If getting along with people was an Olympic sport, I’d medal in it. I’m not saying I would take home gold, but I had at least 18 years of training of being agreeable, and that’s no small feat. I’d like to think that I’ve matured and, to borrow the expression “grown a backbone” in my years outside of my parents home. But my default is always ‘playing well with others’.
I’ll confess that there is someone who I work with who just…infuriates me. I would call it irrational if the person in question wasn’t so polarizing. I worked through it for the first 6 months; painfully navigating a friendly interaction every time. But then, about 2 months ago, it felt like something inside of my literally broke. I could no longer manage the initial greeting or pleasantry. I stopped going out of my way to offer help. I started speaking only when spoken to, and referring this individual to our boss whenever possible.
Initially I was disappointed in myself. Though I now strongly disagree with the idea that women should be raised to be complacent and nice above all else, I am proud of my composure and treatment of people. To react so viscerally to someone who I only knew within a work context seemed unfair and petty of me.
But as time has passed, and as I’ve listened to other people share my same concerns over this individual, I’ve come to realize that some people just don’t mesh. This person and I could not be more different in temperaments, perspectives, or the way we approach problems. It makes sense that it would be difficult for us to work together. I had established early on that I would bend to make things more comfortable for everyone – an act that I now partially regret. Realizing my mistake and changing my behavior, while warranted, has made me appear angry and uncooperative.
I deal with that now, and I focus on my work and less on my interactions. I’m still cordial and polite and never go out of my way to be sardonic. But I’m less likely to extend lunch invitations and more likely to hold this person accountable when they mess up – as I would expect from them.
I was recently hosting an event at the college where work. It was a lecture for senior students, the theme of which was “A Meaningful Life”. Though not out of place at a liberal arts school, I work at a STEM school, and we’re often luck to get these future engineers to attend anything quite so existential.
But our attendance was decent, and I was excited myself to hear the speaker. Though small, our school does host a Humanities and Social Sciences department among the numerous engineering degree tracks. I asked one of the professors to present on the topic, giving him no more details than the title and encouraging him to make what he wanted out of it. He did not disappoint.
The synopsis of his lecture was that there are 5 things to know and understand in order to give meaning to our lives. I was in and out of the room during some of his presentation, but one thing that he said made me stop and take note of it so I wouldn’t forget.
Whether we are a circuit of biochemicals, or fearfully and wonderfully made, we are all actions of dust.
It’s such a beautiful thought to me – and a true statement. No matter our beliefs, our creeds, our faith, or our understanding of the world – we begin and end in relatively the same way. Our circumstance and situations – whether divine intervention or random assignment – dictate reactions from us. Our actions then define us, and continue doing so until we ultimately reach our inevitable end. And from death, life continues.
An exert from “On Repair” by The Wander Society:
“Spend time observing the object to be repaired or mended: look at the tear, the hole, the worn area. Listen to it, feel it, be curious about it.
Go through the process of repair in your mind and keep your mind ready for an inspired thought or idea.
Gather your materials and tools.
Begin the repair.
Be slow, be attentive.
Be attentive and focused about the motions you are making, feel the substance of the materials, be deliberate about your movements.
When your attention goes away, be tender and place it back on your work, on your body, on your materials and hands.
Be generous with your expectations about time.
Repair requires time…”
I have never read anything so close to the process of healing. All of the parts of myself that I dislike are direct results of not repairing the tear. Every time I’ve lashed out in anger, at myself or others, or for all of the times that I’ve hid behind a lie or compensated a feeling of loss by acquiring material things – all of this is because I wasn’t actively repairing. I was avoiding.
“Listen to it” is invaluable advice. It’s something my therapist used to tell me. As soon as we would get close to a traumatic memory, I would pull back, afraid to open myself back up to that pain. He used to tell me, “listen to your reaction, what does that tell you?”.
It’s okay to take time to repair your tears, holes, and worn areas. Even if other people don’t understand your pain, or your processes. It’s your divine right.
A thought kept occurring to me on my morning commute, as I went over and over the changes I’ve been through in the past year. To think back to January of 2017 is to imagine a completely different life than what I have now.
The thought that kept coming up this morning was related to escapism, and how I used to use it as a crutch. All my life, since childhood, I’ve used books and stories as a way to escape reality. Fiction was always more comforting, more exciting, and easier to digest than truth.
As I started reaching the apex of my emotional transition, my reality became so overwhelming that I started writing fiction into my real life. I was no longer escaping into books, but I was escaping into an imagined version of myself. While I think it is incredibly important to try on different versions of yourself, the truth is that I wasn’t even playing the role of myself – I was trying to be someone else entirely.
The problem with creating a fiction of yourself is that you start to lose the truth. Looking back, I can see the slow process of me chipping away at the things which are important to me. It’s not until I finally dropped the facade, put down the book, and looked around that I realized what I had done, and what I had lost. Rebuilding the destruction of yourself can be a slow processes, but it’s worth ever inch of ground covered.
Is true what they say, that often truth is stranger than fiction. Whatever role I was trying to play is small potatoes compared to the person I am now. And I wouldn’t trade the person I am now for anything.