In order to have a chance of being successful at my goal of being a self-supporting writer and creative content producer, I will need to market and promote my work and by extension, myself. And the thought of this scares me because I’ve always said I’m not comfortable with attention on me. Why? Well, that one goes back even further than the first two fears.
Some of my earliest memories are as a young child in school being teased and bullied because I stood up in front of the class and maybe wasn’t totally perfect, or I raised my hand too many times. Or worse, got called a ‘teacher’s pet’, which was never a good thing. Worst of all was when I fell on my ass in gym class and kids laughed and no adult came over to check on me to see if I was alright and help me up. So I learned pretty damn fast if I did my best to stay quiet and not fall on my ass then maybe people wouldn’t laugh at me or bully the shit out of me.
Luckily, my life did get better to some degree by high school because I met people who weren’t assholes. I had classes with people who weren’t all jerks and who were actually kind and supportive. Now in the working world, that sometimes was a different story. There it started back up with dirty looks and comments behind my back. But two incidents really did a number on me and it’s shocked a lot of people when I tell the stories.
I was in a training class for yet another call-center job and our instructor was reading out loud from the workbook and she said if anyone had a question to raise their hand. Well, I had a question so I raised my hand and as soon as the instructor told me to ask it and I started to speak, all of my classmates then decided to talk at once and drown me out. Now, were they told what they did was wrong and to apologize to me? This bitch-instructor told them they were wrong and threatened to send us all home for the day but in no way did she stand up and defend me. And like the wimp I was at the time, I didn’t say anything. I sat there looking down at my desk trying not to fall apart and burst into tears. I was afraid if I said anything or even looked up from my desk that bitch-instructor would have thrown me out of class. Needless to say, I didn’t stay in that place for very long because I knew they didn’t have my back and never would.
Then in another call-center job at a place I’d worked at before and returned to, the instructor took me aside for a one-on-one talk and basically told me to keep my mouth shut and not say anything at all in class or help people out. She said there was no need for me to share my knowledge or experience with anyone and that I was basically interfering with her job (which I wasn’t though she was a pretty shitty instructor). After that, I kept my head down and tried not to draw her attention on me. One of my classmates did ask why I wasn’t speaking up or helping and I told him I wasn’t allowed to.
At my last call-center job, I told both of these stories to my first instructor when she asked why I was so quiet in class and her jaw hit the floor both times. She said she would never tolerate the first and for the second she did admit she was a bit weary of me because of all my experience and potential ego. But then she asked me if I could help her out with the class and we became good working colleagues. And later when she became my supervisor I was out for a week with gallstones, she excused all my absences even though I later found out she took some flack for that (this place had the shittiest attendance policies I’d ever worked under).
The reason I am sharing these stories here is this: I’ve heard so much shit about myself in my forty-six years on this planet and I’m still alive. I know now that whatever shit someone says to hurt me, degrade me, humiliate me, or is an attempt to silence me won’t work anymore. Because I know that people who have shit on me forgot it as soon as they walked away from me. But when you’ve been hurt like this you internalize it because at times it can seem relentless. For me, I buried it in silence and that’s what breaking my silence means now.
It’s been very hard for me these past few days to write about these three fears as a lot of emotional crap has roared up to the surface with me. These are pretty intense emotions even years later but I know that with time that intensity might ease off. I
don’t write about this for myself. I write in the hope that anyone who is reading this and has thought and felt like I have will find strength or empathy in my words.
It’s been a real struggle for me over the years not to become angry and bitter though I’ve had years where I felt like that more often than not. What I’ve had to learn is that attention on me won’t always be positive but as my father used to say, don’t let the few assholes in this world ruin things for you.