I’m really excited for you to read tomorrow’s post, but for now I want to reflect upon my experience tonight at the neighborhood gym. Let’s just say that I ran into some coworkers that had deviated from their regular workout schedule (which sucks, because I like going at night because I don’t have to deal with all of the weird catty and hormonally charged social dynamics. Seriously, if I wanted to watch a bunch of toddlers exhibit bad peer influence, ruin reputations and congregate in the middle of the floor, I’d go to the mall, not the gym). One member of this group who had dropped in for social hour was the incumbent supervisor I mentioned in an earlier post. I suppose she saw me coming around the corner and made it a point to mention to the person that she was talking to how excited she was to be moving on to her Teach for America position in Indianapolis where she would FINALLY GET TO BE TREATED LIKE AN ADULT. I didn’t know whether to chuckle at the folly of her passive aggressive gesture or cringe at her blatant attempt to be obnoxious. But I did a quick mental assessment to remind myself that although it pained me to watch, I didn’t have anything at stake that would merit my investment in continuing to internalize it. I only wish my kidneys had gotten the message.
I pretended as if I didn’t hear and was polite to her as I quickly greeted the group, making a special effort not to interrupt on my way to the locker room. Then I headed to the smith machine and cranked out 36 squats hoping that the physical exertion and the terrible performance of the Miami Heat against Indiana would be a good distraction. But once the young woman positioned herself on the treadmill across from me, the thought occurred to me,”well if you have to tell people that you’re an adult in order to convince them, then you’re probably not demonstrating it well.” That’s when I had to acknowledge that despite my best efforts to focus on something more constructive, I was hooked.
So I did what any good little fitness buff would do, and upped the intensity of my workout (no I didn’t do plyo, but I think it might be good to develop so I can move some of my workouts back outdoors). When I finally got to dumbbell squats however, queen bee and a group of her buddies congregated to my corner of the weight room and I completely spaced on the positioning of my hands on the dumbbell. I ended up using like 3 different hand positions until I decided to settle on the one that felt the most natural… which as it turns out, was not the version I wanted to use, but was fine enough to get me out of there. Then I ducked back to the water fountain to hydrate, get my head together and I plugged my headphones into the av jack on a treadmill that wasn’t in view.
Before I cranked up the pace to full gear, I turned the tv station on to nick-at-nite to watch the episode of Full house. It was the episode where Danny and Jessie find out that DJ is dating Viper, the mullet wearing man-child from Uncle Jessie’s band. Danny kind of dresses DJ down about the guy because he’s offended that she’s sneaking around (which I thought was valid), but then he negates his position by belittling the guy, which only makes her want to be with him more (if only Danny had read Dan Ariely‘s book he’d have understood that the combination of frustration attraction and making the guy seem unattainable only increase his value). Meanwhile, uncle Jessie had taken his family with him on tour only to discover that the raunchy hotel room that he used to have fun hanging out in when he hung out with groupies wasn’t really suitable for his new family and that maturity had changed his expectations A LOT.
I could relate. I even dropped my pace a hair because I wanted to finish out the episode. Then out of the corner of my eye, I notice the group begin to inch into view, so I went into a cool down about 15 minutes into my run and eventually fled the cardio room. On my way out, I ran into someone I knew who just happened to be the ex-boyfriend of the incumbent’s roommate, of who she’d formally made a campaign to bully back in school. To give a full context, the guy was a total jerk back then. He used to be really arrogant and difficult to work with, and I tried to warn him about burning bridges before he got kicked out of school. I hesitated for a moment and then greeted him, just out of sight and asked him how he’d been coping since he got out of school. It appeared that life had not been so kind, but that he’d recently reapplied to school and I wished him luck. Then I disclosed that I’d made a similar mistake when I was younger and how the consequences I’d experienced had taught me a lot about humility and had instilled a new-found sense of gratitude that when I finally went back to school that I got to look at all of the experiences afterward with a fresh new lens, and that I’d found a college willing to invest in me buy giving me a second chance (tuition free). He agreed. We also talked about how both of our siblings had suffered similar consequences and how they’d matured since then.
If I was being “stalked” or intimidated by the incumbent before, my anxiety dissipated once I saw her poke her head out of the weight room. I guess she wasn’t too keen on the conversation, because she left me alone after that, although I did overhear her mention to her roommate that she’d seen me talking to him in the stairwell of our apartment building (unfortunately she lives across the hall from me, so I won’t be able to escape her until she moves). But I don’t think that will escalate into conflict or anything. Her roommate used to work for me, so she knows my character better than the incumbent does, and she’s the type that would ask me directly about it rather than escalate it or passive aggressively use it as an excuse to be cruel.
On my way home, I walked by the police station and apparently there’s something going down in town, because a bunch of squad cars raced down the road in the opposite direction of where I was headed. I said a brief prayer for the safety and comfort of those involved and then realized how grateful I felt to be headed in the opposite direction of the danger, both physically and ideologically. For the first time in a few weeks I genuinely felt grateful for this experience. I was grateful that I didn’t have to repeat those lessons, grateful for the confirmation and reminder that failure and self-sabotaging behavior doesn’t have to be the end of the road, thus absolving me of the need to keep making an emotional investment that was inevitably (as I’d hesitantly predicted over and over again) with low returns. Even though I feel as if it’s my responsibility to model and instill constructive behavior, if someone feels threatened because I’ve taken an interest in them, it doesn’t mean I’ve failed, it means they’ve got a bumpy road ahead, but sometimes those failures can lead us to better places… and this young person (who is eager to take on the responsibilities of being an adult) just signed with Teach for America for 2 YEARS (so if she sticks it out, she’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn humility and maturity from her peers and students … and TFA doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for attrition).
What I’ve learned and we discussed tonight, is that once you go back and make an effort to correct your mistakes, most people are pretty resilient and get along much better after they’ve matured a bit a few years after they’ve left college. I met with one of my old college supervisors (who I hired as my replacement and then didn’t leave) who I clashed with because of ideological differences in regards to how to enforce policy in our office. And we hung out last week for a few hours and regaled each other with tales of our bumpy transitions after college…
…”oh to be so full of certainty and sure of EVERYTHING… even when we were right we were wrong…”
If you knew back then (before you embarked out into the “REAL WORLD,”) what you know now, what kinds of behaviors would you have avoided?