Surpassing Certainty (What My Twenties Taught Me): Part 2/ Chapters 12 to 14 – Summary/ Review (with Spoilers)

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Janet Mock: Surpassing Certainty - What My Twenties Taught Me Book Cover

Just as Janet’s professional life is just consistently reaching new highs, her personal life seems to remain at an all time low – in terms of Troy.

Chapter 12: Miss Independent

With $3,000 in the bank, $50,000 in student loan debt, and $1000 in rent due, Janet needed this senior editor job and to interview well with Thanh. Someone who is described as a 5’2 eccentric woman who is a bit informal and didn’t adhere to traditional employee and supervisor boundaries. Making Janet getting hired by her a blessing, alongside her $25 an hour salary.

But, her foot in the door was just that. For in almost no time (5-6 months), Janet went from doing data entry and helping with Thanh’s editorial load to getting a permanent writer position that led to Janet’s salary becoming $45,000 with health insurance, 20 vacation days and a 401K – without negotiating anything. But while she, alongside Thanh, flourished professionally, their relationships were in disrepair.

For Thanh, a Vietnamese Illinois native, from Santa Monica, California, who traveled across the country to follow her fiancé, we only get a taste of her troubles and worries this episode. As for Janet, Troy still looms in her shadows. Especially since now, with her financially stable, her having one less need for him in her life – outside of the validation he brings and the counter to the stigma placed on Trans woman. The one implying they are unlovable due to a slew of reasons.

Chapter 13: The End is Nigh

Just as Thanh finds her relationship towards its end, after a two-year engagement, Janet finds the same problem in her relationship. For while she leaves New York for Tinton Falls, NJ, to live with Troy, it seems distance didn’t make the heart grow fonder. If anything, both seem to compromise on the things which made them happy and now they are both miserable and going through the motions. Making Lela still being a consistent presence in Janet’s life a god send.

Chapter 14: It’s Hard To Say Goodbye My Love

Both Thanh and Janet decide to leave their significant others in 2008. For with Thanh on the brink of 30, a very important number to her, and Janet now 25, they’re ready for their lives to begin. However, for neither is this an easy decision. For Thanh, she leaves while her beau is away for a presentation and Janet pretty much is her rock through the whole thing. For Janet, it is only after having therapy and another promotion that her strength is bolstered to leave Troy.

However, Troy doesn’t make it hard for her to make this decision. His video game addiction, a puppy, and just lack of desire to communicate are what does him and Janet in. Add on he calls her bluff when she leaves and you can see why they were doomed to end. But, despite her leaving, there is no talk of divorce just yet.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. When did Mock official graduate from the Master’s Program? Much less, was anyone able to attend the ceremony?

Highlights

The Importance of Negotiation and Interview Prep

Similar to Sutton on The Bold Type, Janet notes the importance of interview prep and also negotiating salary and benefits. Something she doesn’t do each time she is promoted, but at least she notes how important it is to ask questions.

Criticism

Moving Right Along

The point of the chapter by chapter reviews were never to give every little detail a book holds, but it does seem, at this point, Janet has begun losing meaningful things to talk about. Hence why the synopsis of each chapter is so tiny. For it almost feels like Janet sort of stretched out what could have very well been included into Redefining Realness, but perhaps her book deal was for multiple releases.

And while it is explained, in one of the last few chapters, why the saga of Troy was made into its own book, it doesn’t really make up for the fact that her professional career is boring to read about. Especially since it almost seems boastful and maybe even venting in a way. Like, the warmness of the first book seems sort of gone in this one. As if Janet is deliberately making sure her narrative, and the questions people may ask of her, are geared more so toward her professional success, alongside her desirability in a way, than being trans.

Something I understand her need to do since, as noted in her response to her Breakfast Club Interview, she has already done the work in her first book doing Trans 101. So, at this point, she wants to be more than that label or identity. However, I think in the process of trying to make it more about herself, and less about her being trans, it kind of pushes you to realize how… for a lack of a better term, boring Janet is.

Which perhaps is a good thing. This idea that, when you set aside this one aspect of Janet’s life, she is just a normal, boring, but still exceptional woman. Words I know sort of conflict, that is normal, boring and exceptional, but that is the best way to describe her at this point. Since, like a college essay, we get all these numbers and accomplishments, but it does seem like she is holding back just enough so that her normality isn’t lost in the process. That we never know enough to make judgements but more so just simply have an idea. As if, after her first book really put her out there, now she wants to continue being an advocate but in such a way which doesn’t strip her of her, and her associates’, privacy.

Collected Quote(s)

I never realized that what I needed was a means to express myself. Hearing myself enabled me to heal myself. For so much of my life, I believed that my silence would protect me, that by keeping my circle small, by holding my truth close, by being cautious of others, I would be able to remain safe. But all it did was isolate me and leave me with delusions. I imagined that the people who cared about me would no longer love me if I spoke my truth. But I had to be open and honest with myself, and that began with telling myself the truth.

—           “Part 2/ Chapter 14.” Surpassing Certainty


There was this constant pressure to prove myself, but the moment I did as I was told, “leaned in,” asked for what I was worth, or showed confidence, I was labeled a diva. Yet if I didn’t excel, I would be overlooked.
—“Part 2/Chapter 12” Surpassing Certainty


I am not fishing for compliments. I promise. I know I am cute, but this is as good as it is going to get. I am at the peak of my beauty.

—“Part 2/Chapter 13” Surpassing Certainty


Pushing Thirty forces you to take stock.

—“Part 2/Chapter 13” Surpassing Certainty


The first time we fall, we are new to that experience. Nothing can quite compare to it, because you’ll never be that young, that open, and that willing. But when you’ve loved and lost, when you’re forced to grow and move on, let go and love again, you become cautious. You learn to protect yourself, to be on guard. You are never as available. Or that could just be me. I wasn’t comfortable sharing myself with people. I let people in with discretion. It took time for me to open myself up.

—“Part 2/Chapter 13” Surpassing Certainty


This slight shift from ‘I do not have time’ to ‘I can make time for myself’ was the first stage to building a space for writing in my life.

—           “Part 2/ Chapter 14.” Surpassing Certainty

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