I was raised to be a good girl. If I didn’t have something nice to say, I wasn’t supposed to say anything. Go along to get along when necessary. Other people may do or say things that hurt you, don’t embarrass them.
This is probably how I ended up studying public relations and cultivating a career in the profession. It’s never what you say, it’s how you say it.
A few years ago, after years perfecting the ability to clean up other peoples’s messes with a nice turn of phrase, I burned out. Or flamed out. Whatever you want to call it. As I rose in the pr ranks of experience, I began to hate what I did. I tried extended breaks. I tried telling myself I’d get over my professional issues – they were a hazard of the job.
But I couldn’t “pr” my personal life anymore. I couldn’t let people walk on my feelings and emotions any longer. I’ve become dangerously real since my children were born. Dangerously real for a person who thinks it’s important not to bottle emotion. And it shows. I’ve lost friends, jobs, and reputation.
People are emotional beings. We have feelings for good reason. Not only are they there to speak to us about our own state of mind but they exist to remind others when they may have erred or stepped too far. And vice versa. Yet in today’s age, we are called by society to be emotionless. We’re never to call out anyone who hurts us, slights us or does something wrong. As a prize, were never to be challenged by others.
This is vanity. It’s the very thing that draws lines between people. That teams us up against one another like when the two most popular kids in the class got to choose teams for dodgeball in grade school. (I was usually called last.)
Earlier this week, amidst Christmas prep stress and all the crazy mental trappings of end-of-the-year holidays, my emotions broke free of their chains once again to spar with someone who may or may not have deserved it. My opponent was not able to excuse my outburst and write it off as frustration, as I see fewer and fewer people are able to these days. Friendships much longer and stronger than this one, ones with years of memories and love, are dissolved for one mere emotional explosion. Years of comraderie are instantly tossed because imperfect humans are always expected to be perfect managers of feelings. It’s like working for a tyrannical business manager 24 hours a day. Friends are no longer friends forever.
Days have gone by and I’m left alone now with my feelings of inadequacy when it comes to social skills. I acted a bit childishly, venting to Facebook friends, many of whom reminded me of what I’ve been dwelling upon – why have I been vilified for being the person I am? That “real” human being who can’t help but bubble over from time to time when the world demands too much.
Why are we all so quick to jettison people from our lives for being real? For exhibiting feelings and emotions we’ve all felt at least once, or that make us think about our own behavior? Why can’t we forgive even when we receive apologies from those who need to give them? Why can’t we accept that people deal with frustration and rejection in different ways? We all do these things? I know I do.
It does hurt from the other side, too, where you end up wondering what happened and how you could be so misunderstood. Maybe this one will work itself out. Maybe it won’t. I’m sorry for my part in upsetting someone else. But I’m also not completely unjustified. I know I’ll never perfect the ability to make myself and everyone else happy.
Forgiving I suppose is one thing. Forgetting, or the inability to do so, is something different. One of those human conditions it’s hard to overcome. Perhaps a survival instinct. Maybe we emotional weaklings will be evolved out of society someday.
Better news? Maybe I have a New Years resolution to work on. Don’t just forgive. Forget.