Recently, I said out loud that I had a different experience at the same time as someone else. In the past, I would have immediately tried to walk that back, or downplay it, or worse, spin it until I turned it into a lie instead of told the truth of I’d really done. Now there was no discussion as to why this was and I didn’t push for it but the fact that I said it out loud and didn’t walk it back meant a lot to me. It made me feel like I’m ready yet again to write my book, ‘Breaking Radio Silence’.
Ever since I started this project, I’ve known I have had different experiences from most people, vastly different experiences at times. It’s taken me a long time to accept that and not hate myself for it, or be resentful and hateful towards other people for their experiences that were different than mine. But I want to say this right here and now:
I’m not sharing my experiences as some sort of act of revenge or any bullshit like that. I’m not doing it to shame or guilt-trip anyone who has different experiences from mine. And I’m not doing it to be an attention-seeking martyr. If someone ever tells me that I’m just an attention-seeking martyr, I’ll tell them to fuck off before the ‘ask yourself why’ bit I’m fond of and that’s because the attention-seeking martyr bit is a complete and total lie that is designed just to hurt and silence people. If you have difficulty accepting someone’s experiences are different than your own and you lash out, shut your mouth and ask yourself why you feel that way. Because lashing out or trying to shame or guilt-trip someone or turn the conversation to you and kick the other person’s side to the curb is not right. This happened to me a lot and therefore I was silent more often than not. Not anymore…
All my life I’ve been told I’m different, and the message behind that wasn’t always the best. In fact, I’d say it was pretty shitty at times. I will freely admit here there have been times in my life when I’ve been angry at people and resentful of their experiences that I wanted to experience, too, and yes, I have felt hatred at people who were judgmental and critical of me when I wasn’t doing anything wrong. But I know anger, resentment, and hatred are poisons of the mind, heart, and soul, and if you let those poisons seep in deep enough they could kill the things that truly matter: compassion, empathy, and conscience. I have spent a lot of time in the past few years learning to work through dark feelings like anger, hatred, and resentment and instead, embrace compassion, empathy, and conscience. Anger is something I’ll always feel but I know that it has to be controlled and managed.
For a long time, I thought my experiences, no matter if they were different or not, didn’t matter. I had no confidence in my knowledge and because of that, I had no confidence in myself and my abilities. This was horribly taken advantage of eleven years ago this month when I returned to a company I worked for previously and had only been away from for just a little over one year. I knew there had been changes in the year I’d been away, but the basic systems and protocols hadn’t. In training class, I tried to help my classmates who were all totally new to this. One day, my instructor took me aside for a one-on-one meeting and basically raked my ass over the coals and told me to keep my mouth shut. I was shocked, hurt, and I said nothing other than I would do what she told me to, which was just keep my mouth shut. A little while later, one of my classmates asked me why I was so silent in class and not sharing my knowledge to help and I told him I’d been told by our instructor not to do that. I asked him to stay silent about that and I apologized for not being helpful to him.
At that time, like I’d always done before and after that, I felt enormous shame and guilt because I felt like I had done the wrong thing in sharing my knowledge and experience. Even though my intentions were always good ones, to just help people, I’d say eight of ten times it inevitably didn’t go well. Now I realize that people like my instructor, were just very insecure and lacked confidence in themselves and their abilities and had turned into well-meaning (not a good thing) egocentric asshole. s
Now there is a silver-lining to the story I just shared because in 2013 I left that job and my first instructor at the new job was someone I had a good feeling about. But I stayed quiet and kept to myself until she took me aside one day and asked me why I was silent. I told her of my previous experience of being raked over and ripped up by my previous instructor at my previous job and she was floored. The first thing she told me was that she didn’t feel that way at all about me. She did admit that she was a bit worried about me when she saw my resume and experience, that I’d be egocentric but when she saw I wasn’t, she asked me to help her. Later on, she become one of the best managers I ever worked with and though I’ve lost contact with her, if she ever reached out to me for a favor, she’s got one coming. Because of her, a seed was planted inside my mind (though I didn’t realize at the time), that my knowledge and experience mattered, something I’m forever grateful for.
So the takeaway here is this: your experience and knowledge matter even if they’re different from someone else’s, which will always be the case 99.9% of the time. Also, don’t feel anger and resentment towards other people whose experiences were different than yours, like if they were having the time of their lives and you weren’t. Most of all, don’t project your shame or guilt over your experiences to someone else. Deal with that shame and guilt on your own.