Bradley Manning’s pre-Army plan for career advancement

I got a job at Starbucks to pay tuition. The benefits were good—health care!—but the work was exhausting. As a barista, you’re expected to be chipper and outgoing all the time. People want you to recognize them, to know their drinks and their names. The emotional work is taxing, and the schedule is grueling: „flexible,“ in a way that accommodates the ever-changing needs of the company. Between the unstable hours and the enforced cheerfulness, I spent as much time grinding my teeth as grinding coffee.

The Dupont Circle club scene quickly became a release for me. Once again, I found temporary euphoria in sex and ecstasy. I bought my ecstasy from a chemistry graduate student who was going Breaking Bad, and I chose boyfriends more carefully, now that I wasn’t desperate for a place to sleep. The quality of both was vastly better than in Chicago, but they still left me feeling strung out afterward. This time, though, I started to think that my social skills and hookups could be my way into a better job. All I had to do was sleep with one person who could hook me up with a connection that would deliver me to the next big thing, anything that would get me money or stability. I was sure that a better job was going to appear if I leveraged my sexuality just right.

—Chelsea Manning, README.txt, (London: The Bodley Head, 2022), 49.

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