pretty deep into board games and TTRPGs, and she thought that with her business sense and accounting knowledge, she'd be a perfect fit to do this job. I agreed with her, but a significant part of me thought that it was a massive risk, and financially, we were on the cusp of being truly independent. This would set us back a few years in the best possible scenario. She was my wife though, and I saw what this job was doing to her, so I agreed.
      She would work six more months while planning, save her money, and then quit to start this venture.

      As everyone told us it would, it did not exactly go according to plan. Securing a location and funding was far more difficult than she anticipated. She was stuck waiting for 8 months for a location that didn't pan out. She wasn't used to having to push people and follow up and annoy people to get them to do what they'd say they did, all of that was new for her. No one would extend a small business loan to an unproven entrepreneur with a fairly novel business plan. All in all, between the location, and the build out, and delays with licensing and permits, she mostly waited around for two years. In this time, I could see she was spiraling. She'd wake up at noon and do puzzles or binge watch tv all day. At night, she would go out drinking with her friends. I would join sometimes, but I couldn't, and didn't want to most of the time because I was just exhausted from work.

      Around this time, I discussed with my ex wife, and took a new position in the military, and got word that I would be deploying in 2020. I'm a leader of about 150 people, and preparing for this kind of thing is extremely involved, so I was working a lot. Meanwhile, my ex wife was going out constantly, 3-4 times a week, and coming home absolutely wasted. Sometimes she ubered, but other times she drove. In late 2019, I told her that I was concerned about how much she was drinking, that I thought it was unsafe. This was a bit of a wakeup call for her, as she had struggles with alcoholism in the past. She told me she was going to stop drinking and start going back to AA. I told her that if she thought that was what she needed to do, I would support her. She started her sobriety journey, and things started improving. She still was in limbo with her business, but construction was at least starting, she could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

      In spring of 2020, I left for my deployment in the middle east, hopeful and optimistic. Her business was coming along nicely, I was taking this fairly prestigious position, and I was excited. We were sad to be apart, and it was heartbreaking to say good bye, but I'd see her again in ten short months.

      The deployment was stressful, but rewarding. I accomplished a lot of things I'm very proud of while I was out there, and about halfway through, my wife finally opened her business! This is where things started taking a turn. She was unable to secure funding still, so she basically dumped all of her debts on my lap. She never directly asked me for the money, but she worded it in such a way that I couldn't really refused. "Hey... so the contractors are asking for their 60k... I don't have any way to pay them... so... I need to figure something out". Of course, she was my wife, I had the money, why would I say no? I had always been very good at saving, and had a decent amount in investments. All in all, I spent about $160k directly funding her business. It was an emotional, somewhat sickening feeling parting with that much money. My life savings more or less. This wasn't part of the plan, and I was upset at her for putting me in this position.
      I told myself that it was ok. This was an investment in us. She'd make that back eventually, and what's hers is mine and what's mine is hers. Besides, this was my wife, and above all else, I wanted her to be happy. I stuffed those feelings of pain and resentment down, and continued with the deployment.

      During the whole time I was gone, I would get messages from her about how hard it was being alone, how difficult taking care of the dog and business was, how lonely she felt, how much she missed me and she couldn't bare it anymore. I felt truly awful, but there was very little I could do 10,000 miles away. I texted with her often (the signal wasn't so good for live video or audio calls). We would sext a bit, exchange nudes to try to tide each other over, but I could tell she was struggling in that area as well.
      About five months in, that kind of thing abruptly stopped. At the time, I thought she was learning coping strategies and adjusting to life with me gone. How little did I know.
      This winter, I came home finally. Stepping off that plane into the terminal, a few hundred yards away from my wife was the most excited I've ever been in my life. I was giddy, there was a huge smile on my face as I walked down the concourse in my uniform, and the first glimpse I got of her standing there, my god, it was like being in the desert and stumbling upon a pristine oasis. She had requested that my parents not be there, so against my better judgement, I told them that they were not to come, but I didn't think about that at all. She was standing there in a ratty sweatshirt and jeans, but she was still the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. I went up and hugged her tightly, kissed her, and told her how much I loved her. Having her in my arms after so long was just such an amazing feeling.
      We went back to her car, and things quickly became much more... 'clinical', I'd say. Instead of feeling like we hadn't seen each other for ten months, it was like we were just hanging out on the couch after a long weekend, talking about practical things very quickly. It didn't really strike me as odd at the time, only now looking back on it.

      We went home, had sex, I got a burger, we were content. The next week or so, that same 'clinical' feeling persisted. She took one day off of work, then went back, saying that because the business was so new she couldn't take much time off. Fine. I stopped by the shop often, but every time I was there, I got a cold feeling from her and her employees, like I wasn't truly welcome. She would come home late each night and we'd watch something or have sex, but I didn't really see her much. I really wanted to go do a trip together, spend some quality time together, but it didn't pan out. I spent my time fixing up the house which she'd let fall into disrepair or playing video games to relax.

      One night, a week later (February 9th), I'm up late waiting for her to get home. 12:30 rolls around, no word from her. 1:00, nothing. Finally I message her, ask her when she's going to be home. She said she got caught up at work, and would be staying over her friends house for the night. A bit odd as her friend lives maybe 1/2 mile down the road, but whatever, she told me she'd been staying with this friend a lot while I was gone to stave off loneliness, so maybe she just misses that. I go to bed alone disappointed.

      The next day, she comes home at 10, I'm on the computer. She sits down on the couch, and doesn't say anything. I can tell she's upset, so I ask her what's wrong. No answer. I turn the computer off and walk over, and ask her again.

      She blurts it out. "I want a divorce".

      This didn't even register for me. I didn't even hear her at first. After a few seconds, I just immediately assumed she was joking. It was a frequent joke of ours "You don't like this movie? We're getting a divorce!" it was one of many things we did to mess around.
      I smiled a little, then it vanished. "Wait... you're serious?"

      My head fell into my hands. "I don't understand... why?"

      The reasons she gave me made no sense. I wasn't affectionate enough. I wasn't outgoing or social enough. She didn't like the nicknames I gave her. Stuff that had never come up before, and besides, I'd just been gone for close to a year, why are these suddenly issues now?

      I thought, easy, I can fix all of that stuff no problem. We'll go to couples counseling. No, I'm tired of counseling (We never did any form of counseling together).

      Okay, lets take that trip, lets work on the marriage. No, I'm tired of fighting.

      None of it made any sense. She had to run some errands, I asked if I could come, I just needed to spend time with her and get to the bottom of this. She went to work. I stopped by, tried to get some clarity. She reiterated the same points, said that we don't communicate well. Referenced a fight we had at a party 3 years ago where we didn't talk for a day. I barely even remember what the argument was about. I hugged her, whispered to her that I can't lose her. She responded "Wellllll.....". That night, she told me she was staying at her mom's.

      I talked to a friend of mine who is a divorce attorney a couple of days later. He told me that he hates to bring this up, but 99% of the time in situations like this, the wife is cheating. I hadn't done any snooping until then, but she had an old phone at the house. I opened it up. There it was in black and white. She'd been having an affair with one of the regular customers at her store for six months. "I love you baby" "I can't wait for us to be together" "You make me so happy".

      I wanted to vomit. I wanted to break things. I wanted to murder this guy. I wanted my wife back. I felt so much rage, confusion, sadness, worthlessness. I couldn't bring myself to be mad at her though. When I read it, I was on the phone on my friend, and exclaimed "That fucking BITCH!", but I didn't really mean it. Not my beautiful wife. It was the guy's fault. He corrupted her. He was insistent and wore her defenses down. He turned my wife against me.

      I contacted a divorce attorney that day. The marriage was over, I knew that now. What followed were the worst two months of my life. So much self loathing and depression. Anxiety. Panic attacks. How could I have not seen this? Where did I go wrong? Why did I go on that deployment? Why didn't I call and text my wife more? What did this guy have that I didn't? My friends and family helped, but some advice was better than others. "Just don't think about her" is not good advice, FYI.

      I enrolled in therapy for the first time in my life. It helped a little, not a lot though. I kept up with my gym routine, which did help. I spent a lot of time walking my dog.

      Eventually, I called my ex, and I told her "I want to do this quickly and with as little emotion as possible. I have a lot of things I'm feeling right now but I'm not going to bring them up because I want this to go smoothly." I never told her that I knew about the affair. My lawyer said it could only hurt things. Eventually we came to a settlement. I'd keep the house, my dog, my investments, etc. She'd keep her business, including the bulk of the capital I'd spent on it. The lawyer said this was a good deal. I still felt like I was getting fucked. I gave her that money less than a month before she started cheating on me. It was a complete slap in the face.

      I spent a lot of time curled up in a ball crying. Prior to this, I hadn't cried in fifteen years. Little things would trigger me. A text from her about finances. Someone telling me about her shop. A smell that reminded me of her.

      Two months after our separation, I started dating again. I met a wonderful woman, she sold exotic plants for a living. Empathetic, kind, beautiful, smart. It didn't work out. She needed someone in a more stable place. Looking back it was too soon.

      I kept up with therapy and the gym, they both helped a little. I've gone on a couple more dates since then, nothing has really stuck. I'm still struggling with feelings of self confidence/attractiveness.

      All in all, I DO feel better than I did, but I still don't feel great. I've been trying to expand my hobbies, I'm playing kickball now, I've picked up surfing. I'm trying to force myself to be a little more outgoing and social. I'd like to make new friends also, but not a ton of luck there yet. I do still cry sometimes. The other day, I was driving home from a bar, taking a route I used to take with my ex when we came from the movies. I remembered how happy I was with her by my side back then and started crying on the way home. I really hope that happens less. It's really unpleasant.

      I have lately been feeling like I'm in a little bit of a rut. It's been six months and each week flies by with me doing much of the same thing. Video games at night, work during the day, gym in the afternoon, maybe a date here or there. I wouldn't mind maybe moving to a new city, but the thought of that and all the work that's involved, and having no friends is frankly terrifying to me. I do know that I don't want to live life like groundhog day. I want to experience more new experiences.

      As far as I know, my ex wife has gone public with her relationship with the guy she left me for. By all outside accounts she seems happy, but who knows, I don't really keep tabs on her much and only communicate with her regarding a payment she owes me from the marriage. I've come to redirect most of the anger I had towards the guy at her instead. I am extremely bitter towards her and what she did, and I probably always will be. I don't see forgiveness in my future any time soon. I wrote her a letter after the divorce was finalized detailing that I knew everything she'd been doing, and assuring her that what she did was irredeemable, and no matter how she justified it in her head, it was not ok. I don't know if she ever even read it. She's still never apologized for what she did, and I doubt she ever will.

      As for me, I'd like to get to a place where I'm happy by myself. That'll be a long road I think, as even before I met my ex, I wasn't happy alone. I'd like to go amass new experiences; see the world, live in new places, do things I've never done before. I feel like I'm getting old, and I haven't done the things I want to do yet.

      I'd also like to find someone to fall in love with again. I love having a partner around and I'd be sad if I couldn't find someone to connect with like that again. I've been doing online dating, but man, it's really rough out there. I far prefer meeting people the way I met my ex, but you can't force that.

      I hope that I continue to get better. It feels like a kind of plateau right now. If I compare how I feel now to the happiest moments of my life with my ex as a 10, and the month right after the separation as a 1, I would say I'm at around a 5. Not horrible, but not very good either. I hope that number steadily increases, with or without another person.

      One "gift" that this whole experience has given me is self awareness of my emotional state. I feel a lot more in tune with the way I feel. I know when I'm having a bad day, and I usually know if I'm feeling bad just because I'm tired, or because I haven't had caffeine, or because something triggered me.

      I also feel a lot more deeply now. I cry during emotional scenes in TV shows, I have highs and lows, whereas before I remember even telling my ex that emotionally, I felt a little numb. That could be a good thing depending on how you look at it.

      Anyway, I know it was a little long, and if you read it, thank you. If you've got any questions or comments, feel free to leave them, and if this is inappropriate for this board, please feel free to let me know and I'll remove it.

      45 votes
    7. Tildes Screenless Day Discussion Thread - August 2021

      What is a "Screenless Day"? Tildes "Screenless Day" is a simple event aimed at encouraging people to take a temporary step away from toxic or consuming aspects of technology and spend their time...

      What is a "Screenless Day"?

      Tildes "Screenless Day" is a simple event aimed at encouraging people to take a temporary step away from toxic or consuming aspects of technology and spend their time and energies elsewhere.


      When is it?

      It takes place over the weekend starting on the first Friday of each month. Participants will choose that Friday, Saturday, or Sunday to take as their screenless day -- whichever works best for their schedule.

      Some people might not be able to participate in that window, and that's fine too. They can choose to shift their day earlier or later as needed. It is also completely fine (and encouraged!) to take personal screenless days separate from the event if you like. This thread will be posted the first weekend of each month, but it is open for comments the entire month.


      Does it have to be truly "screenless"?

      "Screenless" is an ideal, not a mandate. The spirit of the day is to deliberately step away from toxic or consuming aspects of technology, and what that means is different for each person. Thus, it is up to each participant to determine what "screenless" means to them. Some might only choose to not use social media for a day; some might choose to eliminate all "screens" but still use their ereader; some may maintain some screen use but only for necessity (e.g. work; classes; GPS; etc.). Some might get rid of screens entirely, or go fully "unplugged" for the day.


      How do I participate?

      You do not have to do anything formal at all to participate -- simply take your screenless day in whatever way is best for you!

      If you’d like to, use this thread to share plans for your upcoming screenless day or summaries/reflections about it once it’s over.


      Can I chat in this thread if I'm not participating?

      Yes! The more, the merrier! Discussion from anyone, participant or non-participant alike, is welcome. Though, do understand that it might take a bit longer than normal for some people to respond. :)

      5 votes
    8. How did you find niche stuff before the Internet?

      Over in the topic on the perceptions of teenage boys, it was asked, “How did you find niche stuff before the internet?” I thought this was an interesting question and wanted to open it up to hear...

      Over in the topic on the perceptions of teenage boys, it was asked, “How did you find niche stuff before the internet?” I thought this was an interesting question and wanted to open it up to hear others’ memories about this.

      Edit: Somewhat related, I saw this post today: The most unbelievable things about life before smartphones

      21 votes
    9. I’ve landed my first interview! Any advice?

      After a hiatus of applying for jobs, I got an email from Indeed that really caught my attention. It’s for a programming job in a new-ish framework that has quickly become my favorite to work in. I...

      After a hiatus of applying for jobs, I got an email from Indeed that really caught my attention. It’s for a programming job in a new-ish framework that has quickly become my favorite to work in.

      I applied for that and got back to work on applying to other jobs, different languages and frameworks.

      This morning I got a message from that first job opening, the one I wanted! They reached out to schedule an interview.

      I’ve got really bad social anxiety and a lack of interviewing experience. How do I prepare?

      23 votes
    10. Midway in the journey of our life I found myself moving to Spain

      I interact with few people in this dark-wood era of my life, and yet all of them have walked, or are planning to walk, the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (fuck that noise, I'm flying). So, given...

      I interact with few people in this dark-wood era of my life, and yet all of them have walked, or are planning to walk, the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (fuck that noise, I'm flying). So, given the area's popularity, I thought I might also share with all of you my impending move, which will take me from virtual shut-in to Galician outsider. Maybe you too know the territory.

      My wife has accepted a teaching post. I hope to improve as a writer. Preparations for the the move have so far had me feeling like I am directing the building of a bridge via email, in Spanish, where every night a new worker reports for a shift of maybe a few minutes, and by this incremental and absurd process I construct a conveyance that will take me to a new home. In mental conversation, I speak an eloquently minimalistic Castilian. But the planning experience has revealed my extreme poverty in the language. On the other hand, this opportunity strikes me as something incredible. I hope to feel this when some of the stress dissipates.

      Please feel free to share any insights into the region, Spain in general, or moves to Europe from the U.S. Despite there being no more than one Spaniard included on the last Tildes census, I ask because this is the community I feel closest to.

      22 votes