If you’re reading this, it means that I correctly bashed my computer with rocks in the proper order to ensure that a post was scheduled for today! Yay! Because right now I am probably on a plane coming home, hopefully from a very wonderful convention experience in Phoenix.
The personal core of this part of Mizha’s story comes from a mistake that I made when I was her age. It’s probably one of the most valuable lessons I ever learned, but also one of my greatest regrets. Race wasn’t an issue in my particular experience, but the mentality was the same. It was junior high, and I had somehow acquired a person that described herself as my best friend…but that I did not like. At all. I privately called her “the leech” in my mind, and I dearly wished that she would go away and leave me alone. However, I didn’t think I had the right to tell her that. I thought, in my 14-year-old “wisdom,” that it would be too hurtful to flatly end a friendship. So I came up with the “brilliant” and “logical” solution that Mizha does here. I treated her terribly, thinking that she would say to me, “How dare you treat me so badly! I deserve more respect! You’re a horrible person, and I never want to speak to you again!” My internal narrative was that she would feel good about herself because she’d stood up for herself. I’d clearly be the villain, but A) I had (and still do have) a very negative self-image and believed deep down I was a horrible person thus I’d only be earning my due, and B) I thought it would be justified because I would be doing it for the “greater good,” so it wouldn’t be my fault that I didn’t want to be her friend. So I got nasty. I was mean, sarcastic, cutting, snide…just…awful. I reflect on my behavior and am ashamed and sad. And I kept waiting for her to put her foot down. And she never did. It stretched on and on and on. I started to despise myself as much, if not more, than I disliked her, but I felt I’d committed to my plan and I had to see it through.
Then I caught her doing to other people what I was doing to her. Rather than oppose my behavior, she adopted it. She ate the horrible comments I fed her, and delivered them to other people. And I was horrified at what I had become, with absolutely no benefit to anyone.
That was the day I saw the merit of being blunt. I realized that ultimately it is better to draw one’s own limits clearly than try to manipulate someone else into respecting an invisible limit they don’t know. It took years more to learn that it was okay not to like people. That having boundaries didn’t make me a bad person. But the seed of that knowledge started there. I just wish it hadn’t taken so much misery to learn it.
What hard lessons have you learned in your life?